Games

Upcoming Switch Game Golf Story Meshes RPG Elements With A Classic Sport

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 05/28/2017 - 18:40

Golf Story, an RPG/adventure from a small team known as Sidebar Games, has been announced for Nintendo Switch. By blending elements of the classic sport with RPG elements, Golf Story looks like a promising, retro-styled indie that's reminiscent of titles such as Stardew Valley and Mario Golf.

You make your through eight unique environments, each with their own unique towns, characters, golf courses, and more. Watch the trailer below.

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By completing challenges, solving puzzles, and buying new equipment, you can upgrade your golfer as they progress through the ranks. Outside of golf, Sidebar Games teases that the game will include extra challenges, such as "races, mowing, drone flights and geocaching." 

Golf Story releases this summer on Nintendo Switch. This summer will also see Stardew Valley coming to the Switch, along with a multiplayer component.

Categories: Games

PlayStation Reveals More N. Sane Trilogy Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 05/27/2017 - 18:45

The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a highly anticipated remaster, is releasing this June. As we near its launch, PlayStation showed off more than 20 minutes of gameplay recently, looking specifically at three levels from the remastered version of Crash Bandicoot: Warped.

The three levels include Double Header, Gone Tomorrow, and Orange Asphalt. The video has Vicarious Visions' game director Dan Tanguay on as a guest, who gives insight into the process of reviving Crash Bandicoot 20 years after its debut.

"We have the benefit of 20 years of hindsight," Tanguay says in the video. "And it's almost like this history lesson where we could see, form game to game, the lessons Naughty Dog was learning."

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Tanguay believes Crash is "so memorable because he’s oozing personality out of his pores." The team painstakingly recreated each level from the ground up, with updated visuals and more, but hoped to retain that same feeling the originals had.

"There are things that are exactly faithful to the original, but you also want to create just a little room for the team to innovate and add their own stamp," Tanguay says.

For more on the N. Sane Trilogy, check out gameplay from the remastered version of Crash Bandicoot 2's level Hang Eight, as well as gameplay footage of the remastered level of Tomb Wader from Warped.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy releases on June 30 for PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

Eight Takeaways From Our Hands-On

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 21:40

We recently got some hands-on time with TT Games' third stab at telling a new tale in the Marvel universe to see how things are shaping up for Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. We played through the first level and got to take some of the new characters for a spin, including Spider-Gwen, Drax, and Groot.

Here are our big takeaways:

The Guardians Of The Galaxy Are Front And Center This Time
While the last Lego Marvel game centered on The Avengers while roping in a huge cast of Marvel characters, the Guardians seem to be the motivating force this time. The game begins on Xandar, with the Guardians trying to repel an assault from the game's main villain, Kang the Conquerer.

Time Travel Plays A Big Role
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is all about time travel, which is fitting given Kang's knack for playing around with timelines in the comics. Expect to bend time during battles with bosses and to solve puzzles, such as slowing down the action to gain a strategic advantage.

The Game Plays Basically The Same As The First One
Like the first game, you're running through levels as various characters, using abilities to fight enemies and solve puzzles in order to progress. 

Every Character You Control Has More Unique Abilities
We played around a lot with the Guardians and like the first game, each character has their own ability and unique animations. However, those abilities have also been expanded with functional emotes. For example, Star-Lord has his trademark gravity grenades and can fly around and shoot baddies with his blasters. However, he can also use his Walkman to make all enemies and friends in the area dance, allowing him to walk past them without getting into combat.

We Still Don't Know What The Open World Is Like
The first Lego Marvel Super Heroes featured a sprawling version of New York City for players to run around in. It's unclear if we're returning to NYC if there will be a wider series of environments to explore with 2.

Expect More Fan Favorite Characters
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 isn't just bringing back the big names from the first game. We're also going to see some fan-favorite characters, like Spider-Gwen, who can stop to take a selfie in battle. You can upload that selfie to the internet, too!

Movement Is Still Clunky 
One of the biggest issues with TT Games is the clunky movement of their characters. Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 doesn't seem to fix that. While movement was mostly fine, it still felt like my character was wobbling everywhere.

Battles Are Chaotic
The battle sequence we partook in as The Guardians of the Galaxy was frenzied, with loads of enemies on screen and so much action it was hard to see the characters we were controlling at points. This was rather frustrating for the demo but could also be something that's easy to get used to during the full game.

For more on Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, check out the latest trailer.

Categories: Games

Watch A Playthrough Of Tomb Wader From Warped

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 19:17

For most Crash fans, the last time we got to spend time with our favorite bandicoot was in an Uncharted 4 mini-game.

In a tweet from Wednesday, PlayStation asked its followers to respond with what level they wanted to see from Crash Bandicoot: Warped of the upcoming remastered Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Responses were so overwhelming, PlayStation had to put it to a vote. Watch the winner below:

The votes have been tallied — time to show off some remastered Crash Bandicoot: Warped! Get ready for Tomb Wader. pic.twitter.com/vlDDHf0eeN

— PlayStation (@PlayStation) May 26, 2017

The N. Sane Trilogy is scheduled to be released for PS4 on June 30.

For a playthrough of Crash 2's Sewer or Later, click here. To get a look at the development of the trilogy, check out our interview with producer Kara Massie and game director Dan Tanguay from Vicarious Visions, here. To see our impressions about the game so far, head here.

Categories: Games

23 Things We Know About Far Cry 5

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 18:30

Ubisoft just unleashed a barrage of trailers today for Far Cry 5, revealing a wealth of information on the upcoming game that takes place in a much less exotic location than its globetrotting predecessors. You won't have to wait too long to play the game, which is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on February 27.

Here are the key points we know about the game so far.

Storytelling and Setting

  • The game is set in Hope Country, Montana.
  • Far Cry 5 takes place in modern times.
  • The trailers and images for Far Cry 5 showcase a lot of green valleys and plains, as well as small towns. It's not clear how big these towns are.
  • According to creative director Dan Hay, the game was inspired by both chaotic international political conditions as well as the 2016 occupation of the Masher National Wildlife Refuge, in which armed militants took residence in the Oregon-based National Park for 40 days.
  • You play a junior deputy police officer. You can select your gender and skin color, though the character's name has not been revealed.
  • The deputy is going after Joseph Seed, the leader of an armed cult in Hope County.
  • Seed runs the cult with his family, including sister Faith and brother Jacob.
  • The cult is called The Project at Eden’s Gate. The cult believes "The Collapse" is imminent and target people who have fallen on hard times looking for salvation. They are heavily armed.
  • The reveal trailer showcases cultists rounding up civilians of the county, forcing some to be baptized.
  • Ubisoft has revealed three ally characters who will be helping you out. Pastor Jerome, Mary May, and Nick Rye. All of them have their own motivations for helping you fight against Seed, like Jerome's desire to steer his flock back to Christianity. You can watch trailers for all three characters here.

Gameplay

  • Ubisoft says that the Far Cry 5 open world is "the biggest one yet."
  • From the moment you start the game you can go anywhere you choose.
  • You can fly planes, a first in the series. Some of these planes can be equipped with weapons like miniguns, and you can get into dogfights.
  • Other vehicles include muscle cars, big rigs, and tractors.
  • Melee weapons are up front and center. Gameplay footage we saw included the main character hurling pitchforks like spears and beating in skulls with sledgehammers. The game also has the largest selection of weaponry the series has seen yet.
  • Far Cry Primal's animal companions make a return, with you able to call animals like bears and cougars to help you fight enemies. Or you can bring along a trusty canine companion. 
  • One sequence we saw had the main character commanding his dog to steal an AK-47 away from an enemy and bring it to the player.
  • Co-op is returning, but this time players can play through the entire game with a friend.
  • A resistance meter features heavily in the game, with the militia responding to your attacks. According to Ubisoft, "Far Cry 5's dynamic A.I. tracks the effect you’re having in the game, and alters the enemy's strategy against you."
  • The choices you make during gameplay affect the opportunities presented to you.
  • You can call allies into battle via the Guns For Hire recruitment system.
  • Each Gun For Hire has special skills, and you can have three fighting by your side at once.
  • The game has outdoorsman-oriented side activities like fly fishing and hunting.

For more on Far Cry 5, check out the reveal trailer here.

Categories: Games

Reveal Trailer Shows Off A Time-Twisting Tale

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 17:03

Last week Warner Interactive and TT Games announced the upcoming Lego Marvel Super Heroes game, and the news was accompanied by a teaser trailer. Today, they've released the whole dang thing.

Take a look at the full trailer below to see a slew of familiar faces – good and bad – and see how the game's time-bending story may affect gameplay. In one quick section, we see Star-Lord hurl Baby Groot into a weird time anomaly, where he sprouts into the full-sized Groot we know and love.

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Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is coming to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on November 14.

Categories: Games

New Trailers Introduce Allies

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 14:02

Far Cry has always made a point to include strong allies to help its players out. 5 appears to be no different on that front. 

Ubisoft just released a bevy of trailers, introducing us to three side characters who will do everything they can to help our protagonist best accomplish their mission.

There's Pastor Jerome:

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Mary May:

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And Nick Rye:

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You can check out the release date trailer for Far Cry 5 here.

Categories: Games

Trailer Reveals Country Strife And Release Date

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 14:01

After several mysterious tidbits, Ubisoft has finally revealed significant news about Far Cry 5. Specifically the game's release date and footage of the game in action.

You can watch the trailer here:

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For more on Far Cry 5, check out the character trailers that Ubisoft just released.

Categories: Games

Telltale Releases Trailer For The Climactic Season Finale

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 19:31

The final episode of The Walking Dead's third season releases next week, but right now we're still dwelling on explosive ending from the previous episode.

The decisions made throughout the series have strained every relationship, calling even family into question. With each corrupt leader, painful betrayal, and horde of zombies, we've been forced to make increasingly difficult choices that force us to reevaluate our morals and reasoning. It will be interesting to see the impact of last episode's choices and where the story will ultimately end up.

With Richmond on the verge of collapse, and a confrontation between Javier and his brother David imminent, the finale promises more of the intense decision-making that's permeated the series. New faces look to make an appearance in the final installment as well, bringing with them the potential for more brutal decisions that come standard with any relationship in the zombie apocalypse. Telltale released a trailer that teases how it may all come together.

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You can see what we thought about the previous episode here. To catch up on what's happened with Javier and Clementine so far, click here.

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - From the Gallows releases on Tuesday, May 30 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and iOS.

Categories: Games

Rime Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 16:00

Rime feels a bit like someone telling you the only way you can see the Mona Lisa is by first having to unlock a heavy safe--the painting is beautiful, but my god, why did you make seeing it so bloody difficult? Although Rime looks and sounds gorgeous, its visual splendor is locked behind frustrating, shallow puzzles and an incomprehensible story, meaning you spend more time figuring out where to go than taking in the world around you.

Much like Journey or Ico, Rime features no text and only a basic, unfamiliar language--your blank-slate child character communicates through nondescript calls and facial expressions. Similarly, you're given no hints, there's no HUD, and in-game cues are portrayed through abstract audiovisual signals such as cave paintings and animal cries. When the game opens with your character waking up on an unfamiliar island, the absence of these typical gameplay themes lends Rime's environment a sense of mystery. You'll ponder where you are, how you got there, what you're supposed to be doing--and you'll want to explore the island to discover the answers.

This is Rime at its best: the first of its four worlds is a mini sandbox of places I wanted to go, animals I wanted to pet, and objects I wanted to touch. The wind in the trees and distant sound of wildlife, in addition to a slow, classical soundtrack and no enemies or time pressure makes it a pleasant, relaxing experience akin to taking a walk around a summer park. One beautiful sequence sees you illuminating a cave's darkened floor beneath you using your singing voice--at times, Rime is magical.

Before long you'll stumble across the game's first puzzles, which mostly involve shouting to release bursts of energy that activate platforms and doors. These puzzles are expanded upon later in the game as light manipulation and pressure plates are added into the mix. But while more mechanics are added, the puzzles remain simplistic to the point of being shallow. The majority involve figuring out the one action required to unlock whichever door is needed to progress. Maybe you missed a key item off the beaten track. Maybe it's a matter of trial and error. Or maybe you're overthinking it, and there's a much simpler solution that you just haven't seen. One example tasks you with manipulating a large stone pillar to cast light-sensitive switches in shadow to open a cave door. Once I'd triggered a mid-puzzle cutscene featuring a giant enemy bird, I spent a further 15 minutes fiddling with the pillar, only to realise I'd not seen a small ledge I could use to climb out of the cave. These tiny, often obfuscated solutions make the process of figuring out the puzzles frustrating--and the one-step victory hollow.

Rime's poor signposting carries through to its exploration segments, which often left me clueless as to where to head next. In comparison to Journey, which orientates the player superbly using a consistent goal--the shining mountain--Rime has no such targets. This is exacerbated by the repetitive world design. Each level has its own theme--the first is a sunny island, the second a sandy desert, the third an abandoned city, and the fourth a rainy abyss. But within each world, there is little architectural diversity and the game does little to explore each theme in interesting ways. Additionally, the lack of distinct, recognizable landmarks to draw the eye means it's very easy to get lost. I was constantly ambling forward, not really knowing where I was going or why.

And this is reflected in the emotional journey Rime has you follow. The story is told through a series of flashbacks, but the abstract nature of both the world and its lack of language meant it was never clear what my driving force was--I was playing for progress's sake, rather than because I was desperate to turn the next page of a story I was engaged in. Two threads Rime does lay down--a hooded figure dressed in red and a strange, magical fox--are never properly resolved, and the ending is as confusing as it is pretentious. The twist introduced at the story's close also comes far too late to inject the emotional weight the game sorely needed up until that point--there's no real struggle, little bonding time with other characters, no huge sense of loss, and few moments of elation, making this emotional rollercoaster more of a monotonous merry-go-round.

Rime's artistry is unquestionable. Each world is enchanting in its own way, from the naturalistic peace of the first to the abstract doom of the last. Its soundtrack is similarly beautiful, capable of evoking wonder, tension, and fear in equal measure. But when compared to its influences like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and Journey, it doesn't hold up too well. Consistent navigation problems, some frustrating puzzles, fiddly platforming, and severe frame rate dips make Rime feel like a well-dressed tribute act.

Categories: Games

Get Your First Glimpse Of NBA Live 18

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 15:57

Since the series took its first hiatus back in 2010, the NBA Live has never regained its shooting form. From 2013 to 2015 the development seemed to be moving in the right direction, but the progress wasn't significant enough to challenge the NBA 2K series in any serious way. After taking another year off, EA Sports is finally ready to show us what NBA Live 18 has to offer. 

These screenshots and video are our first look at EA's latest attempt to rebuild its NBA brand. Check them out:

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The graphical attention to detail is impressive, from the small sweat beads on players foreheads to individual touches. Some of the dribble animations and drives to the hoop look great, but that was the case with the last title as well. The true test comes when we see extended gameplay clips and a look at the wider feature set. Is there more animation variety in the paint? Does the ball still warp to hands? Are any of the game modes built up enough to prove a compelling alternative to NBA 2K? Those are some of the questions the series has to address with this entry.

EA hasn't announced a release date for NBA Live 18 yet, but if the past is any precedent you can expect it to arrive on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime this fall. 

Categories: Games

Larian Studios Sets Release Date For Upcoming RPG

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 21:15

Larian Studios has announced that the long-awaited sequel to Divinity: Original Sin is coming September 14, 2017.

In addition to earlier announcements about the inclusion of a Game Master Mode, Larian Studios is celebrating this announcement with an Early Access patch featuring a brand new companion relationship system, upgraded character creation and crafting, and other additional content discussed below.

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a tabletop-style RPG with five playable races and a tag system which allows players to shape their character's background and motivations – choices that will dictate how they play the game. Players will also have the option to play with friends with the introduction of a co-op mode, allowing up to four players to work together to achieve goals or compete with individual priorities in mind.

Tactical combat returns from Divinity: Original Sin with improved elemental interactions and more powerful skills. The sequel also introduces a new spellcrafting system and the possibility to challenge other players to PvP combat in demanding battle areas.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is available for Early Access play here.

To see what we thought about Divinity: Original Sin, check out our review.

Categories: Games

New Cars, Modes, And Mayhem In New Gameplay Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 20:15

A new trailer for the upcoming Cars 3 video game highlights some of the new modes fans can expect to play when the game releases June 13.

Using classic Cars characters like Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez or newcomers like Jackson Storm, players can look forward to the following modes:

  • Race: Cars 3's straightforward racing mode.
  • Stunt Showcase: Compete with other players to see who can rack up the highest score before time runs out.
  • Best Lap Challenge: Try to beat your own best time on one of Cars 3's courses.
  • Playground: A sandbox mode for drivers who just want to have fun, whether that be racing, pulling off stunts, or just driving for the fun of it.
  • Takedown: A battle mode where cars use power-ups to duke it out. The car with the most points wins.
  • Battle Race: A mix of Takedown and Race, utilize power-ups to gain an advantage on your opponents and reach the finish line.

It feels like Cars 3 is taking influence from a certain Nintendo racing game in its Takedown and Battle Race modes, and could be a great kart racing substitute for those without a Wii U or Switch.

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Categories: Games

The Tough Choices Leading To The Walking Dead: A New Frontier's Last Episode

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 16:00

We're on the eve of the release of the final episode of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, which comes out on May 30, so why not look back at some of the decisions you've had to live with up to this point. Warning: Spoilers from this season and previous ones ahead.

The developers at Telltale set the table for what should be an episode filled with more tough choices.

While you might not want to reflect on some of the terrible things you've had to do so far, the video does provide some solace (or not); showing what percentage of players made what decisions.

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Categories: Games

Endless Space 2 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 22:00

Although you won’t find the word "wonder" in the traditional description for 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) space simulations, it’s the key element when capturing the imagination of players building galactic empires. Endless Space 2 gets that. Developer Amplitude’s follow-up to the dry-but-challenging Endless Space builds a brilliant space opera that never loses sight of fueling your imagination. A focus on storytelling that includes loads of interesting quests as well as some of the most beautiful graphics and sound in the genre make this a game that inspires awe as you colonize and conquer the space lanes.

All that said, Endless Space 2 diligently follows the 4X template and doesn’t offer much in the way of major surprises. The setting is the same as its predecessor--a galaxy once controlled by the godlike Endless, who have left traces of their vanished civilization in every nook and cranny of the star systems you explore. When the game begins at some point in the far future, civilizations of the time follow in the paths of the Endless, growing from one system to another in an attempt to create the biggest and best galactic empire turn by turn and achieve victory conditions based on science, economy, pure domination, and so forth. The focus is, of course, on the four Xs. You explore the unknown via vessel and probe, expand to new systems by creating outposts that grow into colonies, exploit the resources that you find on various planets and in space itself, and you exterminate enemies when they get in your way.

There's tremendous depth to explore in all four areas, making you feel like you’re leading a real empire. The game offers eight playable civilizations, each with its own set of traits and specialties and a specific storyline that makes for eight distinct campaigns. You can go with the fairly standard human United Empire or choose something much more offbeat--and there’s a lot of that to select from here. You’ve got the four families of the Lumeris, a froglike take on the Roman Empire crossed with the Mafia, who buy colonies. Then there’s the Vodyani, religious fanatics who spread through the stars in space arks and act like techno vampires. The Cravers are insects created by the Endless and then abandoned to go from system to system, devouring and using up every world that they conquer. Unfallen are space treants who have recently woken up to the greater universe and are now sending out colonizing vessels and extending their viny tendrils across space. And then you have the science-jester Sophons, the wholly alien Riftborn from another dimension, and the cloned Horatio narcissists.

Coming to grips with the ins and outs of each faction would take dozens, if not hundreds, of hours in total. Each race has very different specialties that you have to play up if you want to be successful, which results in quite the learning curve when going from one to another in the solo campaigns. While some core concepts translate well across each faction, only the United Empire and maybe the Sophons can be jacks-of-all-trades that lend themselves to varied approaches ranging from being a militaristic nutjob to a pacifistic science lover. The more alien species have to be played as what they are if you want to win. So forget about running a Craver game by being all about the science or playing the Vodyani as nice guys who might not want to absorb the citizens of every other world that they stumble across.

Still, running an empire is about a lot more than simple, species-based talents. You’re never locked into a single approach, and politics are a major factor. Six different parties--the Industrialists, Militarists, Ecologists, Pacifists, Scientists, and Religious--jockey for position in regularly held elections for seats in a proportional-representation senate. This makes for a tricky balancing act on different colonies, since happiness ebbs and flows depending upon how citizens feel their political priorities are being represented in the senate. So if the Scientists are big across the Sophon Empire but the Pacifists are tops in the Niss system colonies, you’ll have problems with happiness. Similar issues can happen when you absorb lesser species. Take on a race that’s militaristic when your main species are a bunch of eco-loving hippies, and you’ll have to deal with demands that might lead your civilization into some choppy waters. Who’s in power also governs what laws can be passed--and sometimes things collapse and government types change from democracy to dictatorship and back again.

The economy is widely diversified, based on the FIDSI system. That acronym refers to the five main resources--food, industry, dust (an ancient substance that serves as the in-game currency), science, and influence (new to Endless Space 2)--that form the basis for everything you do. That sounds complex, and it kind of is when you get into more intricate aspects of the game, such as trade routes and the marketplace for goods. But Amplitude has broken the elements out so that it’s pretty easy to grasp how to develop each one and get a functioning--and at least relatively prosperous--society up and running in short order. This makes the game as accessible as a 4X space sim can really be, especially with the help of the in-game tutorials that take the form of an advisor giving out tips all the way through initial playthroughs.

Everything essentially revolves around colonies. These planetary expansions of your empire are essentially factories for the production of resources (along with special and luxury resources that can be used to improve colonies in various ways and even provide for tweaks that can help expand specific populations). Every new facility added to a colony brings boosts to one or more of the resources (planets are rated in what they bring to the table, too), and this is spelled out very clearly in the descriptions of these amenities. So if you add Sustainable Farms on Altair, you get +10 to food overall, an additional +5 to food for hot and cold climates, a boost to the Ecologist political party. Go for Big Data Shipyards, and all vessels built in the system receive a +40 XP bonus, and the Militarists get a shot in the arm. It’s all easy to follow, especially for anyone with even a bit of 4X experience.

While the above underlies everything that you do in Endless Space 2, the real heart of the game revolves around exploration and telling the story of your growing galactic empire--and both are handled extremely well.

An extremely comprehensive technology wheel completes the picture. This four-spoke contraption features Military, Empire Development, Science and Exploration, and Economy and Trade sections, which, of course, divide each range of techs into these broad specialties. A spectacular amount of depth is offered here, as you can use techs to tailor-make a civilization for both personal preference and to meet the situations faced in any given campaign. That said, techs take longer to research as you move through each specialty’s five tiers--which means that you can’t learn everything and have to be careful in your selections. It’s all too easy to look at the techs and realize that something you desperately need is 30 or 40 turns away...and the rampaging Craven or Vodanyi on your doorstep just aren’t going to wait around for you to catch up.

And that’s the challenge. There’s a lot of tech to digest, and many of them aren’t intuitive. Most come with multiple bonuses that aren’t always easy to understand. Baryonic Shielding, for instance, is tough to figure out in the first place due to that confusing name (many techs have nomenclature impossible to understand at a glance), let alone knowing that it unlocks the ability to colonize Savannah-class worlds, use warp drive on ships, and equip advanced scanners. Key abilities are scattered all over the wheel. A search function helps, but sometimes you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. The best thing you can do when starting out is to take some time and carefully read over the entire tech wheel. Even then, some more advanced techs aren’t as fully explained as they could be, and you have to experiment to see how much of an impact that they actually have on your empire.

Of course, that’s all just the nuts and bolts. While the above underlies everything that you do in Endless Space 2, the real heart of the game revolves around exploration and telling the story of your growing galactic empire--and both are handled extremely well. Exploration gives you a Star Trek sense of boldly going where no one has gone before, as each ship and probe sent out has the possibility of uncovering a new planetary system, a new race, or some other secret that could swell your coffers or increase your scientific knowledge. Amplitude has really filled out the universe here, too--there’s a lot to discover. Planetary curiosities hide resource deposits, ancient technology, strange races, hidden pirate gangs, ancient Endless strongholds, and more. While there’s some repetition, in that you uncover a lot of unimaginative loot hauls of materials like Adamantian (the game’s take on the metal that makes up Wolverine’s claws, presumably renamed to dodge Disney’s lawyers) and meaningless-sounding tech doodads like basic plasmoid shielding, there remains something undeniably cool in exploring the ruins, odd signals, and other anomalies on strange new worlds.

Each faction-based campaign tells a wholly original story, too, and these plot points are moved forward by quests that give direction to your efforts. The United Empire deals with a mysterious attempt to dethrone the emperor, the Sophons wrangle with an emergent AI, the Unfallen wrestle with the differences between the Light (pacifist) and Fire (militarist) ideologies, and so forth. Every story focuses on the defining characteristics at the heart of each civilization. Some quests are tied to the main storylines, some events pop out of nowhere during explorations, and others arise from focused efforts like trying to annex the system of a minor civilization through a specific assignment. There is a fantastic range of challenges offered that run from solo exploration jobs to competitions and collaborations with other empires. Choices also arise all the time that force you to essentially prefer one faction or resource over another, which can have long-term consequences for your empire.

Outstanding depth and tactical challenge have been preserved, although not at the expense of strong storytelling.

Further atmosphere is provided by the game’s beautiful visuals. The menu screens themselves are attractive in their own right, with a lot of graphic elements like colored graphs livening up the text and stats, but the real glitz comes in the form of cutscenes showing the surfaces of planets as they’re first being colonized. Getting a glimpse of the surface of a dusty ash planet or a rainy monsoon world--complete with a native creature often in the foreground--imparts a landing-party vibe that further enhances the sense of discovery in your explorations. The sound includes the expected bleeps and bloops of the computer-styled interface, along with a not-so-expected musical score that blends the majesty of a cinematic space opera with weird electronic tunes straight out of old sci-fi movies from the mid-20th century. Some moments seem designed to evoke the soundtracks of genre classics, including Forbidden Planet and Silent Running.

Just a couple of drawbacks interfere with the empire-building offered here. The interface is generally well designed and intuitive, although there’s too much need to go through your civilization system by system. Granted, this is where most of your decisions are made, but it seems like there could be a better way to organize how you examine all of your colonies.

Combat remains a low point of the franchise. While there are plenty of options when it comes to customizing fleet tech and ship designs, space battles are routine affairs that are dull to watch (although they show off a neat naval style, with ships firing broadsides at one another). You pick a battle plan, and everything else is automated. Thankfully, you can sim right to the results. Ground battles are also depicted, although they’re even more boring to watch than their space equivalents and don’t come with the same attention to detail provided to the ships.

A few aspects of the design are more inscrutable than they should be. Much of this can be found in the tech wheel, as previously noted, although a couple of issues exist elsewhere. One area that seems particularly unfair on players is the harsh penalty for “overcolonization.” This can flat-out obliterate your empire in a couple of dozen turns if not addressed, and it’s not easy to address it--at least in a successful way that lets you start expanding again. A vicious cycle gets started when systems become unruly. Anarchy reigns, resource production plummets, bankruptcy forces cuts across the board, and the government falls--making it impossible to issue the laws needed to increase happiness. Some advanced techs help with happiness and the overcolonization penalty, but they aren’t cure-alls and often come too little, too late. The whole concept of overcolonizing is a tough one to understand, given how the game is about creating a (presumably) sprawling galactic empire. It would be a welcome option to be able to turn this rule off--or at least disable it in the Easy and Sandbox levels of difficulty.

Any way you look at it, Endless Space 2 is one impressive achievement even taking into account the above paragraph of what are fairly minor gripes given how much this game does extremely well. 4X space sims have long been known as the territory of the serious strategy gamer, but Amplitude has broken away from the pack here. Outstanding depth and tactical challenge have been preserved, although not at the expense of the strong storytelling needed to emphasize the sense of awe and wonder in galactic exploration that’s always been a huge part of the genre’s appeal. Amplitude has done a masterful job combining these two elements into a single game, where the quests and strategy and politics and economy are all tied into a whole much greater than the sum of its parts.

Categories: Games

Here's What It's Like To Raid A Warchief's Fortress

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 21:02

Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the sequel to Shadow of Mordor, is nearing its August release date. I recently got some hands-on time with the game and glimpsed how the Nemesis system has evolved and what it's like to try and take on a war chief in his Uruk fortress. 

The answer: It's extremely difficult. During the demo, I was given my own squad of friendly Uruk, controlled by protagonist Talion's will-bending powers, and each of them had their own selectable platoons I could customize before battle. As is expected with the series, each platoon leader had their own respective personalities, like the cannibal who had toes and arms sticking out of a messenger bag and who spoke in rhymes. A pre-battle menu gave me the ability to arm my platoon leaders with special units, like creatures carrying catapults, balrogs, and bomb-strapped berserkers. These units allow you to break down walls at various points in the fortress' defenses to gain entry and provide support from afar.

As someone with hours of experience with Mordor's combat, I decided to try and do a straightforward assault on the fortress, blowing through the gates with a berserker. We tore through the fortress like wildfire, ripping enemies to literal pieces with sword slashes and arrows. Fighting functions primarily the same as it did in the original game, with a focus on rhythm more than anything else. It didn't take long before I was bringing down armored units with a flurry of moves.

To take over a fortress you have to claim three control points, all of which are usually guarded by the warchief's lieutenants, specialized units with more health and abilities that are much harder to take down than your standard grunts. Luckily, my own platoon leaders are there to help me in a pinch, keeping off the enemy grunts off me while I perform a duel with the lieutenant at each point. I killed the first two, decapitating one and setting the other on fire with an explosive barrel, and then mind controlled the other, meaning he joined the fight as an allied platoon leader.

With all the points under my control, it was finally time to take on the war chief himself, a nasty brute who rides a sharp-toothed caragor into battle. I stepped into his throne room. There were archers on the balconies above. The war chief himself had flunkies on both sides. I was alone. Of course.

He rushed toward me, riding his caragor. I killed the beast with a couple of slow-motion arrow strikes to even the playing field. Then, turning, I used Talion's shadow-strike ability to zoom toward the archers on the left balcony. I took down the first by stomping his head in and then used the second as a portable battery, draining him of his health. The archers on the other balcony hit me with a couple of arrows, so I zoomed to them with shadow strike and made quick of work of them while the war chief watched from below.

Using a poison arrow, one of Talion's new weapons, I enveloped the chief's group in green, choking mist. I hopped down and took out the stunned ones as fast as I could before moving on the war chief, but he was a nightmare, blocking my combos and finishers. His one weakness was a stun blast that opened him up to damage from standard combo attacks, but his health constantly regenerated. To make matters worse, his henchmen constantly respawned, meaning it was difficult for me to get a stunner in. Eventually, I lost the battle of attrition, with the war chief beating my head in with a bone.

Despite losing the final battle, I mostly enjoyed my time raiding the warchief's fortress in the demo. Shadow of Mordor showcased a lot of potential with the Nemesis system, and the enhancements here, with you able to pair your allies with squads and powers, shows that Monolith has really bolted on a series of improvements to what was already a neat feature. The combat is as intense and brutal as it was before, with decapitations, bone-crunching, and limb-removal still a constant payoff to each fight. I still have concerns about the open world, which I saw none of during my demo, but I'm hoping Monolith has also made that aspect of the game as interesting as the raid fortress sequences.

For more on Shadow of War, be sure to check out our previous coverage.

Categories: Games

Boss Key's First Game Coming To PS4, Will Retail For $30

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 16:00

When we last checked in with LawBreakers it was this year's Pax East, where we spoke to Boss Key's Cliff Bleszinski about the game and its future. Back then, we asked him about the possibility of a console version of the game, which Bleszinski mentioned would be a challenge due to the fast-paced nature of the game. Since then, the team seems to have overcome that challenge, announcing the game is coming to PlayStation 4.

Though Boss Key did not announce a release date for either the PC or PS4 version of the game, it did release a few other details. The business model (another thing we discussed with Bleszinski in our interview) will be simple: $30 for the base game. There will be no season pass or "pay-to-win" purchases, and all post-release content will be free.

To coincide with the announcements, Boss Key released a new cinematic trailer for the game, showcasing a few of the characters and their abilities. Finally, Boss Key announced we can expect to see the PS4 version of LawBreakers at this yea's E3.

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Categories: Games

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Zombies Chronicles Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 16:00

Treyarch's Zombies is the one that started it all, and the beloved mode has evolved a lot over the years and with different Call of Duty developers. For Black Ops 3, Zombies Chronicles offers eight remastered maps from World at War through Black Ops 2 with improved graphics, audio, and Black Ops 3's Zombies features. It's a greatest hits collection with enough variety to bring in new and veteran Zombies players alike, and it makes it worth revisiting Zombies at its roots.

Chronicles has a strong foundation in its map selection--it includes smaller, more manageable maps like World at War's Nacht der Untoten alongside more complex, story-centric maps like Black Ops' Ascension. If you're new to Zombies, you can hone strategies on the simpler maps, and if you've been a fan of Treyarch's Zombies for a while, at least one of your favorites is here. There's also good variety in map structure and the strategies they each call for, from the more open Shi no Numa to the small, easily-overrun rooms of Verruckt.

These maps are now better than ever thanks to the fantastic technical improvements. Atmospheric enhancements, from eerie screeches to subtle lighting changes, supplement the more straightforward graphics upgrade, and they make the same gripping, stay-up-all-night zombies rounds you remember feel fresh and modern. The most noticeable change, especially in the heat of the moment, is the enhanced audio--the horrible death rattle of a gunned-down zombie and the unearthly howling of the Hellhounds are grating in the best way. The guttural snarls behind you feel more urgent, and that translates to greater tension even on maps you played to death the first time around.

Years-old strategies need a bit of tweaking thanks to the introduction of Black Ops 3's Zombies features, and which further help in keeping the classic maps from feeling stale. Gobblegum and its various perks, for example, are optional, but depending on what you get, you might play a map differently compared to the way you remember. The change-up works well for groups that have a mix of new and returning players, too, since it gives newcomers an opportunity to be a bit more involved in the plan instead of just following someone who's already routed the map.

The Black Ops 3 features also work for newer players on their own, particularly those who started with Treyarch's most recent game. If you don't have the nostalgia going into Chronicles, small things like Gobblegum help to modernize the older, less-involved maps without overshadowing what made them favorites to begin with.

Atmospheric enhancements make the same gripping, stay-up-all-night zombies rounds you remember feel fresh and modern.

Chronicles also includes Black Ops 3 weapons, but they make very little difference in how you strategize--they're really just there to keep the collection in line with Treyarch's latest. It is nice to pick up the Kuda early on if you spent any time at all with Black Ops 3's multiplayer and want something a bit more familiar until you can get to the Mystery Box, but you'll still end up crossing your fingers and hoping for the Ray Gun anyway. Of course, that Ray Gun is as satisfying to fire as ever--it's just disappointing that the weapon additions are mostly fluff.

Zombies Chronicles takes a good combination of maps and upgrades them with great attention to detail. Newer Zombies features keep the collection modern, but its greatest strength is in the lighting and audio upgrades, which make the Zombies experience that many fans obsessed over before feel creepier, more tense, and more exhilarating than ever.

Categories: Games

Birthdays The Beginning Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 22:30

Birthdays the Beginning, at first glance, looks like an interesting oddity. "God games" where you oversee the progression of an entire world and everything within aren't terribly common these days--much less one with cute, stylized visuals and a funny title. But beneath the charming veneer of Birthdays the Beginning lies a very complex simulation that takes you from the foundation of planetary life all the way to the creation of human civilization. Unfortunately, the road from plankton to the apex of humanity is so rough that you might not make it all the way through.

The game begins with a (rather unnecessary) framing story where you stumble into a cave one day to discover a strange cube and a voice asking you to help create and build life on its surface. The game then proceeds to guide you, via a series of overly wordy tutorials that are somehow simultaneously too long and short on information, into jump-starting the process of birthing life and the cycle of evolution and extinction that comes to define the game.

Interaction with the world is done primarily through flying around a time-frozen grid, raising and lowering blocks of land to form valleys, mountains, and oceans. These simple acts have a tremendous effect: lowering land below sea level creates oceans and heats up the entire cube, while creating peaks and mountains makes the world an overall colder place. Limited-use items allow you to create freshwater rivers, bringing essential moisture to areas that would otherwise be parched.

These various factors--elevation, temperature, moisture, and water type--determine what sort of life will come into existence and flourish. Once you're done shaping the land, you can step away and set time in motion, watching as the world moves on and waiting to see how your guiding hand affected the life on your cube. Some species will thrive, some will die out--and sometimes, if things are just right, you'll witness the evolution of something that sets an entirely new epoch in motion for your little world. When a new species comes into being, you can go down to the planet again, seek it out, and "capture" it, preserving its detailed information in your in-game library.

The process of birth and death is interesting to watch, and seeing how creatures interact with each other in a complex web is an engaging process...for a while, anyway. Unfortunately, things start to go sour quickly after you get going. Since free play isn't available until you've completed story mode, you're stuck in a long campaign where the game forces you to evolve life on your little planet in very specific ways. This generally means bringing species into being, which then serve as a touchstone for other species down the line.

Except sometimes, that doesn't really matter, such as when the game asks for a species that feeds on a creature that went extinct hours ago--meaning you now must spend far too much time figuring out how to bring them back into existence. At other times, it looks like you have every condition you need to cultivate a species that's required to progress, but despite fast-forwarding millions of years, they never begin to propagate in the cube due to some unknown factor the game fails to make clear.

The lack of information is perhaps the biggest frustration you'll encounter throughout the game. You're constantly left guessing as to why certain factors just aren't playing out the way you expect them to. For example, when you sit back and watch time pass and the lifeforms of your planet either propagate or die out, you can't get specific details as to why they're thriving or dying. This is particularly irritating when you need certain species' numbers at a particular level--are these creatures not reproducing or advancing because it's too hot? Too cold? Do they lack water? Food? Is there not enough habitat? All you can do is look at the library info, harbor a guess, mess around with some elevation, and cross your fingers for the next time you start the clock, because all the in-game help button does is parrot the objective of your next progress goal back to you.

It feels like there's a fantastic game somewhere in the heart of Birthdays the Beginning, ready to claw its way out of the primordial ooze of ideas to evolve into a wonderful god-game experience.

Interface issues compound the game's structural problems. Sometimes you'll decide to make drastic changes to your cube, such as flattening out mountain ranges or raising the sea, in order to hasten to birth of certain forms of life. You'll find yourself flying around an ever-expanding cube, raising and lowering the blocks you're hovering over with R1 and R2. While you can select multiple blocks to raise/lower at once with the D-pad, finicky analog controls can make selecting specific land areas feel imprecise.

Options that would help streamline drastic revamps, such as "make everything in this selected area the same height" and "start a river from here," are only available as limited-use items. The lack of an easy undo option means that it's shockingly easy to make mistakes, such as accidentally killing off that river source you just used. Topping it all off is an arbitrary HP system that determines how much land-shaping you can do in a particular period. Given the easy recovery of HP via recovery items and resting, its entire inclusion is an unnecessary annoyance.

It's a shame that the story mode is mandatory, because the game really starts to improve once you've unlocked free play mode. You're free to mess around with your cube however you want, observing with no pressure as life transforms, evolves, and mutates in response to the world you craft. This allows you to watch all of the game's cute visuals spring to life as new beings come into existence. The finer nuances of the game really come out when you don't have anything telling you how your world needs to work, and though a lot of the same frustrations with interface and lack of information remain, they're considerably less pronounced. A challenge mode is also available: Here the game gives you pre-made cubes and asks you to do things like evolve a certain species within a set time period. These challenges wind up being considerably more fulfilling and interesting than the main campaign.

It feels like there's a fantastic game somewhere in the heart of Birthdays the Beginning, ready to claw its way out of the primordial ooze of ideas to evolve into a wonderful god-game experience. But the conditions for it to thrive just aren't right: The interface is ill-conceived and cumbersome, the campaign's frustrations bring progress to screeching halts, and the frequent lack of information turns what should be a fun micromanagement experience into an exhausting guessing game.

Categories: Games

Check Out Tekken 7's New Story Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 20:00

Get your first glimpse of the story for this upcoming fighter!

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Categories: Games

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