Games

Fortnite: Battle Royale Review - Laying The Foundation

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 17:00

For a game that was long in development as a cooperative horde-based shooter, the conspicuous and relatively quick addition of battle royale to Fortnite seemed to be a move to capitalize on a trend. However, its seemingly simple building system and loose shooting mechanics not only set it apart from other games built on the same premise, but work extremely well to make a uniquely chaotic and surprisingly deep deathmatch experience.

Everything about Fortnite's presentation emits a lighthearted tone. You start a match by jumping out of a party bus held up by balloons that flies across the game's massive map. Weapons, ammo, and health items litter its silly-named cities, all using alliteration--Tomato Town, Moisty Mire, Tilted Towers, to name a few. Even enemies don't really die; they're teleported away after getting knocked out. Valuable loot is found inside pinatas called supply llamas, for crying out loud. Players throw up basic structures formed out of thin air and firearms brightly express their trajectory. But don't let that first impression fool you; the further you get into a match, the more you see how Fortnite's gameplay elements have to be used in clever and complex ways to emerge victorious.

Unique to Fortnite is a streamlined building system comprised of four components: walls, ramps, floors, and roofs. These are constructed with three different types of materials that you either mine with a pickaxe or scavenge across the map; wood, stone, and metal each have their own properties in terms of durability and build speed. You can further modify structures to have windows and doors. It seems convoluted, but thanks to snappy grid-based layouts and the intuitive control scheme, getting the hang of building isn't much of a hurdle.

At first glance, it's as if Fortnite's original Save The World mode had its mechanics haphazardly dropped into the 100-player last-person-standing premise. But this is the foundation that makes for a myriad of tactical possibilities, like creating a sky-high staircase to climb a mountain to get the higher ground or swiftly fabricating your own cover as you run across an open field to close in on opponents. Literally, bridging the gap between mountains can turn long-range shootouts into close-quarters brawls. Fortnite's dynamic building system always gives you the opportunity to improvise, even when you think your back is against the wall.

For example, players will often shield themselves with structures that act as makeshift bunkers. To undercut that, you could put the pressure on them by constructing your own set of ramps leading into their territory to force a fair fight and eliminate an otherwise well-protected enemy. In these moments, the intrinsically rewarding nature of Fortnite shines through. Conflict isn't just about landing a precise shot or spotting the enemy first; quick wit and improvisation with the given toolset put you in a position to create your own path to success. Eliminations and victories feel very much earned, especially because the late-game often consists of which player or squad has the best architectural acumen in the ever-changing safe zones.

While construction is imperative for victory, so is destruction. Every object in the world of Fortnite can be destroyed. Even as players create their own formidable defense, no one is ever safe for long in battle. A well-placed rocket or remote explosive can quickly dismantle a large, complex fort; if a multi-story tower doesn't have a strong foundation, blasting it from underneath will bring those up high back down to earth. Even a subtle tactic like breaking down a single wall and throwing up a ramp to infiltrate in an imposing fort can prove just as effective.

Approaches to combat also rely on the weapons you scavenge. A typical arsenal made up of rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, and pistols have colored tiers to indicate varying levels of power and rarity. Each gun has a sensible use-case, however, traps and explosives mix things up a bit. This is another aspect in which Fortnite diverges from many other battle royale games; shooting is fast and loose, akin to an arena shooter. Mid-range firefights and close-quarters combat feel more like a fatal dance in and around the structures plopped into the environment. Bunnyhopping with a tactical shotgun is common at close range and spraying assault rifles is standard operation. Fortnite isn't a tactical shooter in the traditional sense, but offers its own bevy of strategic options to keep players on their toes.

Enemy engagement still carries the risk you expect from games of this ilk by nature of having one life per match and the relatively quick time-to-kill. Even after downing a Chug Jug for full health and shield, well-placed shots from a legendary or epic weapon will make short work of anyone. However, the brisk pace at which matches move trades unnerving tension for a higher frequency of action. Yet, as with any battle royale game, looting for resources sits at the core of matches and eats up much of your time. The system in place for loot and resource gathering is efficient, but it grows tiresome after consecutive matches as swinging the pickaxe at trees and houses for necessary materials grows increasingly repetitive.

Another area in which Fortnite is a bit thin is in its map design, a shortcoming that's twofold. The sprawling lone map features a variety of cute, thematic areas: Its metropolis of Tilted Towers and suburbs of Pleasant Park contrast the swamps of Moisty Mire and the countryside of Anarchy Acres. Regardless, there's a feeling many of the map's landmarks lack sophistication in physical layouts and density in loot placement. To its credit, the map's verticality brings the best out in your construction abilities, but city centers like Tomato Town have little to work with when two squads land in the area. A slightly more intricate town like Snobby Shores is sometimes devoid of useful items. It'd be easier to overlook this if you didn't have to trek across to a nearby town on foot that's likely to have been looted, but such is the case.

In just about half a year, Epic has demonstrated strong support with a consistent rollout of new content. Those who have been playing the game are aware of the limited-time modes that put a slight twist on the standard mode. Snipers-only or explosives-only matches have added a neat touch, but past modes like 50v50 or Teams of 20 do much more to change Fortnite's pace and open up new ways to play the game. If that's any indication, Fortnite could have plenty more to offer as it evolves further.

This is a free-to-play game, so you should be aware that it sustains itself through microtransactions. A $10 Battle Pass opens a slew of skins to earn and provides new goals to work towards. It's a reasonable system in that these objectives reward you with cosmetic items that visibly pop within Fortnite's bright art style. There's nothing to infringe on how the game plays, thankfully. If you wish to engage in making your pickaxe to look like a toy, don seasonal outfits, or get the latest viral dance as an emote, you either put in the time to earn it or shell out money for the game's V-Bucks.

While there are several moving parts in the game's ecosystem, Fortnite's biggest accomplishment is in how it seamlessly merges a number of simple mechanics to create a distinguishable battle royale game. What looks to be a straightforward building system steadily escalates to an elaborate display of tactical prowess. As the saying goes: It's easy to learn, hard to master. Although a few shortcomings in the map design eventually surface and fatigue in looting can set in, Fortnite rarely fails at challenging you in unexpected ways, resulting in something more than just another typical last-person-standing shooter.

Categories: Games

Take On The World With The Heart Of The Cards

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 15:00

As part of the King Knight DLC for Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games announced the King of Cards expansion, a brand new campaign centered around becoming card royalty.

For the expansion, Yacht Club Games has created an entirely new card game that functions similarly to Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad card game called Jouster. Cards representing Shovel Knight's many monsters make up your hand with arrows pointing in assigned directions on them. The cards are laid down in lit up center squares with the objective being to slide a card onto a gem on the board. Cards can be shoved by other cards in your hand by lining up arrows from the shover with sides with no arrows on the shovee, eventually getting to the gem.

King Knight is introduced to the card game, then walks forward into a Jouster hall with multiple opponents ready to play. He has to defeat every enemy in the area before he can take on the Black Knight below in his quest to become King.

The default deck probably won't get you very far, but Shovel Knight's merchant resides in a treasure chest in the basement below, and he's selling random cards for King Knight to buy. Since he's King Knight and part of the Order of No Quarter, he's more than happy to cheat, and consumable cheats can also be purchased from the merchant to just do things like destroy the entire enemy hand.

Yacht Club Games explained to us that King of Cards basically doubles the content of the King Knight DLC expansion, offering an entire campaign of characters, stages, and bosses similar in content to the main game and other two DLC campaigns, in addition to the platforming campaign already announced.

Both parts of the King Knight expansion are scheduled to be released in the first half of 2018.

Categories: Games

Funky Kong's Wild Ride

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 04/09/2018 - 02:33

At PAX East 2018, we got hands on with the Switch version of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, one of Nintendo's Wii U to Switch ports in the system's second year.

The big new addition, and emblazoned on the front of the new version's box, is the introduction of Donkey Kong's relative Funky Kong to the playable character list. Unlike previous characters like Diddy, Dixie, and Cranky, Funky supplants Donkey Kong as the main playable character and has his own skills to get through the game's levels.

The gorilla with sunglasses and a surfboard has a much easier time through the game for new players who find Tropical Freeze a little frustrating their first time through. Funky can double jump, basically emulating Dixie Kong's hair twirl but without needing her as a partner. While Cranky could bounce on spikes, Funky makes them completely moot by jumping and standing on them. Funky also hovers, much like Diddy's jetpack, making the incredibly safe jumps even safer. Finally, Funky can move fast in the same way Donkey Kong can infinitely roll, but without the need for a partner Kong.

For players who don't necessarily want an easy mode, however, Funky offers a few other advantages. Because of these extra skills, Funky Kong is a speedrunner's dream. The character basically breaks the game's level design and tears through areas far faster than Donkey Kong and any individual partner could do. For players who enjoy the time trial aspects of Tropical Freeze, Funky Kong is likely to dominate leaderboards. 

When players are using Funky Kong, his role as shopkeeper is taken up by Squawks the parrot, who does his best Funky impression in his stead.

The main improvement to the Switch version is much faster load times. The game on the Wii U suffered from extremely lengthy loads, while the Switch game seems to come in around half the time.

Whether Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze on Switch will be worth an extra purchase for previous owners has yet to be revealed, but fun with Funky can be had even for players who have already gone through the game.

Categories: Games

A Surprising Journey Through Time And Space

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 23:28

Outer Wilds' initial impression is rather mundane and even a little disappointing when you first sit down with it. The pitch for the game, space exploration governed and oppressed by time ticking down to a universal restart every few minutes, feels almost wasted at the outset. I played the demo at PAX East, however, and came away feeling far more intrigued by the game than its initial moments disguised.

The game starts with your character, an alien of some sort, getting ready to use an amateur garage-built rocket to get off their podunk planet and see the universe. Before I could set off, though, I needed launch codes from the forest village's observatory as a cranky old alien in a rocking chair sternly informed me. Along the way, some alien children might ask the player character to play hide and seek with them to tutorialize the game's radio frequency receiver, or fly drones with someone to learn how to fly the ship, both of which I did and neither of which were particularly fun. Regardless, I got the codes, returned to the ship, strapped in, and took off.

This slow start drained me of enthusiasm for Outer Wilds quickly. I did not realize the game would soon make me feel foolish for thinking that.

In space, while attempting to grapple with the controls, I accidentally got a little too close to the sun. I ended up with a bit more than a suntan as I accidentally thrust my ship into the burning star and died. A loading screen separated the next scene, a respawn at the same campsite with the same old alien, hoping that the game saved after I got the codes and not before. To check, I decided to just go ahead and get in the ship and see if it let me. I groaned as the alien told me I needed the codes to launch into space, only to be surprised at his surprise that I already knew them.

My character didn't respawn. They went back in time.

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My next journey was to a planet-sized comet hurtling through space, covered in a hazy green mist and swirling tornadoes just off the ocean cliffs. The landing process, which involved loading up landing cameras to figure out where I could actually set my ship, let me park precariously on the edge of a rocky outcrop on a mountain. I unbuckled my seat belt, stepped outside, and immediately died.

Whoops. Probably poisonous.

I respawned again and looked up at the sky and saw the comet I was just on flying overhead. A sparkling object fell from the sky into the village. As I raced toward it, presuming it would be something that lets me figure out how to survive the poison, the demo ended, and I was left bewildered and fascinated.

The Majora's Mask-like atmosphere and mechanics feel like intentional nods and inspirations and made me desirous to see far more of the game. It is hard to say if the core gameplay loop of Outer Wilds will hold up or if there is a deeper narrative beneath its concept, but I definitely want to find out more after playing the demo.

Outer Wilds is scheduled for release on PC in 2018.

Categories: Games

Manage Not Just Your Riders, But Your Emotions Too

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 21:52

Neo Cab is a game from Chance Agency (whose staff has worked on games like Firewatch) that's billed as an "emotional survival game," touching upon themes like the gig economy, technology, and human connection. Taking influence from ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber, Neo Cab puts you in the shoes of a driver who must manage both their emotions and riders.

You play as Lina, a young woman who is a newcomer to the city of Los Ojos. In the not-too-distant future, she's one of the last remaining cab drivers since most have been replaced by robots. She's empathetic and knows when to speak up or when to bite her tongue depending on who gets in her car. This insight is helped by an item she wears that helps track her emotional status. When rude customers make her angry or sad, this item will flash a certain color to let her know. This way, she can keep her emotions in check so that she can be level-headed and careful with how she interacts with riders.

Outside of conversations with riders and your resulting emotional health, you also have to manage your finances and reputation in order to progress.

Rather than describing it as a cyberpunk game, creative lead Patrick Ewing tells The Verge that he sees the game as "now punk," since it takes its inspiration from today's technology. Instead of trying to send a message through the game that technology is harmful, Ewing hopes that it instead has us contemplate the "human cost that exists within these systems."

Neo Cab is still in early development and it doesn't have a release date just yet. It plans to launch on PC through Steam and itch.io. You can learn more by heading to Chance Agency's development blog.

[Source: The Verge]

Categories: Games

Become Acquainted With 1918 London In This Dark And Gritty Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 20:45

We're just a couple months away from the release of Vampyr, an RPG about vampires in 1918 London. A new trailer was recently revealed, giving us another glimpse at protagonist Jonathan Reid's plight and the world he inhabits.

Set as World War I comes to a close and around the time of the Spanish Flu, Britain is ravaged with death and overcome with hopelessness. In Vampyr, these dark times give vampires the opportunity to kill to their heart's desire without much of the city noticing. Playing as Reid, you are a vampire yourself, and one of the biggest challenges you face is morality. You need to satisfy your thirst for blood, but as a doctor, you often don't want to kill unless absolutely necessary. 

You can view the trailer below.

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Vampyr launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on June 5.

Categories: Games

The Nazi-Killing Action Game On The Go

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 04:24

At PAX East, Nintendo gave us hands-on time with the Switch version of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, last year's story-heavy action showcase from Bethesda.

The demo we played started about half an hour into the game, where protagonist BJ Blaskowicz obtains the ability to start moving around in the game's action sequences. The first area had Fergus Reid, BJ's partner-in-arms from the army through the resistance, imploring BJ to take back the resistance U-boat from Nazi clutches. 

On first glance, the game looks like the PC version on lower settings. It makes a lot of the same compromises that Doom made on the Switch last year, lowering resolution and depth of field to run at a consistent albeit decidedly lower framerate. When just walking around, this is not terribly noticeable, but getting close to walls or character models like Fergus bring you back to the reality that you're playing a game where the baseline was PlayStation 4 and Xbox One now crammed on to a Switch.

That said, the game still plays like Wolfenstein II, for better or for worse. The introduction to the game still has BJ stealthing around and taking out Nazi officers before they can raise an alarm or, more likely, simply going in guns blazing and hope for the best. Both strategies function the same on Switch as they do on other consoles, though the system's slightly larger deadzone on its analog sticks makes fine adjustments harder. While we did not get a chance to try the motion controls out, the slight wrist movements involved there should compensate adequately to help make more accurate shots.

We also asked whether the game still features the ill-fitting cover of We're Not Gonna Take It. The Nintendo representatives could not confirm or deny, but did say the game is identical content-wise to its brethren. 

There's still no word when Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus will launch for the Switch, but all indications are that it will come out this year. For people looking to take Wolfenstein's brutal kills and story on the go, the Switch version should function fine, just with a lot of the expected compromises.

Categories: Games

Bring On The Slow Survival Jams

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/08/2018 - 03:11

During PAX East 2018, State of Decay developers Undead Labs unleashed a new trailer for the game showing off different aspects of the zombie survival sim.

The somber trailer plays slow music over the gameplay and management mechanics of the game, showing off leader mechanics, shooting, even zombie tossing. At one point, the player character stuns a large zombie by shooting it in the head a number of times before running at it and swinging around its neck to stab it in the back of the head.

You can check out the new trailer below.

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State of Decay 2 launches May 22 on PC and Xbox One, with an early access period beginning for preorder customers on May 18.

Categories: Games

Fly In With The First Gameplay Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 21:06

Dragons make everything better, and that's no exception when it comes to Yasuhiro Wada's latest project in his pedigree of slice-of-life simulation video games from Harvest Moon to Story of Seasons. While disparate footage from GDC 2018 and screenshots of Little Dragons Café have been released slowly, official gameplay footage has emerged from its cave with a new trailer showcasing the major features of this vibrant-looking title that looks like it came straight out of a coloring book.

Two siblings are tasked with managing their mother's café shop since she's fallen into a deep sleep, but a wizard appears telling them that they can save her if they rear a baby dragon that he gives them. Not only must they feed and care the dragon around their island, but also fret about gathering ingredients and executing recipes for a diverse set of customers. Exploration and cute, simple mini-games are spread throughout the experience as you test your cooking and multitasking prowess. 

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You can read extensive impressions and check out all sorts of screenshots from Elise Favis' hands-on session with Little Dragons Café, which is set to be released for the PlayStation 4 and Switch this summer. 

Categories: Games

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice Review

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 18:12

In Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, the struggle of coming to terms with past trauma and guilt comes out in a number of surprising ways. Developer Ninja Theory channels its talents for narrative and presentation to tell a personal story that has more to say than it initially lets on, and will likely leave you wondering what's real, and what is a part of an elaborate hallucination.

In a far-off land covered in mist and fog, a traumatized celtic warrior named Senua embarks on a spiritual vision quest to suppress her inner demons, and come to grips with the death of her family. Plagued with severe psychosis, Senua's past trauma manifests itself through duelling inner voices and visual hallucinations that compromise her emotional and mental state. On this journey, she'll face abstract and reality-defying puzzles, and battle a seemingly endless horde of adversaries that aim to put a stop to her quest.

Pulling from Nordic and Celtic lore, the fiction of Hellblade evokes a dire and somewhat bleak atmosphere, making it seem like the world had already ended, leaving Senua with only the company of her memories. Hellblade is an introspective experience, albeit with several combat and interactive story beats scattered throughout. While the story and world are presented through cutscenes and stone glyphs depicting the history of the land, Hellblade also makes clever use of live-action cutscenes. These cinematic moments are blended into in-game graphics, giving each occurrence a somewhat surreal feeling, as if you're watching a live playback of an altered memory.

On her journey through the cursed lands, Senua will come into conflict with the Northmen, an army of berserkers that appear out of thin air. These moments are when the combat comes into play, and it offers some of the most intense and thrilling moments of the game. Despite her illness weighing on her, Senua is still quite adept at fighting and is able to take on a number of foes at once. With fast, heavy sword swings, as well as up-close hand-to-hand strikes, you can use some light combos to hack away at the Northmen, while using dodges and parrying their strikes to get the upper hand.

Though combat is one of the core pillars in Hellblade, the game doesn't concern itself with offering numerous weapons or complex skill-trees to work through. Aside from some new combat abilities unlocked at key story milestones, Senua's arsenal of skills and weapons is kept light till the end. The true challenge and satisfaction comes from mastering the base combat mechanics, which is responsive, and fluid--allowing you to bounce between multiple foes easily, with her inner voices warning you of incoming strikes based on the position they're coming from.

When it comes to portraying mental illness, Hellblade takes a sympathetic approach and isn't at all interested in showing the differences between reality and imagination. It's all about Senua's perspective; with her visions and what's truly real being presented as one in the same. One of the more oppressive aspects of her psychosis are the inner-voices, who quarrel with one another while commenting on the wandering warrior's present state. Using binaural audio--which makes wearing headphones a must for the full effect--you'll get to experience a taste of what it's like to have several voices in your head.

In many ways, it feels like a subversive take on the common video game trope of the bodiless companion offering help via radio, making them a somewhat distressing presence you desperately wanted to keep at arm's length. The effectiveness of the inner voices in making you uncomfortable is a testament to the stellar presentation of the game, which uses some rather inventive tricks to play with perspective and audio-sensory manipulation. It does well to make you feel on edge and in a state of confusion, while simultaneously getting you to focus on the more tangible and true elements of her surroundings--even if they are still hallucinations.

There are times where the voices become a boon to your survival--such as the rather tricky boss battles that force you change up your usual strategies--but the most useful instances come deeper in the game, when you're able to clear through more than 20 foes consecutively, a far cry from the struggles of fighting only two to three foes. Many of these battles serve as the capper for narrative arcs in the story, making it feel like a cathartic emotional purge where you vanquish a construct of Senua's past.

"It's all about Senua's perspective; with her visions and what's truly real being presented as one in the same."

While some characters from Senua's past treated her mental state as a danger, she's able to use it to her advantage to see the order in the chaos of her surroundings--finding patterns and solutions in ways that others wouldn't have the presence of mind to see. Despite how terrifying and draining her psychosis can be, Senua is able navigate the various trials thanks to her unusually heightened perception, which comes out in a number of unique puzzle solving moments.

For the most part, puzzles revolve around unlocking doors by finding glyphs hidden in plain sight or in alternate perspectives that require manipulating Senua's focus, illustrating her abstract attention to detail. While these puzzles can be clever, the same style occurs far too often, making some of the more drawn out sequences a chore. On the inverse, the moments where Senua is stripped of her senses and gear, forcing her to take a more subdued approach to avoid her enemies, felt far more engaging and interesting.

In one of the game's best moments, the shadows themselves serve to be a real danger as Senua rushes from one light source to another in a dark cavern, all the while memories of her torment and anguish come flooding in--obscuring your vision while she's making a dash to safety. These moments are a real highlight, channeling the same pulse-pounding sense of urgency found from set-piece moments in Resident Evil 4, making a seemingly simple objective into an unnerving experience--which in a way truly sums up what Hellblade is about. While these moments serve to be some of Hellblade's most profound and affecting moments, it uses them sparingly to help break-up general puzzle solving and obstacles, which feel somewhat bland by comparison.

While Senua experiences many dangers, such as the horrific hallucinations of the dead, immolation by a mad fire god, and ravenous beasts that hide in the shadows--there is one threat that constantly looms over her that can result in dire consequences. Early on, Senua is infected with a corruption known as The Dark Rot, which continues to spread after she 'dies' or fails a set-piece event. She passes failure and death off as another hallucination, but with every failure the infection spreads, and after multiple deaths it reaches her head. The result of this is Senua succumbing to her illness, forcing you to restart from the beginning of her journey.

Despite the inclusion of a permadeath mechanic, Hellblade is still a largely fair game. Taking around eight hours to clear on the hardest difficulty, and experiencing only a handful of deaths--mostly on account of some overly vague and awkward objectives coming off as obtuse, breaking the flow of traversal--the game is largely balanced with its pacing and difficulty. It even goes as far as to offer an auto-scaling difficulty system that adjusts based on how you're playing. Interestingly, there's no tutorial whatsoever in Hellblade, prompting you to learn the system by doing and listening to prompts from your inner voices.

Over the course of its journey, Hellblade keeps its gameplay lean in order to not overstay its welcome. Despite the complexity of the narrative and its presentation, combat only happens when it needs to, and puzzle solving and set-piece moments often drive the story forward to reveal more about Senua's motivations. Which in turn reveals the struggles that torment her, preventing her from moving on.

Hellblade's most notable achievement is the handling of an incredibly sensitive subject matter within an engaging and well-crafted action/adventure game. At its heart, the story is about Senua's struggle to come to terms with her illness. In the process, she learns to find the strength within herself to endure, and to make peace with her past. And in a profound and physical way, we go through those same struggles with her, and come away with a better understanding of a piece of something that many people in the world struggle with.

Editor's note: We have updated this review to reflect our time with the Xbox One version of Hellblade. We tested the game on an Xbox One X. -- April 6, 2018

Categories: Games

Releasing From Early Access With A Double-Edged Appeal

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 17:00

In the harsh landscapes and social climate of Conan Exiles, day and night means survival. The action-based MMO has been through plenty of growing pains in the last year, so we went back to the Hyborian Age in a hands-on session to give you a rundown of how Funcom’s take on the decades-old fantasy franchise is evolving a month before its release from early access.

One of the most notable changes is how combat has received an overhaul to be more engaging. Light and heavy attacks can now be mixed together with a wide assortment of weapons that have overhauled animations, giving a greater heft and weight to combat akin to The Elder Scrolls Online’s simple, yet engaging fights. As silly as the comparison sounds, Exiles has a Dark Souls vibe with a focus on locking onto opponents and dodging wisely (with less of the precision and difficulty); you’ll need to feign and time your attacks accordingly as you wait for the right openings to expose opponents.

It’s an upward climb to make your way through Conan’s world. In our playthrough, our customizable character is freed by the iconic barbarian from a mysterious condemnation to hang on a cross. From then on out, we not only had to fend off vicious predators and savages, but also handle menial concerns like thirst, hunger, stamina, and stat-altering ailments. We were at a loss for what to do at first from all the overwhelming information, but we slowly adjusted to the world’s harsh groove by crafting bedrolls to spawn near locations where we died, quickly gathering supplies for crafting, and so forth. It helps that the UI has been cleaned up to be more readily legible as well. Leveling persists, and the equipment you acquire can be swiftly recovered should you plan accordingly.

There’s a lot to keep track of as you gather your bearings, but after scavenging enough and adjusting to taking care of your character’s many needs, you can begin establishing a settlement with the game’s diverse, extensive building tools. While traversing these abodes resulted in some glitches for us like levitating up stairs and hearing other playtesters getting stuck, it’s incredible what you can do. You can even bring company (by force) with the Thrall system by enslaving other tribes’ people to protect your own and craft new items with their skills. It’s one part of the flow of managing your own keep in the game, and a new example of streamlining this comes with farming, which lessens the need to go abroad and mindlessly collect every supply you’d need since you can grow food in your own backyard.

While there’s no traditional story, Funcom is expanding the lore with the discovery system, encouraging players to take note of mysterious objects and items spread across the game’s world, which give clues to how and why your character ended up on the cross along with references to the broader universe of Conan.

We didn’t get far enough in our short playtime to raid a dungeon, but we can tell they’re not the main attraction of the game. The constant tug of war between warring players in PvP seems to be where the most fun and unexpected encounters happen, even if setting up strategies for epic assaults can be hard to naturally bring about.

Another concern arises with raiding. It’s a key component of PvP, but players might have frustrations with the lengths you need to go to in order to advance. Backup stashes of supplies and weapons are necessary to manage since players can raid bases and steal equipment if you’re not around to do something about it. Relying on a large group of friends is key to making significant progress, but if you don’t have the stomach for PvP, the PvE mode now has a new feature called Purge.

In this mode, large groups of NPCs attack your base at certain intervals, and similar to FOB raids in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, these Purges even occur when you’re not playing. While you can adjust the conditions for this feature, the enemies will attack more frequently and in greater numbers depending on where you settle in, how many friends are in your clan, and so forth. You’ll certainly test your limits of preservation in the online arena, but Purge is an incredibly welcome and more forgiving alternative.

We wouldn’t put too much attention into building grand bases since a rival Avatar (god) can destroy everything in a matter of seconds. These formidable, giant gods are a spectacle, and you can summon them upon meeting several conditions. You can assassinate a player controlling an Avatar, but with so little time for them to control the deity, the damage is usually done by the time it’s all over.

Conan Exiles is replete with RPG systems and survival mechanics, and while the climb to ascend the barbaric ranks of the land may be an entertaining process, the potential frustrations and investment required for PvP might root out potential players. However, the introduction of Purge captures the survival spirit of its online space. Either way, the game has come a long way to establish its merit with commendable visuals, settlement building, and various improvements with new environments to explore. There are some kinks and systems that could be ironed out and deepened to make Exiles something truly special. As it stands, the game is poised to offer an ambitious survival-oriented alternative in the MMO genre, but whether it will burst out with a rousing battle cry to all remains to be seen.

You can also check out Andrew Reiner's opinion piece on the troubles that come with early access or watch our recent New Gameplay Today on another survival-based game called Subnautica, which you can read Elise Favis' review on here.

Categories: Games

See The Race Through Chaos In The Latest Trailer And Screens

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 23:50

Codemasters and Deep Silver have come together to show off a new trailer for their upcoming arcade-style racer, Onrush. Developed by the former Evolution Studios team (MotorStorm, DriveClub), this game focuses on getting up close and personal with your opponents, taking them down at every opportunity. Getting to the finish line isn't the primary goal – it's about making it there with style.

The tracks are reminiscent of Burnout and MotorStorm, with shortcuts to find, multiple paths to take, and allows a quick return to the action once your vehicle has become a fireball. Cars and motorcycles are both on display in this new trailer and each should provide unique challenges.

If high-octane action is in your blood, be sure to check out the trailer below.

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Onrush is slated for release on the PS4 and Xbox One on June 5.

Categories: Games

Exploring Uncharted Islands In World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 04/05/2018 - 14:01

Randomized elements make this new experience an excellent addition to World of Warcraft.

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Categories: Games

Engage In Jolly Cooperation Once Again

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 15:01

Dark Souls, it can be argued, defines an entire genre of games at this point. When the game originally released in 2011, fans of Demon's Souls were excited for the spiritual successor, but a lot of others were baffled putting their hands around the Souls formula for the first time. The game stymied some, charmed others, and created an experience that has yet to be truly paralleled in exactly the same way.

When Dark Souls Remastered was announced for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC, there were a lot more questions than answers. Bandai Namco has been fairly mum about details, but we finally had the chance to go hands-on with the game and find out whether Dark Souls Remastered could end up as the definitive version for the games.

In terms of graphics, Dark Souls Remastered will offer you different features depending on the platform you play it on. While PC will of course be native 4K and 60 frames per second if your hardware supports it, PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X will have upscaled 4K and 60 FPS. Base versions of those consoles will be 1080p and 60 FPS. The Switch version will also be 1080p when docked, and 720p in handheld mode, but will be 30 FPS regardless of whether it's docked or handheld.

The developers of the port say they have avoided some of the 60 FPS issues that have plagued both makeshift and official framerate solutions in the games in the past. There's no worry about falling out of world when sliding down a ladder in this release, an unintended consequence of mods that fixed a lot of the original PC release's problems. If a fallen enemy is ragdolling on the ground, hitting it with your weapon does not massively affect our durability like in the official PC release of Dark Souls II. While we did not get to see it ourselves, we were assured Blighttown now runs at at a framerate consistent with the rest of the game.

A few textures are being cleaned up, but by and large most textures are being left the same. Some still look a little grimy and low-resolution, but a lot of Dark Souls' textures were originally more detailed than their 720p resolution really allowed, making the game still look great in most spots.

As far as gameplay changes go, there is a host of small and large changes. For online multiplayer, six players can now be in a world at once, up two from the game's original release and now in line with Dark Souls III's number. In order to get access to six player worlds, players need Dried Fingers, which have been moved from the Painted World of Ariamis to the Undead Burg Merchant to make that easier, with the former Dried Finger location now just being Twin Humanities. Players can now meet up with friends using a password match system, which syncs levels so significantly stronger players don't just carry friends. 

In order to keep PVP fights from going on too long, estus is the only healing item allowed to be used by invaders, and is halved for all phantoms. If you defeat an invading phantom, all your estus flasks are restored. Additionally, the game is no longer based on peer-to-peer connections and now all players connect to a dedicated server.

Other changes include the ability to use multiple consumables, like Soul items, at once where the original release forced players to use them one at a time. Full button remapping is available, including changing jumping to L3 like Dark Souls II and III. Items are no longer automatically added to the item bar upon picking them up and holding up or down on the D-Pad brings you to the first item on the bar. Finally, covenants you've pledged an oath to can be switched at bonfires without needing to physically visit the covenant keeper to switch again.

Dark Souls fans have a lot to look forward to with the remaster and hopefully it lives up to the promise of a better running, more modern version of the original game. Virtuous is porting the game to Switch and QLOC for the consoles and PC, but FROM Software is overseeing both teams and approving the changes, which should mean it keeps the spirit of the game intact. Souls fans will have a chance to find out when the game releases on all platforms on May 25.

Categories: Games

Minit Review - Gone In 60 Seconds

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 14:00

Time is not often a resource that you need to think about when going on an adventure. Zelda patiently waits in Hyrule Castle while Link finishes up shrines in Breath of the Wild, the religious zealots in Far Cry 5 let you fish in peace, and even the merry band of travelling friends in Final Fantasy XV find downtime during crisis. Minit doesn’t subscribe to such design, and instead puts emphasis on the need to hurry. Its strict 60-second time limit is an ever-present threat as you dig up the world’s secrets around you, dispel a cruel curse, and attempt to bring peace to the land.

Minit begins with your unnamed hero happening upon a cursed sword, plunging you into a cycle of infinite minute-long sessions that always end with your death. Each time you respawn, the counter restarts, and you’re transported back to your last resting place. New resting places can be unlocked by walking into them throughout the map, but simply finding them in time is a task. You’ll need to uncover routes with your sword, chopping down shrubs to find new pathways to new areas on the edges of your 4:3 screen. Building a mental map of the world around you is paramount next to your ability to both avoid threats and find the shortest path to an objective, and it can feel like a punishing exercise at first.

But it doesn’t take long for Minit to find a rhythm that’s intoxicating. Each new character you meet bears a personality that can be equally inviting or aggressive, some wanting to help you along your journey and others just wanting to be left alone. Shopkeepers offer bite-sized quests for you to try and complete in the limited time you have, tempting you with rewards on completion. Clearing out an area of crabs or gathering a certain number of hidden coins can reward you with seemingly non-descript items like gardening gloves and watering cans. But these tools open the rest of Minit’s world to you, letting you move large blocks obscuring paths or chopping down trees that would otherwise act as a dead-end.

Just like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (which also worked around the idea of limited time runs), certain objects and effects you've made on Minit’s world persist between run-throughs. For example, obtaining an item will store it permanently in your inventory or make it available to pick up at your last resting place. While some objects will return to their default position and block paths you may have already traversed, more story-centric events will remain in the state you left them in. A wandering spirit in the endless desert will stay dead after you’ve defeated it, and the lost guests of a strange hotel won’t wander off again after you’ve found them. These act as milestones to your progress through Minit, always giving you something on the horizon to chase down.

Chasing these leads requires both experimentation and exploration. Very often you’ll come across a perplexing area with new objects that seem static and immune to any of your efforts. Sometimes all an area’s mysteries seem obvious in hindsight, and yet Minit’s minimalistic yet emotive art does well to hide secrets in plain sight. It was nearly an hour into my first run until I realized I should be looking for coins in pots scattered around the world, or that my attacks on nearby characters could trigger new dialogue options. Poking and prodding Minit’s world is intrinsic to your progress, and it’s easy to find yourself lost in loops of deaths simply trying to figure out the next step forward. These instances might be frustrating, but they never go unrewarded. Minit is bursting at the seams with secrecy and mystery, so much so that it’s hard to soak in all at once. A generous New Game+ mode ups the ante with a shorter lifespan and new challenges but entices you to dive back in as soon as the credits roll to lap up any remaining secrets.

Movement and some incredibly simplistic combat are your only other concerns, both of which see slight enhancements near the end of the two-or-so-hour adventure. Minit is clearly designed to be easy to pick up and play, allowing its world and riddles to provide the challenge. It’s easy to avoid combat entirely unless specified by a task, for example. Movement, in turn, is more focused on puzzle-solving than dexterity and skill. A maze in a mysterious tomb in the desert requires you to run faster than you might envision possible, while another experiments with your perception of how you’re able to move boxes around a series of conveyor belts to disrupt a production line. Minit never feels unforgiving, instead giving you reason to give pause and think about how you’re moving around its world.

It’s almost unbelievable how much character Minit packs into its monochromatic world, too. Despite adapting the style of old Game Boy titles, Minit’s range of animations and neat pixel-based touches root it firmly in modern design. Little dust trails that kick off your boots in a sprint and the blinding flashes of white and black streaks when you find a new item offer contrasting senses of style; Minit is delicate when it needs to be and bombastic elsewhere, but it uses all these elements to deliver important feedback to you. It’s perhaps why it’s hard to get entirely lost at any point, because there’s always a cleverly placed marker sitting in plain sight just edging you towards the next solution. Design like that is hard to come by, so it’s refreshing to see Minit pull it off so effortlessly.

Minit’s soundtrack is also rousingly enthralling, instilling each of its distinct regions with a sense of place and sound. There’s catchy chiptunes for a seaside town that makes up most of the game’s opening and appropriate silence in the ominous, depressing tunnels of a dangerous mine. Sound effects are used sparingly but to equal effect. The chimes build with a delightful track when you acquire a new item and come crashing down with a thud every time you miss an objective with a second to spare. It’s delightful, and just wraps the entire presentation of Minit up with a neat little bow.

Minit’s lives might only last 60 seconds, but its extremely well-thought-out world design and engrossing loop of progress make it a curse-filled adventure that is worth dying the world over for. Its throwback to classic visuals aren’t done for aesthetic alone, as none of its gameplay systems scream antiquity. It’s a slickly presented adventure that continually manages to surprise you with every new area you uncover or item you procure, pushing you to pick away at its seams to uncover every drop of what it has to offer. With a delightful ending and more promised after its first run of credits, Minit is far more than just a collection of seconds.

Categories: Games

Male And Female Protagonists, New Villains, And A New World

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 04/03/2018 - 00:14

Square-Enix recently opened the Japanese website for Dragon Quest Builders 2, showing off the designs for the male and female protagonist choices, the villain, and some new screenshots.

Much like the first game, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is Minecraft meets Dragon Quest, with the game putting you on a campaign to build and defend worlds from Dragon Quest monsters. The first game had players rebuilding the kingdom from the first Dragon Quest game, Alefgard. This time around, players wash ashore on a deserted island devoid of any life and, as a descendant of an ancient builder, try to build something there.

Malroth, the scaly boss of Dragon Quest II, plays an important role in the story and even gets attention in the game's Japanese subtitle. The sequel also boasts a few improvements over its predecessor, like online multiplayer for up to four players, swimming, and more.

Check out some screenshots below. 

Dragon Quest Builders 2 launches in Japan this year on PlayStation 4 and Switch. There has been no word on a western localization yet.

Categories: Games

The Action Platformer Chasm Releases This Summer

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 04/02/2018 - 19:46

Chasm, the long-awaited action platformer that fans might remember playing on PlayStation 4 launch demo units, will finally release this summer on PC, PlayStation 4, and Vita.

The announcement, which was made today via a PSBlog update, recalls Chasm's 2013 Kickstarter that hoped to bring the game out within a year or two. The goal is slightly delayed, but the game is finally coming this summer. The team is putting their final touches on the game in preparation for release in a few months.

Chasm combines elements of Castlevania, Super Meat Boy, and more in an interesting blend on action platformers.

You can check out a quick teaser trailer of the game below.

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Chasm will be available on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Vita, and will be crossbuy between PS4 and Vita, as well.

Categories: Games

We Check Out The Latest Build Of SpyParty

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 04/02/2018 - 18:30

At this year's Game Developer Conference, I finally got to sit down with SpyParty and developer Chris Hecker in a San Francisco hotel room. Hecker started up the laptop with the game on it and then booted up a laptop with screenshots, sliding past numerous comparison shots to the beginning of a presentation.

Hecker was excited. And with good reason.

SpyParty, a game first shown as a concept at the experimental gameplay workshop at GDC 2009, is finally hitting Steam Early Access on April 12. After eight years and 24,000 copies sold through the SpyParty website, the game was finally going to be available for a wide release on Steam.

The voyeuristic competitive game pits one sniper against one spy with only one shot at getting it right. The spy does their best to complete their mission (for example, poisoning a diplomat) without the sniper identifying and shooting them with their single bullet. Everything from the way the spy moves to the way their hand reaches for the poison matters, leading to tense standoffs between the two players.

"People have been playing for thousands of hours," Hecker explained. "It's something like 20,000 games, the forum has tons of people posting strategies, it's been amazing."

Hecker and I got in a longer conversation about fighting games and if SpyParty functions in a lot of the same ways. We eventually started talking about yomi, the Japanese concept of reading your opponent's mind, and how SpyParty is based around observations on a micro level.

"One year, I showed off SpyParty at Evo," Hecker said, referring to the major fighting game tournament held in Las Vegas. "At the time, [former Capcom community manager] Seth Killian bet me that the top SpyParty player would be from the fighting game community. He was right for a long time. Now it's a lawyer, I think."

The new SpyParty has the visual overhaul first introduced in 2013 further refined, where character animations are not only more distinctive but also far more natural. The character models have gotten to the point where tier lists are being created, with Hecker pointing out that a character using a cane has a more subtle animation for poisoning than others.

The environments are also improved, boasting architectural and design changes. One level is circular with a focus around a statue, making it so the spy, who can see the sniper's general aim, can hide both in plain sight and behind the environment. This adds another layer of strategy to the match with a lot of the levels changing different focal points to drastically change the way the spy and sniper interact.

Hecker also showed off the new replay system, which rivals and exceeds a lot of AAA replay mechanics. Players can watch entire replays of matches from any angle, act as a second sniper and try to figure it out before the recorded player does with their own bullet, downloadable replays, and more.

One of the things Hecker has struggled with is explaining the game to people, something that has resulted in passing out guidebooks to players in line at gaming expos. Now, SpyParty boasts a 40-minute narrated tutorial to help explain the role of the sniper and the spy and even allows players to make mistakes, intentionally or otherwise. The key is not just learning what to observe, but how to observe.

You can check out the Early Access trailer for SpyParty below.

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Hecker has plans and a schedule for how long he hopes to stay in early access, but right now he's just playing it by ear. "I want to ensure the community is healthy and happy before we rush forward with anything," he said. "When you spend eight years on something, you want to make sure you get it just right."

Categories: Games

Can Your Violent Delights Avoid A Violent End In Westworld Mobile?

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 04/01/2018 - 17:00

With season two of the HBO hit Westworld just around the corner, Warner Bros. Interactive is ready to capitalize on that hype with a Fallout Shelter-style simulation that puts the control of the park into your hands. No more blaming upper management or clandestine operations if the park fails miserably – you're in control of host creation, pairing tourists with their ideal companions, and everything in between. 

Keeping the game in the series fiction, the Westworld mobile games operations as a Delos training simulator to find out who is well suited for park management. The timeline of your training program begins shortly after the William and Logan timeline in the show, before the park expands rapidly. As the game runs in tandem with season two, don't expect that timeline to prevent developer Behaviour Interactive from integrating new elements of the show into the experience over time. 

Like Fallout Shelter, you have an entire base of operations running underground where you can create new hosts, improve pre-existing ones, destroy outdated motels, and even recalibrate them during "Analysis Mode" style conversation cutscenes created by show writers. This is when the game comes closest to the intrigue of the HBO series. You can even build Dr. Ford's office, which rewards you with a daily amount of free gems, one of the game's purchasable currencies. 

Where Westworld diverges from Fallout Shelter is how players interact with the above-ground theme park. Here you can zoom into any building on your premises to pair guests with their ideal hosts, check on the status of their interactions, and even manage the collection of aboveground resources that let you enhance your park. You start in Sweetwater, but as you improve over time you gain access to new places like Abernathy Ranch, Escalante, and Pariah. Relationships run on a timer (queue free-to-play mechanics) and all guests have apparent desires. The outcome is based on how well your host pairs with the interests of your guest. Some want to party at the brothel. Others prefer violent delights. Some even have banking fantasies. Should a tourist become displeased with their fantasy, they will shoot your host. That means they must go back to your base for costly repairs and a fresh infusion of synthetic blood – one of the many resources you must manage. Successful interactions result in rewards and XP for the host that can be used to diversity or strengthen their personalities. 

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Each time your host ranks up, you can add an extra role to their personal profile in the attribute matrix. VIP guests who have a chain of designers may also impart rare reverie abilities that significantly improve them should you fulfill all their fantasies. These reveries are upgradeable and can make your hosts much more dynamic. However, it costs a lot of money to improve a reverie, and your attempt can fail, making it a tough risk/reward decision. You have to be careful about over-using your best hosts as well, because their glitch risk increases the more they are used.

In addition to using hosts to keep tourists engaged, you can also assign them to other tasks like harvesting precious resources you can use to improve your park.

Warner Bros. says the Westworld mobile game has a subversive mystery that plays out over time, and that the story will continue to evolve along with the game. Eventually, you will be able to invite other friends to join your center so you can both work on the park together. 

The Westworld mobile game sounds promising. It gives you a lot to manage so it could get overwhelming, but as with many mobile games, how well it holds up will likely be determined by how steadfastly the game tries to get you to pony up cash to make the experience more enjoyable. If they get this balancing act right, the game could be a huge success given the amazing buzz around the second season. 

Categories: Games

Final Two Characters, Potential DLC Plans Revealed In New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Sat, 03/31/2018 - 20:16

Fighting EX Layer has revealed two more characters for its roster, and its plans for including DLC characters – assuming the game sells well enough.

The two new characters are only shown briefly, and while they're returning characters, you'd be remiss if you were a fan of the original Street Fighter EX games but didn't recognize them. Hayate, who wields a sword during some of his special moves and supers, sports a very different look, wearing a jacket, t-shirt, and jeans instead of the more traditional garb he wore in EX2. Nanase, introduced in EX3, returns as Sanane ("Nanase" backwards in Japanese), and also sports more modern clothes. She also wields a naginata instead of a bo staff.

In addition to the new characters, developer Arika founder Akira Nishitani outlined a few other plans for the game. First, the game will have another mode beyond arcade, training, versus, and online modes, but didn't reveal what that would be.

Second, Nishitani said the team has plans to release DLC characters after Fighting EX Layer's launch, but only if the game sells well enough. "If we don't reach our target in the first month after release, then [my company] won't make the new characters for me," he said. We then see sketches of a handful of potential DLC characters, all of them familiar faces for EX fans like Sharon, Area, Vulcan Rosso, and Pullum. Considering the revelation of DLC characters, it's likely Hayate and Sanane are the last two characters on the main roster.

The trailer then shifts gears for an April Fool's joke, showing off SNK's Yasuyuuki Oda as Savage Reign's Sho Hayate as a joke character.

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