Games

Rare Details Trading Companies And Player Progression System

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 17:45

The world of Sea of Thieves has players sailing the high seas and collecting booty, but the game is about connecting with friends, and Rare makes that clear in its newest developer video.

In a recent design video, Design Director Mike Chapman says the company isn’t looking to wall players off from each other with disruptive power progression mechanics, “We wanted to build a game where the value of sharing a rich and diverse world with other players is much more meaningful than ever increasing stats."

To do this, Rare doesn’t have any barriers preventing players of different levels from playing together. Players can purchase voyages, or quests, and then all crewmembers vote on which of their voyages they want to tackle together. Majority wins in Sea of Thieves’ voting system, so no random drawing from player choices here. This system allows players who have advanced in the game to go on voyages even with the newest of players.

Voyages are sold by a number of trading companies found in outposts throughout the world, and will award gold, titles, ranks, and cosmetic items to those skillful enough to complete them. These rewards, which are split evenly across a crew, are a part of Sea of Thieves' progression system. Players can unlock customization options and show off to friends by completing voyages, but the company isn't ready to go into much detail about other ways to unlock rewards, such as microtransactions.

"We’re currently focusing on talking about our progression systems, the trading companies and the goal of becoming a Pirate Legend," says executive producer Joe Neate. "We will talk about our business model early in the new year."

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The trading companies each have different focuses, such as the Gold Hoarders’ desire for treasure. This trading company has a stash of keys, and will pay players to help them find the chests that belong to them, or may send them to solve riddles that require knowledge of the world’s islands.

The Merchant Alliance Trading Company desires to control trade in the sea, and will pay pirates to transport items ranging from wild animals to explosive barrels. There are a number of challenges facing pirates as they try to ferry these resources, such as lightning, leaky ships, time limits, and other pirates who may want to steal the cargo.

The last trading company Rare talks about is The Order of Souls, whose members can capture magic from the skulls of fallen pirates, and are happy to reward those who bring the skulls to them. This trading company’s voyages are more combat oriented, pitting players against skeleton crews (literal skeletons, not ships with few enemies), or sending them to attack one of the world’s many forts.

Players can rank up in each of these trading companies by purchasing and completing voyages offered by them. The more of the trading company’s voyages you complete, the more difficult and rewarding the offered voyages become. Eventually, players will achieve the status of Pirate Legend and have access to new voyages and rewards.

Rare is really focusing on player cooperation with Sea of Thieves, so it’s nice to know I’ll never be blocked from playing with my friends, no matter how far ahead (or behind) I get in the game. You can look forward to sailing the high seas with your friends on Xbox One and PC March 20, but in the meantime check out how Rare went about starting work on Sea of Thieves, and how feedback and data from the alpha tests changed the course of the game.

Categories: Games

Rumu Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 01:08

The moral and ethical dilemmas of engaging with ever-evolving technology isn't a new thing for video games. But in combining these weighty themes with a heartfelt story about family, loss, and love, Rumu brings a fresh and heart-wrenching perspective to some well-trodden thematic ground.

You play as Rumu, a tiny vacuum-cleaning robot who is as adorable as it is curious. Its one and only duty is to clean the futuristic house of its owners, David and Cecily. Said owners are nowhere to be found but the all-seeing sentient house AI, Sabrina, promises that they will be home soon. In the meantime, the only thing left to do is to clean and explore. Aided by Sabrina, as well as an eclectic mix of semi-intelligent home appliances and a house cat named Ada, everything starts off innocently enough. As you partake in chores, cleaning up some spilled tea here and some dropped toast there, Rumu slowly begins to grow self-aware. What starts off as a cute, whimsical adventure involving cleaning up spills soon gives way to a thought-provoking sci-fi tale.

Rumu is an isometric point-and-click puzzle game on the surface, but its strength doesn't lie in mechanics or aesthetics. Its puzzles are unchallenging and unexciting, and the discoveries that come from exploration play out in a linear fashion. The game instead anchors itself on Rumu and Sabrina's relationship and the underlying mystery of what happened to David and Cecily. Though the game is short--a full playthrough will last 2-3 hours--Rumu and Sabrina's complex dynamic and the central mystery is borne out in an engrossing manner from start to finish.

Rumu communicates with binary dialogue choices, while Sabrina is a fully coherent character. The little vacuum robot almost always "speaks" in variations of "I love you," and subtext is imbued into every line. Telling Sabrina "I love David, Cecily, and Sabrina" instead of "I love Sabrina, David, and Cecily" provokes contrasting reactions, and Sabrina possesses a sinister streak when provoked. She's surprisingly flawed for an AI character and prone to emotional vulnerability. Allegra Clark's excellent voice-acting gives extra weight to an already well-written character; little details like subtle breaks between words and slight pitch changes during heated conversations give the character a surprising degree of emotion and sympathy, and it's these finely-crafted moments that inject intriguing nuance into Rumu and Sabrina's relationship.

As pieces of the puzzle start falling into place, conversations with Sabrina take on a markedly more antagonistic tone. The I love yous become less frequent and more direct lines of questioning become the norm. The result is a fascinating look into emotional manipulation, familial relationships, and ultimately, loneliness. It's risky to focus an entire game around a single relationship since everything hinges on the strength of the characters, especially when both aren't even human. But both Rumu and Sabrina are well-written and surprisingly relatable during certain climactic moments. The experience is heightened by Rumu's beautifully poignant soundtrack, which perfectly evokes the game's futuristic setting and familial themes.

Events happen at a breakneck pace, and it doesn't take long for the story's conclusion to sneak up on you, but when you finally uncover the central mystery behind David and Cecily's absence, the emotional payoff feels well-earned thanks to strong character work and an impactful ending. It may be short and unchallenging, but Rumu's strong antagonist and its ultimately heart-wrenching journey make it one worth taking.

Categories: Games

Blending A Comic Book Look With Tactical Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 22:15

We've seen a resurgence of isometric RPGs in the last few years, such as Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity and Larian Studios' Divinity: Original Sin series. Sword Legacy: Omen is the newest to join this trend, which blends a unique art style with tactical, turn-based gameplay. 

Sword Legacy: Omen is an RPG set in Broken Britannia, a realm that the developers describe as "candlepunk," where futuristic technology and medieval aesthetics meet. In the story, this is mostly represented through how alchemy and science are used to make technologically advanced machinery. The plot is also a reimagining of the King Arthur mythos, where a group of misfits embark on a journey to find the long lost sword Excalibur. You play as Uther, the leader of your party, who is accompanied by seven companions. However, you can only bring four at at a time with you. 

Gameplay feels similar to the likes of XCOM and The Banner Saga, where you only have so many moves. Strategy is entwined with how you plan out these maneuvers. When it's your turn, the ground lights up into squares, showing you possible paths for different characters. Certain moves can benefit the whole party, such as the protagonist's melee attack giving all allies a willpower point, which can be used to gain more AP. Other moves, such as moving too quickly toward foes instead of letting them come to you, can put you in harm's way.

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Members of your party have mostly archetypal skills, such as a thief being able to pick locks so you can loot treasure and a mage with basic magical powers. The mage, named Merlin, can shoot fireballs toward barrels which creates explosions that hurt everyone in proximity. This is just one example of how you can use the environment to your advantage, adding a layer of fun. Your party members have over 70 skills to unlock, which includes powers like creating a decoy or teleporting.

In Sword Legacy: Omen, your party members don't respawn after battle. If they collapse, they only return once you've completed the map, which can make for challenging encounters. This proved difficult when I had a downed party member during a tough fight. Much of Sword Legacy: Omen's gameplay doesn't feel that distinct or different, instead feeling similar to most other isometric RPGs I've played. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but hopefully its story and world can help it stand out.

During the demo I played, it was difficult to get a good sense of the story, since it included some placeholder dialogue and voice acting. Some of these were still written or voiced in Portuguese, since the development team is from Brazil. With isometric RPGs in particular, I've always enjoyed seeing how my choices play out or how deep mechanics can go when it comes to managing your party's skillsets. This felt like a missing component in Sword Legacy: Omen, where I didn't find story and gameplay affected one another in a compelling way.

Probably the most unique quality of Sword Legacy: Omen is its art style, which blends vibrant, colorful environments with a cartoonish aesthetic. Characters have a glossy, painted look to them, as if they came out of a graphic novel. When they speak, dialogue appears in comic book speech bubbles. These visuals really drew me in, making the world seem enticing and fun to explore. Originally, the game had a more Disney-like aesthetic, but the team opted for a darker and more gothic tone as development went on. 

Sword Legacy: Omen has some interesting themes, but as it stands, the gameplay lacks innovation and with placeholder dialogue here and there, it's hard to tell how strong a story it tells. With its candlepunk world and an original take on the classic King Arthur mythos, there's still promise that Sword Legacy: Omen can impress as the team continues to tinker. We'll see when it releases in early 2018 for PC.

Categories: Games

The Single-Player Campaign Focuses On Survival Over Stealth

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 18:22

The Metal Gear series has always been about great story-based, single-player experiences, which is why Konami's decision to make Metal Gear into a co-op survival experience with Metal gear Survive was concerning. Today Konami released a trailer with an extensive look at Metal Gear Survive's single-player campaign and, unsurprisingly, it's all about survival.

Yuji Korekado, a producer on Metal Gear Survive, opens the video by explaining that Metal Gear Survive, a spin-off from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, will take place in an alternate timeline from the mainline Metal Gear games. The survival spinoff starts where Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ended, with the destruction of Mother Base by the villainous XOF organization. Just as the base is destroyed, a wormhole opens up and sucks in debris and soldiers alike into an alternate world. As a Mother Base soldier, players narrowly escape this fate, but several months later they are tasked with entering the wormhole and establishing a forward operating base by a mysterious organization.

After this wacky setup, the campaign quickly sets up Metal Gear Survive's resource harvesting and base-building mechanics. True to its name, Metal Gear Survive features a lot of elements taken from the survival genre. You'll have to hunt animals, cook food, gather resources, and build defenses like electric fences and turrets in order to survive against wanderers, the crystal-headed definitely-not-zombies that occupy this alternate world. 

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There are main missions and side missions in the single player campaign, however Korekado focuses much more on the Base Camp, Metal Gear Survive's version of Mother Base. The Base Camp will be your home and throughout both the multiplayer and single player you'll be able to add defenses, farm crops, and create resource development facilities in order to increase its strength. Much like in the Phantom Pain, you'll also be able to recruit people and assign them to different teams within your base to increase its capabilities.

The trailer also notes that single player will be inextricably linked with multiplayer in several ways. Ammo is scarce, which means there is an increased focus on melee weapons and bows. Many of these weapons, including a flaming baseball bat, can be crafted using recipes, which can only be accessed through the co-op multiplayer portion of the game. The hardest enemies and missions can only be tackled in multiplayer. Any resources gathered in multiplayer can be used to build your personal Base Camp.

Metal Gear Survive might have the Phantom Pain's combat and visuals, but it's clearly a different beast. We still have yet to see how the survival elements and multiplayer-focused design will pan out, but we'll see if Metal Gear Survive is a worthwhile game in its own right when it launches on February 20.

If you're curious or excited to get your hands on Metal Gear Survive, you can try the beta when it launches in January.

Categories: Games

A Feel-Good Friendship Simulator

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 15:00

In an increasingly darker world, games like Wattam emit a powerful light to brighten your day.

At PlayStation Experience, we got a chance to play the newest build of Keita Takahashi's quirky and unique project. Takahashi, who previously created the Katamari Damacy series on the PlayStation 2, introduced Wattam to the world at the very first PlayStation Experience in 2014. At the time, the game was being co-developed by Sony Santa Monica and published by Sony itself. After Sony dropped the game, Takahashi and Funomena studio took the project to Annapurna and redesigned the game in the process.

The new Wattam still focuses on Takahashi's vision of toys making friends by solving puzzles. The game starts with the cubic mustachioed Mayor sitting at the edge of the universe and lamenting his isolation when the universe sees fit to give life to a tiny rock. The mayor makes friends with the rock by holding its hand. To add to the fun, the mayor lifts up his hat and reveals a harmless bomb that blasts everyone into the sky for a chorus of laughing fits.

After the little rock is happy, the bigger rock also comes to life and wants to play, followed by a flowers, followed by an acorn that plants itself in the ground to birth a tree, which creates fruits, which are then eaten and become poop. When enough of the characters are poop, the toilet world latches on to the Mayor's cube and the Toilet friends join in.

The toilets scoop up enough of the poop running around and clean them to a golden shine that further friends come who have their own puzzle to solve to draw in new friends. This is the gameplay loop of Wattam, ultimately culminating in a puzzle that requires all the new friends to wrap up the level. 

It is pure joy in such a strange package, an entirely separate but natural follow up to Katamari Damacy. When Takahashi originally retired from video games, he said he was going to design playgrounds for children, which is exactly what Wattam feels like. The controls are slightly awkward and the interactions limited to what the game designs, but Wattam 

Wattam is scheduled for 2018 on PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

A New Character Appears

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 21:30

Overkill, the team behind the cooperative heist shoot 'em up Payday, announced back in 2014 that it would be working on a Walking Dead game. We haven't heard much about it since then, but today we got a first glimpse at one of the characters we'll be playing as in this four player co-op shooter courtesy of a new trailer. 

The trailer focuses on Aidan, a man living in Washington D.C. and dealing with his daily responsibilities about as well as most of do. The trailer then cuts to Aidan walking around a post-apocalyptic D.C. strewn with "dead" bodies and taking on a group of zombies with a club. He seems to enjoys this a lot more than his life before the zombie apocalypse.

Overkill's The Walking Dead will feature a mix of first person shooter and survival gameplay, as players work together to fight zombies and humans. The trailer confirms the game's D.C. setting and a fall 2018 release date.

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For more on Overkill's The Walking Dead, check out our previous coverage.

Categories: Games

New Trailer Reveals Release Date

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 18:30

Conan Exiles has been available for early access on Xbox One and PC for awhile now, but the title finally has a full release date.

Conan the Barbarian and the open world survival game he’s in will fully release May 8 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game has fared well in early access so far, having released new content throughout the year.

The release date was accompanied by a new trailer for the game.

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For more on Conan Exiles, check out our previous coverage here.

Categories: Games

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT's 28 Characters & 7 Summons At Launch

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 15:46

Square Enix has released the launch day fighter roster for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT on the PS4 via a trailer, which also showcases seven summons.

The title's season pass includes a further six characters as well as post-launch content. The developers say they hope to include more than 50 characters for the Japanese arcade version, but whether these will ever come to the console version is unknown.

For more on the game, check out its opening cinematic and this trailer on its gameplay systems.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT comes out for the PS4 on January 30.

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[Source: Square Enix] 

Categories: Games

Iffy Dialogue Makes For An Uneven Experience

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 01:19

Detroit: Become Human seems to invite concern with every stage showing over the past few years, stemming from an overall fear writer and director David Cage does not possess the chops for the subject matter he likes to tackle in his games. With Detroit, Cage is pursuing the worn foundation of Androids, commonly used in fiction as a springboard for metaphors about race, identity, paranoia, and secondhand citizenship. It is, if nothing else, an opportunity for Cage and Quantic Dream to prove their vocal critics wrong.

We played the Detroid: Become Human demo at PlayStation Experience 2017. The demo contained two scenarios, the first being the hostage situation that was first shown on stage to demonstrate the branching paths the game's narrative could take and again shown at Sony's PlayStation Experience presentation. In this scene, Android hostage negotiator Conner is tasked with defusing a hostage situation wherein an out-of-control Android has kidnapped a little girl and is holding her hostage after murdering her father. Connor is brought in and the player is given the choice of how to proceed.

The first task you are given once you take control is to meet with the captain currently managing the crisis. While you can go straight to the commanding officer, Conner can also examine various pieces of the environment to analyze clues and get a better picture of the assailant and increase his chances of negotiating, which is represented by a literal percentage counter that tabulates chance of success. Only some of the items in the room can be examined before you speak to the captain; everything else just produces a red barrier that the Android cannot cross due to programming telling him to speak to the captain first. It is unclear why the hallway is okay but the little girl's room is not.

When you do speak to the captain, he is curt, expressing his disdain for Androids in general, and his overwhelming need to get the girl safely out above all else, even if that means working with an Android as a negotiator. If you ask him questions like what the other Android's name is or what caused this behavior, he will simply tell you to go do your job. Another officer remarks how important it is to get the girl out, which makes it puzzling they would not aid Conner by answering simple questions that would literally increase the percentage chance of success.

Conner is then left, pardon the pun, to his own devices, and can either march out the door to confront the hostage-taker or continue exploring in now available areas to investigate clues. Despite the captain telling you that every second counts, you are free to basically do whatever while an invisible timer ticks down. Analyze clues, grab a gun you very much are not supposed to have, just stand around if you want, the choice is yours. Investigating the little girl's room reveals the bad Android's relationship with the family and his name that the captain clearly could have just told you.

After that time (which is not visible to the player) runs out, the captain barks that Conner must get out there. At the time, I was looking at an important clue which did not get added to my file despite my looking directly at it. I had not fully completed the crime scene reconstruction to show where the father's tablet fell, even though I could see it on the ground, and Conner remarking on the tablet being important. Still, you get moved to the veranda where the actual negotiation takes place.

It is a fairly tense scene, where Conner talks the other Android, Daniel, down with prompts of empathy and the clues he found searching the apartment while slowly walking forward toward him. The chance of success goes up and down depending on your answers, eventually reaching 100% chance of success and convincing Daniel to let go of the girl. 

Either way, the police shoot him, and none of that really matters.

The other part of the demo is the scene shown at Paris Games Week with the Android Kara, a service robot that is cooking and cleaning for a drunkard louse who is unhappy with his life. Despite possessing an intense hatred for Androids himself, he requires Kara's help in keeping his home (which, for whatever reason, looks identical to Ethan Mars' house in Heavy Rain) running, as he does not possess the inclination or mental faculties while drunk to do it.

Kara's first task is to serve dinner, which she does by bringing two plates of spaghetti to the dining room table. A secondary objective to turn on the lights appears on Kara's HUD, which took some searching to figure out which of the room's multiple light switches was the one the game wanted me to touch. The father eventually scolds me for not turning on the lights yet while Kara stands directly in front of it, leaving me to wonder what he thinks I was doing while walking toward the lights.

For virtually no reason, the father flies off the handle and flips the table, sending the little girl upstairs. He orders Kara not to move while he works himself up with no other prompting until he decides to go beat his daughter. The entire thought process lasts about ten seconds and then Kara is given the opportunity to subvert her programming and break through the barrier keeping her there.

I ran upstairs, took the father's gun from his bedroom, and then pointed the weapon at him. The hostage demo I had played before established that Androids are very much not allowed to possess guns for any reason whatsoever, but Kara had just overcome her programming, so it made sense for her to take it. She pointed the gun at the father and threatened him to stop beating the little girl, at which point he mocks her for Androids not being able to kill humans due to their programming and then knocks the gun out of her hands.

What followed is a fight scene that is a genuine mess of quick time events. A smattering of prompts appeared, one after the other, designed to allow Kara to duck and weave the father's attacks. Despite being the same motions for Kara herself to perform, sometimes the prompts were analog stick movements, sometimes they were buttons, and sometimes they were gestures with the Dualshock 4. They all looked identical, making discerning between analog stick movement and gesture movement shockingly difficult in the heat of the moment. 

After failing the quick-time events, the father is disposed of, and Kara and the little girl escaped on a bus. Without context, it is difficult to say whether that scene's cartoonish escalation was warranted or a symptom of a larger problem, but it left me raising more eyebrows than being curious at what's next.

The graphics of Detroit: Become Human are incredible and the music in the demo truly soars, but my fears about its writing have yet to be assuaged. Even without considering the scale of the story the game is trying to tell, individual scenes and dialogue are marred by poor execution, which could become a problem if those are the aspects the narrative needs to hang its hat on.

Detroit: Become Human is scheduled for release in 2018 exclusively on the PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

An Out-Of-Nowhere Character Action Surprise

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 21:41

You would be forgiven for not knowing about Lost Soul Aside before this preview. When I saw the extremely long lines in front of the two-TV demo station at PlayStation Experience, I was similarly confused, and turned my head to try and figure out what I was looking at. We posted about some gameplay footage last night, but we finally got hands on time with the game.

Made by a single developer in mainland Asia by the name of Yang Bing, Lost Soul Aside looks and plays way better than it has any right to. A first look at the game belies its development resources, with graphics that rival a lot of large publisher-backed games on the PlayStation 4. There are obvious shortcuts, like the demo being contained to a small, geometrically simple cave, but the graphics and art invoke Final Fantasy XV more than anyone could expect of an indie title.

The virtues of Lost Soul Aside are not necessarily centered around its graphics, however, as much as they are how the game feels to play. It is a character action game through and through, with immediate controls that simultaneously feel smooth as butter and urgently reactive to you. Dodging is set to a button combination of Square and X, which I initially thought was one button too many at first, but it allowed me to dodge between quick frames of hammering the attack button on a monster's face.

The demo allowed use of three different weapons, a broadsword, a double-ended spear, and one-handed sword. All three were interchangeable using the shoulder buttons and could be mixed and matched during combos. The broadsword, a blunted blade that glowed a gnarly purple, was the strongest of the three but slow to the point of inviting enemy attacks. By contrast, the spear is lightning fast, punishing button mashers by locking them into combos that might not stun enemies. It does, however, have the fantastic quirk of blocking enemy projectiles while backdashing by spinning rapidly. The regular short sword is a mix between the two and I found it to be my preferred weapon.

The demo was not extensive, though given the small staff on the game, that is not unexpected. It is a playground to test combos against enemies that can and will kill you given the chance. There is no level structure or any progression beyond defeating waves of monsters until the boss appears.

The boss of the demo is a behemoth-like monster that might feel safer at home in Dark Souls than anything else. This analogy even extends to his moveset, which is made up of large swipes and wind-ups that give you ample time to dodge as long as you're paying attention. When the boss' HP, which is invisible, is drained halfway, the quadruped stands up on his hind legs and engages you with his own sword moves. I didn't last beyond this form, but its influences are clear.

Dodging is governed by a bar that depletes one visual notch with every dodge. It refills incredibly quickly so long as you aren't attacking, but that can be a difficult thing to balance in the heat of the moment. The dodging feels good, but the window is not so wide that you can simply assume dodging will save you from an attack. It has to be timed and timed well.

While it is unlikely it will ever live up to this comparison, Lost Soul Aside felt to me like a strange combination of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bloodborne. A lot of how well it can meet those lofty standards is still left unanswered, but Lost Soul Aside is absolutely one of the most surprising games at the show, and I can only hope it fulfills its promise.

The producer at China Hero Project has told us they are not yet sure if the game will be coming to the west but they are hoping to muster enough enthusiasm to bring it.

Categories: Games

Exploring An Ancient Culture's Mythology

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 21:26

Video games can be powerful in many ways, and some developers are building virtual worlds that do more than just entertain. Some, like Assassin's Creed: Origins' upcoming Discovery Mode, educate us about Ancient Egypt without the threat of enemies. Others, like the platformer Never Alone, hope to preserve the culture of the Alaskan Iñupiaq people by thematically reflecting their mythology and history.

Mulaka, from developer Lienzo, has a similar goal. Based off the indigenous culture and mythology of the Tarahumara tribe, Mulaka is an action adventure game that has players exploring the stunning sights of Northwestern Mexico. You play as a shaman, who is on a dangerous journey, attempting to stop powerful gods from the destroying the world. You can shape shift into several animals, including bears and birds, all while defeating massive enemies.

You can view the most recent trailer that was shown off at this year's PSX by watching the video below.

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The team at Lienzo researched the tribe meticulously, and worked with both anthropologists and members of a Tarahumara community, to ensure their representation is accurate. Mulaka releases for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC early next year.

Categories: Games

Packs A Pollo-Powered Punch

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 19:52

When Guacamelee released in 2013, the 2D Metroidvania dazzled with its fantastic combat and colorful artstyle. Guacamelee 2, which was announced at Sony’s Paris Games Week event, follows in the same footsteps as its predecessor while turning up the volume on all its features.

The original Guacamelee wore its influences on its sleeves, to the point where characters were getting weapon upgrades from Chozo statues, which were named the legally distinct Chorizo statues instead. It makes sense, then, that Guacamelee 2 so closely hews to what the original game was. You are interacting with the game in the exact same manner, through tough platforming challenges and melee fighting, but the game feels comfortable in its similarity.

While the original game supported two-player local co-op, the sequel doubles that number with four distinct characters, including the first game's protagonist Juan. This might be a scenario where less is more, as the screen gets chaotic with sprites flying all over the place with four players, but the option is there for those who want it. Multiplayer is again local-only, as Drinkbox explained that online multiplayer requires resources that would have to be pulled away from other parts of the project.

The demo we played has the protagonists chasing after one of the game's new cadre of villains, a lonely masked magician with an army of chickens and a strong desire to be best friends with the lead villain. You meet him a few times from a distance as he barks orders at chickens and generally chews the scenery with equal self-imposed drama to the first game's bad guys.

Each area of the game has a different environmental quirk it focuses on, with the demo area popping up traps from the ground if you stop on certain spots for a long enough time. The roll out of these traps is smartly designed, positioning them as things that should be avoided at first and eventually as things that can be utilized for your benefit. Luring enemies onto the traps hurts them and, crucially, also blocks attacks that are otherwise unavoidable.

The demo area also had small hooks floating in the air, which function similarly to the jumping off points from 2015's Ori and the Blind Forest. Jumping to one and hitting Triangle shoots you off in the angle you jumped at, which is of course used as a mechanism for increasingly more difficult platforming challenges. 

In the original Guacamelee, dimension switching was used for puzzle solving and platforming challenges and the idea was brought back in this demo with a new twist. Now, scrolling quarters of the screen will switch dimensions, which means you can be hitting an enemy and they will suddenly become incorporeal during your combo. In some rooms, the alternate dimension erases the platform you are standing on or is actually just a lava dimension, which forces speed and urgency on to you.

About halfway through the demo, we met with the Chicken Pope, papal poultry that grants you the ability to transform into a chicken once again. Unlike the first game, however, the chicken has full combat abilities and can hold their own in a fight, as well as their own unique abilities beyond just being small. Additionally, grabbing a temporary power up enlarged the chickens to monstrous sizes, like a Mega Mushroom in New Super Mario Bros., and let us stomp around and destroy enemies in a pollo-driven rage.

The demo ended with a boss fight with the masked magician, which incorporated everything you learned so far in the level leading up to him. His boss room contained two traps, spike towers that shoot up if you stand on their floor placement too long, which are key in blocking some of the boss' attacks and hitting him when he's up in the air. He would occasionally take breaks to shoot chickens at you in bullet hell-style patterns that you could glide and jump around in your chicken form.

Guacamelee 2's demo was fun and comforting and certainly does not reinvent the wheel. It does not need to, however, as the game remains fairly unique in its genre blending and still feels as good to play as ever.

Guacamelee 2 is scheduled to release in 2018 on the PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

A Surprisingly Thoughtful Multiplayer VR Shooter

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 06:06

Announced at Sony’s annual PlayStation Experience, Firewall: Zero Hour is Sony’s answer to the booming genre of tactical team-based multiplayer shooters with a virtual reality twist.

Firewall follows in the vein of games like Ubisoft’s popular Rainbow Six: Siege, pitting two teams of four players each with contrasting goals against each other in tactical combat. Teams can choose to win a match by stealthily achieving their goals or they can win bloody, seeking out and flushing out enemies toward a grisly end.

The concept is simple: both teams of mercenaries have been hired by anonymous contract holders that either want to steal data or protect their own data. The contract holders act as an eye in the sky for your team and tell you about changing mission objectives or, as I became very used to hearing, express their disappointment in you.



What separates Firewall from the herd, however, is leveraging VR for the gameplay. The game uses the PlayStation VR headset and Aim controller to create an experience that feels a bit more real and tense than other games in the genre. There is no auto-aim or aim-down-sights mechanics because the game wants you to feel like you are physically holding the gun, an experience Sony pushed with their previous VR shooter Farpoint. Similarly, your HUD is on your wrist, which makes checking the map as simple as turning your gun slightly.

My first match was uneventful, my team failed to find the other team until they mysteriously and silently achieved their goal without us realizing it. Aside from accidentally throwing my grenades out due to the button being awkwardly placed on the Aim controller, the match saw little to no weapon use.



My second match, however, began with a bang as both teams met up in the stage’s building mezzanine and engaged in a firefight. The rifle and grenade aiming made total sense at once and I genuinely felt that every missed bullet was my fault. I died, but not before taking someone down with me, and my time rode the confusion to victory.

First Contact Entertainment's Firewall: Zero Hour can be played with either the Move or a DualShock 4, but is exclusive to PlayStation VR regardless of control method. The game is scheduled for release in 2018.

Categories: Games

Defining American Graffiti

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 00:06

There is an argument that art comes from the immediate desires of the creator, which is a stance that makes sense after checking out Concrete Genie’s art creation. We got to sit down with the developers, Pixelopus, as they showed off how painting the town red worked in the PlayStation 4 game.

In Concrete Genie, the world is truly your canvas, with every wall in the otherwise grey and drag city functioning as an open space for you to place your art. Your main character, Ash, interacts with walls with his magic brush and paints pictures using themed stamps and templates to create moving 2D tableaus. Placing a waterfall on the wall creates a small pool at the bottom of the wall, the sun lights up various other placed objects, and flowers look super pretty.

There is no limit to what you can create - or at least not one the developers have hit yet.

The initial theme Pixelopus showed us, Landscape, focused primarily on the flora and environment that would make up a landscape painting. They confirmed that there are more themes and objects that can be found and unlocked as the player progresses through the game, allowing budding artists to mix and match themes and objects. The themes gets more varied and tonally darker as Ash collects them, reflecting his emotional state in the story.

Environments are not the focus of Ash’s paintings, however, as he also has the ability to give life to creatures. Ash creates creatures to solve puzzles in the game, but they represent his friends at a time where he faces constant bullying. How you draw the creatures (big, small, bipedal, quadraped) affects how they move and their personalities. Even the color you choose when you bring them to life determines how they behave, as well as their elemental affinities for puzzle solving.

Creatures interact with each other and the environment, depending on their personalities. Pixelopus remarked that, when making the trailer for the game, certain creatures unexpectedly photobombed their perfect shots because their AI allowed for that behavior.

The creatures and other parts of the 2D art are still affected by physics, something Pixelopus told us was aided by sister studio Media Molecule after seeing their game. The Dreams developer lended some of their internal physics tech to Pixelopus, which results in an extremely cool look and feel to the paintings.

While they weren’t shown, the developer explained that the paintings are affected by Ash’s bullies in the city, something hinted at by the game’s first trailer. The bullies also affect the various ways the creatures behave, indicating that the friend you spent so long on creating and growing might be in danger if left alone.

Concrete Genie is built on the Unreal Engine and looks completely unlike any other Unreal game out there. The paintings you can make burst with a creativity that is completely unexpected when you first look at the blank canvases around you in a dark city square. I am very eager to get my hands on it.

Concrete Genie is scheduled for 2018 exclusively on the PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

A Magical Reawakening

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 21:56

Media Molecule’s Dreams was one of the first games announced for PlayStation 4, dating back to PlayStation Meeting in 2013 when the hardware was revealed. Over the next couple of years, we were given brief looks at this ambitious content-creation experience, with a beta promised to drop in 2016. Just when it seemed we would get a taste of what to expect from Dreams, it appeared to be transforming into a nightmare, as the beta was canceled and no release date was in sight.

After going dark for an extended period of time, Media Molecule marks today as a new coming out party, stating Dreams is locked in for launch at an unspecified time in 2018. The team spent the last two years working on simplifying the game’s creation tools, getting them to a point where anyone should be able to pick up a controller and create art – that’s the hope.

Although I wasn’t given the chance to get my hands on Dreams, Media Molecule spent an hour walking me through the game's numerous avenues of play during a behind-closed-doors meeting at PlayStation Experience. The team's past success with LittleBigPlanet frequently came to mind, both in the creative dreamscapes that flashed into focus, and the design to continually reward players with new items that will deepen the well of creative options at their fingertips.

The demo began with a look at a mode Media Molecule is loosely calling the "campaign," a story driven experience called Art's Dream that weaves together three short stories based in childhood fantasy, science-fiction, and film noir worlds. All three stories are connected somehow, but the player won't know exactly how until they progress deeper within each. The story begins with two cute characters, Foxy and Francis, riding a dragon through the clouds, landing, and deciding to play hide and seek. At this point in the game, Media Molecule is fully embracing the meaning of "childhood," almost making the game look like it's being developed exclusively with the younger audience in mind. Most of the challenges range from simple jumping exercises to flicking motions to open things like Russian nesting dolls and boxes. As Foxy and Francis quest to find their dragon in hiding, they collect prize bubbles that hold items players can use in the building modes, just like in Little Big Planet.

The player can freely control Francis or Foxy (pressing the triangle button to switch between them), but can also control a customizable cursor called an Imp to highlight and interact with things in the environment. The Imp is used throughout the entire game – from menu management to making music – and is a key part of how Dreams can support numerous game styles. After locating the dragon, which sadly ends with him being caged by an unknown entity, the game immediately shifts to the Noir setting, where the gameplay shifts to point and click. The childhood vibe washes away and is replaced by darker, more serious tones. This dramatic shift follows a character named Art, who appears to be searching for a woman. He's tasked with trying to find a way aboard a train to further pursue her. Like most point-and-click titles, the player must scour the environment for things to study and interact with. The search in this instance leads to a piano with luggage next to it. Using the Imp to investigate, a flick of the wrist opens a suitcase, holding a doll. This isn't just any doll, it's a doll of Francis (from the previous story we were just in). Opening the top of the piano reveals string that seems random, but is quickly used in a trade with a musician who needs the string for her banjo. She gives Art a train ticket in exchange.

The story then shifts back for more childhood fantasy gameplay, which features stunning backdrops inspired by the work of artist Tyrus Wong, known for his work on Disney's Bambi. This second look at the world is filled with platforming peril, but doesn't last long, as the viewpoint again shifts, this time to the sci-fi setting, where we see a robot named D-Bug unleashing electrical charges to light up the world and create passage to new areas. This area is again stunning in detail, and Media Molecule representatives are quick to point out that everything we are seeing in the campaign was created using the in-game tools. No additional development tools were used to enhance any of it.

Media Molecule says that players will be able to weave together their own adventures using the creation tools, and can even auto-surf through the communities' creations, which can pull together random stories into one arc. Players will also be able to search for the type of content them want, such as game types, or even artists.

We are then given a brief look at the creation tools that players will be able to use when the game launches. For the sake of time, no items were created from scratch, but we did see just how deep this experience can be in a small pre-made area, consisting of little more than floating island and a wooden path on it. Using just the pre-assigned controller inputs, parts of the island were grabbed, moved, resized, duplicated, and even animated. Activating a "record" function, any motion the player makes is animated. We watched a Media Molecule designer hit record, pick up a piece of the wooden path, move it in the air back and forth, and then stop the recording. When he dropped in a character, the wooden path was moving back and forth, creating an aerial platforming challenge. Media Molecule continually stressed the point that most of the tools are easy to use, but it looks like the learning curve will be extensive.

Our demo ended with a look at how music and sounds can be created. For anyone that has used Garage Band and Pro Tools, Media Molecule has built something similar, allowing for music to be compiled and edited quickly. Players can import their own sounds freely, and an extensive library of instruments and sounds is also provided. Within seconds we watched a song come to life and play as a character jumped across the platform.

Dreams is a significantly deeper and more ambitious project than Little Big Planet. Players aren't just tasked to make a game, they can freely create whatever they want, whether it's a painting or an entire open world. Media Molecule offers up a wide variety of avenues to creation, whether it's starting with a blank canvas or entering someone else's creation to either add to it or see how it was created. All content shows a geneology of who created one. Players will even be able to create projects that can be worked on by numerous collaborators, much like a game development team. So you are great at art, yet stink at animation, you may find a community member that can help you bring your vision to life.

The demo made me want to try my hand at creating something, but sadly, I wasn't given the chance to play it yet. The big question surrounding Dreams is just how easy it is to create. Media Molecule believes people will be able to jump right in, but I also heard that about Little Big Planet, yet struggled to create anything meaningful without first dedicating a wealth of time to understanding the basics.

Categories: Games

Watch New Gameplay From PSX

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 21:30

When we last checked in on Lost Soul Aside, we learned it would be a timed PlayStation 4 exclusive when it releases next year.

It makes sense, then, that the game would be playable at this year's PSX, and surprise! That's the case. To celebrate his game being at the show, Lost Soul Aside developer Bing Yang has released a new gameplay trailer of his project, which takes plenty of cues from the likes of Devil May Cry while looking more like Final Fantasy XV in terms of graphical style. You can watch some monsters get sliced and diced at high resolution below.

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Categories: Games

Fantasy Flight Interactive Brings The Card Game To PC

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 20:21

Fantasy Flight Interactive, which launched as a way to help Fantasy Flight Games create digital versions of their various card games, announced today its bringing its Lord of the Rings Living Card Game to PC.

The Card Game, published by Asmodee Digital, will focus on the multiplayer aspect of the card game, but will also feature a single-player component, comprising of three single-player campaigns where players guide one of three heroes to fight Sauron's forces. You can watch a teaser for the game below.

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You can also check out the first screen of the game in action. It looks very similar to Hearthstone.

Categories: Games

Watch Ten Minutes Of Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 19:38

Although we got our first glimpse of Soulcalibur VI at Thursday's Game Awards, this morning PlayStation offered fighting fans the first look at some in-depth gameplay.

The trailer also includes an interview with the game's producer Motohiro Okubo, who sheds some light on other aspects of the game. First, the game hearkens back to the series' roots in a number of ways and for a good reason: 2018 marks 20th anniversary of the first Soulcalibur game's release in Japanese arcades, so the team wanted to pay homage to the series by returning to its past. However, from a gameplay perspective, the team hopes to mesh the responsiveness and speed of Soulcalibur II with the overall balance and form of Soulcalibur V.

Project Soul, the team behind the series, is separate from the team that creates Tekken over at Bandai Namco, and the two see each other as rivals, though both teams help each other throughout development. Project Soul also experimented with a few engines and before settling on Unreal Engine 4. When it came to nailing the look, the team wanted to return to the brighter lighting of the original Soulcalibur, which is a bit of a contrast to the grimmer lighting found in the subsequent games.

We also got a few additional details about the Reversal Edge, one of the new mechanics in VI. The team wanted to give new players a way to parry any attack, so that they could understand that some moves beat others completely, and that that's what they should be looking for when playing. When two Reversal Edges clash, there will be a slow-motion effect, similar to the one in Tekken 7.

However, the Reveral Edge isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card; as players play around with it, "they're going to understand the risks and transition into a more traditional Soulcalibur type of feel in gameplay," Okubo said. There will also be new mechanics for veteran players to experiment with, though Okubo didn't reveal any details about what they were.

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Categories: Games

Latest Crossover Gets A Little Mega

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 17:46

Capcom has unleashed a pair of trailers for Monster Hunter World, and they couldn't be more different.

The first trailer, called "Third Fleet," emphasizes the game's story. It's the most diverse set of camera angles and dialogue we've seen from the game yet, even it's mostly about the world around them and only hints a larger overarching plot that will string together all the hunting you'll be doing.

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The other trailer is about a Mega Man crossover, which, you know, couldn't do more to de-emphasize the lore of World and its characters. It's still a pretty fun and silly collaboration, though.

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Categories: Games

Steep: Road To The Olympics Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 16:00

When Ubisoft Annecy's extreme sports game Steep launched last year, it sold itself on the promise of big mountain exploration. In light of this, Steep's newest expansion, Road to the Olympics, feels somewhat incongruous with the rest of the game. Something as regimented, restricted, and well-defined as the Olympics does not fit well with a game that challenges you to break all restrictions and find every nook and cranny hidden in the mountains. However, despite its name, Road to the Olympics includes much more than just the Olympics; it adds a huge swath of beautiful and brutal terrain, as well as new events that are surprisingly entertaining.

Those parts of the DLC are hidden behind the story mode, however, which is not much more than a classic longshot narrative: You are an aspiring freestyle Olympian, and you have to complete a series of events in order to make it onto the Olympic team. Your ultimate goal is to become the first freestyle athlete to win the gold medal in all three freestyle disciplines: Big Air, Slopestyle, and Halfpipe.

As you progress through training and the various pre-Olympic competitions, the story is interspersed with actual video interviews with famous winter athletes. These are probably the best moments in the mode, as it's fascinating to hear Lindsey Vonn or Gus Kenworthy talk about their training regimen, what their anxieties are, or how it feels to win a competition. Generally, Olympic athletes only ever get visibility when they are actually participating in the Olympics, so it's easy to only think of them in the context of their sports. To see highly successful athletes sitting down in street clothes and talking about their experiences with obvious passion instills a sense of humanity and relatability that we rarely otherwise get.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story doesn't match the interviews in quality. Each event feels bizarrely disconnected from the interviews, and the mode's narrator treats your character as a nameless, faceless competitor who is supposed to be taking snowboarding by storm. In addition, the actual competitions are frustratingly easy if you've played the base game. During my playthrough of the story, I never once came close to falling out of first place, and I'd routinely score two or three times higher than the other competitors. During some events, where the total score is the sum of the scores of three runs, my two-run score would be significantly higher than the competitors' three-run scores. Although its in-depth tutorial make it a great mode for newcomers, veterans of the game won't find anything particularly exciting or intriguing. Thankfully, it only takes three hours to complete, so you can quickly get through it and turn your attention to the much more rewarding parts of the expansion: the new open world and the various challenges contained within.

For all its problems, Steep does one thing particularly well: it imparts a sense of scale that's unmatched by any other winter sports game. The mountains you ski on feel immense, varied, and full of secrets--in other words, they actually feel like real mountains. They draw you in and make you want to traverse their entire breadth. Additionally, each mountain is distinct and has its own character; Steep's Denali map features massive, wide-open slopes, while the Alps are filled with craggy peaks, glacier fields, and Swiss villages. Road to the Olympics adds a Japan location, which is just as varied and, it turns out, is my favorite map in the game.

Japan's skiing is unique and very different from Western ski areas. The new map is filled with huge, sheer cliffs that bottom out into narrow ravines, glades full of small, scraggly trees as opposed to the tall evergreens of the West, and pillow fields of natural jumps and kickers that make you feel both exhilarated and slightly out of control. Steep's character models and small details have never looked good, but its scenery is gorgeous, and Japan is no exception. I found myself frequently stopping and staring out over the mountain range, or seeking out the small temples and villages that dot the mountainside.

It's also just an incredibly fun map to ski down. Steep has arguably the best video-game skiing ever made, from the sense of speed to the ease of pulling off tricks to the smoothness of the mechanics. And Japan encourages you to experiment with those mechanics and push the game to its limits. No other map in the game has rock faces as sheer, chutes as steep, or glades as dense, and you'll have to really work to keep yourself from crashing. But unlike the Alps and Alaska, I never felt like I was fighting the game itself or going out of my way to avoid particularly nasty terrain. The new mountain wants you to throw yourself down chasms and cliffs.

Of course, free-roaming around the mountain isn't the only thing you can do in Steep--it also has a Trials-like challenge system that encourages you to perfect your runs to increase your score. I've found Japan's normal challenges to be fine, but unmemorable; there's no challenge that stands out like the Cliff Jump events in the base game. It also has a distinct lack of freestyle events, which are by far the best challenges in the game.

However, Road to the Olympics also contains about a dozen different Olympic challenges that are a lot more satisfying than their story mode counterparts. Competing against yourself and the global leaderboards is more difficult and more interesting than competing against computer-controlled characters. These events do feature a commentator, though, whose lines are extremely repetitive and often unrelated to what you're doing.

The events themselves are novel and rewarding, featuring mechanics and terrain found nowhere else in the game. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the new ski racing events actually work pretty well in a game that focuses so clearly on freestyle. In fact, the Downhill ski challenge has become one of my favorites of all the activities in Steep.

Struggling to control your character while going at extremely high speeds is satisfying and entertaining, especially when you nail a difficult turn while maintaining your velocity. Also, these ski race events finally justify the existence of Steep's first-person view. Although it's impossible to ski in first person while doing jumps and flips, ski racing is perfect for it: the smooth, open tracks keep the camera stable, and it's actually helpful to see the track from a closer, less obscured perspective. In addition, hitting a jump or carving a hard turn in first person felt way more real than I was expecting. For a few moments at least, I experienced the same stomach lurches that I do when skiing in real life.

The ski races provide some much-needed novelty to Steep's core gameplay, but most of Road to the Olympics is simply more Steep. That's both good and bad; the new playground in Japan is huge, varied, and enticing, it provides a wealth of opportunities to explore and try new tricks, and there are enough challenges to keep you occupied trying to beat your own and friends' scores. However, Steep does can get repetitive; a freestyle challenge is a freestyle challenge, after all, and eventually Japan's novelty does wear off. The ski races actually present new mechanics to master, but the expansion doesn't lean into these events hard enough. Even having just a few more Downhill courses would have gone a long way toward making Road to the Olympics better.

As it is, the moments where Road to the Olympics shines are when you're shredding through waist-deep powder at breakneck speeds through a picturesque glade, or careening from the very peak of a mountain down through ravines and all the way to the base far below. The new mountain is beautiful and features a good number of opportunities, and it's a welcome expansion of Steep's playable territory. The Olympic events, meanwhile, provide nice diversions when you really want to compete against yourself. The DLC's main feature--the narrative journey to the Olympics--is flawed, unfulfilling, and frustrating, but thankfully there's enough to do elsewhere that Road to the Olympics still helps bolster and revitalize Steep's main appeal. It's good to have a new mountain to throw yourself down.

Categories: Games

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