Games

Halo Infinite Multiplayer Review In Progress - I Need A Weapon

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 11/22/2021 - 19:00

I could spend all day talking about what makes Halo Infinite great but not necessarily superb, but, when you're in the thick of it, the faults that create that distinction are hard to notice because it's just really fun. While playing, I found myself giggling with murderous glee after successfully wiping an enemy team all on my own; laughing as I nonchalantly chucked a fusion coil and accidentally splattered an unseen player; and roaring support for an ally as they successfully held the line long enough for our team to secure an objective and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The experience of playing Halo Infinite is joyful, and what more can you ask for when it comes to a free-to-play online multiplayer shooter?

But, to reiterate, Halo Infinite isn't without its flaws. Most notably, its challenge-based progression system feels unrewarding and keeps the game's coolest-looking cosmetics locked behind dozens of hours of an unfulfilling grind. But 343 Industries has stuck the landing on what matters the most, as Halo Infinite feels good. Firearms shoot with a nice punch, and your Spartan's movements are smooth. And although not every map at launch feels like they're going down in Halo's hall of fame as all-time favorites, there's a welcome variety to them, allowing the seven currently available game types to play out in wildly different ways depending on which map you're playing on.

Similar to Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, the narrative basis for Halo Infinite's multiplayer is a Spartan training program. With both Master Chief and the UNSC Infinity marked as missing in action, and the threat of Cortana still at large, Spartan Commander Agryna leaves you behind at a secure facility that's tasked with training the next generation of Spartan IVs. It's up to you to work hard and grow stronger in preparation for the coming fight.

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Categories: Games

Marvel’s Avengers – Breaking Down Spider-Man’s Gameplay And Moveset

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 11/22/2021 - 17:00

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal Release: September 4, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), March 18, 2021 (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S) Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

Since before the game even launched, fans of Marvel's Avengers, specifically those on PlayStation, have anxiously waited for Spider-Man to swing into the adventure. Over a year later, Marvel's flagship character finally arrives on November 30. We've seen his costume and have gotten a sense of his personality in a cinematic trailer, meaning the final questions revolve around the story and how Spider-Man controls in-game. 

Spider-Man's debut comes via the free Hero Event, "With Great Power." Speaking with Crystal Dynamics, it's still unclear how big the story is compared to the more compact Operations or large-scale expansions. As for the character himself, Crystal Dynamics shares that their Spider-Man, voiced by Sean Chiplock, is in his early 20s and has been a superhero for "a little while." That likely indicates he started after A-Day, which would mean he's spent the entirety of his career protecting an Avengers-less New York City. As such, this isn't an origin story. Spider-Man is an experienced crime-fighter at this point but has primarily worked alone. 

Peter stumbles upon a sinister plot connected to AIM that may be bigger than he can handle. After interacting with Black Widow via her "Tiny Dancer" online alias, the two exchange information on AIM. He eventually meets the entire team and agrees to tackle this threat alongside them but struggles to work under a team dynamic. By the end, Spider-Man will ultimately decide whether or not to remain a full-fledged Avenger. Other characters involved in the story include Liz Allen, Peter's friend and college classmate, who players will find in the Ant Hill. Mark Raxton also appears, who comic fans know best as the villain Molten Man, but Crystal Dynamics didn't confirm if we'll see his transformation here. 

So let's jump into gameplay. First and foremost, can Spider-Man web swing? Yes, he can. Crystal Dynamics described his web-swinging as an expanded, less-restrictive take on Ms. Marvel and Black Widow's forms of swinging around. Unlike them, Spider-Man doesn't need ledges or poles to attach web lines. His webs attach to pretty much anything, even if you don't always see it. This means he can swing in more open spaces. It may not always make sense, but Crystal Dynamics chose to emphasize fun over realism after considering more limiting alternatives. 

Holding down the right shoulder trigger while jumping initiates web-swinging, meaning Spider-Man's traversal feels fundamentally different from those of other heroes whose moves are mapped to the jump button. This design gives players more control over activating/deactivating web-swinging and should feel familiar to fans of dedicated Spider-Man games, such as Insomniac's series.

Wall-crawling is present, and players can freely cling to and move around most surfaces. Spider-Man can also wall-run like Captain America and Black Panther. The difference is that Spidey can wall-run indefinitely; he does have sticky feet, after all. He can run left, right, and up walls and bank around corners to leap into web-swinging. 

Of course, Spider-Man's web-shooters are an important offensive tool. Shooting targets builds up "web status," a meter that, when full, immobilizes enemies. You can also knock webbed-up foes into walls, making them stick there. Webs can also inflict various debuffs unlocked from a skill tree, such as making webbed targets more vulnerable to damage and status effects from other heroes or causing them to drop more health packs upon defeat. Crystal Dynamics says Spider-Man feels like a support hero in that sense. 

Web shooters have alternate firing modes such as a charge shot, web bombs, a web tether to stick enemies together, and a trap set on floors or walls that ensnare bad guys. Spidey even has a wide-reaching web attack that pushes mobs backward while immobilizing them. Additionally, Spider-Man can deploy a drone that fires web projectiles to help tie up enemies. The drone can also create bubble shields around Spidey, which helps defend objectives. 

Spider-Man's ultimate heroic ability is his web-wrecking ball. As the name implies, Spidey weaves a gigantic web ball that he slams down onto targets to deal significant damage. Some of the abilities are available right off the bat, while others are unlocked and improved through skill-tree upgrades. Overall, Spider-Man is very adept at crowd control, but Crystal Dynamics says he isn't a ranged character despite his array of web attacks. Spider-Man still relies on an acrobatic flurry of punches and kicks to handle most threats. 

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Peter's trusty Spider-Sense serves as a defensive ability. While other heroes block or parry attacks, Spider-Man dodges with players hitting the button when an indicator appears on-screen. Nailing perfect dodges grants a defensive boost, making you sturdier for a limited period while also inflicting an impact armor debuff to the attacker. Like his other moves, the Spider-Sense has a line of upgrades to make evasion even more powerful. 

Spider-Man boasts plenty of unlockable costumes. He'll begin wearing his redesigned take on the classic Spidey outfit, but you can also unlock the original Steve Ditko-designed costume. Crystal Dynamics recently revealed their takes on the Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Armor MK 1/ MK 3, and Secret Wars costumes as well.

Spider-Man looked like a blast to use in the footage we've seen, and he should make for an entertaining addition to the roster. Players can see him in action themselves by watching an Avengers War Table gameplay deep-dive presentation on Monday, November 29, the day before Spider-Man's arrival. We can't wait to finally get our hands on Spider-Man, and if With Great Power's story proves to be as exciting as its starring hero's gameplay, PlayStation fans may have a great reason to boot up Marvel's Avengers one more time.

Categories: Games

Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One Review - Murder In The Mediterranean

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/19/2021 - 22:29

The cobblestone streets of Victorian London are as synonymous with Sherlock Holmes as his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson, particularly as they pertain to developer Frogwares’ long-running game series. The Ukrainian studio's latest entry, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, ditches both the dreary, smog-filled setting, and the good doctor, by presenting an origin story for the titular sleuth. It's a bold move that unshackles Chapter One from many of the familiar conventions of Arthur Conan Doyle's novels, allowing for some surprising and frankly absurd moments as you try to uncover the truth behind Sherlock's troubled childhood.

The fictional Mediterranean island of Cordona provides the new sun-swept backdrop for Sherlock's not-so-humble beginnings as a near-superpowered detective. The Londoner has returned to his idyllic childhood home to visit his mother's grave, but he soon learns that there may have been more to her death than he was initially told. This sets in motion a sprawling mystery that covers the breadth of the picturesque island, albeit one that struggles to latch on and retain your investment. The plethora of cases you're asked to investigate along the way are oftentimes fantastic and suitably intriguing--from solving a murder involving a rampaging elephant, to infiltrating a high society sex cult--but the central focus of uncovering what exactly happened to Sherlock's mother lacks the same captivation.

This is mostly due to the fact you're only privy to brief glimpses of Mrs. Holmes, resulting in her feeling less like a character and more like a contrived plot device. This makes it difficult to care about the details of her tragic fate either way, especially when there are more interesting story threads surrounding it. As a way to inform Sherlock's character development, the central mystery also falters in this regard, too. The young 20-something Sherlock is presented as a novice, yet his supernatural powers of deduction are still in full force from the very outset. He can surmise a character's entire backstory by glancing at the threads on their clothes or the bags under their eyes, so you never get the feeling that he's coming into his own and finding what works when he already begins the game as a fully formed super detective. He might not always be as aloof or refined as older incarnations of the character, but Chapter One never gives the impression that Sherlock was significantly different in his younger years, or that the events of the game informed his future self in any way--aside from what occurs in the final few scenes.

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Categories: Games

Halo Infinite: New Look At Campaign And Side Missions | New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 11/19/2021 - 08:01

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Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: 343 Industries Release: December 8, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: Xbox One, PC

Spartans! Bare your fangs! Set a fire in your heart! Halo Infinite’s December 8 release draws nearer with each passing day...but it’s not time to finish the fight just yet. It’s not an easy wait, but hopefully, what Game Informer has in store for you today makes it a little easier. 

Today, Game Informer has three videos for you from the first hours of Halo Infinite, and your hosts Alex Stadnik and Wesley LeBlanc will be your guides, explaining what they thought of each as they played it, how they tackled each objective, and more.

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With three videos for you to watch today, there’s a lot to go over, so let’s get right into it. In the first video, we have 11 minutes of Halo Infinite campaign footage. That means if you want to remain completely unspoiled of what awaits you in the game, you should avoid this one. However, it doesn’t reveal too much about the larger narrative at all. That’s because it takes place in the opening hours of Halo Infinite. You’ll hear Alex and Wesley discuss the different ways to infiltrate a structure known as The Tower. They discuss different ways to approach the mission, what awaits you in The Tower, and more. Be sure to stick around to the end if you’re excited to see what bosses in Halo Infinite look like. 

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In the second video, Alex and Wesley go over the FOBs, or Forward Operating Bases, scattered around Zeta Halo. Before reclaiming one from the Banished for the UNSC, you’ll need to, of course, defeat the Banished that currently call it their own. Upon doing so, you’ll gain access to FOB, which means it’s not just a new Fast Travel spot on the map, but a place for you to stock up on ammo, grenades, weapons, and even vehicles. 

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The final video in today’s Game Informer Halo Infinite coverage is all about HVTs, or High Value Targets. Scattered around Zeta Halo, these targets are essentially boss forms of different types of enemies like Elites. In our HVT fight, we take on a special Elite HVT who uses a sword and invisibility to try and defeat us (spoilers: he doesn’t). We also discuss how HVTs carry unique modified versions of weapons present elsewhere in the game. 

And if that’s not enough, be sure to check out Game Informer’s Halo Infinite hub, where you’ll find 4K looks at campaign footage, clips showcasing new weapons, information about multiplayer, and so much more. Halo Infinite is this month’s cover story for Game Informer’s magazine, too, so be sure to keep an eye on your mailbox for that, and if you’re a digital subscriber, all that awaits you within can be read now. Thanks for watching, and we hope you enjoy the coverage!

Categories: Games

Grand Theft Auto The Trilogy: Definitive Edition Review – Wasted

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 11/18/2021 - 21:59

There is a strong argument to be made that Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas are the three most influential games of the 21st century. You can see their DNA floating around just about every open-world title made since and pretty much anyone making in-engine cutscenes owes a debt to Rockstar going fully Hollywood early on. There is an entire generation whose only exposure to various genres of music come from the soundtracks of these three games. Naturally, parts of them have aged better than others, but in the context of the early-to-mid 2000s, these games broke serious ground.

These are all facts set in stone by this point, of course. But it's worth seeing it all written down one more time so it's abundantly clear just how utterly bewildering it is that Rockstar let GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas get as absolutely mangled as they have been with these so-called Definitive Editions. Somehow, the studio that was so meticulous about making sure the poop leaving the back end of a horse was as lovingly rendered as a cowboy's sickly, grizzled face has approved a remaster bearing its name that turns its most iconic games into app store shovelware.

That isn't hyperbole, either. Having played virtually every major version of these games in some form over the years, it's glaringly obvious these remasters were built on the bones of the already-disfigured mobile ports of each game. As weak as those were, there were certain things you can forgive just by nature of the platform. Rampant bugs, stripped-down animations, frame rate instability? These are the prices you pay for portability. Those excuses vanish into thin air with the Definitive Editions having all the horsepower of current-gen consoles and PCs to utilize. Now, all the problems of the mobile ports have been blown up to 4K resolution. Now, the neglect feels less like a bug and more like a feature.

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Categories: Games

WWE 2K22 – First Look At How Visual Concepts Is Repackaging Its Annual Wrestling Sim

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/18/2021 - 16:11

Publisher: 2K Games Developer: Visual Concepts

WWE fans know that the company has been in a chaotic state as of late. Dozens of roster cuts this year have not only put fans on edge about the long-term fates of their favorite Superstars, but they've also brought into question the status of WWE 2K22. It's the first wrestling sim since 2019's ill-received 2K20, and the game is forgoing the series' usual fall release window for a March 2022 launch. That extra time seemingly gives Visual Concepts time to polish up a few holds, so what can fans expect? While Visual Concepts is still withholding most information until its previously announced January unveiling, it did provide a sneak peek into the features and improvements its concocted so far. 

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Lapsed fans may be happy to hear that Visual Concepts has rebuilt WWE 2K’s engine from the ground up. This means brand new animations and a redesigned move list consisting of 30,000 returning attacks and 5,000 new additions. The control scheme has also been overhauled with the intent of being easy enough for anyone to pick up while packing depth for experienced grapplers. Furthermore, Visual Concepts promises improved control over the action while feeling smoother overall. 

The graphics have received a shot in the arm thanks to Visual Concepts adopting the same character scanning and rendering technology used for the NBA 2K series. The result is Superstars that appear better than ever. Visual Concepts has also consulted with WWE showrunners to make the presentation feel as immersive and authentic to TV as possible, such as adding new camera angles. Hours' worth of new commentary lines have been recorded, hopefully cutting down on the frequency of repeated lines.  

WWE games are as much about the modes as they are the matches. Visual Concepts didn't discuss the types of matches in 2K22 but did run down some of the other destinations players can dig into:

MyGM: The popular mode returns and, like previous iterations, allows players to book shows, draft superstars, manage contracts, and more. 

Universe Mode: A staple of the series, 2K22’s Universe Mode promises more control than ever over how players manage brands, PPVs, rivalries, and more. 

2K Showcase Mode: WWE 2K’s playable documentary has been a series highlight. It allows players to follow the career of a legendary wrestler or a historical period, such as Stone Cold and the Women’s Revolution, by playing pivotal matches and watching well-made video packages courtesy of WWE’s production team. 2K22’s showcase appears to focus on the career of Rey Mysterio. 

MyFaction: A new addition to the series that lets players create and manage their own stable. Assemble a group that rivals the Four Horsemen, nWo, or Bullet Club by recruiting superstars of your choice, then raise their stock by completing regular challenges and special events. 

MyRise: This new spin on MyCareer presents a choice-driven adventure about guiding a WWE prospect from rookie to main eventer to Hall of Famer. Superstars can be either male or female, and the storyline branches based on your decisions. 

Creation Suite: Whereas 2K20’s creation options were lacking, 2K22’s promises to be bigger than ever. While Visual Concepts didn’t divulge many specifics, it did state the game includes more body types to be as representative as possible. Those who don’t have time to spend hours crafting the perfect superstar can use the new persona creator, which essentially provides a pre-built template to expedite the creation process. There's no word yet on if popular features, such as the ability to create arenas, entrances, or championships, will return. 

Lastly, let’s discuss the roster. The running joke regarding WWE’s months-long spree of surprise releases is that there won’t be anyone left to play in 2K22. While we don’t have the complete list of wrestlers, we can confirm the following superstars based on today’s footage and previous videos:

  • AJ Styles
  • Apollo Crews
  • Austin Theory
  • Bayley
  • Bianca Belair
  • Big E
  • Bobby Lashley
  • Cesaro
  • Chad Gable
  • Dolph Ziggler
  • Dominik Mysterio
  • Drew McIntyre
  • Edge
  • Finn Bálor
  • Goldberg (WCW)
  • Jeff Hardy
  • Joaquin Wilde
  • Kane
  • Kevin Owens
  • Kofi Kingston
  • The Miz
  • Montez Ford
  • Mustafa Ali
  • MVP
  • Raquel González
  • Rhea Ripley
  • Ricochet
  • Rey Mysterio
  • Roman Reigns
  • Samoa Joe
  • Seth Rollins
  • Shayna Baszler
  • Sheamus
  • Shelton Benjamin
  • Shinsuke Nakamura
  • Tamina
  • Tyler Bate

While it’s good to finally have some idea of what to expect from WWE 2K22, we’ll have to wait until January for an exact release date as well as its planned platforms. 

What do you think of this latest look at WWE 2K22? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Games

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond / Shining Pearl Review-In-Progress

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/17/2021 - 14:00

Even in the context of a series that regularly receives criticism for feeling formulaic, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are particularly familiar. As remakes of the fourth-gen titles Diamond and Pearl, these are homages to an era of Pokemon when the series was just starting to settle into a comfortable niche. Not only that, but these are extremely faithful remakes, right down to the visual style and classic combat mechanics. That makes the experience feel downright homey, if not a little deja vu-inducing.

Diamond and Pearl, and therefore Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, are from a simpler era of Pokemon, before full 3D became the norm. Instead, they harkened back to the series' roots as an overhead, sprite-based RPG. There would be clear delineation between a grass "tile" and a town "tile" and you would move from one to another as if on a checkerboard. You can see some of those roots at work in the remakes too. While your character has a full range of movement in the world and the geometry isn't terribly blocky, there are some obvious anachronisms--how NPCs always move at right angles, for example, or how floor tiles are sized to fit your character perfectly. It's only mildly distracting and, for the most part, is just charming.

Equally charming is the art style itself, especially in the overworld. While the more recent Sword and Shield have adopted a more lithe, elongated style that looks similar to the various Pokemon animated series, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have translated the squat pixel art of the originals into an equally squat and adorable animated chibi style. Your character looks appropriately retro while simply exploring in the tall grass or walking around town, but the style looks especially great when the camera zooms in closer during dialogue sequences. At those points, the artwork really shines because you get to see the depth and vibrancy of the characters. They look almost like living vinyl dolls.

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Categories: Games

Stranger Of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin Reveals More Characters And Locations

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 11/16/2021 - 23:50

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Koei Tecmo Release: March 18, 2022 Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin has already graced us with several demos and a look at what's to come ahead of its March 2022 release, and today Square has unveiled some more locations and characters from the world. As we have already seen, this action RPG that's packed with elements from the Nioh titles also draws quite heavily from the world of Final Fantasy. Specifically, the world, music, characters, enemies, and more are all quite rooted in the original NES title. Of course, these aspects all look quite different today and have been massively altered to fit an action game, but you can absolutely see it.

Today, we get a look at a town and a character from early on in Final Fantasy, right before players obtain the boat and can begin enjoying ocean travel. In Final Fantasy, your first stop in the town of Pravoka has you battling Captain Bikke's band of pirates in order to wrestle the seafaring shop from his grasp. Here, it looks like the character is going to have a bigger presence than just a few lines of dialogue and a horde of minions.

Captain Bikke's new look is a pretty extreme extrapolation from his original sprites, and that's really par for the course for Stranger of Paradise, which seems to take Final Fantasy and just go wild with all of its components. It's a strange mix for a strange game, but it works in everything I've played so far. It's unknown exactly where this encounter will fit in to the Stranger of Paradise tale, but if it follows the standard route, it is likely quite early in the game – shortly after the demo segment where our characters take on Garland. However, with a mission-based structure and map where players can repeat content to gather resources, gain levels, and maximize equipment, this could still be a good hour count into the experience.

Square has posted an article with some more details over at the official site today, which goes into a little more about some of the characters in the game and some combat details that we've already seen during other stages of gameplay thus far. 

Are you interested in this sort of bizarre amalgamation of 90's edge, Nioh, and Final Fantasy? It's working for me. How about you?

Categories: Games

Dying Light 2 Stay Human | New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 11/16/2021 - 15:00

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Publisher: Techland Developer: Techland Release: February 4, 2022 Rating: Mature Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Few games have captured the imagination quite like Dying Light 2 Stay Human. Developer Techland's ambitious open-world title has the potential to wow players with meaningful choices, a beautiful space to cause chaos, and satisfying zombie slaying. While Dying Light 2 has stayed in the shadows for the majority of the last few years, today, we're giving you a new look into this undead nightmare.

That's right, join Brian Shea and Alex Stadnik as they take you on a tour of Techland's next title. The aforementioned Mr. Shea got to go to his first in-person press event in two years to get hands-on with both the PS4 Pro version of the game along with the beefed-up PC version.

During today's fresh episode of New Gameplay Today, the gents show off Dying Light 2's improved combat system and discuss how the game has improved since the original. They also dive into the famous parkour and detail how players will be able to use new gear like the paraglider to help them get around the expansive and terrifying open world. We also dive into a bit of the story, including what actor Rosario Dawson's character will be doing, but nothing that would overtly spoil any major story beats. The duo unpacks a lot more, but you're going to have to watch the latest NGT to learn more.

If you enjoyed our latest look at Dying Light 2 Stay Human, be sure to check out Brian Shea's written impressions of his time with Techland's latest title ahead of its February 4, 2022 release date! For more early looks at some of the biggest games in the industry, be sure to subscribe on YouTube for previews of Elden Ring, Saints Row, and so much more! Thanks for watching, and let us know what you thought of the video in the comments below!

 

Categories: Games

How Halo Infinite's Bots Became So Ruthless And Helped 343 Develop Multiplayer

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 11/15/2021 - 23:40

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: 343 Industries Release: December 8, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: Xbox One, PC

During the tech test of Halo Infinite that took place this summer, players took to the various maps to get their first taste of 343 Industries' upcoming free-to-play multiplayer. While many came away impressed by the ways Halo Infinite's multiplayer feels true to the series' renowned roots, nearly as many players were blown away by how impressive the A.I. bots were in battle. 

When firing up the multiplayer starting today, players can reunite with the bots who likely headshotted them into oblivion through The Academy, a mode that serves as an on-ramp for players looking to enter the competitive fires. "Multiplayer is a scary place," multiplayer associate creative director Tom French says. "It can be a really brutal experience, and there's a fantasy that I think a lot of people have – especially if you've played anything competitive – where you want to dip your toes in there, but then you get in and you're shot in the face and you don't have fun."

The Academy is full of tutorials that introduce you to the fundamentals and canon of the game, including explaining why Spartans are so awesome. You can also practice at the weapon range or enter training matches against bots on any map, including training matches consisting of four human players against four bots. "Hopefully you've seen how capable our bots are," French says with a smirk. "Our bots feel like combatants; they feel like players, which we're really proud of."

However, these bots aren't necessarily the harbingers of death that players grew to fear during the tech test. Instead, these bots in The Academy are designed to ease players into the unforgiving gauntlet of multiplayer. "Four players running around, crushing bots is really fun; it feels empowering and it helps you learn the rhythms of combat," French says. "We wanted bots to be a teaching tool first and foremost, so they had to emulate player behaviors. That was the center and the focus of everything."

The team built the bots as teaching tools, but upon first play sessions, the studio realized the A.I. characters didn't quite feel like real players. The team iterated on the bots until they felt like you were facing off against actual human players. The bots can still perform the basic functions of what you want from A.I. characters, but they branch out to also feature several behavioral and strategic tendencies of human players. To accomplish this, the bots team observed several internal matches against the studio's higher-level players, then analyzed what the human players did that the bots didn't. 

"In Halo, players will react by jumping or strafing in specific ways," French says. "So they went back and they go to their whiteboards and [...] within a week or so, generally they have some sort of approach and you're like, 'Oh okay, I can see what you're doing' and the bots just kept evolving. They started a lot simpler, but with our goals of making them more player-like to emulate good player behaviors and teach players how to play the game."

Of course, as bots become more skilled at the game, players begin to suspect they aren't playing fair. According to French, that was something the team wanted to keep in check. "Halo (especially multiplayer) has this perception of fair and balanced, and our bots needed to feel fair and balanced," he says. "Sometimes you play a game and you know the bots are cheating; you can tell. It makes you want to punch a wall. We want to make our bots like when you have to fight against an Elite in the campaign: There is a little mano a mano going on there. How do you make it similar to that where you are having that mano a mano fight with another player and not just something that's a dumb target for you to shoot at."

Getting the bots just right for player-facing modes was important, but the development team at 343 Industries also used the technology to its advantage when improving the multiplayer side of Halo Infinite. Not only can the bots team see how the A.I. behaves on certain maps, but the multiplayer team can track how maps flow, how the game is feeling, and even how team strategies are evolving. "The impact of bots on the development of multiplayer cannot be [overstated] in terms of our ability to playtest," lead multiplayer designer Andrew Witts says. "It's improved a lot of our iteration cycles in how we talk about the game and how we explain problems and solve problems together as a team. The player side of things is really exciting to us, but also as a development tool, they cannot be [overstated] how much of a role they play in us actually making these experiences."

Despite the many ways the bots infiltrate the experience, whether it be through helping the developers playtest or assisting new players to get on board with the flow of multiplayer, those who relished in the chance to truly test themselves can look forward to the return of the bot arena in the final release of Halo Infinite. Once you jump into a bot arena match, Halo Infinite will attempt to spawn bots that are comparable to your own skill level.

Of course, the bots of Halo Infinite are just an insignificantly small part of the overall package. For more on Halo Infinite, check out our coverage hub by clicking on the banner below!

Halo Infinite launches on December 8 on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC, but you can jump into the free-to-play multiplayer beginning today.

Categories: Games

Inscryption Review - House of Cards

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 11/15/2021 - 21:48

Inscryption is an outstanding deck-building card game--until it isn't. At around the halfway mark, the compelling, run-based structure of its core card battles and the intriguingly sinister atmosphere both transform into less interesting versions of themselves. In a sense, Inscryption falls victim to its own hype. So strong are its opening moves that you can't shake the disappointment that much of what follows is merely quite good.

The basics don't change. Throughout, Inscryption pits you against AI opponents in a series of card battles. Individual cards have attack and defense ratings and, often, a special ability. You play them, one at a time, into a slot on your row of the arena. Each turn, your played cards will either attack the opponent's played cards or, if the slot opposite is empty, land a direct hit on the opponent themselves, scoring for each point of damage inflicted. Battles are resolved when you or your opponent gain a five-point advantage in damage over the other, a state typically met within a handful of minutes.

The core card combat is solid. But what sets it apart from countless other similar deck-builders is how those basic card mechanics are recontextualized across three formats. As you progress through the three distinct acts of its story, Inscryption stops each time to overhaul its card battle system. In doing so, it's able to thoroughly explore different aspects and possible permutations of those basic mechanics. Such tweaks to the rules deliver new challenges that remain interesting, even if they're not an improvement. While the reconfigurations of Acts 2 and 3 over the back half of the game carry plenty of merit, the first iteration you encounter in Act 1 is ultimately the best.

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Categories: Games

First Look At Halo Infinite's Opening Level (4K)

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 17:11

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Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: 343 Industries Release: December 8, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: Xbox One, PC

Halo Infinite's upcoming release marks an exciting time for Xbox fans the world over. The return of Master Chief is shaping up to be an exciting affair and we're giving you a quick 4K look at the opening mission from 343's latest adventure!

In this clip, we find John-117 fighting off the Banished, a familiar yet new group of Grunts, Jackals, Brutes, and Elites that have found their way to the Zeta Halo and are wanting to use its power for their gain. This first level of Halo Infinite takes place 18 months after the events of Halo 5, but we find Chief getting back into the conflict, fighting for his life aboard the Banished Warship Gbraakon after being knocked out for six months. He'll have to blast his way through his alien foes, before the next step of his journey down to the ring to figure out what he's missed in the time he's been away.

When we spoke to 343, they made it clear that they want Halo Infinite to be a spiritual successor to the original game that started it all. That becomes very apparent in this opening mission as Chief moves his way through the metallic halls of the Brute warship before descending down to the universe's ultimate weapon, echoing his time clearing out the Pillar of Autumn in Halo: Combat Evolved.

Nostalgia isn't the only thing you'll find in this clip as we also get a taste of the new combat in the game. The Grappleshot is going to become the player's best friend, as we see here it's not just handy when trying to scale Halo Infinite's more vertical levels.

This is just the start of the fun for fans eagerly awaiting the December 8 release of Halo Infinite! Join us over the next few weeks at Game Informer as we offload a ton of new information about developer 343's latest entry in the iconic series, including a deeper dive into the campaign, our new impressions of the single-player mode, and so much more! Thanks for watching, and we hope you enjoy the coverage!

Categories: Games

First Look At Halo Infinite's Campaign, New Weapon, and More (4K)

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 17:03

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Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: 343 Industries Release: December 8, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: Xbox One, PC

Halo Infinite is a few mere weeks away, but you don't have to wait that long to get a new look at campaign gameplay! Join Matt Miller and Alex Stadnik as they take you on a brief 4K tour of some of the things you can expect from Master Chief's next adventure!

There's a ton to unpack here, but we're showing off one of the new base encounters for players to frag their way through in today's video. Throughout Halo Infinite's campaign, you'll have to make your way through Banished strongholds to complete your mission, whether that's saving Spartans and UNSC marines or fighting off some of the game's most treacherous bosses. There's no right way to take on these encounters either – one person may find it advantageous to sneak their way through these structures, while others will want to go in guns-a-blazing (like you'll see in the footage above). 

While you're giving the Banished hell, don't forget to look around. In today's gameplay video, we show you the location of a Spartan Core, the game's upgrade currency that will enhance Chief's equipment, such as the Grappleshot. 

We also get to show off one of the game's newest weapons: the Stalker Rife. It's a Banished weapon that feels like it's in the family of the Covenant Carbine, although this semi-automatic rifle packs more of a punch and is perfect for mid to long-range encounters.

This is just the start of the fun for fans eagerly awaiting the December 8 release of Halo Infinite! Join us over the next few weeks at Game Informer as we offload a ton of new information about developer 343's latest entry in the iconic series, including a deeper dive into the campaign, our new impressions of the single-player mode, and so much more! Thanks for watching, and we hope you enjoy the coverage!

Categories: Games

Off The Golden Path – Progression And Exploration In Halo Infinite

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 17:01

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: 343 Industries Release: December 8, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: Xbox One, PC

Halo Infinite’s campaign offers two distinct paths for players; it’s one of the biggest things setting the game apart from its predecessors. As I checked out a three-hour demo of the campaign, it was apparent that Master Chief’s newest adventure affords the option of a familiar action-packed “golden path.” Like nearly all previous Halo games, Infinite’s mostly linear main story playthrough aims to offer a satisfying and tightly paced adventure, a defined and engaging narrative, and clear objective markers that carry you to the subsequent big setpiece encounter. Based on the extensive demo I experienced, players looking for that classic Halo campaign structure won’t be disappointed.

However, the alternative path through the game sets Halo Infinite apart from what has come before. After an introductory sequence that establishes the gameplay and stakes of the story, Infinite opens up and allows for far more freeform exploration and progression than earlier games in the franchise. There’s a whole loop of character improvement, discoverable pick-ups, armor upgrades, and optional battles awaiting players who choose to stray from the main path. While the developers at 343 Industries continue to resist the term “open world” to describe the experience, there’s no doubt that what I witnessed borrows liberally from open-world trends in action and shooting games of the last decade. The difference, of course, is that those open areas are filled with the type of tense Halo gunplay and action the series has always been known for, and that makes all the difference.

One of the reasons Halo Infinite is not a traditional open world is the way it’s partitioned as you first emerge onto the surface of the Zeta Halo. Most open-world games give relative freedom to fully explore wherever you want to go, even if some areas might be especially challenging to confront early on. Instead, Infinite partitions its explorable content into specific areas, each filled with a bevy of encounters, a list of discoverable items to track down, and a defined zone of play. Players progress the story to unlock new areas and eventually return to previous locales to complete further exploration and conquests.

On the highest level, Master Chief is fighting back the forces of the Banished (a splinter faction that was once part of the Covenant) across the Zeta Halo, while rallying the UNSC forces that have crash-landed there after the devastating destruction crash of the UNSC Infinity. If that sounds like a familiar narrative loop, it should. 343 Industries has been open about how much Halo Infinite draws inspiration from the original Halo: Combat Evolved.

For players choosing to explore, the game accordions back and forth between large open areas, where you set the terms of the engagement, and more narrowly defined sequences that take you into the Halo’s interior – spaces the developers openly describe as dungeons. Together, the give and take between those expansive open areas and tighter interiors feels reminiscent of early games in the franchise, even if some of the activities you’re now pursuing are along the optional path to conquest and control of a zone.

To complete that part of his mission, Master Chief is on a continual battle for territory. While there are many moving parts to the conflict, the most crucial starting point in any new area is the local forward operating base, or FOB. These UNSC outposts have been overrun by the Banished, and players need to clear them out to retake the FOB. Upon regaining control, the tactical map updates with relevant nearby points of interest. In addition, the FOB becomes a fast travel point. Finally, control of a FOB transforms it into a resupply point, where you can fill up on ammo and requisition additional supplies, troops, and even vehicles.

The ability to call in the weapons or other aid you need is a gamechanger for letting you shape your approach to combat, but it’s not wholly freeform. Instead, players must build up a resource called valor, which determines which tier of items you can call down. Expect to do some groundwork first if you want to bring a Scorpion tank into your next sortie.

Valor is acquired from numerous activities around a given area. For instance, Banished propaganda towers can be destroyed to gain valor. Alternately, track down a squad of imprisoned UNSC marines, and rescue them to obtain valor. Activities like these fuel the expansion of your valor, and in turn, give you more options for requisitions at the FOB.

That’s not the only way you might acquire something new at a FOB resupply point. High-value targets allow for another fun diversion, leading to unique weapons you can’t acquire anywhere else in the game. We saw the battle against one high-value target named Okro’ Vagaduun, an Elite Blademaster who wields a special high-powered energy sword. If you track down his location on the tacmap, you can defeat him and pick up his sword. Completely clear out his cadre of troops along with him, and you can requisition the high-strength energy sword back at the FOB, bringing it with you into future battles. The game includes many named minibosses like this, each of which has a different piece to add to your growing arsenal.

You can also spend time in a given area tracking down discoverables, all of which serve different purposes. Audio logs are scattered across the Zeta Halo, each helping flesh out the story, including details of what happened to Captain Lasky and the rest of the UNSC Infinity’s crew. You may also want to try to hunt down the ever-elusive and gameplay-altering skulls, but like in previous games, they’ll be hard to find.

Another major discoverable item is Spartan Cores. These optional upgrades let you gradually improve your equipment. The major equipment for your armor is found along the critical path of play, but it might not be at its full potential when discovered. Spartan Cores can be used to improve your shield strength. Or you can enhance the new grappleshot, perhaps adding a voltaic shock that stuns enemies. Once you acquire the threat sensor equipment piece, you can use Spartan Cores to increase the number of deployable sensors you may put into the field at any given time. 

Whether it’s increased requisitions from your controlled FOBs, special weapons acquired through the defeat of high-value targets, or improved equipment from the Spartan Cores you’ve uncovered, your development of Master Chief’s options and power all feeds into increased options for the big fights you’ll have to confront. Beyond the activities already described, Halo Infinite also features numerous larger bases, some of which are mission-critical, and others of which you can optionally choose to try and conquer.

These major Banished structures are unique freeform encounters, built to let you take them on in a matter of your choosing and use the tools you’ve developed and advanced through exploration. The team at 343 Industries informally described these types of encounters as “super-soldier base assaults.” The idea is to provide the player broad freedom to take on a big multi-part battle. In one sequence, Master Chief loaded up a warthog with a selection of rescued marines and charged into the thick of a walled base. But as an alternative, he could have used the grappleshot to get to a good vantage point and opened the fight by sniping numerous targets before entering. In yet another option, he could use the grappleshot to go over the walls by himself at a less defended rear soft point and progress from there. Or perhaps he could have enough valor to call in a VTOL Wasp, and fly into the central tower from above. At the end of the base we saw, Master Chief ascended to a far upper floor and confronted a named (and stealth-hidden) Elite, adding punctuation to the end of this large-scale fight. These types of battles promise to be big and bombastic, especially when faced on higher difficulties. The potential for chaos and creativity is high.

After several hours with Halo Infinite, it’s clear 343 is trying new things, especially related to optional exploration and upgrades. But I was also surprised by the pacing and flow of battles, and how much they recalled the earliest games in the Halo canon. The flow of individual exchanges with the Banished enemies has that distinct “feel” of Halo encounters I remember facing in the early 2000s. It’s the mixing of that exciting combat loop with the more open-ended explorations that has me most excited about Halo Infinite. Even after just those few hours, it seems clear that this new juggernaut release will offer the most expansive and choice-driven Halo experience to date.

For more on Halo Infinite in the lead-up to its launch on December 8, don’t miss our dedicated cover story hub, and a growing collection of articles, interviews, and videos, by clicking on the banner below. 

Categories: Games

Bright Memory: Infinite Review - Finite Would Be More Appropriate

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 15:00

Beginning a review with a history lesson is usually a bit of a faux pas, but in this case it's integral to understanding what exactly Bright Memory: Infinite is. The original game--simply titled Bright Memory--gained some traction when it launched on Steam Early Access in 2019 for having flashy visuals that rivaled triple-A games in graphical fidelity, despite the fact that it was the work of a single developer. Zeng Xiancheng created Bright Memory in their spare time, and considering what a huge undertaking that is, it wasn't too surprising when the game clocked in at around 40 minutes in length. A sequel was due to follow, but these plans were scrapped when Xiancheng opted instead to remake the original game and expand on both its gameplay and story.

That's where Bright Memory: Infinite comes in, and it's a vastly different game from the 2019 original. Only tangential elements like character and organization names remain; the rest may as well be an entirely new project--which can only be a good thing. Gone are the Devil May Cry-esque style ratings and blatant allusions to Dark Souls. Instead, Bright Memory: Infinite feels less like a derivative fan game and more like something entirely its own; a frenetic FPS with satisfyingly punchy combat that mixes both gunplay and melee abilities into one audacious whole. It's still a fairly short experience with some glaring caveats, but the journey to its conclusion is more enjoyable than the original game.

The reworked story revolves around a strange phenomenon occurring in the skies around the world that has scientists baffled. You play as Shelia, an agent for the Supernatural Science Research Organisation, who's sent in to investigate. It doesn't take long for Shelia to discover that this strange phenomenon is also connected to some mysterious history between two interconnected worlds. If this sounds like complete nonsense, it's worth noting that the only way I know all of this is because I looked up the game's synopsis. Trying to glean any of this information from the opaque narrative is an impossible task. Whether this is intentional or due to something being lost in translation is unclear, but it's difficult to care about anything that's happening either way. Thankfully, keeping track of all this sci-fi gibberish isn't entirely necessary.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Categories: Games

Battlefield 2042 Review-In-Progress — Character Development

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 11:03

Sometimes, everything in Battlefield 2042 just clicks. Playing the new Hazard Zone mode, my squad entered the frightfully dangerous shipping yard on Manifest, a map defined by a big port. The stacks of shipping containers lining the sides of the area can create a lethal bottleneck, and as we approached the objective ahead, we spotted another squad converging on the location as well.

As the recon fighter Mackay, I pulled out my Batman-like grapple gun and zipped up to the top of the container stack--which suddenly turned the cover-less kill zone of an alley into a perfect ambush location. One of my teammates threw down deployable cover for the group below, giving them a good spot to avoid incoming fire where none previously existed. While my squad on the ground distracted the enemies, I crawled to the edge of the container above them and started picking the enemy squad off. Another teammate deployed a scanner that let them see nearby enemies through walls, putting a stop to the last opponent before they could flank our team. Working in concert, we wiped the enemy squad in seconds, before they even knew what they were dealing with.

Battlefield 2042 is at its most fun when it brings new ideas together with the franchise's traditional feel. And although many of its elements work well together-- there's not always harmony between the old and the new. Battlefield 2042 distinguishes itself from past games in the franchise by offering you the opportunity to play specific "specialists"--each with their own unique abilities and gadgets--rather than choosing from broader, more generic character classes. Not all of those specialists feel like they work in every match, though. Mackay is essential on Manifest, where he can take advantage of the map's verticality in a way other specialists can't, but he feels close to useless on Hourglass, where half the map is flat, open desert, and the other half is a cityscape littered with massive skyscrapers. Similarly, with high takeoff points, wingsuit-sporting Sundance is highly effective on Hourglass, but not especially helpful on Renewal, where there are far fewer places to take to the air.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Categories: Games

Elden Ring | New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/10/2021 - 15:00

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Publisher: Bandai Namco Developer: From Software Release: February 25, 2022 Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a big one. Join Game Informer's resident Souls expert Dan Tack, along with Marcus Stewart and Alex Stadnik, as they show off some brand new gameplay from Elden Ring, the hotly-anticipated open-world coming from the masterminds behind Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro.

In this extra-long episode of New Gameplay Today, the crew pours over every detail of the world and fills you in with not only new looks at the game but hands-on impressions as well. But what can players expect when they get their hands on either the upcoming network test or the whole game in February of next year?

Fans will find a lot of new and familiar sensations when booting up Elden Ring. According to Tack, the game feels much more in line with the Souls games than something like Sekiro, but they aren't a one-to-one match. Adding jumping, new combat maneuvers, and horse combat makes Elden Ring feel like its own entity and takes the lessons from those previous titles to create an engaging experience for fans of the genre.

What

 you'll be fighting is also very new. Around the open world, players will find caves and catacombs full of dangerous enemies and traps to conquer. They'll also find Foes - monsters that could be considered mini-bosses but won't provide quite the challenge some of their larger counterparts will. Whether out in the open world or on the golden story path, Great Foes, such as some of the dragons we've seen in trailers, will offer that stark level of challenge and triumph while also dropping precious rewards to aid in your quest through the game.

From the map to upgrades and new combat moves, there's honestly so much that the crew discusses that we can't cover it all here. For that, be sure to head over to Tack's write-up to get even more information about Elden Ring. If you enjoyed this video, be sure to keep an eye out for this week's episode of The GI Show and our YouTube channel as well for more on FromSoftware's exciting new title.

Categories: Games

Elden Ring – Everything We Learned From Playing It Early

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/10/2021 - 15:00

Publisher: Bandai Namco Developer: From Software Release: February 25, 2022 Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Recently, I had the chance to go hands-on with Elden Ring’s network test, which will be available to a greater group of players this upcoming weekend. If you elected to get into the test, I hope you get in. First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way – this text contains lots of information and lots and lots of spoilers. If you’re trying to play Elden Ring pure, this isn’t the article for you. That said, if you want to know a lot, lot more about how everything works from hours of hands-on play, this is the right place to be. Come on a journey with me through Elden Ring, starting right now. You can also check out an extensive New Gameplay Today featuring gameplay from the experience in video form here. I also want to state that my hands-on time with Elden Ring felt incredible, and I believe the full game will likely be a contender for 2022’s Game of the Year.

The Start of A Great Adventure

The journey begins at class selection, which will likely change/be modified for full release. There are many archetypes on display here, meeting many of the classic roles. As always, a class in this game amounts to starting gear and stats – you are free to take your character in any direction. I opt for a no-magic, no-frills master of melee with the Bloody Wolf. Magic is really quite robust in Elden Ring, even for characters that would typically not be casters for two reasons; one being that magic can summon spirits that can make daunting challenges much, much more manageable, and the other that the “Ash of War” system allows you to attach potent special effects to your various weapons. With an Ash of War, you can alter weapons to have different special abilities so that you can use a weapon of your liking, but with the inherent special move of another. More on both later. With a traditional large sword and set of starting armor, I’m off into the tutorial.

Combat, as expected, is very similar to the Souls series, specifically Dark Souls 3. Also as predicted, bits of Sekiro creep in, letting me stealth behind enemies silently and utilize grass to hide from foes, allowing me to bypass them completely or get in a powerful hit before combat even begins. The tutorial area, Fringefolk Hero’s Grave, is a very traditional FromSoftware tutorial zone, teaching the basics of combat in a zero-stress environment. Breaking tradition, the end boss of this area is just a basic knight with a boss health bar that isn’t any trouble to best at all. Interestingly enough, you can come back to this area much later through a back door in an extremely out-of-the-way beach area to discover a secret Ash of War, Gravitas. This allows you to shoot a point-blank area-of-effect purple blast that looks kind of like Final Fantasy’s Ultima spell. You can probably beat the boss in a few hits regardless of your spec and move out into the real world, but before that happens, you get your first lesson in flask allocation. Flask of Crimson Tears (health) and Flask of Cerulean Tears (mana) function identically to Estus flasks, and can be reallocated at any point of Grace (bonfire). In this network test, you have two of each kind of flask. Unlike Dark Souls 3, where I find myself going full health flasks if I’m playing any sort of melee build, I found that keeping a Cerulean flask around was quite helpful here, as mana comes in handy to use special attacks or summon spirits in rough situations.

Up the elevator and heading outside, we enter the ostensible first zone of the game, Limgrave. This network test kept us confined to Limgrave and the Stormveil Castle area, which is normal for a brief glimpse of the game. However, it was frustrating to see all kinds of awesome things on the map and in the distance and be blocked from going there by invisible walls. I made sure to push the limits on every border and try as many weird jump-offs as possible during the test, one of those led to finding the aforementioned backdoor to the Fringefolk Hero’s Grave. Anyway, the world outside the Grave is bright, beautiful, immediately intimidating, and wondrous in its scale and scope. Much has been said about the “compass” that connects the sites of grace and leads the player in some fashion toward the next crucial big dungeon and boss, but I assure you, it’s an open world through and through that begs for exploration. Attempting to head in a straight line through the game’s progression will likely prove incredibly challenging for most players, and there’s much to be missed via exploration.

Right next to this critical starting point are multiple things to see and do. A boss is riding a horse nearby that you absolutely do not want to mess with just yet. To the left is a statue up a hill that shoots a dull blue beam into the air when you interact with it, guiding you to a dungeon entrance.  Small dungeons, caves, mines, gaols, and other encounters dot the landscape, and they are incredibly valuable to discover and complete. These range in size and scope – some underground passageways you discover may just have a piece of loot sitting in a chest, others will be several rooms with traps and dangerous creatures, and still others have multiple elevators and passageways. However, none of them are that long, and many end with a minor boss encounter. These bosses are much less difficult than what we’ll call progression and world bosses, and could even contain just a more powerful version of something you’re likely to encounter in the field.

Of course, my priority was to follow the blue beam to see where it led. However, unbeknownst to me, this was probably a mistake. You see, very close to the starting point are the remains of a church that you’re going to want to check out before doing much of anything else. Here, we get a taste of familiar systems for Souls veterans. The “do-it-yourself” blacksmith is here, along with a critical merchant that sells many valuable introductory goods, spirit summons, crafting recipes, and more. The blacksmith here is structured the same as Souls titles, simply bring smithing stones and runes (souls) to it and upgrade your weapons. However, this hammer and forge that you handle yourself can only take your gear to +3. The game tells us that we’ll have to find a blacksmith somewhere else in the lands to bring our weaponry beyond that.

Spirit Summons And Crafting 

The vendor is Kalé, and he is one of many nomadic vendors you meet on this journey. Yes, you can sell items to Kalé too. Kalé sells critical items, including a spirit summon for a magic-using friend, a spirit summon for a pack of three wolves, your first crafting books, and the torch. Before you even leave the first few screens, there are many systems new to Elden Ring from the Souls series. How does crafting work? It’s straightforward. Just pick up everything you see while adventuring, from flowers to fireflies, and you can craft yourself up all the consumables you need. While there have always been similar consumable items in Souls games, like one that enchants your weapon with fire for a short duration, you can now pick your favorites and ensure that you always have a healthy supply. Crafting is not the only way to find these items either, as they drop from enemies or can be found as usual in various environments. So it’s just apparently a way to keep your coffers flush with your most-used fare and encourages you to explore domains that might have your particular craft goods in them.

Spirit summons allow players to bring in a variety of summoned assistance on-demand, assuming they have the mana. While they cannot be used in every scenario or situation, (they can only be used while the “dungeon gate” icon exists on the lower-left corner of the screen when you are in range of a rebirth monument, so they are not allowed in every location) these permit a solo player to take on challenges that may feature numerous enemies or an extremely powerful adversary with few attack openings. In previous FromSoftware games, summoning in friends or random players to deal with a problematic boss was always an option if you got stuck – that option is still here, with a full multiplayer suite. But now, you can essentially have the equivalent of Souls NPC summons available for any encounter you see fit, whether that is a huge patrol of enemies you accidentally alert in the open world or a serious progression boss. Players looking for an extra edge against enemies can use spirit summons to even the odds.

Catacombs And Caves

But right, there’s that dungeon in the distance, remember? The blue light leads me to a door. This is the Stormfoot Catacombs, a mini-dungeon of sorts. Inside are a few gargoyle enemies that have a nasty habit of ambushing from above and some tricky flame traps that can incinerate an unwary adventurer in moments. However, I note that you can also use these traps against the enemies, something that continues to be valuable throughout this playthrough. Whether it’s leading enemies into traps that are meant for me or dragging them into the line of fire of bigger, more dangerous foes, it all works to the player’s advantage. A few levers, traps, and gargoyles later, we’ve opened up the main door of the dungeon and have access to the boss. Inside is the Burial Tree Watchdog, who can kill you fairly quickly with a strange combination of fire and a meticulous blade. Still, as I stated earlier, these small dungeon bosses are not on the same level as any traditional Soulsborne boss and are relatively easy to dispatch. This boss confers an Ash of War option when bested, and then we get a portal back to the start of the dungeon. This setup runs throughout all the caves, catacombs, and mines that we found in the network test. Gaols are a bit different, but we will get to those later.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying Dan, this sounds a lot like the Chalice Dungeons of Bloodborne, perhaps? You’re not entirely wrong, but these are smaller, easier to maneuver around, and distilled, if you will, down to the good stuff. These are about discovering the way in, finding stuff, fighting bosses, grabbing loot, and getting out, all with an additional checkpoint for your map. Filling out your map is incredibly satisfying, as is exploring every nook and cranny for these mini-dungeons. I was always compelled to explore even further, but sadly the network test greatly limits where you can go – but it did make me even more excited for the final release, where all of this can be explored entirely unfettered. I cannot wait to simply go all over the place before following the “canonical” path. 

Torrent, The Spectral Steed

You can teleport to any point of Grace you have discovered at no cost from the map, making fast travel across the world quick and painless. Right now, we head to the next point and discover something big. It’s Melina, who fills in as this game’s Maiden in Black/Emerald Herald/Firekeeper, allowing us to spend our runes to level up. Yes, this is the same as spending souls to level up. Yes, you drop your runes when you die and need to go get them back. Yes, this game is a lot like a Souls game in an open world environment… and that’s awesome. Melina also gives us something very important on this first interaction, a spectral steed that we can use to travel the world. The mount’s name is Torrent, and it is incredibly useful for moving around quickly, grabbing your runes back from an open-world mishap, or even combat. While I found combat on the horse incredibly unwieldy at first, after a bit of learning the new timing on attacks and the positioning, it became a great asset to have available for world encounters, including the network test’s overworld boss. Torrent can be killed, and if you want to bring it back to life in the field, you’ll need to use one Flask of Crimson Tears. For clarification, no, this doesn’t deplete the flask forever, and it refills as normal at the next point of grace you rest at. Naturally, you can’t use Torrent in any kind of interior area or areas designated as major dungeons.

With Torrent, I begin to explore the nearby camp, the Gatefront Ruins. This place is a great example of how a mount and spirit summons let FromSoftware make a much more dangerous area completely packed with enemies, featuring a variety of armored knights and a praetorian leader. If an enemy spots you and blows a horn, they’ll alert the entire camp, and survival might be difficult. However, you can get away with Torrent’s speed or drag them to the edge of the camp and try to make a stand with spirit summoned allies. Torrent can also be used at “jump points” found around the map to get yourself out of sunken places or shoot yourself high up into an unreachable area. There’s a bunch of loot to find here in the camp, but the most important item by far is located under a glowing stele that’s hard to miss. This is a map fragment, and it populates your world map with illustrations, from roads to alcoves to other weird things that invite the player to saddle up and go check them out to determine what they are. 

While exploring without the map is excellent, knowing what an area might look like is incredibly helpful. This knowledge may or may not directly lead you to find what you may have overlooked before – but it’s rarely as explicit as “you should go here” with what it offers. Instead, it’s a useful tool to help guide your explorative pursuits. Before I pull up the map to determine my next course of action, I notice something in the distance. It’s a telescope! The Birdseye Telescopes are located worldwide and they let you get a top-level view of a huge area. The telescopes allow you to zoom in and out for even more precise control, and you’re probably going to find something interesting if you spend time peering into them. In this case, I choose not to investigate anything I see in the telescope or on the map for now because on the way to the Gatefront Ruins, I spotted a cave off in a cliffside to check out before moving on.

Aptly titled the Groveside Cave, this area doesn’t contain any soldiers or gargoyles. Instead, it’s full of wolves! There are a bunch of cave-specific craftable items to snag here, like cave moss and a ton of bugs to catch in a watery corner. This cave is smaller than a catacombs-style mini-dungeon, with no traps or switches to worry about, just a short route leading to a boss room. Inside, we find the Beastman of Farum Azula. While the Beastman hits like a truck if he connects, he’s not really an issue to get by, especially since I decided to try out my “three wolf” spirit summon. While the wolves aren’t strong, they distract the Beastman long enough for me to lay into him with jump attacks. In Elden Ring, when you really want to stagger an opponent, heavy hits and jump attacks are the way to go. Mastering a jump attack in my Souls brain took a while, but once you get the hang of it, it feels really great to cleave into someone with a massive two-handed jump swing. It’s as easy as hitting the attack button when you’re in the air, but it is something new to learn. It turns out exploring this cave was a brilliant choice, as besting the boss gives us something completely new to the FromSoftware action suite – the Flask of Wondrous Physick.

The Flask of Wondrous Physick

Now, we all know how Estus flasks work by this point. Health and mana potions that you can refill at any checkpoint, right? The Flask of Wondrous Physick is the answer to having a replenishable, customizable consumable to go along with these existing flasks. The Flask of Wondrous Physick refills at any checkpoint and is modular – you can mix different crystal tears into it to create a blend that works for your playstyle. In the demo, I found three different types of tears. One replenished mana, one buffed stamina, and one made the flask explode violently. You can mix two tears into the flask at once to create different effects, and I would imagine the full selection of tears in the main game is immense. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see us acquiring more flasks throughout the playthrough for multiple quaffs per checkpoint or the ability to mix more tears into them. 

Big Problems, Big Solutions

At this point, I’m eager to pull open the map and start looking around for areas of interest, but yet again, I am pleasantly distracted by a huge caravan coming down the road. This immense road gang consists of a horseman on point, two enormous trolls hauling the cargo, and tons and tons of troops in tow, probably twenty or more assorted commoner and knight adversaries. Naturally, I’m not leaving without the loot.

Another player may have picked off different elements of the entourage piece by piece, but I decided that life isn’t worth living without a bit of risk. So I took out the horseman first, as I figured his speed and high attack damage would make a direct assault challenging, plus he might alert the horde. After that quick battle, I tried to jump on the back of the cart and loot the chest. No dice, can’t loot it while the caravan is in motion. So how do I stop this thing from moving? Do I actually have to fight two trolls on an open road while twenty assorted lesser villains come running after me? I was willing to attempt this just to see how it played out, but luckily, just whacking one of the trolls with my sword makes them stop hauling the cargo for a moment as they looked around for me. Zipping behind them on Torrent, I quickly jumped back on the back of the cart, looted its contents, and got away without having to take on the entire army. Big win! What was in the chest? A full set of Crucible Armor and an Ordovis’ Greatsword, gear that would become my mainstay for the entirety of the network test. The armor is quite heavy, so you’ll need some points in strength to be able to wear it effectively without losing all your mobility. The sword comes with its own special Ash of War skill, Ordovis’ Vortex, which is excellent at annihilating multiple enemies with a big attack with more range than you normally have with a big sword. Again, having mana available for these skills even if you’re eschewing shooting magic spells is a serious boon in combat, especially against bosses or larger enemies.

My adventure next takes me to a cliff's precipice with suspiciously large blocks leading down. If you’ve ever played a FromSoftware game, you’re familiar with the “jump down carefully from object to object” scenario. The inclusion of a jump button makes navigating this exercise much easier than in previous titles. At the bottom is another catacomb to explore, the Murkwater Catacombs. While the first catacombs we explored had fire pillars that shot immense blasts of fire, this one features trigger traps on the floor that shoot out fire arrows. As in the first instance, I used these traps against the gargoyle denizens to avoid having to fight them on even terms. A quick lever pull opens the boss door, but some important loot was discovered on the way – The Northern Mercenary Ashes, a spirit summon that calls up a burly barbarian type. However, to my dismay, my mana pool wasn’t big enough to summon this one with my starter stats on the Bloody Wolf. During my next level up, I placed one point in the Mind stat in order to increase my mana pool so that I could try this spirit out. Spoiler: He’s tough and great to have around, much more hearty than the wolves, and an excellent distraction. The boss of these catacombs is the Grave Warden, a sort of gladiator type that conferred the Ash of War for Storm Blade when slain. Yes, the effect of this Ash of War when equipped is kind of like what you do with the Storm Ruler in Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls 3, so that’s pretty cool!

Mines And Gaols

Finally, it’s time to check out a location on the map. An obvious dark doorway hewn into the side of a mountain seems like a great place to check out, so I make my way to the Limgrave Tunnels, a mine-style mini-dungeon. This is the only one of these I found in the demo, but I assume that other mines will share some of the characteristics – minerals dot the walls and can be collected for crafting, and there’s a chance to find smithing stones among the rubble. Elevators run throughout the space, and there are multiple signature FromSoftware “elevator jumps” to be found here, where the player can find hidden items by jumping off of an elevator at various points during its ascent or descent. At the bottom, a boss awaits – the Stonedigger Troll. Similar to the trolls outside in many respects, this boss reminds me of The Last Giant from Dark Souls 2, but a bit more spry. As with other encounters, while using a melee-focused build, I found the jump attack to be extremely useful here. Upon defeat, the Stonedigger Troll bequeaths the Dragonscale Blade.

The map came in handy for the next exploration impetus as well. A giant circle of stone rocks seemed like an obvious choice to head to for a peek, so I headed up a stormy hill. Here in the upper parts of Limgrave, the world is under a constant deluge of storms, ranging from mild winds and drizzles to massive gusts and lightning, sometimes strong enough to significantly impede vision. The weather effects look fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what other areas of the game get other interesting nuances. There is a day/night cycle as well, and while I tried to fool around with it (You can rest at any site of grace to set the time of day to your liking) to see if I could make anything interesting happen, I didn’t notice anything different during the cycles outside of how the world looked.

This circle of stones was alone by itself, with strange rock creatures milling about it. They never seemed to fight back when I smacked them around and offered few runes, so I wonder if their role was something of a jailkeeper to the contents of the Gaol. This Gaol is known as Forlorn Hound Evergaol, and simply walking into the center of it and accepting the prompt teleports you to a boss arena. Bloodhound Knight Darriwil is a fearsome opponent in terms of mini-dungeon fare and is far more aggressive than other bosses faced until this point. While Darriwil’s HP pool is small, he can easily combo you into oblivion, so you may have to take a bit more care with it than other dungeon fights. In addition, this battle occurs out of range of a rebirth monument, meaning you can’t call spirits in. However, this is a good place to highlight another special addition to Elden Ring, something that folks that have complained about “boss runs” in other FromSoftware titles will adore, the Stake of Marika. If you die within range of a Stake of Marika (which are placed close to bosses that don’t have sites of grace around) you can simply respawn and try the boss again almost instantly with no run back. Keep the blood pumping as you go from attempt to attempt without worrying about getting annoyed by trash monsters! When the Bloodhound Knight is bested, I obtain an Ash of War: Barricade Shield. That’s right, Ashes of War can be for defensive armaments too, not just weapons!

Approaching Castle Stormveil

Exploring into some nooks and crannies on the corner of the explorable map, I find a spirit summon for Spirit Jellyfish and some more smithing shards. Now, it’s finally time to actually go in the direction the game has been pointing me to since I met Melina for the first time. If I was actually able to keep exploring in the other directions, like I ostensibly will be in the full title, I probably wouldn’t even head to Stormveil now at all. There are too many other things in the distance to explore!

The approach is perilous, and the intended takeaway here is clearly a lesson that Torrent can get you past some dire defensive enclaves speedily and without combat. However, I wanted to see if killing one of the massive trolls would cause them to despawn or drop some cool loot. After a few battles, I was able to pull the troll to a better area to fight them without so much archer coverage, and noticed that I could really mess them up by having them bump into walls and daze themselves. Sadly, they do respawn, but hey, they can probably be farmed for something useful. After besting the troll a few times, I saddle up on Torrent and zip up the approach to Castle Stormveil. Inside is a corridor with a checkpoint that clearly leads to a boss. It’s the first big boss of the network test, Margit the Fell Omen. Margit appears to have some kind of dragon blood running through him, perhaps “grafted” with gifts like the leader of the castle. If you go right to him from the beginning of the game, he’s a pretty challenging boss, but with the tools acquired from the various mini-dungeons and a few levels, besting Margit is much more achievable. If you are completely stuck, his significant weakness comes when he locks onto you for an aerial dive; there’s a fantastic opening to get some hits in after he lands. Still having trouble? Use a spirit summon, and Margit will divide his attention, allowing you to focus fire him down quickly.

Margit’s demise opens up several areas of the castle. The player can go through the heavily guarded main gate or take a side path opening that goes up the castle walls into a less-guarded section. In the network test, you can’t get past either section to head further into the castle, but there’s lots to find in each area nonetheless. The direct route takes you into the line of fire of many ballista bolts and dangerous soldiers, but a seasoned “Souls roller” should have no trouble reaching the end, where a blocked door bars any progression forward. To the side of this direct area is a mysterious alcove with a bunch of kneeling soldier statues, guarded by a giant lion that has swords attached to its arms for what I assume is additional lethality. Combined with birds that have scissor-blade talons, these two odd animal assailants give more in-universe lore to the “grafting” process that seems to be going on at Castle Stormveil, mixing… well, all kinds of things that probably shouldn’t go together. The lion appears to be a kind of failed experiment or a work in progress, with its ensemble wrapped up clumsily with chains. That said, be careful with that thing, it’s really dangerous.

I spent a significant amount of time in the soldier statue room, playing with the time of day, attempting to unseat the statues from their locked positions, and targeting the obvious fake door wall with every emote in my possession. I even let the sun’s position overhead encapsulate the area with the door, hoping something magical would happen. Sadly, if there was any secret to unearth in the statue room, I didn’t find it.

The “easier” route takes the player through an experience many a souls player has had before, with rickety stairways inhabited by bomb-throwing humanoids that lob them at you as you navigate platforms full of exploding barrels. The highlight is a pitch black room with a huge mini-boss creature in it, vaguely reminiscent of the Prisoner Horde monster in Demon’s Souls. There’s one object in the room lit up, begging the player to take it, which of course, shuts the door and makes the monster very angry. That’s fine because you need to kill the creature to collect the Rusty Key to proceed. Sadly, the door opened with the Rusty Key leading to a small room with a ladder that reads “More awaits you, in the official release.” That’s too bad. I wanted to take on Godrick the Golden, but he’ll have to wait for another time.

The Flying Dragon Agheel And The Church of Dragon Communion

Back near where we started our adventure lies a lake. Exploring it early is common, but if you don’t approach a particular island, you’d never know there’s a major dragon boss available in the network test as well. One of the islands in the lake has around four lesser humanoid enemies milling about a bonfire. Approach it, and Flying Dragon Agheel comes down from above for some serious action. If you die, Agheel will remain in the lake and wait for you to come back for another round (or ten). There’s a Stake of Marika nearby so that you can practice at leisure. A summoned spirit will help here, but this is a fight where learning how to use Torrent to your advantage can be an amazing boon. While battling on Torrent may initially feel very awkward, it’s a massive speed boost here that puts you almost on even ground with the flying monstrosity, letting you dodge fire and keep up as it flies around the enormous arena. Other enemies may aggro you during the fight, but ignore them – Agheel’s flame will clean them up and give you free runes. In fact, a combination of mounted combat and classic maneuvers might be the right choice here, depending on your playstyle and archetype. Agheel’s moveset will feel very familiar to Souls players (He’s kind of like a baby Midir), as will the difficulty in landing melee blows on his ever-swaying head. Agheel has dangerous abilities to use whether you’re behind, underneath, or in front, so practicing a bit is to your great advantage. After you finally fell the blistering beast, you obtain the Dragon Heart. Now you may be asking, what on earth do we do with a Dragon Heart?

The answer lies on an island that seems impossible to get to via normal means. If you try to walk there or ride Torrent there, you’ll get a swift trip to the “You Died” screen. No, the answer lies to the south, following the beach down to an innocuous cave. The cave contains nothing of much value and a boss fight with two different enemies to dispatch, but it shouldn’t be any problem for someone who has killed Agheel. Upon beating the boss, you’ll notice that this cave has another exit behind the boss, one that leads up right to the forbidden island. You’ll find the Church of Dragon Communion on this island, where you can turn in the Dragon Heart. I obtained Greyoll’s Roar from my heart, a Faith spell that requires 15 faith to use that “Sounds the roar of Great Ancient Dragon Greyoll.” I bet it’s a pretty sweet spell, but I didn’t have 15 points in Faith, so it simply took up a spot in my inventory.

These highlights tell some of the major beats, but there is mystery everywhere in the Elden Ring network test, and I hope that you get to explore it. Elden Ring does indeed draw upon many of the elements that make the Souls series some of the best games in the world, and Souls veterans will be right at home. New players to FromSoftware’s suite of exceptional action-RPG fare will find a helping hand in both summoned spirits while playing alone and a host of multiplayer functions that allow for jolly cooperation. Both sets of players will find themselves enthralled by the exploration elements combined with the already tried-and-true, best-in-class art direction, dungeon design, and fluid combat. Elden Ring may still be months away, but now the wait’s going to feel exceptionally long. It might even be better than Bloodborne. See you in February, adventurers.

Categories: Games

Animal Crossing’s Paid DLC Happy Home Paradise Is A Designer’s Dream

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 11/09/2021 - 20:00

Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo Release: November 5, 2021 Platform: Switch

The Happy Home Paradise DLC is out following a surprisingly packed Animal Crossing-centric presentation last month. This paid DLC, which Nintendo says will be the last for New Horizons, offers players a chance to take up a new profession as a vacation home designer. The experience costs $24.99 on its own, but if you pick up a Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership, Happy Home Paradise comes bundled in for no extra cost. So, is the design life worth the Bells?

With several hours, multiple happy vacation home clients, and even a promotion under my belt, my biggest takeaway is that this expansion holds little for you if you don’t love designing spaces. If you are drawn to Animal Crossing to gather museum displays or strike it rich in the Stalk Market, Happy Home Paradise might not be for you. However, if you get giddy thinking about pulling together the perfect themed room, this DLC will let you design to your heart’s content.

The expansion starts with the easiest job interview I’ve ever experienced. Called to the airport to meet Lottie, a character that debuted six years ago in Happy Home Designer, I am offered a position at her company, Paradise Planning, despite my complete lack of experience and ridiculous half-scuba, half-chef outfit. The aquatic culinary look didn’t cut it for long, though, as Lottie had me change into a uniform after meeting my new adorable co-workers, Niko and Wardell. After the first trial run, the process of finding a client and creating a dreamy vacation home follows a predictable pattern.

Armed with my official company clipboard, I comb the expansion’s hub island for would-be customers, a task made much easier because everyone on the island is dreaming about their perfect vacation home. Just stand close to a vacationer to get a glimpse of what kind of design they’re looking for. Don’t like the idea of building a robot factory or a home filled with mushrooms? Move on to the next villager. When I eventually discover someone with an intriguing vision, I consult with them, pick a location for their home, and learn about their décor requirements.

Then it’s off to the site to gussy up the home’s exterior and interior. There are a wide array of menu options for landscaping and changing the look of the building before even entering the house. I can alter the look of bridges, adjust the weather, swap building types, put up fences, plant flowers, and more. Once inside, the customer’s required décor – which has been conveniently shipped to the location ahead of your arrival – is waiting for me alongside a helpful list of recommended furniture pieces and design options that match the client’s creative concept.

But don’t worry about straying far from these suggestions; it’s almost impossible to disappoint the would-be homeowner. As long as I had the mandatory items in the house, I had a happy customer – even if I didn’t decorate anything. After a set number of successful jobs, I started to unlock new features, like polishing furniture to make it shine, a unique DIY recipe, or large facility make-overs. At the end of each project, I’m also rewarded in Poki, an in-game currency that only works on the hub island.

Click image thumbnails to view larger version

 

                                                                                                            

I’m not a fan of Poki. I can use it in Paradise Planning’s small store to nab unusual household goods, but I can’t directly spend it on my home island, which limits its usefulness dramatically. Likewise, taking pictures of my interior design masterpieces for the company’s portfolio is weirdly restrictive. The game only allows me to submit the last picture I took, and I’ve lost a few of my favorite shots by accidentally taking another photo. However, like some oddly frustrating features in the base game, these aren’t enough to stand in the way of having a good time in the DLC.

Besides a few hard-to-find materials – like glowing moss and vines – a handful of fresh furniture items, DIYs, and decorating techniques, it doesn’t seem like players will miss out on too much if they skip Happy Home Paradise. Especially since the free update that released last week has introduced so much to the game, like cooking and boat tours with Kapp’n. But for Animal Crossing players that love creating imaginative homes, Happy Home Paradise is a perfect way to stretch those creative muscles without the tedium of crafting, customizing, or collecting all the pieces needed to bring your vision to life.

Categories: Games

Age Of Empires IV Review - Resistance Is Feudal

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 11/08/2021 - 19:45

There's a unique feeling of satisfaction that Age of Empires games have excelled at delivering over the years. That wonderfully fulfilling moment of seeing your strategy succeed at littering the battlefield with an entire army of deceased knights and peasants, all your hard work, micro-management, and scheming paying off as your forces march off to burn down the nearest town center. Age of Empires II mastered that triumphant moment of careful planning and unleashing a well-balanced army on your opponent, and it's that timeless feeling that Age of Empires IV seeks to capture while paying homage to its past.

While it does succeed at evoking nostalgic memories of unloading a heavily-armored Persian pachyderm war machine deep in the heart of enemy territory, Age of Empires IV doesn't make much of an effort to venture out of its comfort zone either. It's confident but familiar, relying on what works without blazing a new trail in the strategy genre.

Relic Entertainment and World's Edge's sequel to the long-running real-time strategy series thankfully skips some of the unnecessary complexity of Age of Empires III. Instead, they bring the game back to a successfully proven formula of managing limited resources, tactical scouting, and slowly transforming your hamlet from scrappy upstart into a world-conquering feudal superpower across several ages.

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