Games

An Out-Of-Nowhere Character Action Surprise

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 21:41

You would be forgiven for not knowing about Lost Soul Aside before this preview. When I saw the extremely long lines in front of the two-TV demo station at PlayStation Experience, I was similarly confused, and turned my head to try and figure out what I was looking at. We posted about some gameplay footage last night, but we finally got hands on time with the game.

Made by a single developer in mainland Asia by the name of Yang Bing, Lost Soul Aside looks and plays way better than it has any right to. A first look at the game belies its development resources, with graphics that rival a lot of large publisher-backed games on the PlayStation 4. There are obvious shortcuts, like the demo being contained to a small, geometrically simple cave, but the graphics and art invoke Final Fantasy XV more than anyone could expect of an indie title.

The virtues of Lost Soul Aside are not necessarily centered around its graphics, however, as much as they are how the game feels to play. It is a character action game through and through, with immediate controls that simultaneously feel smooth as butter and urgently reactive to you. Dodging is set to a button combination of Square and X, which I initially thought was one button too many at first, but it allowed me to dodge between quick frames of hammering the attack button on a monster's face.

The demo allowed use of three different weapons, a broadsword, a double-ended spear, and one-handed sword. All three were interchangeable using the shoulder buttons and could be mixed and matched during combos. The broadsword, a blunted blade that glowed a gnarly purple, was the strongest of the three but slow to the point of inviting enemy attacks. By contrast, the spear is lightning fast, punishing button mashers by locking them into combos that might not stun enemies. It does, however, have the fantastic quirk of blocking enemy projectiles while backdashing by spinning rapidly. The regular short sword is a mix between the two and I found it to be my preferred weapon.

The demo was not extensive, though given the small staff on the game, that is not unexpected. It is a playground to test combos against enemies that can and will kill you given the chance. There is no level structure or any progression beyond defeating waves of monsters until the boss appears.

The boss of the demo is a behemoth-like monster that might feel safer at home in Dark Souls than anything else. This analogy even extends to his moveset, which is made up of large swipes and wind-ups that give you ample time to dodge as long as you're paying attention. When the boss' HP, which is invisible, is drained halfway, the quadruped stands up on his hind legs and engages you with his own sword moves. I didn't last beyond this form, but its influences are clear.

Dodging is governed by a bar that depletes one visual notch with every dodge. It refills incredibly quickly so long as you aren't attacking, but that can be a difficult thing to balance in the heat of the moment. The dodging feels good, but the window is not so wide that you can simply assume dodging will save you from an attack. It has to be timed and timed well.

While it is unlikely it will ever live up to this comparison, Lost Soul Aside felt to me like a strange combination of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bloodborne. A lot of how well it can meet those lofty standards is still left unanswered, but Lost Soul Aside is absolutely one of the most surprising games at the show, and I can only hope it fulfills its promise.

The producer at China Hero Project has told us they are not yet sure if the game will be coming to the west but they are hoping to muster enough enthusiasm to bring it.

Categories: Games

Exploring An Ancient Culture's Mythology

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 21:26

Video games can be powerful in many ways, and some developers are building virtual worlds that do more than just entertain. Some, like Assassin's Creed: Origins' upcoming Discovery Mode, educate us about Ancient Egypt without the threat of enemies. Others, like the platformer Never Alone, hope to preserve the culture of the Alaskan Iñupiaq people by thematically reflecting their mythology and history.

Mulaka, from developer Lienzo, has a similar goal. Based off the indigenous culture and mythology of the Tarahumara tribe, Mulaka is an action adventure game that has players exploring the stunning sights of Northwestern Mexico. You play as a shaman, who is on a dangerous journey, attempting to stop powerful gods from the destroying the world. You can shape shift into several animals, including bears and birds, all while defeating massive enemies.

You can view the most recent trailer that was shown off at this year's PSX by watching the video below.

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The team at Lienzo researched the tribe meticulously, and worked with both anthropologists and members of a Tarahumara community, to ensure their representation is accurate. Mulaka releases for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC early next year.

Categories: Games

Packs A Pollo-Powered Punch

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 19:52

When Guacamelee released in 2013, the 2D Metroidvania dazzled with its fantastic combat and colorful artstyle. Guacamelee 2, which was announced at Sony’s Paris Games Week event, follows in the same footsteps as its predecessor while turning up the volume on all its features.

The original Guacamelee wore its influences on its sleeves, to the point where characters were getting weapon upgrades from Chozo statues, which were named the legally distinct Chorizo statues instead. It makes sense, then, that Guacamelee 2 so closely hews to what the original game was. You are interacting with the game in the exact same manner, through tough platforming challenges and melee fighting, but the game feels comfortable in its similarity.

While the original game supported two-player local co-op, the sequel doubles that number with four distinct characters, including the first game's protagonist Juan. This might be a scenario where less is more, as the screen gets chaotic with sprites flying all over the place with four players, but the option is there for those who want it. Multiplayer is again local-only, as Drinkbox explained that online multiplayer requires resources that would have to be pulled away from other parts of the project.

The demo we played has the protagonists chasing after one of the game's new cadre of villains, a lonely masked magician with an army of chickens and a strong desire to be best friends with the lead villain. You meet him a few times from a distance as he barks orders at chickens and generally chews the scenery with equal self-imposed drama to the first game's bad guys.

Each area of the game has a different environmental quirk it focuses on, with the demo area popping up traps from the ground if you stop on certain spots for a long enough time. The roll out of these traps is smartly designed, positioning them as things that should be avoided at first and eventually as things that can be utilized for your benefit. Luring enemies onto the traps hurts them and, crucially, also blocks attacks that are otherwise unavoidable.

The demo area also had small hooks floating in the air, which function similarly to the jumping off points from 2015's Ori and the Blind Forest. Jumping to one and hitting Triangle shoots you off in the angle you jumped at, which is of course used as a mechanism for increasingly more difficult platforming challenges. 

In the original Guacamelee, dimension switching was used for puzzle solving and platforming challenges and the idea was brought back in this demo with a new twist. Now, scrolling quarters of the screen will switch dimensions, which means you can be hitting an enemy and they will suddenly become incorporeal during your combo. In some rooms, the alternate dimension erases the platform you are standing on or is actually just a lava dimension, which forces speed and urgency on to you.

About halfway through the demo, we met with the Chicken Pope, papal poultry that grants you the ability to transform into a chicken once again. Unlike the first game, however, the chicken has full combat abilities and can hold their own in a fight, as well as their own unique abilities beyond just being small. Additionally, grabbing a temporary power up enlarged the chickens to monstrous sizes, like a Mega Mushroom in New Super Mario Bros., and let us stomp around and destroy enemies in a pollo-driven rage.

The demo ended with a boss fight with the masked magician, which incorporated everything you learned so far in the level leading up to him. His boss room contained two traps, spike towers that shoot up if you stand on their floor placement too long, which are key in blocking some of the boss' attacks and hitting him when he's up in the air. He would occasionally take breaks to shoot chickens at you in bullet hell-style patterns that you could glide and jump around in your chicken form.

Guacamelee 2's demo was fun and comforting and certainly does not reinvent the wheel. It does not need to, however, as the game remains fairly unique in its genre blending and still feels as good to play as ever.

Guacamelee 2 is scheduled to release in 2018 on the PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

A Surprisingly Thoughtful Multiplayer VR Shooter

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 06:06

Announced at Sony’s annual PlayStation Experience, Firewall: Zero Hour is Sony’s answer to the booming genre of tactical team-based multiplayer shooters with a virtual reality twist.

Firewall follows in the vein of games like Ubisoft’s popular Rainbow Six: Siege, pitting two teams of four players each with contrasting goals against each other in tactical combat. Teams can choose to win a match by stealthily achieving their goals or they can win bloody, seeking out and flushing out enemies toward a grisly end.

The concept is simple: both teams of mercenaries have been hired by anonymous contract holders that either want to steal data or protect their own data. The contract holders act as an eye in the sky for your team and tell you about changing mission objectives or, as I became very used to hearing, express their disappointment in you.



What separates Firewall from the herd, however, is leveraging VR for the gameplay. The game uses the PlayStation VR headset and Aim controller to create an experience that feels a bit more real and tense than other games in the genre. There is no auto-aim or aim-down-sights mechanics because the game wants you to feel like you are physically holding the gun, an experience Sony pushed with their previous VR shooter Farpoint. Similarly, your HUD is on your wrist, which makes checking the map as simple as turning your gun slightly.

My first match was uneventful, my team failed to find the other team until they mysteriously and silently achieved their goal without us realizing it. Aside from accidentally throwing my grenades out due to the button being awkwardly placed on the Aim controller, the match saw little to no weapon use.



My second match, however, began with a bang as both teams met up in the stage’s building mezzanine and engaged in a firefight. The rifle and grenade aiming made total sense at once and I genuinely felt that every missed bullet was my fault. I died, but not before taking someone down with me, and my time rode the confusion to victory.

First Contact Entertainment's Firewall: Zero Hour can be played with either the Move or a DualShock 4, but is exclusive to PlayStation VR regardless of control method. The game is scheduled for release in 2018.

Categories: Games

Defining American Graffiti

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 00:06

There is an argument that art comes from the immediate desires of the creator, which is a stance that makes sense after checking out Concrete Genie’s art creation. We got to sit down with the developers, Pixelopus, as they showed off how painting the town red worked in the PlayStation 4 game.

In Concrete Genie, the world is truly your canvas, with every wall in the otherwise grey and drag city functioning as an open space for you to place your art. Your main character, Ash, interacts with walls with his magic brush and paints pictures using themed stamps and templates to create moving 2D tableaus. Placing a waterfall on the wall creates a small pool at the bottom of the wall, the sun lights up various other placed objects, and flowers look super pretty.

There is no limit to what you can create - or at least not one the developers have hit yet.

The initial theme Pixelopus showed us, Landscape, focused primarily on the flora and environment that would make up a landscape painting. They confirmed that there are more themes and objects that can be found and unlocked as the player progresses through the game, allowing budding artists to mix and match themes and objects. The themes gets more varied and tonally darker as Ash collects them, reflecting his emotional state in the story.

Environments are not the focus of Ash’s paintings, however, as he also has the ability to give life to creatures. Ash creates creatures to solve puzzles in the game, but they represent his friends at a time where he faces constant bullying. How you draw the creatures (big, small, bipedal, quadraped) affects how they move and their personalities. Even the color you choose when you bring them to life determines how they behave, as well as their elemental affinities for puzzle solving.

Creatures interact with each other and the environment, depending on their personalities. Pixelopus remarked that, when making the trailer for the game, certain creatures unexpectedly photobombed their perfect shots because their AI allowed for that behavior.

The creatures and other parts of the 2D art are still affected by physics, something Pixelopus told us was aided by sister studio Media Molecule after seeing their game. The Dreams developer lended some of their internal physics tech to Pixelopus, which results in an extremely cool look and feel to the paintings.

While they weren’t shown, the developer explained that the paintings are affected by Ash’s bullies in the city, something hinted at by the game’s first trailer. The bullies also affect the various ways the creatures behave, indicating that the friend you spent so long on creating and growing might be in danger if left alone.

Concrete Genie is built on the Unreal Engine and looks completely unlike any other Unreal game out there. The paintings you can make burst with a creativity that is completely unexpected when you first look at the blank canvases around you in a dark city square. I am very eager to get my hands on it.

Concrete Genie is scheduled for 2018 exclusively on the PlayStation 4.

Categories: Games

A Magical Reawakening

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 21:56

Media Molecule’s Dreams was one of the first games announced for PlayStation 4, dating back to PlayStation Meeting in 2013 when the hardware was revealed. Over the next couple of years, we were given brief looks at this ambitious content-creation experience, with a beta promised to drop in 2016. Just when it seemed we would get a taste of what to expect from Dreams, it appeared to be transforming into a nightmare, as the beta was canceled and no release date was in sight.

After going dark for an extended period of time, Media Molecule marks today as a new coming out party, stating Dreams is locked in for launch at an unspecified time in 2018. The team spent the last two years working on simplifying the game’s creation tools, getting them to a point where anyone should be able to pick up a controller and create art – that’s the hope.

Although I wasn’t given the chance to get my hands on Dreams, Media Molecule spent an hour walking me through the game's numerous avenues of play during a behind-closed-doors meeting at PlayStation Experience. The team's past success with LittleBigPlanet frequently came to mind, both in the creative dreamscapes that flashed into focus, and the design to continually reward players with new items that will deepen the well of creative options at their fingertips.

The demo began with a look at a mode Media Molecule is loosely calling the "campaign," a story driven experience called Art's Dream that weaves together three short stories based in childhood fantasy, science-fiction, and film noir worlds. All three stories are connected somehow, but the player won't know exactly how until they progress deeper within each. The story begins with two cute characters, Foxy and Francis, riding a dragon through the clouds, landing, and deciding to play hide and seek. At this point in the game, Media Molecule is fully embracing the meaning of "childhood," almost making the game look like it's being developed exclusively with the younger audience in mind. Most of the challenges range from simple jumping exercises to flicking motions to open things like Russian nesting dolls and boxes. As Foxy and Francis quest to find their dragon in hiding, they collect prize bubbles that hold items players can use in the building modes, just like in Little Big Planet.

The player can freely control Francis or Foxy (pressing the triangle button to switch between them), but can also control a customizable cursor called an Imp to highlight and interact with things in the environment. The Imp is used throughout the entire game – from menu management to making music – and is a key part of how Dreams can support numerous game styles. After locating the dragon, which sadly ends with him being caged by an unknown entity, the game immediately shifts to the Noir setting, where the gameplay shifts to point and click. The childhood vibe washes away and is replaced by darker, more serious tones. This dramatic shift follows a character named Art, who appears to be searching for a woman. He's tasked with trying to find a way aboard a train to further pursue her. Like most point-and-click titles, the player must scour the environment for things to study and interact with. The search in this instance leads to a piano with luggage next to it. Using the Imp to investigate, a flick of the wrist opens a suitcase, holding a doll. This isn't just any doll, it's a doll of Francis (from the previous story we were just in). Opening the top of the piano reveals string that seems random, but is quickly used in a trade with a musician who needs the string for her banjo. She gives Art a train ticket in exchange.

The story then shifts back for more childhood fantasy gameplay, which features stunning backdrops inspired by the work of artist Tyrus Wong, known for his work on Disney's Bambi. This second look at the world is filled with platforming peril, but doesn't last long, as the viewpoint again shifts, this time to the sci-fi setting, where we see a robot named D-Bug unleashing electrical charges to light up the world and create passage to new areas. This area is again stunning in detail, and Media Molecule representatives are quick to point out that everything we are seeing in the campaign was created using the in-game tools. No additional development tools were used to enhance any of it.

Media Molecule says that players will be able to weave together their own adventures using the creation tools, and can even auto-surf through the communities' creations, which can pull together random stories into one arc. Players will also be able to search for the type of content them want, such as game types, or even artists.

We are then given a brief look at the creation tools that players will be able to use when the game launches. For the sake of time, no items were created from scratch, but we did see just how deep this experience can be in a small pre-made area, consisting of little more than floating island and a wooden path on it. Using just the pre-assigned controller inputs, parts of the island were grabbed, moved, resized, duplicated, and even animated. Activating a "record" function, any motion the player makes is animated. We watched a Media Molecule designer hit record, pick up a piece of the wooden path, move it in the air back and forth, and then stop the recording. When he dropped in a character, the wooden path was moving back and forth, creating an aerial platforming challenge. Media Molecule continually stressed the point that most of the tools are easy to use, but it looks like the learning curve will be extensive.

Our demo ended with a look at how music and sounds can be created. For anyone that has used Garage Band and Pro Tools, Media Molecule has built something similar, allowing for music to be compiled and edited quickly. Players can import their own sounds freely, and an extensive library of instruments and sounds is also provided. Within seconds we watched a song come to life and play as a character jumped across the platform.

Dreams is a significantly deeper and more ambitious project than Little Big Planet. Players aren't just tasked to make a game, they can freely create whatever they want, whether it's a painting or an entire open world. Media Molecule offers up a wide variety of avenues to creation, whether it's starting with a blank canvas or entering someone else's creation to either add to it or see how it was created. All content shows a geneology of who created one. Players will even be able to create projects that can be worked on by numerous collaborators, much like a game development team. So you are great at art, yet stink at animation, you may find a community member that can help you bring your vision to life.

The demo made me want to try my hand at creating something, but sadly, I wasn't given the chance to play it yet. The big question surrounding Dreams is just how easy it is to create. Media Molecule believes people will be able to jump right in, but I also heard that about Little Big Planet, yet struggled to create anything meaningful without first dedicating a wealth of time to understanding the basics.

Categories: Games

Watch New Gameplay From PSX

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 21:30

When we last checked in on Lost Soul Aside, we learned it would be a timed PlayStation 4 exclusive when it releases next year.

It makes sense, then, that the game would be playable at this year's PSX, and surprise! That's the case. To celebrate his game being at the show, Lost Soul Aside developer Bing Yang has released a new gameplay trailer of his project, which takes plenty of cues from the likes of Devil May Cry while looking more like Final Fantasy XV in terms of graphical style. You can watch some monsters get sliced and diced at high resolution below.

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Categories: Games

Fantasy Flight Interactive Brings The Card Game To PC

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 20:21

Fantasy Flight Interactive, which launched as a way to help Fantasy Flight Games create digital versions of their various card games, announced today its bringing its Lord of the Rings Living Card Game to PC.

The Card Game, published by Asmodee Digital, will focus on the multiplayer aspect of the card game, but will also feature a single-player component, comprising of three single-player campaigns where players guide one of three heroes to fight Sauron's forces. You can watch a teaser for the game below.

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You can also check out the first screen of the game in action. It looks very similar to Hearthstone.

Categories: Games

Watch Ten Minutes Of Gameplay

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 19:38

Although we got our first glimpse of Soulcalibur VI at Thursday's Game Awards, this morning PlayStation offered fighting fans the first look at some in-depth gameplay.

The trailer also includes an interview with the game's producer Motohiro Okubo, who sheds some light on other aspects of the game. First, the game hearkens back to the series' roots in a number of ways and for a good reason: 2018 marks 20th anniversary of the first Soulcalibur game's release in Japanese arcades, so the team wanted to pay homage to the series by returning to its past. However, from a gameplay perspective, the team hopes to mesh the responsiveness and speed of Soulcalibur II with the overall balance and form of Soulcalibur V.

Project Soul, the team behind the series, is separate from the team that creates Tekken over at Bandai Namco, and the two see each other as rivals, though both teams help each other throughout development. Project Soul also experimented with a few engines and before settling on Unreal Engine 4. When it came to nailing the look, the team wanted to return to the brighter lighting of the original Soulcalibur, which is a bit of a contrast to the grimmer lighting found in the subsequent games.

We also got a few additional details about the Reversal Edge, one of the new mechanics in VI. The team wanted to give new players a way to parry any attack, so that they could understand that some moves beat others completely, and that that's what they should be looking for when playing. When two Reversal Edges clash, there will be a slow-motion effect, similar to the one in Tekken 7.

However, the Reveral Edge isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card; as players play around with it, "they're going to understand the risks and transition into a more traditional Soulcalibur type of feel in gameplay," Okubo said. There will also be new mechanics for veteran players to experiment with, though Okubo didn't reveal any details about what they were.

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Categories: Games

Latest Crossover Gets A Little Mega

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 17:46

Capcom has unleashed a pair of trailers for Monster Hunter World, and they couldn't be more different.

The first trailer, called "Third Fleet," emphasizes the game's story. It's the most diverse set of camera angles and dialogue we've seen from the game yet, even it's mostly about the world around them and only hints a larger overarching plot that will string together all the hunting you'll be doing.

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The other trailer is about a Mega Man crossover, which, you know, couldn't do more to de-emphasize the lore of World and its characters. It's still a pretty fun and silly collaboration, though.

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Categories: Games

Steep: Road To The Olympics Review

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 12/09/2017 - 16:00

When Ubisoft Annecy's extreme sports game Steep launched last year, it sold itself on the promise of big mountain exploration. In light of this, Steep's newest expansion, Road to the Olympics, feels somewhat incongruous with the rest of the game. Something as regimented, restricted, and well-defined as the Olympics does not fit well with a game that challenges you to break all restrictions and find every nook and cranny hidden in the mountains. However, despite its name, Road to the Olympics includes much more than just the Olympics; it adds a huge swath of beautiful and brutal terrain, as well as new events that are surprisingly entertaining.

Those parts of the DLC are hidden behind the story mode, however, which is not much more than a classic longshot narrative: You are an aspiring freestyle Olympian, and you have to complete a series of events in order to make it onto the Olympic team. Your ultimate goal is to become the first freestyle athlete to win the gold medal in all three freestyle disciplines: Big Air, Slopestyle, and Halfpipe.

As you progress through training and the various pre-Olympic competitions, the story is interspersed with actual video interviews with famous winter athletes. These are probably the best moments in the mode, as it's fascinating to hear Lindsey Vonn or Gus Kenworthy talk about their training regimen, what their anxieties are, or how it feels to win a competition. Generally, Olympic athletes only ever get visibility when they are actually participating in the Olympics, so it's easy to only think of them in the context of their sports. To see highly successful athletes sitting down in street clothes and talking about their experiences with obvious passion instills a sense of humanity and relatability that we rarely otherwise get.

Unfortunately, the rest of the story doesn't match the interviews in quality. Each event feels bizarrely disconnected from the interviews, and the mode's narrator treats your character as a nameless, faceless competitor who is supposed to be taking snowboarding by storm. In addition, the actual competitions are frustratingly easy if you've played the base game. During my playthrough of the story, I never once came close to falling out of first place, and I'd routinely score two or three times higher than the other competitors. During some events, where the total score is the sum of the scores of three runs, my two-run score would be significantly higher than the competitors' three-run scores. Although its in-depth tutorial make it a great mode for newcomers, veterans of the game won't find anything particularly exciting or intriguing. Thankfully, it only takes three hours to complete, so you can quickly get through it and turn your attention to the much more rewarding parts of the expansion: the new open world and the various challenges contained within.

For all its problems, Steep does one thing particularly well: it imparts a sense of scale that's unmatched by any other winter sports game. The mountains you ski on feel immense, varied, and full of secrets--in other words, they actually feel like real mountains. They draw you in and make you want to traverse their entire breadth. Additionally, each mountain is distinct and has its own character; Steep's Denali map features massive, wide-open slopes, while the Alps are filled with craggy peaks, glacier fields, and Swiss villages. Road to the Olympics adds a Japan location, which is just as varied and, it turns out, is my favorite map in the game.

Japan's skiing is unique and very different from Western ski areas. The new map is filled with huge, sheer cliffs that bottom out into narrow ravines, glades full of small, scraggly trees as opposed to the tall evergreens of the West, and pillow fields of natural jumps and kickers that make you feel both exhilarated and slightly out of control. Steep's character models and small details have never looked good, but its scenery is gorgeous, and Japan is no exception. I found myself frequently stopping and staring out over the mountain range, or seeking out the small temples and villages that dot the mountainside.

It's also just an incredibly fun map to ski down. Steep has arguably the best video-game skiing ever made, from the sense of speed to the ease of pulling off tricks to the smoothness of the mechanics. And Japan encourages you to experiment with those mechanics and push the game to its limits. No other map in the game has rock faces as sheer, chutes as steep, or glades as dense, and you'll have to really work to keep yourself from crashing. But unlike the Alps and Alaska, I never felt like I was fighting the game itself or going out of my way to avoid particularly nasty terrain. The new mountain wants you to throw yourself down chasms and cliffs.

Of course, free-roaming around the mountain isn't the only thing you can do in Steep--it also has a Trials-like challenge system that encourages you to perfect your runs to increase your score. I've found Japan's normal challenges to be fine, but unmemorable; there's no challenge that stands out like the Cliff Jump events in the base game. It also has a distinct lack of freestyle events, which are by far the best challenges in the game.

However, Road to the Olympics also contains about a dozen different Olympic challenges that are a lot more satisfying than their story mode counterparts. Competing against yourself and the global leaderboards is more difficult and more interesting than competing against computer-controlled characters. These events do feature a commentator, though, whose lines are extremely repetitive and often unrelated to what you're doing.

The events themselves are novel and rewarding, featuring mechanics and terrain found nowhere else in the game. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the new ski racing events actually work pretty well in a game that focuses so clearly on freestyle. In fact, the Downhill ski challenge has become one of my favorites of all the activities in Steep.

Struggling to control your character while going at extremely high speeds is satisfying and entertaining, especially when you nail a difficult turn while maintaining your velocity. Also, these ski race events finally justify the existence of Steep's first-person view. Although it's impossible to ski in first person while doing jumps and flips, ski racing is perfect for it: the smooth, open tracks keep the camera stable, and it's actually helpful to see the track from a closer, less obscured perspective. In addition, hitting a jump or carving a hard turn in first person felt way more real than I was expecting. For a few moments at least, I experienced the same stomach lurches that I do when skiing in real life.

The ski races provide some much-needed novelty to Steep's core gameplay, but most of Road to the Olympics is simply more Steep. That's both good and bad; the new playground in Japan is huge, varied, and enticing, it provides a wealth of opportunities to explore and try new tricks, and there are enough challenges to keep you occupied trying to beat your own and friends' scores. However, Steep does can get repetitive; a freestyle challenge is a freestyle challenge, after all, and eventually Japan's novelty does wear off. The ski races actually present new mechanics to master, but the expansion doesn't lean into these events hard enough. Even having just a few more Downhill courses would have gone a long way toward making Road to the Olympics better.

As it is, the moments where Road to the Olympics shines are when you're shredding through waist-deep powder at breakneck speeds through a picturesque glade, or careening from the very peak of a mountain down through ravines and all the way to the base far below. The new mountain is beautiful and features a good number of opportunities, and it's a welcome expansion of Steep's playable territory. The Olympic events, meanwhile, provide nice diversions when you really want to compete against yourself. The DLC's main feature--the narrative journey to the Olympics--is flawed, unfulfilling, and frustrating, but thankfully there's enough to do elsewhere that Road to the Olympics still helps bolster and revitalize Steep's main appeal. It's good to have a new mountain to throw yourself down.

Categories: Games

DontNod Talks Morality, Inspiration, And More

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 20:30

The wait for Vampyr may have been pushed into next year, but it’s allowed Dontnod to ensure they capitalize on their past experiences and explore a new kind of video game vampire.

Originally planned for release in October of 2017, Dontnod delayed their newest project into spring of 2018 to ensure the game could be polished and made into the best experience possible. And for good reason: In addition to being a new I.P., Vampyr represents a realization of their experience gained from both the Life is Strange series and Remember Me.

“In a way, we can consider that Vampyr is the child of Dontnod's first two projects: We return to a game mechanic based on fighting and confrontation, as in Remember Me, and at the same time we return to the mechanics of the choices and consequences freely left to the players, as in Life is Strange,” says game director Philippe Moreau. 

Following the acclaim Life is Strange received for its narrative, the team has strived to offer an equally engaging tale through their new title. To this end, they settled on an exploration of vampirism and the moral ambiguity surrounding its lore.

“Vampires, in videogames, are most often depicted as enemies. Maybe because they are vicious and deceitful creatures, and it can be hard to play a vampire as the ‘hero,’” says narrative director Stéphane Beauverger. “That was one of the main reasons why we wanted to explore that classic monster: to make the players understand that Jonathan may be the main protagonist of Vampyr, but he is far from being a hero in the usual meaning of the word.”

Playing as the Victorian-era doctor-turned-vampire Jonathan Reid, players encounter a variety of characters throughout the world with their own motivations and goals. As a vampire turned against his will and trying to hold onto his humanity, Jonathan must choose carefully who he feeds on, when, or at all, leaving the player to decide who will or won’t become a target. While choosing not to feed allows Jonathan to keep his cover and abide by his moral code, feeding allows him to utilize his vampiric powers more effectively in combat. Though there isn’t a set morality system in place, choices do carry consequences and aim to make the player think on their decision process.

“Vampyr tends to incite the player to think about his own choices and own morality,” Beauverger says. “Why spare this character but kill this one? Is it because he was not nice to you? Is it because you don’t like his attitude? Does someone who does not share your point of view deserve to die? Just who is the monster, then?”

The game carries heavy inspiration from films and literature related to these topics and themes, ranging from the iconic style of F.W. Mornau’s Nosferatu to the introspective look at the creatures through Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. At the same time, dark and abstract takes on London helped the game’s artists shape the world and its characters.

“I have always loved the haunting figures in some of Phil Hale’s paintings,” says art director Grégory Szucs. “Sculpted, chiseled and bleakly lit with a cold, stroby light. Even the framing can be suffocating at times.”

While the choice to put off the game’s release was a difficult one, the team believes it was the right call and that Vampyr will live up to expectations as a result.

“After the critical acclaim of Life is Strange, there are a lot of expectations,” Moreau says. “People are waiting for us to deliver some very strong storylines, because it’s in Dontnod’s DNA. So, of course this a big challenge for us, but people believe in us and we are confident.”

Players can make their way through the grey and twisted world of Vampyr when it hits PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC next year. For more on the game, check out the latest trailer from this year's E3.

Categories: Games

Destiny 2: Curse Of Osiris Review In Progress

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 12/08/2017 - 00:18

If you simply ran out of things to do in vanilla Destiny 2, its first DLC expansion, Curse of Osiris, adds a few new activities for you to take on. For the most part, though, there isn't enough to the expansion yet to justify coming back. My opinion is still in flux since I haven't played the Raid Lair yet, but so far, the story missions, Strikes, new Crucible maps, and Adventures feel like more of the same, despite the DLC's new settings and stories.

Curse of Osiris picks up right after the end of the base game's campaign, as far as your level goes. You could go directly from the end of the Red War story to Curse of Osiris' campaign, which requires a power level of 200 to 220, without having to grind much in between. For newcomers or PC players who've had less time with the game, it's a comfortable bridge for leveling up between the lower-level vanilla content and the high-level endgame activities like the Nightfall. (Those endgame activities are a different story, though. We'll get to that in a bit.)

As a result, though, Curse of Osiris' story missions feel like filler. The campaign sets up an enormous undertaking against the Vex, with infinite timelines and computer simulations and the mysterious Warlock Osiris mixed up in it all. But with a two-or-so-hour runtime, the missions rush through the interesting concepts and usher you into a simple final battle that is essentially scripted. It's also not enough time to fully understand Osiris as a character, which is disappointing considering he's only ever been mentioned in Destiny lore before now. The beautifully designed and varied Infinite Forest, a Vex creation designed to simulate timelines and their infinite permutations, is the most interesting addition in the expansion--but even then, the story doesn't task you with exploring it, instead shepherding you through areas to find codes and things that smarter NPCs can use to pinpoint your next destination for you.

Other than the Infinite Forest, the new destination, Mercury, is simply uninteresting to explore. It's a small circular map with one new Public Event to try out, a new vendor, and a handful of chests and Lost Sectors. The foundation of exploration established in the base game is still good here--having a variety of options to choose from does make things feel less repetitive--but it feels like busywork with little to do at the highest level. That extends to the new Strikes, which are almost direct copies of two of the story missions, nothing more than another way to kill time.

The biggest problem with Curse of Osiris is that it locks the hardest activities, including the Prestige Nightfall and the Prestige Raid, behind its new power level cap of 335. The recommended power for those activities is 330, which you can't reach if you don't have the Curse of Osiris DLC. So if you don't get the DLC, you suddenly don't have access to something you used to be able to do. It's also frustrating if you do get Curse of Osiris, because the higher level requirement doesn't fundamentally change these activities.

New Heroic Adventures add Nightfall-style modifiers to the Adventures on Mercury, but those missions aren't begging to be replayed. The main incentive to do it at all is to unlock the Lost Prophecy quest from the NPC Brother Vance, which eventually unlocks the Forge. From there, you can craft Legendary Vex weapons. But for anyone besides the most dedicated players, there's no compelling reason to do all this unless you want to redo old missions on harder difficulties in order to get loot to use when you do them again.

Excellent gunplay isn't enough to sustain an expansion that adds little outside of busywork.

While some of the new loot is worth collecting--my favorite of the ones I've found is a Legendary automatic scout rifle--you'll likely get a lot of duplicates before you get anything you actually want to use. Because the main reward for everything you do is shiny new loot, the frustratingly high drop rate of duplicates makes grinding more disappointing than satisfying. The gunplay feels as great as ever, though, so it can be fun to experiment with new weapons, but it's not enough to sustain an expansion that adds little outside of extra ways to occupy your time.

That being said, I still need more time to try out Lost Prophecies and the Forge as well as the Raid Lair when it launches. If they provide more of an endgame and have more of a purpose than just padding out the same kind of stuff, I'll be more inclined to return to Destiny 2 than I am currently.

Categories: Games

Capybara's OK K.O.! Video Game Gets Its First Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 12/07/2017 - 18:00

The developers behind Super Time Force and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP are teaming up with Cartoon Network to make an OK K.O.! video game.

OK K.O.! Let’s Play Heroes the show, which is sharing its name with the game, premiered this summer on Cartoon Network after it began its life online as a series of web shorts. The second season of the show premieres next year and its video game adaptation will release sometime in early 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The trailer below represents the game's first gameplay footage.

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For more on the partnership between Capybara and Cartoon Network, head here for an interview with the show's creator here. You can also read about the game's announcement here.

Categories: Games

Doom VFR Review

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 12/05/2017 - 23:00

It’s one thing to step into 2016's Doom and witness its version of hell in all its modern, HD glory. It’s another thing entirely to step out of a portal in the new Doom VFR and suddenly find yourself inescapably surrounded by fire and death. Hell has been made more harrowing and real than ever before, and Doom VFR leverages this to present a new tale. But a big issue is that compared to last year's hit, Doom VFR is more conservative with its action, stingier with the bloody, brutal joys that were part and parcel of Doom's successful return to the stage.

Doom VFR is a pseudo-sequel set one year after the events of the last game, where a milquetoast UAC employee, Adams, finds himself knocked out after a face-to-face encounter with a demon after a portal to Hell opens. When he wakes up, he's connected to a virtual reality rig, allowing him to pilot a holographic representation of his body around the facility to try and shut the portal to Hell for good. Right off the bat, the priorities are different than before. Adams is a generic cypher whose voice is present only to tell us what piece of expensive tech is broken in the Mars facility and how to fix it. That meticulous fawning over UAC equipment is the kind of legwork that the Doomslayer--the series’ faceless Marine protagonist--never had a whole lot of time for. The guy who cocked his shotgun to the chugging beat of his own theme song has been replaced by a guy who's essentially reading a UAC instruction manual at the beginning of each stage, robbing the game of its familiar brutal charm.

Thankfully, when it's demon killing time, Adams knows to shut his mouth and let the guns and Mick Gordon's metal soundtrack do the talking. There're three ways to play on PSVR: with a DualShock 4, with two Playstation Move controllers, or with the gun-shaped Aim controller. The Dualshock 4 handles like the non-VR Doom, just with a Teleport button, which has become the standard mode of movement in VR shooters. There’s also a new Shield Burst ability, a crowd-control function allowing you to repulse all enemies halfway across the room with an overloaded electrical shield. The Dualshock 4 is certainly functional for the game, but it’s also the least immersive option available.

Playing with Move controllers fares the worst. Aiming with the right controller feels natural, but actual movement is handled by a quick dash function using the left controller's buttons as directional inputs, which leaves absolutely zero room for the kind of precision you need to survive.

The Aim controller is the ideal. It's not perfect either--for some reason, the PSVR's camera tracking on the Aim seems to drift more than normal, which is a problem if you're trying to use one of the larger weapons, like the Gauss Cannon--but it is by far the most gratifying way to play, using the same mix of movement controls as the DualShock 4 but with a prop in your hand that feels more inline with your actions. White knuckle clutching a physical rifle while the forces of Hell charge ahead puts you into the right mode to slay demons, and feels exactly like the kind of experience the Aim was made for.

For the most part, shooting your way through Hell's armies feels just as brutal as it does in the 2016 game. Demons explode into bloody, fleshy messes. Arenas are wide open, encouraging constant awareness of your surroundings, something made much more efficient with the Teleport function. The entirety of the enemy roster returns here, from the nimble, annoying Imps to the towering Barons, but VR puts them right in your face, making the physical act of pulling the trigger point blank all the more satisfying. The big missing element here is the Glory Kill system, where hitting the melee button on a blinking enemy let you demolish them with a quick, gruesome fatality. The replacement in Doom VFR is the ability to teleport into a blinking enemy and explode them from the inside. It mechanically gets the job done, but it's less impactful than it sounds, and pales in comparison to tearing enemies limb from limb.

Perhaps the ultimate complaint is that for a game that's so good at delivering fast-paced combat, it's strangely shy about letting you do so for extended periods of time. The campaign itself is only about 4 hours long, minus extra time spent exploring for collectibles and power-ups, with only the added bonus of playing some old-school Doom maps in VR--admittedly, a ridiculously fun, nostalgic bonus--to pad things out. Much of your time in the game is spent wandering the UAC facility, waiting for the chance to unleash wrath on Hell's inner circle. When you do, it can feel great, but Doom VFR feels like a game unsure of whether that's the case. The result is a game that feels tentative about its own considerable power.

Categories: Games

New Trailer Offers A Closer Look At Kid Buu

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 12/01/2017 - 16:21

Last month, Bandai Namco revealed Kid Buu would be a fighter in Dragon Ball FighterZ. Today, a new trailer offers a closer look at him.

You can check out the new trailer below, which shows his combat introduction, as well as a few special attacks.

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For more on Dragon Ball FighterZ, click the banner below for all of our features from when the game was on our cover.

Categories: Games

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 11/30/2017 - 13:00

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is every bit as fantastical as you'd hope, an RPG set in a massive world where man and animal live on the backs of tremendous beasts in a sea of clouds. The world of Alrest, simultaneously Earthly and alien, with a mysterious history that even its major players fail to truly understand, is a magical place to inhabit. It appropriately sets the stage for an epic adventure that gets more interesting as it develops, but this greatness comes after dozens of hours filled with eye rolls and bewilderment. For all the good things Xenoblade 2 eventually introduces, the 80-plus hours it takes to complete the story won't feel like time wasted, but the bad taste of the its lesser qualities is never completely washed away.

The cliched hero Rex is a naive and upbeat salvager who gets wrapped up in contract work with the game's soon-to-be villains at the start. They seek a legendary sword, which in this case is the weapon-manifestation of a human-like being known as a Blade. When a human resonates with a Blade, as Rex does with his objective, Pyra, a lifelong partnership forms. Though sentimental to a point, these bonds are also a bit lopsided as Blades are forever bound to serve their masters. Xenoblade 2 does address this as the story unravels, one of the few smart instances when the game puts itself to task. Rex doesn't quite enjoy the same full-circle maturation, sadly, though his positivity at least grows more welcome as stakes rise and other characters' outlooks sour.

Anyone familiar with Xenoblade Chronicles will rightfully recognize the way Xenoblade 2 sets you up to be surprised in the end, as characters gradually reveal secret thoughts, unveil unexpected backstories, and make moves that catch you off guard. These thought-provoking revelations reshape your understanding of the world and the point of your participation. But long before the story delivers these compelling beats, you are thrust into predictable scenarios and presented with poorly voiced characters from one scene to the next. Once again, the stout and furry Nopon creatures are an annoyance on par with Jar Jar Binks, harming would-be dramatic scenes the moment they open their mouths.

Rex and Pyra seek Elysium, a sort of paradise atop a towering tree running through the center of Alrest. They partner with a small selection of comrades from different walks of life who surprisingly have more in common than they initially realize. You can only ever travel as a party of three, but with a Blade standing behind each character, or Driver, battles are frenzied displays. Still, Xenoblade 2 gives you a chance to breathe and strategize during its real-time bouts. Every character will dish out basic attacks automatically, which in turn fuel more advanced skills. You only ever have complete control over one character, but your allies will chime in with requests to perform certain moves. How you manage this process, and the numerous other battle mechanics, can make or break your success against the game's tougher enemies.

One of the major issues with Xenoblade 2 is that it fails to adequately educate you, with fly-by tutorials introducing cascading mechanics and terminology that's easy to mix up. The flow of combat works as follows: your auto attacks fill up a meter tied to abilities known as arts, arts fuel another meter for special attacks, special attacks can be linked from one character to the next to build up a Blade combo, Blade combos seal away certain enemy abilities, and team chain attacks--based on a meter that is also used to revive fallen teammates--can break these seals to create an elemental explosion that deals hefty damage, which successfully extends the chain attack for another round. Enemies can also be forced into tiers of vulnerability by breaking their defense, toppling them to the ground, launching them into the air, and smashing them back down, provided you execute these moves with abilities linked to cooldowns that you've hopefully kept track of, all before countdown timers close your window of opportunity. There are other systems that exist on a per-character basis, but those exclusions notwithstanding, there's already a lot to keep track of. Success comes from managing timers and meter charges and firmly grasping your available options, the latter of which is more demanding than the game initially lets on.

Thankfully Xenoblade 2 feels appropriately balanced to account for its learning curve. It's not until later in the game that mastery becomes paramount. The frustration arises, however, from the lack of reference material, which makes your desire to improve, or your ability to chase hidden paths with dangerous enemies and great rewards, difficult to realize at first. Take screenshots when the game presents you with a tutorial, because once you move to the next text bubble, that info is otherwise lost. The only other recourse is to purchase bite-sized tips from informants throughout the game, though linking partial tutorials to a merchant is hardly user-friendly, and they don't adequately cover the breadth of Xenoblade 2's mechanics.

Merchants in general even manage to be confusing at first, as one location will cram as many as a dozen in a small area. Characters can carry items in special pouches that buff certain stats, such as meter generation, and while some are incredibly useful to the point of eliminating the need to grind, it's a slow process to familiarize yourself with the dozens of options available to you, and the numerous merchants that specialize in one category apiece. This also extends to a vast selection of accessories for characters and Blades, which are difficult to keep track of and compare given the game's mediocre item-management interface. Variety is good, but Xenoblade 2 throws you into the deep end a bit too early for you to appreciate the value of everything at your disposal.

To build a formidable team, you're encouraged to regularly acquire new Blades by collecting and bonding with Core Crystals, which are found in chests and dropped by defeated enemies. Despite three tiers of crystals--normal, rare, and legendary--you're never guaranteed to get one of the game's elusive rare Blades from crystals you find in the field. Save for a few varying body types, the vast majority of Blades you acquire also look nearly identical.

Looks obviously aren't everything, and even common Blades are useful as they each come with randomized buffs and stat bonuses that can make a big difference in battle. But rare Blades have unique designs, their own side quests, and a larger selection of skills and stat bonuses than common Blades. It's easy enough over time to fill out your party with rares, but opening Core Crystals becomes less attractive as diminishing returns set in. Opening 50 towards the end of the game yielded zero rare Blades, despite having unlocked only half of the rare roster.

To combat the randomness of Core Crystals, you are joined by a Blade early on named Poppi, an artificial lifeform that you can customize to your liking. The concept sounds great, but unlocking parts to modify Poppi requires you to play a shallow retro game called Tiger Tiger, where you move a chunky character through a slow-scrolling stage while picking up collectables. More annoyingly, you can't play this game freely, and must return to an early-game location and likely play a couple hundred rounds to earn enough resources for desirable upgrades. This long-winded process isn't enjoyable enough to see through, and not worth sidelining your efforts elsewhere with Blades that you can raise organically through combat.

Blades outside of your core party can also be trained via asynchronous mercenary missions, and they return after a fixed amount of time with rewards and experience that goes towards developing their secondary abilities. Field skills, for example--traits such as lockpicking, focus, and leaping power--will allow you to access elite treasure chests and shortcuts. There are very rare instances when the game will gate you with a door that requires mastery of certain field skills, though these are exclusively linked to abilities shared among story-based Blades.

Even in these situations, you're never truly stuck. Xenoblade 2 lets you fast travel, instantly, to any major location in the game, regardless of the context in the story. This is great in a pinch, but it's also incredibly illogical. You shouldn't be able to warp out of a location to buy equipment across the world during a mission where your main objective is to escape imprisonment, but Xenoblade 2 affords you that option. No matter how silly it seems in practice, fast travelling makes it easy to hop back and forth from one incredible environment to the next. Alrest is gigantic, and following the story will only reveal a small part of what there is to see. Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X both set a high bar for world design, and developer Monolith Soft. has once again delivered a robust collection of dazzling environments.

On this and many other levels, Xenoblade 2 exhibits admirable depth. Adventurous types that enjoy complex combat systems can easily spend more than 100 hours uncovering Alrest's secrets and developing their team of Blades, provided they can come to terms with a handful of unavoidable shortcomings. It's equal parts pleasing and frustrating, but the struggle to keep up with everything thrown your way is more of a hurdle than a roadblock. It will be a tough pill to swallow for people who aren't accustomed to the typical cliches found in many Japanese RPGs, and its often clumsy nature keeps it from being the next groundbreaking Switch game, but Xenoblade 2 is worth pursuing if you've got enough patience to let it blossom.

Categories: Games

Lovecraft, Majora's Mask, And Dickens Combine In This Indie Narrative-Adventure

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 11/29/2017 - 22:00

Something feels off about the city in A Place for the Unwilling, a narrative adventure game from the Madrid-based indie developer AlPixel Games. Black smoke spews from the chimneys of homes and factories, friendly faces hide secrets, and a sense of mysterious, unknown dread permeates the streets of this Dickensian city.

In A Place for the Unwilling, which is due out next year on PC and Mac, AlPixel crafts a Dickensian world with a visually striking style that begs you to explore its darkest corners all while the hands of a ticking clock remind you the end is nigh.

The intriguing mysteries of the city and darkly humorous tone draw you in, but it’s the Majora’s Mask-style ticking clock mechanic that spices up the game’s narrative-adventure tropes. It adds urgency to a genre that usually allows you to play at your own pace. Although you can guide your character around the city, which is viewed from an isometric perspective, talk with NPCs, and add information to your journal and inventory, the clock is always ticking, except during conversations. The mechanic also makes choices that often seem insignificant – who to talk to, what area to explore – much more important.

“We asked ourselves if there was any way to make every moment meaningful,” says game designer Luis Díaz. “We came up with a solution. What if just choosing to visit a certain place or talking to a certain character affected your story? What if every second you're playing you're opening some doors and closing others?”

Players arrive in what is simply and mysteriously named “the city” as a newcomer, a young man who is taking over the trading business of his childhood friend Henry Allen who recently committed suicide. Over the course of the next 21 in-game days, each of which currently lasts around 20 real-time minutes, players explore their environment, learn about the setting, and form relationships with characters during the dying days of the city. 

Every interaction matters. Deciding whether to spend the day talking with people, earning money through the trading system, or reading the daily news all becomes important to the narrative. Even staying out late at night can affect a playthrough.

“At night, the protagonist will start feeling tired. They can stay up late, though they’ll wake up later the next morning, which might mean missing some important events,” Díaz says.

With a lot of activities to do, it might seem like A Place for the Unwilling is a time-management game, and to a certain extent it is. However, the focus remains squarely on the city and the relationships you form within the city.

The setting in A Place for the Unwilling immediately establishes an intriguing blend of charm and dread. This strange combination runs through every aspect AlPixel’s adventure, from the art design and music to the writing and world building.

According to the team, the mood and atmosphere comes right out of their smorgasbord of influences, which are as diverse as H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, the darkly humorous work of Charles Addams and Edward Gorey, and the Grimm’s Fairy Tales-like animated miniseries Over the Garden Wall

“In [those] works, a candid and heartwarming facade hides something macabre within,” Rubén Calles, a 2D artist at AlPixel, says. “[It] was quite important to define the mood we wanted to convey.” 

A Place for the Unwilling has a similar mix of humor and horror, which its heavily shadowed, cartoonish art style helps portray. The city’s smoke-spewing factories, foggy cobblestone streets, and Lovecraftian dread lend a darkness to the proceedings that the characters, with their charm and humor, balance out.

“Laboral abuse, police brutality, child slave labor, or political corruption are among the themes we’ll be addressing,” says AlPixel narrative director Ángel Luis Sucasas. “But, at the same time, we have a lighthouse-keeper that turns on and off the lighthouse whenever he feels like reading, a stuttering bookseller that can only express with clarity through singing, and a young thirteen-year-old anarchist who always carries a cigarette in his mouth. Both humor and harshness go along in our game.”

It’s especially important to have engaging and entertaining characters, considering that most of the time players spend in the game involves dialogue choices and conversation. A Place for the Unwilling is primarily about the relationships players form with these characters, which is why AlPixel took a different approach to its NPC population. 

“Since our whole project is based on narrative, we decided characters would only mean something in terms of gameplay once they mean something to the story the player is building,” Sucasas says. “So everybody starts out as a shadow, they’re blurry strangers you can ask for directions but you’ll forget their faces soon enough. Once you’re involved with them in [a meaningful way], the shadow will fade away and you’ll recognize their faces as they wander the streets.”

It's a clever commentary on the way people inhabit and interact with real-world cities, and the effect of this design choice is disconcerting in a good way. Walking around the streets of the city past shadowy, unknown figures adds to the dark, mysterious atmosphere and as an outsider, it makes sense that the city would seem hostile or foreign to the player. 

Just like how the ticking-clock mechanic spices up decision-making, this mechanic makes social interactions refreshing and meaningful. Not only are you engaging with someone who can help you out, you are bringing a friendly face and a bit of life to your world.

With its blend of humor and dread, an intriguing setting, and the pressure of working within a time limit, mystery remains at the heart of A Place for the Unwilling, and AlPixel is intent on surprising players at every turn.

“We want to disconcert players, make them laugh, horrify them and move them; never knowing which emotion will come up once they draw the next card from the deck,” Sucasas says.

Categories: Games

7 Big Changes Coming To Civilization VI's 'Rise and Fall' Expansion

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 11/28/2017 - 16:00

With many Civilization titles over the last decade, the initial title is a strong showing, but the expansions really add the oomph that keeps us playing, hour after hour, game after game. Civilization VI's upcoming expansion, Rise and Fall, contains a significant number of tweaks, changes, and additions. Rise and Fall hits on February 8, 2018. In a discussion with lead designer Anton Strenger and producer Andrew Frederiksen, we dived down into some of these features and mechanics.

New Civilizations and Leaders

Rise and Fall adds eight new civilizations and nine new leaders to the ranks. Firaxis is rolling out reveals for each of these civilizations during the lead up to release, so check the official site in the weeks to come.

New Units and Upgrades

The new civs bring plenty of new units to discover and use, but upgrade paths for old units are also being fleshed out. Essentially, unit paths that trickled out or had serious gaps between tech have been looked at and addressed. The scout path, for instance, gains a Spec Ops unit that can paradrop. The medic path gains supply convoys. An anti-tank unit is available between pikemen and anti-tank guns.

Golden, Dark, And Heroic Ages Change Everything

Ages are a major mechanic in Rise and Fall. In each age, you can score a golden age, regular age, or dark age. Golden ages are the most desirable, while dark ages are more difficult to manage – you will be the underdog to the rest of the world in these situations, playing catch-up. However, if you manage to go from Dark Age to Golden Age, you can trigger a Heroic Age, which offers absurd benefits, so even though you may be behind, there are ways to get back on top. Your era score determines your ages at various points. You accumulate era points by achieving anything of historical significance, such as circumnavigating the globe or other "big wins". A new timeline keeps track of all your historical moments, and "tells the story" of your civilization as you progress.

Loyalty Matters

The new loyalty system is tied to the age feature as well. Think of loyalty as a system that works alongside managing your population's happiness. Dark Ages will cause you to take a loyalty hit among your people, so loyalty must be managed carefully. Cities that take enough loyalty "damage" will actually break off from your civilization and become a free city – one ripe for the taking from other nations. New strategies allow you to attempt to break a city's loyalty down either openly or from the shadows, letting you fight for the hearts and minds of a city's populace and potentially take it without firing a shot. Golden ages boost your entire population's loyalty, while a dark age leaves you open to influence.

Game Changing Governors 

Governors are new "big personality" units that you can have up to seven of in your civilization. As you advance, you can choose to recruit more governors to spread out among your cities or focus on making one more powerful and influential. For instance, a finance specialist governor improves your economic potential, trade, and borders. A boosted financial governor can buy new districts straight up for cash, an extremely powerful ability. Governors raise loyalty in their cities, and can alternatively be used to chip away at opposing holdings to wear their loyalty down.

Introducing Emergencies


Emergencies add some serious spice to the game. Perhaps an opponent is about to launch a nuclear weapon – an emergency could be declared. When a civilization is running away with victory, emergencies trigger that can even the stakes or push that player even further ahead. If you choose to team up and stop the nuclear launch with other players for instance, you could significantly hamper or destroy that civilization. However, if you band up and fail, the civilization in the crosshairs actually gets some bonuses to keep pushing forward. The system isn't directly tied to players about to win, but instead focuses on putting the spotlight on gigantic international incidents (such as the first nuclear launch.)

Alliances Matter More Than Ever

Alliances are being overhauled and upgraded, and you can now make different types of alliances such as research or economic. These alliances reward you for keeping them going over time, allowing you to level up the alliance to gain access to more significant upgrades and bonuses.

Categories: Games

The Emotional Stakes Are Raised In New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 11/27/2017 - 19:21

The newest trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 provides a glimpse of the game's emotional stakes before its December 1 release.

Posted by Nintendo earlier today, the video offers insight into how the world's transforming Blade characters carry on their memories across their endless lives. Heartfelt exchanges, gut-wrenching losses, and prolonged battle screams ensue.

Developed by Monolith Soft, the game follows Rex and his Blade ally Pyra as they search for Elysium, a hidden paradise which could provide a new home for humanity. To do this, they journey high above the clouds on the backs of titans, which are large airborne beasts that the world's remaining humans have built fledgling civilizations on.

Players can dive into the drama themselves when the game launches this Friday exclusively on Nintendo Switch. 

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To learn more about Xenoblade Chronicles 2, check out our extensive feature.

Categories: Games

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