Q.U.B.E. 2 Review: Think Inside The Box

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 03/13/2018 - 10:00

If the original Q.U.B.E. was a product of experimental design and unhindered student ambition, Q.U.B.E. 2 is the sophomore follow-up that almost ticks all the right boxes. No longer are you messing with unmalleable puzzle rooms; Q.U.B.E. 2 gives you the tools to have greater flexibility with your solutions and feels more rewarding as a result. It sometimes struggles to shake off the shackles of its deeply rooted narrative limitations, but it’s ultimately a wonderful puzzle game that will often have you exclaiming in joy after solving one of its many riddles.

If you played the original game, it might be surprising to hear that Q.U.B.E. 2 redefines how its puzzles work from the start. As was the case with the first game, the objective in Q.U.B.E 2 is simply about moving forward. You enter a room and need to figure out a solution to either exit it at the other end or interact with a specific object (like a power node that routes energy) to open doors elsewhere. But where Q.U.B.E. had you manipulating different colored blocks in increasingly challenging puzzle rooms, it never gave you agency over their initial placement. Armed with a new set of gauntlets that have pulsating neon energy flowing through them, that small amount of freedom is exactly what Q.U.B.E. 2 bestows on you from the outset.

The options you’re given are still somewhat limited to compensate for this, with only three distinct abilities at your disposal. Red blocks can be extended and retracted at will; blue blocks turn neutral white tiles into springy bouncing boards; and green blocks let you create a cube of matter that you can further manipulate, either by moving them around with other abilities to activate switches or use them as additional steps to reach a higher ledges. You can use a red block, for example, to push a green block in front of it, perhaps into a nearby blue spring block that launches it into the air and onto a switch nearby. Learning how these three mechanics intermingle is gratifying, and the intricate levels laid out in a linear fashion do a good job of showing you just how you’re meant to employ them.

You can’t use these abilities anywhere, though, which starts to resemble the restrictive layout of the first game. Although you have the freedom to paint any neutral white tile to a color of your choosing, there’s still only a finite number of them in any given space. Their placement always feels deliberate, acting as signposts for the eventual solution. Such design can be helpful in latter stages where the scope and size of the space you’re solving in grows to overwhelming levels, but it's somewhat disappointing that you're never given complete freedom to concoct unusual solutions.

Impressively, the puzzles Q.U.B.E. 2 tasks you with solving are complex in makeup and exciting in execution despite this. Each scenario has a unique twist to the trials that came before it, introducing new mechanics and obstacles. Just as you’re comfortable with spawning a cube and getting it from one side of the room to another, an element like arrays of high-powered fans is introduced. These can, for example, allow you to propel cubes at high speeds, or give you a much-needed lift to a previously inaccessible area. Later, elements like slippery oil come into play, as do magnetic tiles, rotatable platforms, and restrictive doorways that require either sheer force or elemental damage (like fire) to bust open.

Just like the three core abilities, Q.U.B.E. 2 introduces each of these auxiliary mechanics in digestible chunks. As you progress rooms will start taking on themes around these new physics, giving you a playground to comfortably experiment with them before zooming out to larger, all encompassing cranial challenges. Light-bulb moments permeate the game from the opening seconds to its riveting conclusion, with only a few puzzles that seem out of place in terms of difficulty. Several patterns emerge over the six hours of puzzling--I found myself always placing a green tile above a blue one to spawn and instantly propel a cube, for example--but their application in new challenges that tax your spacial awareness never really gets stale.

The same can’t be said for the encompassing narrative that Q.U.B.E. 2 presents, which struggles to find a consistent pace. You play as Amelia Cross, a scientist that’s become stranded on the desolate alien cube most of the game plays out in. The story doesn’t rely on knowledge from the previous game but doesn’t seem to build on anything established either. Instead, it plods along from one revelation to the next, in an attempt to slowly piece together the secrets of the entity Amelia finds herself trapped within. Its latter half is then a rush to a conclusion, quickly introducing new story beats through an overload of exposition, and ultimately leading to an uninspired binary choice at the end. It’s a pity, given that the small cast does deliver some powerful voice acting performances, especially in conversations between Amelia and Emma Sutcliffe, a fellow survivor who seems to know more than she lets on.

Q.U.B.E. 2’s world lacks the impact and intrigue of something like Valve’s Portal series but takes some design cues from its breadth of visual design. Basic test chamber-like sequences are quickly pierced with gorgeous outdoor vistas, letting moonlight flood geometric chambers and cold tile spaces. As the story progresses, Amelia is whisked away to more lush territories, where nature has overgrown the structures she's trapped in. Vines choke the life out of walls around you as sunlight bathes the chambers you’re slowly working through, giving the entire experience a distinctly contrasting feel. Q.U.B.E. 2 might have benefitted from a higher framerate to keep up with the action at times, but it’s a consistently pleasing treat on the eyes.

C.U.B.E. 2 makes remarkably clever changes to a formula well established by its predecessor, giving you more agency over puzzle solutions with redefined core mechanics. It means veterans and newcomers alike won’t have to suffer through an overwrought tutorial, with a gentle learning curve effectively nudging you along its growing library of tools. Q.U.B.E. 2 struggles to contextualize its clever puzzles with a narrative as engaging as their solutions, but it’s still one nut that is consistently rewarding to crack.

Categories: Games

Get Your Diploma For Saving The World In Super Daryl Deluxe

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 03/12/2018 - 19:47

Super Daryl Deluxe was originally unveiled as a Kickstarter project that surpassed its $5,000 funding goal with $7,861 back in 2014. While the two-man team of Dan & Gary Games have had their work cut out for them for the past few years, they're almost ready to unleash Super Daryl Deluxe on the world this coming spring.

As detailed on the PlayStation Blog, co-founder Dan Plate labels the game as an "RPGvania with brawler-style combat." It follows the new kid on the block, Daryl Whitelaw, as he awkwardly becomes embroiled in saving his high school from multi-dimensional foes. One of the most appealing parts of Super Daryl Deluxe is how players can unlock up to 46 abilities that can be earned by exploring the world, completing side quests, and bought off "Trenchcot Kids."

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Whether you want to fight enemies from a distance, deal more damage with status-based attacks, or dance around in the air, the game is designed to slowly yet surely encourage players to adjust how they tackle encounters throughout their bizarre travels, which range from deserts with flexing cacti to giant knights in space.

In the same vein as Supergiant Games' Transistor, you can't equip all of your abilities at once, but can have up to five of your choosing. This means you need to see what types of combinations of moves and combos work best, and with passives and outfits to keep in mind, there's plenty to keep you busy in this unpredictable, sprawling adventure that aims to provide a 15-hour experience.

Super Daryl Deluxe comes out on April 10 for PS4 and PC.

Categories: Games

The Park Is In Your Hands

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 03/12/2018 - 17:12

Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment announced that pre-registration for its upcoming mobile game Westworld is now open. Based on the hit HBO show, Westworld will bring the power to control every aspect of the western-themed sci-fi park into your hands.

In the mobile game, players are thrust into the role of a new Delos employee and are given access to the Delos Park Training Simulation. The DPTS gives the new trainee access to all functions of the Westworld park, including the creation and maintenance of the A.I. hosts and pairing those hosts to satisfy every desire of the park's guests.

“This game is an opportunity to give mobile gamers a fresh and exciting way to interact with the engrossing themes and enigmatic narrative explored by the Westworld series," said Jonathan Knight, vice president and studio head at WB Games San Francisco. “We can’t wait for fans to get their hands on the game to develop their own unique strategy to orchestrate and explore the perfect park experience.”

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Those who pre-register for Westworld will receive additional in-game items, including a code to access Lawrence as a host. More information about pre-registration and the game itself can be found at Westworld's website. Westworld is coming to iOS and Google Play in April 2018.

Categories: Games

The Frost Sets In This April

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 03/12/2018 - 13:57

11 Bit Studio, the developer behind the deeply moving and heartbreaking This War Of Mine, is back at it again with the survival genre in Frostpunk.This time, however, 11 Bit is taking on city-building, with you trying to keep a ragtag civilization alive in the biting cold.

If making tough decisions (like enforcing child labor to boost your city's survival rate) is your kind of thing, you won't have to wait long for Frostpunk. The game is out on April 24.

You can watch the trailer, featuring a Johnny Cash tune, below.

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For more on 11 Bit Studios games, check out our review of This War Of Mine.

Categories: Games

A Bizarre, Unsettling Game About Crowds

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 03/11/2018 - 18:15

Masses of people, similar to crowds you find in metropolitan subway stations, walk forever forward. They traverse through pristine, tile floored areas, where giant falling cubes may block their way. Sometimes other humans kill them. This is the premise of a trailer showing off Humanity, an upcoming game billed as a "crowd action game" by Japanese developer tha ltd.

It's unclear exactly what the objective of the game is, but from the trailer, it looks like you attempt to guide massive crowds through different places. With an unsettling narrator talking about what it means to be human and the overall aesthetics, Humanity looks to be an unsettling but intriguing game.

Take a look for yourself at the trailer below.

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No platforms have been announced yet, but Humanity is expected to hit sometime this year.

Categories: Games

How Do You Play It, And How Will You Pay For It?

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 03/09/2018 - 15:24

After watching several rounds of Valve’s new card game, Artifact, and playing a couple of my own, I don’t think it’s a stretch to call it the Dota 2 of card games. Designed by Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield, Artifact is, like Dota, intimidating at first. Between three separate battlefields with separate health pools and positions, ten total heroes with different color-coded affinities, and, outside the game, a reevaluation of how Valve views its market economies, Artifact is hard to wrap your head around. But that’s how I felt about Dota 2 when I first started playing it, and over 3,000 hours later it’s one my favorite games of all time. Does Artifact stack up?

A Game Across Three Lanes
Artifact is dense, and the best way to explain it is probably to just walk you through a match. I wasn’t able to mess around with the deck-building aspect of Artifact during our play session (which is probably for the best, since I would have had no idea what I was building anyway), and instead played two rounds using pre-built decks. The minimum card count is 40, though you can have as many cards in your deck as you want. 

Each deck is based around five heroes, each of which has a border that’s either red, blue, green or black. Generally speaking, Red is based around stronger heroes with weaker abilities, blue is based around weaker heroes with powerful spells, green offers various stat buffs and additional creeps, and black has a host of mobility options, direct damage, and other sleights of hand. These affinities are more than a subtle nudge toward a strategy, however. Most cards you hold or draw in your hand have a matching color, and if you don’t have a hero of that color in a particular lane, you won’t be able to play that card at all. Affinities aren’t new to card games, and while it I occasionally forgot I couldn’t play a card because I didn’t have the right hero in that lane, it wasn’t too hard to figure out why. 

If you’re familiar with card games, think of Artifact as playing three matches of a regular card game at once, except these battles all interact with each other. At the start of each match, three of your five heroes are randomly assigned to a lane, along with a single creep unit. You start with five cards in your hand and draw two per round. Each round is separated into three lane phases, starting from left to right. In each lane phase, you can choose which cards to play based on a limited mana pool that increases by one each turn (just like Hearthstone). However, each lane has its own separate mana pool, so during the first round, you have three mana at your disposal in each lane phase.

For most players, the three-lane structure will be the biggest hurdle, and what will ultimately separate Artifact from other card games. Part of what makes Hearthstone so immediately appealing is its pick-up-and-play approachability; if the matchmaking gods treat you right, you can launch the client and be done with a match within in about seven minutes. Valve estimates the average match length for Artifact is 12 to 15 minutes. This makes it harder to jump in, and keeping track of three separate fights was tricky at first, since you not only have to allot your cards across the lanes, but make decisions according to how your actions will affect each fight. Pulling off deft maneuvers across three fronts felt cool, and deciding how to distribute your heroes and cards each turn based on your opponent’s actions adds a nice strategic layer.

Fighting, Shopping, And Annihilation
The lane phase itself, however, plays out more like a round of Gwent, in which the players trade moves one at a time until both players choose to pass up their turn. If you have the mana for it, you can play cards to buff your heroes, summon extra creeps or units, fire spells that deal damage, and more. Although you might recognize some from Dota, most of them have names and attributes new to Dota. There are also some new heroes, such as Rix, Sorla Khan, and Kona, which Valve says will eventually make their way over into Dota 2. Other cards will also serve to flesh out Dota’s lore in a way the core hasn’t been able to until now. As someone who prefers Gwent’s tense back-and-forth, poker-esque anteing up and baiting over Hearthstone’s more one-sided turns, I definitely enjoyed Artifact’s reactive turns.

Heroes definitely feel weaker relative to creeps in Artifact than in Dota, but they’re still the core of the game. Some heroes have active abilities they can dish out. Sniper, for example, can deal five damage to any creep or hero in his lane. Others have passive skills: Drow Ranger offers every unit across all three lanes +1 attack, while Crystal Maiden returns two mana for every spell you use. Axe doesn’t have a special ability, but compensates for by having incredibly lots of health and damage to throw around. Each hero also offers access to three copies of a specific card (though any hero can use them, as long as it’s the right color). This means across five heroes, 15 cards are immediately accounted for when you’re building a deck. But you’ll want these cards in your deck anyway, as they’re some of the strongest in the game. Luna’s Eclipse deals out massive amounts of damage at random, while Sniper’s can deal 10 damage to any unit in any lane.

After both players choose to pass, all the enemies and creeps attack each other at once according to their position. If your hero or creep is across or facing an enemy (depending on a random assignment at the beginning of the turn), you deal and receive damage based on each unit’s attack, health, and armor stats. If there isn’t an enemy sitting across from your unit, it attacks one of your enemy’s towers. If you manage to destroy a tower, it becomes an Ancient. If you can destroy an Ancient or two towers, you win the game. Towers are exceptionally fortified, however, and will take several turns to destroy. Assuming no one loses during that lane phase, the round shifts one lane to the right, until both players have passed their turn on all three lanes. This makes positioning crucial; if you’re facing an impossibly strong Axe, for example, finding a way to plant even a basic creep in his path can render him harmless. 

Once the fighting’s all done, you do a bit of shopping. If you manage to kill a unit (hopefully, an enemy hero) during a round, you earn gold you can spend on special cards that are added to your hand between rounds. This includes usable items like healing salves or teleport scrolls, as well as equippable items like the Blink Dagger (one of the few ways to freely hop among the lanes), all of which come from a second deck of nine cards you build beforehand. Because the main object of the game is to destroy towers and not heroes, gold acts as an incentive to kill heroes, and items, in turn, make it easier to destroy towers. If a hero dies during lane phase, they’ll have to sit out during the next round, but will come back after that (unless it’s Rix, who gets to come back at the start of the next round.) From there, it’s rinse and repeat.

The shopping system reminds me of the Pokemon card game, where you have a side deck of six rewards to choose from. It’s a fun nod to Dota 2’s emphasis on economy, and works as a deterrent against overwhelming odds. The right item bought at the right time can make a huge difference.

After I played a couple of rounds, Valve showed the game off by having high-level CCG players from other card games take the reins for an internal tournament. As expected, matches went by far quicker, and I also saw the kinds of decisions players who know what they’re doing will face. One aspect that emerged was turn priority; basically, if you choose to pass on your turn first, you make the first move on the next lane phase, which can be a huge factor when a lane’s tower is on its last legs and every move matters.

Like I said, it’s a lot to take in. Like in any good card game, turns only get more complicated as you gain access to more mana, start unleashing intricate spell combos, and turn every round into that much more of a minefield. Do you abandon one lane entirely for a couple of turns by blinking a hero out of it and pray you can destroy the two surrounding towers before they destroy your unprotected ancient? Do you clear an entire lane using the Annihilation spell now, or try to bait your opponent into investing more heavily into it before blowing it all up? Do you save your gold for a card that will make future purchases much cheaper, or spend what you have The Blink Dagger and Healing Salve that could save your Legion Commander from certain doom? The combination of more reactive turns, lane distribution, and hero variety make certain answers hard to come by, and it makes Artifact feel like a more open-ended card game.

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No Longer Free To Play
With most card games, the business model is as important as the game itself. Valve is incorporating a number of lessons from Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The first is a shift away from the pure free-to-play models that have defined other card games over the years. Before we played Artifact, a group of press sat down with Gabe Newell to talk about Valve’s hopes for Artifact as a marketplace. “When you’re in a free-to-play environment, you end up with this tendency that rarity equals power,” Newell said. “So you’re trying to create get this artificial relationship [between the two], and that’s not the case at all with Artifact.” Newell promises that common cards will be among the most powerful, and that the company will try to steer away from pay-to-win models as much as possible.

Players will have to buy in to receive their first few cards (what that buy-in will be Valve isn’t sure yet). From there, they can buy additional card packs. Valve sees opening card packs as a competitive opportunity through draft-style and closed deck formats. Newell thinks of every card pack purchase as part of a shared economy, one where the cards you have retain their value because they’re actively being traded. To that end, Valve is letting players treat their cards the same way they would physical ones. If you don’t want or already have a card you bought from a pack, you can just sell it on the Steam marketplace. If you’re looking for a single card to complete the incredible deck idea you just cooked up, you can go and buy it directly from someone else, without having to burn money on card packs until you get it, getting cards that are either useless along the way. This attaches real value to individual value to each card that you can trade in at some point.

According to Newell, this lets players more easily think about implementing new strategies. “Let’s say in a game where my assets are depreciating, where I can’t exchange them, I can spend a bunch of time building up stuff and then I’m stuck with my strategy,” he says. “I can’t make a technical decision and try something else because essentially I have to burn all of the value that I’ve put into the game so far.” Because players can’t easily trade in cards they already have for new ones in this model, it becomes harder for them to develop and experiment with new strategies. Artifact hopes to change this.

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Another reason for moving away from free-to-play, according to Newell, is that when free and paid-for items intermingle, the paid-for items lose their value. “If time is free, or an account is free, or if cards are free, anything that has a mathematical relationship to those things ends up becoming devalued over time, whether it’s the player’s time and you just make people pay to grind for thousands of hours for minor trivial improvements, or the asset values of the cards or whatever, that’s a consequence,” he says. Considering Valve wants to attach real value to every card, it makes sense that the entire economy would be cordoned off from free stuff. This is likely a lesson learned from their previous economies; in Dota 2, for example, cosmetic items that came from purchasable chests could wildly vary in price, making them either inaccessible to players who didn’t want to invest a ton of money or making them worthless in the long run. Unlike cosmetic items, Artifact’s cards have real gameplay implications, making it even more important to keep them valuable.

This also factors into Valve’s other marketplace, user-made items, which has become a huge part of both Valve’s pitch to players to make Valve games feel like they belong to the community and for Valve make some cash on the side. Across their other games, avid workshop devotees can stand to make money by having their custom items approved and put up for sale (Valve, of course, gets a cut of that sale). Valve has confirmed that while Artifact is not yet as moddable as they’d like it to be (so far, the biggest opportunity they see is for illustrators making custom art for cards), they plan to let non-artists contribute in some way. Following Valve’s logic, it’s possible that the move away from free-to-play would make these sorts of user-made items more valuable as well.

While the logic seems sound, it’s hard to know how this new model will play out. I wasn’t able to glean how rarity would work under this system, but as a layman I can’t help but wonder whether this leads not to a model where rarity is power, but where power is rarity – a system where the most useful cards aren’t traded as often, and thus become harder to come by, leading to instances where players may have to pay a bit extra for the best cards. This might lead to some of the price-gouging seen in physical card games. Without knowing specifics, however, it’s hard to speculate.

Polishing Up The Edges
While the idea of a card game based on Dota 2 seemed a little bit “me-too” for Valve or a side project as they work on something larger, it’s clear Valve is taking Artifact seriously.

It’s a serious card game, and whether its higher skill ceiling, dense approach, and new market economy work out remain to be seen. Although I only barely had the hang of it by the time my session was over, I’m looking forward to playing more of it when it hits closed beta later this spring. It fuses a lot of elements of Dota and card games I enjoy, and while its intricacies might make it overwhelming at first, I’m eager to dive in and just keep learning, even if I know I won’t fully grasp it for a while. After all, one of the things that makes Dota 2 special is the continual learning process that, while not always intuitive, generally leads to fun, worthwhile discoveries that reward experimentation. Let’s hope that’s the case with Artifact.

Categories: Games

Gravel Review: Slow And Steady Doesn't Win The Race

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 03/07/2018 - 18:04

Arcade racing games have been few and far between during this console generation, which makes Gravel's straightforward approach feel almost like a throwback. On its surface, Milestone's latest appears to toe the line between being an authentic simulation of off-road racing, and a rough-and-tumble arcade experience. There are myriad driver assists that let you tune the difficulty to your liking, and the option to tweak each vehicle's ride height, differentials, and so on, gives you some degree of performance-based customisation. Yet the effect these options have on Gravel's driving model are negligible at best. This is an unpretentious arcade racer that's incredibly easy to pick up and play, but this simplicity also contributes to a lack of heart-pounding excitement.

Gravel's single player career mode, dubbed "Off-road masters", has you globetrotting between events that mix up different race types and disciplines, with each one loosely connected by the concept of a Gravel TV show. There's not much of substance to this structure beyond the inclusion of an unenthusiastic commentator imparting a few tired lines before and after every race, and a few quasi boss fights that bookend each block of episodes. The latter do at least come locked and loaded with some corny FMV introductions, where fictional racing drivers strike poses in what can only be described as a flaming hellscape. For as amusing as I often found these brief interludes, the mano-e-mano races that follow suffer from the same prevalent problem Gravel does as a whole: they're just kind of boring.

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All of this speaks to a lack of depth to Gravel's off-road racing. This wouldn't be an issue on its own, but the simplicity of its action craves an exciting assortment of tracks to really coalesce its various systems into something approaching an engaging racing game, and Gravel falls short of the mark. There are outliers, of course: the point-to-point cross country races through Alaska and the sun-drenched beaches of Namibia are highlights due to their white-knuckle nature and environmental variety. However, the rest fail to get the blood pumping with any sort of regularity. There are a few real world Rallycross tracks, but most of the courses on offer are fictional, and it's a shame they're not more imaginative. The majority of the time I felt like I was simply going through the motions, even after bumping the difficulty up to hard for a more substantial challenge. And this feeling is only exacerbated by the limited number of environments on offer, with multiple tracks taking place in the same locations.

Meanwhile, multiplayer options are confined to creating your own lobby to invite friends, or jumping into a quick match in the hopes of finding others to race against--but this is easier said than done. After numerous attempts I’ve only managed to find a solitary match, which was populated with three other people (the rest of the grid was made up of AI drivers). Other than this I’ve had no luck finding another race, even a week after launch.

Visually, weather and lighting effects are occasionally impressive, but otherwise Gravel's tracks mostly look flat, and a short draw distance leads to shadows and foliage frequently popping into view. There's also a lack of detail to each vehicle's body, and a smoothness to each one that gives the illusion they're coated in a sheen of vaseline. They look more like toy cars than the high-powered mud-churners they should be.

In my mind's eye, Gravel's bland visuals contribute to a game that doesn't look too dissimilar from the seven year old titles it most closely resembles. There's something appreciable about its no-nonsense style, and there's definitely some intermittent fun to be had with its arcade style racing. But it doesn't do anything that its contemporaries haven't done better before, and it fails to stand out as an enjoyable alternative, which is unfortunately reflected by its barren multiplayer component. Like the fireworks that occasionally ignite throughout select races, Gravel's attempts at excitement don't quite dazzle.

Categories: Games

Survive In A Zombie Wasteland This May

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 19:26

State of Decay 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the zombie-survival game from last generation, now has a release date of May 22 in two separate versions, according to IGN.

The game comes in a standard edition, priced at $29.99, and an Ultimate edition at $49.99. The Ultimate edition allows players to access the game early on May 18 and includes the original game, State of Decay: Year One Survival Edition, on Xbox One and State of Decay 2 DLC packs Independence and Daybreak, which have TBD release dates.

Microsoft got behind State of Decay after the first game made a huge splash on Xbox Live Arcade. The new game runs on Unreal Engine 4, switching from the first game's CryEngine. You can check out the game's trailer from last E3 below.

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State of Decay 2 is releasing on Xbox One and PC.

Categories: Games

See The Missing Chapter Even Before The Prequel

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 18:48

Deck Nine Games wraps up their run on Life is Strange with Farewell, the final episode in the prequel series Before the Storm.

The episode, which comes out today, takes the prequel even further back, when Chloe and Max were only kids. The bonus episode, which is exclusive to the Deluxe edition of Before the Storm, covers the period of time where Max leaves Chloe to move to Washington and how the two don't really reconnect until Life is Strange.

Check out the trailer for Farewell below.

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The episode is available to download now if you own or upgrade to the Deluxe version of the game.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Mulaka Review: Of Myth And Monsters

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 03/05/2018 - 16:30

Every part of the world has its own history and legends that are ripe for examination, yet games typically stick to a narrow range of familiar cultures. It's why games like Mulaka stand out; they can open your eyes to concepts and themes that you otherwise might never encounter. Mulaka is a 3D action-adventure game that looks to the Sierra Tarahumara region of northern Mexico and channels its cultural heritage into a fascinating adventure steeped in mythology.

You play the role of the Sukurúame, a spear-wielding warrior shaman who can see both the physical and spirit world, and eventually transform into various animals. From the open desert to a thriving human city, Mulaka's landscapes have a magical quality that make it feel like an interactive trip inside a children's book. Your goal in each area is typically to find three magical stones that will unlock a giant door leading to a boss. Bottomless drops, deadly quicksand, water hazards, and precarious climbs are combined in entertaining and challenging ways to keep the action moving and diverse, as are the simple yet enjoyable puzzles throughout.

It can be fascinating to take in as you convene with animal spirits or battle fantastical monsters. The game utilizes its fairly primitive graphics style to give the game a classic look that fits its mythical themes, and the landscapes have a beautiful contoured quality. All the while the soundtrack uses native instruments to create an ambient soundtrack that fits the action, but stays mostly in the background.

The aforementioned civilization you engage with offers a slightly human touch to the mystical landscape, but Mulaka’s NPCs are disappointing conversationalists. They’re static characters who don’t do much except passively add to the atmosphere. And much like NPCs in classic RPGs, they only have one line of dialogue a piece.

Mulaka's detailed use of Sierra Tarahumaran mythology is the main here, since it provides a setting we haven't really seen before. Much like God of War used Greek myths to add compelling, otherworldly drama to its saga, Mulaka's setting adds a unique flavor to every aspect of the game. The presence of animal spirits leads to a set of monsters that are mostly grounded in the real world, but magnified to menacing proportions.

The themes of animal transformation lend themselves naturally to gaming. So moving from human to bird to bear forms in quick succession later in the game is a fast-paced thrill. Your character's spirit vision lets you see where objectives and key items (such as keystones) are, in addition to invisible platforms that are required to access specific parts of the world. The magic energy you expend to see these things extends to other abilities, such as flight. The multi-use resource forces you to balance your abilities on the fly, which can be a thrilling challenge during the game's more intense and chaotic battles.

Combat is near ever-present, and figuring out the best way to deal with the various enemies is part of the fun. Normal enemies, like giant frogs and basic mantis men, can just be wailed on, but many, including a creepy skull-armored spider, are shielded and must first be opened up to attack with a heavy strike. Other enemies are only vulnerable if you can successfully dodge their opening attacks.

Somewhat frustratingly, airborne enemies--from flying bolo-throwing mantises to balls of fire--can be especially hard to hit, especially in the midst of a full-blown battle between several distinct kinds of monsters. The issue stems from controlling your spear, which is especially problematic on Switch. There, the game insists on using motion controls, which don't behave as accurately as you'd hope. The target lock is also nearly useless, making it incredibly frustrating to hit moving targets, which can be further complicated by the lack of camera inversion settings.

Where things are at their are best are in the terrifically designed and imaginative boss encounters that range from straightforward battles to devious and clever platforming tests. So, in one fight you might be taunting a giant bug to run into towering rock sculptures and another requires you to use the wind generated by the boss itself to fly up to higher points so you can attack the boss's weak points. Seeing what surprises the next boss offers is one of the great joys of the game.

Mulaka is a simple game at heart with a lot of familiar traits. The open, low-poly landscapes and characters are reminiscent of Journey. The combat and puzzle elements are similar to Breath of the Wild and Okami. But thanks to the specific Tarahumara setting and characters, Mulaka still manages to have a personality and feel all its own. It offers an appealingly unique setting that makes it something more than a typical adventure game.

Categories: Games

You Are The Monster In This Reverse Horror Game

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 03/04/2018 - 22:30

Most horror games are about limited the player with scarce resources or having them evade a ferocious villain stalking them. In Carrion, an upcoming horror game from Phobia Game Studio, the roles are reversed. This time, you're a fearsome, bloody, monster blob lurking around and killing its prey.

You make your way through an industrial complex going head-to-head with various heavily armed humans, all hoping to end the terror you cause. Unfortunate for them, you have a range of otherworldly abilities at your disposal to send them to early graves. You can view a short trailer below.

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Carrion is expected to release on PC, though no release date has been announced just yet.

Categories: Games

Rare Details Ship Customization On The High Seas

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 23:36

With Sea of Thieves not far off on the horizon, Rare has released a video detailing how ship customization works.

Rare hasn't been coy about the ways in which pirate customization works, explaining that pretty much every aspect of your buccaneer is up for changing. Ship customization, however, has been pretty quiet beyond possible hints in the beta. The newest developer diary explains that you can basically build the ship from the sails to the hull.

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I'm pretty excited to spend way too long picking out a good masthead that I feels matches my personality as a pirate.

Sea of Thieves is releasing on March 26 for Xbox One and PC.

Categories: Games

Deep Rock Galactic Is A Cooperative Blast

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 21:48

Your party consists of four gun-totting dwarves. After a successful mission, you can buy them new beards. If this doesn’t pique your interest, perhaps the excellent exploration and gunplay will.

Deep Rock Galactic isn’t officially out yet, but is available to play now through Steam Early Access or Xbox One’s Game Preview program. After vesting a few hours into this unique experience – which plays out like a mix of Red Faction, No Man’s Sky, and any game featuring a horde mode, I can say it’s well worth your time – just know it’s a work in progress, and crashes, and server issues abound.

Your dwarf is employed by a mining company that is stripping an alien world of its riches. When you descend beneath the planet’s surface into its serpentine caverns, you’re tasked to mine whatever you can, although the mining company designates which mineral you should focus on to complete the mission. The caves are sometimes lit by lava-spewing geysers or glowing fauna, but most of the light either comes from your headlamp or flares that you toss into the darkness. A suffocating and ominous vibe hangs over these sprawling areas, and wandering too far from your party can lead to disaster, as you are not alone. From what I can tell, the primary foes in the game are crab-like creatures that are sometimes made out of rock. For these tougher, armored foes, you'll need to circle around them to find a weak spot (which glows). You'll periodically run across these aggressive beasts, but are mostly bracing for your commander to yell that a swarm is on the way. This is where the game shifts to a horde-like mode, where every shot matters and teamwork in a tight circle is the best way to eliminate the threat. Ammo is limited and can only be regained by calling in a drop, which costs resources that are shared by the team.

All resources are found within the mine itself. You'll find deposits of gold, and other rare minerals which can be used to purchase weapon and gear upgrades. While you'll want to work on leveling up and enhancing your starting character, you'll also want to play as other characters, as the game is class-based. You can play as a Driller, a heavily armored drilling machine that wields a flamethrower and satchel charges, a Scout, that carries a machine gun and "boomstick," a engineer, that can deploy a turret gun, and my guy, the gunner, who carries a powerful minigun and grenades. All four classes feel quite different in the field of play, and complement each other nicely.

While the combat is where the game really gets your blood pumping and demands the team work together, the basic, slower mining moments are also fun. Much like the old Red Faction games (or Minecraft), the player can use a pickaxe to dig through everything. Specific wall colors tell you that an area exists beyond them, but you can tunnel almost anywhere, and will sometimes need to to get to higher areas. You can also deploy a zipline that can be ascended or descended to stretch over caverns or access higher platforms.

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The reward look doesn't offer much at the moment outside of meaningful weapon and armor upgrades, but is something I'm sure developer Ghost Ship Games is looking to increase. The core gameplay loop is quite engaging, and shows a high level of polish for a game that just hit Early Access. The occasionally "server connection lost" moments are annoying, but I was able to rejoin a couple of games I was kicked from. Ghost Ship warns players from the outset of play that this area of the game is receiving the most work right now.

If you're in the market for a new cooperative experience, where everyone is truly working together, I can't recommend Deep Rock Galactic enough at this point. I can't wait to see what the tougher missions bring.

Categories: Games

Anthropomorphic Animals Headline A New XCOM-Style Tactics Game From Creators Of Hitman, Payday

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 20:49

It's not every day you see a game starring an angry boar and anthropomorphic duck with an attitude problem, but that's what Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden is selling. 

Funcom and The Bearded Ladies (a collaboration between former Hitman and Payday developers) have teamed up to deliver this off-kilter tactical adventure featuring XCOM style gameplay, exploration, and a story that takes place after the fall of mankind. With various groups of mutants vying for control given the vacuum created by the eradication of humankind, your band of misfit mascots must navigate the dangerous terrain via a real-time stealth system and try to uncover the location of Eden. The stealth system allows you to avoid detection altogether to slip past formidable foes if you'd rather save your ammo for a later fight. 

The "abandoned cities, crumbling highways, and overgrown countryside" offer a lot of terrains to explore. In between missions, you can return to the Ark, a retrofuturistic hub where you can recruit new team members and upgrade your weaponry. You can get a taste of the vibe The Bearded Ladies are going for with the debut cinematic trailer: 

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Mutant Year Zero: Road To Eden arrives on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC later this year. 

Categories: Games

The Creators Of Myst Tease Their Latest Project

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 18:46

Cyan Inc., the studio behind Myst and Obduction, have revealed a teaser trailer for their upcoming game Firmament. The trailer is narrated by an ethereal voice as the camera guides the view through snow-capped mountains and abandoned steam-punk machinery. A mysterious orb breathes new life and an apparition appears to accompany you on your journey of discovery. The orb acts as a power source for the machinery around you as the narrator speaks of the hope you bring and an arrival to come.

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Firmament's website offers scant details about the game, stating that it is a "resplendent, magical journey — a monumental voyage through four diverse and curious realms." No platforms have officially been announced, but the studio's YouTube channel says it's a new VR experience. To see what we thought of the studio's last game, Obduction, check out our review.

Categories: Games

Ubisoft Drops Series Of Far Cry 5 Villain Vignettes

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 03/02/2018 - 17:29

We've written a lot about how Ubisoft set out to build a believable cult for its latest open-world adventure, Far Cry 5. As we ramp up to the game's late March release, the publisher is lifting the curtain more on the personalities at the head of the Project at Eden's Gate. 

The cult is headed by Joseph Seed, but he's not the only Seed family member who plays a critical role in the narrative. These vignettes allow you to get to know John Seed, Jacob Seed, Faith Seed, as well as The Father. 

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Ubisoft also put together a video showcasing the zany action you can look forward to in Far Cry 5, from ziplining across mountain ranges to drug-induced shootouts. 

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Far Cry 5 releases on March 27 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Quantic Dream's Latest Hits In May

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 15:00

Quantic Dream founder David Cage took to PlayStation's official blog today to let the world know that the neo-noir cybernetic thriller Detroit: Become Human is on the verge of being released. The game will be out on May 25 for PS4:

We are proud to announce that Detroit: Become Human now has an official release date. On 25th May, you will finally have the chance to get your hands on Quantic Dream’s most ambitious title to date.

In a dystopian vision of our near future, Detroit is the story of three androids, three machines designed to obey, who start to feel emotions. Confronted with persecution and the violence of society, they will all have to decide who they want to be.

You can read up on our impressions of Detroit: Become Human's gameplay here.

Our Take
Quantic Dream has built a reputation for making ambitious, zany games with branching paths. Though we're concerned about the stiff dialogue we've seen in preview builds thus far, we're hopeful that Quantic Dream's android-driven world lives up to its potential.

Categories: Games

New Teaser Shows Off More Of Hogwarts

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 14:22

Back in January, Portkey Games, the arm of Warner Brothers dedicated to publishing Harry Potter titles, revealed that indie developer Jam City was working on a mobile RPG set in the universe. This game is notable because, despite the confusing title, Harry Potter doesn't show up anywhere in it. This is a prequel game set years before the events of the book, where you get to run around as a student of one of the houses.

Today Portkey and Jam City revealed a new teaser that shows off more gameplay features, including potion making and wizard duels. You can watch the whole thing here:

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The game is due out in Spring 2018.

Categories: Games

Bridge Constructor Portal Review

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 20:00

Bridge Constructor Portal leans heavily upon its iconic forebears. GlaDOS, an uncaring-though-humorous AI, greets you at the beginning of many levels, setting the stage for the plentiful puzzles that lay before you. It sounds like the setup for another delicious brain-teaser that will tickle your funny bone while pushing your logic muscles. But neither the story nor the puzzles capture your imagination, resulting in a predictable slog that grows more tedious the deeper you get into the adventure. Even worse: I encountered a game-breaking bug that completely halted my progress at the home stretch.

The story in Bridge Constructor Portal is little more than a collection of references to the previous Portal games. GlaDOS is back to make light of your shortcomings, but her insults feel like diluted copies of familiar quips, lacking the clever tongue-lashings that she used to so easily dish out. She's there to greet you with an insult at the beginning of some stages, and then you're left on your own in a bleak and bland test chamber. Periodic cutscenes borrow familiar artifacts from previous games, but do little with these props other than make you fondly remember happier days. During one such segment, a picture of Portal's famous cake appears on a computer screen while an instrumental version of "Still Alive" plays over the loudspeakers. This scene means nothing if you aren't familiar with that game...and it's just a quick nostalgia jab for those who are.

As the name implies, Bridge Constructor Portal has you building a series of bridges in the facility made famous in Portal. The goal is to guide a self-driving forklift full of cute little stick figures from the entry point to a faraway exit--all while avoiding turrets, leaping over acidic lakes, and triggering switches. Building a bridge is no easy task, though; physics are a constant and punishing presence, forcing you to consider the impact of gravity as you build rickety structures. With only metal planks and guy-wires to hold your contraptions in place, you have to make smart use of your materials to ensure that the entire structure doesn't topple as soon as you begin.

A handy "best practices" tutorial teaches you the fundamentals of architecture. Build a series of triangles, for instance, to hold a bridge in place, or affix an arch to add even more support for your road. Bolts in the ceilings and walls can bear a lot of weight if you hook guy-wires up to connecting points, but make sure you balance the bridge properly, or it's still going to cause your forklift to crash and burn as soon as it lays its wheel upon the road.

All of the techniques you need are doled out slowly, so it's easy to get a handle on what the game is demanding of you. While you start out building simple ramps and roadways, you're soon sculpting hundred-piece structures that dangle impossibly high in the air. The early going is tense: I would hold my breath as the forklift sauntered across my swaying bridge, hoping that the guy-wires were strong enough to carry the weight. My forklift would often land on a bridge from too high a distance, and I would watch helplessly as it all toppled to the ground. Then it was a matter of going back to work, adding a few more supports and tweaking the angle of ramps, before once again testing my creation.

It doesn't take long, though, before you've seen all of the obstacles Bridge Constructor Portal can dish out. Once you've mastered suspension bridges, oscillating bridges, and angles of incidence, the stages force you to go through the motions to show--once more--the tricks you already learned. The game tries to keep things fresh by injecting obstacles and items from the original Portal game into this one; you'll encounter talking turrets, companion cubes, speed goo, death lasers, bounce pads, flying balls, and (of course) portals. Later levels throw all of these into a single stage, but that only makes the experience more tedious, not more interesting.

The game often confuses complexity with fun, as throwing in more moving pieces doesn't mean you're going to have to think harder.

Bridge Constructor Portal is at its best when it focuses on one or two key ideas. Figuring out how to use a companion cube as a shield to block the laser attacks from a turret took enough clever construction that I was satisfied when my forklift glided gracefully through the exit. But the game often confuses complexity with fun, as throwing in more moving pieces doesn't mean you're going to have to think harder. Rather, it means you're going to spend most of your time making small adjustments, wallowing in small details instead of appreciating the greater whole that surrounds you.

The best part of puzzle games is figuring out how to overcome a tricky obstacle. That's the easiest and shortest aspect of Bridge Constructor Portal, though. Long after you've devised a way through the portals, off the bouncing pads, and past the lasers, you're fiddling around with one small part of the contraption that is close, but oh so far, from the necessary perfection.

A lot of the tedium comes from how editing works. In test chamber 49, for instance, I had to guide my forklift through a series of portals on the right side of the screen while crashing into turrets from behind, and hitting a button that would release a companion cube on the left side. The cube is supposed to knock down three more turrets and hit a switch that opens the exit. The problem is that I couldn't quite get the angle needed to guide the cube to its destination. So I would tweak a ramp, start the level up, and then wait 30 or so seconds until the forklift hit that switch to release the companion cube. Then, I would watch the cube fall, see where my mistake was, and move a ramp a few more pixels to try to get it in the right spot. And then... I'd start the whole process again. Tweak, wait 30 seconds, tweak, wait 30 seconds, tweak. There's no way to start a run from a certain point to iterate on the one problem area, so I went back and forth with this project for a half hour until I finally got it right.

And then the game crashed.

From beginning to end, it took me about an hour to pass test chamber 49. Most of the later stages take 30 minutes or longer to get right, and some took even more than an hour. Losing my progress after spending so much time constructing the perfect series of ramps and bridges was maddening. But I had no time to pout: I jumped right back into test chamber 49, moving quicker than my first time through, and got my trusty companion cube to knock down the turrets and trigger the exit door in about 20 minutes.

And then I ran into an even bigger problem.

Test chamber 50 is much easier than the previous stage, but I experienced a bug every time I reached the exit that forced the game to crash to the Switch OS. I tried to save my work before exiting, crossing my fingers that I wouldn't have to start from the beginning if the game crashed again--but the save function failed consistently, too. So I never got beyond test chamber 50, and never saw the last 10 challenges.

Obviously, a game-breaking bug is a serious problem, but I was tired of Bridge Constructor Portal long before my progress was abruptly halted. This game falls short in just about every area; an amusing story or eye-catching visual design could have at least distracted from the dull puzzles, but you get no reprieve here. The game doesn't even feature any music while you're building the many bridges. Long after you've figured out how to pass a stage, you're still left tinkering with minute portions, adjusting ramps by mere pixels at a time, crossing your fingers that you landed on the exact angle needed to guide a companion cube or bounce a ball of light toward the wall trigger. Instead of testing your puzzle-solving ability, Bridge Constructor Portal just sees how long you can withstand tedium before you want to walk away from the whole endeavor.

Categories: Games

Taking To The Court With Tennis World Tour

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 18:40

Tennis has been on somewhat of a hiatus from video games, so sports gamers are excited for Tennis World Tour, a career mode-focused title from Breakpoint Games this spring (PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch).

Recently we had an opportunity to get our hands on an early build of the title, and in the video below (which is footage from the developer, not capture of our actual time with the game) editors Brian Shea and Matthew Kato discuss some of their thoughts – including details on the career structure.

Stay tuned for more details about the game in an upcoming edition of The Sports Desk.

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Categories: Games