Games

The Castlevania-Inspired Platformer Is Coming This Month

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 05/12/2018 - 19:46

Later this year, Koji Igarashi's Bloostained: Ritual of the Night is heading for release. Before that happens, however, Igarashi has yet another Bloodstained coming out, and it's releasing this month.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is an 8-bit, Castlevania throwback. You play as Zangetsu, a demon slayer with a vengeance who travels through an ominous land to defeat a powerful demon. Zangetsu will meet other characters along the way, who can join your party to help you defeat enemies on your journey.

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Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was promised as a stretch goal for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's 2015 Kickstarter campaign, which raised more than $5.5 million. 

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is coming out on May 24 and will cost $9.99. Those who backed Rtiual of the Night on Kickstarter for more than $28, however, receive it for free. It's coming to a slew of platforms including Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Vita, 3DS, and PC.

Categories: Games

Destiny 2: Warmind Review - Back To Work

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 05/12/2018 - 16:00

Destiny 2 has been struggling to keep its players invested for a while now. Going into its second expansion, Warmind, the biggest question was whether or not Destiny 2 can entice people to come back to it. This expansion is geared more toward the hardcore players, offering difficult endgame activities and a slower, more demanding level grind to get there. If you aren't interested in those things, though, there's not a lot here besides the same old Destiny 2 activities to draw you in.

Warmind's campaign consists of a handful of missions, and it takes around an hour and a half to complete. If you haven't played Destiny 2 much since Curse of Osiris, it's easy to jump back in; I started at 310 power and did some minimal grinding to keep up with each mission's recommended level. It remains a very welcome change from Destiny's more punishing pace, where skipping a few weeks meant another few weeks of intense grinding just to catch up.

Like most story-centric activities in Destiny 2, Warmind's campaign does just enough explaining to justify fighting enemies in the first place and leaves you to fill in the rest yourself. That can work really well, but in Warmind, a lot of seemingly important things are packed into a very short amount of time; a buried Golden Age research facility, new information about Rasputin, a crazy-powerful spear, and suddenly a giant worm that you have to kill. It's not that those things aren't connected but rather that there's no time to absorb anything before you're in the final fight, and it's anticlimactic as a result.

Individually, Warmind's different components are actually kind of cool. The Valkyrie spear can take out swarms of enemies in one very satisfying throw, and fighting a huge, serpentine monster is fun just for the spectacle of it. The new ally character, Ana Bray, is almost interesting--she's related to Clovis Bray, a historical figure in Destiny lore, and can speak to Rasputin--but she doesn't have enough time to develop into anything substantial. Though Warmind is an expansion about a hyper-intelligent AI that's been around since the first game, it feels like these are just the building blocks for what could be a compelling story.

For laidback Destiny 2 players, the more accessible activities are a great way to test out the new Exotic weapon changes that launched alongside the expansion. The 1.2.0 update is available even if you don't have Warmind, but it's at least nice to have a reason to try out the Exotic buffs. My personal favorites are the Graviton Lance, which now fires a two-round burst with a heftier and more satisfying explosion on impact, and Riskrunner, which deals more damage when its Arc Conductor buff is active. They actually feel like true Exotics now and as a result are loot worth chasing, so much so that the changes kind of steal Warmind's thunder.

Two of Warmind's story missions are disappointingly repurposed as Strikes, just like in Curse of Osiris. The addition of Nightfall-like modifiers to Heroic Strikes makes them a lot more difficult, at least, but the loot chest reward for completing them doesn't match the challenge--weapons and gear drop at 340 power, which is right about where you'll be when you finish the story. The new cap is 385, leaving a large gap between the "easy" content and the endgame that could have been filled with mid-tier Heroic Strike rewards. As a whole, the mid-level section of the expansion is unfortunately pretty empty of anything to motivate you to keep going forward.

The new destination, the polar ice caps of Mars, is around the size of Io. In addition to new Adventures and Lost Sectors, Mars has new secrets to hunt down in the form of Sleeper Nodes. They're primarily for other quests, but they can be fun to look for and a good excuse to explore. Mars also boasts a new activity, Escalation Protocol. It works kind of like a Public Event in that anyone in the area can join, but it's way harder, throwing waves of high-level Hive at you. As of week one, it's basically impossible to complete it, which makes it a nice accomplishment to chase if you've been wanting more to do in the late game. So far, Escalation Protocol is the most intriguing thing in Warmind--I actually want to level up enough so I can see what happens and what kind of loot I can get.

It certainly feels like Warmind has a slower burn than vanilla Destiny 2 or Curse of Osiris. In order to get the Exotic fusion rifle Sleeper Simulant, for example, you have to complete a time-intensive multi-step quest that involves running both Heroic Strikes and Escalation Protocols. On the hardcore end of things, the challenging new Raid Lair is a big incentive to get your power level up. The grinding alone will likely keep the most dedicated players busy for a bit, and figuring out and implementing a viable strategy once you actually make it to the Raid Lair is, as always, a reward in itself.

However, if you aren't already dedicated to reaching the level cap and completing every late-game activity, Warmind doesn't offer many draws for you; the only reason to do anything is to level up or get new loot, and that can keep you busy for a while this time around. How busy depends on your patience when grinding and your desire to jump through every hoop to get there. That barren middle-tier--when you've beaten the story and need to grind 20 or 30 power levels so you can reach the endgame--is a very easy place to lose steam.

Categories: Games

Bringing The Hunt To Switch

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 05/10/2018 - 17:45

Today, Nintendo made a big announcement about Capcom's successful action/RPG franchise. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is coming to Switch, and its release date is only a few months away.

Monster Hunter Generations originally hit 3DS back in 2016, and many diehards were hoping the Switch version, which released a year ago in Japan, would make its way to our shores. Thankfully, that's now a reality. Generations Ultimate is an HD port and expansion of the 3DS version.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate holds the basic gameplay loop that fans have adored, which includes hunting monsters and customizing their avatars with their parts. However, due to the game launching last year in Japan, don't expect this version to contain the enhancements, such as the more accessible controls, from Monster Hunter: World. That being said, you still can hunt with up to three other players online to take down the biggest and hardest foes. 

Our own Dan Tack loved the 3DS version for its variety of bosses and landscapes, as he wrote in his review: "While Monster Hunter can be distilled down into a basic loop of hunt, gather, upgrade, micromanage inventory and Palico perks, rinse and repeat, the process is quite satisfying as the “boss barrage” continues to serve up interesting encounters across snowfields, volcanos, and lush islands." 

Nintendo also provided a trailer for the announcement, which you can watch below.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate hits Switch on August 28. This is the series' first foray on the console, giving players the option to hunt on the go or on the big screen.

Categories: Games

Bringing The Hunt To Switch

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 05/10/2018 - 17:45

Today, Nintendo made a big announcement about Capcom's successful action/RPG franchise. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is coming to Switch, and its release date is only a few months away.

Monster Hunter Generations originally hit 3DS back in 2016, and many diehards were hoping the Switch version, which released a year ago in Japan, would make its way to our shores. Thankfully, that's now a reality. Generations Ultimate is an HD port and expansion of the 3DS version.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate holds the basic gameplay loop that fans have adored, which includes hunting monsters and customizing their avatars with their parts. However, due to the game launching last year in Japan, don't expect this version to contain the enhancements, such as the more accessible controls, from Monster Hunter: World. That being said, you still can hunt with up to three other players online to take down the biggest and hardest foes. 

Our own Dan Tack loved the 3DS version for its variety of bosses and landscapes, as he wrote in his review: "While Monster Hunter can be distilled down into a basic loop of hunt, gather, upgrade, micromanage inventory and Palico perks, rinse and repeat, the process is quite satisfying as the “boss barrage” continues to serve up interesting encounters across snowfields, volcanos, and lush islands." 

Nintendo also provided a trailer for the announcement, which you can watch below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate hits Switch on August 28. This is the series' first foray on the console, giving players the option to hunt on the go or on the big screen.

Categories: Games

Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 Officially Revealed

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 05/09/2018 - 15:40

Konami has officially revealed details regarding this year's installment in its long-running Pro Evolution Soccer series – proving that an earlier leak promising new licensed leagues and major changes to the series' MyClub and Master League modes was true.

  • Master League: New licensed leagues are being added along with the pre-season International Champions Cup tournament. Furthermore, the transfer negotiation and budget systems have been redone, including re-sell and clean-sheet contract options. Konami says that more info on the official league licenses is coming in the future.
  • Gameplay: 11 skill traits have been added for players, including rising/dipping shots and a no-look pass, and players' stamina and fatigue is more evident. This makes substitutions more important, and the game has added a quick substitution menu so you don't have to pause the game. Improvements have also been made to areas such as dribbling, ball trajectory and bounce, and players' reaction animations.
  • Visuals: Snow is back in the game and it affects gameplay, and the title supports 4K HDR. The lighting has been redone, and new animations have been added to the crowd. Konami says their excitement should be more evident in games as well.
  • MyClub: Players with limited-time boosted stats and skills reflecting their real-life performance are available as well as new licensed Legend players. A new weekly PES League features multiple competitive divisions and rewards. Overall, the developer says that the way gamers go about building their squads will be different.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 comes out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on August 28 in the Americas with Barcelona and Brazilian national team star Philippe Coutinho as the cover star. The game comes in Standard, David Beckham, and Legend Edition varieties, with pre-order gifts for the digital version. For more info on the game and its different versions versions head over to the official Konami site

We'll get our hands on the title at E3 in June, and can not only size up the gameplay but hopefully get a tour of the revamped Master League.

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[Source: Konami] 

Categories: Games

Pillars Of Eternity 2: Deadfire Review - A Pirate's Life For Me

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 05/08/2018 - 18:00

Pillars of Eternity was something of a herald for the second golden age of classic computer role-playing games. It was an inspiration, and was quickly followed by games like Torment: Tides of Numenera and Tyranny, and plenty more have filled in the gaps since then. And that's before we even get to the reboots and re-issues of some of the genre's aging classics like Baldur's Gate.

All of this is to say that the standards have shifted quite a bit since Pillars of Eternity released in 2015. It's remarkable, then, that Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire not only keeps pace with its contemporaries, but brings its own vitality and character that sets it apart from a genre that has been feeling a bit crowded of late.

Deadfire is a direct sequel to Pillars of Eternity, but you don't need to have played the first game, as you'll get solid recaps as well as the ability to make some general choices that will affect how Deadfire plays. That said, having a familiarity with the characters and world greatly adds to the game's overall appeal. These folks have aged, wizened, and grizzled a bit in the pirate-infested Deadfire Archipelago--the expansive, maritime stage on which our adventure is set. One old friend has taken to smoking a pipe, for instance, growing a bit more lax and observational, punctuating thoughts and commentary with tokes to help process his thoughts.

For the most part, character progression and the nuts and bolts of play work just as they did before. Character creation is deep and complex, designed to mimic the process of mapping out a character in a tabletop RPG. From there, you play a half real-time, half turn-based adventure, with exploration done in the former style and combat in the latter. If you’ve played just about any of the iconic CRPGs of the last 20 years, you’ll be immediately familiar with the basics in Deadfire.

On top of that, though, Deadfire blows out everything from its predecessor. There’s more of anything you can think of--more options for character setup, more classes and skills, more specialization, more items, and more levels. You can also explore open waters on a ship that you manage, from crew to cannon. In much the same way that an advanced player’s guide adds fundamental upgrades to the way a tabletop RPG works, Deadfire is bigger, but also deeper. New character sub-classes and the ability to multi-class your character will allow you to refine your options in combat or play more nuanced roles.

That said, the real value of Deadfire is how its setting tees up new stories and tales of exploration and adventure. The Archipelago has been settled throughout, but plenty of islands still contain ancient secrets and eldritch horrors. Moreover, the rough-and-tumble atmosphere demands sturdy defenses and plenty of able bodies to maintain your new ship. Life on the seas is brutal, and your first major craft will barely have the gear needed to survive even minor engagements. Kitting out your mobile base of operations becomes another major focus, and you'll always have to worry when another ship comes into view.

Your ultimate goal is track down Eothas, a god who has possessed a stone colossus. Mysteriously, your spirit and life force is tied to the god, and only by chasing him to the archipelago were your companions able to keep you alive. Now you must set out and figure out how all this happened and why, while trailing Eothas. This works particularly well as a means of pacing out the journey and developing a strong throughline of adventure.

So you set out for whatever towns and islands you can spot, and build from there. At this stage, curiosity is a virtue. Questions and probes yield small, intimate stories and clues for tracking down the big bad alike. These arcs build out the texture of the world and offer some of the most beautiful moments in the game. Plus, having extra gear and experience can only add to your proficiency in the game’s main thrust. How and when you engage with the world is up to you, but you'll be partially limited by the capabilities of your ship and the information you've gathered.

Deadfire's characters are bright and nuanced, and their descriptions weave personality into the simplest interactions.

Ship combat, perhaps the single largest mechanical addition in Deadfire, is well constructed. Bouts are turn-based and will be determined by everything from the abilities and experience of the crew you've gathered, to the tactical choices you make. These largely center on positioning, which is important to keep in mind when attacking or defending. Most vessels will have a few different types of guns, so you'll be working on closing or creating distance and repositioning so you can get the best shots off at the right times. Boarding, of course, also plays a huge role, but that works more or less the same as any other battle on land.

All of this, too, feeds into systems that impact how successful you are at general pirating. Your crew's morale will need to be kept high, for instance, or you could run the risk of a mutiny. While that could have been little more than set-dressing, Deadfire pulls those threads into the rest of the game--primarily through its art and writing.

Rich, detailed prose focuses on setting the scene and building an atmosphere. Deadfire's characters are bright and nuanced, and their descriptions weave personality into the simplest interactions. All of this makes for an enriching read--if you've got the patience for it. Like the first game, the writing is phenomenal overall, but some sections can be unnecessarily verbose, and that can occasionally strike as a weakness. But, more often than not, vivid text is a means to help you escape to this fantastical world. Thankfully, though, it's not the only trick Deadfire's got.

While the isometric view is a bit of a throwback, the art and visual detail of the world stands abreast with the writing as one of the adventure's strongest points. Not only is this a visual feast, mostly because of its imaginative settings and application of the arcane, but its direction is poignant and gripping. The seaside shacks and exotic, otherworldly creatures are a stark departure of the classical fantasy setting of the previous entry's Dyrwood. The cliched stylings of Caed Nua castle give way to Treasure Island, with all the monsters and magic of DnD. In other words, this is more a fantasy adventure in a pirate-y tone than the other way around. And that works just fine--keeping enough of the original appeal intact while folding in sharp new ideas and ambiance.

Deadfire is dense, and it isn't a small game, easily dwarfing its predecessor in terms of scale. There's a lot to do, and it's easier than ever to get lost in the little stories you find, without following the arcs that the game has specially set out for you. Still, it's worth taking your time. The richness of Deadfire takes a while to appreciate, and like the brined sailors that call it come, you'll be left with an indelible attachment to these islands when you do finally step away.

Categories: Games

Rockstar Closes Week Of Reveals With New Screens

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 05/06/2018 - 17:26

Rockstar is capping off its week of Red Dead Redemption 2 content drops with a small batch of screenshots.

In the four screens revealed via a twitter, Facebook, and Instragram, you can see the members of the Van der Linde gang interacting in various ways. In one shot, Sadie Adler and Bill Williamson exchange a few words, and you can check out some of how detailed the game's horses are. Another shot shows most of the crew celebrating around a campfire, while another shows Arthur Morgan shooting someone dead inside a building as the sun beams down on the town and seeps through the windows. You can check out all ten screens below.

Rockstar has been busy unveiling various parts of Red Dead Redemption 2. Earlier this week, it premiered the third trailer for its highly-anticipated open-world game, revealing the members of Dutch's gang, even revealing that yes, John Marston would indeed show up. Later the company unveiled some of the game's various aspects, including the changes it's planning for the sequel, such as a narrower distinction between main and side quests, an larger emphasis on taking care of your crew and horse, and, well, even more incredible vistas and detailed faces.

Categories: Games

The First Story Trailer For Swery's The Good Life Is Definitely Early

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 05/04/2018 - 22:52

White Owls and Swery, the creator of games like Deadly Premonition and D4, have released the first trailer of The Good Life.

The game was funded on Kickstarter yesterday with the campaign ending later today officially. To celebrate, the developers have released a story trailer today, named the STROY trailer at release, that is certainly early. The text captions are full of typos and the gameplay is decidedly nascent. You can check out the trailer below.

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The mystery adventure game is set for release on PlayStation 4 and PC with a Switch version as a possible stretch goal.

Categories: Games

Five Big Takeaways From The Red Dead Redemption II Info Drop

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 20:01

Today, IGN and The Telegraph dropped the most comprehensive overviews yet of Rockstar Games' next open-world western, Red Dead Redemption II. The blitz of coverage is definitely worth checking out yourself, but we also wanted to surface our biggest takeaways after wrangling up the written and video features. 

Another Generation Leap In Open World Design
We have yet to see the game in action ourselves, but judging from impressions of the first live demo, it sounds like Rockstar is taking another big step forward in its design. By strengthening the connective tissue between the myriad systems driving the game, it sounds like they are dissolving the visible stitches between gameplay, cinematics, missions, and emergent play to make it feel like a more seamless experience. The world and characters are constantly aware of Morgan's presence, and the player has a new level of agency when interacting with them.

Red Dead Redemption II doesn't transition away from the game camera into cutscenes when talking to characters, and new missions arrive organically through conversation, not necessarily creating distinctions between golden path story missions and side missions. They are simply activities that present themselves as you live in this world.

Players have more control over how these interactions play out as well. Depending on the circumstance, the player has multiple contextual options for engagement. Upon first coming across a person, Morgan could act politely, intimidate, or even rob them. How the person reacts depends on their disposition. They also take note of whether Morgan's weapon is holstered and react accordingly.

No Protagonist Swapping
Coming off the massive success of the Grand Theft Auto V story, you couldn't fault Rockstar for going back to the well of giving players control of multiple characters. But Rockstar has other designs for Red Dead Redemption II; this time players control Arthur Morgan through the entire story. As gang leader Dutch van der Linde's righthand man, Morgan shoulders a lot of the responsibility for keeping this rag-tag group of outlaws together. Though he's a murderer and thief, IGN's impressions made it sound like he's also a likable character that many in the gang look up to, and he treats them like family. Ultimately, it's up to the player how honorable this outlaw will act throughout the story.

The Outlaw Camp Is Your Mobile Hub
After a Blackwater heist goes awry, the van der Linde gang is on the run for the vast majority of the game. As such, don't expect to take up residence in a town like a respectable citizen. Instead, the gang sets up camp on the outskirts of the area they happen to be in at that juncture of the narrative. This social hub is where the players get to know the rest of the gang members, which includes familiar faces like Bill Williamson, Javier Escuella, and Dutch, plus several new personalities as well. The blonde, female outlaw seen in the last two trailers is Sadie Adler. The old man telling stories around the campfire is Hosea Matthews, one of Dutch's oldest acquaintances. The scraggly blonde who tells Morgan that sometimes brothers make mistakes is Micah Bell. Players choose the degree to which they interact with these characters, and will go on missions with unique combinations of them throughout the game. 

The camp has resource demands that need to be met, but it's up to the player if they want to take time out of their day to hunt for a fresh supply of meat or stay the course on their current activity. Expect your fellow campers to comment on your contributions or lack thereof. This camp evolves over time as the gang travels deeper into the Old West.

Keeping Your Horse Alive Matters
Horses were very gamified in Red Dead Redemption. You could whistle anywhere in the world and your steed would gallop to your side, and breaking in your horse only took a short while. Red Dead Redemption II amps up the realism in this department. The more you ride, feed, and groom your horse, the deeper the bond between you two forms. This is critical for the horse becoming more comfortable in precarious situations like shootouts and coming across nature's most formidable predators. If you bond is weak, the horse may throw you off its back and take off away from the threat, taking your supplies and best weapons along with it. This makes training your horse (and keeping them alive) a critical component to RDR II. Should your horse die, you must start this process over again with another thoroughbred. 

Exciting New Locations
We know Red Dead Redemption II returns to some familiar locations like Blackwater, but you can also expect to visit several new areas as well, including snowy mountains, deep south swamps, and even industrialized cities. This demo took place in a region called New Hanover, which featured rivers, forests, and mountains of its own. IGN said these areas all felt teeming with life. Flies buzzed around the forests, farmers herded sheep over rolling pastures, and the small town of Valentine bustled with activity, especially after the gang robbed its bank and the lawmen chased them into the countryside. 

To learn more about Red Dead Redemption II, we strongly suggest you head over to IGN and The Telegraph.

Categories: Games

Ubisoft Shows Off Gameplay Footage And Details Timeline

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 18:55

Ever since its cinematic trailer reveal at E3 last year, fans have been eager to learn more about Beyond Good and Evil 2. A livestream in December showed off character and ship customization, as well as concept art. Today, another livestream gave us some details about the upcoming space pirate adventure, including gameplay footage, answering fans' questions, and giving a breakdown of Beyond Good and Evil 2's timeline of events.

Ubisoft's Guillaume Brunier (senior producer), Emile Morel (associate creative director), and Michel Ancel (creative director) took part to give this overview. They mentioned the continued success of the Space Monkey Program (a community-driven initiative where fans give feedback about the game's development) and how more Ubisoft studios are collaborating on the project. Additions include Ubisoft's studios in Sofia, Barcelona, and soon Bordeaux will work on it too.

You can view the timeline of Beyond Good and Evil 2's world events below. We are explained some history leading up to the golden age of piracy, which is when Beyond Good and Evil takes place. The game is a prequel to the first title, and is set before the birth of Jade. Here is the breakdown Ubisoft shared:

2040: On Earth, humankind is experiencing a golden age of science. One of the most notable inventions is a propulsion engine that allows us to cover huge distances in space and colonize distant planets.

2063: A crisis occurs. Earth's advanced technology backfires and attacks humanity.

2086: The first talking hybrid, who is the pig/human Pey'j, is created. He was Jade's companion in the first entry.

2108: Humankind is forced to leave Earth, and expeditions are made to different solar systems. Humans start to colonize System 3.

2225: System 3 is where Beyond Good and Evil 2 takes place. At this point, the Ganesha City that is largely influenced by Indian culture is built. Ubisoft teases that Beyond Good and Evil 2 takes place in one solar system, but it will have a "few surprises."

2314: A mysterious giant ship is attacked and there is a massacre. This is one of many bizarre events that unfold during this time, and is a big part of the main storyline.

2360: We enter a golden age of piracy. Beyond Good and Evil 2 puts you in the shoes of a space pirate who travels around recruiting crewmembers.

????: Though this section isn't dated, the team mentions that later on, Jade is born.

Following the reveal of this timeline, Ancel was quick to mention that it's a "working document" and that certain details could change as they inch towards release. 

About mid-way through the stream, Ubisoft showed off some pre-alpha gameplay footage. The clip is short and doesn't show much, but it does give us a better idea about what spaceship travel looks like as well as combat. Take a look for yourself below. 

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Following the demo, Ancel explains that "everything is connected." Nothing in the demo is scripted. "You can have a fight inside a spaceship that’s being attacked," he says.  "At one point Knox [a character we met in the announcement trailer] is in a huge spaceship. He could fight inside or try to escape."

During battle, you can use your jetpack to dodge attacks or evade conflict completely. He also describes that exploration throughout the solar system will be seamless with no loading screens. 

At the end of the stream, there was a brief Q&A period where the team responded to fans' questions. One of the questions was whether we would be given answers to Beyond Good and Evil 1's cliffhanger or if it would be left unexplained. Ancel responded with "yes and no." While the team isn't going to tell us what happens after the cliffhanger, certain mysteries surrounding it will become clearer as we explore the world's origins.

Ubisoft teases that the team is heavily focused on E3, and that we can expect some bigger reveals next month during the show. For more on Beyond Good and Evil 2, read our preview from last year's E3.

Categories: Games

City of Brass Review - Hidden Treasure

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 18:00

City of Brass opens with an ominous warning about the many dangers lurking within its cursed city, before dropping a tantalizing tease of incredible wealth should you manage to overcome all of its obstacles. You play as a thief trying to reach the mythical treasure through endless foes and dangerous traps, and if you're able to overlook some technical and presentation shortcomings, there's a lot of fun to be had with City of Brass's thoughtful combat and first-person dungeon crawling.

City of Brass is a roguelike which takes place over 12 procedurally generated levels and one final boss battle, and every playthrough is different. Shifting level layouts, enemy spawn points, and different trap types require you to be on your toes, and keep the game engaging and continually surprising. But though it's exciting to experience "new" levels in each playthrough, the presentation leaves a lot to be desired.

Each of the twelve levels is broken down into four unique backdrops--cities with desert, overgrown, and opulent themes, as well as underground catacombs. They're initially impressive to look at, but repeating textures and assets quickly become noticeable, resulting in stages that are virtually indistinguishable from another. The Arabian Nights-inspired audio design is minimalist and fitting for the game's aesthetic, but is generally unremarkable. Oud and flute-heavy themes feature heavily, but like level assets, are reused time and time again. The shortcomings in the presentation also extend to the menu--cumbersome interfaces make learning about City of Brass' levels, enemies, weapons, and gear needlessly frustrating and unhelpful.

The lack of stage variety means that City of Brass occasionally feels like a four-level game being padded out into 12. But while they can be dull at times, the first-person combat plays a huge part in alleviating the tedium. You're armed with a whip in one hand and a sword in the other, and the interplay between them is wonderfully implemented. Should you be unable to break through a foe's defenses, there's the option of using the whip to pull their feet from under them before rushing in for the final blow with your blade, which feels incredibly good to do.

When overwhelmed in situations where your sword and whip are simply not enough, you can use randomly scattered items or the many available traps to turn the tide of the fight. Items like an explosive jar or a lamp can help clear out a big horde of enemies; pushing an enemy into a venom jug will make them easier to kill; docile enemies can be lured or pulled into traps like floor spikes and bottomless pits. There's a satisfying amount of strategic thinking and creativity allowed within City of Brass' combat. There is also a sizable roster of enemies and mini-bosses scattered throughout each location, most of whom require different strategies to overcome. The enemy designs aren't particularly inspired, but the rudimentary AI offers up enough of a challenge to keep you alert, particularly during moments when large groups of enemies relentlessly chase you down.

Memorable and heart-stopping combat moments are also generously sprinkled throughout City of Brass. One particularly notable encounter has you tailed by a near-indestructible enemy statue that only comes to life when your back is turned and can only be damaged by explosive jars. As soon as you're within the proximity of an enemy statue, the music immediately hits high-pitched notes, and you're on edge trying to keep sight of the statue while searching for an explosive jar or the exit.

Death will be a regular occurrence, but the short stages and friendly learning curve help encourage repeated attempts. City of Brass also allows you to generously tailor difficulty according to your skill level. A total of twenty modifiers aimed at buffing or nerfing both you and enemies alike are available from the beginning, allowing you to be as flexible with the difficulty as you please.

The fantastic sword and whip mechanic is unfortunately tarnished at times by the combat system's poor hitbox recognition. Several times over the course of a single playthrough, sword swings can pass harmlessly through a skeleton's head despite standing at point blank range. Similarly, the whip doesn't have any noticeable effect on enemies outside of small strike zones on their head, feet, or weapon. Skirmishes on PlayStation 4 were also negatively impacted by occasional frame rate drops that interrupted the flow of fights.

But performance issues aside, City of Brass is notable for its impressive balance between its pacing, difficulty curve, and combat systems. Each level takes only a few minutes to complete, but the time limit, the high-paced nature of all enemy encounters, and the constant wariness of traps and ambushes instills high-stakes tension to every stage. In order to combat the progressively tougher enemies, buffs, stronger weapons, and health can be bought from genies scattered throughout each level.

City of Brass' enemy difficulty and character upgrade system is tuned well enough that you will never be too over- or underpowered at any stage of the game. Treasure used to purchase new weapons and upgrades is easy enough to find, but there's an element of strategy on how to most effectively spend your coin. There are several times where you're forced to make a choice between buying an expensive stronger sword or buff, but run the risk of having not enough money for a much-needed health boost later on.

City of Brass is a good dungeon crawler, with some of its best moments and mechanics derived from its rendition of an Arabian Nights theme. While its repetitive scenery and uneven presentation are noticeable tarnishes on its sheen, the satisfying combat and well-balanced difficulty curve will keep you going back for more.

Categories: Games

It's Time To Feed In The Newest Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 15:54

The last time we saw Vampyr, we got to check out the game's version of 1918 London, which was roiling from the effects of the Spanish flu. Today, Dontnod is showing a bit more personality – or, at least, the personality conflict between Jonathan Reid's duties as a doctor and his needs as bloodthirsty vampire.

Players have to find their own balance between humanity and depravity, as they choose to help the citizenry or consume them to gain access to terrifying vampiric powers. These choices will have rippling effects throughout the world and storyline, so players should at least weigh the possible outcomes before baring their fangs.

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Vampyr is coming to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on June 5.

Categories: Games

Total War Saga: Thrones Of Britannia Review - Rule, Britannia

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 01:00

The year is 880 AD. West Seaxe has flourished across the British Isles, and you’ve kept yourself in the hotseat of the English kingdoms through years of hasty allegiances, diplomatic marriages, and bribery. However, your adopted son Ricsige cuts a swathe through your settlements in some misguided idea of rebellion before meeting his end at your sword. Before you can grieve, however, a war horn sounds to the east and a barbaric force appears on the horizon. Resigned to taking up arms against lest your citizens turn on you for being a coward, you’ve got no choice but to face the invaders head on despite your exhaustion. As the Vikings advance on your skeleton crew of soldiers, you look once more across the rolling hills of the land that you call home and utter a silent prayer for your slain son. Later, after the crows have descended on your corpse and your countrymen have been enslaved, your former allies whisper about your useless heir and conspire to carve up your remaining settlements for themselves. This is Total War Saga: Thrones of Britannia, and your kingdom will never be the same again.

One of the core systems in Total War’s latest is the idea that your kingdom’s legacy is everything, for better or for worse. This isn’t revolutionary for the series, considering previous installments were fixated on the Roman Empire and its own bag of patriarchal succession woes. But the laser focus on lineage, loyalty and responsibility are more pronounced in Thrones of Britannia. It’s nothing short of engaging when all of its gears are in motion, and making sure that those gears are well-oiled is where the challenge lies. As is usual for Total War games, you’ve got to strike the right balance between warmongering and good governance. Your success is measured best by how your townsfolk are feeling, and they react organically to your decisions when you make them. If you lower taxes, they’ll undoubtedly get a boost to their satisfaction. If you’re not zealous enough, or too zealous for too long, their thirst for conflict will decline. If multiple things go wrong at once, you’ll potentially face a peasant uprising just as you’re knee-deep in a Viking-slaying sojourn.

Depending on the faction that you’ve chosen to play as, you’ll also have a number of other competing concerns vying for your attention, along with a corresponding cultural perk. Each cultural faction (there are five, each with two subsets) has its own way of charting the rise or fall of your empire, and they’re all distinctly different. For example, if you’re playing as the Welsh, protecting your culture will be the key factor to watch. If you’re walking on the wild side and playing as the Vikings, then it’s a matter of making sure that lesser kingdoms recognize your military accomplishments via lavish tributes. Keeping those respective meters high for your chosen faction will lead to positive increases in universal metrics like loyalty or even the melee abilities of your units. The differences between the cultures feel much more than skin-deep when these systems come into play, and they each guarantee a unique experience which incentivizes players to try their hand at other factions once they’ve tasted success.

These integral bits and bobs are also affected by the actions of your generals and governors, and Thrones of Britannia does its best to give you the tools you need to be politically savvy. Your henchmen are important, but acquiring them is now a precise science. Unlike the chance acquisition of previous titles, you get to place a follower into someone’s retinue when they level up. These peons assist you with improving specific empire metrics. If you’re struggling to feed your troops, perhaps give a governor a well-trained forager. If you’re looking to crack skulls in battle, then assign a Champion to a general for a little more steel. However, it's hard to keep your loyal subjects truly happy even if you make sure that they’re prepared for anything that the Isles may throw their way. Why? Well, they’re only human, and humans get greedy.

The aforementioned cautionary tale of Ricsige the Overambitious is just one of the many vipers in your kingdom’s nest that the game can throw at you. If your inner circle are too good at their jobs, their influence may eclipse your own and lead to some nasty confrontations if you don’t use espionage to discredit them in front of the populous. If you let them get too unhappy, then their loyalty suffers and they’ll make off with an army if you fail to placate them. Thankfully, the game gives you choices: You can secure loyalty through bribes, torture, or by doing what any good King would do, giving them estates. If things are looking particularly dire, you can even declare a new heir, though it pays to be cautious about the riff-raff that you’re letting into the royal bloodline. Managing the expectations of your inner circle is a balancing game that has surprising depth considering the immediacy with which your kingdom bears the brunt of your choices. It’s a credit to Creative Assembly that granting titles and destroying marriages never feels like busy work no matter how big your posse gets.

If you thought that your sons would be tough to manage, then your vassal states and potential enemies are an even bigger headache. While there’s no need to negotiate over imports and exports anymore, you still have to do your bit in ensuring good neighborly relations. You can suggest peace treaties, broker mutual military access, and even marry off an argumentative maiden to a frosty sovereign to appease them. You can also just as easily put an end to a friendship; each faction will react in either a positive or negative way to what you may see as a minor act (i.e. walking through someone else’s forest), and things can quickly turn into a diplomatic minefield. End up making a wrong choice and breaking an alliance? You’re signing yourself up for a beating from the very same monarchs that you kicked to the curb. While it can sometimes feel like you’re being pigeon-holed into specific diplomatic relationships depending on your story missions, the general freedom that you get to flip the bird at petty rulers adds a welcome touch of brevity to the proceedings.

For those who are chomping at the bit for combat, this sort of confrontation probably sounds more like a blessing than an indictment. Thankfully, Thrones of Britannia maintains the series' satisfying war mechanics. Formations for your units make their comeback in Thrones of Britannia, so if you sloughed through Warhammer and Warhammer II wanting the micro-play of the early Total War games, you’re in luck. The loop is conceptually familiar even to the uninitiated: you line your men up, point them at the enemy, and send them to meet either early deaths or victory spoils. Some factions have a leg-up on others at different points of the game, but the usual suspects of cavalry, ranged infantry, and sword-wielders populate the majority of your ranks.

Every location is rendered in great detail, even though the game relies on an aged engine. The camera’s range here is welcome; you can view the action from the top down or you can get up close and personal with the carnage. AI enemies respond reasonably intelligently to the actions of your troops--this isn’t a case where they throw themselves against your pointy weapons until they stop moving. However, there are some instances of the AI becoming prematurely spooked by aggression, and their defensive maneuvers of hiding behind trees and scattering unprompted can feel repetitive after consecutive skirmishes. Despite that, the mechanics around preparing for sieges and the economic minigame of raising your armies pad out the combat experience well as a whole, even if other elements of the game are more abrupt.

One of those such elements is the act of seeking victory itself. There are Short Victories and Long Victories, and they encompass the full gamut of empire metrics: you can win by getting really famous, controlling a certain portion of the map, or simply by sticking around long enough to give the Viking horde what for. Getting a Short Victory can sometimes feel like an accident; a win is in sight if you manage to inherit a foreign landmass, and this can happen through no effort of your own if your chosen target is unlucky enough to incur the wrath of someone stronger. However, the factions all have their own starting difficulty indication that appears to be mostly accurate, so it’s easy to see where you should jump in if you have any doubts about whether you’ll be sufficiently challenged.

Once you’ve gained a victory, the forward momentum of the game seems to slow. While you may previously have been fed missions to move events along, your trusty advisor seems happy to largely occupy the back seat of your chariot while you tramp around Britain looking for people to stick swords into. If you’re lucky enough to have fallen into multiple win conditions, you’ll likely find it hard to motivate yourself to keep going; the AI may not be strong enough to keep up. On the other hand, it’s just as easy to taste only defeat in a playthrough, as the AI is quick to bare its teeth and to close in on weak or unguarded settlements. Regardless, it’s prudent to not take victory for granted: a decisive win could spell an exhausted army ripe for the routing before an in-game year passes.

Thrones of Britannia is an exciting experience despite the cuts to integral components of the Total War series, such as city planning hinging on military needs, specific building customization, and expanded intrigue options. But this has given Creative Assembly room to focus on enhancing parts of the strategy experience that aren’t quite as impenetrable to newcomers, and to allow the series to return to some of the beloved parts of previous historical games to balance out its newer, slimmer form. While there are minor issues with AI, and pacing suffers when you’ve comfortably gotten the upper hand, this is still a worthy and engaging contribution to the Total War stable that has successfully taken its cues from history’s winners and losers alike.

Categories: Games

Breaking Down John Marston's Return And More Details In The Latest Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 17:43

Rockstar just rolled into town with the latest Red Dead Redemption II trailer, and it's packed to the brim with an information overload that our Red Dead fanatics have been working all morning to unpack. Here are the biggest takeaways from Rockstar's latest glimpse into its return to the Old West.

Familiar Faces Everywhere
The last two trailers showcased mostly new faces. This one served as a reunion with some of our favorite characters from the original game, including freshly scarred John Marston and a woman we're 99.9 percent sure is Abigail. It looks like Uncle shows up as well, sitting around the campfire during story time. You can peek at a younger Javier Escuella in some scenes as well. However, the most interesting cameo has to be a fellow who looks a lot like a younger not-so-scummy-yet Edgar Ross, standing off in the background, complete with a mustache and bowler hat. There's no sign of his trademark cigar, though.

Dutch's Gang Takes Center Stage
The history of John's time with Dutch's gang wasn't just some background history in the original game, but also the impetus for everything that happens in Red Dead Redemption, with John and the rest of his former crew trying to escape the sins of the old days. It looks we'll find out just what those sins are and how new protagonist Arthur Morgan fits into the whole thing, per a plot synopsis Rockstar released alongside the new trailer:

America, 1899. The end of the wild west era has begun as lawmen hunt down the last remaining outlaw gangs. Those who will not surrender or succumb are killed.

After a robbery goes badly wrong in the western town of Blackwater, Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang are forced to flee. With federal agents and the best bounty hunters in the nation massing on their heels, the gang must rob, steal and fight their way across the rugged heartland of America in order to survive. As deepening internal divisions threaten to tear the gang apart, Arthur must make a choice between his own ideals and loyalty to the gang who raised him.

From the creators of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an epic tale of life in America at the dawn of the modern age.

You can see what we presume is the full size of the gang in the shot above. One thing we do know is that at the start of RDR, the only gang members left were John, Abigail, Dutch, Bill Williamson, and Javier Escuella. Expect to see the herd thin dramatically in this game. 

Not So Back To The Future
During the last breakdown we did, we latched on to several clues that suggested Red Dead Redemption II might be hopping along the timeline, taking place in the days of Dutch's gang as well as serving as an epilogue of the original game. Nothing in the new trailer suggests that theory holds. On the contrary, this collection of scenes pushes back against that. The woman we theorized could be Bonnie McFarlane last time is probably not her after all, given there are scenes in the trailer where she's running with Dutch and crew.

A Glimpse At The New Antagonist
Though Edgar Ross shows up in Red Dead II, it appears the rival this go-round is an unnamed dude who's a cross between a fire-and-brimstone preacher and the kind of villain you'd see in an Indiana Jones flick, with Ross possibly working under him. We have no idea what his particular beef with Dutch's crew is yet, but he definitely has anger issues.

A Bigger City?
We see Blackwater in the trailer, but we also saw glimpses of a burgeoning, turn of the century city of brick and stone featuring the kinds of amusements (like the theater shown above) that not even Blackwater featured in Red Dead Redemption. We're excited to learn more about this new town, which is hopefully filled with activities for you to enjoy. We also saw another glimpse of small-town life in the trailer, which looked much more vibrant than the hamlets of the original. Expect to see NPC activities more on par (or even surpassing) those in GTA V.

Gameplay Hints
The trailer showed Arthur chasing to break in a wild horse, a stagecoach hijacking, another robbery, and folks getting down and dirty with their fists. Chances are these are the kinds of gameplay sequences you can expect to play in RDR II. 

The Technology Looks Amazing
Rockstar's always pushing the boundaries when it comes to tech (remember how incredible Grand Theft Auto V looked and ran on aging last-generation hardware?). It looks like Red Dead Redemption II is another step forward for the developer's output in that regard, with impressive fire particle effects, improved horse animations, great weapon details (you can even see the pistol barrel rotate while firing), and awe-inspiring environments and skyboxes.

For more on Red Dead Redemption 2, be sure to check out our breakdown of the previous trailer here.

Categories: Games

Watch The Third Red Dead Redemption II Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 05/02/2018 - 16:00

We've dissected and analyzed the previous two Red Dead Redemption II trailers to extract as much information as possible and formulate theories about the return of the van der Linde gang and potential new features coming to the game. Seven months after the last teaser, Rockstar Games has dropped another slice of gameplay footage to fuel our insatiable thirst for information about the upcoming open-world western. 

You can watch the trailer here:

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Red Dead Redemption II is still slated to release on October 28 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. 

Categories: Games

Nintendo Labo Review: Variety Kit And Robot Kit

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 16:00

It's very easy to dismiss Nintendo's new line of Labo build-and-play toys as merely cardboard. For adults especially, building the Variety Kit's five toys--or the Robot Kit's suit--and playing their simple games might feel like a short-lived novelty. But there's a surprising amount of depth to what you can do with the kit's stack of cardboard sheets and cutesy software. It's a remarkable educational tool and an opportunity to see your creations come to life, and that's something very special, even if the games themselves don't stand out.

The Variety Kit comes with five different Toy-Cons to build and then play with: the RC car, the fishing rod, the house, the motorbike, and the piano. In that order, the process of building them gradually increases in difficulty, with the more complicated projects expanding on the concepts introduced in the easier ones. The RC car takes around 10 minutes to build and is effectively a practice run, showing you the importance of precise assembly and how to work with cardboard without bending it in weird places. (The cardboard itself is pretty sturdy if you're reasonably careful with it.)

After the "make" portion, you move on to "play." The games are all relatively straightforward; drive the RC car, fish with the fishing rod, play piano using the piano. It's more rewarding to see how the cardboard translates to the software than it is to play any of the games at length, though they're deeper than they look at first glance. Even the most basic one, the RC car, has a self-driving function and a multiplayer battle mode; in the motorbike's game, you can design your own tracks just by moving a Joy-Con through the air. The least interesting, at least from an adult's perspective, is the house--the game there is to experiment with three insertable parts and see what kinds of rooms and mini-games they can unlock when in different combinations.

The piano is the most impressive component of the Variety Kit, with a regular play mode and a surprisingly deep studio mode. It only has 13 keys, but there's a lever on the side that changes the octave, giving you access to a wider range of notes. You can layer recordings for more sophisticated songs, change the envelope and reverb of the notes before you record, and insert cards of different shapes into the top of the piano to change the waveform patterns. You can also create drum beats (composed of bass drum, snare, hi-hat, and cymbal sounds) using a kind of punch card that goes in the waveform card slot; the infrared camera in the Joy-Con detects the shape of the card and then uploads the card's "data" into the studio UI.

Not much of this is apparent when you first start playing the piano, though. A lot of the depth can be found in "discover" mode, where three cheeky characters walk you through the technology behind each Toy-Con, any extra things you can make or do with them, and how the games work. Like with the building process, a lot of the enjoyment comes from learning how each of the Toy-Cons works and understanding why you had to make them a certain way. For kids in particular, there are straightforward explanations of abstract physics concepts that benefit from having the Toy-Cons as hands-on aids. There are also plenty of resources on how to fix the Toy-Cons, including how to repair bent or ripped cardboard (which is good for all ages).

In addition to the Variety Kit, there's also a separate Robot Kit available. Instead of five different Toy-Cons, you build one large one: a robot "suit." The basic suit consists of a visor and a backpack with pulley mechanisms for each of your hands and feet that control the in-game robot. The visor part utilizes the left Joy-Con's gyroscope, while the backpack works using the right Joy-Con's infrared camera and reflective tape. It's a complex project that can take three or four hours to build, but the instructions are as easy to follow as they are in the Variety Kit, and it's broken up into eight steps so you can pace yourself.

The Robot Kit's games are especially geared toward children's imaginative play. The main attraction is a destroy-the-city mode, in which you punch buildings to dust and rack up points. In addition to that, there's a versus mode where two robots can battle and a "studio" mode where you can assign different sounds to the robot's limbs and step and punch your way to a beat. You can also customize your in-game robot and unlock better abilities in a challenge mode. These games do show the different applications of the Toy-Con you've built, but they're not likely to grab you for very long unless pretending to be a robot is your jam. Like in the Variety Kit, the Robot Kit's discover mode is the place to learn more.

In both the Variety and Robot Kits, the secret endgame is the Toy-Con Garage, a mode where you can program your own games using if-then statements. You can pick an input, like "if the Joy-Con is face-up," and connect it to an output, like "vibrate," by dragging a line between them on the touchscreen. Depending on how many rules you weave into your program, you can make some decently complex games as well as mod the Toy-Cons you already made. It's both a great learning tool at its most basic level and an opportunity to challenge yourself and apply everything you've learned so far.

It's nice to have something to tinker with long after building the Toy-Cons, and that's mainly because the official games are more like demos to show you how everything works. The only one likely to keep your attention for any length of time is the piano; everything else is a jumping off point, and you're limited by how much it inspires you to create. And that's just what Labo is at the moment: a great tool for creation, rather than for playing.

Categories: Games

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review - A Blast From The Past

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 14:00

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze arrives on Switch in great shape after four years confined to Wii U, and it's a treat to revisit. It's a straightforward platformer packed with delightful moments, but a steady stream of peril ensures that any fun you're having is underscored by ever-present tension. It doesn't have as much added content as other Wii U-to-Switch ports, but even so, Tropical Freeze is an easy game to recommend.

Retro Studios' second Donkey Kong Country game doesn't deviate too far from the series' familiar foundation. It presents you with six worlds and a handful of levels in each, as well as a bunch of optional challenges that considerably ramp up the difficulty if you're in the mood. You can attempt to beat stages as Donkey Kong alone, but you can also team up with his fellow Kongs: Dixie, Diddy, and Cranky. Riding on DK's back, each sidekick offers a slight advantage that he wouldn't have on his own; Dixie can extend the length and height of jumps, Diddy can hover in place, and Cranky can bounce off of his cane to attack enemies. There's also the option to play with a friend controlling one of the secondary Kongs independently from you. Surprisingly, the coordination required to find success as a pair can make things more difficult than playing alone, despite the extra set of hands.

Regardless of how you play, the Kongs' abilities are dutifully tested by Tropical Freeze's tightly orchestrated gauntlets of obstacles and enemies. There's little room for hesitation, and the emphasis on commitment is one of many factors that makes Tropical Freeze's charming cartoon world so stressful. More often than you'd expect, platforms and structures transform on the fly, and you more or less have to rely on instincts when making blind jumps. Tropical Freeze thrives on keeping you at the edge, where death-defying performances feel like the norm. There's practically always a twist or gimmick waiting to upend your expectations and test your reflexes.

With enough memorization and muscle memory, you shouldn't have too much difficulty clearing the game's main path in less than ten hours. You can, however, dial up the challenge and longevity quite a bit by making it your goal to find the many collectables scattered throughout each level. There are coins that you can collect to purchase single-use items, but the real hidden prizes are the puzzle pieces and K, O, N, and G letters in every stage--one of the consumable items is built explicitly to help you find them, for example. Finding these will help you unlock bonus content, including extra-difficult stages in each world. These items are often situated in difficult-to-reach corners of levels, but they can also be obscured by environmental structures that you have to move, by either obvious or cleverly disguised means.

Hunting for hidden items is usually manageable in stages where you control the overall pace. However, Tropical Freeze has many levels that scroll automatically, say, with you outrunning a lava flow, flying on the back of a rocket, or tumbling down bumpy tracks in a rickety mine cart. These can be such exacting challenges that you will most likely be too concerned with staying alive to discern a means of collecting that seemingly out-of-reach item that you so often zoom past. Of course, once you have the confidence and knowledge under your sleeve to replay a level without trepidation, the challenge of pushing yourself further than before (in different ways) makes repeat playthroughs just as exciting as the first time around.

The primary addition to Tropical Freeze for Switch is the addition of Funky Kong, a surfer who has a far easier time of things than his relatives. Funky comes with his own mode, and the rule changes therein are significant. Where spikes instantly hurt everyone else, Funky can land on them without taking damage. He can also double jump, swim underwater indefinitely without an air supply, and comes with more than double the health of DK. The only thing he lacks is the ability to team up with others when playing alone, but with all the other advantages, you won't exactly miss them.

Playing as Funky Kong is essentially playing Tropical Freeze on easy mode, but it is also a nice treat if you want to revisit the game under a new lens. Funky is fast and can fly through levels without much hesitation on your part. While there's no doubt plenty of opportunity to speedrun the game as DK, for the less talented or ambitious, Funky can give you a taste of the fast life with little fuss or frustration. It's not a game changing addition, but it's one that mixes up the feel of play in an immediately enjoyable way.

Finally, it's worth noting that Tropical Freeze looks great and plays smoothly on Switch. Docked, the game is beautiful at 60 frames per second at 1080p (it ran at 720p on Wii U), with the vibrantly colored and expressively animated world looking better than ever. Surprisingly (as reported by Eurogamer) Tropical Freeze runs at a sub-720p resolution when played handheld. Truth be told, the downgrade isn't that apparent, likely an effect of the Switch's relatively small screen. Regardless, playing handheld on Switch is a significant improvement from streaming it to the GamePad's 480p screen from your Wii U, leaving no question that this is the definitive version.

Tropical Freeze isn't a heavy-hitter from Nintendo in the same way Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey are, but it's a fantastic platformer that's bursting with creativity and expertly designed challenges. It's tuned just right--always tough but rarely frustrating--to ensure that even the most common moments feel great. If you missed out when the game first debuted back in 2014, give it a shot today. It easily stands the test of time.

Categories: Games

Spending A Full Day In The Apocalypse

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 08:02

Zombie games feel almost a dime-a-dozen over the last decade. Whether you're talking Valve's methodical co-op shooter franchise Left 4 Dead or Capcom's over-the-top gore-fest Dead Rising, the full spectrum feels covered. When it launched in 2013, State of Decay stood out for allowing players to manage a community while telling unique narratives through the procedural community they look after. State of Decay 2 looks to not only expand on the formula, but apply myriad lessons learned to deliver a much better experience.

Much like the first game, State of Decay 2 puts you in charge of a community struggling to survive the zombie apocalypse. You're given one main objective: lead your colony to a state of stability and prosperity. How you achieve that long-term goal is up to you. Community members come to you with things they want to accomplish. These tasks range from colony-altering missions like clearing a new safe house, to simple morale boosters like helping one of your community members track down his old bandmates to recover the "greatest song ever written."

Between those requests, you must work to meet their basic needs. A large part of the overarching gameplay loop is scavenging for supplies. The more people in your community, the faster you chew through resources; I'd often get back with a rucksack of food only to notice we're running low on medicine or fuel.

You have multiple characters within your community that you can swap to. Each character has his or her own set of stats and attributes, which can be improved by using those skills more. For instance, if you want to improve someone's gun handling, have them shoot more. Want to improve their stamina? Sprint with that character.

The controls are improved over the first game, with more solid gunplay and more intuitive melee combat. The finicky movement of the first game is also fixed. Even with these upgrades, permadeath mechanics loom, meaning one wrong move could cost you a cherished community member.

I witness this firsthand when a massive Juggernaut zombie stops the truck I'm driving dead in its tracks. I flee on foot, but it charges my character and tears her apart, ending the supply run in tragedy. Back at the base, characters reflect on their time with the now-deceased person. Morale is low, so I try to improve it by fulfilling requests of the remaining survivors.

Thanks to an improved base screen, I have much more insight into how to fix morale in my base. I notice two characters want a watchtower, while another wants a garden. I build both of those, which improves our defense and food production, as well as our group's happiness.

Once I strike a nice balance, I set out to destroy nearby Plague Hearts, a new threat in State of Decay 2. These giant, stationary vessels take up residence in buildings and mutate nearby zombies. Clearing these nests makes the area safer, but your cohorts can contract blood plague, so you need to be cautious.

As I recruit more members into my community, one longtime colonist suggests we find a bigger home. After checking out a couple duds, we find the perfect combination of space and defense atop a hill. Using the intuitive base upgrade screen, I tweak it to accommodate our needs: destroy the unneeded barracks, set up a fighting gym, build an upgraded infirmary and a new garden. Morale skyrockets as everyone acclimates to their new home. Unfortunately, my new location is across the map, so we must begin clearing out nests and scouting for supplies all over again.

State of Decay 2 also adds cooperative play for up to four people. I played alongside a couple of fellow survivors as we cleared out nearby infestations and took down Plague Hearts. While you can enlist an NPC follower from your community in single-player mode, co-op gives you one major bonus: the ability to bring multiple vehicles to scavenge the region. A little extra trunk space goes a long way when your community has multiple needs. Plus, it always helps to have actual humans watching your back, especially when there's no friendly fire to worry about.

Co-op players are tethered, but they can venture in different directions to an extent. However, each building has unique crates for each player, so it makes sense to stick together. While you're ultimately contributing to the host's community during the session, non-host players can bring items back to their games.

With improved controls, added co-op play, and better user-interface offerings, State of Decay 2 keeps the great concept of the first game while improving nearly every aspect around it. While some technical hiccups presented themselves in this pre-release build, State of Decay 2 already feels more stable than its predecessor at launch. I look forward to seeing the full extent of Undead Labs' realized vision on May 22.

To see State of Decay 2 in action, check out our episode of New Gameplay Today.

Categories: Games

Battletech Review: Slow And Steady

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 05/01/2018 - 03:01

Enjoying Battletech takes time and patience. Born from the decades-old tabletop game of the same name (which also gave birth to the Mechwarrior series of games), the Harebrained Schemes version of Battletech places the universe into the genre most suitable to its origin: turn-based tactical strategy. It's a successful endeavor in that playing Battletech very much feels like playing a complex board game, both for better and worse. There are deep systems to be found in its meaningful mech customization, detailed combat scenarios, and enjoyable fantasy of running an interplanetary mercenary outfit. But reaching the point of thoroughly enjoying Battletech requires the willingness to weather its steep learning curve and laborious pace, which can sometimes veer into excruciating territory.

Individual missions in Battletech are protracted, plodding conflicts, averaging around 45 minutes in length. You command a group of four battlemechs, each piloted by unique and specialized pilots, with the goal of either blowing something up or keeping something safe against outnumbering forces composed of hostile mechs and vehicles of warfare. The enormous mechs of this universe are the lumbering, industrial behemoth kind, bulky tanks with legs characterized by ugly chassis and weapons overtly fused to their limbs. They are graceless, unwieldy machines, and Battletech doesn't hesitate in belaboring their nature as they slowly trudge through the game's vast, sprawling maps like pieces on a military sand table.

Observing a unit's actions play out can be a quite a process. You'll watch them steadily stomp to a point on the topological grid-based terrain, leisurely rotate their torsos to their designated angle, wait for their weapons to spin up, watch the weapons fire, and wait again for a few moments as the damage report comes in to assess the aftermath. Mech animation speed aside, there are often pauses during this string of actions that feel unnecessarily egregious, and given the number of turns that need to be played out, long missions have the capacity to feel never-ending. There are more exasperating examples, too--during escort missions you'll find yourself watching up to four autonomous convoy vehicles taking turns to crawl through the map, slowly and one at a time, and the display is nothing short of agonizing. At the time of writing, there is a debug mode you can use to help artificially alter speed, but these are not officially endorsed options. By default, Battletech debilitating pace, combined with the game's lacking tutorials, firm difficulty, complicated UI, and persistent technical stammers mean the experience of Battletech's early hours can be tough to brave.

But it's worth it. Growing acclimated to Battletech's attrition-focused warfare and making enough of your own critical mistakes to get a handle on its systems feels liberating, when it eventually happens. Being able to parse initially obtuse information allows you to internalize and appreciate the suite of mechanical nuances and helps you recognize the game's detailed and hard-nosed approach to strategy. Like any great tactical game, each decision requires multi-faceted risk analysis for the best possible outcome. But the joy of good choices in Battletech doesn't come from bombastic maneuvers where your team precisely eliminates a whole enemy squad without a scratch, as it might in XCOM or Into the Breach--that's an impossible scenario here. Being truly successful in Battletech relies on being prepared to get into scrappy, aggressive fighting, and coming to terms with what an acceptable loss might be to you at the time, whether that's an objective, a limb, or the lives of multiple pilots.

With only four mechs to eliminate a larger number of adversaries in a turn-based ruleset, with no allowances for mid-combat repair, learning how to maneuver your mechs in order to endure a reasonable amount of damage becomes one of the most gripping aspects of decision making--how far do you push yourself to take on enormous odds? On the battlefield, this might mean something as simple as studying the impressively varied terrain in each map and finding the most advantageous spot to hunker down, or using buildings, forests, and mountains as cover during an advance. But on a more advanced and necessarily specific level, it might mean rotating your mech to present a fully-armored side to an attacking foe and obscure a side already damaged. Taking additional damage to a body part stripped of armor can result in structural damage or loss of limb, requiring replacement and repairs at significant cost, on top of running an increased risk of having your mech pilot permanently killed.

Similar considerations are always on your mind when you're on the offensive. You might decide to temporarily switch off some of your weapons when attacking to avoid overheating your mech, which can cause immediate, all-over internal damage. One of your mechs might be out of ammo but has the option of using its jets to leap off a mountain and crash onto an enemy below to knock it down--but can you afford the risk of breaking both your legs and being floored yourself?

With a complete understanding of how each unit can affect another at different locations, with various skills, weapons, and modifiers at play, your perception of unfolding battles becomes one of utter fascination at the minor details and outcomes of each strike. Seeing the battlefield in a different way in order to devise your own alternative approaches and formulating creative backup plans are things that begin to occupy your thoughts, instead of the tempo. Conflicts are still lengthy, and some drawn-out maneuvers still feel unnecessary, but with the time devoted to each turn, you start to use it to observe and internalize what exactly is happening and why. Pivotal turning points in a battle can be narrowed down to the exact action, which can become tactical learnings for future use. There are still a few random elements that can occur, attributed to the probabilities that drive attack calculations--lucky headshots that instantly injure your pilot regardless of armor durability are the prime unfair example--but regardless, the increased focus and time spent on each distinct action means that the anxious feelings that come with even the most trivial of anticipated hits and misses are amplified tenfold.

Battletech also gives you an interesting ability used to preserve your squad--when a mission becomes overwhelming and dead pilots are almost certain, you can choose to immediately withdraw from a mission, at the cost of sullying your reputation with the factions that hired you and surrendering your paycheck. The latter is an especially vital consideration, because money quickly becomes a huge concern in Battletech's campaign and begins to affect all your decisions, both on and off the battlefield.

The dynamic between the tactical battles and logistical management means almost every decision you make feels like it has rippling, tangible consequences elsewhere. The campaign sees your custom character rise to the leadership of a mercenary company which has accrued an enormous debt, with monthly repayments to meet every month. Naturally, everything costs money, from post-mission repairs, mech upkeep, pilot salaries, ship upgrades and even travel costs--this is a game about business management as much as it is about commanding a squad. Accepting missions allows you to negotiate a contract to determine what your fee should be in relation to your post-battle salvage rights (valuable for maintaining and upgrading your mech configurations as well as unlocking new models) and faction reputation, which opens up more lucrative opportunities. Request too little money on a mission you take carelessly, and the cost of mission-ready repairs afterward might send you into bankruptcy. Without enough salvage and spare cash to play around with, you're impeded in your ability to play with one of the most vital and enjoyable parts of Battletech: building and customizing individual mechs to improve the combat capabilities of your squad.

There are close to 40 different models of stock mechs, varying in tonnage and intended purposes. But the joy of spending time in the mech bay is experimenting with different configurations using the parts you have on hand. Every alteration you make on a mech is at the sacrifice of something else--you can carry more weapons and ammo at the expense of dropping things like heatsinks and additional armor plating, for example. Taking the time to fine-tune that balance and seeing your decisions translate into a more efficient unit on the battlefield feels exceptionally worthwhile.

The lore and epic narratives of the Battletech universe are as important as the mechs themselves, and this game puts a heavy emphasis on them. The main plot begins with the coup of the head of a parliamentary monarchy--your custom character's childhood friend--and continues as you regroup years later to rally forces and take back the throne. The recorded details of the fictional history and politics between factions are unsurprisingly scrupulous--glossary tooltips for universe-specific concepts litter the game's text. But there are enough broad strokes and familiar feudal parallels to enjoy it at face value, and the comprehensive presentation--well-written and diverse characters, beautiful 2D cutscenes, inspired soundtrack, crunchy sound design and convincing radio chatter--do more than enough to completely sell this brand of mecha fantasy.

Battletech is a game that selfishly takes its time to be meticulous in every respect, and pushing through the density and idiosyncrasies of its many, slow-moving parts can be tough. But if you have the will to decipher it, albeit, at a deliberate and punishingly plodding pace, you can find yourself completely engrossed in its kinetic clashes. Battletech's intricate components ultimately foster a fascinating wealth of nuanced systems that build a uniquely strenuous, detailed, and thoroughly rewarding tactical strategy game.

Categories: Games

The Paint-Splattering Racing Game Arrives Next Month

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 04/28/2018 - 23:30

Trailblazers, an upcoming multiplayer racer from developer Supergonk, has its own unique twist. As you race toward the finish line, you also attempt to splatter the track with more ink than other players.

As our news editor Imran Khan pointed out in his best indies of PAX East round-up, Trailblazers is as if you combined Wipeout and Splatoon. At the end of a race, points are allotted towards not just who was quickest, but who covered most of the track with ink. Every lap, however, your splatters could get covered up by your opponents. You play in teams of 3v3.

Supergonk recently released a new trailer, which you can view below.

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Trailblazers releases May 8 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

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