Games

<p>Rage 2 debuted with a bombastic

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 20:00

Rage 2 debuted with a bombastic trailer full of neon color splashes. It was a sign Rage 2 would not look like the first Rage, which was defined by brown horizons.

Avalanche aims to create a variety of visual variations across Rage 2’s world, and that process starts with art concepts. We sat down with Rage 2’s art director Jeremy Miller, who detailed the process for creating Rage 2’s world and why he thinks it has an insanity problem.

“A core part of the Rage world is wasteland cyberpunk. It’s not the cyberpunk world where you go into a desert, it is a post, post-apocalyptic world with a wasteland that is sometimes lush that also has a strong cyberpunk layer.

 

“Visual variation was core for us, and that is supported within the character factions and every part of the world. I would rather that we have a really beautiful, dynamic world rather than super high fidelity cups, for example.”

“Each faction is full of terrible people. But they're also awesome. You can’t help but kind of like them.”

“Rage doesn’t have a resource problem. It has an insanity problem. The world is filled with stuff. There are computers and computer parts, glass, guns, and cars. If you want to get stuff, there is plenty of it laying around and underground… People have spent years taking all this stuff and hacking it together to get it into working order. So we have this weird leveling of all technology so you’ll see people with holograms and right beside, someone has taken old smart tablet and nailed it to a wall. The world has a lot of resources, but no one knows how to use it all and people are crazy.”

“When the Apophis asteroid hit there was this sense that – as far as everyone was concerned – when they came back up, the world was going to be Mars. The planet was going to be completely barren. There is an element of that sort of spacefaring colonialism worked into the costumes. You can see this subtle NASA vibe in their outfits.”

 

“One of our key pillars is this is about fun, and that is a huge element of crazy, but if the crazy we create is just depressing and not fun, then it’s not for Rage. It always has to have the horrific quality of, ‘oh my God! This is so awful! Why would they do this? But I can’t help but kind of like them.' That’s the sweet spot for us.”

For more on Rage 2, be sure to check out our cover story hub by clicking on the banner below.

Categories: Games

Travis Strikes Again Feels Like A Return To The Madness Suda51 Does Best

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/14/2018 - 13:00

It has been over ten years since the first No More Heroes game released, taking players into the strange and murderous land of Santa Destroy from the perspective of the strange and murderous Travis Touchdown. While there has been a sequel to the game, the first title in the series kind of ended an era for both Travis and developer Grasshopper Manufacture. It was the last game that saw Goichi Suda, better known by his penname of Suda51, in the director’s chair and nothing from the studio since has felt quite the same way since.

A decade later, Suda is stepping back up to direct a game again in the form of Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes and, after hands-on time with new levels, we can report that it definitely feels like Suda51’s style is back in full force again.

The latest demo for Travis Strikes Again shows new levels for the first time since the game was revealed in an August 2017 Nintendo Direct. Grasshopper has indicated that they want every level in the game to feel different even though the basic framework remains the same. Unlike the previous No More Heroes games with a traditional 3D action game camera, Travis Strikes Again takes a top-down perspective for the majority of its gameplay. To that end, Grasshopper wanted to make each level still feel unique in theme, tone, and mechanics.

The first new level was titled Life is Destroy, which puts Travis into a seemingly cozy suburban neighborhood. The comfortable feelings do not last long, however, as Travis is made aware that a serial killer called the Doppelganger has been active in the suburb. To win the game, Travis must solve the murders, unmask the Doppelganger, and move on to the next work. As Travis travels between houses, a giant glowing skull follows him, causing an instant kill if he touches it. If there is an explanation for the skull, I didn’t get a chance to see it, but I’m hoping it has no explanation.

After investigating a murder scene, Travis is attacked by a monstrous humanoid sheep. The mid-boss charges at you repeatedly and is basically unaffected by anything you do, serving as a pretty strong tutorial for learning how to use your skills. By holding the left bumper and combining it with a face button, Travis can skills that the player has earned and put in slots. These skills are found around the game world in the form of Skill Chips and can drastically alter how well you proceed through fights.

One skill was a time bomb that can be shot out to stick to enemies. By using this on the monster sheep, I could take advantage of his calmer moments to stick a bomb to him and then run away when he got more aggressive, giving me time to let the skill cooldown. Skills also become important when playing in co-op, as synergy between the two players in their skillsets mattered a great deal. Travis had a skill that called in an airstrike, but took a few seconds to fully charge and was interruptible during that time. Badman, Travis’ unwilling partner in the game world, had equipped a skill that slowed enemies to a crawl, making communication between the two important on which skills to use when.

The second level was titled Golden Dragon GP, named after a VR game within the game world itself. Travis is convinced to put a VR headset on and enter a Tron-like world of wireframes, orange beams of light, and death racing. In the races, players must max out to the top speed of their current gear and then shift gears by navigating a path to the next gear. Sometimes they’ll be in a normal order, sometimes they’ll occur in random orders or be branches off in strange directions. The first few races are implausibly easy, but the first boss leaves you in his dust.

Travis is then persuaded to search for better parts, which provides the next action sequence. I had been playing single-player up until this point, but adding a co-op partner is quick and easy and can be done at any time, whether you’re wandering around the game world or fighting a boss. Badman joined Travis to help him tear through a few dozen enemies as the two searched a Japanese-looking mansion for a Golden Dragon GP part.

As Travis and Badman strike enemies, they lose power in their weapons, just like in the original No More Heroes games. In the Wii titles, Travis had to shake the controller up and down to recharge. That functionality is retained here, by holding in the left analog stick and shaking the controller, Travis regains beam saber functionality in pips. This can be done with any of the game’s supported controllers, like the joycons, dual-joycons, Pro controller, or handheld mode. Thankfully, aside from the single-joycon option, all other controllers let you just press in the left analog stick and then oscillate the right analog up and down to charge. It’s quite a bit more consistent, especially in the heat of battle.

 

While I wish I could have played more about Travis Strikes Again, a lot of my initial concerns about it have fallen to the wayside. The dialogue is undeniably Suda and not the emulation of it that felt flat in previous Grasshopper games. No one would, or should, confuse Travis Strikes Again with earlier No More Heroes games, but it seems to have that feeling of abstract punk that I have been missing, even if the titular character is wearing an Unreal Engine logo on his t-shirt.

You can check out video we took from this demo in a brand new New Gameplay Today right here.

Categories: Games

New Dead Or Alive 6 Trailer Shows Off Returning Veterans Brad And Eliot

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 21:50

Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo have revealed two more returning characters to Dead or Alive 6, veterans Brad and Eliot. Brad is mostly unchanged from his previous incarnations, utilizing his drunken master style once again. Eliot also seems to be the same as the previous game, but has a jazzy new outfit.

You can check out the character trailer for both below.

The pair are fighting on a new stage titled Unforgettable, which pieces together parts from a number of old DOA stages on a film set. You can see the stairs from Helena's stage, outside the casino, the war zone, and more. It seems to be a greatest hits of DOA stages past.

Dead or Alive 6 releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 15.

Categories: Games

Gris Review - Seeing In Color

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 14:00

Painting Gris as a beautiful adventure is almost too obvious. Even amid the crumbling ruins that hint at better days, every element of this platformer emphasizes its undeniable loveliness. From the wide-angle shots and the ethereal music to the delicate way in which you glide gracefully to a far-off platform, Gris is enrapturing in ways that make it hard to walk away from. Though it takes a mere four hours to reach the ending credits, the time spent with Gris is so captivating that it would have felt greedy to stay with it any longer.

In Gris, a young woman finds herself alone in a desolate world. Ruined buildings and broken pillars dominate the landscape, remnants from a lost civilization. Without saying a word, the woman exudes loneliness, moving forward only to fulfill the aching sense of longing that is now her only companion. The feeling of loss is palpable. You wander through a palace that could tumble with one strong gust of wind. Cracked statues lay before you, all of women. Some stand in poses of power, others of thoughtfulness, but all are only relics of what used to be. Savor the sight because the statues, the buildings, the pillars could all be turned to dust when you return.

Your goal is to obtain fragments of light that complete constellations, allowing you to reach other areas. But the dreamy flow through locations is so subtle that it rarely feels as if you’re completing specific tasks. Rather, you guide the young woman down slopes, across balconies, and through ruins because the call to see what wonders await is impossible to resist. For much of the game, I felt lost as I glided across the serene landscapes, unaware of where I was going but curious to see what lay just outside of my vision. Being lost in Gris is different from other games, though. Whenever I wondered if I was going in the right direction, I wandered into a new location just as beautiful as where I had been, and I set off to wherever it felt like I was being led.

As I drifted through Gris’ world, I collected the odd light fragment, but it never felt like the point of my movement--I just wanted to see where the path led me, and I solved puzzles to reach the fragments along the way. These puzzles are not mind-teasers that demand careful concentration or daring trial-and-error obstacles. Rather, you need only figure out how your given abilities work in a specific area to continue onward undeterred. In the beginning, for instance, I had to learn that I could walk up staircases I thought were only in the background. A little puzzle, yes, but one that brings joy when you realize how simple and delightful the solution is.

Later sections have blocks that appear when a light shines upon them or a wintery wind that casts statues of ice in your image, but none of the puzzles are presented in such a way as to stymie a player. Gris is a game in which its lack of challenge is a positive quality because any frustrating section would have derailed the feeling of peace and serenity that it builds so wondrously as you progress. There’s no combat or death to break you from this trance, just pure pleasure throughout. I wanted to explore this world, to see breathtaking sights and soak in the melancholic score, and Gris welcomed this feeling instead of hiding its charms behind tests of skill.

Despite the ease of the puzzles, there are genuine surprises in how you navigate the world. I gasped when I realized a rippling block wasn’t as solid as I had assumed and there’s a perspective-flipping section that made me laugh with joy. The magic of Gris is that it encompasses the varied move set you’d expect in a more demanding platformer, without expecting impressive feats of dexterity to progress. Instead, it introduces all those navigational twists to draw you ever deeper into this fascinating world. Because of its many surprises, it’s the rare game where I wish I could have my memory erased, to play it once more from the beginning, because few games contain surprises that were so affected.

Gris is joyful and sad, a beautiful ruin, contradictions that make these experiences so exciting. The surprises that lay hidden are not plot twists or unlockable goodies but rather moments when the mechanics perfectly complement the aesthetics. Every element is used to engage your sense of awe. Gris is beautiful, yes, but it uses that beauty like a surgical knife. As you climb to the top of a pyramid, with the sun growing ever brighter and the stars beckoning, it knows to pull back the camera, to show how small you stand against the majesty of the universe.

Don’t dismiss Gris as a game so caught up in its artistic splendor that it forgets what medium it's a part of, though. Strip away the resplendent visual design and enchanting score and Gris would still be enticing because of its sense of movement. The young woman moves with graceful purpose. She’s light on her feet but sure-headed, giving her a weightiness that makes it feel like you’re trying to break free of gravity but can never quite do so. There were sections when I would purposely repeat a series of jumps because it felt so good to skirt against the dreamy sky. New powers are unlocked as you get deeper into the adventure, and all of them add another layer of interactivity that not only expands your horizons but feels good to enact.

Gris understands intrinsically how magical video games can be and continually pushes your imagination until you’re almost bursting with joy. The ways in which it reinvents itself as you gain powers and dive ever deeper into this world is truly special, and just as it knows exactly when to pull back the camera or introduce a new song, it’s keenly aware of when it's time to say goodbye. Like a comet streaking across the sky, Gris is full of wonder and beauty and leaves you with a warm glow in your heart.

Categories: Games

Desert Child Review - Burning Fuel

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 16:00

Desert Child is a game of modern ambitions and sensibilities wrapped up in a retro aesthetic. It looks like an early-'90s DOS game rendering of a future where humanity has colonized Mars and built a city that feels like a mix between a Cowboy Bebop planet and modern-day Australia. The game's unique look, chilled vibe, and strong concept make for a great first impression, but unfortunately, by the end of it you'll realize that there's not much more to Desert Child than what you got in those opening minutes.

You play as a young man who leaves Earth in the game's opening, looking to conquer Mars' speeder bike circuit and earn enough money to prove himself in an upcoming championship. At the beginning of the game, you choose between four weapons to have mounted on the front of your vehicle, each with a different difficulty rating depending on how useful they are. All races are one-on-one and play out on a 2D plane viewed from a side-on perspective, which is a strange--but also a strangely enjoyable--way to compete. There are a handful of different tracks, all with unique obstacles, and when you start up a race you'll be thrown into one of them at random. While there are obstacles to avoid, winning comes down to using your boost effectively and firing your weapon at TVs planted around the track. Each TV you take out gives you a speed boost, and to maintain your maximum speed you need to consistently destroy the televisions on the track before your opponent does.

The first few times you race in Desert Child, it's thrilling. Your hoverbike controls well--it's floaty and fast but precise--and blasting away at everything in front of you and timing your boosts well is fun. The game captures the inherent excitement of hoverbike racing, but once it becomes clear that every race is going to be more-or-less the same, that excitement dulls considerably. You can't switch guns mid-game, the tracks all play very similarly, and the only real difference between opponents is that the very last one in the game is more difficult to beat than the others. I couldn't highlight a uniquely cool moment from any of the races I took part in across two playthroughs of the game, or a race where the game showed off a new trick or idea.

Desert Child also has the thin veneer of an RPG system. You spend much of the game's short running time wandering around a Martian city, exploring and poking at its different stores, NPCs, and the odd jobs it offers. There are only a handful of different environments for your unnamed protagonist to mosey through, and while they're lovely to look at the first few times, the game's small scale begins to feel limiting when you realize that the game world never changes in any significant way. After each race or job you take, the day progresses, and while some NPCs shift around and store stocks change, Mars very quickly starts to feel small and static.

Your major objective is to raise $10,000 for a tournament while keeping yourself well fed, your bike in good working order, and not attracting the law by taking on too many dodgy missions in the nightlife district. The goal seems to be to capture some of the tedium of life in this town--there's a lot of walking around, visiting ramen stores, and switching between odd jobs. Some of these jobs are fun, but generally only for the first few times that you play them. For example, you can work as a pizza delivery person, riding a bicycle through one of the game's tracks while shooting pizza boxes at people; you can herd kangaroos, which involves following a group of them through a field and maneuvering your hoverbike behind any slackers so that they don't drop away from the pack; you can enter and intentionally lose a race for the local crime boss.

There are a few different minigames like this, but ultimately none of them really offers anything that feels like a meaningful twist on the existing racing (with the possible exception of the "hacking" minigame, in which you're attacked by floating Windows logos and marble busts--I could not figure out this job's victory conditions). Once you've quickly seen everything Mars has to offer, and especially once you've bought the game's entire soundtrack from the record shop (which is worth doing, because the music is great), there's nothing exciting to find or unlock.

There are a lot of references in Desert Child that will hit harder with an Australian audience. There's a bridge dedicated to the welfare program Centrelink, complete with a job board that you can access different tasks from; the constant casual profanity is very Aussie; and there are little nods to local cultural touchstones dotted around Mars. The "Bring Back Tim Tams" graffiti might not hold the same appeal for all players, but it made me smile.

Before long, your focus will shift to saving up for the tournament, which boils down to racing and completing tasks over and over while storing your earnings in your bank to accrue interest. It's an uninteresting progression model, and the tournament itself is unexciting--you race three times, and if you lose any of them you must start again. You earn huge amounts of money even if you lose the first two races, which lets you buy all your hoverbike's potential upgrades and make things a bit easier on yourself. Winning the third race promptly ends the game, even though, narratively and mechanically, it really feels like things are just getting started.

Desert Child exhibits a number of smaller issues, too. While the numerous misspellings feel like they could plausibly be an intentional part of the game's aesthetic, the lack of a pause option during races feels like an oversight, as does the fact that selecting "New Game" from the menu automatically starts up a new game without warning you that all previous data is going to be erased. Sometimes the equipment I'd put on my bike, like a laser sight for my gun, arbitrarily wouldn't work during a race, and I could never figure out why there were TVs scattered around during the pizza delivery game with seemingly no way to destroy them. Problems like this pop up all over Desert Child, and while most of them are minor, they add up.

Desert Child has a wonderful sense of style, and there are moments when it clicks. When you jet across the water on your bike firing a shotgun blast that shatters several televisions in front of you, or when you first start to wrap your head around the aesthetic of Mars, the game briefly, but brightly, shines. But Desert Child doesn't quite hang together, and by the end of its very brief runtime the things that seemed exciting just an hour prior have lost most of their luster. This could be a lovely proof of concept for a bigger game; as it stands, it's hard not to get caught up thinking about all that it could have been.

Categories: Games

Ace Combat 7's Multiplayer And VR Modes Provide Stunning New Experiences

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 15:00

The phrase “a sinking feeling” describes the way your stomach feels when you descend in a roller coaster or a car crests a steep hill, but it’s something that’s hard to emulate without physically moving. While a lot of games end up being capable of bringing about that feeling, none excel at it quite like Ace Combat, and the newest game in the series makes you feel like you’re actually in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

As a series, Ace Combat has been its own roller coaster in narrative over the years. After a fairly disastrous foray into the real world, the series is returning back into the realms of fictious lands and their fictious wars. The opening CG scene for Ace Combat 7 is narrated by a young girl who, over the course of many years, built a fighter jet with her war veteran grandfather and his friends. She remains an ancillary fixture of the story, adjacent to a number of the big events and skirmishes breaking out during the war between the Osean and Erusean armies, serving more as your R2D2 than your Luke Skywalker.

The first mission takes the training wheels off the moment you go wheels up, tasking you with the main goals of your gameplay: shoot things and don’t crash. After being told that there are enemy fighters and bombers in the area, your squad dispatches to a nearby island to get a practical lesson in locking on to enemies and shooting missiles at them. After the mission ends, a cutscene explains that Erusean forces placed drones in shipping containers sent to Osea and remotely activated them to attack, which seems like a pretty good plan.

The second mission has your fighter taking on those drones, jets with the ability to make pinpoint turns into the foggy clouds above. Dogfighting with these enemies as you do your best to dip in and out of the clouds to avoid icing up and finding yourself face-to-face with the ground as you struggle to pull up and not crash straight into the soil is an actually indescribable feeling and feels fresh every single time it happens, which is a lot because I’m a bad pilot.

The VR missions might be the real star of the show, however, and are genuinely impressive. The side missions put players back in the role of Mobius 1, the hero of Ace Combat 4 and general mythological hero of Erusea. The venerated tones with which characters speak about you is probably the second biggest thrill in the game behind the emetic quality of doing loops to dodge missiles in VR. While it is only a side mode, it could stand as proof of concept of how well VR dogfighting can work in general.

We also got a chance to try multiplayer, a point-based online match that puts six planes in a 3v3 fight. Enemies take a lot longer to kill in this mode, so you go for inching you way up with bullets and the occasional missile. At the end of each round, you’re given accolades depending on what you excelled at or failed spectacularly at, such as “Avoided the greatest number of missiles using cloud-cover” or “Fired the most missed shots.”

As someone who has dabbed in Ace Combat before but rarely dove in head-first, I came away from the demo excited to play more, especially with a PSVR in tow. It will also be interesting to see how the fanbase takes to the new game’s narrative hooks and the return to what people liked about Ace Combat in the first place.

Ace Combat 7 releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 18, then on February 1 on PC.

Categories: Games

Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom Review - Thy Kingdom Come

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 02:00

It's difficult to talk about Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom without discussing Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap and its 2017 remake, because despite being produced by an entirely different development team, this game is, in fact, an official successor in the Wonder Boy series. But even though its history might be confusing, Monster Boy is a fantastic adventure in its own right, one that distinctly builds upon the best parts of Wonder Boy and adds some welcome modern conveniences for good measure.

You play as Jin, a blue-haired young man who must stop his drunk uncle Nabu from inflicting curses upon the kingdom's inhabitants and transforming them into animals. Unfortunately, the plot doesn't really expand beyond that initial premise. With the exception of some moments of levity provided by the cast of interesting supporting characters, the story is uninspired and concludes on a final act that feels shoehorned. But where Monster Boy's narrative lacks in imagination, it more than makes up for it with its well-honed character transformation mechanic.

Over the course of the game, Jin unlocks an arsenal of equipment and gains five animal transformations--pig, snake, frog, lion, and dragon--each of whom has their own unique abilities. Jin's human, frog, lion, and dragon forms are also able to equip a variety of weapons, shields, and armor, all of which can be upgraded. Equipping items unlocks new abilities--one type of boots allow you to walk on clouds, while another allows you to double jump, for instance. Quickly swapping between all these different forms to take advantage of their strengths adds a continually enjoyable layer of thought to the platforming experience, and its strengths are regularly showcased by Monster Boy's excellent puzzle design.

You're eased into each new animal form and piece of equipment with some basic obstacles and enemies before being set loose to explore the titular Cursed Kingdom. Puzzles scattered throughout require some thought; on several occasions, you'll be forced to combine the use of several different powers and abilities in creative ways in order to progress forward or reach a treasure. It might be juggling two different animal forms, using particular equipment abilities, or taking advantage of environmental items, and when you eventually figure out how to get there, it always feels rewarding. Puzzles become increasingly complex, the variety of enemies becomes tougher, and the platforming sections feature additional obstacles that require more precise timing as you progress, but the growing challenges are balanced out well by a forgiving number of checkpoints, which help you keep motivated to give things another try.

While the game is primarily linear, the Cursed Kingdom itself is enormous and features several different secret-filled areas (discovering everything will likely blow out your playtime to roughly 15-20 hours), and the variety of puzzles and charming locations that you find in far corners of the world are themselves an attractive incentive to reach. The experience is doubly rewarding when you unearth new paths while revisiting a previously-discovered area armed with a bigger arsenal of animal forms and skills, and Monster Boy even implements a teleportation mechanic to alleviate frustrations of excessive backtracking.

Monster Boy also boasts a brilliant visual and audio presentation that makes the Wonder Boy aesthetic shine, featuring a meticulously detailed hand-drawn art style. Each character is beautifully realized with their own delightful animation--little details, like the pig's sheepish look as he farts after eating a power-up plant or the frog eyeballing some flies as part of his idle animation, adds volumes to Jin's characterization and the game's charm. Every area of the Cursed Kingdom is also visually distinct and beautifully animated, and a couple of superb anime-style sequences that bookend the game help give it a slick, cohesive feel. The game's strong soundtrack helps round out the package and features both original pieces influenced by Wonder Boy's soundtrack, combined with new, rock-influenced arrangements of Wonder Boy's most memorable tunes, making it a great collection of music both new and old.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom not only pays faithful homage to Wonder Boy, particularly The Dragon's Trap, but by refining the solid foundations of its spiritual predecessors with modern affordances, it becomes a rich platforming adventure in its own right. With a well-realized world filled to the brim with secrets and excellent platforming mechanics that always keeps things interesting, the Cursed Kingdom is a place you will want to discover every corner of.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 01:15

Bandai Namco has announced that their newest Tales of game, a mobile title named Tales of Crestoria, will be coming stateside in 2019. While not quite dubbed the next mainline or flagship Tales of game, Crestoria has all the resources of one and will be releasing in 2019 on iOS and Android.

"Tales of Crestoria takes place in an oppressive dystopia where every citizen must carry with them an all-seeing 'Vision Orb' that monitors for criminal violations," Bandai Namco writes. "The game follows protagonists Kanata, a naive boy blindly accepting of to the Vision Orbs’ justice, and Misella, an audacious orphan unbridled in her dedication to defending Kanata. Due to the horrific events of one fateful night, the duo find themselves branded “Transgressors”, and condemned to death by society’s popular vote—the draconian system of justice by which their world is governed. With eyes now opened to the injustices of society, a chance meeting with Vicious, “The Great Transgressor,” gives Kanata and Misella a defining choice: Own your fate, or let fate own you."

To celebrate, Bandai Namco has released a concept movie to show off the themes of that description in a fairly cool artstyle Check it out below.

Like most recent Tales of games, the title will be a collaboration between artists Mutsumi Inomata and Kosuke Fujishima.

Despite Bandai Namco traditionally releasing one mainline Tales of game a year, they have slowed down considerably in the last few years, not releasing a new title since 2016's Tales of Berseria. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition, a remaster of the decade-old classic with additional content for English-speaking players, will see release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on January 11.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 12/10/2018 - 14:53

Capcom has made a few announcements about the future of Monster Hunter: World, including a new expansion, Iceborne, which comes out next fall.

Iceborne brings with it new quest ranks, monsters, and more – all within its own story that takes place after the base game.

Early next year, however, hunters will be able to play as Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, featuring his own quests and gameplay.

In other Monster Hunter news, to celebrate the game's one-year anniversary, in January there is an Appreciation Fest, including a newly decorated gathering hub and special quests.

Before then, starting tomorrow (4 p.m. PST), a free trial (PS4, Xbox One) of the base game is available to those who haven't played it through December 17 (3:59 p.m. PST), and if you decide to buy the game outright, your progress transfers to the main title.

Finally, the Kulve Taroth Siege special event quest returns on December 20, featuring an Arch Tempered version of the monster as well as more powerful rewards.

Categories: Games

New Kingdom Hearts III Trailer Shows Off Opening Cinematic

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/09/2018 - 18:00

It's been a long time coming, but Kingdom Hearts III is nearly here. In anticipation of its release early next year, Square Enix is revealing three new trailers this month.

The first of the three can be viewed above, and it is being teased as the opening cinematic for the game. It also premieres a new song from Hikaru Utada and Skrillex called Face My Fears. 

Kingdom Hearts III will feature several settings from Disney and Pixar, including Big Hero 6, Frozen, Monsters Inc., and more.

It releases for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 29. Check out a previous trailer showing off several of Kingdom Hearts III's worlds by heading here.

Categories: Games

Capy On Ambiguous Game Design And The Invetiable Dark Souls Comparisons Of Below

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/07/2018 - 22:45

Below is a roguelike about exploring a series of descending caves on a mysterious island that seems to dare adventurers to come and see if they can survive its challenges. You can craft food and potions, hunt wildlife, and if you die, another adventurer will make their way to the island to quite literally pick up where you left off by acquiring the lamp you dropped on the ground when you died. Despite the density of mechanics and the vague story about a mysterious island that seems to draw in those courageous enough to find it, Below does not offer much on-screen text or tutorial. Alongside the challenge of surviving, figuring out the game’s myriad mechanics, and how to take advantage of them, is one of the things developer Capy Games hope players embrace.

“I am worried about it,” creative director Kris Piotrowski says, “It is a decision that has risks to it, for sure.” Piotrowski recalls the first time he played Minecraft with a wiki open nearby explaining how the game worked, and that was part of the reason he enjoyed the experience. The community was there to help. “I remember when I first played Dark Souls, there was so much to it that wasn't explained and I feel like communities can be built around players helping each other learn and figure out things out,” Piotrowski says. That of course lead to a familiar comparison.

“I think Dark Souls is a brilliant game and the comparison is nothing  but complimentary from my perspective,” Piotrowski says regarding the familiar refrain that many games receive these days: it’s like Dark Souls! And in some ways it is. You open shortcuts to the islands assorted lower levels as you play, combat is precise and challenging and when you die, there is incentive to go back and picked up what you dropped, but Below certainly has an identity of its own. “This is a weird game that has a lot of weird little things in it, but it's also a game where you have a sword and shield and it has combat that sort of feels like Zelda or Dark Souls,” Piotrowski says.

Despite his worry about the ambiguous nature of the game, Piotrowski is confident players will be able to figure out the game. “There is a bit of an entry-level starting point that I think players kind of wrap their heads around. I think games have gone very far in the direction of hand-holding and telegraphing and rewarding players continuously. That kind of slow dopamine drop of gameplay cycles that are finely tuned to keep you in the game and sort of spoon feed you every little detail. I think most games do that and I think certain game fans like to just approach a game and try to figure it out,” Piotrowski says. “I think there is pleasure in trying to figure out the mechanics. When a game tells you, ‘Hey, you're on your own!’ a different part of your brain turns on.”

Below finally releases on Xbox One and PC on December 14. For more on the game, you can watch us play the game with Piotrowski here, and see him on The Game Informer Show podcast right here.

Categories: Games

Six Big Takeaways After Seeing Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/07/2018 - 14:00

Yesterday, Obsidian and Private Division announced The Outer Worlds, a sci-fi RPG that looks to please Mass Effect and Fallout fans. In The Outer Worlds, players take on the role of a colonist who has just awoken from a long interstellar hibernation then sets off to explore a solar system with the ultimately goal of getting to the bottom of a corporate conspiracy that threatens to destroy everything humanity has built.

Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky are the game’s two co-directors, and both designers worked on the original Fallout as well as titles like Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, WildStar, and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. We talked with Cain and Boyarsky and spent a day at Obsidian learning all we could about their special new project. Here are six reasons RPG fans should keep The Outer Worlds on their radar.

1) A Unique Take On Sci-Fi

The Outer Worlds is an epic sci-fi opera, but Obsidian’s take on sci-fi is a bit quirky. If you watched the game’s debut trailer, you might have picked up hints of BioShock, but Irrational’s classic wasn’t a direct inspiration. The team was initially inspired by Art Nouveau and Victorian sci-fi from the late 1800s. The Outer Worlds isn’t exactly steampunk, but its universe is filled with a lot of clunky technology and its environments feature a lot of heavy cables and piping.

“We like doing stuff that’s a little bit different,” says Boyarsky. “We wanted to make a sci-fi game, because we’re both big sci-fi fans. You can say Fallout is sci-fi, but it’s post-apocalyptic, which is a bit of a sub-genre. This seems like a good opportunity to go pure sci-fi, so we started to talk about corporations and the way they brand everything. We wanted to explore a future world in that vein. As we talked more, we were drawn to the robber barons of the late 1800s and how they controlled every aspect of people’s existence. That just felt like a really good fit for this.”

2) You Explore An Entire Solar System

Obsidian’s universe isn’t as big as a Mass Effect galaxy, but in The Outer World’s players will fly around an entire solar system aboard their own spaceship. We only got a taste of a few of these environments, but they seem sizable in their own right, and this diversity of locations gives Obsidian the opportunity to create a wide variety of ecologies.

Halcyon is the name of The Outer World’s solar system. It is the furthest colony from Earth and features two main planets humanity initially intended to colonized. However, once the colony ships arrived in the system they realized that only one of the planets as good for habitation, so while one planet is full of sleek technical marvels and gleaming skyscrapers, the other is a barren wasteland teeming with wild monsters. In addition to these two planets, players can explore several moons, asteroids, and space stations spread across Halcyon.

  3) Goofy, Dark Humor

If you have any question about The Outer Worlds’ brand of humor, just know that you can play through the entire game as a dumb guy – literally, there is a dialogue option labeled [Dumb] that will let you role-play as a clueless brute. Halcyon is also filled with fat snakes that were bred for their leather, missions about diet toothpaste, and a rare weapon that works like a shrink ray to miniaturize your opponents.

“I think humor is really, really hard to do in a game, but games that go pure dark are hard to take in every night,” says Cain. “I play games that skew dark, and after a while I just don’t want to play them anymore. We like this kind of dark humor where we can put something in the game that also looks silly, but when you dig into it, you find out it’s really horrific.”

“You can actually get a lot darker and a lot deeper into things if it’s fun and humorous,” adds Boyarsky. “Getting deep into the human condition can be a little overwhelming, but if you are having a fun time and laughing and then we sneak in some of that depth and darkness, it actually resonates a little better.”

4) Open-Ended Problem-Solving

Obsidian looks to allow players to tackle The Outer World’s missions in a variety of ways. Charmers might work their way out of firefights with the right words, while thieves can bypass combat by finding a backdoor into most outposts. Those who choose to engage in The Outer World’s first-person combat will have the option to slow down time with a feature called tactical time dilation. This slow-mo feature allows players to look closely at enemies to gain information such as their level of health and other stats. Attacks made during tactical time dilation also do extra damage, but ultimately players will be able to approach every problem in their own way.

“We always ask ourselves, ‘How are people going to react in the game and what do we think they’re going to want to do,’” says Cain. “We added a lot of different playthrough paths. For combat, we have both melee and ranged, but players also have stealth and dialogue options. Then we have all the hybrids like what if you want to sneak through part of the map and then talk your way out of a jam. Or, what if you just want to kill everybody? We’re happy to say that you can kill everybody in the game and still finish the main story arc. You’d be a psychopath, but you could do it.”

  5) Embrace The Fear

The Outer Worlds is constantly watching players and recording their actions. Ultimately, it will present new events that could leave lasting scares on your hero. At various times, the game will invite you to select a fear for your character. These fears are based on things that have happened to you. For example, if you take a lot of damage from a certain enemy type, you may be invited to develop a fear of that enemy, which means you will take extra damage those foes. In return to taking a fear, players will get to pick an extra perk to buff their character in other ways. This creates an interesting risk reward dynamic where players can choose to have some weaknesses in order to make themselves stronger. Once these fears have been chosen, they are locked in, but players can also choose to opt out of this fear system entirely. 

“If you’re familiar with the works of Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth and The Hero with a Thousand Faces – he always talks about how heroes are more interesting because they have flaws, so we incorporated the fear system,” says Cain. “The game’s flaws can be anything from a fear of heights to a fear of the dark, or you can be susceptible to different damage types. So the game might go, ‘Hey, I noticed you catch fire a lot. Do you want to be susceptible to flame damage?’ People are like, ‘Why would ever want to be susceptible to flame damage?’ But if you’re one perk away from something really cool, it can be really tempting.”

6) Companionship On The Spaceship

During your journey through Halcyon, you will meet a host of characters who will join your crew. These characters feature their own unique abilities, motivations, and ideals. As you get to know them, they will give you personal companion quests, and completing these missions could change their character. Companions will interject in the middle of conversations and buff your skills, but they might also leave your crew if they don’t like what you’re doing. We encountered one companion named Ellie, who is a tough, no-nonsense sharpshooter. Another companion, named Felix, is a sarcastic melee brute with a good intimidation skill. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to romance any of your companions.

“You encounter all the companions in the first third of the game, because it’s no fun getting a companion in the last hour,” says Cain. “They are designed to touch most of the major skills, so they are all different, but there is some overlap so there’s not just one guy who is really good at ranged attacks or one person who’s a good doctor. They also play off all the different ways a player can play. Like, if you’re playing a psychopath, we show how all these companions react to that. If you’re being really nice, not all the companions are going to be like, ‘Oh great, you’re a hero.’”

 

Given Obsidian’s lineage working on games like Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and the Pillars of Eternity, The Outer Worlds looks like the kind of game that RPG fans have been waiting a long time for. We enjoyed our brief taste of Obsidian’s unique spin on sci-fi and the studios bizarre humor, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the game in 2019 when it releases on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. For more, be sure to watch our New Gameplay Today video preview or watch the announce trailer.

Categories: Games

Earth Defense Force 5 Review - Another Bug Hunt

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 12/07/2018 - 11:00

Earth Defense Force 5 is a clear culmination point for a series that’s been around since the PlayStation 2, reaching a scale that could surprise even the most hardened of EDF veterans. While it retains many of the familiar tropes from the franchise--four player classes, a huge variety of missions, unlockable weapons and items, and obscenely terrible in-game dialogue that's so bad it’s good--EDF 5 ratchets everything up to 11 and remarkably pulls it off. With bullet-hell style action and massive, open battlefields where every building is destructible, it feels like there’s no better time to get out there and save the world from rampaging space insects and their alien masters.

You play a nameless civilian who gets caught up in the invasion as the giant bugs start pummeling an EDF outpost. As you emerge from the underground base the scale of the attack becomes apparent, with you eventually joining the EDF and rising through the ranks to become Earth’s best hope for survival. It’s a fun, if typical, premise that plays out through the cheesiest in-game dialogue I’ve ever heard. It takes numerous hard turns, culminating in one of the most outlandish and audacious boss fights imaginable. Watching the story weave as it tries to connect the dots is like watching a slow motion trainwreck you cannot take your eyes away from--it’s so brash and ridiculous that you can’t help be charmed by it. Though while the dialogue and story can have you gritting your teeth at the levels of cringe, the action is something else entirely.

Before getting out onto the battlefield, you’re given a choice of playing through each mission with one of four character types, each with different play styles and their own customisable loadouts. The Ranger is the stock standard soldier type and by far the easiest to use in direct combat, while the Wing Diver is fast, good for close combat, and can fly herself out of dangerous situations. While you can play through any missions as any player type, some choices certainly made for an easier time than others. Choosing an Air Raider, a character who can request long-range cannon fire and vehicle drops, for an underground mission isn’t the best use of its skills. But the game will let you do it anyway, happily letting you test things out and work it out for yourself. Loading times are quick, so if you make a poor choice of loadout, it’s only a quick hop back to the menu to change it up before getting back out there.

Fighting the alien hordes can be a completely overwhelming experience. The scale of everything is imposing, especially when faced with a swarm of very angry bugs that are clawing and climbing over not just themselves but apartment buildings, factories, and homes to get at you. The maps are huge, giving you a wide playspace to enact your destruction, and for the most part they use that scale and space well. Calling in a bombing run as an Air Raider will zoom the camera out to show a wide shot of the area, with the sky lighting up bright orange as the bombs carpet the landing zone. Various vehicles like tanks and armored suits can be called in or found scattered around, and although they can feel pretty loose and unwieldy at the best of times, they are at least a good way to move from one side of the map to another or to put some space between yourself and the horde.

Player movement also feels a little sloppy. Moving from a standard run into a dash feels more cumbersome than it should, as does general running about. Thankfully, aiming feels snappy and tight, so regardless of whether you’re in tight space or out on a mountain overlooking a wide-open beachside, combat always feels more rewarding than not.

Replayability is encouraged through battle. As you chew through swarms of giant ants, spiders, carpet bugs and more, blasting them apart in a flurry of brightly-colored blood and chunks, and downed enemies will drop armor as well as weapon and health pickups. While the health pickups heal both you and your nearby AI allies--who you can find out in the battlefield and enlist under your supervision--weapon and armor pickups both manifest after the mission is over, giving you access to new and upgraded weaponry and a higher base HP number respectively. The difficulty level you play will also influence your rewards, with higher difficulties giving you stronger weapons with higher base stats, encouraging you to come back on a higher difficulty level to grind out better gear.

Although the offline single player is fun, EDF 5 and the differing play styles of each character type really come into their own in the cooperative multiplayer, where up to four people can join together and take on the entirety of the 110-mission-long campaign. Although offline and online campaign progress is separated, which annoyingly means you’ll need to play through the missions twice to unlock and access them in each, blasting through aliens with others takes the core gameplay to a new level. In one session, my Wing Diver went down while I was standing atop a large tower while attacking a mob of giant hornets. My co-op partner couldn’t reach me to revive me and instead resorted to destroying the tower, bringing me down with it so I could then be revived. Similarly, a guided missile weapon they were using as a Ranger took on a whole new level of lethality when combined with my laser sight to guide it for them, increasing its range far beyond its normal capability. Classes are balanced so they can helpfully support each other in unique ways, which you simply don’t get in the single-player mode where everything is put squarely on your shoulders.

For everything that’s happening on screen, with bullets, missiles, bodies and debris flying every which way, you might expect EDF 5 to experience frame drops on occasion. But only once did performance slow to crawl during an especially busy scene involving a mothership, a crumbling city, hundreds of enemies and a rainstorm. Some of the grimier textures and character models give it a dated look, though while it’s not the best-looking game around, it has the headroom to handle the sheer volume of things happening around you without severe performance hits when the action gets out of hand.

Despite the series' long-running nature, Earth Defense Force 5 is a standout action game, revelling in its own absurdity while crafting a brilliantly fun and lively action game around it. Its huge battles are a joy to watch play out both from up close and afar, and the wide variety of weapons and play styles with each player type offers plenty of reason to come back for more after the final bullet has been fired.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/07/2018 - 07:30

After launching Far Cry 5 in 2018, Ubisoft Montreal is bringing players back to that game’s Montana setting. However, this direct sequel is far from a retread. The Hope County you explore in Far Cry New Dawn is drastically different, as a global nuclear apocalypse has destroyed most of human civilization. You step into the shoes of a new character hoping to help the residents of Hope County in a unique twist on the franchise. I recently visited Ubisoft Montreal to learn more about the game, and here are 12 key takeaways I had from my day in the offices.

Far Cry New Dawn Comes Out Soon, And It’s Cheaper Than A Standard Game

Far Cry New Dawn is priced at $40, but creative director JS Decant says that doesn’t necessarily indicate that players should expect a budget experience. “I think Far Cry 5 was a huge, tremendous experience, so this is slightly smaller in scope in general,” he says. “But if you’re looking for an action-driven adventure with things you like in a Far Cry, it’s there. If you’re someone who likes to explore and discover all the details of the previous world or if you’re into having the best weapons and optimizing, the game is going to be large.”

Far Cry New Dawn looks to be a fun spin-off entry in the Far Cry franchise with an interesting take on the post-apocalypse. With the title launching on February 15, we don’t have to wait long to find out if Hope County is truly worth saving.

New Dawn Is A Standalone Title, But You Probably Want To Play Far Cry 5 First

Though Far Cry New Dawn is meant to be a standalone title, players who worked through the campaign of Far Cry 5 will notice definite continuations from that story. Many of the cult’s structures have been repurposed in this post-apocalyptic world, and we even got a glimpse of cult leader Joseph Seed, the primary antagonist of Far Cry 5, at the end of the reveal trailer.

“The world is in the place where [Joseph] wanted it to be,” Decant says. “He wanted the world to be there so he can start something fresh, something new, something far from what we did with our societies. […] It was a tricky thing because on one hand we wanted to continue with these characters that we loved in Far Cry 5, but at the same time, we wanted to make sure this was a post-apocalyptic game that could be accessible for anyone.”

This Nuked World Doesn’t Look Dead

Rather than going for the stereotypical gray and brown aesthetic many people associate with the post-apocalyptic concept, Ubisoft Montreal researched how the planet would react to and recover from an actual nuclear war. According to their research, the first six years would be a nuclear winter featuring low temperatures, a dead landscape, harsh winds, and new biomes forming everywhere. After the first six years, the sun and rain returns, leading to a “super bloom” event that leads to vegetation reclaiming the planet beginning at year 10. Far Cry New Dawn takes place during the super bloom, 17 years after the nuclear war of 2018.

Because the planet is in the midst of this super bloom, Hope County is colorful and warm, with flowers and vegetation growing from the death and destruction of nearly two decades prior. “Everybody has an idea of what a post-apocalypse setting should look like,” art director Isaac Papismado says. “We really wanted to avoid the dark and grim environments. We saw that 17 years is the perfect time where life and vegetation could come back. That’s something we really wanted to take advantage of.”

While the vegetation is thriving thanks to the meteorological shift, the radiation has infected and mutated some of the wildlife. I didn’t see many examples of this, but I’m interested to see what the team does with this idea.

You Can Launch Saws At Your Enemies

Another theme Ubisoft Montreal is pursuing with New Dawn is the idea that nothing is being manufactured anymore, so everything from buildings to weapons has a makeshift feel. This is most evident in the series’ zaniest weapon yet: the Saw Launcher. This device uses circular saws for ammunition, launching them at your targets. It starts out shooting one saw at a time, but you can upgrade it to shoot multiple at once; the highest I saw was three saws, which all ricochet off objects and into enemies in a satisfying manner.

“We wanted to bring something to the table that would be believable, but also crazy,” says Decant. “We started to think about this thing that would throw little discs, and the team went wild, and we got the Saw Launcher.”

Far Cry: New Dawn's boxart gives us a glimpse at twin sisters Mickey and Lou The Main Conflict Is Between The Survivors And The Highwaymen

You control a character who was a part of a group that was moving up the west coast to rebuild civilization. Unfortunately, the train they’re on is ambushed by a marauding gang called the Highwaymen and the dream of this group rebuilding the civilization is squashed for the time being.

Far Cry New Dawn centers on this conflict between the survivors, who are building a community for the future, and the Highwaymen, who don’t think the world is salvageable. Instead, they move from city to city consuming all the resources and living for today. As you might imagine, your character aligns with the survivors at their home base of Prosperity. The survivors decide that in order to survive and rebuild civilization, they need to run the Highwaymen out of town.

The Highwaymen are led by twin sisters Mickey and Lou. Their families secured the docks shortly after the apocalypse, giving them access to abundant resources. However, the resources didn’t last long, and the two fought to be at the top of the food chain. Mickey and Lou are currently in Hope County, but the Highwaymen are spread across the entire country.

You Don’t Spend The Whole Time In Montana

Since the nuclear event wasn’t localized to Montana, the bombs affected other parts of the world. If you’re in need of resources, you can embark on expeditions, which take place in other areas of the country. During a live gameplay demo, I saw one expedition take place in a Louisiana swamp. An abandoned theme park serves as the setting as I watch the character infiltrate a camp and recover resources. Over the course of the game, players can also travel to another location on the west coast of the U.S., as well as an Arizona location. These additional areas are reused throughout the game, so the Louisiana expedition I saw isn’t the only mission taking place in that region.

“We tried to pick places that felt super different [from Hope County], but also with iconic elements,” Decant says. “We even have one where we refer to another Ubisoft game. [Expeditions] were an opportunity to create areas that felt very different from Hope County.”

The Standard Activities Will Feel Familiar To Far Cry Fans

While you’re in Hope County, many of the standard Far Cry activities are at your disposal. You can embark on treasure hunts, which often involve a twist of some sort; the treasure hunt I saw has you infiltrate a wolverine nest to retrieve a key, but wolverines are the least of your worries once the barn you’re inside goes up in flames. You can also work across the map and clear outposts where the Highwaymen are stationed.

Outposts Bring An Additional Twist This Time

While outposts are nothing new to the Far Cry series, New Dawn adds a new gameplay loop to them. Once you take down an outpost, it becomes a fast-travel location for you. However, you can choose to send those in that outpost to scavenge for additional materials, essentially abandoning it and allowing the Highwaymen to retake it in exchange for resources. Once they reclaim the outpost, you can take it back, but it will be more difficult the second time around.

Enemies Have Designated Difficulty Levels

Enemies now have difficulty levels ranging from one to three to indicate how hard it will be to take them down. If you stir up too much trouble and raise the alarm level, high-level enforcer enemies will join the fight to present extra difficulty.

Using the survivor's Prosperity home base, you can upgrade weapons and train companions New And Familiar Companions Are There For Your Support

If you need some help, you can play cooperatively or bring a Gun for Hire or animal companion into a fight. These characters unlock as you play through the story, and can learn additional abilities as you use them more. For example, one of the Guns for Hire is a grizzled, elderly woman named Nana, who happens to be the sharpest shot in Hope County. This sniper is an ideal companion for stealth missions, as she can unlock abilities like using a silencer or being able to shoot through cover. The other Gun for Hire I saw was Carmina, who is the daughter of Nick and Kim from Far Cry 5. Since she’s only 17 years old, she doesn’t know of a world without the apocalypse.

While I didn’t get to see the other Guns for Hire, Decant says there will be familiar archetypes and even some known characters among the lineup. “There is an RPG, there is a bow-and-arrow character, and a shotgun,” Decant says. “We took some of the most appreciated archetypes and some of the more appreciated characters and created some new ones.”

You Can Still Recruit Animals And Your Pup Can Ride Shotgun

Two new animal companions are also unlockable. Though Boomer the dog from Far Cry 5 is long gone, Timber fills his role as the new canine companion. Timber not only has some new takedowns, but he can also ride in vehicles and scare away larger animals. I also saw Horatio, a giant boar. This monstrous beast draws the attention of the enemies in the area and can be a tank to take down.

The Weapon Wheel Screen Is Streamlined

A simplified weapon and item wheel screen helps streamline the process of getting to the object you hope to use. Now when you open the weapon wheel, the consumables and crafting menus are listed on the sides of the screen. This means you no longer need to flip between wheels to choose the item you want.

Categories: Games

Ashen Review - Relationship Souls

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 12/07/2018 - 05:00

Telling a story of the cyclical nature of light and dark and possessing both stamina-focused combat and larger-than-life bosses, Ashen is easy to compare to From Software's Dark Souls. However, Ashen establishes its own identity by delivering an experience that focuses on creating a sense of community and trust with those you meet. The weapon system can occasionally take away from some of the more strategic elements of the game's combat when playing solo, but Ashen still delivers an incredible adventure, regardless if you play by yourself or with others.

In Ashen, you start as a nameless nobody listening to the origin of your world, its three races, and how everything became blanketed in darkness after the disappearance of the Ashen--a god-like figure of immense power. When a sudden explosion briefly brings light back to the land, allowing everyone to see clearly for the first time in years, it sparks a search for the Ashen in hopes its return will push the last vestiges of darkness away. Leading the charge, you take over a bandit camp and transform it into an outpost called Vagrant's Rest. From there, you set out into the world in search of people to join your new home, as well as a means of finding the Ashen.

Your journey takes you from one fast travel point to the next within an interconnected series of open environments, and you'll find a diverse assortment of enemies along the way. Caverns and dilapidated castles entice you to explore off the beaten path and enjoy lengthy expeditions for hidden weapons, armor, and treasure. You'll need to sprint and jump your way through most of it at the start, but Ashen's controls are fairly tight and ledge grabs ensure you safely recover most of the time. It never feels like you're unfairly leaping to your death over and over again, and unlocking a fun new navigational ability halfway through the game will see you returning to old locales to search for secrets you couldn't leap to before.

There are very few options for long-range combat in Ashen so for the most part, you're in the thick of things with your opponents and trying to out maneuver each other. Attacking, defending, and dodging all use different amounts of stamina, and carefully managing how much you have left is key to survival. If you've played a good Souls-like game before, Ashen works exactly as you would expect. The controls produce a methodical approach to combat that's enjoyable to just lose yourself in.

On your travels, you'll recruit characters and send them back to Vagrant's Rest to set up shop, where you can interact with them again for side quests and special items. Most will even join you on your adventure whenever you exit camp, aiding you in combat and reviving you if you happen to fall. They can also help with exploration, too, as dungeon doors require two people to open and some ledges can only be reached if a team boosts each other up. As more people join Vagrant's Rest and you complete more quests for them, your settlement will grow. Roads are paved, structures are built, and the community becomes a thriving town. You can't manage how Vagrant's Rest grows, unfortunately, but there are fun little nods to the quests you undergo. Vorsa wears an outfit composed of the pelts from the animals you hunted for her, for example, and Eila constructs a dock so you can ride down the nearby river in a barrel--an activity she speaks of when you first meet her. In a game where enemies are constantly respawning, it's incredibly fulfilling to see your hard work actually having a permanent impact on your corner of the world.

You can forge relationships with other players, too. If you play Ashen online, you enter a shared world where you can encounter people. Other players will appear as the NPCs you've recruited to Vagrant's Rest, and whether or not you choose to interact with them is up to you. With no voice chat, actions define a person's character, and this can form powerful bonds that last for the entire game. For example, seeing a player-controlled Jokell silently step in front of my character and take a spear to the chest when I had a sliver of health has, for me, left a long-standing positive impression for the pipe-smoking explorer. I brought a computer-controlled Jokell along with me every chance I had after that, cheering for him when he did something incredible and dropping everything to revive him when he fell. It's a rather simple example of transference at work when all is said and done, but it's remarkably effective at creating trust (and I imagine distrust in some cases) with the characters you meet.

If working with others isn't really your thing, you can play offline with NPCs or use an early game item that allows you to play completely solo. It certainly ups Ashen's difficulty to play without others and it creates a more traditional Souls-like experience. However, the greater challenge of playing completely by yourself isn't worth losing out on the misadventures you find yourself in when traveling with another character. Even if you play offline with computer-controlled characters, you'll still form bonds with a one or two of them, and that improves Ashen's entire experience. If you really want that greater challenge, there's a mode that lowers your max health and stamina, which is a much better way of making the game harder.

There is one unfortunate wrinkle that becomes apparent when playing with computer-controlled characters, however, and it has to do with Ashen's weapons. Weapons can be one of three types--axe, club/hammer, or spear--but tools from the same class can attack very differently. Some axes use a leaping vertical slam animation that allow you to get the jump on your enemy before they react, while others have a horizontal slash that can more easily hit multiple targets, for example. This adds additional levels of battle strategy other than simply picking whatever in your inventory is strongest. Problems arise when you're playing with NPCs though, as you're unable to choose which weapon a computer-controlled character brings into battle. Pretty much every enemy in Ashen can be tackled with whatever weapon you want, but there are a few locations and one boss battle where a weapon's animation speed has a pretty substantial effect on you and your partner's chances of survival. Not having the choice to pick your partner's weapon introduces an unfortunate element of luck into some battles that should be entirely based on skill. It rarely happens, but it's noticeable when it does.

Despite how you play, boss battles are where most of your deaths are probably going to come from, as each are five- to 15-minute affairs that push you to constantly adapt on the fly. No two bosses behave the same way, and many have a gimmick that can transform the fight. For example, one of the mid-game bosses is a staff-wielding giant woman who uses her magical lantern to deliver devastatingly powerful area-of-effect attacks and buff her health. If you put some distance between the two of you, you can bait her into throwing her lantern at you in frustration and then destroy it. Doing so allows you to carve out larger chunks of her health, but she goes into a violent frenzy and starts attacking you differently once her precious lantern is destroyed. It's up to you whether or not you destroy the lantern, and when you'll do it if you decide to do so.

In some cases, like this example, finding a boss' gimmick makes the battle much easier, but it can also just change how it plays out--which is a wonderful thing for any fight you're struggling with. Instead of feeling like you need to implement the same strategy over and over against every boss and just do it better, you're occasionally rewarded for experimenting and trying something new. It helps dull any frustration that might arise from repeatedly losing to the same foe, too.

Ashen does more than enough to differentiate it from other Souls-like games. Although its combat utilizes the same stamina-focused mechanics, the inclusion of features that promote a sense of community with the game's characters makes for a wholly different experience. It's frustrating to spawn and see that your computer-controlled partner has a weapon that doesn't complement the one you're using. However, even when playing with NPCs, your allies' efforts to assist you in battle cause you to care about the fates of the colorful cast of people you meet on your journey. The relationships you forge define your adventure through Ashen, and helping your new friends is a powerful motivator that drives you forward through the game's beautiful world.

Categories: Games

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Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/07/2018 - 04:10

Double Fine launched Psychonauts 2's first official trailer at the Game Awards, although the title has certainly been knocking about for some time now.

Despite the long run-up to the sequel and a delay out of 2018, the developer has officially announced a 2019 release year for the game.

Categories: Games

New Biomutant Trailer Gives Us A Quick Glimpse At The Open-World RPG

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/07/2018 - 01:20

THQ Nordic has shared a new look at Biomutant, their upcoming action RPG starring a rodent-like protagonist. The new trailer shows a host of new environments and new forms for the titular Biomutant. Check out the trailer below.

THQ Nordic did not have much else to share for Biomutant, but advised looking forward to more in 2019. We last played the game this past August in Cologne, Germany at Gamescom, where we called it an "oddball take on the open-world action-RPG."

Biomutant is scheduled to release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in Summer 2019.

Categories: Games

Devolver Digital's New Ape Out Trailer Shows Us A Colorful Symphony of Destruction

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 19:20

Cymbals clash when you throw a guy out the window. Colors splash on the screen like Jackson Pollock himself is tossing paint onto the canvas. Devolver Digital's latest top-down shoot'em up appears to be a colorful symphony of destruction if the game's latest trailer is anything to go off of.

Following an orange-colored ape as it ascends an elevator, the trailer shows you picking up guards to be used as human shields, blowing away people with shotguns and just generally painting the walls with the blood of your enemies as you make your escape in gameplay reminiscent of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. Every foe that you dispatch is synced with frenetic jazz music, making the mayhem as rhythmic as it is brutal. And with art by Bennett Foddy of Getting Over With Bennett Foddy, the game's violent, kaleidoscopic aesthetic looks like it'd fit right with Devolver Digital's wheelhouse.

To witness all the beautiful carnage yourself you can check out the trailer below to see how Devolver Digital's next top-down shooter is shaping up. 

Categories: Games

Artifact Review - Play Your Cards Right

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 18:25

Taking nods from a number of design elements endemic to traditional trading card games and combining those with the flexibility and ease of digitized play fields, Artifact brings a uniquely compelling twist to the TCG formula. The bulk of this comes from Valve’s tentpole franchise of late: Dota 2. Artifact remixes many of the core ideas, focusing on the essentials of MOBAs to bring new layers of tactical complexity to great effect. Establishing a broad number of possibilities allows for near-limitless experimentation and development of new and complex styles of play.

Those unfamiliar with the free-to-play behemoth, Dota 2, and its competitors (League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, etc.) won’t need much additional context, but a grasp of the basics can go a long way. As with standard MOBAs, you’ll have three lanes that you share with your competitor. Monsters, heroes, creeps, and items all get funneled into one of these passages and are pit against one another. Each of you will vie for control of all three in succession, starting from left to right, marshaling what forces and powers you can to overpower your opponent and topple the tower sitting at the end.

In essence, the lanes act like as distinct play areas, though you do share a hand across them. Besides that, though what happens in one lane stays there. To win, you’ll either need to claim two of the three lanes, or manage to bring down your foe’s “ancient,” which appears only after you’ve taken a lane.

These basics are sticky to explain, but mercifully, pretty easy to grasp once you see them in action. Artifact offloads a good chunk of its calculations to computers, allowing it to be a lot more complex than a traditional card game. By taking some of that extra grunt work off of you, it broadens the possibility space beyond anything comparable. Because any number of monsters or heroes can be in each lane, it's possible that you’ll end up with 10 combat rounds or more across three lanes in a turn. That sounds like a lot, but Artifact offers up battle previews, detailing what will happen if you don’t respond. Likewise, the playable cards in your hand will glow a gentle blue, so you can save time and consider the ramifications of the play instead of burning your thoughts attempting to figure out what you even can play on top of what effect it would have.

Play proceeds in a series of rounds, where you’ll pass over each lane and resolve whatever relevant cards in sequence. Between each, though, you’ll have a chance to buy items and equipment to help in the next go around. Each creep you take down yields one gold, whereas an enemy hero yields five. Neither are necessary objectives in themselves, but creeps and heroes guard the towers, so most of the time you’ll need to be chipping away at them anyway, and the extra payout is a useful bonus that will--on occasion--affect which lane you choose to press through and when.

In truth, there’s a litany of micro-decisions like those that Artifact relies on to build itself into a fully fledged and shockingly nuanced trading card game. The fineries of play will take quite some time to master, and not because they are obtuse or particularly convoluted, but because of the tension between where, how, and when you choose to play. It can be to your advantage, for instance, to make one big push through a single lane if you don’t believe you can spread your forces effectively enough to nab two. But, even then, you’ll still need a capable defense to prevent your towers from being overrun.

All of this is covered in the tutorial, but developing a genuine sense of the game takes quite a while, simply due to the nature of its play. Normally this would be a positive trait, and the fact that learning nuances over time is encouraged is a helps create a satisfying, growth-oriented style of play. But that clashes a bit with Artifact’s pricing structure.

Buying the game gets you a starting deck as well as several booster packs to round out your starting set. But from there, you’ll either need to trade and sell cards on the real-currency marketplace to fill out your decks, or compete incredibly well to win them. Competing would be fine, too, but the number of matches you need to win and the rewards you get from there are scant enough that most new players will need to put in some extra cash.

The fineries of play will take quite some time to master, and not because they are obtuse or particularly convoluted, but because of the tension between where, how, and when you choose to play.

This has been helped somewhat by the post-launch addition of a free draft mode (previously it had been behind a paywall). Here you can play all you want and experiment with whatever cards come up in the draft. Players looking to build their actual decks, though, may be disappointed. I say may because the market’s prices are extremely variable, shifting quickly as the market gets more and more rare cards and the metagame evolves. It isn’t clear, however, at this stage, what developer Valve will be doing in terms of restricting card rarity to keep prices stable down the line--or if there are any such plans at all. It may be that in two weeks’ time, competitive decks are dramatically cheaper to field. As it is, Artifact is dramatically cheaper than high-end Magic or Hearthstone, but it may feel less welcoming to passive fans who want to avoid any significant financial investment.

In aggregate, though, Artifact works far more often than it doesn’t. While the volatility of the market is one thing, play on its own is more challenging and engaging than many of its contemporaries. Play moves remarkably fast, too, shuffling between the lanes and then back to the start sometimes in under a minute. It’s a lot to keep track of, but it’s put together well enough and propped up by enough card playability hints and subtle calculations that it rarely ceases to delight.

Production and animation help a good chunk with that, too. Play will frequently shift between the board as a whole and the specific play space on which you’re focusing. Between lanes, though, you’ll have a fluttering imp that manages your deck, carrying it seamlessly to the different play areas between rounds. They don’t affect play, only adding to the aesthetic presentation of the game and the visual language of how your deck and hand move across the board to each miniature arena, but they’re a nice touch. Similarly, the crack of a spell or the soft trickle of the stream that runs the length of the board are engrossing touches that bind the field together and give the game an added visual flair.

All-told, Artifact is a capable reimagining of modern trading card games. It plays quite a bit differently than just about any of its contemporaries--digital or not--and while the marketplace is volatile to say the least, there’s little evidence that the pricing is straight-up predatory. Just note, however, that the game is not free-to-play and be prepared to spend some additional bit of money coming in. It would be nice to see some more extensive options for those wanting to play by themselves or in non-competitive settings, but beyond that, Artifact is a great showing.

Categories: Games

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Review In Progress

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 13:00

The idea of what the Super Smash Bros. games are, and what they can be, has been different things during the series' 20-year history. What began as an accessible multiplayer game also became a highly competitive one-on-one game. But it's also been noted for having a comprehensive single-player adventure, as well as becoming a sort of virtual museum catalog, exhibiting knowledge and audiovisual artifacts from the histories of its increasingly diverse crossover cast. Ultimate embraces all these aspects, and each has been notably refined, added to, and improved for the better. Everyone, and basically everything, from previous games is here--all existing characters, nearly all existing stages, along with the flexibility to play and enjoy those things in different ways. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a comprehensive, considered, and charming package that builds on an already strong and enduring fighting system.

If you've ever spent time with a Smash game, then you likely have a good idea of how Ultimate works. Competing players deal damage to their opponents in order to more easily knock them off the stage. The controls remain relatively approachable for a competitive combat game; three different buttons in tandem with basic directional movements are all you need to access a character's variety of attacks and special abilities. There are a large variety of items and power-ups to mix things up (if you want to) and interesting, dynamic stages to fight on (also if you want to). You can find complexities past this, of course--once you quickly experience the breadth of a character's skillset, it allows you to begin thinking about the nuances of a fight (again, if you want to). Thinking about optimal positioning, figuring out what attacks can easily combo off of another, working out what the best move for each situation is, and playing mind games with your human opponents can quickly become considerations, and the allure of Smash as a fighting game is how easy it is to reach that stage.

Complexity also comes with the wide variety of techniques afforded by Ultimate's staggeringly large roster of over 70 characters. Smash's continuing accessibility is a fortunate trait in this regard, because once you understand the basic idea of how to control a character, many of the barriers to trying out a completely new one are gone. Every fighter who has appeared in the previous four Smash games is here, along with some brand-new ones, and the presence of so many diverse and unorthodox styles to both wield and compete against is just as attractive as the presence of the characters themselves. In fact, it's still astounding that a game featuring characters from Mario Bros, Sonic The Hedgehog, Pac-Man, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Street Fighter all interacting with each other actually exists.

On a more technical level, Ultimate makes a number of under-the-hood alterations that, at this early stage, seem like positive changes that make Smash feel noticeably faster and more exciting to both watch and play. Characters take more damage in one-on-one fights; continuous dodging is punished with increased vulnerability; fighters can perform any ground-based attack, including smash moves, immediately out of a running state; and short-hop aerial attacks (previously a moderately demanding technique) can be easily performed by pressing two buttons simultaneously. Refinements like these might go unnoticed by most, but they help define Ultimate's core gameplay as a tangible evolution of the series' core mechanics.

A number of Ultimate's more superficial changes also help Smash's general quality-of-life experience, too. Some make it a more readable game--additions to the UI communicate previously hidden elements like meter charges and Villager's captured items, a simple radar helps keep track of characters off-screen, and a slow motion, zoom-in visual effect when critical hits connect make these moments more exciting to watch. Other changes help streamline the core multiplayer experience and add compelling options. Match rules can now be pre-defined with a swath of modifiers and saved for quick selection later. Stage selection occurs before character selection, so you can make more informed decisions on which fighter to use.

On top of a built-in tournament bracket mode, Ultimate also features a number of additional Smash styles. Super Sudden Death returns, as does Custom Smash, which allows you to create matches with wacky modifiers. Squad Strike is a personal favorite, which allows you to play 3v3 or 5v5 tag-team battles (think King of Fighters), and Smashdown is a great, engaging mode that makes the most of the game's large roster by disqualifying characters that have already been used as a series of matches continues, challenging your ability to do well with characters who you might not be familiar with.

The most significant addition to Ultimate, however, lies in its single-player content. Ultimate once again features a Classic Mode where each individual fighter has their own unique ladder of opponents to defeat, but the bigger deal is World of Light, Ultimate's surprisingly substantial RPG-style campaign. It's a convoluted setup--beginning as Kirby, you go on a long journey throughout a huge world map to rescue Smash's other fighters (who have incidentally been cloned in large numbers) from the big bad's control. Along the way, you'll do battles with Spirits, characters hailing from other video games that, while not directly engaging in combat, have taken control of clones, altered them in their images, and unleashed them on you.

Though there is some light puzzling, the world is naturally filled with hundreds upon hundreds of fights--there are over 1200 Spirit characters, and the vast majority have their own unique battle stages that use the game's match variables to represent their essence. The Goomba Spirit, for example, will put you up against an army of tiny Donkey Kongs. Meanwhile, the Excitebike Spirit might throw three Warios at you who only use their Side+B motorbike attacks.

It may seem like a tenuous idea at first, but these fights are incredibly entertaining. It's hard not to appreciate the creativity of using Smash's assets to represent a thousand different characters. Zero Suit Samus might stand in for a battle with The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater by donning a silver-palette costume and fighting you in a flower-filled Final Destination, but she also stands in for the spirit of Alexandra Roivas from Eternal Darkness by using a black-palette costume and fighting you in the haunted Luigi's Mansion stage, with a modifier that makes the screen occasionally flip upside down (Eternal Darkness was a GameCube horror game whose signature feature were "Sanity Effects", which skewed the game in spooky ways to represent the character's loosening grip on reality). If I knew the character, I often found myself thinking about how clever their Spirit battle was.

Defeating a Spirit will add it to your collection, and Spirits also act as World of Light's RPG system. There are two types of Spirit: Primary and Support. Primary Spirits have their own power number and can be leveled up through various means to help make your actual fighter stronger. Primary Spirits also have one of four associated classes, which determine combat effectiveness in a rock-scissors-paper-style system. These are both major considerations to take into account before a battle, and making sure you're not going into a fight at a massive disadvantage adds a nice dimension to the amusing unpredictability of this mode. What you also need to take into account are the modifiers that might be enabled on each stage, which is where Support Spirits come in. They can be attached to Primary Spirits in a limited quantity and can mitigate the effect of things like poisonous floors, pitch-black stages, or reversed controls, or they can simply buff certain attacks.

There are a few Spirit fights that can be frustrating, however. Stages that are a 1v4 pile-on are downright annoying, despite how well-equipped you might be, as are stages where you compete against powerful assist trophies. On the flip side, once you find yourself towards the end of the campaign, there are certain loadouts that can trivialize most stages, earning you victory in less than a second. Regardless, there's a compulsive quality to collecting Spirits, and not just because they might make you stronger. It's exciting to see which obscure character you run into next, feel validated for recognizing them, and see how the game interprets them in a Spirit battle. There's also just a superficial joy to collecting, say, the complete Elite Beat Agents cast (Osu! Takatae! Ouendan characters are here too), even though these trophies lack the frills of previous Smash games.

Some hubs in the World of Light map are also themed around certain games and bundle related Spirits together to great effect--Dracula's Castle from Castlevania, which changes the map into a 2D side-scroller, and the globe from Street Fighter II, complete with the iconic airplane noises, are personal standouts. Despite the dramatic overtones of World of Spirit's setup, the homages you find within it feel like a nice commemoration of the games and characters without feeling like a pandering nostalgia play. One of the most rewarding homages of all, however, lies in Ultimate's huge library of video game music. Over 800 tracks, which include originals as well as fantastic new arrangements, can all be set as stage soundtracks as well enjoyed through the game's music player.

There is one significant struggle that Ultimate comes up against, however, which lies in the nature of the console itself. Playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the Switch's handheld mode is simply not a great experience. In situations where there are more than two characters on screen, the view of the action often becomes too wide, making the fighters too small to see properly, and it can be difficult to tell what you or your opponent is doing. The game's penchant for flashy special effects and busy, colorful stages doesn't help things at all, and unless you're playing a one-on-one match, you'll likely suffer some blameless losses. This is a situational disadvantage and may not affect all players, but it puts a damper on the idea of Smash on the go.

The need to unlock characters also has the potential to be an initial annoyance, especially if your goal is to jump straight into multiplayer and start learning one of the six brand-new characters. In my time with the game, I split my attention between playing World of Light (where rescuing characters unlocks them everywhere) and multiplayer matches, where the constant drip-feed of "New Challenger" unlock opportunities (which you can easily retry if you fail) came regularly. I naturally earned the entire roster in roughly 10 hours of playtime, but your mileage may vary.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate also features online modes, but they were not active during Ultimate's pre-launch period. The game features skill-based matchmaking, private lobbies, and voice chat via Nintendo's smartphone app. It also features a system where defeating another player will earn you their personalized player tag, which can be used as a currency to unlock spirits, music, and costume items for Mii fighters. I'll begin testing these features once the service launches with the game's public release and will finalize the review score once I've had substantial time with the matchmaking experience.

Situational downers don't stop Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from shining as a flexible multiplayer game that can be as freewheeling or as firm as you want it to be. Its entertaining single-player content helps keep the game rich with interesting things to do, as well as bolstering its spirit of loving homage to the games that have graced Nintendo consoles. Ultimate's diverse content is compelling, its strong mechanics are refined, and the encompassing collection is simply superb.

Categories: Games

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