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In case you missed it: The Fallout 4 debut trailer is live

Jun 06 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]293232:58797:0[/embed] In the press release, game director Todd Howard spoke briefly about the current development of Fallout 4. "We know what this game means to everyone," he said. "The time and technology have allowed us to be more ambitious than ever. We've never been more excited about a game, and we can't wait to share it." We also have official word about its presence on consoles. Before its debut, there was some concerns about it being a cross-gen title. Meaning, it would be released on current and past-gen consoles. Thankfully that's not the case, and Fallout 4 will be developed for current tech only. I'm glad to see it finally revealed. It felt like the worst-kept secret in the gaming industry, so it's good that the shoe finally dropped. And it's so wonderful have Ron Perlman return.
Fallout 4 photo
You know what it is
No talking, here it is. Fallout 4 is being developed for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. 

Stonehearth is out now on Steam Early Access

Jun 03 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]293233:58798:0[/embed] Like many other crowdfunded projects, Stonehearth began as a passion project, but it soon grew into something more. Working on the game in their spare time, the developers eventually were able to attract major interest from their Kickstarter campaign, which snowballed from there. With its release on Steam Early Access, Radiant Entertainment's Tom Cannon (also the co-founder of the Evo Championship Series) spoke about Stonehearth's inception and its growth into what it is now. "We started the game as a passion project. We had jobs in Silicon Valley that weren't really personally satisfying because we're hardcore gamers, so we did the Kickstarter back in 2013 to see if the idea we thought was cool," he said. "And the Kickstarter went well, and then we could make the game, but we had to pitch the game to our friends, which got them on board as well -- expanding the team. We spent two years making out prototype, which we showed in the Kickstarter video, and turned it into an actual game." In similar vein to the notoriously tricky and complex Dwarf Fortress, Stonehearth tasks players with creating their own unique civilizations in a procedurally-generated landscape from the ground up. Starting with just a few settlers, all randomized with their own personalities and skills, you'll soon be foraging for supplies and using tools to craft shelters and other necessities in order to survive. As you mine nearby mountains, bring in new settlers, build roads, raise your castle, and amass gold, your population will thrive and expand in unique ways. But as you build your civilization, you'll soon catch the interest of the local goblins who've got their own place in the dirt, and they may not take kindly to seeing outsiders take up residence in the same plot of land. The goblins serve as a necessary evil, as they not only serve to be your major obstacle from thriving, but they're also an opposing force that builds alongside your civilization. While in some cases you can simply negotiate terms for peace, resulting in trading of goods or paying them off to leave you in peace, other times you'll have no choice but to confront them head on. Among your settlers are those who've got the prowess to fight the goblins, but bare in mind not everyone has the courage to do so, and they could run away at the very sight of even a lowly goblin. Picking the right troops is just as important as collecting gold or building an installation, as losing a battle can have dire consequences. Though I mentioned it was similar to Dwarf Fortress, don't fret. The folks at Radiant wanted to emulate its complexity and depth found but ultimately sought to make Stonehearth easier to get into. Less daunting. Don't think of this as Dwarf Fortress with training wheels, though. Stonehearth definitely retains the hardcore focus and depth found in other sim titles. A neat trick Radiant employs to make things interesting is the A.I. director, which analyzes your behavior and throws in challenges based on your current pace of play. PC titles that take advantage of work created by fans are commonplace, and the team wanted to ensure players had access to the same tools it used to create the game to build their own additions and tweaks to Stonehearth. As an example, Cannon showed off one of the more humorous mods from fans, which reskined the game to look like a Candy Land tie-in. Trees turned to lollipops, and the ground textures looked as though they were caked in frosting. While most mods will add simple user interface and gameplay changes, many seek to alter the aesthetic and overall experience, and it's encouraging to see that the developers are so supportive. "We're incredibly mod friendly, so we love mods," said Cannon while showing off the Candy Land mod. "Our approach to mods is that all of our file formats are just open text files, and we have a modding forum to talk with others, if that's what you want to do. We give our modders all the tools they need to build the game, we want there to be tons and tons of mods because we love seeing what people do with the game." I was impressed with the level of complexity found in Stonehearth. The developers do a great job showing life and action happen during the creation of your kingdom, and I felt that the voxel aesthetic adds a lot to the charm. Though I'm not too into the sim genre, I was pretty taken with the gameplay in Stonehearth. One of the most satisfying aspects of these titles is seeing your hard work result in a functioning and healthy society that cannot only expand and thrive, but do so without you regularly needing to intervene. I'm interested in seeing where Radiant Entertainment's title goes from here. Games such as this need a passionate community to flourish, and given the already extensive mod support in place, it looks like Stonehearth will have a bright future. It's currently the #1 seller on Steam's Early Access page. I'm quite looking forward to seeing the follow-up to the Candy Land mod. Given time, I'm sure the fans will come up with something crazier than that! Stonehearth [Steam Early Access]
Stonehearth photo
3D Dot Civilization Builder
It's incredible to see how Kickstarter has given rise to so many titles. Sure, there's the heavy hitters like Broken Age, Wasteland 2, and Pillars of Eternity, but there are many others that came out of nowhere to leave such ...

Kickstarter photo
Kickstarter

inXile Entertainment launches Kickstarter for The Bard's Tale IV


Going for the hat trick
Jun 02
// Alessandro Fillari
Just when you thought Kickstarter had plateaued, there comes another campaign set to reignite the fire for crowdfunded game development. After the successes of other titles such as Yooka-Laylee and Bloodstained from different...

Disney Infinity 3.0 expands with the Star Wars and Inside Out playsets

Jun 01 // Alessandro Fillari
For those who aren't familiar, or maybe just a bit confused about what Disney Infinity is, this title brings players into an open world and unified experience to craft unique and original playgrounds for Disney characters from the past and present. Much like the Skylanders series, characters are acquire by purchasing actual figurines that can be uploaded into the game via a world disc, a real world scanner. While you can create levels and unique scenarios and share them with others online, you can also dive into unique playsets centered around specific Disney films and television shows. In its third year now, Disney Infinity has seen a number of upgrades and additions. With last year's expansion introducing Marvel characters, they've also spent some time upgrading the gameplay and general design. In order to do this, they recruited help from independent developers such as Ninja Theory, Sumo Digital, and United Front Games where they worked on the key areas of combat, racing, and additional character support respectively. With general development handled by Avalanche Software (note: not the same Avalanche behind Just Cause), they've found the creation of Disney Infinity to be a rewarding and satisfying experience. "The two words that come to mind are 'humbling' and 'gratifying," said the GM of Avalanche Software John Blackburn while reflecting on his work on Disney Infinity. "I feel so fortunate to work with all these brands, and it's a dream come true in a lot of ways[...] I'm pretty happy that people have responded to it in the way that have, and have accepted it and are looking forward to the new versions right now. I want to make sure we're doing a good enough job that we're really trying to make high quality kids and family entertainment, because that's been more and more difficult as a business to do. So it's very gratifying to see that we're doing it right." With the 3.0 expansion, new environments and characters will be added to the core game, such as the recently announced Star Wars: Twilight of the Republic (based on the prequel trilogy), Rise Against the Empire (original trilogy), The Force Awakens, and also Pixar's Inside Out playsets. While Star Wars will be largely combat and vehicle focused experiences, Inside Out will experiment more with platforming in surreal environments. Much like the film, the gameplay centers around the emotional state of a young girl named Riley and her changing perception and feelings. Set sometime after the film, players take control of Riley's emotions Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear, when she experiences a nightmare after falling asleep during a scary movie. The playset focuses on platforming gameplay through Riley's dreamscape, where environments and enemies take on a variety of different properties, such as warped gravity and the ground turning into hot lava. Each character has their own unique abilities and skills which will serve them throughout the adventure. After seeing the movie, I was itching for another trip into the bizarre and evocative world from Inside Out, and the Disney Infinity playset serves a great follow up to the film as it's basically the sequel to the film. Moreover, it fleshes out many of the settings and areas from the film, such as the dream productions studio where Riley's subconscious craft her dreams by way of old school film production. It's a very colorful and imaginative world, and it's likely the most unique playset Disney Infinity has had yet. The devs at Disney Interactive were very excited about what the new playsets can offer. "Every year a new fan is born," explained the VP of production John Vignocchi. "We're sitting here in the hallowed halls of Pixar, and everyone there will be someone who sees Toy Story for the first time, and we want to make sure that when they pick up Buzz Lightyear, or another favorite character, and when they play with them inside of Infinity, that he is just as cool as he was in the film." Even though I've only had some minor experience with Disney Infinity, I was quite surprised with the creativity found in these playsets. Perhaps this was coming off of my high after seeing Inside Out a month early, but I was very pleased with the translation from film to game. With the writers and directors from the film working with the devs, along with the same voice cast including Amy Poehler and Bill Hader, they wanted to ensure that it would be as faithful as possible. It's pretty crazy to see how much Disney Infinity has grown over the years. What was once a strange experiment trying to catch on to the Minecraft and Skylanders craze, has now turned into a title that's really come into its own. It's pretty impressive to see how much detail and content is packed in the title already, and with the new 3.0 expansion hitting this Fall, the Disney universe is about to get a bit bigger for fans to explore.
Disney Infinity photo
It's a small world after all
Who knew that Disney's strange and bizarre mishmash of characters into one large game would turn out to be such a big hit? I know, a Disney title with a bunch of Pixar, film, and legacy characters would've sold regardless, bu...

Halt and Catch Fire explores the early days of online gaming

May 28 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]292774:58672:0[/embed] Twenty months after the end of season one in 1985, the lead characters have essentially moved on from work on PCs and plan on striking out into something new. After the launch of the Giant, the PC they spent all of the first season building, Joe McMillan (Lee Pace) seeks to rebuild his life after ultimately compromising on his vision for what the future of computers could be, and realizing that his methods of success have harmed others. His number two, Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), struggles to find direction after departing Cardiff Electric, and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna Clarke (Kerry Bishé) have been hard at work on their new start-up company Mutiny, an online gaming network running on the Commodore 64 platform. With users paying a monthly fee to play multiple titles online with a community of gamers, they seek to expand the company and plan to change the way people seek entertainment and communicate with others. Much like the last season, Halt and Catch Fire's attention to detail and faithfulness to the era is as strong as ever. Focusing on the early stages of the consumer version of what we now know as the Internet, there's a lot of ground to cover for a start-up that deals with the state of online gaming. Though there were other (real) online PC services that offered gaming and many other functions around 1985 -- such as Prodigy, CompuServe, and Quantum Link (now known as AOL) -- the fictional Mutiny of HACF is a service that exclusively streams games to users. With such titles as Tank Battle, Checkers, Chess, and Backgammon serving as the basics, much of their attention towards game creation is focused on a title known as Parallax, a MUD (Multi User Dungeon) RPG series that spans multiple chapters. Looking back, the 1980s was a strange time for games. With the console video game market in a crisis, arcades serving as a hub for social interaction and competitive gaming, and the home PC audience gradually expanding, it's certainly a far cry from what we experience now in the present. What I really like from these episodes so far is that we're seeing a sense of  uncertainty during the time. Given that this is set post-video game console crash, games on cartridges are often regarded by characters as inferior to the offerings and potential of PC gaming. During one of my favorite scenes, the coders at Mutiny are discussing what game to work on next, with one of the new hires suggesting that they focus on technical innovation rather than game creation, as the former usually gives rise to the later. [embed]292774:58671:0[/embed] It's interesting to see a television series focus not only on game development, but the building of an online community during 1980s. Let alone doing it in a way that actually depicts realism, and quite frankly, honesty for what the gaming audience is all about. I watch a lot of television. I'm quite used to seeing different programs spout out random catchphrases and obligatory references to popular games in order to connect with gamers. But the brilliant thing about Halt and Catch Fire is that it not only features characters who are hardcore gamers, but they use their passion as the fuel for their creative endeavors. And that is refreshing to see on a television series. I was a big admirer of the first season, and though it felt a bit uneven and had some pacing issues, it definitely showed potential to become something great. And I can safely say that its potential is finally being realized in its second outing. I was impressed with the beginning of this season, and though I may be biased because it's got a deep focus on gaming, I feel that the new change of scenery, and a new focus, has given the series a much needed rejuvenation. It sure feels much more energetic and hipper because of it. If you haven't seen the show yet, the first season is available now on Netflix, and its second season is set to debut May 31 on AMC. If you're interested in the creation of technology, and hearing a bumping soundtrack to go along with it, then I highly recommend giving it a watch. Also, this series has by far the coolest TV intro ever. That alone is enough to deserve it your attention.
Halt and Catch Fire photo
The thing that gets us to the thing
In case you couldn't tell, the 1980s is having a bit of comeback. With so many games and films (Kung Fury is out today!) seeking to emulate the vibrant and lively era, there's plenty of people out there feeling nostalgic for ...

Resident Evil photo
Resident Evil

Resident Evil 0 Remastered revealed, arrives early 2016


Re-enter the survival horror..on a train
May 25
// Alessandro Fillari
Coming off of the super successful Resident Evil Remastered earlier this year, Capcom made plans to invest more in HD remasters of classic titles. And after seeing how well REmake HD sold, it's clear that there was quite an a...

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition brings the gang back together

May 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Now this isn't the first time that the original DMC series has received the Special Edition treatment. A year following the release of 2005's Devil May Cry 3, Capcom released an enhanced version that made a number additions and tweaks -- most notably the inclusion of a playable Vergil with his own moves and levels to play through. Now with the release Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition coming, nearly eight years after the original, the creative minds at Capcom sought to rekindle the same enthusiasm found in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition for this supped up re-release. And much like the recent Definitive Edition for DmC, they looked their well-received PC release as the base."There was content in the PC version of the original DMC4 that was not possible for consoles at the time due to hardware limitations. We have always wanted to provide these features to more DMC fans, most notably Legendary Dark Knight Mode," said DMC producer Takashi Fujii. "We wanted to provide a good action game that really gives the player a lot to sink their teeth into. With the features I’ve mentioned previously, and the addition of three new playable characters we’ve designed, I think fans will be very happy with all the content we’re offering in DMC4 Special Edition. With the hardware capabilities introduced in the new console generation, it proved this was the right time to revisit DMC4 and provide all of these features that we had been thinking about."Back when Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition was revealed last year, we all got a nice tease showing that Vergil was going to be making a return. But who would've thought that DMC's leading ladies, Trish and Lady, were going to get in on the action as well? While the ladies were already present in the core DMC4 story, Vergil's campaign in the Special Edition features his own unique story taking place many years before the events of DMC3 and 4. In addition to these new characters are several tweaks and upgrades made to the core game. Such as higher texture and graphical quality, auto-saves, rebalanced orb and proud soul economy, official trophy support across all platforms (take that early generation seven architecture!), and also some tweaks to puzzles -- such as the infamous dice game. It's a pretty meaty package. You might as well call it "Super Devil May Cry 4." The larger cast was a way for Capcom to offer variety in a convincing and fun way that stayed true to its combat heritage."Everyone plays Devil May Cry games a bit differently, and so with Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition in particular, it was important to us to give players more ways to enjoy the gameplay experience," explained the producer. "It was important that these characters each had distinctive combat styles, so fighting a boss you may have fought as Nero, for example, will feel very different from doing so with Lady or Vergil." In the two hours I spent with the game last month, it was quite clear that a lot of work went into the new characters. Though of course they're still going through the same areas and fighting the same bosses from the original game, that didn't really bother me all that much after getting settled with the new characters. Any fan will tell you that the combat is the crux of the series, and the new characters offered a lot depth and complexity that are totally unique to them -- which really set themselves apart from both Dante and Nero. And yes, for those who've gotten really comfortable with Dante and Nero over the last seven and half years, you'll be please to know that they're largely untouched (aside from general gameplay tweaks). "No changes have been made to Nero or Dante," said the producer rather bluntly and with the utmost clarity. So please, use high-level tricks such as guard flying and intertia to your heart's content. And with the sharing functionality on PS4 and Xbox One, showing off your high-flying antics and finger acrobatics will be much easier than before.For those who read my long preview last month, you could tell that I was quite smitten with this title. Devil May Cry is easily my favorite Capcom IP, and seeing it return this year with two really cool titles was a total joy for me. Checking out the new characters in DMC4SE was a complete blast, and I can't wait to dive back in from the beginning. I'm telling you guys, Trish and Lady are not to be messed with. Vergil's got some serious moves, and his concentration mechanic is a total game-changer, but these ladies are total bad-asses. I cannot wait to see some high-level exhibitionist videos later once people get them in their hands.With the release next month just after E3, you'll have the opportunity to get some quality time with the gang again. We all remember that tease at the end of DMC4 with Dante, Lady, and Trish teaming up to battle more demons, so it's definitely exciting to see that it's finally coming to fruition. So don't let this slip past you. If you've been screaming for a chance to return to these wonderfully goofy characters in this over the top world, you finally got it.And by the way, be sure to check out Capcom's weekly twitch livestream on Wednesdays for sessions with DMC4: Special Edition  by Capcom staff.
Devil May Cry photo
Capcom Producer talks revitalizing DMC4
In case you missed it, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is now a thing. Following up on their release of the excellent DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (seriously, it's great), Capcom are readying their second hit o...

Sega's Thunder Blade makes a fierce return in the 3D Classics Series

May 13 // Alessandro Fillari
Originally released in 1987, Thunder Blade brings players to the helm of a heavily armed attack helicopter as they battle waves of foes in tanks, jets, and battleships across a variety of locations. Much like the other Sega offerings of its time, the story is kept light in favor of offering accessible and fast arcade-style gameplay. You're the good guy, everyone else is bad -- shoot them. Though unlike most other shoot-'em-up titles, Thunder Blade features a unique take on perspective, as the action will transition from an overhead angle to the over-the-shoulder look similar to Space Harrier during key sections of the stage. This dynamic switch of perspective made it a welcome fit for the 3D remaster. "We felt that this point of view was extremely well suited for a stereoscopic 3D conversion," said producer Yosuke Okunari. "When we went to actually build the game out in 3D, we found that it gained a very unique sense of actually being suspended in their air, and was even more impactful than the original game. This same thing happened with 3D Galaxy Force II, where by implementing stereoscopic 3D, the game's visual view point style transcended in to its final form, you could say." Thunder Blade has made the transition quite well, and the new hardware has done wonders for the gameplay. The frame rate is rock solid, and the controls for the 3DS are super sharp and make controlling the attack chopper feel very accurate. The left stick controls movement and altitude, while both shoulder buttons control speed (increase and decrease). Though the 3DS is a far cry from the control scheme found on the original arcade release -- which featured a flight stick and a special chair that sought to emulate the cockpit of a helicopter -- I can safely say that 3D Thunder Blade is a fine port, and the action still kept me on my toes during the hectic battles. Much like the other 3D Classic titles, Thunder Blade makes exquisite use out of the new 3D visuals and hardware. One of the most striking elements is its depth of view during altering perspectives, and the new 3D visuals do well to enhance the view and sense of movement during the action. Though the draw distances unfortunately haven't been improved, I was still quite impressed with how the visuals sharpened up. Interestingly enough, the transition to 3D meant having to design the new visuals around the new perspectives independently, and layering them on top of one another. "For this version, we had to implement 3D separately for each of these three types of scenes," said the producer. "The boss stages were particularly difficult. The original game actually had preset depths. Even more so than some of the Genesis games, there were a number of situations where we wouldn't really have to worry about if we left them in 2D, suddenly [having] paradoxical situations when we put them into 3D." "Thunder Blade has three types of gameplay for every stage. The first are scenes that are from the top-down, which allow you to fully appreciate and enjoy changing your helicopter’s altitude. The second are scenes that are 'over the shoulder,' which are reminiscent of After Burner II. The last are the boss battles, where you are not able to change your altitude but you are placed into a forced-scroll situation where you can control your speed and progression. There are no other games that allow you to experience these three types of gameplay all in a single game." Though they were keen on keeping the 3D remaster as it was with the original title, they did implement some new features -- both out of necessity and the desire to include new content with the original game. As some areas didn't take to the new 3D visuals too well, such as shadows glitching out and boss battles resulting in odd bugs, they had to be cut in order to preserve the experience. But in order to make up for this, they implemented a stage that's brand new to the original Thunder Blade. Okunari stated that the new level will be consistent with the rest of the game and really offer an exciting finish. "The new stage feels natural and uses the graphical style of the era, all while taking advantage of the stereoscopic 3D to deliver a scene where you flying into the center of a base, reminiscent of the final Death Star scene in Return of the Jedi. The boss has a really awesome background to it as well, so I encourage everyone to check it out." Not only that, there's the new Arrange mode which is unlocked after completing the arcade mode. In Arrange Mode, players will control an alternate helicopter with different weapons and tackle stages that have some additions to them. While the the original arcade mode is exciting, the extra content goes above and beyond what I expected. I was pretty damn pleased with how 3D Thunder Blade turned out. It helped to scratch that shooter itch I had after playing Space Harrier and After Burner, and Thunder Blade definitely holds its own. While the style and approach is a bit different, I still found it to be a welcome addition to the Classics series. And it's a fine 3D remaster, too. This title is a good one to close out the spring phase of the Classics series, and it'll definitely hold you over till the summer titles come a knocking.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Sans crazy arcade installation
It's been a real joy re-experiencing classic titles from Sega's past. With the recent releases of Outrun and Fantasy Zone II bringing back some serious nostalgia trips, the folks at Sega have still got plenty of 3D remasters ...

Hotline Miami photo
Hotline Miami

The Hotline Miami Story covers the making of this trippy series


Cocaine Cowboys and Neon Lights
May 07
// Alessandro Fillari
I still remember how the original Hotline Miami suddenly came out of nowhere and left an incredible impression on those who took a chance on it. It was such an unusual title. Its bright, vivid visuals, along with the overhea...

Double Fine Productions aims to rekindle the spirit of adventure

Apr 28 // Alessandro Fillari
"It seems like there's been so many people talking about adventure games, people crowdfunding new adventure games," recalled Tim Schafer, the founder of Double Fine Productions and game director on Broken Age. "It's just that everyone felt that it's okay to talk about it again. We don't have to talk about it like a dead genre anymore, people just throw that word around casually, like 'Oh, you're doing an adventure game?' -- it's become normalized now." With the renewed interest for adventure games in recent years, there's never been a better time to become invested in the once-dormant genre. There was a time when adventure titles were common, and full of optimism, but with a steep decline after the '90s, traditional point-and-click games seemed to have gone by the wayside. But recently, these games have seen a reawakening, thanks in part to developers like Telltale Games and Double Fine outputting a steady flow of titles. And with titles spread across so many platforms (including mobile), they're now more accessible than ever. The development of Broken Age, which is easily the studio's highest-profile project, has been a unique case to watch. Tim Schafer and the team aimed to create a title that was a true throwback to classic LucasArts titles like Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Grim Fandango -- while also taking advantage of today's technology to illustrate visually vibrant and diverse worlds to explore. With the pretty positive reception the first act received last year, people have been anxious to get their on the final part of the game. During my session, I had some time to play the PlayStation 4 version of Broken Age along with Tim Schafer. Though I went in mostly blind, as I opted to wait until the full release was ready to play, I still had a wonderful time experiencing it this way. It felt great with the PS4 on a big screen, and adding to this was a sense of playing with a community that chimed in with thoughts and helped with clues for puzzles. It really added to the fun. Schafer hopes that players who've already cleared Act I will start from scratch now that Act II is out, as he believes many of the references and characters from the first half of the game may have been forgotten by players by now. Though the developers have launched other titles during the three years of Broken Age's development -- such as Grim Fandango Remastered, Costume Quest II, The Cave, and the beta for their second crowdfunded project, Massive Chalice -- firm interest has still been kept on their work for Broken Age. And with good reason. I mean, how many other games in active development have a film crew following them around recording all their successes and missteps for the masses to see? While they had the challenges of their own project to manage, they also had to deal with the high-profile nature of it following the success of the funding campaign. With everyone watching, the developers wanted to ensure they'd knock it out of the park with the completed title and not only live up to expectations but also to set a good example for the future of crowdfunded titles. Because whether they wanted to or not, they essentially became the people to follow and emulate. "We were like, 'We can't obviously walk away from [the Kickstarter project], we made a commitment to fans and to our backers," said the director of Broken Age. "It did feel like the beginning of something, and it did feel like the responsibility to not mess it up, because our game, our studio, and other people's games kind of were depending on it now, and if done well could lead to a whole bunch of things being funded, that couldn't have been funded otherwise. So we definitely felt like there was a lot riding on our shoulders, but we would've stuck with it anyway, because we always finish our games." The success of the Kickstarter certainly felt like a watershed moment for many. During my interview with Brian Fargo last year for Wasteland 2, the success of Double Fine's project sparked a lot of enthusiasm among many of the "old-school" designers looking to explore forgotten genres and franchises. In our chat, Fargo spoke about trust being the cornerstone of the relationship between developers and their community. And I definitely got a sense of that from my visit to Double Fine. There was not only a clear respect for the genre that many of the developers were returning to, but also for the many of backers and fans who have contributed to the title as well. For better or worse, however, the level of transparency has also contributed to scrutiny over the project. While there have been many successes with crowdfunding over the years, there are also many projects that missed the mark, or outright failed to deliver. During our talk, I felt that Schafer was humbled by the process, and even spoke honestly about their own stumbles with limiting content and details to backers only, leaving everyone else out of the loop. One of the important things they wanted viewers of the documentary to see is what exactly the process is like for game creation -- to give them an understanding of the challenges they often faced. "A lot of people make games, and they care so much about what they make," he said while discussing the challenges of development. "There are so many hard tradeoffs they have to make, there are features in the game they wanted but couldn't because there are these other things they wanted even more, and I want everyone to see that process, because I do think that when you ship a game everything you see in it is an active choice by someone, and it is, but sometimes it's a miracle the game got done. [...] I don't know if they need to think about that stuff, but I like to know that at least some people out there know how hard people work, how amazingly difficult or complicated problems are solved everyday, and all the choices they have to make while making a videogame." This definitely struck a chord with me. I'm inclined to think that there are many gamers out there who are unfamiliar with the actual process of game development, and assume many features and key aspects of development can be added in and removed as if they were text on a document. It felt very refreshing to see so much openness about game creation. Though that may be in part to due to the needs of transparency for operating a crowdfunded project, I found that it helped to not only give the developers their own chance to tell their side of the story, but also to humanize the actual process of game creation. While the added publicity of their project added pressure to make sure they did right by fans, it was the kind of pressure they were more than familiar with during their time on past titles from the LucasArts era and in recent years at Double Fine. Over the years, they've developed games that inspire a lot of love and respect from fans, and making sure they deliver was something that kept them on track. "It's definitely pleasurable to succeed and fulfill all those promises, and anyone who's kinda hoping we would fail, it's nice to hear their quiet tears in the night. If you listen quietly you can hear them cry into the night," Schafer said while joking about the messages they get from cynical commentators. "But we always have this pressure of trying to do things that the fans would like anyway, now that the fans are actually funding the game, so it's the same group. But you put that kid of pressure on you anyway so you'd make a good game."   With the complete Broken Age experience available now, this marks the end of a long and unique development period for the studio. Though it has still got another crowdfunded title in the wings, its first is now out in the wild, ready to be experienced by fans and newcomers alike. But as we've seen in the years since Double Fine's success on Kickstarter, there's no shortage of campaigns looking to reignite the same fire that only a few projects can attain. Schafer definitely believes the future is bright for crowdfunded titles. "I think crowdfunding is here to stay," said a confident Schafer. "I think when people realized you could get organized and make things happen that couldn't be made by the old gate-keeper system, I think that'll always be the case. [...] Basically I think things always go crazy on Kickstarter when there's a great story. I think we had a good story that was new, and also people were saying 'Here's this thing we wanted to happen for a while.' Like this new adventure game, and it hasn't happened, but we could fix that and make it ourselves -- and that's really powerful." "But there are a lot of other different kinds of stories, besides old-timers like me going back and doing the genre again. Just people doing projects no one has ever thought of before, but instantly want to happen, I think there'll be these spikes whenever that happens and continue to be more popular. I mean the things about crowdfunding will change and improve, but I don't think it'll ever go away." A good story is important. Whether it comes from a struggling developer looking to strike out on its own with a project that was rejected by countless publishers, or from a group of veteran creators seeking to return to a classic franchise all while doing it their way -- crowdfunding has inspired a lot of people with an idea to put themselves out there and hope to find others who share their vision, and to ultimately realize it. And with Broken Age out now, we're approaching the end of another story from the folks at Double Fine Productions. But as the genre goes, there are always more adventures to be had. It's not often you get to be a part of the revival of a once-dead genre that inspired many to create their own titles, bond with friends and family over the complexity of puzzles, or get caught up in heated debates about what the real ending is for contentious titles. As the name of the genre states, an adventure is an exciting and hazardous journey into the unknown, and the developers of Broken Age experienced just that with their first foray into crowdfunded game development. Regardless of how you feel about Broken Age as a whole, or whether the developers at Double Fine made the right choices, it's hard to deny that it all made for one of the most interesting development periods for a game in years. Whether you view Double Fine Productions as the underdog or not, it still made for an engaging story. And aren't those the ones worth telling?  
Double Fine interview photo
Everyone loves a good story
Who could forget the great Kickstarter boom of 2012? You remember, right? Out of nowhere, this website called Kickstarter suddenly became a focal point for established developers and indies looking to crowdfund the next big t...

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is ridiculous and over the top in all the right ways

Apr 20 // Alessandro Fillari
Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (PC, PlayStation 4 [previewed], Xbox One)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease date: Summer 2015 Set some time after the events of the original Devil May Cry, the devil-hunting half-demon Dante investigates the mysterious Order of the Sword, a religious sect that worships his demon father, Sparda, as a god. After an infestation of demons swarms the island of Fortuna, causing mass panic and bloodshed, the Order sends a young holy knight named Nero, who may have some demon lineage of his own, to find the source -- whom they believe is Dante. But along the way, Nero discovers that things are not what they appear, and that the Order of the Sword may have sinister motives in mind for him and the son of Sparda. Taking cues from Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition, the developers chose to include more supplementary features for DMC4:SE, while retaining the core structure of the original game. Using the excellent PC version of DMC4 as a base, the Special Edition now features Turbo Mode (20% increase to game-speed), Legendary Dark Knight mode (Hard mode with larger crowds of enemies), higher texture and visual fidelity, and tighter performance and framerate for both PC and console releases. But of course, the SE also brings additions that are brand new to DMC4, such as playable Vergil, Trish, and for the first time ever, Lady -- along with new cutscenes, new costumes for every character, some slight gameplay tweaks, new art to unlock, and some other surprises neat to find. However, it should be stressed that the core structure of DMC4 is almost exactly the same, and anyone expecting new bosses, monsters, and areas to travel to will likely be disappointed. It's still DMC4 through and through. I know many DMC enthusiasts were worried about what balancing tweaks were made to the game, particularly with Dante and Nero. With exception to general tweaks such as quicker Speed boost, faster Orb and Proud Soul acquisition, and some other minor tweaks and adjustments, the core gameplay for the original duo is largely untouched. So anyone who's mastered the intricacies of Guard Flying, Interia, and the incredibly tricky DRI (Distorted Real Impact) should rest easy knowing that they're intact and ready to take advantage of. Truth be told, though, I was a bit surprised by how much of the game was kept as is, even after eight years worth of feedback and cool PC mods that have surfaced. I'm bummed out that the new modes from DmC: Definitive Edition, such as Must Style, Hardcore, and Gods Must Die weren't included either. It seems like a missed opportunity, and DMC4:SE could have really taken advantage of them in a cool way.  With that said, I was impressed with the new content that awaits players in the Special Edition, and the folks at Capcom have put in the work to make it just as rad as ever. The focus of my session was checking out how all of the playable characters stacked up in DMC4:SE, and I was quite pleased to see how much diversity was offered here. Rest assured, these aren't some cheap additions to the game. The new characters feature their own unique playstyle and strategies that set them apart from the rest, which is a welcome change of pace for those who've clocked hundreds of hours into Bloody Palace. Moreover, they all have their own unique movesets to unlock, which is just as expansive as the original characters. I played with all five characters fully maxed out, so I got a pretty unique opportunity to see what they were like at their best. As you no doubt saw from the many teases we've seen over the last few months, Vergil is back, and this time he's more motivated than ever. Set many years before the events of DMC4, we find a young Vergil investigating the Order of the Sword. Not long after his arrival, demons invade the island and Vergil must put them in their place while uncovering the truth behind the mysterious group. Though his progression follows the Dante/Nero campaign beat for beat (sans original cutscenes), they feature all new opening and ending scenes to bookend his experiences. And we may even find some answers regarding his connection to series newcomer Nero. Many fans adored DMC3's incarnation of Vergil, and DMC4:SE continues his stoic and composed sense of combat, while upping his versatility to new heights. Wielding his standard Yamato -- along with the Beowulf gauntlets and Force Edge/Yamato combo from DMC3 -- Vergil dispenses his calm and uncompromising style of action that sets him apart from the others. Though fans will likely have reservations about Vergil possessing these weapons at this point in the timeline (before DMC3), the developers hope that the ambiguity of the plot and his expanded moveset will give them a pass in the eyes of fans. And after playing with Vergil, I'm certainly cool with the liberties they've taken.  Essentially the antithesis to Dante's bombastic and machismo combat style, Vergil feels more composed and cunning than his brother, which in essence lies the true genius of his style. This is reflected in the brand new Concentration meter, which rewards calm and precise combat. As you connect with strikes and dodge attacks, you build Vergil's Concentration level, which boosts his attack power and speed. Once you build it up to the max level, Vergil becomes a serious force in combat, and even unlocks special moves to use in his Devil Trigger phase -- such as the Judgement Cut End, an ultimate attack that slashes all foes at the cost of your DT gauge. I was supremely impressed with how much the developers had expanded Vergil's gameplay. The new Concentration meter makes combat feel more rewarding and satisfying, and keeping my meter full made fights more tense, as getting hit or missing an attack would decrease the meter. Thankfully, Vergil is still a beast even at the lowest concentration. In addition to incorporating DmC Vergil's sword teleportation move, which allows Vergil to teleport to enemies hit with his sword illusion skills, his weapon combos have also been fleshed out more. With Yamato using new ground and aerial combos, including aerial variants of Judgement Cut and also Vergil's take on Nero's Roulette, Force Edge also employs new combos paying homage to DMC3's Agni and Rudra moveset. Not to mention, his DT phase enhances his abilities and combos, giving him faster charge time and reduced cooldown, along with replacing his side-roll with the Table Hopper evade. I know I won't be alone in saying this, but I would've been plenty satisfied with just having Vergil as a new character. But of course, Capcom decided to take things a step further by including two more characters to the roster with Lady and Trish. Though Vergil has the campaign all to himself, Lady and Trish will share a campaign mode similar to Nero and Dante's story. With two new cutscenes, their story focuses on their exploits in the background as Nero and Dante are getting into trouble throughout the island. Lady's portion takes her through Nero's missions, using her grappling hook for traversal, while Trish cleans up in Dante's later levels. This is the first time Lady has been playable in the DMC series, and as the sole human character in the roster, the developers had to rethink how combat would work for her. Focusing more on her firearms, and employing a keep-away style, Lady is at her best while at a distance. With her only melee weapon being the massive and lumbering rocket launcher Kalina Ann, which feels fairly limited compared to other melee weapons, it's quite clear that players will have to adjust how they engage their foes with Lady. Thankfully, her arsenal of firearms and gadgets, including the Kalina Ann's grappling hook which pulls in enemies, offers more than enough stopping power to take down whatever comes her way. While it's easy to assume that her combat mechanics are a carbon copy of Dante's gunslinger style, there's definitely a lot of nuance to be found in the human devil hunter's fighting style. Using pistols, a shotgun, and the Kalina Ann as her primary weapons, Lady's focus on range gives her an edge that the other characters do not. Taking some inspiration from Nero's exceed gauge, Lady is able to charge her weapons up to three levels, which boosts her attack power significantly. When charged, the bullet icon on the HUD will show how much juice is left in the charge, giving players an idea of how much time they have for their attacks. Not only is Lady able to charge her weapons much faster than the other characters, her weapons react differently with a full charge. For instance, a max-level charge for the Kalina Ann sends out a super-charged rocket that pierces through multiple foes. And yes, she does have a double jump and also a neat spin on the Devil Trigger phase. Her take on double jump has her rocket launcher firing off a shot, propelling her upward and damaging foes underneath (which has damage jump cancelling potential), and her spin on the Devil Trigger is essentially a volley of grenades that clears out all nearby enemies. I adored the character in DMC3, and finally getting the chance to play as her was such a blast. Granted, it was an adjustment. I had to resist the urge to use melee attacks with Lady -- it was quite clear they weren't her strong suit -- which in itself was a bit of an oddity for DMC. While every character thrives on getting up close and personal, Lady is the polar opposite. Many of her moves even focus on getting her in and out of the action when the need arises. For instance, her take on the shotgun's gunstinger move has her charge in gun first for a deadly close-range blast, then follows up with another shot that her launches back out of the fray. Another example is her R1+ Back + Jump move, which replaces the typical backflip and causes Lady to jump backwards while tossing a number of grenades to the foes in front of her. Ultimately, I found Lady to be a very technical character, and she's arguably the most unique choice in the roster. I'm usually a player that uses firearms somewhat sparingly, but playing as Lady offered some inventive ways to use them. Which I certainly appreciate. Finally, the last new character to grace the Special Edition is long-time femme fatale Trish. She was last playable in Devil May Cry 2, and thankfully the developers sought to flesh her out. Using her fists, the sword Sparda (the Force Edge's transformed state), the pistols Ebony and Ivory, the super weapon Pandora, and her demonic lighting powers, Trish is essentially DMC4: Special Edition's wildcard character. On the surface, she seems to be there just for eye-candy -- but in truth, Trish is one of the deadliest characters in the roster. With her focus being primarily on crowd control and group combat, many of her moves attack multiple foes at once, due in part to her range and lightning imbued attacks. To be totally honest, I initially I felt that Trish seemed overpowered, given that she has pretty easy access to such powerful weapons. Moreover, she's an incredibly flashy character, which has her pulling off a number of elaborate combos with ease. While developing DMC4:SE, the creatives wanted to have a character that allowed newcomers to get in easily, which meant removing the weapon-switch options and keeping her arsenal present at all times. Now before you grab your pitchforks over the thought of accessibility tied to DMC, do know that selecting Trish does not mean you picked the "you win" character. As I got more comfortable with her, I found a lot of nuance that required knowledge of enemy placement, range, and sheer timing on my part. Her moveset is very robust, and features larger depth in crowd control and focused attacks than the others. Her primary weapons are her fists, called Bare Knuckle, and it's the most robust unarmed moveset the series has ever had. Bare Knuckle takes advantage of her lighting powers, and gives each of her attacks a serious boost. Along with Sparda, which is set to the Style button (Circle on PS4), Trish uses the legendary sword as is with strikes and launchers, but she can also treat it like a boomerang to keep enemies locked in place with Round Trip, or to scoop up a group of foes towards her from a distance. Her ultimate move, however, is truly a sight to behold. As one of the longest combos in the game, Trish uses almost all of Sparda's moves in an intensive flurry, finishing off with her calmly using the legendary weapon as a golf club against the unfortunate foe. Simply put, she's a badass and an utter joy to watch cut loose. Fans of her Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 appearance will be pleased to know they've incorporated her moveset into DMC4:SE. One of her Bare Knuckle moves called Inazuma is an aerial kick that leaves streaks of energy in the environment, which can trap enemies in their place. Add in Sparda's round-trip ability, along with Trish's glorious take on Chun-Li's Spinning Bird Kick, and you've got potential to dish out some gnarly damage. During a quick trip into Legendary Dark Knight mode, I went to Mission 17's street area, which is notorious for featuring the largest number of enemies in the game. While other members of the roster may take some time to clear out the mobs, Trish was in her element and laid waste to the masses in a way that would make the characters from Dynasty Warriors sit down and watch her at work. Seriously, using Sparda's round-trip, along with Inazuma and Pandora's beam cannon (which uses some DT meter) against the mobs was like witnessing Satan's weed wacker at work. It was brutal, incredibly satisfying, and it was clear they didn't send enough enemies to fight. I remember playing as Trish in DMC2, and I was really disappointed that she was a reskin of Dante. Thankfully, DMC4:SE does the character justice. With the entire roster in mind, I felt that they all complement each other, and bring levels of panache that feels special, especially if you're willing to invest the time to learn and grow with them. But what truly impressed me the most was that each character brings something unique to the table. None of them felt half-baked or intended as a diversion from the other more established members. I was quite blown away by how much we're getting here. I spent about two hours tooling around with all the characters, and while Nero and Dante feel just as sharp and versatile as ever, I anticipate the newcomers will get all the attention come release, and with good reason. Although I was initially worried that the new characters would compound the tedium of the recycled environments, I was pleased to find that the new playstyles help to offer a refreshing take on the old encounters. That will certainly take the sting out of backtracking. Hopefully, anyway. But I still have to express my disappoint in that no new modes were added. However, this is one of the great aspects of the remaster trend. Much like its companion title DmC: Definitive Edition, it's allowing games from the previous gen that may have missed the mark to reach a greater potential and be the game fans want it to be. It's been such a long time since Capcom came out with a follow-up to the original DMC series, and Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition shows that it hasn't lost its touch one bit. It's looking to be an incredibly enticing package that revels in gloriously stupid action, and ain't that the best kind? As the Street Fighter of the action genre, this franchise has a large legacy to uphold. And if you were among those who weren't too keen on DmC Devil May Cry and yearned for a return to the classic series, you've now got your shot to do so. So take it. And don't forget to turn on Turbo Mode in the options menu. 
Devil May Cry photo
The time has come, and so have I
The Devil May Cry franchise has experienced some strange happenings in recent years. After the release of Ninja Theory's reboot and many debates among fans about what direction it should go next, the future of the franchise f...

The original Kickstarter game, High Strangeness, is set for release on May 6

Apr 16 // Alessandro Fillari
High Strangeness (Linux, Mac, PC, Wii U [previewed])Developer: Barnyard Intelligence GamesPublisher: Midnight CityRelease: May 6, 2015 "As the original amount was for $1500, it's been a passion project for us," said lead developer Ben Shostak. "We've been working on it all that time since, but eventually along the way, we got picked up by Midnight City and they were able to help us get it finished up and with the art assets and other resources. We had a successful Steam Greenlight, and now we're ready for release next month." Initially taking place in middle America, a mild-mannered teenager finds that his home has been invaded by creatures resembling shadows. Soon after, he's transported to a mysterious world connected by two parallel dimensions, and after coming into contact with an ancient artifact, he's able to transition between the dimensions, which resemble 8-bit and 16-bit interpretations of the new world he inhabits. Using gadgets and several artifacts he uncovers, he begins his quest to unravel the mystery behind the shadow creatures, while trying to find his way back home. Understandably, I was a bit confused by their labeling of High Strangeness as a 12-bit adventure game, but after playing the game, it became quite clear. The main character is essentially trapped within a videogame that's having difficulties trying to reconcile its place between the between the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming. Hence, the 12-bit label. As the in-between, he's able to transition to different eras, while taking advantage of the unique visual styles, along with the physics and AI parameters of the respective eras. Similar to The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past or Secret of Mana, action takes place from an overhead view in real time. In addition to his graphical transition ability, the hero will have access to a wide range of abilities. Starting off with a flashlight, which doubles as a melee weapon, he'll gain new gadgets and abilities such as firecrackers, which can be thrown at enemies and used to destroy weak walls to find new areas. When our hero defeats foes, he'll acquire crystal eyes which can be used to spend on upgrades in the character menu. Similar to action-RPG titles, you'll be able to focus on particular traits and attributes, and build your hero out to your liking. While at first glance, it seems to be one of those titles trying a bit too hard to relive the classic era. But thankfully, the "meta-ness" of High Strangeness is much more than simple style. The transition between the bit worlds is totally by design, which will change up enemy A.I, puzzle solving, and exploration. Think Light and Dark worlds from A Link to the Past, but with videogames. For instance, 16-bit world features eight-way degree of movement, while the 8-bit world has only grid based movement. In some cases, enemies will appear more menacing and more difficult in 16-bit mode, but switching over to 8-bit mode will severely limit their attacks and movement. Moreover, certain clues and obstacles will only be present in the 8-bit areas. During the Easter Island level, I was able to see traps hidden in the ground in the 8-bit world, but for the 16-bit world, the extra graphical power allows the traps to be more well hidden. I know, it's so meta, right? And it totally works. I was kinda geeking out during my session, as it was a pretty neat nod to how self-aware it is the style and limitations of the era. It was cool seeing 16-bit versions of the common enemies, these clothed monsters with tentacles, turn into these somewhat harmless and neutered looking enemies in the 8-bit world. By the way, that friend that inspired the developers to put themselves out there on Kickstarter was Rich Vreeland, also known as Disasterpeace. Along with Dino Lionetti from Cheap Dinosaurs, Disasterpeace has also contributed some music to High Strangeness. The score is totally a love letter to the classic era, focusing heavy on chiptune arrangements that are pretty catchy, but also very exciting and ooze style. I spent a nice amount of time with High Strangeness, and I could tell I only scratched the surface of what it has in store for players. There are many dungeons and locations to explore, each with a 8-bit and 16-bit rendition, and there's even a section where you'll play as a talking cat for some reason. It sounds so ridiculous, I know it'll be really awesome to see unfold. I'm a bit of a sucker to have a game be so self-aware of its genre, and the medium itself, and High Strangeness is certainly shaping up to one of those titles that'll not be fun to play, but also to examine for the number of references and nods to the classic era. It's been a long time coming, and to finally see the original Kickstarter game project reach the finish line is pretty exciting. Granted, it's been about six years, but better now then never, right? They've made good on their commitment to the fans, and it's shaped up to be something quite special.
High Strangeness photo
A super-meta jaunt through through 12-bit gaming
Ever since the big Kickstarter boom of 2012, there's never been a short supply of developers looking to get their next title going through crowdfunding. From metroidvania action-RPG titles referencing the golden years of game...

Dystopian steampunk mini-golf is now a thing in Vertiginous Golf

Apr 15 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]289971:58047:0[/embed] Vertiginous Golf (Linux, Mac, PC [previewed])Developer: Lone Wolf Collective, KinelcoPublisher: Surprise AttackRelease: May 6, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Set in a world resembling Victorian-era London, Vertiginous Golf centers around the citizens of the city who look for escapism from the oppressive and gloomy nature of urban living. When the upper class and more fortunate citizens leave the city for comfortable living on floating islands in the sky, the lower class citizens have to settle for access to the "Vertiginousphere," essentially steampunk virtual reality, to give them a vicarious taste of what life is like above the smog and clouds. And what better way to experience it than with a game of mini-golf? As you clear courses and unlock new challenges, you'll find audio diaries explaining the nature of the world, and its denizens. There seems to be a lot more going on with the Vertiginousphere and the lands above the clouds, than you may realize. When you enter the Vertiginousphere, you gain access to a mini-golf course designed by some of the most ingenious, sadistic golfers ever. Partnered with a flying mechanical bird, you're able to get a thorough view of the course and its dangers in order to make to the hole. While some are pretty simple, with only a few dips and bumps to worry about -- there are others that feature major hazards, like air-tanks that push your golf-ball away from the hole, or moving platforms that shift at a moment's notice. During my first few games, things got pretty hairy after only three holes. On one course, I had to take advantage of half-pipes and loops in order to make it to the end of the course. They're incredibly devious, and it'll be interesting to see how players make it through the stages efficiently. It's quite clear that many liberties are taken with the game of mini-golf in the Vertiginousphere. For instance, you're given an after-touch ability to move and shift the direction of your ball, only slightly, to give it a better position and angle. Moreover, given the fact that this isn't a real game of mini-golf, you're able to rewind your moves back a few seconds, in case you make a serious error. Though the game has been in Early Access for over a year now, there have been steady updates to the game since then, which is still prepping for its release. The most recent update that came out was the inclusion of online multiplayer. Up to eight players can compete against each other in real time (no turns) on a courses. You can even use weapons and gadgets to slow down or debilitate your competition. With its release coming up, the developers took a lot of feedback from fans during its time on Early Access. This includes special courses that only allows the use of your clubs and no special abilities such as the after-touch and rewind. Moreover, the final release will feature the full story mode and level editor, which players will no doubt spend many hours in. I think it's safe to say that Vertiginous Golf is one of the most unique mini-golf titles I've ever played, and its steampunk setting is the real capper to such an off-the-wall and rich concept. I'm quite fond of its approach to narrative within a mini-golf game. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what this title has to reveal, as there's a surprisingly high level of mystery present.  Even though I only got a small taste of the story, what I experienced left me wanting to explore of what the Vertiginousphere had to offer. 
Vertiginous Golf photo
Brass clubs and copper pins
What happens when you get the developers of those old Nabisco mini-golf Flash games and have them make a new type of mini-golf title? Well evidently, you get something completely off-the-wall and bizarre, which feels more lik...

Narcosis explores the horrors of the deep ocean with intense VR gameplay

Apr 14 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]283983:56360:0[/embed] Narcosis (PC)Developer: Honor Code, IncPublisher: Honor Code, Inc  Release: Fall 2015 Set at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at an underwater research center, you play as an industrial diver who must fight for survival after a sudden and catastrophic accident leaves him stranded and alone. With the research center mostly destroyed and its crew killed, the lone survivor must retrace his steps and find a way to the surface. But with horrifying underwater predators roaming the surroundings, and a damaged diving suit with diminishing oxygen, the diver must keep a strong head -- or else nature or even his own wavering psychological state could overcome him. Referred to as a "slow-burn" experience by the creatives behind the game, this 'survivor-story' features a more atmospheric take on traditional horror titles, blending the show-don't-tell school of storytelling from Gone Home with the dread and somewhat other-worldly feel from Silent Hill. Humanity has only explored a small percentage of our planet's oceans, and with many aquatic environments and creatures left undiscovered, it's an incredibly interesting and captivating place to explore for a horror experience. On the surface it seems just like the film Gravity set underwater, and while that's not too far off, there's a strong focus on setting and interaction with the elements. We don't really get too many games set in the depths of the ocean, let alone a horror game taking place on the sea floor. And Narcosis definitely does a lot to play up the mystery and isolation to a very tense and anxious effect. Speaking with David Chen, the lead writer for Narcosis, he spoke at length about how they sought to convey their interpretation of survival horror. "We're kinda struggling to label the game, as it has many of the hallmarks of survival horror," said lead writer David Chen. "There are no zombies or a viral outbreak, it's really about seven or eight hours of this guy trapped at the bottom of the ocean. So we think it's a really, relatively unique premise for a game, as a lot of other titles have you saving the world, revenging your family, or bottling up some ancient evil -- but here, you're trapped alone in the dark on the bottom of the ocean." While underwater gameplay is almost notoriously awful in most games, Narcosis does the smart thing by keeping it simple. Movement is slow and hulking, which makes sense as you're wearing a heavy diving suit under large amounts of pressure from the ocean. Walking is your top-speed, but with the aid of charge pack, you can boost for short-distances. As you maneuver around the ocean floor and the ruins of the research center, you'll have to be mindful of your surroundings as there are many dangers ahead. With only your suit lights and some flares giving you clear vision, you'll often times find yourself in total darkness. Moreover, you'll have to monitor your oxygen and health levels, which can be restored by pickups found in the debris. By far the biggest threat is the presence of underwater predators. Resembling nightmarish squids and over-sized crabs, these creatures stalk for prey, and they see the diver as their next target. Some creatures are large in size, which may require you to evade their gaze. While you have a knife to defend yourself, attacking with it is slow and somewhat clunky -- which of course is by design, as the weight of the ocean and your suit makes movement slow. During one encounter, I came across a squid creature that nearly destroyed the diver's helmet with its powerful tentacles. Using a well-timed knife attack, I was able to strike it down as it charged at me. But of course, there's yet another issue to contend with. Given his perilous situation, and the fact that the diver only has his thoughts to keep him company, his psychological and emotional state can often become compromised. As you maneuver through the disturbing, alien landscape of the dark and claustrophobic ocean floor, and through the horrific aftermath of the destroyed research center, the diver's mental state will begin to decay, which gives rise to horrifying hallucinations. During my exploration of the research center, I had to trek through the remains of the station to look for clues to reach the surface -- all the while avoiding predators that have taken up residence, and finding the floating remains of the scientists and divers that died in the accident. With oxygen getting low, and finding many empty diving suits eerily standing up in hallways, as if they were looking at me, I finally came to a small room which housed four suits. Once I stepped in, I looked around for any clues, but I soon realized that the door had disappeared, and I was suddenly surrounded by diving suits, all staring back at me with their blank and empty helmets. As I kept turning, looking for a way out, I found that the room had suddenly given rise to a narrow hallway, with parallel rows of diving suits on each side. Each of them were facing each other in a somewhat ceremonial fashion, as if they were greeting me or welcoming me back home. Once I reached the end of the hallway, I finally found my destination: a small room housing computers with sensitive data. Once I turned around, the hallway and many diving suits weren't there; the lone survivor had just simply stepped into the room. Referred to as "Narcosis moments," there will be times when the diver's paranoia warps his perception, resulting in surreal moments that blur the line between reality and imagination. Bare in mind, I playing with the Oculus Rift during the demo, which made me so incredibly anxious. Moreover, this was all happening in real-time with no cutscenes or breaks. It was like witnessing some strange trip that wouldn't end. As I got more nervous, the sense of dread kicked up significantly, which made exploration all the more tense. While Narcosis is totally playable without the use of virtual reality, the developers found that the new technology helped to amplify a lot of the visual and atmospheric moments they created. "We describe it as a very understated use of VR, as in it's not flashy or flamboyant, but the core fiction of the game really lends itself to the use of VR as it accurately shows your limitations," said Chen while discussing their use of the tech. "It really lends itself to the sense of immersion, a sense of place, and the feeling of suspense." "It's a narrative-driven game, it's a story-based game, so we want to have appropriate emotional beats," Chen continued. "It's not intended to be a relentless freakout, but as the game has developed with VR, we discovered ways to try new things with it, as opposed to the more obvious 'aaaaaahhh' [motions jump-scare] moments. [...] While we definitely have some freaky stuff, we're trying to be more tasteful." Even during my fairly brief session with Narcosis, I was quite impressed with the VR. As opposed to relying on horror tropes and gimmicks, such as jump scares or stalking foes that appear all-knowing and invincible, this title lets the environments and its clever visual tricks do all the talking. I felt nervous during key sections, and knowing that only a few hits from predators could destroy my suit, simply hesitating and watching my oxygen meter sink was stressful. Set for release later this year, Narcosis is an intellectual and subdued take on survival horror. Which isn't all that common today, given that we're often using guns and other gadgets to overcome enemies. Going more for a general experience rather than a super 'gamey' affair, it seeks to show that the horrors of the deep ocean, and nature itself, are an uncaring and unwavering force that outmatch man on nearly every level. And there's certainly no greater foe than nature itself.
Narcosis preview photo
Deep deep down
Last year during Game Connection Europe, Steven had some special hands-on time with developer Honor Code, Inc's upcoming underwater survival horror title Narcosis. As a psychological-horror survival game, players find themsel...

Killing Floor 2 is hectic and gory, and will be on Early Access this month

Apr 07 // Alessandro Fillari
Killing Floor 2 (PC [previewed], PlayStation 4)Developer: Tripwire InteractivePublisher: Tripwire Interactive Release date: April 21, 2015 (Steam Early Access)MSRP: $29.99 Set sometime after the zombie pandemic that swept England, the virus has now crossed over to Europe, creating chaos and destruction in its wake. Returning from their exploits in England, the survivors travel to Europe in order to continue their fight against the swarms of the undead and the mutated scientists that gave rise to such horrid creations. As you battle waves of foes, you'll acquire the cash to expand your arsenal and skills to take on greater challenges that await. For those unfamiliar, Killing Floor 2 continues with its predecessor's focus on fast-paced cooperative action set on several maps across zombie- and monster-infested locales. Starting off with the basics -- pistols, knives, and healing and welding tools -- each kill earns you dosh (in-game currency), which can be spent at stores in between waves. As you clear waves, the challenges become far more difficult, as common zeds will be in greater numbers, and special elite monsters will also come into the mix (beware the Sirens and Flesh Pounds!). You'll have to learn the layout of the levels to know certain choke-points to take out the hoard, and which doors to keep welded shut in order to slow their movement throughout the map. With the announcement of Early Access, the devs wanted players to get their hands on KF2 to not only experience a sizable taste of the eventual final release, but to also allow for hardcore fans to give their thoughts and feedback, which they hope to implement into future updates. At launch on April 21, players will have four classes to choose from -- such as the melee-focused Berserker, the assault class Commando, the back-up unit Support class, and also the Field Medic. Each class focuses on the core functions of the team, and ranking them up will unlock special perks and upgrades that can be chosen to create builds. Though keep in mind, there will be another six classes to choose from in the final release. Many of the characters from the original game, such as Mr. Foster, DJ Skully, and Reverend Alberts have returned, along with a new set of characters joining the struggle. Not only is there a stronger focus on diverse characters of different genders and nationalities, they're each far more fleshed out and given more presence. Instead of just flavor text accompanying their character art like in the original, each character has detailed dialog in-game, which sees the survivors have banter with one another during battles. I stuck with the gas mask wearing Mr. Foster for most of my session, and I was pleased to see that there any many different clothing and accessory options for him. Which is reassuring, as he's one of the most popular characters and the different options will be sure to help players differentiate. "For the characters in this game, we wanted to give each of them their own unique personality," said art director David Hensley while discussing the roster. "We also wanted to add in female characters from the start, so every character has their own unique voice and script. We put a lot of time into concept art, developing their character and back-stories." Unfortunately the one character than many loved to hate, The Trader, didn't make it over the course of the epidemic. After realizing how reckless it was to have traders keep shops open in heavily infested battle zones, weapon manufacturers have sent several 3D printing pods down to the warzones, which allow for easy and quick access to their merchandise. The shop menu feels much more refined. Not only that, the selection of gear feels way more diverse. Of course, you have your selection of pistols, shotguns, rifles, and melee weapons. But the arms dealers have some new toys to show off to the humans battling the horde, such as a medic machine gun that will heal allies and kill zeds with the same rounds, and a heavy weapon that fires off buzzsaws. The developers took a lot of notes over the years from the KF community, which they applied to its sequel. In many ways, this is a culmination of years of work from Killing Floor and even the Red Orchestra series. Many tweaks and upgrades made to the game and its engine are from direct feedback they've gotten, and with the Early Access build, they plan on adding another layer of refinement. For instance, the difficulty modes have been tweaked. Beginner mode has been removed, placing Normal as the lowest setting, while a brand new mode called Hell on Earth is now the highest difficulty to choose from. In the latter, swarms are increased and they take more damage. While the gameplay is very much the same, it feels far more polished than in the original title. For instance, the visuals on display are a massive upgrade. Not only is combat chaotic, and incredibly gory -- seriously, the levels were caked with blood and guts during the later waves -- the pace feels much faster and to the point. No more having to travel great distances to the battles, as the layout feels tighter. Moreover, the super stylish but somewhat jarring slow-mo Zed Time (which triggers when players get a critical hit) has been slightly reworked, and only comes into effect when you trigger it or are within range. Furthermore, the melee attacks have be upgraded somewhat. Not only are there new melee weapons to use, there are also situations where your character will be grabbed by enemies, either boss characters or common zeds, and you'll have to use your melee moves to free yourself. In addition to these upgrades, server browsing has been upgraded, allowing for easier searches through the browser, and will even work with the brand-new Party feature. This was in response to the original's server listing, which the devs admittedly said wasn't all that great, and they also wanted to stick together instead of coordinating outside the game to find a place to play. With the party option, a group of six can join as a party, which will keep you together while looking for servers to play your next game. During our session, we played on several maps on a variety of different difficulties. On the Burning Paris map, we took to the streets of France's capital city to fight off zeds from a number of semi-secure locations. With the Support class, I was able to help weld doors much quicker than other players, which only served as a temporary solution to an overarching zed problem. I was cleaning house with the AA-12 shotgun, which allowed me to mow down foes quickly. And yes, activating Zed Time with it was super satisfying. After surviving the final wave, we managed to make it to the final round against the boss monster. Though the Patriarch was the recurring boss monster in the previous title, Killing Floor 2 aims to switch it up with several randomly-chosen boss characters to battle against. This new one, which unfortunately I am unable to describe specifically due to the developers wanting to keep it as a surprise, was certainly different than the Patriarch. The fight was brutal and rough, and I'm sure many fans who've longed for a new boss to fight will enjoy it. But as you could probably guess, we didn't make it. The new boss overpowered us easily, and we only got him whittled down to half health before he took us all out. We had quite a bit of time with the Early Access build, and I'm inclined to think that many fans are in for something special once this is out on the market. Thankfully, the folks at Tripwire listened to the community and didn't stray too far from what the made the original such a blast to play. And not only that, the developers have been keeping an eye on modded content from the original game, which prompted them to incorporate official Steam Workshop support for Killing Floor 2. So go nuts, modders! I've played quite a bit of the original Killing Floor, and I had a blast experiencing what the developers have in store for the next installment. Initially, I was pretty worried that it would be exactly the same game with just a fresh coat of paint, and while that's true to an extent, it truly doesn't need all that much change to make it a solid follow-up. At its core, it's a game about shooting stuff up and working with a group to take down impossible hoards in gory over-the-top fashion. And Killing Floor 2 definitely succeeds in that. With Early Access, there will be three maps, four classes, eleven unique monsters, eight playable characters, a new boss monster, and also mod support for custom levels and the like. With their "Early Access done right" mantra, Tripwire feels that giving players a good chunk of the game along with the tools to reconfigure and customize it to their liking is what fans want. I'm definitely excited to see what's next for Killing Floor 2 in the coming months.
Killing Floor 2 photo
Dosh! Grab it while it's hot!
It's been a good while since the release of the original Killing Floor back in 2008. Over the years, its been sitting on the Steam best-sellers list for quite some time, and built a loyal and dedicated following. While hoard-...

The Perils of Man photo
The Perils of Man

New adventure title from former LucasArts dev comes to Steam later this month


The Perils of Man releasing April 28 on PC and Mac
Apr 03
// Alessandro Fillari
Last year, I got the chance to chat with the developers behind The Perils of Man, an episodic time-traveling adventure title from the minds of Bill Tiller and Gene Mocsy. With a pedigree of work ranging from classic adv...
Assassin's Creed photo
Assassin's Creed

Travel to India and Russia in future episodes of Assassin's Creed Chronicles this fall


Fan-favorite Assasins finally have their time to shine
Mar 31
// Alessandro Fillari
Recently, I got to go hands-on with Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China. For this downloadable title, Ubisoft redesigned the AC experience to fit within a 2.5D perspective. With China releasing next month, players will finally...

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China gives the series a fresh perspective

Mar 31 // Alessandro Fillari
Assassin's Creed Chronicles (PC, PS4, Xbox One [previewed])Developer: Climax StudiosPublisher: Ubisoft Release date: April 21, 2015 (Episode One) / Fall 2015 (Episodes Two and Three) "It's a very exciting and very challenging project to work on," said lead game designer Xavier Penin. "[Ubisoft] had a pretty [sizable] pitch for the project and wanted them to be short, episodic, and each of the stories would have their own specific artstyles that fit the character and time period. We knew we had to focus our efforts on making something that didn't just feel like a smaller Assassin's Creed." For the first episode, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, players take on the role of female assassin Shao Jun, who fans might recognize from the animated film Assassin's Creed Embers. Picking up some time after the events of Embers in 1526, Shao Jun returns to China after her training with Ezio Auditore and seeks revenge against Emporer Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty after the massacre of the Chinese Assassin Brotherhood. During her exploits, she'll acquire new abilities and contacts that will help in her quest, and revitalize the Assassin presence in 16th-century China. China has been a top requested location from fans, along with a playable Shao Jun, and seeing it come to pass is exciting. In the three levels I played, set in The Forbidden City and Fujian Province, we got to experience a starkly different setting and visual palette not seen from the series. Moreover, the brief taste of the India and Russia episodes we saw also feature their own art styles and aesthetic. Granted, the nature of this downloadable title allows them to try different settings, but I was blown away by the potential AC has in such lush environments. This enthusiasm was also shared by the folks behind the title. [embed]289710:57987:0[/embed] "When we were going to do this game with [Shao Jun], I was really excited about it and wanted to get all the information about background and her story, but it was actually pretty thin," said Penin. "So eventually we decided to come up with new ideas and settings, beyond Embers, and we came up with a story that AC fans will enjoy." Understandably, the switch from 3D to 2.5D has brought some changes to the action-stealth gameplay. For the most part, players will still traverse the environment with free-running maneuvers while avoiding detection, and only using combat as a last resort. Players will run and leap across obstacles in the environment and move between the foreground and background during traversal. I was impressed with the depth shown in the environments, and I was quite surprised that areas shown off were largely interactive. In one section during a prison escape, I had to find my gear before making an exit, which meant having to search for a guard's keys. After traveling through a hallway, I entered a large cavern housing dozens of prison cells. Off in the distance in the background, there were several guards making their rounds near a number of prisoners. From the foreground, I jumped onto a fallen pillar, which allowed me seamlessly run across to the background of the environment, which had its own unique layout and design. It was neat to be able to see how much depth the levels have, and the later levels show off much more intuitive and clever design. The stealth gameplay has had a bit of change, however, and the assassins now have to rely more on shadows and darkness to slip past their foes. Instead of the line-of-sight design from past titles, Chronicles utilizes a vision cone system. Similar to Mark of the Ninja's gameplay, all enemies can see and hear only a certain distance ahead of them, which gives you the means to figure out the best way around them. While it's still very much AC, the new design feels different. The lead designer elaborated a little further with how they went about re-designing AC stealth for 2.5D. "We had a lot of work to find the right recipe because this is the type of gameplay that require precise signs of feedback," said Penin. "We experimented a lot with the detection system, which focuses on cones of vision that work really well because it shows accurately in the 2D perspective. While some people initially thought [the visual representation of enemy line of sight] got in the way of the art style, ultimately the function allowed for us to design the stealth for players to be more interesting." Though you can easily avoid all conflicts by sticking in the shadows or hiding inside doorways or off the sides of ledges, there are a whole assortment of gadgets that Shao Jun has at her disposal, such as the rope dart which can sling enemies and help her traverse to new heights. The action and pace of the stealth from past games is present, though there seems to be much more thought put into it. Some sections felt like actual puzzles more than action-stealth gameplay, and I mean that as a good thing. The narrowing of the perspective put a lot more depth into this facet of gameplay, and it was refreshing to have a more refined approach to it. I'm also quite impressed with the visual aesthetic of Chronicles. The developers have stated that each episode will have a unique look to it, and China's style is stunning in its representation of perpetual autumn and uses of inkblot-style visuals and palettes. The colors are vibrant and lush, and the shadows and darkness show a certain roughness, as if it's a place that only the Assassins, history's wet-workers, can venture to. These still-images do not do this title justice -- it's quite gorgeous in action. While I was enjoying myself throughout the China setting, a part of me wished this was a fully 3D title rather than a downloadable side story. Nothing against this game, as it's really solid and makes some clever choices in regards to approach to stealth in a limited perspective, however I feel that such rich settings would be better used for full-fledged 3D Assassin's Creed titles. In any case, Assassin's Creed Chronicles is looking to be a nice surprise for the franchise. Though we can undoubtedly expect to see another main entry in the series this year, Chronicles will serve to be a nice change of pace for those looking for a different take on the series. For those who bit on the Unity season pass, you'll get the first episode on day one. The bite-sized nature of these titles will make them easy to get into, but they're sure to surprise players with how much depth is present.
2.5D Assassin's Creed photo
Stabbin' necks through history in 2.5D
It's not often we see a major player in the big leagues of yearly releases reinvent itself in a more modest and distinct way. With Assassin's Creed titles expected every year, it's been a bit of a challenge for Ubisoft to kee...

Space Sluggers photo
Space Sluggers

Space Sluggers is chaotic and so incredibly cheesy


Everyone fights, no one quits
Mar 27
// Alessandro Fillari
I'm quite a fan of old-school action shoot-'em-ups. Back in the day, I used to venture off to an arcade at my local pizza place and just chill out. With particular titles like Ikari Warriors, Smash TV, and Commando focusing o...

Dirty Bomb aims high with its focus on hardcore FPS action

Mar 26 // Alessandro Fillari
Dirty Bomb (PC)Developer: Splash DamagePublisher: Nexon Release date: March 26th 2015 (Open Access) "For us, we were kind of accustomed to shipping packaged products and retail games, so that within itself was a different mentality to production,"said Splash Damage co-founder and chief branding officer Richard Jolly while discussing their transition to developing a free-to-play title. "So you essentially get the game to what is considered open beta, which is pretty much the final game in most cases, and then the players will play it, release a few updates and a bit of DLC, and then you walk away from it. But with Dirty Bomb, we're kind of back to mod-making. It's constantly evolving, and the game we had in the alpha with our fans is completely different than what we had now. It's interesting to have that level of transparency with our fans, and that's really helped us because we're still actively developing the game." [embed]289520:57922:0[/embed] Set in near-future London, the city had been plunged into chaos after a mysterious "dirty bomb" released toxic gases and large amounts of radiation. In the years since, London is now an abandoned husk of its former self, and the only ones willing to venture into the decaying remains of England's capital city are mercenaries who see the opportunity where others do not. With valuables and other fortunes to find in London, those crazy enough to set foot inside will have to fight for their riches in order to make it out on top. While on the surface it feels like a grittier and more mature take on Team Fortress 2, there's certainly a lot more going on with Dirty Bomb than at first glance. In total, there are several unique characters with their own arsenals and backstories. While many of them share a similar archetype, such as the sniper, medic, and assault classes, they each have access to their own particular set of skills and weapons that are specific to them. There's a lot of humor and humanity found in Dirty Bomb, and the accompanying flavor text that describes each character and their motives for merc work did a lot to bring me in. When in battle, you can select a squad of three characters. These three are the characters you can switch off from during the game, so you'll have to choose wisely. I mostly stuck with Phoenix, Vassili, and Arty, a medic, sniper, and support group. Though I initially was confused on how exactly I could switch off between the character gear, I quickly picked it up after a few minutes of play. Essentially, the members of your squad are loadouts, similar to those in Call of Duty or Battlefield, and you'll have need to switch between them in order to stay ahead of your foes. During a match in the game mode Stopwatch, a neat mix between the standard demolition and capture the flag modes, I was able to switch off between the characters when they were needed. Set on the map Terminal, the attackers have to plants charges on a wall within the quarantine zone in order to gain access to the train station that houses valuable documents that the attackers need to destroy -- but of course, the data is being protected by another group of mercs who aim to keep them intact. Playing on both sides, I found that I needed to switch up my classes more often, as when I was attacking I had to stay healed more often. While on defense, I needed to pick off the oncoming threat from afar. I was really impressed with how the flow of the game motivated me to switch things up more often, as I usually just stick with one class in other titles. I felt I experimented more often in this title than in most other shooters. This aspect of experimentation was something that the developers wished they players would explore. "Games are always an evolution, right? Especially since we were making this for ourselves, before the publisher stepped in," said lead designer Neil Alphonso. "We wanted to really bring out the characters of the mercs. They look really cool, and we wanted to reflect that in the gameplay more. So far it's worked really well, we've had players come up with combinations that we would've never expected in closed testing that we never would've expected, and of course we're gonna have to keep adjusting to that." When you win matches and collect cash, you can purchase cases that yield merc cards that offer a different variation for each character. Spanning across different rarity types, each type of card will offer that specific character a new loadout and special perks. For instance, I found a found a bronze card for Vassili, which not only gave him a new sniper rifle with higher rate of fire, but also gave him the ability to throw his melee weapon. As you find rarer cards, you'll gain access to new abilities and weapons for your characters. Though lead and bronze cards are very common, silver and gold cards really change the game for your characters, as they turn your merc into an elite badass decked out with perks and other special gear. While it's possible to the find much of the content on your own without ever spending a dime by combining junk cards and turning them into rare ones -- there are many different options to take advantage of if you feel as though you want get content quicker. As credits can be acquired pretty easily, you can always be comfortable with what you have, and the developers were clear that Dirty Bomb is a game that will not be "pay-to-win." "If you're making a competitive shooter, something that's hardcore, then the first thing people want is a fair playing field," said Alphonso. "The way I look at it, and it's a bit idealistic, but you just have to make a game that people enjoy enough, that they want to give you money. Rather than they feel like they need you to in order to compete." It's not too often that we see a F2P title with so much openness and transparency from the developers. Generally, the free-to-play genre has somewhat of a bad reputation because of poor practices from certain titles. And while it's understandable that many players feel a bit apprehensive for upcoming ones, I can say that Dirty Bomb was a pretty rad title in the hours I spent with it. Though I kinda wished that the developers stuck with Brink's traversal system, because that'd be such a welcome fit for this game, I found the action in DB to be pretty hectic, bombastic, and super satisfying to take part in. Not only did I feel like I got in some great action moments, going on a seven-kill streak was pretty damn great, but I also felt like I was a pretty integral part of the team as a healer and support unit. With the game available on Steam, now's your chance to get involved with the game that's been in the works for quite some time. And since it's still an on-going process, the developers have continued plans to roll out new features and content in the coming months, such as new maps and other cool content. I had a blast (no pun intended), and the folks from Splash Damage haven't lost their touch for fast and frenetic FPS gameplay.
Dirty Bomb photo
Rule 1: Don't be a dick
The folks at Splash Damage have been busy over the last two years. Since the release of Brink and a stint on Batman: Arkham Origins' multiplayer, they figured it was time to return to their roots with a heavy focus on PC...

StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void seeks to conclude the trilogy with an exciting finale

Mar 18 // Alessandro Fillari
StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void (Mac, PC [previewed])Developer: Blizzard EntertainmentPublisher: Blizzard EntertainmentRelease date: TBA 2015 "Not only is this the conclusion of the StarCraft II trilogy, but also the conclusion to the StarCraft story," said lead game producer Tim Morten. "It really ties together the storylines we've had over the years, and this particular installation will focus on the Protoss." With the previous campaigns focusing on the exploits of the Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan of the Terran and Zerg factions, Legacy of the Void shifts the point of view to the Protoss and its leader Artanis. With the looming threat of the fallen one, Amon, the Protoss and the other factions must ready for battle as the malevolent being seeks to corrupt the galaxy with its powers. As the conclusion to the StarCraft II trilogy, everything has come to this moment, and the upcoming battles will decide the fate of the entire universe. Much like the previous installments, Legacy of the Void is a standalone release that won't require the other entries to play. Though players who've invested time in everything that is StarCraft II thus far will surely have a greater experience, Legacy is a title the developers at Blizzard hope will be accessible for newcomers as well. Though rest assured, Legacy of the Void has every intention of maintaining the high-level play and nuance the series is known for. However, the developers wish to offer newcomers a way to ease into the experience rather than take the trial-by-fire approach. With the new expansion, there's a larger focus on team and cooperative play this time around. Debuting in the expansion are two new gameplay modes called Archon and Allied Commander. For the former, two players will work together to build a base and defend it against enemies. This is essentially co-op mode for the standard competitive mode. While it's exciting for high-level play -- there's twice the efficiency and output -- the developers also hope it'll prove to be an effective learning tool for new players. With an experienced player working as a helping hand alongside a newcomer, they'll be able to learn the ropes much faster. In Allied Commander, players will be able to control the various heroes of the StarCraft universe including Jim Raynor to Sarah Kerrigan. The mode, which lets you take them on a unique campaign as they level up and boost their forces, seems to pull in the best parts of the story mode with the hectic action found in multiplayer battles. Of course, with the new expansion Blizzard has added a whole slew of tweaks and additions. Given such a sizable time between releases, the team was able to gather a lot of player data and make necessary changes. For instance, each faction has new units and upgrades to existing stats and attributes. As the community manages to push the game to its limits, the developers have to try and experiment with new upgrades and tweaks to gameplay. The in-game economy has been altered to encourage expansion and movement, for example, which will yield greater rewards for your base. Moreover, attack damage and range have been tweaked a bit to allow players to use existing and new units in different ways. And speaking of the new units, the folks at Blizzard went all out with upgrades for the factions. The Terran now have access to the Cyclone tank, which can link up with other like units to deal bonus damage. The Zerg has a long-range unit called the Ravager that can deal poisonous area-of-effect damage and disable Protoss shields. And finally, the Protoss can now call forth the Adept, which focuses on close-range combat. The unique thing about the Adept is its shade ability, as it allows the unit to summon a player-controlled ghost of itself to move around the battlefield. After a set amount of time, the Adept will teleport to the position that the shade was in previously. There's impressive potential for these units, and it'll be interesting to see how players experiment with new strategies. Admittedly, I'm a novice when it comes to StarCraft, but I've been an admirer of the series for a long time. I've found a lot to like with this brief taste of the expansion, which will have some of the biggest additions the series has seen in a long time. The changes I've mentioned only scratch the surface for what's been added, such as movable Siege Tanks, new abilities for the existing units, and tweaks to movement and attack damage to name a few. With the upcoming beta, Blizzard hopes to test the waters with these new changes in order to get player feedback on what they would like to see happen in the expansion. Obviously, the series owes much to its fanbase, so it's great as always to see the developers open up with invites to the beta on March 31 to give them a deep and thorough look. Although the official release date is still unknown at this point, it'll be exciting to see how the game evolves from here.
StarCraft II finale photo
Invites for beta on March 31
Where were you when that debut trailer for StarCraft II popped up online? It made its announcement all the way back in 2007 at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in South Korea. Much has changed since then. With the release ...

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is a dark reinvention of classic fairytale fiction

Mar 16 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]288994:57765:0[/embed] Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries (PC [previewed], PlayStation  4, Xbox One)Developer: GRIN Game StudioPublisher: GRIN Game StudioRelease date: March 17, 2015 (Part I)MSRP: $9.99 "It's a very exciting time," said CEO of GRIN Game Studio Wim Wouters. "Two years we've been working on this title now, and for our first big title it's certainly a crazy position to be in." In the span of six months, the developers successfully funded Woolfe through Kickstarter and is already set for release this week. Of course, GRIN already spent years developing the title on its own, but the studio needed the extra funds to push through development. With the support the team found from crowdfunding, it was able to expand its vision and create a deeper game. With this relatively quick turnaround, the CEO of Grin felt it was important to live up to the setting of its game in a timely manner. "We wanted to keep our promise [to the backers]. And even though it's a split release, the first part coming in March and the next coming later this year, the backers were very supportive of our decision," he said.  Set in a radically altered take of the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, Woolfe brings players into a world filled with magic and conspiracy. Taking place in an era vaguely reminiscent of the 1800s during the Industrial Revolution, you take on the role a young axe-wielding Red Riding Hood who must navigate the city and surrounding wilderness to uncover the mystery behind her parents' deaths, and how other characters from fairytale lore might be connected. Along the way, she'll come into conflict with Woolfe, the human leader (and alternate incarnation of the big bad wolf) of an army of clockwork soldiers that wishes to rule the land. Of course, many people saw instant parallels with American McGee's Alice. Which is fair, as Woolfe shares its darker aesthetic and approach to fantasy fiction. Though despite that, the two games are totally different from one another. Wouters and the developers at Grin would get the comparisons often, and while they see it as flattering to be compared to a game they admire, they also expressed that it put a lot of pressure on them to make sure they could deliver. As Red, you'll explore a variety of different environments in 2.5D fashion. Though it looks purely like a side-scroller, you're able to explore the backgrounds of the levels to uncover clues and find switches to advance your path. Along the way, you'll encounter creatures and other foes that must be dispatched with Red's axe or magical abilities. In some cases, you'll have to use stealth to maneuver past foes and other obstacles to find clues. Combat plays a large focus in Red Hood Diaries, as you'll have to battle waves of enemies often. Controls are simple for the most part, but the game feels accessible and smooth. Woolfe does a good job of handling both combat and platforming, and it's all paced pretty well. During my session, I traveled through the streets of the city while on the hunt for the Pied   Piper, who's been abducting the children of the city. Finding his trail within the sewers, Red explored the depths of the city to uncover the lair of the traveling child abductor. This interpretation of the character was a man who was gangly and disgusting in appearance. His new look matched the creepiness of his character's origins, and seeing Red track him through the sewers and confront him was big and exciting moment to take part in. By far, the most striking element of Woolfe is the visual design. The environments are stunning, both vibrant in terms of color, but also detailed enough to show that the world is filled with many denizens and lived in. Though a lot of devs are moving on to Unreal Engine 4, UE3 is still putting in a lot of work and shows off some impressive designs. It's very much a chaotic mix between the prose and detail of the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales, with the style and tone of the films from Tim Burton. Which is everything I'd want to see in a dark fairytale. It was certainly an intriguing title to play, though the build I was playing was slightly older than the complete one and featured some bugs and minor platforming and graphical quirks, particularly with somewhat janky animations. Still, I was totally drawn in by the world that GRIN Game Studio created. It's not that often we get such a unique reinterpretation of fairytale fiction, especially for that of Red Riding Hood. And for $9.99, it's a nice way to get a proper introduction into the world of Woolfe before venturing off into the second part of the adventure set for release later this year. If you're into grim fairy tales and want a nice little adventure title to explore, this is definitely one you'll want to keep on your radar.
Woolfe photo
My, what a big axe you have!
Over the last three years, Kickstarter has totally changed the game for many developers. With the option to crowdfund projects, cut out the middle-man (publishers), and communicate directly with fans to help create the game, ...

Mortal Kombat X brings back some familiar faces for Story Mode

Mar 12 // Alessandro Fillari
Mortal Kombat X (PC, PS4 [previewed], PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360)Developer: NetherRealm StudiosPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentRelease date: April 14, 2015 I think we were all pretty shocked by the culling of the majority of the Mortal Kombat roster in the last game. Many of the central characters that have been with the series for the long haul were killed off unceremoniously during the story, which was crazy because it was permanent. And although descendants and new variations of the characters are set to return, the cull was about giving Mortal Kombat a fresh roster for its next installment. During our hour spent with MKX, we saw quite a bit of the game's content, and even a few surprises that we can't share at this point. But I'll let Abel explain his thoughts on the future of MK. Abel: So let's get the big news out of the way: Johnny Cage is back! NetherRealm hasn't lost its touch with Story Mode. Like Mortal Kombat before it, Mortal Kombat X breaks its story into chapters, each following a specific character. It's absolutely the best storytelling in the genre, allowing you to play with most of the roster while delivering a cohesive narrative. We've come a long way from beating arcade modes with every fighter and trying to piece together the events. During our preview, we only got our hands on chapter one starring Johnny Cage. It was a great chapter though, packed with character reveals -- we got to fight against Scorpion, zombie Jax, and Sub Zero, as well as Shinnok. Oh, and Fujin is back, tearing armies up with his bestie Raiden. If I had to pick a gripe though, I was not a fan of all the choreographed fights in this chapter, some of which dragged on to the point of annoyance. I'm all for kicking back and watching Johnny Cage beat the stuffing out of Scorpion as a helicopter goes down, but there came a point where these scenes would drag on so long as to actively annoy me that the real fight hadn't started yet. The quick-time events didn't help much either, especially considering that success or failure in them had no bearing on the real fight, like they did in Injustice. Here's to hoping Johnny's chapter is the only one like this. [embed]288771:57744:0[/embed] Alessandro: I was a big fan of the previous MK's Story Mode, so it was exciting to see them continue on with that. What surprised me most was that chapter one with Johnny Cage essentially served as the epilogue for what happened in the ending with Shinnok and Quan-Chi in MK9.  It only takes place about a year or so after that story, and by the chapter's end it seemed to have the MK9 storyline wrapped up for the most part, which will lead the way for MKX's central story (which is set over the course of 25 years). But I suppose this goes along with this game being a somewhat clean break from the mythos into something new.  Abel: A new mythos will definitely be welcome, and from the recent story trailer and what we've played, it seems headed firmly in that direction. If I had one fear before playing Story Mode, it's that MKX would retread the stories of MK4 through Deception, the same way MK9 covered MK1-3. Alessandro: After Deadly Alliance, I felt that the series maybe got a bit too away from itself, and just went for a more 'kitchen-sink' approach. As in they threw in everyone from past and present into the story at once. A lot of the content and characters felt like filler, and catered more to the ridiculous side of Mortal Kombat. That's not necessarily bad, but I appreciate that the series is going for a more leaner and refined approach now. MK9 did a lot to help bring it back, and I'm really pleased with MKX following suit with its gameplay. Abel: HEY!!! I liked Chess Kombat, but you're right, combat is king in MKX. This was my third time playing MKX, and what struck me most was how comfortable the combat felt. None of the combos you spent time mastering in MK9 will translate, but familiarity with those games will be a leg up. With returning characters, a lot of the special moves either have the same input as MK9 or a similar logic. Down-back-something for a teleport, down-forward-something for a projectile, etc. What has changed the most though are projectiles and teleports, both of which feel much more punishable. Projectiles in generally all feel much slower than MK9, with lots of telegraphing to boot. Make the mistake of missing with your opponent nearby, and you're open for a big punish. Same goes for teleports which, when thrown out in a pinch, more often than not led to me and Alessandro trading hits.  Alessandro: I basically stuck with my favorites, Sub-Zero and Ermac. The variations system made them feel familiar, but still pretty fresh. I think this system will add a lot of nuance for the characters, as each style will completely change their modus operandi. Interestingly enough, the variations were locked during Story Mode, so it seems like they'll switch between the styles during the chapter's narrative for specific moments. I also really dug the fact that it's taking cues from Injustice for the meta-leveling system. You got experience and koins for completing matches in Story Mode, which could be invested towards factions and other rewards. I appreciate that it's all connected together. Abel: Speaking of connectivity (SEGUE!), NetherRealm announced a Mortal Kombat X iOS version, not unlike what was done for Injustice. By "not unlike" I really just mean "the exact same thing." Combat is the same tap for light attacks, swipe for heavy attacks, then build up meter to unleash a super move or X-Ray attack. Characters all come as cards and fight in teams of three with bronze, silver, and gold variations of each. You upgrade your cards, improve their stats, and fight your way up increasingly difficult ladders. Again, it's exactly the same. The monetization plan is the same too, offering a store to purchase new characters cards or energy to fight. The most interesting thing are the unlocks you can get by linking your WBID to your app and full game. The Batman Beyond suit in Injustice was amazing, so here's to hoping MKX will have similarly cool rewards. ----- Our time with the MKX came to a close after our hands-on with the mobile devices. We definitely wanted to give the versus mode another shot, as we obviously only scratched the surface of the game's content, but it's probably best we left at that point. Thankfully, the game is not too far off. I'm hoping that NetherRealm keeps a tight lid on what's in store for Mortal Kombat X till release. With new characters being shown off so often, I worry they're likely giving away too much. Regardless, we're plenty excited about what MKX has to offer. Abel totally geeked when Fujin appeared with Raiden to fight off Quan-Chi's forces, and I can tell that there will be plenty of those fan-service moments that diehard MK players will enjoy. For me, Story Mode in MK9 was the best the fighting game genre has ever had, and with the upcoming game pushing that even further, it's looking like we're in for something really special next month.
Mortal Kombat X photo
Heeeerrre's Johnny!
It's been less than a year since its reveal, and we're already rapidly approaching the release of Mortal Kombat X. After its predecessor essentially rebooted the franchise with a return to 2D-style combat, many fans got a new...

Sega brings back OutRun with style for the 3D Classics Series

Mar 11 // Alessandro Fillari
For those not quite familiar, OutRun is an arcade-style racing game that tasks players with racing their shiny Ferrari Testarossa across a stretch of land. At several points, you'll be able to choose which path you'd like to take, which will take you to a brand new setting that you'd likely not see in previous playthroughs. This nonlinear gameplay was rather unconventional for a racing title, which made it quite popular with arcade goers who wished for repeat plays. Over the years, it's developed quite a legacy for Sega, and it has even inspired musicians like Kavinsky for its portrayal of style in high-speed. It was a rather seminal title for Sega, earning a lot praise and finding much success in the arcades. Developed by Yu Suzuki, the creator of Shenmue, Virtua Fighter, and After Burner, it focused on fast gameplay while giving players a soothing and equally pulsing soundtrack to listen to. It even got several followups over the years. But with this remaster of OutRun, the folks at Sega had to put in extra work to retain the the original's style and feel without watering down the experience. "OutRun and After Burner II are two games that were the most important games in Sega’s history through the 1980s. However, due to a number of reasons, there was a time when there were no opportunities to port these two titles to other platforms," said producer Yosuke Okunari. "The most important thing for these kinds of games, and this is apparent from a video of the game you may have seen, is not to take these important games and try to remake them completely from scratch, but rather to recreate the playstyle as faithful to the original as you possibly can. And because the game preserves the feeling of the era it was made in, that history and the memories of those times can be communicated to everyone." During my playthrough, I immediately noticed how much smoother it felt. I played a bit of game when I younger in the arcades, so seeing this in action on a handheld was kind of a trip. And with the 3D enabled, the game doesn't lose performance one bit. It was impressive to see that a super fast racing game like OutRun would be able to make the transition so well. Honestly, it felt a bit hypnotic going over 200 km an hour. Once you're in the zone, you're kinda in a trance. Okunari-san explained that with the success of the previous titles on 3D Classics, they were able to tackle the necessary hurdles porting OutRun would take. "The 3DS is a notable piece of hardware, but it’s not a console that’s particularly well suited for creating faithful ports," he explained. "And so we were not able to include these two titles when we first began the development for the Sega 3D Classics. Only through the success of the first batch were we able to obtain the technical know-how and development budget to work on these two titles. It’s because of all the fans’ support." Often times, the 3DS tends to have some trouble with handling ports of classic or even recent titles. Which made porting the game, despite its age, somewhat of a challenge. One of the techniques that titles like After Burner and Space Harrier use is a way of presenting 2D sprites as pseudo-3D visuals, which is done with unique sprite-scaling designs. But in order to keep it consistent with other titles, the developers had to double the performance on OutRun, upgrading it from thirty frames per second to sixty. "Tying to get squeeze out more performance that the original title supported was a very difficult undertaking," said the producer. "Simply straight porting the game as is would prove to be a challenge in and of itself, but we had to optimize and improve the programming so it would run twice the speed as the original. Also, we added two new songs to the game, and made a point that they had to blend naturally and feel completely natural in the game, which was also a great challenge. Essentially using the same sound sources as the original, while ensuring that they would sound different and unique compared to the original three songs. New songs in the style and feel of the era when the game was originally released, back in the '80s." It's certainly eye-opening to see the amount of work that goes into remasters for classic titles. I supposed with the technology we have now, it's easy to think of products and software from the past as easy to make, or even easy to transition onto current hardware. Given the limitations they had and parameters they had to work within, I'm very impressed with what I played. I spent a good amount of time with OutRun on the 3DS, and it played like a dream. I highly recommend giving it a shot, especially if you're a first-timer. The sense of speed is just as sharp as it was back in the arcade days and experiencing it within the palms of your hands is real rush.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Race with flair on March 12
One of the great things about Sega's ongoing 3DS Classics series is that it allows retro games from the publisher's past to find a new audience. And given its rich and diverse history of quirky and fan-favorite titles, there'...

The DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition changelog is extensive

Mar 10 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]288866:57701:0[/embed] With Hardcore Mode being the highlight of Definitive Edition, you'll want to enable that as soon as possible, especially if you're quite familiar with the game or are otherwise up for the challenge. Though if you enjoyed DmC before as it was and just want to be able experience it with a new visual fidelity, you can by all means do so. Ninja Theory's Rahni Tucker, who was the combat designer on the original title and now serves as the creative director on Definitive Edition, commented on a number of the upgrades DmC gained. "The point of HCM is to create an experience that [is] still [Ninja Theory's] DmC, but with a bit of a throwback to the classic DMCs in terms of balance," she said. "We didn't make these changes to the default game, because there are a lot of players who enjoy the current balance; and we didn't want to alienate those players. This way everyone has the option to play the game with the difficulty/balance that suits them. The hardest felt changes in this mode are those to the style system. Getting a SSS, and keeping it, is a lot more difficult in Hardcore Mode. Devil Trigger also throws-back to original DMCs with HCM active, so the player will need to stay on their toes after activating it." Here are a few examples of what's been altered for Hardcore Mode. General Toggle-able on all difficulty levels, for both Dante and Vergil. Does not affect mission unlocking Unique style pars and leaderboards for Hardcore Mode on every difficulty Style Rank Style Rank System re-balanced for HCM Style Rank decay rate on hardcore mode increased further. On hardcore mode, penalties on the Style Rank gain for repeating the same move multiple times is significantly increased. Balance No auto-parry from prop/shredder. Only the 1st strike in an attack can perform a parry. + 5% damage for all enemies. Dreamrunners can parry the Arbiter Flush projectile 3 times on DMD.  One of the biggest changes in Hardcore Mode that I'm sure many will appreciate are the infamous color enemies. With the modifier enabled, players can use whatever weapon they want against these specific enemies, however the like-element weapon is still best for the situation. Red/Blue enemies Frost/Hell Knights can be struck with any weapon. They take reduced damage, and do not react, when hit by weapons that do not match their color (unless Devil Trigger is active)  Ghost/Hell Rages can be struck with any weapon. They take reduced damage, and do not react, when hit by weapons that do not match their color (unless Devil Trigger is active). They are still partially invisible unless in the correct mode.  Hell Rages have 10% less health to accommodate use of any weapon against them. "This was always a controversial point," said Tucker. "On the one hand, DMC is all about variety and being able to creatively mix combos, and the red/blue enemies deflecting Dante's attacks went against that; however, we found during focus testing that players were confused about which weapons to use, so for clarity and feedback purposes the deflection was much better. In the end, after seeing fan feedback, we've changed it for DE so you can hit any guy with any weapon. Using the correct weapon causes hit reactions (they don't get interrupted by the wrong weapon) and still deals more damage." And that's just the tip of the iceberg. You can find more info about the changelog on Capcom-Unity's blog, featuring details about parry windows, Vergil gameplay, and the finer benefits of having an increased frame rate to work with. After reading through the changes, and getting a sense of the developer's view on DMC, I have an even greater appreciation for the game. It's not often we got a detailed look like this with developer commentary, so it's definitely something I respect Ninja Theory for. Also, the launch trailer is excellent. '80s gothic rock from The Lost Boys is such a great fit for DmC.DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition - Change Log [Capcom-Unity]
DmC Devil May Cry DE photo
Sans fedora and color keys
With DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition out now, fans of the series have another title to keep them satiated till the next one is ready. As you've likely read, Chris gave his impressions of the game earlier. He was im...

Skyworld takes unique advantage of Valve's new virtual reality tech

Mar 06 // Alessandro Fillari
For our demo, the developers led me into a closed-off room which housed Valve's virtual reality hardware. Around the room were two cameras that tracked movement and set the boundaries of the VR environment by scanning the dimensions of the room. They then handed me the headset, which still looked as if it was in the prototype phase. Wires to the headset were numerous, which required a belt around my waist to hold all of them down. Honestly, it felt like I was wearing something from '90s cyberpunk like Ghost in the Shell or Johnny Mnemonic. It was weighty, but had a number of devices working at once. I actually almost tripped over one of the wires before our demo even started. But any apprehension I had for the device soon faded once I tried out the interface and witnessed it in action. With the headset on, I was in a home menu showing a number of games and applications. The controllers they gave me, which were also connected with wires, were two wand-like devices that were somewhat like a mix between the Sony Move and Wii Remote. Similar to the headset, they were in early form. Using trackpads on the controllers allowed me to cycle through options. And just for fun, pressing down the trackpad caused a balloon to inflate from the controller in the digital space, which was amusing. It felt intuitive, and surprisingly accurate. I could look around to see the menu system with its grey, almost minimalistic background, but the Valve engineer instructed me to look towards the floor. On the floor was a box, which represented the center of the space. Once I started walking forward outside the box, I made it a few steps before a grid popped up in front of me. This grid represented the physical wall that I was about to walk into, which the camera picked up and visualized within the VR space. It was pretty cool stuff, and I felt that I could've spent plenty of time exploring the home menu, but of course, they had a game to show. [embed]288675:57632:0[/embed] Last year, the developers of World of Diving showed off an impressive demonstration for their underwater-exploration sim. The use of the Oculus Rift was well designed and featured impressive depth and range. With the success and buzz they generated with that title, they attracted the attention of Valve, leading to a partnership. But the new VR technology they were presented meant having to design something a bit different. "When they asked to work together with us to make a demo for the GDC announcement, the first thing that came to mind was that we should do something like World of Diving," said creative director Richard Stitselaar. "But that title was designed around the first Oculus, and then the DK2 came along, we had to ramp it up to seventy-five frames per second, then Valve came along and said 'guys, it needs 90 frames per second.' So we had to do a lot of optimization on the game, and we figured we should use our knowledge with VR and apply it to a new game instead." Skyworld is totally different from World of Diving. Set on a floating island that houses a small civilization, you play as an omnipotent ruler that must wage war on the opposing side. As a quasi tabletop turn-based strategy title, players use both Steam controllers as wands in game to conjure up creatures and interact with the world. Over time, you'll build your defenses and expand your resources, which will allow you to send infantry and even dragons to attack your enemies. With the left controller, I was able to pull up a magic book, which housed unit info and spells to cast. Using the right controller allowed me to interact with the elements on the table. Whether picking up units to reposition them or interacting with blacksmiths or dragons, each controller had its own separate uses that complemented the other. "First we had this interaction model where you would look at something as this dot in the middle and then select it," said Stitselaar. "It feels natural to have something in your hand that could enhance the world itself." When you think of VR, you're probably thinking of something that's a bit action-y or fast-paced, and likely not a turn-based strategy title. But Skyworld definitely makes great use of the technology. I was able to view all aspects of the environment with clarity, as zooming simply meant stepping closer. Of course, I had to let go of some very basic certainties when playing with the demo. For instance, we all know that if there's an object in front of you, then you'll likely have to move if you want to get around it. I spent much of the demo walking around the 'table,' never thinking to actually walk up to whatever object I wanted. Eventually, the engineers from Valve and Vertigo Games instructed me that it was okay to walk through the table -- it wasn't real. After attacking enemy installations and moving my infantry around, my time with the demo ended. It was fairly brief, and I felt I only scratched the surface of what I could do. Valve's technology was easily the most impressive use of virtual reality I've seen in a long time, though. Moreover, Vertigo Games' work impressed. I was pleasantly surprised to experience a title that used VR in an original way. While the technology has a ways to go before it will get in the hands of consumers, I'm excited about what the future of VR holds.
Valve VR photo
Vertigo Games talks the future of VR
We got a big shock at the beginning of the week when Valve announced its partnership with HTC to produce a new virtual reality headset. We all knew the company had ambitions to enter the console market with Steam Machines, bu...

Elite: Dangerous has bold plans for the future

Mar 05 // Alessandro Fillari
"It's always brilliant to see how many people were supportive of the game," said lead designer David Braben as he reflected on the initial debut of Elite. "So many people helped us do that, and one of the great things about Kickstarter is that it brings together a crowd of people who all have very similar goal. So it's worked overall very, very well for us -- I'm actually very proud of what we've done. And another thing, we've not only shipped the game, but we've continued support of the game." As one of the early Kickstarter success stories, Elite: Dangerous grabbed a lot of attention for its vision as a space-exploration title across a massive and ever-growing universe. As a sequel to the '90s space sim Frontier, many fans of the genre yearned for a return, which they got in Frontier Developments' crowdfunded title. Despite its scope and breadth of content so far, the creators already have much of the development mapped out for the next few years. [embed]288572:57606:0[/embed] "I see [the vision] for a very, very long time growing, and it'll keep us occupied. We said there would be paid updates, and some of the things we said you could do in those is going down to planet surfaces, get up out of your chair and explore the cockpit, boarding other ships, big-game hunting, driving other types of vehicles on the surface to explore cities; but designing each one is like a whole new type of game. We have to be careful, but to me those are the perfect types of game experiences." With the success of previous updates and expansions, such as patch 1.1, the developers fully plan continue support with new patches and paid content packs in the future. With the Wings update, which seeks to add more PvP content, co-op play, and other enhancements to matchmaking, there is a sizeable amount of content on the horizon. "We've had amazing dedication from a lot of players, many players have played a significant amount of time -- more than a thousand hours. We're listening to a lot of players and quite a few of the people who've played that length of time are saying 'oh, I've seen everything now,' and they actually haven't. The great thing with this model is that we can add content continually, such as the Wings update and the community events. We've only been out for around three months, and people are already sinking so much time into it." The most surprising announcement from this week was that Elite would be making its way to consoles. Though the space sim genre is somewhat notorious for its complexity and dense gameplay, the developers were adamant that the title would not only feature all the content released thus far, but also that it would not be watered down for consoles. "I don't want to dumb it down," said Braben rather bluntly. "I'm an Xbox gamer, and I love games on my Xbox, but there are some games I feel that have been dumbed down a bit [for console port]. I get sick of tutorials, that are giving you very obvious instructions. So overall, I'm very excited about the console. It'll offer a different feel for players where you're sitting back on a comfortable chair or siting up close to a desk." Of course, with the recent trends seeing virtual reality as the future of games, the developers wanted to get ahead of that by being among the first to officially support the device. Which certainly plaid off, as it's one of the most used games for the Oculus Rift headset. As more companies are announcing devices, Braben is optimistic about the potential VR has for gaming. "[Working with VR] has been a good experience," he said. "The great thing about being independent is when we first released [a beta] in 2013, there was Oculus Rift support five or six days later, which we added. We were always excited abut it, and we thought our game would make great use of it. What's good to see now is that the number of new head-mounted displays coming out, and I think that's exciting -- what's interesting is that I think there aren't any other triple-A titles like Elite: Dangerous that are officially supporting it right out of the box. We see lots of demos, but it's surprising to see there isn't a consumer release VR headset." It's great to see that a hardcore space sim has been so widely accepted by fans. And as the game grows every few months with its updates, players will have plenty of content to dive into. The future looks bright for Elite: Dangerous, and with the console releases on the horizon, the barrier for entry is much lower now for those looking to dive into interstellar exploration.
Elite: Dangerous photo
The developers talk content updates and VR
Things have been going well for Frontier Developments. With the success of Elite: Dangerous, which features a sizeable and passionate community of space explorers, and having won the prestigious Audience Award from the 2015 G...

GDC photo
GDC

Creative Assembly reveals inital pitch video for Alien: Isolation


See the never before shown video that started development
Mar 04
// Alessandro Fillari
Alien: Isolation was one of my biggest surprises of last year. As huge fan of the film series, I always wanted to play a title that emulated the original movie's tone and style. Though the action of the James Cameron-he...
GDC photo
GDC

Never seen Alien: Isolation third-person footage shown at GDC


Gameplay showing abandoned alternate camera set-up shown during panel
Mar 04
// Alessandro Fillari
One of the great joys of attending GDC is going to panels conducted by developers talking about your favorite games. Not only will you learn new and exciting details about the development, but you might even see somethi...

Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide goes all in with hectic co-op action

Mar 03 // Alessandro Fillari
Set during The End Times, Warhammer's take on the apocalypse, the world has been plunged into chaos as war breaks out, forcing the many factions and groups to take up arms and fight back. Set within the city of Ubersreik, five heroes must defend the massive metropolis from the hordes of Skaven, a race of quasi-rat creatures, that wish to sack one of the remaining bastions of the world. As a co-op action brawler, players will be able to select a class of hero and take them through several stages throughout Ubersreik. Each with their own weapons and abilities, the characters feel unique from one another. Some classes can jump into the fray, while others might be better off at a distance. The four classes that have been announced so far -- the Witch-Hunter, Imperial Soldier, Wood Elf, and Pyromage -- have an individualized backstory and arc, which unfolds as you move across the city. During my session, I got to play as the Soldier and Wood Elf, and each had their own banter and point of view regarding the End Times. [embed]288516:57596:0[/embed] In case you haven't quite picked up on it, Vermintide channels a lot of Left 4 Dead, which is actually a really good thing. Gameplay-wise, players will travel from one end of the level to other while using melee and ranged abilities to fight off waves of foes and complete objectives -- and on a narrative level, the story happens in real time. While on one hand it feels a bit more subdued and smaller in scale than what Warhammer tends to dabble in, the focus on these characters in such a smaller setting creates a greater connection to them, which was also one of Left 4 Dead's greatest strengths. I'm looking forward to exploring the city with these characters, some of whom don't seem to get along that well. As you travel though the city, you'll come across many different variations of Skaven that seek to eliminate those remaining in Ubersreik.  Often times you will come across the common types, which can be killed with a single blow but can easily overwhelm; there are tougher variants, such as the gatling rat and heavy-armor Skaven, and rats wielding poison bombs that aim to separate your group. What's impressive about these encounters is that the A.I. will randomly spawn enemies and special hordes. During my two rounds of play, the types of encounters were different, and we even got ambushed much earlier than expected. This dynamic aspect of Vermintide is very interesting, and will definitely keep repeated play exciting. As you clear levels, you'll be able to acquire loot for your characters, such as new weapons and trinkets. Each class has their own type of drops, which encourages experimentation. If you're especially adventurous, replaying stages on higher difficulties will lead to much greater rewards -- though be warned that the encounters are much more perilous and the foes are far more cunning. It's refreshing to experience a Warhammer game with a deep focus on action. While the strategy and online games were fun, I always kinda wanted a game set in the universe that allowed you to get up close and personal. Though there's definitely still much work to be done here -- what I played was in pre-alpha -- there is certainly lot for Games Workshop fans to look forward to in Vermintide.
GDC 2015 photo
Warhammer: Apocalypse Edition
I've long been an admirer of the Warhammer franchise. While a lot of people seem to put more of their attention towards the 40K universe, the high-fantasy setting of the former is so rich and features such...


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