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

Where The Water Tastes Like Wine Review: Hard Travelin'

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 16:00

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine defies any sort of comparison to other games. You're tasked with collecting stories and building up folklore across Dust Bowl America, wandering across the land and briefly involving yourself in other people's lives. You're collecting tales so that you can share them with other wanderers who are moving across the country and eventually appease an anthropomorphic Dire Wolf (played, amazingly, by Sting) who, in the game's opening cutscene, beats you in a card game and sets you to work collecting these folk stories as payment for the debt you now owe. It's a wholly unique premise for a game, but not necessarily one that reaches its full potential.

You guide a skeleton avatar around the map, moving between states by foot, by train, or by hitchhiking, and collect stories when you encounter them. These are folktales by and large: animals will talk to you, children will be all-knowing (and often touched by evil in some way), you'll meet ghosts and dying men and people capable of impossible feats. Some will stick with you, offering creepy imagery or neat twists, and others will fade from your memory soon after you hear them, but the hit-to-miss ratio of the 219 stories on offer is pretty high.

The tales you collect fit into one of four basic descriptors: hopeful, tragic, funny, or adventurous. These categories become important as you work your way through the game's main objective--uncovering the life stories of various fellow wanderers. Campfires around the map house other travelers who will exchange their own life stories for some of your collected tales. The characters cover a spectrum of gender, race, sexuality, and your goal is to visit each person as they move between campfires, telling them stories they like, and eventually encounter their "true" selves, having learned everything you can about them. The real reward isn't so much the folktales themselves as the artwork of these final encounters--seeing each figure twist into an artistic representation of their own character's struggles or values is a highlight.

Once you've spread your tales among these campfires, they start to mutate, and you'll begin to encounter retellings of your tales that add or change details as you travel. Telling someone who asks for a scary tale about a demon you met might end in you being chastised for telling a "cheerful" story, while a seemingly hopeful tale about a journalist who always sees the bright side is classified as funny, but as these stories evolve, they become more cheerful and funny, respectively. These versions will have a more significant impact on your future campfire visits and will make it easier to appease wanderers and unlock the next chapter in their story. It can also cause the tale's classification--which you have to decipher--clearer, which is helpful, because it's frequently hard to tell and remember.

After a few hours you get into a good rhythm of uncovering and sharing stories, and the way the game works eventually becomes clear (it's light on instruction). But there's a problem here--you soon realize that wandering the map, listening to stories, and slowly heading towards the next destination is really all there is to do, and with no satisfying overarching narrative to keep you going, the excitement of the process quickly begins to diminish. The game opens by spreading North America out in front of you to explore, and suddenly starts to look incredibly narrow as it becomes clear that you're going to spend the rest of the game just clicking through other people's stories and slowly trudging between campfires.

It doesn't help that getting around the map can be an extremely time-consuming process. Your avatar walks slowly--you can speed up by whistling a song, but this involves a "press direction keys in order" mini-game that ultimately feels like busywork. You can hitchhike, but roads only go one way, and the controls for hitching a ride are inconsistent--sometimes I could hail down a car, while other times my avatar refused to stick its thumb out. Rivers will slow you down, and using trains requires either money or hopping on one without paying. Doing the latter usually ends with you getting injured and dying, and although death isn't a big deal here, it will reset you to the last town you visited, which usually undoes the train ride's progress.

Once you've heard half the game's stories, you start to see where each tale is going from the first paragraph, and it's much easier to find and identify sad or scary stories than hopeful or adventurous ones. When you've had a few dozen tales retold and figure out which classification they fit into, you don't really need to worry about gathering more, either. You can rely on the same handful of tales, both because they're the easiest to remember the details of and because the game doesn't really incentivize diversifying your repertoire, especially since the stores you accumulate at campfires act as wildcards during future encounters. If you're asked for a tragic story, for instance, selecting any of the tales told by someone you encountered at another campfire will make you tell that story while "focusing on the tragic parts." I cleared almost every final encounter by just telling stories from other wanderers, and you don't get to experience this retelling--you just select the option from the menu and get a brief reaction in response.

Over time, even the best parts of the game start to grate. Ryan Ike's soundtrack, which mixes elements of jazz, bluegrass, and folk music, is excellent, and a great companion for the first few hours. But when you're engaged in yet another long trek across the plains, it's hard to resist switching over to your own music. By the end, I was rushing through the stories of the remaining campfires because I just wanted to see what happened when I'd collected them all, and I was skipping over new stories because it had become difficult to keep caring about them.

I spent 12 hours working my way around the America of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, but after the first six hours I felt like I had gotten everything I wanted out of the game. Most of the rest of the time was spent checking the map to figure out where the next campfire was, holding W to move forward, and then clicking through dialog (all of it brilliantly voice-acted, but patience only stretches so far) until I was able to appease the Wolf.

If the basic premise of gathering folk stories across a version of 1930s America strongly appeals to you, then Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is worth a look, but it's probably not worth finishing. Perhaps one day I'll feel the urge to jump back in and encounter a few more tales, but Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, for all its interesting ideas and unique elements, outstays its welcome.

Categories: Games

Blair And Jack Show Their Moves In This New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 02/28/2018 - 02:05

Arika revealed the details on the release structure and window for Fighting EX Layer the other day, following it up with a gameplay trailer of new characters Blair and Jack. Blair relies on fast movement and quick mix-ups for her combos, darting around the screen and confounding the opponent rather than focusing on power moves. Jack, who used to be known as Cracker Jack, has ditched his riverboat gambling attire in favor of rodeo cowboy duds, and hits hard with juggle combos and a baseball bat. You can check out the gameplay trailer below. (Please visit the site to view this media) Arika is launching Fighting EX Layer sometime before June exclusively on the PlayStation 4 as a digital release.
Categories: Games

Moss Review: Tiny Triumph

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 02/27/2018 - 16:00

Too often VR games seek (and fail) to replicate the feel of traditional games. Their inability to translate the smooth gameplay we’re used to--as opposed to working with the strengths of the hardware to create something new--often sours the experience. Moss, a new PlayStation VR exclusive from developer Polyarc, does the complete opposite. With its careful use of the hardware it's running on, Moss is a platformer that isn't just full of charm and surprises, but one that wouldn't feel at home outside of VR.

Moss stars Quill, an incredibly adorable white mouse with an aptly tiny sword and satchel on her back. Quill lives within folk tale, the sort of whimsical fantasy that comes to life from the watercolours of a story book and narrated over with a single personable voice. Due to a terrible war years earlier, Quill and an adorable city of similar rodents live on the outskirts of a castle that kisses the horizon. There's mysticism and magic at play around every corner, different factions controlling parts of the thick forests surrounding you, and dangers that have everyone keeping their heads down.

Quill doesn't seek to change this balance, but like in all good fantasy tales, fate doesn't share that opinion. It doesn't take long for her to stumble upon a magical item that introduces a second protagonist: you. You control Quill with a standard DualShock 4, but you also play the part of the Reader, a ghost-like figure with a mask that only Quill can see. You do double duty as an ever-present deity, actively observing Quill's adventure and aiding her where you can.

Your relationship with Quill and the investment in her journey are paramount to why Moss entangles itself in your heartstrings. Using motion controls, you're able to give Quill a little head scratch, which she reciprocates with an appreciative smile and wave. At certain times, Quill will gesture for a high-five after completing a difficult task or gesture toward the solution of a puzzle when you’re stuck. Quill is almost unbelievably animated; her motions give her personality and entice you to just watch as you control her scamping about. The way she kicks her legs at the end of a climb or communicates through sign are both contextually fitting and wondrous in both minute detail and fluidity, and never ceases to bring a smile to your face.

Moss is all about multitasking. You handle Quill’s platforming in small, bite-sized areas, with the thumbsticks and face buttons for control. As the Reader, though, you interact with objects within Quill’s world with the use of motion controls and single button holds. At the same time you're able to peer around every nook and cranny the space has to offer, manipulating your view to discover new routes, spy on well hidden secrets, and just keep up with Quill’s fast movements. Moss doesn’t feel like a game that would work without VR. It combines its many input options eloquently, using them to inform and drive the design of its puzzles instead of the other way around. It’s a joy to engage with in ways that so many other VR titles struggle to achieve.

Moss requires you to interact with specific objects in Quill's world. You can move large stones with small motion gestures to shorten a gap for Quill to hop over or pull staircases from the ground that lead to doorways above. You can even load a ballista for her to fire with a lever nearby. These interactions are enacted with simple motion controls and single button holds to grab onto items. Moss does a good job of gently increasing the difficulty of its challenges as you go but always understands the limitations of its control scheme. It's rare to run into puzzles where deft timing is the only way to succeed. Instead, Moss requires you to understand how to work together with Quill, and its challenges are designed around that rather well.

Often, puzzles involve moving elements in each area to create paths for Quill to traverse. Gates might be controlled by a pressure pad nearby, forcing you to keep it pressed down as Quill rushes to slink beneath it. Other times it's a simple matter of spacial awareness. Quill can scale ledges demarcated with white paint, but reaching them might involve moving a platform along a small rail of track and blocking it at just the right time to make the jump possible.

Enemies punctuate this in a clever way, making up what would in any other game be additions to Quill's inventory. Quill never gets access to anything more than a sword, leaving her with just a simple string of attacks and a useful dodge in her repertoire. As the Reader, though, you can take direct control of three distinct enemies. For example, one will simply rush Quill with dangerous swipes of its arms, while another will sit atop a ledge and fire off balls of energy in your direction. The latter just explodes in a fountain of green, smelly goo, with its blowback proving useful in making space during combat or knocking down walls impeding your progress.

Alone they are pieces to a puzzle: taking control of a projectile-based enemy lets you trigger switches from afar, while a well-timed explosion can remove a fragile wall blocking the way. In combination--specifically in the limited combat arenas you will find yourself in--it becomes a tricky dance of control. Quill is fragile, with only a handful of hits spelling death. It's up to you to keep her dodging around the battlefield while locking down enemies for her to strike, or better still, using their abilities against each other to level the field in imaginative ways.

It's a pity that you aren't given a lot of time to truly experiment with these combinations in more ways. Moss is almost criminally short. Quill's adventure abruptly ends after about three hours, with a tease that Quill’s story isn’t yet complete. It's heartbreaking in the way that finishing any good game is, but Moss could certainly have benefited from a little more finality after such an emotionally engaging journey.

Slight hiccups in performance also detract from what is otherwise an impressive VR achievement from a technical standpoint. Quick movements with the motion controls are difficult for the PlayStation Camera to pick up reliably and can often result in the wrong enemies being locked-on to. But while it's inconvenient, death is hardly punishing, so these stumbles are easier to swallow. As are the infrequent technical issues, which resulted in some enemies clipping through walls and being unable to move--a small fracture in what is otherwise a captivating and rich technical showcase.

Moss thrusts you deep into its whimsical world with a variety of different locales throughout Quill's journey. The sense of scale that VR affords lends the world a lot of weight. A stirring deer in the distance might be a throwaway movement in another game, but its tremendous sound and size in comparison to Quill make it an earth-shaking moment. Later in the game, glowing sentinels and a suffocating infestation of metal vines wrap around a city long forgotten, acting as a strong change of scenery after extended trips through damp catacombs and sandy beaches. Quill might be small in stature, but she takes you on a riveting trip through some truly beautiful scenery.

It's a testament to just how well Moss understands PlayStation VR and works with the device instead of trying to bend it to a will it was never designed for. Moss wouldn't feel right without it at all, and its many strengths are married to the interactions that only full immersion can manufacture. Unsurprisingly, then, Moss is easily one of PlayStation VR's best titles to date, even if it's a little too eager to get you in and out of its world.

Categories: Games

Into The Breach Review - Out Of This World

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 08:00

In 2012, Subset Games released FTL--a strategy roguelite whose best moments were when everything worked like a well-oiled machine, but also when you were frantically trying to adapt to dangerous, unexpected situations in the spur of the moment. Into The Breach, Subset's sophomore effort, again has you enacting carefully planned strategies. The difference is that when the going gets tough, Into The Breach's turn-based mechanics and tactical tools allow you to improvise precisely, and respond purposefully, with perfectly choreographed counters in an aggressive ballet that feels amazing to conduct again and again.

In a world where giant monsters called Vek threaten the earth, humanity has devised equally giant, human-operated mechs to combat them. Humanity has also invented time-travel technology to give pilots the opportunity to go back in time and start the whole conflict over, should the worst happen. You command a squad of three mech pilots whose purpose is to deter the advances of the Vek, one region at a time, through four different island stages with the ultimate goal of destroying their hive.

In each region, your primary objective is to stop Vek from causing collateral damage--each civilian building destroyed depletes part of the game's overall power grid meter, and if it hits zero, your game is over. However, Vek almost always outnumber your squad, with even more continually spawning in, which makes wiping them out entirely a difficult task. Into The Breach is a tactics game with an emphasis on deterrence and creatively mitigating damage with the limited tools at your disposal.

It's a daunting task, but there is one central feature that makes this process enjoyable and manageable: Every action the enemy will make in their next attack phase is clearly telegraphed through the UI during your turn. You can see which tile a particular Vek will hit and how much damage it will do, meaning you can assess your priorities and the response options you have available, then take direct steps to address the fated outcome. In the critical moments, just before a Vek flattens a hospital, you might dash in and tackle it out of range, and into the firing line of another Vek. Or, if your mech lacks close-combat abilities, you might move into harm's way to prevent the building from destruction. You might notice that more Vek will be spawning from the ground, and decide to throw a boulder on the tile to stop them from emerging, or shoot an off-the-mark missile, letting the explosion push another Vek on top of it.

Knowing the exact outcome of each action means that Into The Breach feels like a game of violent chess, in the best way possible. Each turn will have you pondering over possible moves and outcomes, threats you can feasibly attend to, and pieces you can afford to sacrifice--common characteristics found in any good turn-based tactics game. But because the possibility spaces of Into The Breach skirmishes are so confined (every battle takes place on an 8x8 grid, just like a chessboard, filled with impassable squares) decisions can be reached quickly, and momentum rarely comes to a standstill for long.

What also makes these decisions so entertaining to consider is not just the novelty of the way different components can interact in delightful ways, it's the certainty of how they will interact. Into The Breach is a tactical game that features a relative lack of probability, uncertainty, and risk. Attacks will always connect and do a distinct amount of damage, the grid-based scenarios mean units move and take actions in exact distances, and nothing ever occurs without at least some warning. The transparency and amount of information communicated provide great peace of mind, since every action you take will go as planned.

The only exception is that when a Vek attacks a building, there is a tiny chance that the building will withstand damage. The probability of this happening is related to your overall grid power and can be increased, but the percentage value is always so low that this rare occurrence feels more like a miracle when it happens, rather than a coin toss you can take a chance on.

The game's time-travel conceit also has a part to play here--you have the ability to undo unit movement, and each battle gives you a single opportunity to completely rewind and re-perform a turn. It's possible to execute your most optimal plan for each scenario every time, and the result is that turns in battle can feel like choreographed moves in an action movie, a confidently flawless dance of wind-ups, feints, counters, and turnabouts.

You can unlock up to eight different premade squads, each comprised of three unique units, which focus on entirely different styles of combat. The diversity here is significant enough that each team calls for distinct strategic approaches. The default squad, Rift Walkers, focuses on straightforward, head-first, push-pull techniques. The Blitzkrieg crew works best when corralling Vek together in order to execute a lightning attack that courses through multiple enemies. The Flame Walkers focus on setting everything ablaze and knocking Vek into fire for damage-over-time en masse. Each different combination of mechs can completely change how you perceive a battlefield; things that are obstacles for one squad could be advantageous strategic assets for another.

But where the possibilities of Into The Breach really open up is in its custom and random squad options, and the imaginative experimentation that comes from putting together unique all-star teams with individual mechs from different squads, along with your choice of starting pilot--whom all possess an exclusive trait. You might have a team composed of a mech who shields buildings and units, one that freezes anything on the map into a massive block of ice, one whose sole ability is to push everything surrounding it away, and a pilot that can perform one additional action each turn if they don't move. Can you complete a run of the game with that custom squad of pacifists? The game's structure makes these unorthodox options enjoyable challenges that are legitimately interesting to explore.

Into The Breach maintains a roguelike structure of procedurally generated trials and permadeath, but when a campaign goes south not all is lost. If a mech is destroyed during a battle, it will return in the next, only without its pilot and their unique trait. Too much collateral damage is game over but means you have the chance to send one of your living pilots--experience points and bonus traits intact--back in time to captain a new squad, in a new campaign. The game is difficult, but starting over isn't tiresome because your actions so directly determine outcomes, and you always feel you can improve. And individual battles are so swift and satisfying that they become a craving that you'll want to keep feeding over and over.

The clean and understated surface elements of Into The Breach complement the precise nature of its mechanics. The simple presentation, as well as the sharp UI layout, is attractively utilitarian and serves as a crucial component of the game's readability. There is no explicit plot outside of the time-traveling conceit, but the flavor text--small snippets of dialogue for each mech pilot and island leader, whom you'll encounter again and again throughout multiple playthroughs--adds a modest but pleasant facet of character to contextualize the world and round out the overall tone.

There is so much strategic joy in seeing the potential destruction a swarm of giant monsters is about to unleash on a city, then quickly staging and executing elaborate counter maneuvers to ruin the party. Into The Breach's focus on foresight makes its turn-based encounters an action-packed, risk-free puzzle, and the remarkable diversity of playstyles afforded by unique units keeps each new run interesting. It's a pleasure to see what kind of life-threatening predicaments await for you to creatively resolve in every new turn, every new battle, and every new campaign. Into The Breach is a pristine and pragmatic tactical gem with dynamic conflicts that will inspire you to jump back in again, and again, and again.

Categories: Games

New Trailer Shows Off More Gruff Pikachu And Crime Solving Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 02/25/2018 - 19:20

Detective Pikachu is a 3DS game that released in 2016 in Japan, and now it's finally coming to the West. This Pokémon spin-off takes place in Ryme City, centering around Tim Goodman and Detective Pikachu, who team up to solve a number of mysteries.

Crime solving, however, isn't nearly the strangest thing in this Pokémon game. Detective Pikachu sounds like a gruff older man, which so far comes across more unsettling than anything else. Watch the trailer below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

A specially themed 2DS XL Pikachu Edition and a new Detective Pikachu Amiibo will release alongside the game.

Detective Pikachu releases for 3DS on March 23 for $39.99. For the Detective Pikachu live-action movie, read about how Ryan Reynolds is being cast in the leading role. Ken Watanabe has also been cast for the film. You can also view leaked photos from the film set here.

Categories: Games

Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 02/24/2018 - 19:00

It’s always a risky proposition to take a beloved classic franchise and move it forward with added twists. Change too much, and a reimagined retro game can lose its nostalgic charm. Don’t change enough, and players might not see the point at all. Bandai Namco has been toeing this razor-thin line with Pac-Man for quite a few years, but with good results. In 2007, Pac-Man: Championship Edition bolstered the series' simple maze template with different modes, challenges, map configurations, and eye-catching effects--and the result was one of the best arcade revamps ever made.

Fast-forward nine years, and Bandai Namco has successfully rejuvenated Pac-Man once again in Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2. It’s so overhauled, in fact, that it uses a progression meter to unlock new modes--starting with a tutorial. Who’d have thought that a Pac-Man game would need instructions? Yet Championship Edition 2 definitely does. Rather than merely teach you how to play, it also serves as a quick trip down the road of game design to see how developers can successfully evolve a game from 1980.

The first major enhancement comes courtesy of Pac-Man’s relationship with the ghosts, Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde. Pac-Man can touch them now, after decades of doing his best to avoid making contact. Even though you won't outright die if you bump into a ghost, it can still have dangerous side effects--and after the third bump, the ghosts will doggedly chase down Pac-Man and kill him on contact.

The game includes sleeping ghosts as well, who wake up when Pac-Man gets near and immediately rush to join their leader. The veritable trains that form after waking up multiple ghosts are vital for achieving high scores, because when Pac-Man eats the power pill that allows him to devour weakened spirits, he can gobble up multiple ghosts in quick succession. When it's time to feast on the dead, the game switches to a cinematic 3D view, allowing you revel in your success in style.

Boss battles are also included now--but done in proper Pac-Man style. You don’t attack a boss directly, since they float above and below the board (they’re usually massive ghosts made up of hundreds of blocks). Instead, you fight through a series of maps by collecting every last piece of fruit. On the final stage, Pac-Man must eat enough dots to make a power pill appear. The resulting mayhem isn’t quite as interactive as it could be--the power pill merely kicks off a cutscene where Pac-Man devours the boss on his own.

The final twists are bombs and bomb jumps. Essentially, if Pac-Man gets himself into a tight spot, a quick button press will send him back to his starting point. This is important, because Pac must tactically change course sometimes in order to evade ghosts or catch floating fruit that runs away from him.

The first Championship Edition was a triumph of style, and the same can be said here. The classic Pac-Man theme is present and accounted for--remixed and enhanced like everything else--and the overall presentation is terrific. All these elements come together across the game's many levels to create an experience that’s still absolutely Pac-Man but advanced in ways that make it far more interesting and strategic.

Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2 creates an exciting dynamic where ghosts are still dangerous, but the overall game is more forgiving than the original--and it’s more entertaining as a result. Arcade ports tend to be games we play in short bursts--mostly for the nostalgia factor. Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2 certainly relies on that nostalgia to a point, but it handles the classic game in a way that plays with expectations to surprise you. It’s the same game enhanced in the right directions to be make an old concept fun, innovative, and challenging all over again.

Update: Just released on the Switch in a slightly enhanced “Plus” version, Pac-Man feels perfectly at home on the portable system. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus retains all the same game modes, features, and good looks of the previous console versions, but smartly adds a two-player version where two Pac-Men must work together to foil the ghosts.

This Plus2P version is more than just a thrown together cooperative play mode. You can opt to play with a second CPU-controlled Pac-man, instead of a second player, which changes the dynamics a bit. In the single player version, you’ll merge with the CPU Pac at times and then send the AI off after ghosts thanks to Power Pellets. The AI Pac will chase after blue ghosts, but to eat them, you have to trap the ghosts from the other side. In boss rounds, the CPU can automatically go after pellets, then connect with your Pac-man to attack the boss. There’s jumping from one wall to another in these segments, but the game is designed well enough to still feel like a natural evolution of the core game.

In the actual two-player mode, the sense of teamwork is more palpable and there’s a distinct sense of accomplishment when two players work together to trap a whole string of delicious frightened ghosts for big points. Beyond that, this is the same great game it was on the other consoles with the same terrifically trippy neon visuals and gameplay.

Editor's note: Just released on Switch in a slightly enhanced “Plus” version, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 feels perfectly at home on the portable system. It retains all the same game modes, features, and good looks of the previous console versions, but smartly adds a two-player mode, where the sense of teamwork is more palpable and there’s a distinct sense of accomplishment when two players work together to trap a whole string of delicious frightened ghosts for big points.

You can also opt to play with a second CPU-controlled Pac-Man, instead of a second player, which changes the dynamics a bit. You’ll merge with the AI-driven Pac at times and then send it off to chase after blue ghosts. But to eat them, you have to trap the ghosts from the other side. In boss rounds, the CPU can automatically go after pellets, then connect with your Pac-Man to attack the boss.

Beyond that, this is the same great game it was on the other consoles with the same great visuals and gameplay. - Jason D'Aprile, Feb. 24, 11:00 AM PT

Categories: Games

Payday 2 Switch Review: Mo' Money Mo' Problems

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 02/24/2018 - 18:00

Since its launch on PC and last-generation consoles in 2013, Payday 2 has proven to be one of the more popular co-op shooters around. Considering that, it's perhaps unsurprising to see it make its way to Nintendo's hugely popular new platform. But given the game's largely online nature, it also raises questions about how well this version retains Payday 2's established charms. The answer is simple: not well. Yes, it's still Payday 2--full of all the sass, swearing, and swelling dubstep you remember--but almost every aspect is outdated or diminished in some way.

Payday 2 is a first-person shooter about pulling off big heists, then using the money from those jobs to buy weapons and equipment to better tackle the harder heists that lay ahead. Heists can range from a simple smash-and-grab at a local jewelry store to an elaborate, three-day plan set across numerous locations to bring down a drug and weapons cartel.

Using the aptly named in-game database where mission contracts are offered--you sign up to each mission, set your loadout, and plan your approach. Some missions also offer the illusion of stealth, but stealth in Payday 2 rarely lasts for long. Every mission largely descends into a violent shootout at some point, but thankfully the variety in core mission structure is such that this isn't a problem. It's one of the game's ultimate strengths, and that, at least, hasn't changed in this edition.

Team up with other capable players and you'll see why people are still playing Payday 2 despite its age: it can be very fun, if chaotic. Playing with a full room of up to three other players speeds up the game immensely, giving the heists a sense of urgency that's missing when you're forced to play solo. Although it's hindered by the Switch's frustrating lack of voice chat, your teammates' status is conveyed in the UI, so it doesn't take much to see whether they're in trouble or not.

Every heist is built with teamwork in mind, so if you're playing on the go or without an internet connection to link up with other players, you'll be stuck completing many of the more elaborate and laborious tasks with AI cohorts, which rarely goes well.

While not outright obstacles, the AI can be utterly useless. These accomplices never engage in mission tasks. They won't help you pick up loot or unlock doors, nor will they help you restart the drill you're breaking into the vault with when it inevitably fails. They take a couple of seconds to react to enemy fire, and also never place down any support equipment. Occasionally, they'll even fail to revive you, instead standing over you until the counter hits zero and you're put into custody, effectively a respawn counter. And unless you've taken a hostage that can be used to negotiate your release, you'll fail the mission and get nothing. It can be downright disheartening at the best of times. The worst part about this is some of these exact problems have been fixed via patches for other versions of the game.

Exclusive to this version is Joy--a new character sporting unique gear and weapons--but in all other respects this version of Payday 2 is outdated. It's missing some weapons, heists, masks, and years of patches that helped improve other versions of the game. It does have a handful of never-before-seen heists, but existing players hoping to enjoy the fruits of years of updates on a new platform will be disappointed when they see what's missing.

Visually, Payday 2 is a bit of a rollercoaster on Switch. In handheld mode, it runs at 720p/30 FPS. On one hand, the game looks pretty good given the handheld hardware at play, but it's also nowhere near the standard seen on now-outdated consoles. It's generally quite dark, and it can be tough to see where you're going in some of the nighttime missions. Lining up long-range shots is also tough on the smaller screen, and when out in some of the larger, more open environments, the frame rate can take some serious dips. But it's a much better experience overall when compared to playing in docked mode, which, at 1080p on a big screen, emphasizes the game's grungier textures. Everything from environments and characters to weapons--even the menus--looks woefully dated and suffers from greater slowdown than when played undocked.

Visuals aren't the only important factor when deciding whether to play handheld or in docked mode, though. Ignoring performance, the game easily feels best when played with the Pro controller. Playing with Joy-Cons can be a little awkward, with the small and cumbersome analog sticks making it difficult to line up some of your shots. Part of this is alleviated by automatic reticle snapping when aiming down sights, at least.

Ultimately it doesn't matter which way you decide to play; you're having to compromise somehow, which is the story of Payday 2 on the Switch. It is an entirely functional video game that (in most respects) looks, feels and plays like Payday 2, and given the right circumstances, can also be a bit of fun. But given how readily available it is on other platforms and the concessions made with this version, it doesn't highlight Payday 2's unique brand of shooting and looting the way other platforms have for years.

Categories: Games

Ivy And Zasalamel Unleash Purple Fury In Latest Trailers

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 02/24/2018 - 17:51

Bandai Namco has revealed two new characters for Soulcalibur VI. One was likely a lock and the other is a surprising pick, but both rock a mean purple streak.

Ivy has been a series mainstay since the first Soulcalibur, so it was likely her and her unique whip-sword were going to make it in. Zasalamel, on the other hand, was introduced in Soulcalibur III but skipped out on Soulcalibur V. His later introduction also clashes a bit with the game's "back-to-basics" mantra a bit, but as a fan of scythes, I'm glad he made the cut this time around.

You can watch the two characters in action below. For more Soulcalibur VI, check out our New Gameplay Today.

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Categories: Games

Metal Gear Survive Review In Progress: A Harsh But Compelling Experience

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 02/24/2018 - 17:00

Metal Gear Survive is demanding, oppressive, obtuse, and not what most people would traditionally think of as "fun." I've played for hours and haven't achieved anything meaningful. My most dependable method of defeating the zombie-like Wanderers littered around its barren world is still poking at them with a sharp stick from the other side of a chain link fence. And I spend the majority of my time throwing up because I drank dirty water and contracted a horrible stomach bug.

And yet, I keep coming back to it. Not just because I'm obligated to soldier on and review the game, but because on the other side of the desperation and stress is a small nugget of satisfaction; the sweet release of endorphins that comes with completing an objective. I'm the rat pushing a button for a food pellet, and by god I can't stop.

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This manipulation of human psychology as game design has always been a tenet of role-playing games, but it has become a pervasive part of most genres of late. Metal Gear Survive pushes it to its most ruthless, demanding extremes to make good on its classification as an action game focused on survival.

The game is set shortly after the attack on Mother Base in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. During this siege, a wormhole into a parallel world appears, sucking in a chunk of Mother Base, along with the members of Snake's Diamond Dogs and the attacking XOF forces. Your character is seemingly killed or rendered unconscious while defending Mother Base, but is brought back by an enigmatic UN scientist and constantly frowning Laurence Fishburne look-alike named Goodluck.

Upon waking up, you're told you've been infected by a parasite that has overrun Dite, the world on the other side of the aforementioned wormhole. Your mission is to travel there to seek out a cure for yourself, and also find out what has become of your comrades, including a close friend. In typical Metal Gear Solid fashion, there's more to Goodluck than meets the eye, and since the parasite that transforms people into Wanderers first showed up during the Vietnam War, there's some questions around its true nature too. Dite also happens to have a special crystalised resource called Kuban, which can be extracted from Wanderers and harvested from the environment.

From the moment you land in Dite, you're on the back foot. Survive wants you to know that success in this hellscape will come through struggling and pushing forward in the face of overwhelming adversity, and to that end the game tracks hunger, thirst, and oxygen on-screen. These ever-visible bars are constantly depleting, counting down to death if not kept topped up. The food and water needed to replenish them are scarce, and even the act of seeking them out expends resources in a way that will make you pause and really think about if it's all worth it. It's a grueling grind where the material rewards offer just a fleeting respite.

But all this also serves to intensify that rush of satisfaction you get when you manage to complete a mission or successfully take a trip to gather edible herbs, meat, or dirty water that has a good chance of making you sick. By stacking the odds so heavily against you, these successes--big or small--feel like an act of defiance.

By stacking the odds so heavily against you, successes--big or small--feel like an act of defiance

The narrative is advanced by taking on main missions that send you into a distant, poisonous cloud of dust that envelops your home base. There you're tasked with recovering data that can restore Vergil, the AI that ran previous missions into Dite, to full functionality and, hopefully, help track down a cure and return everyone home. These operations usually send the player into Wanderer-infested territory, where Survive's rudimentary combat comes into play. The Phantom Pain felt like the meeting of slick, refined combat mechanics and enemy behaviour that was dynamic, reactive, and very often surprising, Survive--in its opening hours--feels restrictive and lethargic, and its enemies do little to challenge you outside of attacking in large groups.

Since you're burning resources, be it recovery items, stamina, or weapon durability, engaging them is usually a fruitless endeavour. The Kuban energy that can be harvested from Wanderers is the only reason to actually take them on, and since Kuban is used to craft items as well as level up the character and unlock perks that improve stats or add combat moves, it's a good one. But the smarter player will isolate straggling Wanderers and bring them down by either approaching from behind to deliver a one-hit kill, jabbing them in the big crystal weak points located where their heads should be, or firing an arrow at them from a distance. It's not very exciting.

Of course, I'm still early in the game, so there's plenty of room for it to develop into something more, especially as additional enemy types are introduced and I gain access to advanced weaponry. The game certainly is motioning towards this, as I recently encountered the larger Bomber enemy type, which has a less opportune weak point and a giant pustule on its head that would probably have exploded had I stuck around to find out.

The set-piece moments thus far have been when I've tried to activate wormhole transporters, which enable Survive's equivalent of fast travel. Doing this summons a wave of Wanderers to your location, and at this point the game becomes about building fortifications and holding off advancements long enough for the machine to power up and release a wave of energy that wipes them out. To its credit, these moments are tense, high-octane bouts of action that involve running between locations, managing enemy numbers, setting up barriers, and maintaining your own health and stamina.

Given that Metal Gear Survive only became playable to press on its launch day, I haven't played enough to deliver a more comprehensive review. There are other aspects to its gameplay that haven't had the time to properly develop: the base building, crafting, and online multiplayer for example. And there are also characters who are slowly appearing that need the chance to grow before I can make a judgment on them.

I'm still playing Metal Gear Survive and formulating my thoughts, but, from the outset, there's something strangely compelling about it, despite the fact it's designed to treat players so harshly. Fundamentally, the loop of exploring, scavenging, and marginally improving your existence in Dite is satisfying. That, in essence, is the core of all survival games and what has drawn people to titles like Don't Starve, Subnautica, Terraria, and even Stardew Valley. In that respect, Survive succeeds in what it sets out to achieve--it's perhaps one of the most hardcore survival games available. But there's also room for it to grow into something more and put its unique stamp on the genre.

Metal Gear Survive's high-profile baggage, and the fact that it is created from the building blocks of a much different experience, provide more to consider and analyse. I'm going to stick with it and in the coming days will deliver a finalised review. For now though, if the idea of a brutal game where you scavenge and fight for survival sounds like the way you want to spend your gaming hours, it's worth considering.

Categories: Games

New Videos Show Off Gaelic Campaign In Cinematic And Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 16:26

Creative Assembly released a pair of new videos for its upcoming Total War spinoff, Thrones of Britannia, which focuses on the strategy game's Gaelic campaign. Take a look at a cinematic starring king of Mide, Flann Sinna, and then watch a lengthy look at gameplay.

In the Gaelic campaign, Sinna is fighting to become the high king of Ireland. That's easier said than done, since his kingdom is landlocked and surrounded by potential enemies. You can get a taste of the overall climate in the cinematic trailer below.

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The next clip is a deeper dive into the campaign. You'll see how players can recruit and mobilize their armies, and see why the Viking interlopers should have probably pointed their ships elsewhere.

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A Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia is coming to PC on April 19.
Categories: Games

Age Of Empires: Definitive Edition Review: Antique Revival

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 20:00

Booting up Age of Empires: Definitive Edition for the first time is immediately surprising. The original game launched more than two decades ago, but it's been refined and revived for 2018, ready for modern audiences--or at least old players with new PCs and missing CD keys. It begins with pomp as a curt opening trailer plays, showing off the upgraded visuals and the new, orchestral score. As a returning player, that moment feels like coming home.

Starting with the launch of Age of Empires II: HD Edition, Microsoft Game Studios has been working to update the series, even adding plenty of new content. Now, the game that started it all has been remastered in 4K, with new narration and slight gameplay tweaks rounding out the list of improvements. Even with all that, though, the core play hasn't been meaningfully altered, leaving it to feel relatively quaint by modern standards: You simply command troops to gather resources, chop wood, build out a base, and conquer nearby enemy strongholds. That's great for some purists, but it does put Age of Empires: Definitive Edition in the awkward position of having to stand on some old and tired legs. Thankfully, the majority of the game makes the leap well enough.

Not keen on tackling the whole of human history in one game, as with Rise of Nations or Civilization, Age of Empires games focus on limited timelines--for instance, the Ancient and Classical ages at play here. You aren't some disembodied leader looking to lead your people to an overarching victory against all others--you're just trying to survive and not be wiped from the history books.

In the Egyptian campaign, your work revolves around supporting one of the first Pharaohs, Narmer, to help him marshal the political and material strength needed to unite the early Egyptian Empire, thousands of years before the rise of Rome. That gives you immediate, tangible goals to pursue, allowing you to feel effective and influential.

Where those sort of history lessons fade into the background, of course, is in the open-ended multiplayer. You'll see the Egyptians fielding Roman legionnaires, even though that doesn't make sense. Nor does the troop progression of Hoplite, to Phalanx, to Roman Centurion, which implicitly suggests a linear path through history that both didn't happen and doesn't add up. But, again, this game hails from 1997, a year before Starcraft, when the idea of having factions with unique traits in strategy games was only just being considered.

It's hard to say whether that's an issue that you will personally find bothersome, but it's a strong example of the game's old-school foundation. While not everything in the game has been refreshed, all the things that were, however, are stellar.

Visual upgrades aside, small tweaks to sound effects as well as myriad gameplay adjustments are the real stars of this remaster. The expanded multiplayer mode in particular get high marks. It's simple and quick, allowing you to jump into a match less than 30 seconds after opening the game. Boosted population limits (all the way up to 250) allow much larger and more chaotic battles than before.

The in-game scenario editor, too, offers up some powerful level-building and even campaign-creation tools. It's a bit complex, requiring you to have an external file organization system for your campaign maps and the like, but it's still quite robust for those who want it. Just about all the tools you need to design your own entire plots are there, too. You can, with some effort, create a historical campaign more-or-less akin to what you’d play in the main game. Or you can get silly with it and have a map made of forests where players will have to log their way to a foe, opening up some very unusual tactics and strategies.

Other changes might not get quite the same fanfare but are nonetheless vital to keeping Definitive Edition relevant. Improved pathfinding, tools for locating stray villagers and military, attack-move commands, and plenty more have all been folded into the remaster, making for an impressive bump to general feel and smoothness of the game.

Unfortunately, there's still a lot that just isn't quite there, by modern standards. The limited units--particularly the lack of unique ones for each faction--can make play feel homogenous very quickly. Structures aren't as developed either, meaning your ability to run more complex strategies is limited. You won't find extensive unit queuing, hotkeys, shift-commands, or any of the countless gameplay improvements RTS designers have come up with over the intervening decades.

If you're set on playing the original Age of Empires, this is far and away the best way to do so. That said, real-time strategy is a very feature-heavy genre. While this is the tightest the original AoE has ever been, it’s still sluggish and stripped-down compared to almost any modern offering.

Categories: Games

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review: The Past Comes At You Fast

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:30

No matter how much a textbook, TV show, or video game strives to depict the reality of what life was like in ages past, the end result is usually sanitized. The medieval era is a great case in point. Think of this long-ago time today and you imagine noble knights, maidens fair, and fat kings waving around legs of lamb. In truth, the period was more about robbers knifing you in the streets, wenches plying their trade, and lords working you to death on their manors.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is dirty. Filthy, in fact. This expansive RPG from indie developer Warhorse Studios ditches cliches for a brutal portrayal of the Middle Ages that wastes no time proving how difficult life was in the early 15th century. Every romanticized notion of the era is extinguished through storytelling and a setting that captures the unfairness of existing when life expectancy hovered around 30 years--if you were lucky. Aspects of the game can be a little too unforgiving even for this vicious era due to some overly exacting mechanics and a host of oversights that includes a torturous save system, but Kingdom Come: Deliverance is still a rewarding, one-of-a-kind game.

Granted, it delves into a part of history you probably know little if anything about. You play as Henry, the naive son of a blacksmith who has the misfortune of living in Skalitz, Bohemia in 1403, when the countryside erupted with violence due to the imprisonment of the rightful King Wenceslaus IV by his power-hungry brother Sigismund. After a pastoral medieval day of hitting on the local barmaid, playing pranks, and helping dad finish a sword for the local lord, your village is attacked by an army without warning. Faced with savage marauders, all Henry can do is watch in terror before fleeing for his life.

All of this adds up to a terrifying opening that serves as both a spectacular source of frustration (expect to die many times before successfully escaping Skalitz) and as a warning that Kingdom Come: Deliverance is not a typical fantasy RPG. There's no heroic swordplay here, no wizards casting fireballs, no clerics raising the dead, no orcs or dragons. This is the story of an actual civil war that raged across Bohemia in the first decade of the 15th century. Your part in it is that of a nobody struggling to survive in a land full of noblemen who couldn’t care less if you lived or died, and fellow peasants who would stab you in the back for a crust of bread.

Such a cruel atmosphere is actually what makes Kingdom Come: Deliverance so enthralling, supported by an incredible attention to detail. Built in CryEngine 3, the presentation brings the era to life, from the filth of muddy village streets to idyllic sylvan forests where you can hunt wild boar or relax while sunbeams and butterflies sparkle around you. Character faces are diverse, as are their costumes, which appear textbook-authentic whether you are looking at a nobleman in hose and puffy sleeves or a guardsman wearing a steel hat and a leather jerkin. The layering of armor results in some visual clipping and details being filled in abruptly as you approach NPCs, but these little blemishes are easily overlooked when you're immersed in the events occurring around you.

Voice acting and scripting is nicely evocative of the age, right down to the constant religious references that underline the importance of Christianity. There are some flaws here, most notably in the load times needed to start dialogue and the sometimes repetitive conversation options, but all of the important dialogue is presented brilliantly.

Looking after your clothing and taking semi-regular baths is also vital. Shown up at a lord’s manor house in rags stinking of the stable? Good luck if you have to ask a favor. Conversely, wandering around taverns wearing a shirt adorned with someone else’s blood can make you more fearsome. Almost every action here has a consequence.

Other dialogue idiosyncrasies include anachronistic modern swearing along with accents from seemingly every corner of the globe (many actors voicing the main characters hail from the U.K., but you encounter others with American and other inflections). Still, while this language creativity can be a little jarring, it mostly fits. Even the music contributes strongly to the mood, with such strong plucked strings and flutes that you almost expect Ian Anderson and the rest of Jethro Tull to prance out of the woods on occasion.

A codex actually tracks everything you discover during Henry’s adventures. These entries eventually turn into something of a medieval encyclopedia. Lengthy sections reveal extensive details about the struggle between Wenceslaus IV and Sigismund, the feudal system, hygiene, liturgy, prostitution, toilets, and much more. So if you want to find out more about the Western Schism in the Roman Catholic Church but don’t want to crack a textbook, this is your game.

Game systems further prop up the ambiance provided by the game's look, sound, and historical detail. Characters start work when the sun rises and head to bed when it sets. You must fit into this schedule, which also involves regular food and sleep to stay healthy and hearty. Time skips are possible, although even then you still have to wait a minute or two while the hours slowly tick by. Looking after your clothing and taking semi-regular baths is also vital. Shown up at a lord’s manor house in rags stinking of the stable? Good luck if you have to ask a favor. Conversely, wandering around taverns wearing a shirt adorned with someone else’s blood can make you more fearsome. Almost every action here has a consequence.

While an extensive statistic-and-skill system provides you with a tremendous number of ways to customize Henry as he explores 15th-century Bohemia, he's only as good as his collective experiences. So if you want to get better at firing a bow, you need to practice at the archery range or head into the forest and shoot wild game like rabbits. Want to buff your skills with a sword or mace? You need to head to the training yard or into the countryside to look for bandits and enemy soldiers.

With that said, you still level up, track four primary stats, and follow 17 skills that impact specific activities. Dozens of selectable perks attached to the individual skill categories afford even greater fine-tuning, in that you can pick all sorts of personality traits that govern everything from how much beer you can drink to how well you can stay on a horse, to improving charisma and speech through the power of literacy. There are no shortage of options when it comes to turning Henry into a wannabe noble and a scholar (or a thug and a thief).

Combat and movement controls also run true to the focus on realism. Instead of instantly turning into a warrior when you whip out a sword for the first time, Henry is a klutz at the start. You throw punches or swing a weapon with mouse or analog stick motions to dictate an attack trajectory. Ranged battles are similarly tough, due to a lack of a targeting reticle for your bow. Increasing stats and skills allow your combat abilities to gradually improve over time, but it doesn't seem that you can get anywhere close to the effortless abilities typically displayed in RPGs. Other actions such as riding a horse and picking locks can also be overly finickly. Yet as much as such activities can result in frustration (especially at the start of the game), the rigorous control scheme underlines the central theme that adventuring is not supposed to be easy for a village peasant with no experience of the wider world.

Progress is saved automatically after you sleep and at certain moments of play, but you can’t just sleep anywhere and saves aren’t made regularly enough during quests. And since you can get killed so easily here, you always feel at risk of losing time and momentum.

As a result, fighting has a steep learning curve. But it is one well worth scaling. Every battle in the game is nerve-wracking. The cold fact that you are not a majestic fantasy warrior means that you can be killed at any time. Taking on more than one opponent is incredibly risky, and engaging with three or more is simply futile. Armor adds a layer of tactical complexity, too. The game features a thorough suite of medieval armor and clothing options ranging from padded shirts to plate, but wearing it weighs you down and can block your vision (put on a full helmet and you see the world through a slit). Battling foes in armor also presents its own challenges. Take on a fully equipped enemy and you need to either target their openings with arrows, or switch to blunt weapons better at bashing metal-covered heads and shoulders than anything with an edge.

Despite these complexities, it's disappointing that combat lacks physicality. It’s clumsy enough that you never feel completely in control (although much of this is certainly intentional, to best depict Henry’s rookie status when it comes to waging war), and there are odd hesitations in the animation that remove you from the immediacy of battles. Melee scraps are rough-and-tumble brawls for the most part, where you try to beat the enemy down before you collapse of wounds or exhaustion. That said, you’re generally so grateful just to survive that you don’t care how good your victory looked.

Even though Kingdom Come: Deliverance is built similarly to a standard RPG like Skyrim, where you accept quests and follow map icons to their destinations, there are some key differences. The biggest is the way that adventures are built around the living world. So if you’re told to meet a nobleman at dawn, you better do it or he may well take off without you. This has some tremendous benefits. You really feel like you’re inhabiting a real world that continues on without you. Quests also nicely blend mundane medieval duties like hunting rabbits for food and taking on guard patrols with more involving jaunts like investigating a murder, partying with a priest, tripping with witches, and tracking down the bad guys to get some vengeance and earn respect from nobility.

Still, this approach makes for a lot of dicey moments. The game feels like a balancing act where everything could spin out of control at any moment if you miss a scheduled appointment to start a quest, or even worse, encounter a bug. Bugs sometimes prevent characters from appearing when they should, making you revisit locations to trigger quests, or revisiting old saves to get things back on track. Key characters and locations are also often not given precise locations. This adds to the sense of being a real person in a medieval landscape and not a gamer following an icon on a compass, but it also forces you to take on impromptu scavenger hunts and wander aimlessly through the extremely dangerous wilderness, where you can easily stumble into an enemy encampment or even an ambush staged by robbers.

Being able to save your location anywhere and at any time would have helped a lot of the above problems, but this isn't an option. Progress is saved automatically after you sleep and at certain moments of play, but you can’t just sleep anywhere and saves aren’t made regularly enough during quests. And since you can get killed so easily here, you always feel at risk of losing time and momentum. You can save manually with the use of “Saviour Schnapps,” but this concoction has to be purchased at a high cost (tough to manage early in the game) or brewed. Modders have already stepped in with a fix that adds the ability to save on demand on PC, although the developers need to officially add this feature (or at least a save-on-exit feature in case real life gets in the way and you need to stop playing the game quickly).Basically, the game needs a patch along with a fresh look at saving and a few other design elements to let its better qualities shine.

Even with these issues in mind, anyone who can appreciate the down-and-dirty nature of history should play Kingdom Come: Deliverance. It's an impressive and unflinching look at the medieval era that transports you inside the compelling story of a real person caught in the middle of a civil war. As such, this is one of those rare, memorable games that stays with you long after you stop playing. While quirks and bugs can certainly be frustrating, none of these issues interfere much with the unique and captivating nature of the overall experience.

Categories: Games

You Need Both Speed And Style In This New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:13

The newest trailer for Onrush, an arcade racer from the experts at Coderush, shows off the variety of speedy tricks and tumbles in every scene.

You'll see the various vehicles of Onrush in the video, which you can find below, including cars, motorcycles, and off-road vehicles. The fast-paced editing matches the speed of the races, making the idea of jumping off a ridge back into the race a tantalizing proposition. The game is being made by Codemasters' newest studio, which is primarily made up of former Evolution Studios staff, creators of the Motorstorm series.

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Onrush is releasing on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in June.

Categories: Games

New Trailer Shows You The Scope Of Its Wild World

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 01:15

A new trailer from THQ Nordic's Biomutant shows off its crazy and fascinating world in a new gameplay demo. 

The gameplay scenes are edited together to show off all the different ways your Biomutant protagonist interact with the massive world. You run across water, fly up anchors, ride a giant mechanical hand, and more.

Check out the trailer below. Biomutant is scheduled for a 2018 release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Categories: Games

Return To Albion With This Collectible Card Game

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 19:26

Fable Fortune, a collectible-card game created by Flaming Fowl Studios and Mediatonic, is leaving early access behind and is set for a full release on February 22 for Xbox One and PC.

The beta launched back in July 2017 and has given the developers time to respond to community feedback and add some new features to the final version, including:

  • Heroic Tales, a single-player story mode allowing players to experience the backstory for each of the six Heroes
  • New emote system that allows players to communicate with their opponents — to congratulate, to mock, or just to fart in their general direction
  • Deck Helper and Guildmaster-led tutorial to assist new players
  • Daily bounty system
  • Plenty of new cards to discover

Fable Fortune was originally funded via Kickstarter, but ended their campaign after securing an outside investment. The full version will be free-to-play, but there are Founder's Packs available for sale that include 20 decks and some rare cards. For more about Fable Fortune, check out our previous coverage.

Categories: Games

Fe Review: Strike A Chord

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 16:00

In Fe, your most powerful tool is your voice. You, a small fox-like creature, can use your songlike call to befriend other animals, open up new pathways in the environment, and distract the game's mechanical enemies. But you also have to know when to stay quiet and silently read the signals of the other forest animals around you. Communication, and the connections between living things, are at the heart of Fe's gorgeous woodland world. That world is a delight to explore, and though the act of exploration never builds to something greater, it's a captivating and often melancholic look at our relationship with nature.

Fe drops you in the forest all alone, with no clear purpose or direction. You can communicate using a garbled, baby-talk sort of call, and you're given one small bit of instruction as you begin to wander the ethereal forest: "Sing gently with animals." The harder you press the trigger, the louder you'll "sing," and you have to strike the right note to communicate with the different species around you.

Each species' unique song has its own use; certain plants respond to birds' calls, while others only open for deer's voices. In addition to being absolutely adorable, a baby salamander's chirp will open up a pink flower you can bounce on to get to high-up areas. Animals you befriend will follow you around, and their songs will give you access to places you couldn't reach alone. You need to work with the other animals--and eventually learn their various "languages"--to traverse the forest.

Exploring in Fe is very much a give-and-take. Early on, you can't get anywhere without the help of another animal, but typically, those animals (or the plants they interact with) are leading you to others who need help. In one of the most memorable parts of the game, following a deer through the woods will lead you to a giant deer struggling against its chains. You have to sneak your way past machines patrolling the area, destroy the machines' webs to break the chains and release the deer, and carefully climb the deer to communicate with it. The climb itself is breathtaking, as you're jumping from tree to tree growing along the deer's sky-scraping body, but the stillness afterward, when the deer teaches you its call as thanks, is stunning in its own way.

Those moments of peace--by way of the harmonies you've made with other creatures--are shattered quickly and easily by Fe's inorganic enemies, whose harsh industrial lights and abrasive noises pierce the solemn orchestral music of the forest. If they spot you, you have to find somewhere to hide and fast, or you'll be caught in their webs. It's not hard to stay stealthy and save yourself, but you'll end up watching at least once as the friendly animals you had in tow get captured one by one--and it's heartbreaking.

Fe is hauntingly beautiful, and as a result, it often doesn't feel like the relatively simple platformer-adventure game it is. Like a lot of similar games, you collect items--in this case, pink crystals--around the world to unlock new abilities. But finding those crystals is more a consequence of following other animals and seeing where the flora and fauna take you, not a primary goal or even a strictly necessary one. Only two unlockable skills, climbing trees and gliding, are required to finish the game, and you'll find enough crystals to get them in the first hour or so as long as you follow the surprisingly linear routes in front of you.

The simplicity of Fe's mechanics becomes more apparent sometime after helping the giant deer. There's a distinct pattern: Save some animals, learn their call, and use that call to turn flowers into different kinds of platforms so you can move on to the next section. Very rarely does what you learned before come in handy again later in creative or surprising ways, even after you've learned every song. While this leaves room for you to think about the greater meaning behind what you're doing--rather than the discrete objectives in your path--it's disappointing that the skills you learn from each species never meaningfully combine, especially when the connections you make with each of the living things around you are so important at first blush.

But despite being one-note on a gameplay level, Fe's world, with its lush environments and wistful score, compels you to explore. Establishing fleeting connections with the creatures around you is both charming and a little sad, and learning the truth about the enemy machines is even more tragic. By the end, the most important thing you've learned is how to connect with nature, not just by singing with animals but by understanding the world around you.

Categories: Games