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Undertale toys photo
Undertale toys

Get your name in early for these Undertale figures


Dibs on the dog
Feb 09
// Nic Rowen
Look, I'm going to level with you, internet, I haven't actually played Undertale yet. You don't need to boo and hiss at me, I know I'm scum. I've wanted to play it since it came out, but after seeing these amazing Undertale f...
SFV legacy support photo
SFV legacy support

Street Fighter V will have legacy controller support after all


No need for a new stick yet
Feb 09
// Nic Rowen
This is one case where I don't mind seeing a developer go back on something they've said. Spanish website MeriStation broke the news that Street Fighter V is going to come with a day-one patch to add in support to make PS3-er...

Review in Progress: XCOM 2

Feb 05 // Nic Rowen
XCOM 2 (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developer: Firaxis GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: February 5, 2015MSRP: $59.99 I'm a sap. A total and complete sap. If a game has an option to individually customize characters, I will always engage with it to the exclusion of everything else until I'm happy with what I've done. Even more so in a game like XCOM where the stakes are high and characters run a high risk of dying a horrible, and permanent, death. What better way to make that loss feel real? When a squadie gets flayed by an alien soldier wielding a rail gun in my game, I'm not just out a decent Ranger, I've lost one of my friends. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who does this, because Firaxis leaned into the character creation element hard in XCOM 2. Before you even begin fighting the alien menace, you can hop into the character creator and start making your dream squad, filing them away to show up organically in your game as fresh recruits and VIP extraction targets. As I said, I know I'm a sap, but that didn't stop me from being positively giddy when I found a grizzled rifle-toting version of my brother in my first randomized squad. Unlike XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which had fairly limited customization options, there are tons of small, silly, character-establishing quirks to fiddle with in XCOM 2 when you should be plowing through missions and writing a review. Sunglasses, tattoos, cigarettes, scars, camo patterns, accents, all sorts of small ways to make your squad feel like yours. It does make me wonder why there are only a handful of possible faces to round out all these options, but that is a minor quibble. XCOM 2 seems harder than Enemy Unknown, but in a satisfying way. Whenever a game builds up a reputation as punishing, there is always a risk that the developers will take it too far in the sequel, ramp up the difficulty in ways that don't seem fair. So far, that doesn't seem to be the case. The challenge is stiffer, but it comes from a more varied and tactically interesting set of options and enemies than a brute force buff to enemy stats. While the aliens have always outnumbered the XCOM force, the imbalance is even greater here. Even in early missions you'll run into stacked odds. This is mitigated by the new concealment mechanic which allows your squad to move freely in stealth to setup a devastating ambush before the fight begins in earnest. Play your cards right, and you can trap the aliens in a crossfire straight out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It's almost unhealthy how satisfying it feels to drop three aliens on your very first turn of combat. Not that you'll always have time to get that ambush in motion. Timed missions and pressure conditions are more common in XCOM 2, urging you and your squad to overextend and take stupid risks in an effort to beat the clock. In these situations, trying to set up that ideal ambush situation can hamstring you in the end when you run out of turns to complete the mission. You have to get a feel for when you need to rush and when you have time to get cheeky. I've already managed to lose a couple of squad members (including Jane Kelly, the named tutorial character with spoken dialog; hope she's not supposed to show up in more story stuff later on!) and I expect they are far from the last. Despite playing hundreds of hours of Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within, XCOM 2 has done enough to change up the formula to make fighting the aliens an unpredictable, surprising, and scary experience. I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm going to need more time to beat the game, test the other difficulty options, and try out multiplayer before I'll be able to issue a final verdict. (2K Games only provided us a copy on the day before launch for some reason so unfortunately we're playing catch-up. Sorry!) So far, though, XCOM 2 is an impressive feat. A total improvement to a game that I already thought was pretty damn close to perfect. I've yet to pull out its guts, but if the first few hours are any indication, this is going to be one hell of an alien autopsy. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
XCOM 2 review in prog photo
Welcome back, commander
I've only had a few hours with XCOM 2, Firaxis Games' follow-up to its 2012 XCOM: Enemy Unknown and I can already tell it's a different beast. At its core, it is still the same isometric turn-based strategy game it has always...

Star Mazer photo
Star Mazer

Create your own '80s anime adventure in Starr Mazer


Wall-to-wall shower scenes for me
Jan 31
// Nic Rowen
I used to skip Sunday school every weekend I could to watch poorly localized episodes of Tekkaman and Robotech and hang out in my pajamas. I loved them, but even at the time something seemed off about them, stilted ...

Horror movie characters I want to see in MKX

Jan 30 // Nic Rowen
Chop Top Leatherface is cool, but let's be honest, he was the most obvious choice (which is a slightly veiled way of saying the most boring choice). NetherRealm used up the most recognizable faces in horror and instead of getting creative, it aimed low, called up the second-best, the also-ran. The sad thing is, it was so achingly close to finding a great sideways pick from the same franchise. Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 would bring a great mix of carnage and comedy to the tournament. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 isn't your typical horror movie (it has a much lighter tone than its predecessor), and Chop Top isn't your typical psychopath. He's from the same murderous hillbilly family as Leatherface (and is every bit as unhinged as him when you get right down to it), but he has a gentler side. He's a music lover and hippie cliché who seems just as excited about touring the local radio station as he is about murdering random teenagers. How multidimensional! Chop Top gets his name from the metal plate in his skull, a souvenir he claims is from a tour in Vietnam. But he's out of his fucking mind, so I'm not sure how much stock I'd put in that. Occasionally he'll scratch the plate with a heated coat hanger for, um, I guess “relief” would be the most polite way to put it? Long story short, I feel like he'd have a lot to talk about with Kano. Let's be honest, anyone can be scary with a chainsaw. It takes a special kind of creepy to be menacing with a coat hanger. “Lick my plate, you dog dick!” Ash There's no reason to limit ourselves to horror movie bad guys, a guest character could just as easily be a good guy. Or in the case of Ash from The Evil Dead, an okay guy. Or maybe a “he'll do in a pinch I guess” guy, if we're being honest. You know what I mean anyway. Ash is such a ready-made video game character I'm a little shocked we haven't seen more games from him (there are a few, but I'd avoid them if I were you). He's got a chainsaw arm, a shotgun, and a penchant for inappropriate quips, he's like 70 percent of the way there already. And hey, if you're gonna put a dude with a gun in the game you might as well get your full value out of it. Give him a Stryker-inspired secondary costume, so all the police brutality fans that had to go without in MKX can finally feel validated. Putting Ash in the game would also close the spiritual loop on a film project that never-was. Years ago, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema kicked around the idea of making a Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash film that would have seen the three icons go chainsaw to machete to weird-knife-fingers-glove (which I feel is a little low in the deadly-weapon pecking order to hang with this crowd). The project was eventually killed, but it apparently got far enough along to get a script treatment (which you can read for yourself, care of Bloody Disgusting). A comic of the story was even produced, but that's some weak tea compared to what could have been. Getting Ash in MKX would be the closest thing to seeing that fight happen. Well, at least the Ash on Jason part (which sounds like a horrifying slash-fic when I put it like that). Pyramid Head Who says we have to pull from horror movies? Horror games have some pretty damn big icons of their own. If NetherRealm had the sheer balls to include Kratos as a console exclusive character in MK9, why not bring Pyramid Head to MKX? Show a little class and make him available on every platform (well, other than PC of course, NetherRealm already buried that version of the game in a shallow grave and covered it with dissolving lye). Besides, it's not like Konami is doing anything with him now, other than sticking him on the side of pachinko machines. Pyramid Head is perfect for an MKX conversion. He's big, he's angry, he already loves dismembering people with an intimidating, but probably unwieldy, weapon. What's one more giant shirtless guy in a skirt and a ridiculous headpiece on the roster? (Just kidding Kotal, you know I love you). He could have a Fatality called “helloooo nurse!” where he... Um, this was a bad idea. Never mind. The Spooky Girls This one is more conceptual, a way of sneaking in more than one character. Hey, if they can do it with Triborg (who they should just rename to Quadborg at this point) they can do it for someone else! The horror world is chock-a-block with evil spooky little girls and while I'm pressed to think of one that could carry a fighting game character on her own, their combined powers could properly represent the trope in MKX. I'm thinking a base spooky girl (long hair, ghostly voice, the usual) with variations based on the twins from The Shining , Samara from The Ring, and everyone's favorite spider-walking, projectile vomiter, Regan from The Exorcist. The Twins could have projectile special moves based on a duplicate (shout-outs to Noob Saibot), Samara could do her creepy implacable walk and burning hands thing, and Regan could have the most foul fight introduction quotes of any character in the game! Seriously, have you watched The Exorcist recently? Girl has a mouth that would put Jimmy Carr to shame. Freddy Fazbear I don't actually think Freddy Fazbear would make a particularly great Kombatant. I just want to see the internet burn to the ground when they announce him. These are my picks, but there are plenty of other possibilities. You could get Jack Torrance looking all fashionable with his plaid jacket and handsome fire axe. The, uh, Thing from The Thing could be a crazy monster and a kind of ghetto Shang Tsung with his copycat abilities. Hell, get Norman Bates in the mix swinging around his mummified mother. If you could have your druthers, which horror movie icon would you see in Mortal Kombat X?
MKX horror photo
If they're gonna do it, do it right
When NetherRealm announced it was going to put Freddy Krueger in Mortal Kombat, I thought it was a cheap cash in. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I also thought it was the coolest thing ever. I don't consider myself ...

SFV mode trailer photo
SFV mode trailer

Street Fighter V trailer shows off new modes and training options


Put baby in the corner
Jan 30
// Nic Rowen
If there is one thing you can say about the Street Fighter series, it knows how to make attractive trailers out of boring info. I've enjoyed watching slickly produced videos about training mode options and network settings si...
Saint's Row: Undercover photo
Saint's Row: Undercover

Want to play that cancelled Saint's Row game? You can!


Well that's just damn nice of them
Jan 28
// Nic Rowen
Less than a week ago I reported that you could check out a few clips of Volition's cancelled Saint's Row: Undercover, a PSP game that never was. I thought it was cool that Volition even let it out the door considering how man...
 photo

Just watching this Mario Maker level gave me PTSD


Props to the first man to defeat the pit
Jan 27
// Nic Rowen
I'm sure you've all seen hard Mario Maker levels by now, but The Pit of Panga: Cape Escape by the eponymous Panga has to take the cake. It is a bottomless chasm of certain death, fiendish puzzles, and devilish dexterity chall...

Very Quick Tips: Darkest Dungeon

Jan 27 // Nic Rowen
Hamlet and roster management Pay attention to mission goals and rewards. Don't just pick whatever mission – look at what heirlooms and trinkets they reward and think about what would benefit your party the most. Prioritize missions that reward Deeds early on, as you'll need them to upgrade the Coach and the Blacksmith. Both are essential. On the same tip, organize your party according to the mission. Make sure to avoid obvious problems like characters who have a phobia of a certain enemy types or primarily attack with a damage type that is heavily resisted in an area. On the contrary, you should be looking for damage types and quirks that will help you. Take characters that do Unholy damage in the Ruins, anti-beast damage in the Weald, bleed for the high-HP monsters in the Warrens, and blight for the Cove monsters who resist bleed damage. Think strategically and don't bring the same compositions to every fight. Don't be afraid of taking on long missions. With the right camping skills, you can often end up with less overall stress on a medium-length mission than a short one if you rest near the end of the run. Several characters also have buffs they can apply during a camp that will make a mission much easier if used early-ish or in the middle of a dungeon. Resting right before a boss and stacking buffs is also an obvious but effective strategy. Make sure to cultivate at least a handful of warriors in your roster that have repositioning skills. It's easy to focus on flashy, easy to understand classes like the Crusader, Man-at-Arms, and Vestal, but don't underestimate classes like the Jester, Highwayman, and Gravedigger. Skills that let characters make a useful action (attacking/debuffing enemies, buffing themselves, etc.) while moving forward or back are AMAZING. If you stack your team with too many position-dependent classes (Lepers, back-line Vestals), you can easily be killed by even weak monster parties if they can shuffle you around. With a few flexible characters though, you can realign your party order without wasting turns on pure movement or *gasp*, passing. Be thoughtful about trinket usage. They can make a huge difference if used intelligently, but can also sabotage your team if you equip them with abandon. For example, many early game trinkets provide a mediocre benefit at the cost of a speed debuff. Is it really worth an extra 1-2 damage on an attack if it guarantees your Crusader will go last every single round? No. Be smart and only equip trinkets when the benefit outweighs the negative. Pack heavy for missions. Think about the cost/risk value. A few hundred extra gold on torches, shovels, and bandages may save the life of a soldier you have invested several thousand gold into upgrading and equipping – it's worth it. The dark side of this is you can gamble with weak links or burn them out. If you have a bunch of disease-ridden neurotics you plan to boot anyway, run them into the ground with a suicide mission or two and let them collect loot for you before you fling them out into the cold. Cut 'em loose when they're ruined. Yeah, it's cruel, but we're in the dungeon business, not the hugs and snuggles business. If a low-level character picks up multiple damaging quirks or diseases that impede your ability to complete missions, it is better to dump them than to invest thousands of gold and weeks in the Sanitarium trying to work out every kink. Dungeon and battle strategy Blight and bleed will do you well, especially in the early game. On enemies with high protection stats, stacking bleeds and blights on them can work wonders. Melt an enemy away with unblockable damage instead of trying to chip through their defense. Focusing down targets is almost always a better idea than spreading damage around. Save your AoE attacks for when an enemy is on the brink of death and you might as well chip away at his buddies while you finish him off. Don't become attached to the same old skills. If you find you're never using your AoEs because you're (wisely) following the above advice, trade them out for a self heal, a repositioning skill, a debuff, or a mark. Trade them out based on the enemies you face, too. For example, I like my Hellions super aggressive, but when fighting in an area with a lot of enemies that cause bleed, I'll drop Breakthrough and take Adrenalin Rush so I'm not chewing through bandages every round. Prevention is greater than healing. Don't crutch on a Vestal or Occultist to heal every bit of damage your team takes – it's a losing proposition. You're better off preventing damage with quick kills, stuns, and high dodge/protection stats than trying to swim upstream. Use heals as a tool to keep soldiers away from death's door and focus more on skills that undermine the enemy's ability to do damage in the first place. Back-line enemies tend to be insidious dangers. Snipers who fire on your vulnerable party members or use AoE attacks, wizards with stressful incantations who push your team to the brink of insanity, or spotters who mark your team for extra damage – all assholes. Killing them can be difficult, but don't forget about skills that can pull them to the front or push other enemies to the back. Just like your party, enemies tend to lose access to their best skills when out of position, so it can often be worth spending one or two attacks shuffling them around before focusing them down. Stress is every bit as dangerous as damage and harder to heal. Prioritize enemies that cause extra stress. Don't stick in a death spiral. If one of your party members hits maximum stress and picks up an affliction like Irrational, Paranoid, or Masochist, it's best to abandon the missions than press on unless you're on the very last fight or two. Afflicted party members have a tendency to pull the other party members down with them, piling on stress, disobeying orders, refusing heals, and so on. It's better to suffer some group stress and rally than to lose an entire team.
Darkest Dungeon tips photo
When the abyss stares, don't blink
Darkest Dungeon is a terrifically difficult game that delights in torturing the player. You could spend hours fine tuning the perfect party only to encounter a new enemy type or area that absolutely demolishes them. It's a na...

Review: Darkest Dungeon

Jan 27 // Nic Rowen
Darkest Dungeon (PC)Developer: Red Hook StudiosPublisher: Red Hook StudiosReleased: January 19, 2016MSRP: $19.99 Darkest Dungeon is an absolutely merciless exercise in roguelike themes. It is all about micromanagement, skillful use of scarce resources, determination in the face of insurmountable odds, and the ability to press on after a particularly bad roll of the RNG wipes out your All-Star squad of heroes. Make no mistake, it can be frustrating. Unlike other roguelikes you may have played where the whims of fortune sabotage a 30-minute run or one mission, Darkest Dungeon has no problem with wiping out hours of investment in a character or trinket. If that sounds like the kind of thing that would make you break your keyboard over your knee, consider a trip to the dungeon carefully. If you have a dark streak of sadism in you though, you may have just found your game.  While the game is certainly fiendish in its difficulty and brutal with its punishments, you're not totally helpless to luck and chance. Darkest Dungeon is a game played in two distinct portions. The first is a sort of management and strategic level where you direct resources to different parts of your ancestral hamlet and roster of warriors. The other is the actual dungeon dive, the tactical application of all that planning and building, the individual choices of which hallway to go down, which darkened corner to peer into, and which enemy should be brought low in what order. Through skillful manipulation of both levels, victory can be snatched from seemingly impossible challenges. In the hamlet, you are the omniscient master of the land, deciding who to hire, who to send on adventures, and which institutions to upgrade. Each aspect of the hamlet plays a crucial role in fighting the dark. The Stagecoach ferries fresh meat and raw recruits to bolster your ranks and replace the fallen. Services provided at the Guild and Blacksmith can improve your warriors' skills and equipment. The Sanitarium will remove diseases of the mind and body (for a steep fee) that may otherwise render a hero useless. Of course, the Abbey and Bar are necessary to provide comfort, meaning, and solace to your men. Whether they relax through quiet meditation, or through the fleshy pleasures of the neighborhood brothel, paying for a few nights worth of recuperation can save them from breaking in the next dungeon. Properly investing in the right aspects of your hamlet at the right time is just as important as making wise decisions in battle. All of the different services are desperately necessary and, especially at the beginning of the game, you'll never have enough coin or heirlooms (different upgrade resources needed for different buildings) to maintain them all. You need to be crafty and shrewd, making your meager wealth stretch as far as it can go while knowing you are compromising in one area to prop up another. The same merciless economics apply to your roster. Heroes cost a fortune to upgrade with better weapons and higher-level skills – an investment that can be lost in an instant to a bad battle. Otherwise potent warriors can also slowly become crippled by afflictions and phobias after too many trips to the dungeon, and while all maladies can be cured, the cost sometimes outweighs the benefit. Knowing when it's best to spend money to rehabilitate a Crusader who picked up a drinking habit and fear of the occult after his last disastrous mission, or when to spend that money equipping and upgrading his replacement, is the pitiless key to progression. In the dungeon, the emphasis switches from the overarching, to the granular. In the 2D side-to-side lineup of the characters, it is of the utmost importance to carefully consider where each of your heroes stands. Every hero and monster possesses skills that can only be used from one position or another that will only effect a foe standing in specific spots. Some of these can be quite general, for example being anywhere in the first few rows will generally let a Bounty Hunter attack anyone in the opposite first three rows. Contrarily, the Hellion with her swooping spear has a move that she can only use in the very first rank to attack the very last opponent. While it sounds needlessly obscure, that single move became one of my favorites in the entire game.  With 14 different classes to choose from, each of whom have seven possible combat skills that are all limited in terms of where they can be used and what they can hit, experimentation is key. There is no ideal team or strategy to be found. Different adventurers do better or worse in specific areas based on their damage type and common skills and you need to adjust. You can crutch on the Crusader and Vestal to wade through the skeletons of the Ruins with their extra damage against the unholy and the lack of nuance in the skeleton's attack plan. When you get to the twisted mermen and giant crabs of the Cove however, you'll want a strong Man-at-Arms to defend the front-line while a Plague Doctor hurls poison blight that will do more damage than any sword trying to pierce their scales. While in most RPGs the heroes are never in danger from rank-and-file monsters, in Darkest Dungeon, every battle holds the potential for defeat – either from a splashy total party wipe, or the slow erosion of a party's ability to press on. Healing is an uphill climb. There are only a few classes capable of restoring other party members and their heals are meager or rely on swings of luck. Some characters are capable of healing themselves, but these are often front-line warriors who are better off attacking a monster than trying to frantically repair damage. You don't recover anything after a battle, so a victory in the moment can set your party up for total defeat in the next if the enemy undermines you enough. Knowing when to abandon a quest and when to stick it out is an important judgment call, but while retreating may save your life, it also burdens the party with the stressful shame of coming back to town empty handed. Stress is a significant factor in every battle. Some of the most dangerous and insidious monsters in the game have very weak attacks, but can do things that cause your party stress. When a hero reaches a critical point of stress, their resolve will be tested in a moment of truth. Sometimes a hero will have a moment of valiant triumph and when the abyss stares into them they will not blink, becoming stronger for the experience. All the more common though, the frailty of man is revealed and a warrior will suffer a psychological break. An affliction of the mind is a terrible thing. Party members afflicted with paranoia, masochism, selfishness, or those who turn their abuse outward will drag the party down. They'll disobey orders, refuse heals or buffs out of distrust and fear, hurl insults or sing mad ramblings that unnerve the other fighters. If you let them, a broken fighter will hamstring healthy ones. You either need to cure them or cut them loose. Exploring each dungeon is done in a slightly odd manner. You always move across the screen in a straight line from left-to-right when traveling from hallways to rooms. A map grid lets you choose your route and with a little luck and a few stat-boosting skills, the occasional scouting report will let you see your opposition and potential treasure in advance. A torch light system dynamically changes the difficulty – the more well lit you keep the dungeon, the easier it is. Keep the light low and your party will quiver with fear and you'll encounter stronger monsters, but the treasures to be found will be that much greater to reward your bravery. Simply moving through these dungeons takes a toll on your adventurers. Stress accumulates as you dive deeper into the beast's lair, and retreating only causes more. Traps litter each area. The observant explorer can disarm them with a little luck, but even the most wary party is likely to stumble into a few. Curiosities like ancient scrolls, pagan shrines, and freshly dug graves tempt the party to test fate as each oddity they encounter has the potential for reward or affliction. Reading an old scroll is as likely to provide insight as it is to shatter the mind with a grim revelation. Properly provisioning your party with supplies helps tilt these odds in your favor. If you pack holy water, you can cleanse occult talismans. A shovel will let you pass an obstacle of rubble without stressing your party out by making them dig by hand. Bandages and medicinal herbs can staunch bleeding, remove debuffs, and allow the safe handling of unsanitary crevasses or torture equipment one may find in a dungeon. At this point, I'm fine with everything Darkest Dungeon has to offer, even where I can see elements that will bother other players. I think the management aspect is interesting and I like that is pushes you to cultivate diverse teams and experiment even if some players will likely be annoyed that they can't focus on a favored team composition. The battle system is fantastic, despite the occasional bad turns of luck that can feel unfair and some of the cheaper enemies that become more frustrating than thrilling. Unfortunately, even while I enjoy those mechanics, Darkest Dungeon manages to wear out its welcome due to the sheer grind demanded of the player. At certain points, when ascending to a new level plateau or encountering a new sort of boss, the difficulty spikes to a degree that is way out of hand. You'll be thrilled when you get your first squad of adventurers to level three and they will no longer bother themselves with lower-level missions. A new challenge! Sadly, you'll likely find that team totally unprepared for the newfound challenge and probably beat a hasty retreat or lose a few of them. With them now too weak to do the missions they are leveled for, and too haughty to deign running an easier mission, you'll have to park them for hours as you grind other teams trying to find trinkets to give them the edge and upgrade the guild and blacksmith to a point where they can reach full potential. The amount of busywork needed to prop up more valuable heroes and expand the hamlet becomes too much. Running squads of lowly heroes you have no intention of keeping just so you can get enough heirloom scrolls to level up the Blacksmith quickly devolves into tedium. This is especially pronounced at the very end of the game where you need several fully leveled teams of four to take on the last series of missions. Not only are the missions tremendously difficult, but retreating from one guarantees one member will die. Adding to this, once a warrior successfully completes one of the final missions, they won't go on another. You end up in a situation where you can easily burn a team or two to a party wipe, easily lose one or two members to a retreat, and then end up with nobody suitable on the roster left to take on the next mission. Instead, you're expected to grind yet more characters up to full level for another run. God help you if you lose your last Vestal and need to take a fresh healer from level zero to six. Eventually, the economy tends towards abundance and you'll have plenty of gold to streamline the process as much as possible, but you'll still need to run more than a dozen missions to get them fit for duty. This is where Darkest Dungeon stumbles and my own mind turns to darkness. When I start the mental arithmetic of how much work it will take to just to make another attempt at the final dungeons, I reel and sputter. Hours and hours of stress and suffering just for a chance at the end? This is no way for rational people to spend their time. You'd have to be mad. And yet you'll do it. You'll do it because at this point the game will have its hooks in you and you won't be able to let go. If you've stuck with it to that point, you might grumble and moan like me, but you'll press on. Maybe the developers meant for it to be so. A commentary on unhinged ambition, a way of making you feel as weary and beaten down as that Crusader nursing his second week in a row at the bar, dragging his feet towards another inevitable damned expedition. Despite the grind, despite the perhaps undue commitment to brutality, and despite what I feel is a joke at the player's expense at the end, Darkest Dungeon still manages to be one of the most engaging and intriguing roguelikes I've ever played and I'll probably still be diving dungeons and trying new party compositions weeks from now. After all, it would be madness to stop at this point. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] 
Darkest Dungeon review photo
What we are in the dark
Most games gloss right over the psychological effects of combat and stress. RPGs see parties of cheery young adventurers slaughter their way through entire countrysides worth of kobolds and giant rats for the sake of justice ...

Pac-Man Funko photo
Pac-Man Funko

These Funko Pac-Man figures are distressing


Pinky and Clyde look faded
Jan 26
// Nic Rowen
The hell is up with Ms. Pac-man here? Why is Pac-Man all square? These Funko figures of the classic pill popping arcade icons are up to their knees in the uncanny valley and I don't appreciate it one bit. Personally, I've nev...
Dying Light Nightmare photo
Dying Light Nightmare

Dying Light's Nightmare mode looks like a treat


When the apocalypse isn't bad enough
Jan 26
// Nic Rowen
No Easter egg weapons, longer nights, tougher zombies, and less survivor's sense. Sound like fun? No? Well, I guess that is kind of the point of Dying Light's Nightmare mode, part of the upcoming Enhanced Edition DLC. Don't w...

Do you care about the story in fighting games?

Jan 26 // Nic Rowen
Personally, I'm of two minds on the idea. I enjoyed MKX and Injustice's story modes (cheesy as both of them got on occasion) and I think some of the character representations in those storylines probably influenced my decision of who to main. Those single-player stories made me look at the characters differently, got me legitimately interested in the worlds of the game (I actually bought the first volume of the Injustice comic series), and gave me something to hold on to when the online matchmaking was broken on PC (yes, I'm still salty). On the other hand, I've played hundreds upon hundreds of hours of SF Alpha 3 and MvC without every giving a single solitary thought about the story. If you asked me what the key plot points of Alpha 3 were, all I could tell you is that Zangief pile drives Honda into M. Bison's world domination machine because that is almost all I can remember. When you put it like that, it seems like the cost and effort of putting a story in a fighting game is completely optional if the core fighting is good enough to stand on its own. What do you think? Are stories important in fighting games?
Fighting game stories photo
Talk, talk, punch, punch
As Steven reported yesterday, Yoshinori Ono and the team at Capcom are taking the story mode of Street Fighter V seriously. Sure, they'll have the usual arcade mode intro/wrap-up for every character like Street Fighter has ha...

FNaF World pulled photo
FNaF World pulled

FNaF World pulled from Steam, refunds being made available for all


Full game will be free on GameJolt
Jan 25
// Nic Rowen
Following last Friday's apology that he rushed to publish FnaF World too early, creator Scott Cawthon has pulled the game from Steam. Unhappy with the quality of the title (despite positive fan reception), Cawthon is currentl...
MKX Cyber Sub-Zero photo
MKX Cyber Sub-Zero

Cyber Sub-Zero sneaks into MKX as Triborg's fourth variation


Triborg looking cool
Jan 25
// Nic Rowen
I never understood the popularity of Mortal Kombat's cyber-ninjas. I mean, you'd think if anyone could appreciate a pack of robots in a fighting game it would be me, but Cyrax, Sektor and the rest of the metal gang always see...
Dankest Dungeon photo
Dankest Dungeon

Want to hear the narrator for Darkest Dungeon say 'Dankest Dungeon?'


I do, but I'm a child
Jan 24
// Nic Rowen
I've been playing a lot of Darkest Dungeon, and it's been a tense experience. It's a merciless game about horror, stress, and the frailty of humanity. A great deal of the grim tone is established by the grave intonations of i...
SFV GAME tournament photo
SFV GAME tournament

GAME SFV tournament is making players qualify against CPU opponents


A single-player tournament?
Jan 23
// Nic Rowen
UK retail chain GAME is holding a Street Fighter V tournament beginning on January 26 across more than 300 stores. The elimination series will eventually winnow players down to a final set of matches competing at Insomnia for...
David Gaider photo
David Gaider

Writer David Gaider leaves BioWare


Thanks for HK-47
Jan 22
// Nic Rowen
David Gaider, the brain behind some of BioWare's best characters, has left the company after 17 years. The announcement was made on his own Twitter earlier today. Gaider has worked on several BioWare games since 1999 includ...
Canned Saint's Row game photo
Canned Saint's Row game

Volition shows off canceled Saint's Row game


Please be 'Johnny Gat: Originz Reloaded'
Jan 22
// Nic Rowen
The games industry is a rough one, its expensive, fast, and merciless. There are no shortage of games that are quietly killed in their sleep mid-development never to be seen again. However, Volition has made the somewhat mave...
SFV consoles photo
SFV consoles

Japan is getting some amazing SFV limited edition PS4 consoles


Europe is getting a bland bundle
Jan 22
// Nic Rowen
The Japanese PlayStation blog has revealed four (!) different Limited Edition Street Fighter V consoles, each bearing a different design. These striking black or white consoles feature artwork of Chun-Li and Laura, Ryu and Ne...
FNaF World release photo
FNaF World release

Surprise? FNaF World is out early


Get your Fred on
Jan 21
// Nic Rowen
A week ago Jordan reported that FNaF World would be out on February 19th but it wouldn't be a Five Nights at Freddy's game without a sudden, “surprising” release date now would it? FnaF World in all its weird, cut...

Review: Rebel Galaxy

Jan 20 // Nic Rowen
Rebel Galaxy (PC, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: Double Damage GamesPublisher: Double Damage GamesReleased: October 20, 2015 (PC), January 5, 2016 (PS4)MSRP: $19.99 Rebel Galaxy puts you in the boots of a space-faring renegade just looking to make a buck at the edge of the known universe. I mean, yes, you're estranged aunt mysteriously gifted you her old ship which was weird, and she also left you in possession of an alien artifact which, wouldn't you know it, happens to house an ancient A.I (don't they all) and you should probably look into that at some point -- but you also have to stack that paper! The main plot can be safely tackled at your leisure while you put time into building your personal net worth and outfitting the ship of your dreams. How you do that is up to you. As a kind of spiritual successor to Freelancer, Rebel Galaxy allows you to make your way through life on the rim anyway you like. As long as it involves shooting people. At every space station there is a mission board brimming with contracts from the various factions in the game. You can run drugs for a criminal cartel, bust up a pirate siege for the militia, provide some armed backup for the merchant guild, or pick up shady dead-drops for a cloak-and-dagger agency. Of course, let's not forget the most classic of all fictional space-faring economies: the glamorous world of asteroid mining. While there is plenty of outward variety in contract types, almost all of them will result in an inevitable shootout. Even the mining. Especially the mining. This is my ore and you can't have any of it. *pew pew* Thankfully, the space combat on tap is pretty damn cool. As I mentioned earlier, your ship in Rebel Galaxy performs more like a boat than a spaceship, locked on a single two-dimensional plane that you can steer around on left and right, but not up and down. Other capital ships are locked to the same plane, making standoffs with them feel like large naval battles (your most powerful weapons are actually broadside cannons, hammering home the effect). Meanwhile, smaller ships -- such as enemy fighters and your hired wingman -- zip around in a fully 3D space. They'll be coiling and wrapping around your larger vessel as you try to train your various mounted turrets on them, worry about the exposed shielding on your portside, and prepare to deflect an incoming volley of torpedoes. The battles become frantic, glorious displays. When you aren't manually aiming weapons yourself, the shipboard A.I will take over the unoccupied ones, making your ship a floating little ball of hell that is constantly spewing fire in all directions during a brawl. When you finally get a decent vessel that can mount a variety of laser turrets, homing missiles, and a full rack of broadsides, the spectacle of lights, colors, and exploding ships can be downright jaw-dropping. Active abilities like deflector shields and manually locking weapons (to make sure you don't just let auto-pilot do all the work) and different equipment set-ups can encourage some downright risky strategies if you like to roll the bones.  [embed]335426:61927:0[/embed] A reputation system governs how much each faction loves/loathes you. Taking a job from one faction pretty much always means screwing someone else over, so it is impossible to make friends with everyone. That said, it also never really came to much in my game. Space pirates hated me, the militia were kinda dickish but not overtly aggressive, and pretty much nobody else cared that I existed. It's a lot of numbers and systems that don't seem to really amount to much -- a theme that is repeated in many of the game's mechanics. Rebel Galaxy is built on a mountain of minutiae that seems important and interesting, and I suppose on an intellectual level it is, but amounts to little. For example, a living economy governs commodity trading at different stations. Not only do stations buy and sell different space tchotchkes and doodads, but the type of government that rules the station, current political situation, and other special events have an effect the market. Conditions like an arms race will bump up the price of salvaged munitions and weapons tech, for example. Where it gets really crazy, however, is that condition also spawns a treaty ship that will eventually make its way to the station to put an end to the arms race. If you'd rather keep hocking guns on a seller's market, you can go out and destroy that ship to prolong the conflict. That's all super cool but also, sadly, pointless. Those situations don't affect the plot or change anything else about the world. They just rearrange the stats on one of several dozen identical stations. While playing the market seems like a neat idea, it is also time consuming and inefficient compared to just going out and blowing stuff up. If I had to describe Rebel Galaxy in one word, it would be "broad," not "deep." There is a ton to do and all kinds of interesting interacting systems, but they only exist as curiosities. For a game that borrows so much from the likes of Firefly and the Millennium Falcons of the world, I was somewhat disappointed that there didn't seem to be any great options to play as a scoundrel, a lawbreaker with a heart of gold. You can take on illegal work and choose hardball dialog options of course, but I wanted to smuggle contraband and slick talk my way out of double-dealings. In Rebel Galaxy, walking the outlaw path has you trafficking space slaves and murdering random traders for their shitty cargo of worthless ceramic plating. It's good guy or Reaver, without a lot of gray in between. Speaking of the Firefly tone, Rebel Galaxy has a very distinct soundtrack of Kid Rock-esque tunes in an effort to capture that same space-western mystique. For the first little while I was really digging the vibe. A "dirty south meets final frontier" kind of thing. But as my time with the game stretched on and I was treated to the same three or four songs about being a "bad man" and sharing a train seat with Satan over and over again, I felt a little part of my soul chip away and drift into the void. The game constantly blares butt-rock at full volume, and every single song sounds almost exactly the same. Imagine being stuck at a NASCAR after-party that never ends and you'll get the picture. The soundtrack isn't the only thing that wears out its welcome. For as much as Rebel Galaxy wants to be a sort of deep-space simulation where you can be and do whomever and whatever you want, it all too quickly blurs together into a mushy pile of "bleh." Every mission is essentially the same, the only difference is the number and strength of the ships you'll be fighting. Every distress call is a fight with pirates (imperiled trader or "unexpected" trap, flip a coin). Every dialog interaction with bartenders, traders, and pirates run the same options and same canned responses. Enemies have such a limited arsenal of combat barks and threats I was actually hearing them in my sleep after spending a week with the game. The worse sin is that it somehow expects you to dig all of this repeated content for hours and hours on end. The game is every bit a treadmill as a typical MMO, only there is no one else to talk to and you can't make your ship dance. Every ship and piece of equipment costs exponentially more than the last. Small upgrades take half a dozen missions or more to earn, and you can forget about the high-end gear. You travel around the galaxy in real time, manually going to warp speed toward every destination, and coming to a dead stop every time a random piece of space junk floats in your way.  For a single player game that already has plenty to see and do, it feels needlessly padded. In space, no one can hear you grind. Yet, despite my many complaints, Rebel Galaxy did put a smile on my face. It's an ambitious little game that regrettably tries too hard to grab something out of its reach, but what it does get its hands on is excellent. The combat is spectacular, the atmosphere is charming (prolonged exposure to the soundtrack aside) and while there isn't as much depth to the game's systems as it would like you to believe, they are fun to poke and prod at when you get tired of blasting people with your lasers. Rebel Galaxy is the kind of game I'd want save for a rainy day when all I want to do is set my brain on auto-pilot and lose a few hours watching pretty colors and dreaming about being Han Solo. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Rebel Galaxy review photo
Aim to misbehave
I've heard people say space is an ocean. I've also heard it called the wild west of the future. With a background track of dirty butt-rock, a cast of colorful miscreants, and a movement system that feels more like steering a ...

The sweet annihilation of Nuclear Throne

Jan 17 // Nic Rowen
Nuclear Throne is about mutants and freaks obliterating each other in a fucked up biohazard of a world over a supposed seat on a likely meaningless throne. It's about winning the right to lord over a dead world. It's about twitch reflexes, the honing and sharpening of the most mechanical and merciless of gamer reactions. That dead-eye arcade stare that comes from quickly identifying the most pressing threat and eliminating it as quickly as possible with minimal resource usage. It's about repeating that process about a thousand times, trying to get ever so slightly better at it every time you try. It's about dying, quickly and cheaply. It's about a health bar that is so fragile as to be essentially meaningless. Bullets that gouge three pips of health out of a bar of eight and don't even have the decency to make you flicker for a second. One-hit kills from bosses. One-hit kills from mutant sewer rats. One-hit kills from cars accidentally exploding too close, the clumsy use of a plasma cannon, or getting a little too curious about a mysterious crystal. It hardly matters, most games of Nuclear Throne take anywhere between five and fifteen minutes. Another try is just a click away. Nuclear Throne isn't a game about learning from the mistakes of the past, it's about doubling down on them. Fucked up the planet with nuclear hellfire and warfare? Well, guess we better slaughter each other by the dozen to fight over a fancy chair. Get killed by a random grenade? Mash that "retry" button to jump right back in and eat another one. Die immediately trying to figure out how to play as Melty, the incredibly squishy pile of walking goo? Play as him another 20 times in a row until it's late and your eyes sting, and you know you'll hate yourself in the morning. To me, Nuclear Throne is the game I turn to when I'm not in the mood to learn from my mistakes, when I'd rather wallow in them. When I want to pile them on top of each other again and again until I can make myself a comfortable pile of failure to sit on. I've read that Luftrausers, Vlambeer's previous game, was made while the team was angry. That the fury of having one of their other games ripped-off in the Apple marketplace and the long, bitter process of trying to resolve that issue crept its way into Luftrausers and became the black core of its angry heart. That the unrelenting aggression of both the enemies and the player (motivated by a strict score-attack combo system to keep fighting at all costs) was a result of how they felt at the time. It's not hard to extend the logic and imagine how those feeling influenced the rest of the game. The ultra minimalist design, the obsession with cutting out every superfluous element of the game, reveals a design team wasn't just uninterested in niceties, but hostile to them. One of the iconic ship abilities in Luftrausers is a suicide bomb that triggers a skull-shaped nuclear explosion when the player dies, clearing out every enemy left on the screen. It's pure schadenfreude -- they might as well made the nuclear cloud a middle finger. In many ways, Nuclear Throne seems just as angry. It's hyper-aggressive and utterly merciless. The kind of game where you are expected to die. Failure is the default state and winning is the rare, precious exception (and all it does is toss you back into an even harder NG+). The game is hostile to the player, with disorienting screen shake accompanying every explosion, dick-bag cheap shots from off-screen enemies, monsters disguised as ammo boxes -- the kind of tricks you'd expect to see in something like I Wanna Be the Guy. But it's also a whole lot of fun. Nuclear Throne celebrates nihilism. It finds the joy in self-obliteration. Every aspect of the design speaks to a willful disregard for safety, a rejection of self-preservation. While ammo and health are precious commodities, half the weapons you can pick up are more dangerous to you than they are the enemy, and the rest gleefully waste ammunition. Suicidal choices like the disc gun with it's bouncing buzzsaw blades that are 100% guaranteed to ricochet back at you, radiation grenades that leave dense clouds of toxic smoke for you to walk into, blood sledgehammers that gamble health for a more powerful swing -- madness in a game where you're always a hair's breadth from death. There is dumb shit like the triple and quad machine guns, which flood the screen with firepower while evaporating your ammo reserve in the blink of an eye. Great fun for about seven seconds or so. Or Y.V's “Brrrpt” upgrade that lets him fire a weapon four times per trigger pull combined with something like the “precision” crossbow. Completely wasteful, entirely satisfying. Nuclear Throne seems like the kind of game the War Boys from Mad Max would enjoy. Then you have the little details. The loading screen messages that alternate between poignant and asinine, constantly pointing out how pointless and nihilistic the situation is only to laugh at it. The grotesquely cute design of the characters, little monsters you can't help but love. Chicken, an avian-samurai so committed to carnage that she'll keep fighting for a few seconds even after losing her head. Or my personal favorite character, the Robot, who's special ability is that he can devour spare guns to restore health and ammo. He is a being that literally subsists on violence, but that doesn't stop him from being cute as a button. I play a lot of different games for many different reasons. There are some games that I play for the story, or the world, the Fallouts and Dragon Ages of the world. I like fighting games and multiplayer first-person shooters to test my skills against other players, and MOBAs as an excuse to play with friends. But you know what? Sometimes I'm not in the mood to go scavenge around for copper wire or perform fetch quests for peasants. Sometimes the last thing I would want to do is go online and put up with trash talking morons or try to put on a happy face for my friends. Sometimes at the end of the day I'm tired and sad. I don't have the energy to invest in some 80 hour RPG or the focus to deal with online bullshit. I just want to blow everything up. I want to get killed. I want to do it over and over again until I feel like all the bile and frustration of the day has been expunged. That's a valid reason to play games as well. As the industry moves further into huge triple A multiplayer titles and massive open-world adventures, and many indies become increasingly story driven and emotional charged, I feel like that desire for mindless, cathartic, healing obliteration is getting lost in the shuffle. It makes me thankful for Nuclear Throne and its sweet embrace of annihilation.
Nuclear Throne photo
I DEMAND A CROWN
It may not seem like it, but most post-apocalyptic narratives are fundamentally optimistic. They might be set against a godforsaken backdrop of radioactive fallout with roaming packs of cannibalistic thrill-killers, but beyon...

MKX online beta photo
MKX online beta

Sign-ups for Mortal Kombat X's enhanced online beta begin Jan. 19


I'll still blame the lag
Jan 15
// Nic Rowen
NetherRealm is taking another stab at Mortal Kombat X's online performance. After listening to player feedback, the team is changing the way the game works online, switching from a “dynamic input latency model” to...

Review: Oxenfree

Jan 15 // Nic Rowen
Oxenfree (PC [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Night School StudioPublisher: Night School StudioMSRP: $19.99Released: January 15, 2016 I say “horror” in quotes because the actual spook-factor of Oxenfree isn't that high. This isn't an Amnesia-style gorefest or a Freddy's jumpscare marathon. Oxenfree trades in unease and tension more than outright scares. Think of it more like It Follows than Sleep Away Camp. It's an effective technique. Since you're not wading through blood and viscera at all times, the few moments of hard-hitting violence and terror are that much more jarring. Oxenfree starts with a group of teenagers having a party on an island tourist trap (and one-time military base) near their hometown. Testing out an urban myth involving radio signals and a spooky cave, they accidentally unleash a mysterious entity that seems to have a strange relationship to normal space and time and nothing but malicious intentions on them. The island destination is rendered in a gorgeous dreamlike art style of watercolors and soft light. The normally smooth picture-book aesthetic of Oxenfree's world makes it all the more unnerving when the entity breaks its way into reality with Tron-like neon colors and sharp geometric shapes hanging unnaturally in the sky. It soaks it all in a phenomenal synth-heavy soundtrack from SCNTFC (Galax-Z, Sword & Sworcery) that perfectly alternates between wistful and unnerving. Let me say it plainly, Oxenfree is very light on gameplay. There are no real puzzles to solve, no panicky QTEs to click on, no last-minute boss fight to clumsily fumble through. This is a game about talking. The single most mechanically meaningful thing you do in the game is respond to dialogue options in Aaron Sorkin-style “walk-and-talk” conversations that alternate seamlessly between sarcastic teen bonding, stick-a-knife-in-it awkward stand-offs, and genuinely touching moments. Each conversation option is represented by word balloons you pick with a touch of a button. The tone of the response is hinted at by the phrase in the word balloon similar to the system used in Mass Effect (and done noticeably better than in Fallout 4, I might add). Unlike the galaxy-saving Shepard however, Alex's (the playable protagonist) dialogue isn't laced with heroic speeches or badass threats. She's a teenaged girl who had a lot on her shoulders before the whole spooky-possibly-haunted-island thing started happening and she carries herself like one. She jokes with her friends, gets freaked out, and argues over pointless trivia, like a real person who suddenly found themselves in an unreal situation would. There is no outwardly visible karma meter or “so-and-so will remember that” comments in the game, but your words have meaning. You dialogue choices will effect how the other kids see you and your relationship with them. Occasionally you come to linchpin decision moments that can take you down alternate paths in the game, but mostly the choices are subtlety baked into the experience. A nice change from the “pick blue for good, red for bad” dichotomy of many game's dialogue systems. These conversations are not done in cutscenes or discrete “talking moments,” they're the life blood flowing through the entire game. You chat while walking to the beach, cutting through the woods, while exploring an abandoned military base, and the conversation follows naturally. Jump across a chasm between two cliffs while idly chatting and your friends won't just keep talking about the weather, they'll stop to recognize how badass/insane what you did just was. Same goes for conversations interrupted by spooky transmissions, or sudden, jarring hallucinations. Its easy to picture this backfiring. If the characters were tiresome, boring, or two-dimensional, a game all about talking to them would be a painful experience. Thankfully, the teens of Oxenfree are refreshingly likable. With an excellent script behind some amazing voice-over performances, the teens never wear out their welcome. They're smart, funny, and surprisingly sensible (they mostly just want to get the hell away from the island rather than work out its mysterious history). While the setup is as off the shelf as it gets, the characters don't fit into the Breakfast Club-defined roles you might expect. Alex is a bright girl trying to redefine herself after a life-shattering loss. Her brand new half-brother Jonas (yeah, she's meeting him for the first time at a kegger, it's as awkward as it sounds) is from a bad neighborhood and is implied to have spent a little time in jail. But, he's deeper and more vulnerable than the smoldering bad boy you might be picturing. Best friend Ren is a weird little guy who deals with stress with (actually funny) humor, harbors at least one secret crush, and may or may not be seeing a therapist depending on how seriously you want to take a few throwaway lines. Clarissa is the group's mean girl, always ready with a sharp barb or cutting remark in what is a fairly blatant display of a maladjusted defense mechanism. And Nona, a shy and seemingly unassuming girl who nonetheless has spent most of the semester in suspension, is probably the least developed of the characters but reveals some hidden depth if you make an effort to engage her. In what may be the game's greatest accomplishment, these kids are actually fun to hang around (other than the possible exception of Clarissa). In most horror movies, I usually end up rooting for the machete-wielding maniac after being introduced to the typical gaggle of jerks and dummies of a horror movie cast. In Oxenfree, I couldn't help but be charmed by the gang. When the supernatural creeps of the island finally started getting rough with them, it put a crinkle in my brow and an uncomfortable bend in my spine. I was tense, unsettled. Oxenfree never had to spring a jump scare on me or splatter the screen with blood to wrap me around its finger. It just had to make me care about the kids. Once I did that, it owned me. Aside from talking, the other main thing you do in Oxenfree is tune through a radio. At any time, you can pop out your handy pocket radio and scroll through the channels, finding static, 1940s big band tunes, and the occasional Satanic murmuring from some hell dimension. How very Silent Hill. Scattered throughout the game are various opportunities to tune into tourist information stations that reveal background about the island (and hopefully clues as to what you're up against), as well as secret audio anomalies that function as the game's de facto collectable. These are broadcasts that seem to be coming from another time or an alternate reality. Call me a sap, but I thought the anomalies were genuinely disquieting. It brought to mind the same spooky quality as listening to a numbers station broadcast, or the Jonestown tapes. This is a laid-back game. The vast majority of the experience is just wandering around with your friends, dialing through the radio for the occasional audio anomaly while chatting about school, gossip, and how utterly screwed up the situation you're in is. It's short. You can probably play through it in a single evening if you didn't care about seeing alternate story paths or collecting anomalies. If you wanted to be dismissive and sneer at Oxenfree as another “walking simulator” there isn't much that could be said in its defense. But personally, I think it is an excellent walking simulator. Oxenfree is a walking simulator that is confident enough in its characters and dialogue to bet that you won't mind just hanging around with them. It believes in the sinister low-ebb horror of the island to worm its way into your mind without having to crutch on a jumpscare every few minutes. It knows that its atmosphere and style will be enough to make you want to wander through its forests and dilapidated military bases. It's a walking simulator you should play. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Oxenfree Review photo
Dark signals
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A group of teenagers head to a remote, nearly abandoned tourist trap for a night of wild partying. Not long after they get there though, odd things start to happen. Unsettling things. ...

Duke Nukem bump photo
Duke Nukem bump

Republican candidate tried and failed to get the Duke Nukem bump


How do those balls of steel taste?
Jan 13
// Nic Rowen
The voice behind the toughest man in the video game business, Jon St. John shot down the opportunity to do ad work for a “leading GOP candidate for president.” Now I’m not Sherlock Holmes, but I’m pret...
WoT PS4 release photo
WoT PS4 release

World of Tanks gets a PS4 release date


Roll on up
Jan 13
// Nic Rowen
Fans of large cannons on treads and intractable gameplay will be pleased to know the PS4 version of World of Tanks has a firm release date. Would-be tank commanders can get down and dirty on January 19th and wade into a battl...
Weird Mega Man stickers photo
Weird Mega Man stickers

I need these weird Mega Man stickers in my life


Bad Art Mega Man is my spirit animal
Jan 13
// Nic Rowen
Well aren't these just the best reason to break your old Trapper Keeper out of retirement? Straight out of the Japanese Capcom store in collaboration with B-Side Label, this collection of, um, eccentric, stickers of...
Psychonauts on PS4 photo
Psychonauts on PS4

The original Psychonauts is coming to the PS4


They're bloody everywhere now
Jan 12
// Nic Rowen
In case you hadn't already picked up Psychonauts when it was available on the Xbox 360, the PS3, or Steam, you'll be pleased to hear it's soon to make its way to the PS4. Or maybe not, I don't know. If you haven't bought it y...

Nic Rowen picks the best of 2015

Jan 10 // Nic Rowen
Best game of the year: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is one of my favorite games of all time. As I've shared before, I've replayed it at least ten times over the years. I didn't keep coming back to it just because it was fun, I kept coming back to it because it was surprising. Every time I played through it I'd find something new. I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of The Phantom Pain's surprises. Forget replaying the entire game, every time I replay one of  The Phantom Pain's missions I find something new. Every other week someone posts a YouTube video of some outrageous tactic or bizarre mechanic I never even considered before. The other day, I found a new cassette tape despite having plunged more than 70 hours into the game already. Let that sink in, I've played this game for 70 hours and I haven't even uncovered all the easy to find stuff yet. Of course, it's also an amazing game to play. The Phantom Pain is a total leap for the series, a massively needed redesign of Tactical Espionage Action that finally, FINALLY, makes you feel like the super-spy Snake was always trumped up to be. Instead of the hurky-jerk movement of previous entries that saw Snake frequently kneeling in front of a a two-foot high obstacle and then somehow accidentally dropping a flashbang at his feet while searching for the right button, this Snake moves just like how you'd expect of the world's greatest soldier. He effortlessly hurdles barriers, dives into cover, slides down hills, and climbs sheer walls, and you never find yourself reaching for the manual. Combat is fast, fluid, and accurate, the enemies smart and responsive. A never ending supply of gadgets, gear, partners, and chopper support options provide an answer to almost any situation you could get yourself into. The Phantom Pain is one hell of a game. Despite Konami doing everything it can to ruin the game post-release, it still remains the best time I had playing video games this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if I end up coming back to The Phantom Pain just as much as I did with Snake Eater. Best spoooooky: Bloodborne Dark Souls is still my favorite From Software game to date, but Bloodborne certainly gave it a run for its money. While some elements of Bloodborne's design disappointed me (the PvP never felt as well developed and I would have loved a few more sets of clothing and armor to choose from), I was absolutely enamored with the Victorian Gothic look of the world. Yharnam is a scary place, and the population of werewolves, fallen priests, and creepy eye monsters never let me drop my guard for a second.  Best budget anatomy lesson: Mortal Kombat X I like to learn. I've always considered myself an eternal student, but have you seen the cost of post-secondary education these days? One can't afford to just take up a medical class as a hobby anymore! Which is why I was so delighted to see how detailed and painstakingly rendered the bloody viscera of Mortal Kombat X was. If anyone ever needs an emergency whole body bisection via a razor-bladed hat, I'm the man to call. I feel like MKX didn't make a lot of GOTY lists, and that's a shame. For my money, it's the best Mortal Kombat game ever made. Sure, it has balance issues and the PC launch was an absolute travesty, but the core gameplay is best the series has ever offered -- fast, brutal, and mean, the way Mortal Kombat should be. The variation system that gives each character three distinct fighting styles with different strengths and weaknesses is something I'd love to see more fighting games adopt. Best interior design options: Fallout 4: Happy Home Designer I have no idea why I put so much time into the settlement system of Fallout 4, but I did and I loved it. Fallout 4 is a magnificent game (even if it is lacking the role-playing options of New Vegas and the quests work a little too hard to funnel you down certain paths) with an amazing sense of exploration and surprisingly fun gun-play. But it turns out if you put a half-baked doll-house simulator in a game, I'll focus on it nearly exclusively to the abandonment of all else. Maybe I should just start playing The Sims and get it over with. Best descent into nihilism: Nuclear Throne Something about this game brings out the worst in me. It's my “2:00am, I should go to bed but I've been drinking and feeling sad, so why not do another run (or twenty)” game. A blitzkrieg of furious action and pointless violence that I'm more than happy to wallow in at the end of a long frustrating day. If Fallout 4 was my chipper little game about optimism and rebuilding life after a disaster, Nuclear Throne was its dark shadow, a celebration of defeat and chaos. Best dinosaurs: ARK: Survival Evolved Yeah, this is technically a Steam Early Access game, but who cares? It has dinosaurs! Who would have thought watching a mutant caveman getting devoured by a Carnotaurus could be so much fun (even when you are the mutant caveman in question)? I didn't play tons and tons of ARK, but my time wandering around the jungle jabbing my pointy little stick at anything that moved left an impression. I still think of heading back into the wilds every now and then. Best “I should play more of this”: Galak-Z: The Dimensional I love everything about Galak-Z; the way the ship moves, the rogue-lite structure of the missions and power-ups, the retro '80s anime aesthetic, it's all great. I just haven't played a ton of it. I got into the second season of the game (when you get the big robot), died, and never quite got back to it. It isn't that I haven't wanted to, it just seems to keep getting buried under something more pressing (or convenient) to play. I have a feeling if I played a little more, Galak-Z could end up being my next Binding of Isaac. Best argument to buy a Wii U: Super Mario Maker Why the fuck didn't I buy a Wii U!? I'm such a moron. Can I borrow yours? C'mon, just for a week or two? I've been watching all these videos and I have an idea for a level that uses P-switches in a really fucked up way and I'm just dying to try it and... Best way to find out your friends are total monsters: Jack Box Party Pack 2 Everything is all fun and games until someone makes a punchline out of Boko Haram. Best use of fingers: Fingered The stubby digit of justice.
Nic's best of the year photo
I mean, you've seen the rest
It's like the middle of January and you've read about five thousand GOTY lists at this point, so let's get to brass tacks. There were some great games released last year, but which ones were the best? I have no idea. Sorry,...


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