Games

Actraiser Renaissance | New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 09/24/2021 - 23:12

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Publisher: Square Enix Release: September 23, 2021 Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC, iOS, Android

Actraiser is back! The ancient and somewhat revered SNES title is back on PlayStation 4, Switch, and PC, with a surprise drop yesterday. Actraiser Renaissance is a remaster, and includes a ton of significant changes to the original game, though you can see the classic shine through fairly easily. A full-on graphical revamp, a rearranged and remastered soundtrack, and more can’t be missed, but there are actually a number of big changes to gameplay and structure as well.

First, for those not in the know, Actraiser is essentially two completely different games rolled into a single package, which probably contributed to its renown back in the day. On one hand, the player must head through Castlevania-esque side-scrolling segments with some platforming and big bosses. On the other hand, the player must also participate in city building segments playing as a god, in a sort of Populous-style game where city population, defenses, and more must be managed. Having a bad day? Not only do you zing little demons with your bow, but you can also transform the land and call down thunder, earthquakes, wind, and more with your deity powers. In Renaissance, this aspect of the game has been significantly changed and modified and has a lot more going on than in the original game – in fact, it’s something of a full-fledged tower defense sim now, including heroes that you can control and move around the map, acting as mobile ultra-towers. Is this good? Is Actraiser still worth playing today?

Join the Game Informer crew as they walk you through this surprise remaster, reminiscing about the cart of old and the changes found in Actraiser Renaissance in this episode of New Gameplay Today!

Categories: Games

Don’t Be Afraid Of Voice Of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars If You Don’t Like Card Games

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 09/24/2021 - 20:22

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix Release: October 28, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

Yes, the new Yoko Taro joint is, in fact, completely fueled by cards. The characters are represented by cards. The map and all locations are represented by cards. Dialogue happens via cards. In fact, damn near everything in the entire game is a card. However, even if you don’t like games like Magic: The Gathering, Hearthstone, Legends of Runeterra, or Yu-Gi-Oh!, you may want to check out Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars anyway. Thanks to a demo that landed on the Switch yesterday, we know that the game is actually pretty much a standard turn-based JRPG that simply uses cards and tabletop as an aesthetic choice, not as a major gameplay mechanic. 

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Sure, there’s still a bit of dice-rolling, and there is an actual card-based mini-game to partake in, but the game itself is extremely rooted in the turn-based RPGs of old. So, if your thing is more Final Fantasy IV or Dragon Quest, this might be a slam dunk when it arrives on October 28.

The card aesthetic is pretty cool on top, providing a rather unique visual twist on gearing up, leaving town, and grinding experience points while you exploit enemy weaknesses. Undead skeleton? Probably weak to holy magic. New sword? Equip it to your big and beefy guy. Magic staff? You can see where this is going. But the gameplay itself? It could probably entirely be represented without a single card, from what we saw in the demo. 

Just think of it as an interesting way to experience a rather classic game genre. It’s nothing like any of the major trading card games, and even nothing like the new generation of deckbuilding fare like Slay the Spire or Monster Train. It’s just a way to make a traditional JRPG stand out and look cool!

Have you tried the demo? What did you think? The release date is only about a month away, so we won’t have to wait long to dive into the full game.

Categories: Games

Diablo II: Resurrected Assassin Class | New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 09/23/2021 - 16:00

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Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Release: September 23, 2021 Rating: Mature Platform: PC

Diablo II is coming back to the current and last generation of consoles and PC today. With its release comes a return to one of the seminal dungeon-crawling experiences. While players will finally be getting the chance to play the Activision Blizzard project, we got to play Diablo II: Resurrected early.

Join John Carson and Alex Stadnik on this episode of New Gameplay Today, where the two editors break down their time playing the return to the classic ARPG and talk about how the game has aged since its original release 21 years ago. On top of our hands-on impression, we're also showing off new footage featuring the Assassin class in all its quick-hitting glory.

It is important to keep in mind what is going on within Activision Blizzard at this time regarding ongoing allegations about the work culture. The ongoing lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) against the company is over reported toxic workplace culture. The bulk of the suit focuses on "violations of the state's civil rights and equal pay laws," specifically regarding the treatment of women and other marginalized groups. To learn more about the proceedings thus far, including details listed in the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, please check out our previous coverage here.

Fans looking forward to Diablo II: Resurrected are in luck as the game releases today for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC and can check out the game's cinematic trailer here. Thanks for watching, and if you're enjoying our preview videos, be sure to check out our recent looks at Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, Eastward, and Far Cry 6.

For those looking to stay up to date with the latest developments surrounding the Activision Blizzard lawsuit, we have an article outlining the SEC's recent announcement of its investigation into the publishing giant.

Categories: Games

Death Stranding Director's Cut Review – The Limits Of The Dead

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:41

Just like learning how to bake bread or mastering a language, going back to Death Stranding was one of those things I had always intended to do during lockdown, but never did. Returning to a gray, hazy, hostile world of death and human misery just seemed like the worst possible choice for living through a real-world pandemic. I should never have hesitated. In the face of all of Death Stranding's violence, its dead things, its surreal horror, and the bleakest, salted-earth portrayal of the post-apocalypse, there has always been this strong mote of hope and love and bonding and connection that's never been more necessary. If nothing else, Death Stranding: Director's Cut is the best excuse to return to the valley of the shadow of death, and find the grim beauty waiting there. What the new features and content bring to the table is simply making that return easier and more welcoming than ever.

Death Stranding was originally released for the PlayStation 4 in November 2019. In our original review, which you can read here in full, Kallie Plagge awarded it a 9/10, saying that "Death Stranding is a hard game to absorb. There are many intertwining threads to its plot, and silly names, corny moments, and heavy exposition belie an otherwise very simple message. That comes through much more clearly in the game's more mundane moments, when you find a desperately-needed ladder left behind by another player or receive a letter from an NPC thanking you for your efforts. It's positive without ignoring pain; in fact, it argues in both its story and its gameplay that adversity itself is what makes things worth doing and life worth living. It's a game that requires patience, compassion, and love, and it's also one we really need right now."

More to the point, however, Director's Cut is a bit of a misnomer. Despite the appeal of an auteur like Kojima taking a more proactive approach, tweaking dialogue and text files or adding scenes, nothing terribly germane to the plot, story, character development, or the way the world is presented has been messed with here. This is still largely the same game it was in 2019: a post-apocalyptic odyssey to reconnect the disparate cities of America at all costs, with our taciturn, faithless hero, Sam Porter-Bridges, facing the literal and metaphorical ghosts of America along the way. That's just the very tip of an expansive iceberg of a plot that toys around with metaphysics, the role of politics in our lives, the inherent nihilism of fundamentalist thinking, the social contract deteriorating, and lots more. All this is held up by a primary gameplay loop that has you playing postman to the entire country--mostly on foot--and across varied, melancholy-inducing terrain. Still, all of that was in the game we got two years ago, and by and large, the Director's Cut is the same kind of enhanced experience Ghost of Tsushima's Director's Cut was.

That's not a bad thing, it's just not a big thing. Newcomers and those starting from scratch will benefit the most. The Director's Cut features a much more elegant set of introductory challenges, clearer explanations of core mechanics, and some helpful bits of gear like the Support Skeleton and the new debilitating Maser Gun are available early on, taking a lot of the aggravation out of the game's first few episodes. There is an AR firing range allowing you to test out any new weaponry you get against static targets or on bots who function like the MULE enemies, which was especially helpful in letting me finally get the timing down for parrying using the Strand rope.

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Categories: Games

Chrous Looks To Reinvent The Space Shooter

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 09/23/2021 - 15:00

Publisher: Deep Silver Developer: Deep Silver Fishlabs Release: December 3, 2021 Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

Nara spent a good part of her life inside a cult called the Circle that twisted her mind and trained her to tap into a mysterious alien force called “aether.” This dark, corrupting energy allows a special few to unleash godlike powers that break all the rules of physics. Unfortunately for the Circle, the cult didn’t keep a tight enough grip on Nara’s chains; now, this skilled warrior is free of the Circle’s influence and dead set on taking them down. Armed with the most advanced starfighter in the universe, Nara’s journey takes her to some of the darkest parts of the cosmos and challenges her sanity.

Developer Fishlabs is best known for its work on the Galaxy on Fire mobile series, but publisher Deep Silver has given the studio free rein to reinvent the space shooter genre with Chorus. The open-world space combat game is full of upgrades and a few unique spins on traditional zero-g combat. Several months ago, we got a very early look at the game in action. To get a better feel for it in a more polished state, we went hands-on for the first few hours with the latest version.

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Chorus begins with Nara on the run from the Circle. To gain the upper hand, Nara steals one of the deadliest weapons in the galaxy: a sentient starcraft called Forsaken. Nara is mentally linked to Forsaken, allowing her to perform incredible flight maneuvers, such as the ability to make tight turns by drifting like a racecar. Chorus offers a solid sense of speed, which is often hard to do in games set in open space.

Chorus is one giant open world full of a range of side quests and other random encounters. Throughout her journey, Nara can upgrade Forsaken’s equipment. Each weapon is especially suited for different tasks. For example, Gatling guns have a high rate of fire but low damage output, which makes them ideal against fast-moving targets. Lasers hit hard, and their focused attacks are particularly good at disabling shields. Finally, missiles are incredibly destructive against armored opponents but are comparably slow, making them best for sluggish or stationary targets. Forsaken also has three different mod slots, useful for altering weapons stats or further customizing the ship’s performance.

Chorus’ flight controls feel good, and its variety of enemies keep the action flowing. For example, Crows are lightly-armed crafts that fall apart quickly under your crosshairs, but their speed makes them hard to hunt down, and their overwhelming numbers can leave you in a bind if you don’t thin the herd. On the other hand, Vultures are heavily armored gunships that pack a punch and deploy frontal shields that make them difficult to attack head-on. Thankfully these lumbering behemoths are easy to outmaneuver. Finally, Shade-class ships are giant dreadnoughts that continuously spit out smaller hostile ships, so you will want to destroy them quickly before they overrun you.

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Even with Forsaken at her side, Nara isn’t ready to take on the Circle. She believes she needs to reawaken her aether abilities, so she sets off in search of a series of ancient temples connected to an ominous alien race called the Faceless. After completing these temple challenges, Nara gains new aether powers that help her both in and out of combat. One ability called the Rite of the Hunt allows Nara (and Forsaken) to briefly travel through the aether, meaning she temporarily blinks out of reality and reappears somewhere else. I used this to slip past barriers or reposition myself behind enemy ships. Another aether power transforms Forsaken into a beam of light that tears through enemy ships. Yet another allows Nara to seize control of enemy ships, turning them into deadly projectiles. Fishlabs says that Forsaken can eventually grow so powerful that Nara won’t even need weapons to take down fleets of enemies.

Space shooters have a long history in the industry, stretching back to 1971’s Computer Space. However, we haven’t seen many recent releases from the genre achieve widespread appeal. We don’t know if Chorus will change that, but it brings a few fresh ideas to the table. Chorus’ open space design, tight flight mechanics, and inventive upgrades leave us hopeful for the title’s launch in December. 

Categories: Games

Sable Review - Sandy Pilgrimage

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 09/23/2021 - 14:57

The titular Sable is part of a nomadic tribe known as the Ibexii. Like every child who comes of age on the planet of Midden, Sable must leave her clan behind and embark on a rite of passage called The Gliding. This involves venturing out into the wider world on a pilgrimage to learn more about themselves, the land they inhabit, and the people that populate Midden's sun-scorched sand dunes. Like those before her, Sable is bestowed a hoverbike and a Gliding Stone before leaving, the latter of which allows her to float through the air using an energy bubble born from ancient technology. With this, the stage is set for an open-world adventure that's equal parts relaxing and engrossing.

At its core, Sable is a game about exploration, with its mechanics and overall design all feeding into this central philosophy. Upon departing the Ibexii camp for the first time, you're free to straddle your hoverbike and venture off towards any of the four corners of Sable's vast but manageably-sized map. There are quests to complete along the way that maintain some semblance of order, but this is a freeform open-world game that disregards the genre's traditional objective structure. Generally, your compass will point you in the vague direction of your current quest, while at other times you'll be given directions that encourage you to discover locations for yourself. You can set your own waypoints by using the map or by finding a vantage point and using the Navigator to mark potential points of interest, and all of these are displayed on the compass that encircles your hoverbike. Crucially, you never have to stare at a mini-map or a big objective marker as you skim inches above the sand, and this keeps your eyes planted firmly on what's in front of you.

If you're heading towards a particular location with your eyes on the horizon, you're likely to spot other distractions along the way, whether it's a plume of smoke billowing into the sky and hinting at signs of life or the battered husk of a crashed spaceship. This kind of organic discovery is often found lacking in open-world games that rely on pre-existing points of interest and maps scattered with markers, and it sets Sable apart as you chart the world yourself by venturing towards whatever catches your eye. Midden is a fascinating world to uncover, too, with small pockets of civilization nestled in between the serene desolation of its sprawling desert. There are dilapidated temples engulfed by sand, a graveyard full of gargantuan animal bones, and an eerie forest shrouded in perpetual darkness--to name just a few of the sights you'll come across throughout your travels.

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Categories: Games

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy | New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 09/22/2021 - 14:00

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Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Eidos Montreal Release: October 26, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

After over a decade of domination at the box office and even longer in the comics space, Marvel has set its sights on pairing its extensive library with premiere video game studios. The mega-brand has seen massive amounts of success in its partnerships with developers such as Insomniac Games on Marvel's Spider-Man series, and Eidos-Montréal is next up to bat with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. Join Brian Shea, Marcus Stewart, Andrew Reiner, and Alex Stadnik as they check out this beautiful new 4K footage and geek out about all things superhero.

But that's not all. Shea got to play around an hour of the new game and gives you his hands-on impressions as part of today's video. In this NGT, we're diving into the latest combat sections, including looks at the different abilities Star-Lord and his team will be able to wield and even a peek at what ship combat will be like.

We also get a taste of what kind of upgrades and perks the players will receive as they ravage their way through the galaxy. On top of that, we also get a bit of a story primer as Shea tells us what's going on with Groot, Rocket, and company and who players can expect to exchange blaster shots with when the game launches on October 26 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

Not enough Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy in your life? Fret not, as we have a considerable cover hub from earlier this year that features exclusive interviews with the dev team, a look at how Eidos-Montréal could get licensed tracks for the game, a deep-dive into the supergroup's origin stories, and so much more!

Thanks, as always, for watching! Be sure to let us know what you thought of the video in the comments below!

Categories: Games

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy Preview – Hands-On With The Interstellar Adventure

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 09/22/2021 - 14:00

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Eidos Montreal Release: October 26, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

This summer set the table for the future of Marvel video games with new titles starring Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Midnight Suns coming in 2022, 2023, and beyond. However, those wanting a new comics-inspired game before this year ends have Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy coming next month. This new cosmic title from Eidos-Montréal graced Game Informer’s cover a few issues back, but as the anticipated adventure gets ready for liftoff, we finally got our hands on the title to see how it’s shaping up.

If you read our early coverage surrounding Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, you know our first glimpse of the story took place as the misfit team tried to dupe Lady Hellbender into giving them enough credits to pay a fine. That initial look at gameplay ended as the team entered her stronghold; now, our first hands-on session picks up right after they leave it.

While I don’t know exactly what happened within the walls of her fortress, the team escaped with the credits they sought and now have a llama with them for some reason. Peter Quill (AKA Star-Lord), who you control in this single-player game, charts their course to Nova Corps’ station so they can pay the fine and get back in their good graces. But before embarking, I catch up with the other Guardians aboard the Milano. After chatting with Drax, I walk in on Gamora browsing for dolls she collects in secret and Rocket discretely using Peter’s toothbrush to clean his tools.

Once the team arrives, they notice the station is abandoned. After scanning the deserted lobby with Star-Lord’s visor, I use the squad commands to tell Rocket to crawl through the vents and instruct him on how to reroute the power so the team can progress. Later, I use Star-Lord’s ice ammo to freeze a door open. These puzzles are simple but left me intrigued at how they might expand later.

"Some of them get a little bit more complicated and have multiple steps, and you're going to have to use more than one Guardian, but they never get very difficult," senior gameplay director Patrick Fortier says. "A lot of these things are for pacing and the opportunity to interact with your Guardians, and to [prevent just] walking in a straight line and not doing anything. You get a little resistance; we need you to make something happen, but we don't want you to get confused there. [We don't want], 'Oh my gosh, I've been spending an hour in this room' because a lot of the magic starts evaporating."

As they walk through the station, the Guardians bicker the entire time, lobbing insults and comebacks. Sometimes, you can even respond. The constant chatter between the Guardians, both in and out of combat, goes a long way to installing the tone for which the space-misfit team has become known. "With each chapter and each location, we broke it up and we wrote tons and tons of extraneous banters that could be happening in the combat," senior narrative director Mary DeMarle says. "We had to write tons because we knew that we wanted to keep that bantering going in the combat, so we were always creating of system of combat arcs/banters in which they're throwing out one line and randomly another will answer."

Though the path through the narrative is linear, decisions you make with your fellow Guardians and other characters impact the story as you progress. However, the game doesn't operate on a morality meter or anything along those lines. Instead, your interactions can lead you to learn more about a character's backstory or even set up events to happen as you play through the story, such as unique gameplay paths or different tools at your disposal.

In this instance, I learn Jack Flag is imprisoned on the station. If I free him, I’ll see him later in the stage. While Eidos-Montréal is hesitant to say how his story continues depending on what you do when you encounter him, the team does say Marvel fans will find several references to the broader universe throughout the game.

"Some easter eggs are true easter eggs; you have to be a hardcore Marvel fan, and then you're in a location and you're looking at artifacts and suddenly you'll see something from the cosmic universe," says DeMarle. "[Some] might be easter eggs in the background of locations that you'll recognize, like, 'Wait. Isn't that wreck something of importance?' Some of it will be readable."

As the team moves from room to room, I have small divergent paths I can take, but they often lead to dead-ends where I can either learn more about the universe's lore or collect resources for upgrades. This mission is rather linear due to its nature of moving through a space station to find what happened, but other missions in the game feature more exploration.

"In some chapters where you're going to be searching for things, every nook and cranny is going to be rewarded," says Fortier. "It's obviously not an open world or anything like that, but if you pay attention and you look around, you're doing to see a lot of little spaces that you can explore and gather some loot, some costumes, some objects that reveal more storyline for the characters, or the crafting parts."

As much as I love wandering through an environment and picking up what I can along the way, I have bigger things to worry about. The eerie exploration is soon crashed by surviving Nova Corps troops. Gamora soon notes they’re glowing purple, and once they start talking, it’s clear something is off. After realizing a fanatical cult has infiltrated the Nova Corps ranks, a battle ensues. Star-Lord can use his blasters at range, float above the battlefield, or get up close for melee attacks. However, the meat of the combat involves issuing commands to your fellow Guardians.

By tapping the bumper, a menu maps each squad mate to a face button for commands. Drax hits hard and typically inflicts stagger on his targets, while Gamora is a bit speedier and more precise. Groot’s moves often set up combinations for the heroes, while Rocket’s tech attacks deal AoE damage. Each Guardian operates on a cooldown, so you can’t just spam their attacks, but if you combine them just right, you can deal serious damage and turn the tide of the fight. Once you get the enemies hurt enough, you can execute a cinematic finisher that involves all the Guardians volleying the enemy back and forth.

For Eidos-Montréal, much of the combat's depth comes from finding combos between the Guardians and their various specialties, which then drives the player towards unlocking new abilities for the Guardians to fill the gaps and more perfectly complement your play style. "The game rewards you a lot for creating your different combos in creatively taking advantage of your abilities," Fortier says. "I think that's what's fun with it: Without being overly punishing, some players will maybe still try to apply the same formula throughout, but you do get rewarded for trying different things. I've had a chance to play it again and again, and it's a little bit like Deus Ex when you try different augmentations, you find different styles and different ways of playing, and the game still supports that."

Look at Rocket.

On top of the core combat mechanics, you can also use an ultimate-style attack called a Huddle. Huddles operate on a longer cooldown and when you activate one, the team circles up like a football team. The Guardians express their concerns and you’re given two choices for your response. If you adequately address their worries, the entire team gets a temporary boost. Answer incorrectly and the group walks away confused, and only Star-Lord receives a boost. Either way, the team’s health is restored, and you get an upbeat soundtrack with which to blast enemies.

It’s obvious Eidos-Montréal nailed the tone of Marvel’s favorite space misfits. However, it remains to be seen how exciting combat is throughout the massive number of encounters we’re sure to have during the game’s total length. Thankfully, we’ll know the answers to any uncertainty surrounding Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy in the coming weeks.

Categories: Games

How Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Changes The Borderlands Game

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 09/21/2021 - 18:30

Publisher: 2K Games Developer: Gearbox Software Release: March 25, 2022 Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Sure, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands might be a first-person looter shooter that features a few familiar faces from the existing Borderlands universe. However, the wild ride that examines the formula with a tabletop role-playing game lens has a lot of different components going into the mix, and it’s attempting to distinguish itself from the known template while still maintaining some of that raucous flavor.

I mean, the Dungeon Master is Tiny Tina, after all, meaning chaos is an integral component of the entire experience, and she might not be content to follow the rulebook or module designs. We had a chat with creative director Matt Cox and senior producer Kayla Belmore about the latest trailer to hit and how Tiny Tina’s grandiose fantasy visions come to life in the upcoming game. And by grandiose visions, I mean that Butt Stallion is part of the story, somehow. Hunh.

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So how will stats work? Will you be running maximum charisma? Dumping points in strength? Just how much tabletop DNA is going into this? The answer is a lot.

“So we do have fantasy elements like spells and multiclassing, you can choose your initial class and then later on, in the main questline, you get to choose the secondary class to actually multiclass,” says Cox. “So you can mix and match a lot of the elements that come along with just the class selection and of itself. So in addition to we also have melee weapons, armor with specific stats that can speak to your build, but also we do have, in addition to skill points, we do have hero points that do speak to kind of that more classic tabletop attributes that you're talking about strength. We have strength, intelligence, dexterity, and those sorts of things so much like creating your own character in a tabletop fantasy game.”

There are six core classes to choose from, and while they have not been revealed yet, you can assume some core fantasy archetypes make an appearance.

In addition, an “overworld” game board where your characters are represented by little bobblehead versions of themselves lets players pick their destinations through the land, emulating the look and feel of a tabletop gameboard. 

“So one thing that's super fun is your character representation and all of the customizations that you've done actually appear in the overworld,” says Belmore. “And because the overworld is third-person, you can see all players on the map when you're playing together.”

Of important note for those would-be ax swinging barbarians and knights among you: while melee attacks will be important, dedicated melee builds are probably not going to be a thing outside of some odd builds and legendary items. Instead, melee can easily be integrated into your combat flow via perks, skills, or status effects that for instance might supercharge various other attacks for landing a successful melee attack or hyperpower up a single melee blow after you’ve completed some other requirement, encouraging you to move in and out of combat in a varied loop of ranged, melee, and spell/ability usage for optimum performance.

“When in doubt, guns are still stars of the show and there's something truly satisfying about just riddling things with crossbow bolts from a regular handgun,” says Belmore. “It's just kind of amazing.” 

And yes, you’ll still have an “ultimate” skill to utilize when things get too frantic to handle, with two to pick from on each class.

Spells add another layer to things, with a variety of different usages and designations. It’s not just going to be casting big fireballs at foes, but instead, there’s a huge bucket of various spells to draw upon and books to find, including self-casting powers.

There’s a core campaign to tackle, but numerous side missions are available for those looking to get their characters beefed up to tackle goblins with guns. “We've got the main plot maps of course. But there are entire maps on the side that almost play like modules that have a standalone plotline that is connected to the main story, but not all the way into the main story. They're kind of these fun little side missions that feel a lot like a tabletop module that’s on top of the greater mission.”

Of course, these expeditions into dark forests, dank caves, and creepy castles aren’t the only places you’re hanging out. No, we need a hub to deck our characters out and engage in all kinds of progression systems! A tavern (a soda tavern) serves as one of the central areas of Brighthoof, the city where players will be hanging out when they’re not massacring monsters and causing mayhem.

Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense to have things by engineering manufacturers here as we’re talking about spells and swords, but yes gear is branded by the folks who create them, placing each piece of gear into a similar system as we’ve seen in other games such as Dahl, Jakobs, Hyperion, etc.

And what’s a tabletop RPG without rolling dice? Events known as lucky challenges will let you roll that d20 right then and there and try to hit that big number to shower you with piles and piles of potent loot.

“Lucky dice are scattered throughout the world,” says Cox. “And so if you find them, it'll actually roll in front of you and like pop out what number you get, and that will correspond to how good the loot is, you get out of that lucky dice.”

While we certainly aren’t even close to knowing all the ingredients that are going into this chaotic cake, more details are inevitably on the way as we inch closer to the March 25, 2022 release date. Are you looking forward to Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands? Let us know in the comments, and may all your 20s be natural. 

Categories: Games

Kena: Bridge Of Spirits Review - Don't Fear The Reaper

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:23

In Kena: Bridge of Spirits, everyday items are imbued with new, unseen emotional significance. A wooden mask is a link to the spirit of the person for whom it was made. Objects like a construction hammer or a box filled with food are tied to memories of people who have been lost. Locations that were once the sites of vibrant and happy times are scarred with the pain and trauma suffered within them.

Looking at common things with new eyes is a running theme of Kena, and that theme often applies to its gameplay as well. Though the game is filled with some fairly common action-adventure genre tropes--it has melee combat that feels akin to titles such as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order or even Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, climbing sections similar to Uncharted or Tomb Raider, platforming that recalls games such as Ratchet and Clank, and puzzles like what you might see in The Legend of Zelda--it manages to combine a familiar approachability with some fresh spins on the ideas. Combined with emotional, character-driven storytelling, some tough-but-excellent fights, and mechanics that make the world feel alive around you, Kena is an exciting, often heartbreaking journey that will make you want to explore every corner and crevice to see all that you can.

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The story and world of Kena: Bridge of Spirits center on a village beset by tragedy. Its inhabitants are all gone, wiped out by misfortune, and their pain has physically poisoned the once-vibrant land around it. That pain has drawn Kena, a young spirit guide, to seek out the trauma at its center and heal it. Her link to the spirit realm allows her to help the ghosts of the village find peace, and in so doing, she's able to push back the corruption that has gripped the land, restoring it to its former glory.

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Categories: Games

Everything We Know About Metroid Dread

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 09/20/2021 - 23:00

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Publisher: Nintendo Developer: MercurySteam Release: October 8, 2021 Rating: Teen Platform: Switch

Metroid might not have the widespread popularity of Zelda or Mario, but our enthusiasm for Nintendo's sci-fi action platformer rivals those blockbusters. Nintendo announced Dread only a few months ago, during the company's E3 2021 Direct presentation. Now we're less than a month from its October 8 release, so here is a quick overview of everything you need to know before playing Metroid Dread.

Who is the developer?

Metroid Dread is being made at MercurySteam, a studio that Nintendo previously worked with on 2017's Metroid: Samus Returns. Before that, MercurySteam developed Clive Barker's Jericho, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. The studio has a solid track record with a few exceptions, so we're hopeful that Metroid Dread will live up to the hype.

Is this a direct sequel?

Nintendo has billed Dread as a direct sequel to the 2002 title Metroid Fusion, released initially on the Game Boy Advance, making Dread the fifth official entry in the 2D Metroid series. Nintendo also said this title concludes the main storyline focused on Samus' interactions with a parasitic race of creatures called Metroid.

Do I need to play the rest of the series before I play Dread?

Metroid has never been a story-heavy series, and we're sure Nintendo will bring players up to speed on any crucial details they need to know as they play this game, but you probably don't need to play the earlier Metroid games to enjoy Dread. That said, many of the earlier Metroid games are still enjoyable today (especially Super Metroid), so it's worth going back and checking out those titles if you missed them the first time around.

How long has this game been in development?

The name Metroid Dread first surfaced not long after the release of Metroid Fusion in 2002. Series producer Yoshio Sakamoto has said that he tried to develop Dread for the Nintendo DS handheld at least twice. After MercurySteam released Metroid: Samus Returns in 2017, Nintendo revived the Dread name and greenlit the project for the Switch.

What's the narrative setup?

Bounty Hunter Samus Aran is back. In Metroid Fusion, Samus explored a space station swarming with hostile, shape-shifting organisms called X Parasites. After Samus dealt with that potential catastrophe, the Galactic Federation received proof that suggests the X Parasites survived destruction and are now infecting the remote planet of ZDR. In response, the Federation dispatched a team of robots to investigate the world. But when those units vanish soon after arrival, Samus Aran is tapped to get to the bottom of this mystery.

Thanks to the events of Metroid Fusion, Samus has immunity against the X Parasites. Unfortunately, X Parasites aren't the only threat on ZDR, and Samus soon encounters a member of the ancient alien race, called Chozo, who attacks Samus and steals her abilities. When Samus awakens from this attack, she discovers she is deep beneath the surface of ZDR and must work her way back out while contending with the team of Federation robots now hunting her.

What do we know about Planet ZDR?

Not much is know about Planet ZDR. This remote alien world has a purple atmosphere and is home to a large, fang-toothed monster known as the Corpious. The Corpious has no legs and drags itself overland with two muscular arms. The beast can also turn invisible and attacks foes with a long, scorpion-like tail.

ZDR's deep underground caverns, an area labeled Artaria, are full of rocky outcroppings and underground waterfalls. Cataris is another zone within planet ZDR, and this area is an industrial station used to transport thermo-powered energy from surrounding magma reserves. The extreme heat in this zone can damage Samus' equipment until she gains a Power Suit.

Will Adam Malkovich return?

Longtime fans may remember Commander Adam Malkovich, a "celebrated military genius" who served in the Galactic Federation Army. When Samus was younger, she served under Malkovich, as detailed in Metroid: Other M. Samus also reflected on Adam a few times during her adventure in Metroid Fusion and even named a computer A.I. after him. The AI version of Adam returns in Dread, but he won't order Samus around. Instead, this A.I. functions as the game's loremaster, so it is more a means to dish story details to the player.

What are the E.M.M.I.s?

The Galactic Federation's Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers are high-tech operations robots created for "research applications." However, these E.M.M.I.s are also potent tools of destruction. The E.M.M.I.s were designed to be DNA-extracting machines, and they now hound Samus across Planet ZDR, likely because Samus has some Metroid DNA.

The E.M.M.I.s are not easily destroyed. In fact, Samus can only dismantle them if she temporarily upgrades her arm cannon at set locations on Planet ZDR. As a result, Samus must sneak past these machines. This is no easy feat because E.M.M.I.s can hear Samus' footsteps and relentlessly chase her down if they catch wind of her presence. When an E.M.M.I. grabs Samus, players have a tiny window to perform a melee counter, which gives Samus a chance to escape. If players fail this counter, the E.M.M.I.s instantly impale her, resulting in a Game Over.

The Galactic Federation dispatched seven E.M.M.I.s to Planet ZDR, and each one is a different color. E.M.M.I.s have different abilities. For example, the green E.M.M.I. can crawl through tight passages, yellow can run at high speeds, and blue can freeze and shatter objects.

What abilities does Samus gain?

Metroid has always been a series focused on exploration. As Samus probes the depths of Planet ZDR, she slowly uncovers new weapons and abilities that give her access to new areas. This loop has always been at the heart of Metroid, and that won't change with Dread.

Samus retains access to many of her staple abilities, such as her arm cannon, missiles, grapple hook, and the morph ball that allows her to access out-of-reach areas. In Metroid: Samus Returns, MercurySteam introduced a melee counter that lets Samus parry enemy attacks, exposing them to brutal counterattacks. This technique returns for Dread. However, Samus also has a few new moves, such as a slide that allows her to quickly slip through tiny spaces without transforming into her morph ball.

During Samus' adventure, she also gains access to powerful new tech and weapons. A Phantom Cloak ability temporarily renders Samus invisible. However, this power drains a resource called Aeion, which was also introduced in Samus Returns. Unlike the last game, Aeion now slowly replenishes over time. Another Aeion ability called Flash Shift allows Samus to dash across the screen.

Not every power requires Aeion. For example, the Spider grapple helps Samus climb walls and ceilings marked with a blue, magnetic surface. This is similar to the Spider Ball from previous Metroid titles; however, it doesn't require that Samus enter her morph ball form. Meanwhile, a weapon upgrade called Storm Missile lets Samus lock on and fire a volley of missiles at multiple targets. Samus can lock onto up to five targets using her free aim, shooting three missiles at each target.

Will longtime enemies Kraid and Ridley return?

The giant three-eyed reptilian known as Kraid is reported to return, but the alien appears chained to a wall this time. We haven't heard if Ridley will make an appearance, but this is a Metroid game, so our Magic 8-Ball says "Very likely."

I like spending money, is there a Special Edition?

Nintendo is producing a Metroid Dread Special Edition, which comes in a steel game case, and includes five art cards and a 190-page art book spanning all five entries in the 2D Metroid saga. This package retails for $89.99.

When does Metroid Dread launch?

You will be able to purchase Metroid Dread for the Nintendo Switch, starting on October 8.

Categories: Games

Lost Judgment Review -- Back To School

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 09/16/2021 - 14:00

Like most good detective stories, Lost Judgment begins with the ghastly discovery of a maggot-infested corpse. A single homicide is merely the tip of the iceberg, of course, but the unusual circumstances surrounding the dead body's discovery set the stage for another compelling mystery for private investigator Takayuki Yagami to solve. The first Judgment began in a similar fashion, presenting itself as a Yakuza spin-off that was nevertheless overly familiar due to its penchant for delving into the criminal theatrics Rya ga Gotoku Studio is known for. Yagami's latest adventure still dips its feet into the deep end of the criminal underworld, but Lost Judgment distances itself from its Yakuza-flavored origins with much more regularity than its predecessor, resulting in a better and more distinct game that's still tinged with an overt sense of deja vu.

This begins right from the off, as the first hour or so is spent traversing the well-worn streets of Kamurocho. Revisiting the bustling red-light district for the umpteenth time still doesn't grow stale thanks to its lively atmosphere and intricate visual design. It's a place full of fond memories and there's a pleasant sense of comfort in its familiarity, yet it's hard not to feel relieved when Yagami's latest case takes you south of Tokyo and into the port city of Yokohama. The fictional district of Isezaki Ijincho was first introduced in last year's Yakuza: Like a Dragon and makes its return in Lost Judgment relatively untouched. Based on the real-life Yokohama district of Isezakichō, it's a bigger urban sprawl than Kamurocho but still maintains the same density, from the busy streets of Isezaki Road to the various storefronts and eateries located throughout the district.

Step through the automatic doors of a Poppo store and you'll be greeted by a short electronic tune that announces your arrival. The magazine aisle is stacked with lifestyle magazines, manga, and cookbooks, while the refrigerators at the back of the store are filled with assorted snacks, from onigiri and Bento lunch sets to a dizzying array of drinks including Suntory green tea and BOSS coffee. Elsewhere, you can head to the bar district to find each cozy hangout stocked with real-world alcohol, while passing beneath the Paifang in Chinatown will lead you to restaurants adorned with dragons and golden guardian lions, as residents converse under a baroque pavilion.

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Categories: Games

Everything We Know About Kena: Bridge Of Spirits

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 09/15/2021 - 20:03

Publisher: Ember Lab Developer: Ember Lab Release: September 21, 2021 Rating: Everyone 10+ Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC

After a couple of delays, Kena: Bridge of Spirits finally launches next week, September 21. It’s been a long time coming for the whimsical game, which was initially revealed alongside the PlayStation 5 and positioned to launch alongside it. We featured the title on our cover, but we’d forgive you if your memory has become hazy. Fear not, this handy primer should catch you up on the main beats if you're still on the fence about whether or not Kena's adventure is for you. 

Who Is Making Kena: Bridge of Spirits?

Kena is the debut title by Ember Lab, a small studio founded in 2009 by brothers Mike and Josh Grier. The company primarily specializes in creating animated content for conglomerates such as Coca-Cola, MLB, and KFC. Perhaps the studio's most famous work is an animated short film based on The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask that went viral in 2016. With Kena, the studio is applying its animation and world-building chops to game development for the first time. 

Who Is Kena?

Kena (pronounced “kay-na”) is a young spirit guide and the hero of the adventure. She’s responsible for helping troubled spirits transition peacefully into the afterlife. When someone dies with unresolved problems or traumas, their spirit can become trapped between the realms of the living and the dead. Lingering ghosts may cause trouble for living people, so Kena helps solve whatever issues they have to ensure a pleasant trip to the next life. Kena is also the only person capable of cleansing an all-consuming blight that gradually overtakes the world.

What's The Story?

Believe it or not, we still don’t know a ton about Kena’s plot outside of its setup. Kena travels to an abandoned village far from her homeland in search of a sacred mountain shrine. The surrounding land is suffering from a mysterious curse that turns corrupted spirits into dangerous monstrosities. She’s the only one who can cure it and sets out to do just that.  

What Kind Of Game Is It? 

Kena is a third-person action-adventure game. Combat involves executing basic melee combos of light and heavy attacks using Kena’s magic staff. She can also turn her staff into a spirit bow for a ranged offense. Kena also boasts an arsenal of spirit abilities, such as the pulse bubble that can parry incoming attacks, and she can conjure a spirit dragon to provide extra combat muscle. Outside of battle, players climb, shimmy, and similarly jump around their surroundings to the Uncharted series while also solving environmental puzzles to access new areas. Kena can also use her powers to purify paths blocked by corrupted growth. You'll also help restless souls find peace by curing whatever ails them while gradually rebuilding and repopulating the abandoned village, which serves as your hub area. 

Is Kena Set In A Big Open-World? 

Nope. Former Game Informer editor Jeff Cork best summarized Kena’s world design as “wide linear” in our cover story. You’ll follow a clear critical path but can branch off to explore alternate routes that may lead to goodies such as hidden Rot. 

Rot? What Are They? 

The Rot are the other stars of the game. They’re tiny adorable creatures responsible for decomposition, breaking down decaying materials to make way for new life. Thus, they compliment Kena’s job in maintaining the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. When Kena bonds with these critters, they’ll tag along to assist with combat and puzzle-solving. In battle, the Rot are too shy to lend an immediate helping hand, but successively landing attacks fills a meter indicating Rot courage. Once full, players can call upon the Rot to augment their attacks to dish out more potent forms of offense. You can also send the Rot to distract enemies, forcing them to drop their defenses to provide windows of attack. 

Up to 100 Rot can be obtained, with 60 of them being optional. You’ll find Rot hiding under rocks, inside of hanging fruits, and other nooks and crannies. The more Rot you have, the more powerful your attacks become and the more helping hands you have outside of battle. You can even personalize the Rot by purchasing a variety of cute hats for them to wear.

Hats? Does That Mean Microtransactions?

There are no microtransactions in Kena: Bridge of Spirits. You buy items from vendors using in-game currency. 

Can The Rot Die?

No, thankfully. While the Rot share gameplay similarities to Pikmin, these little guys aren’t nearly as fragile, so you don’t have to worry about losing your cute companions in battle. Feel free to throw them at as many monsters as you see fit! 

How Long Is Kena And How Much Does It Cost?

Ember Labs has stated that Kena takes between 8-10 hours to finish and closer to 12 hours for completionists. The budget price reflects that scope at $39.99 across all platforms. There’s also a $49.99 Deluxe Edition. 

What Platforms Is Kena Available On? 

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC via the Epic Games Store. It is a digital-only game, but Ember Lab has suggested it may get a physical release down the road. 

What Are The Differences Between PS5 And PS4?

We haven’t seen footage of the game running on PS4, but we know that on PS5, you’ll see more Rot represented on screen, and foliage appears denser. The DualSense controller’s haptic feedback creates realistic tension when pulling back on the bowstring as well as other sensory features. 

You can read more stories chock full of info about Kena: Bridge of Spirits by visiting our exclusive cover story hub

Categories: Games

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania | New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 09/15/2021 - 17:00

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Publisher: Sega Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios Release: October 5, 2021 Rating: Everyone 10+ Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

In recent years, Sega and Atlus have fully embraced the remaster market. In the last few years alone, the company has brought forward enhanced or remade versions of entries in the Yakuza, Sonic the Hedgehog, Shin Megami Tensei, and the Super Monkey Ball franchise. Unfortunately, the first Super Monkey Ball remaster came in the form of 2019's Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, a re-release of one of the less popular entries in the series. Sega must have heard the complaints of the fan base because, with Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz, the publisher compiles the beloved first three games into one modernized experience. 

Join Alex Stadnik, John Carson, and me as we dive into some early-game stages of Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. While we exclusively play through the story mode in this video, the package also includes several other destination modes, including a collection of the series' popular party games. Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania also includes unlockable characters from Sega's library of games. Stick around until the end of the video to see us bust out Sonic as we attack one of the earlier Super Monkey Ball stages.  

If you enjoyed this look at Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania, be sure to subscribe to the Game Informer YouTube channel so you don't miss all of our other content we put out each and every day. If you're interested in seeing the latest footage of upcoming games, be sure to check out other episodes of New Gameplay Today here or by clicking the banner below. As always, be sure to leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts on Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. 

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania hits PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on October 5. 

Categories: Games

Toem Review: Look At This Photograph

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 09/15/2021 - 14:43

Toem begins when your nana gifts you a camera as you head off to see the "Toem" phenomenon. She nearly shows you her own photo from when she did the same thing at your age, but hastily hides it. Seeing the Toem phenomenon is presented as a rite of passage, and something you really just need to experience for yourself. She never describes exactly what Toem is, just that it's spectacular and life-changing. But maybe what she's really remembering is the journey to see it.

Most of Toem is essentially a series of photo puzzles. When you first journey away from home, you learn that you can collect stamps on your community card by performing acts of kindness for townspeople (which almost always involve a camera, somehow) or fulfilling photo challenges. You might be asked to find a cartoonishly shady character hanging around town, or to point a lighthouse keeper in the direction of boats that need help using your zoom lens. Collecting enough stamps gets you a free bus pass to the next area. It's a simple, clever construct that creates a broad space for different types of puzzle challenges.

All of this is presented in a stark black-and-white style that feels boldly minimalist. The view is isometric in a way that often limits your ability to see all of your surroundings, so you'll look from behind the camera lens to get a better view of things. The interplay between these views is constant, and despite a sparse visual style and monochrome presentation, it never feels confusing. Everything is perfectly readable in both views, which is a testament to the strength of the art design.

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Categories: Games

Toem - New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 09/14/2021 - 20:35

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Publisher: Something We Made Developer: Something We Made Release: September 17, 2021 Platform: PlayStation 5, Switch, PC

Photography games are among my favorite sort of adventure video games. As someone who makes their living working with cameras daily, I feel compelled to play them whenever there's a new release; Toem is the latest entry in this wonderful little subgenre. The hand-drawn indie game releases later this week and features exploration, photo challenges, light puzzle-solving, and a memorable soundtrack that makes it worth playing. Join Jill Grodt, John Carson, and me as we go hands-on with the charming adventure game in this episode of New Gameplay Today!

Something We Made, the studio developing Toem, further describes the activities that players can participate in via the game's official website:

Set off on a delightful expedition and use your photographic eye to uncover the mysteries of the magical TOEM in this hand-drawn adventure game. Chat with quirky characters, solve their problems by snapping neat photos, and make your way through a relaxing landscape! 

If you enjoyed this early look at Toem, be sure to subscribe to the Game Informer YouTube channel so that you don't miss future videos. Interested in seeing the latest footage of upcoming games? Check out other episodes of New Gameplay Today here. As always, leave a comment down below, letting us know if you're excited to play Toem. There are a bunch of other upcoming photography-based games, so read our list of the coolest photo-taking games you can play right now and on the horizon. 

Categories: Games

Answers To Our Biggest Questions NHL 22 Questions

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 09/14/2021 - 17:30

Publisher: Electronic Arts Developer: EA Vancouver Release: October 15, 2021 Rating: Everyone 10+ Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

In just about a month’s time, hockey will be back in full force, both if you’re watching the puck drop on your TV or strapping on the skates in NHL 22. This year, EA Vancouver is calling on its elite talent to be the difference-makers, introducing Superstar X-Factors, which provide special skills and moves to the best of the best. This will impact the game by forcing you to anticipate these players’ abilities every time they hit the ice, and they’ll be present in every major game mode. To learn more about this feature and how it’s taking NHL 22 to new places, we sat down with producer Clement Kwong, who also answered some of our other bigger questions about the latest entry in EA’s NHL series.

Some players have reservations about the Superstar X-Factors being overpowered and giving certain teams an edge. For instance, why not just pick the Tampa Bay Lightning every time since they'd be stacked with these abilities? You get an all-star goaltender in Vasilevskiy alongside elite talent in Kucherov, Point, Stamkos, and Hedman. How is EA Vancouver ensuring that the X-Factor abilities are balanced appropriately while remaining fun?

Kwong: There are a couple of things here. One is we're constantly working with our community, with our EA Game Changers group. Since NHL 16, we had started this specific group with different experts, covering gameplay, Be A Pro, and all kinds of different modes. So with X-Factor this year, in addition to it being available in all modes and having integration there, we also have gameplay experts within that group to give us feedback. We are constantly giving them weekly builds, making updates and gameplay changes, tuning the mechanics. There's a fair bit of feedback that we've gotten already from there. 

Second, obviously, is the technical test that just wrapped up. With the competitive balance side of things, what better mode to test it than our CHEL community? If there are any imbalances or exploits, that's where we find out. So those two data points are really informing any kind of balancing, changes, or tuning we may need to do for launch.

How often do X-Factors activate during a game? I know fewer players have the powerful “Zone” X-Factors, and they’re for the big superstars, but how many times will I see Auston Matthews’ “Shock and Awe” ability hit? Is it every time he goes out on the ice he can do that move, or do you need to do something to activate it?

As opposed to Madden's design model where you have to throw a [certain amount of] yards to completion on a single play, the game of hockey is different in terms of having line changes, the speed of the game, and it doesn’t have special teams outside of the penalty kill and power play. We had to take a bit of a different approach where the “Zone” and “Superstar” abilities are always active in the right context.

Take McDavid's Wheels Zone ability, for example. He's known for being the fastest player in the game, with or without the puck. You're not going to have his ability if you are in your own defensive zone or if you're hustling back on a defensive assignment. What you will see, though, is if he has a puck and he's carrying it through the neutral zone and the o-zone, that's where you'll have the ability activated. So depending on the ability, it is contextual. We don't have a specific trigger or event to activate it; it's always active in the right context. And the reason for that goes back to what I said earlier; hockey is such a fast sport with line changes. If we put in place a design where you had to trigger it, you really wouldn't have too many moments. We tested that early on.

It’s been said the X-Factors are going to change up the metagame. How have they changed the way that you play the game?

With the challenge of the pace of the game and the team game, really. I’ll use the example of the World of CHEL. We're changing up the way we're building our player classes with a lot of feedback from the community. So far, we'll say, ‘Hey, this is the go-to [build]’’ and then a day later, it’s like, ‘Actually, no, this is the go-to, here's how you counter it.” That, to me, is an interesting exploration. It’s not just about min-maxing anymore. Before in CHEL, you tried to stack these abilities, find out different combinations, and which one to give the one extra point. It's no longer about that one extra point, even though that's kind of a secondary layer available. In World of CHEL, it’s about your playstyle and the opponents you’re up against.

A short example I’ll use is truculence, which is kind of a big man ability and you can basically bowl over anyone. I tend to play as a smaller build with shot accuracy, or the ability to stickhandle, and I was playing someone and they just absolutely destroyed me, even though they're [so] much slower. I just could not get around them. So, there have to be different ways to counter those new player classes.

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So every player class should feel a little bit different and you have to figure out ways to counter these player types? One of my bigger complaints in previous iterations is every player felt too similar. In CHEL, you could tweak some stats, but they never felt like enough and you’d use similar tactics no matter who was on the ice.

Yeah, I would say definitely more thought needs to go into how you are building your player class and how you’re building players in your lineup. And for Franchise mode, team chemistry plays such a big role. It's changing the way that you're building and managing your roster lineups. 

Let's bring up the poke check because it was pretty powerful in NHL 21. Has that been tuned any for NHL 22? 

To be honest, that's something we've been hearing a lot during the production of NHL 22 from our Game Changers, who are like, “Hey, where there’s an opportunity, let’s fix poke checking.” That’s where stick and physics come in. So both when you look at the ability side where we've separated players defensively, like Victor Hedman or Drew Doughty are much better, much more efficient at poking away pucks without taking penalties. That's one layer.

The second layer is having the stick actually react realistically. It adds more predictability to how we're solving for poke checks, both in terms of the force and power that the defenders or the skaters are poking at, as well as how the stick interacts with the body and with the puck. So, the short answer is yes, absolutely. When you boot up the game and you play this year, we've made some massive improvements in that area.

Be A Pro got a huge upgrade last year, and this year it’s said to have multi-season storylines. Can you talk about kind of how that's going to work and what are some of those storylines?

With X-Factors changing the journey in Be A Pro in terms of you wanting to progress and unlock and grow into the most powerful abilities, we needed a way to tell those stories. We wanted to address some of the feedback that we had in terms of, ‘Hey, it was great you had this conversation system, but it's kind of repetitive and you don't have multi-season storylines.’ Well, this year, we brought X-Factors, we brought new challenges, we brought in new storylines that span multiple seasons. So you have your example of winning multiple divisions, winning multiple awards, all the way to what Pat Maroon did - winning multiple cups in consecutive seasons with different teams. And what the new challengers allow you to do is unlock new X-Factor points so that you can unlock slots for abilities to assign to your created character. 

This is probably a question you get every year, but it’s essential to the gameplay. Whether it’s on defense, offense, or being able to create better plays, what improvements to the A.I. did the EA Vancouver team really focus on this year? 

A.I. is an area that we have a yearly investment in. I don't think there is a way we can say we're going to fix all our A.I. issues because as our community plays and players play, the A.I. is bound to take some actions that don't make sense to the player. Specifically for defensive A.I. and joining the rush, we’ve made some improvements and upgrades there, more at the core A.I. level instead of a massive new feature overhaul.

The other piece is how A.I. players support you as a player in HUT or World of CHEL now that you have these new X-Factor abilities. So, with a lot of A.I. players also possessing these abilities, like with passing, for example, they’ve been upgraded to accommodate what it means to have better team play and pass the puck to you when you have the One-Tee zone ability [which gives you advanced power and accuracy on one-timers]. So, there have been minor updates, but it's something that we chip away at year after year.

From checking to Franchise mode changes, more quick confirmations from Kwong:
  • There won’t be any new skill moves like “The Michigan” from last year, but new animations are tied to the new zone and superstar X-Factor abilities. Kwong used the example of a power forward having better strength and balance, showcasing this with an animation to lean in and drive the lane [while still] being able to protect the puck from the opposing defender. 
  • Has checking improved? Kwong says so. “We've definitely updated the models for collisions and stumbles, specifically.” However, Kwong says it won’t always come down to player size when separating a player from the puck, referencing a player’s strength and balance in determining how easily they go down. He used Pavel Datsyuk as an example of a player who was only 5’11 but was still strong on his skates and said this is where the new X-Factor abilities shine for certain player types. 
  • You can expect more realistic stick interactions and psychics this time, with players batting pucks out of the air and disrupting passing lanes more naturally. This also led to him saying that you’ll see fewer penalties with poke checks. “In the past, you’d see poke checks through skates, and obviously, that’s not realistic when you trip players up, and that’s a been a source of frustrations. That’s one thing that’s fixed now.”
  • For Franchise mode fans, finding the right player fit for coaching systems will still be a factor, and the trade deadline minigame (sadly) remains untouched. Kwong also said scouting hasn’t changed much, except for the ability to uncover if players have X-Factors. He said to focus on having the best scouts possible because there will be more gems in later rounds. Line chemistry is also a bigger factor in this mode due to the X-Factors. “The really straightforward example I use is you want to make sure that you're supplementing your passing Zone ability player with someone that can also shoot, whether that's [increased] one-timer, slap shot, or wrist shot accuracy,” Kwong says. “Putting complementary skill sets together will greatly increase your line chemistry, while [soley] depending on one player [with these special abilities] will only give you a small boost.”
  • Kwong confirmed that players can have a max of one Zone ability and up to five Superstar abilities total. 
  • No new scenes were added to Be A Pro, but Kwong said there are hundreds of new conversations that also tie into the mode’s new podcast show to support your journey and the branching storylines. He also confirmed you’re still picking between “star” or “team” dialogue options to determine which type of teammate you want to be. 
     
Categories: Games

The Artful Escape Review - Nowhere Nephew

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 09/14/2021 - 15:16

The Artful Escape is a visual treat--a platforming journey that takes players on a journey from Earth to the galaxies beyond and renders every location with gorgeous care. Evoking a variety of influences, from the artist Charlie Immer to the bright aesthetics of Lisa Frank, The Artful Escape captures the sheer cinematic thrill of watching your helicopter explode in a Call of Duty mission or falling off a cliff in a Naughty Dog set-piece, but transplants the action to a voyage that goes far beyond the realm of the real. It’s gentler, too, telling a story about learning how to be who you really are, and not who someone else expects you to be. There’s no violence to be found here; just easygoing platforming, low-pressure musical riffing, and adventure gaming that goes heavy on the dialogue and omits the puzzles entirely.

As the game begins, you are Francis Vendetti, a teen in a leather jacket, chunky boots, and eyewear that could be steampunk goggles or the perfect circle glasses that John Lennon made iconic. Francis is sitting on a bench on a cliff and the first prompt we see instructs us “To strum a folk ballad about the toil of a miner’s life, hold X.” It’s immediately pretentious, and that’s intentional. Francis is the nephew of Johnson Vendetti, who is a legend in the world of The Artful Escape. In Calypso, the small town where Francis has lived his whole life, his uncle is a hometown boy who made good. But “Press X to sing about miners” is not who Francis is at all. It rings hollow (and it should) because Francis is attempting to be someone he isn’t. But his first performance as a musician is scheduled for tomorrow, and Francis will be expected to perform that false identity for everyone he knows. Francis will grow as a character over The Artful Escape’s six-hour runtime, but this gameplay will remain the same. You spend a lot of time in this game holding X to strum on your guitar.

Then Francis meets Violetta, a punky girl with a bad attitude and an Edna Mode haircut. Violetta seems to see something in Francis and tells him to seek out Lightman's--ostensibly a store in Calypso. But Francis has lived in Calypso his whole life and knows there’s no such place. Doesn’t matter--Violetta is off and Francis heads home to get some sleep before his concert the next day. It turns out Francis didn’t need to find Lightman’s. Instead, Lightman, an aging musician voiced by Carl Weathers, comes to him, taking Francis to a spaceship called The Lung and sweeping him up in an intergalactic voyage. He promises Francis will be back in time to play his concert.

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Categories: Games

Lost in Random Review - Six Appeal

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 09/14/2021 - 14:46

Lost in Random makes a poor first impression. The overly dark and dreary opening areas are disjointed, rushing through the setup in a confusing and off-putting manner. It feels like you've been dealt a dud hand. Persist, though, and the cards start falling into place. The deck-building strategic layer gradually settles until it successfully blends with the core action of the combat, and the world eventually reveals a much more interesting, brighter, more colorful and character-filled side. Lost in Random overcomes a rocky start to tell a genuinely affecting tale of friendship, sibling bonds, and the cruelty of inequality.

The world of Random is ruled by a capricious Queen who determines the fates of her subjects with a roll of the dice. Ones are left to labor in the working-class slums while Sixers are whisked off to the Queen's castle in the clouds, their newfound societal elevation relieving them of the burden of ever again interacting with the poor. Even is a young girl living in Onecroft when her older sister, Odd, rolls a six and they become separated. Even is rightly suspicious of the Queen and so sets out to rescue her sister.

Even quickly recruits a companion, Dicey, and learns how to fight by playing cards and rolling a dice--and yes, before you say anything, the game uses "dice" not as a plural but as a singular. Combat is the heart of this action-adventure, and it takes a bit of getting used to. Even can't attack enemies without first playing a card that grants her an ability, but to be able to play a card at all she must first collect enough crystals to be dealt one. When she has cards up to a full hand of five she can roll Dicey and play a number of cards equal to the number on the dice. What at first feels like a lot of unnecessary complications soon comes together to offer plenty of clever tactical and strategic choices.

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Categories: Games

Eastward | New Gameplay Today

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 09/14/2021 - 14:00

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Publisher: Chucklefish Developer: Pixpil Release: September 16, 2021 Platform: Switch, PC

Eastward is here, taking players on a journey across a surreal world full of bizarre characters and quirky foes. In the early game, players master the frying pan and escape from the depths of the underground to learn more about a mysterious miasma that destroys everything it comes in contact with. Over the course of the title, players will gain additional hit points (heart counters) from slaying bosses and completing major goals, upgrade a number of ranged weapons to complement the frying pan, cook up glorious boss-busting meals, and bomb countless walls to find bonus chests. 

The currency in this world is salt, and you can spend it on all kinds of upgrades, but I often spent my hard-earned salt on a variety of ingredients so I could be flush with potent food options at all times. The game channels big Earthbound energy, so if you’re a fan of the old-school SNES title, Undertale, or other quirky RPGs, you’re definitely in the right place. Eastward features a game inside the game for retro RPG enthusiasts, a fully playable title called Earth Born. You’re probably going to enjoy it.  Join us in this episode of New Gameplay Today for a look and a discussion regarding Eastward, which releases on September 16 on PC and Switch.

“The locations and characters that fill these environments are memorable, and I wanted to thoroughly explore the town to make sure I talked to every single NPC,” I said in my Game Informer review with a score of 8.5. “I can’t remember the last time I did that in an RPG, and it’s a testament to what a fine world Pixpil has created. These cozy lore elements probably would have worked with any art style, but Eastward’s combination of spectacular music and pixelated look creates an atmosphere that proves you don’t need 4K resolution and ray-tracing to make something magical.”

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