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Destructoid originals

Finding Weezer's 'Across the Sea' in Firewatch

Feb 10 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]340578:62211:0[/embed] Firewatch's protagonist, Henry, is in need of something, anything that's therapeutic. That's why he accepted this job in the mountains away from his ever-crumbling life. His wife was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's and her parents took her back to Australia to live with them. Henry didn't have much say in the matter. So, he fled to the isolation of a Wyoming outpost, more alone but not necessarily any more lonely. The only human communication Henry would have for three months was with his boss, Delilah, via walkie talkie. It's the most beautiful part of Firewatch. The two converse regularly -- sometimes in a boss-to-subordinate capacity, sometimes just shooting the shit. On day one, Delilah feels like a stranger on the other side of the radio; by day 70-something, she feels like a best friend. Or, something more. Throughout "Across the Sea," Rivers maybe laments more than anything else. "Why are you so far away from me? I need help and you're way across the sea," he sings. It's clear that he has fallen to the rock star loneliness complex, the thought that even though you're immensely popular, there's no one who's actually close to you. It may be aggrandizing to cling to one fan in Japan, but he did. And it helps. In Rivers' case, his anchor is a world away. For Henry, it's as far as a short-range walkie talkie can reach. It doesn't matter; the difference is all the same. Both have found resounding solace in another person they've never physically met.  As both examples reveal, these types of relationships amplify certain emotions. There's an exchange early in Firewatch where Delilah prods Henry to describe himself. She wants to know what his eyes look like, what he'd be wearing if she caught his glance from across the bar. Rivers and counterpart have the same natural curiosity described in lines like "You wanted to know all about me and my hobbies," and "I wonder what clothes you wear to school, I wonder how you decorate your room." There's a darker side, though. Feelings of insecurity and guilt manifest for both. More accurately, they've always been there, but they surface now. Rivers emphatically states "I could never touch you, I think it would be wrong." Henry's reactions in certain moments make it clear that he's not sure all of this is appropriate, especially while his wife is still alive. He and Delilah aren't romantic, but they're intimate. They're close. Is that any better than a physical tryst? The answer is, well, it's complicated. Firewatch affords a lot of time to walk around and think about these things, but nothing ever becomes any more cut and dried. There's ambiguity and uncertainty, just as there should be. But, like Rivers' Japanese girl, Delilah gives Henry something to lean on. She's a beam of hope in an otherwise dark cloud of loneliness and doubt. That seems like it's probably worth it all. "Why are you so far away from me," indeed.
Firewatch photo
Fall to little pieces
As I trekked through Firewatch's forested western Wyoming landscape, one song kept entering and leaving my head, and it wasn't one of the game's serene, folksy acoustic guitar tunes. It was a song I listened to a lo...

Sup Holmes photo
Sup Holmes

Mastering game making with two masters of Game Maker


Sup Holmes every Sunday at 2:30pm EST!
Feb 10
// Jonathan Holmes
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great video games. It airs live every Sunday at 4:00pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] It used to be that mak...

The biggest secret hidden across the three Assassin's Creed Chronicles games

Feb 09 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]340170:62181:0[/embed] It's unclear exactly when this sequence takes place, but it's sometime after Master Templar Berg recovered Assassin's Creed Rogue protagonist Shay Cormac's precursor box. These boxes are a source of great interest to Abstergo because they might hold the key to what Abstero is ultimately chasing after. More on that in a minute. Berg has been assigned to take Cormac's precursor box to Álvaro Gramática, one of Abstergo's highest-ranking scientists. Gramática's ecstatic with the find because he plans to use it in order to analyze another artifact, possibly another precursor box. In closing, Gramática exclaims that this is all to support the Phoenix Project. The Phoenix Project might be a means to the Templars' end-goal. The idea is to get close to the First Civilization by decoding their DNA. However, the Phoenix Project is centered around the notion that it might be possible to create a living First Civilization member from scratch with precursor DNA, rather than trying to clone an existing person. Even though it's basically just a teaser, it seems as Cormac's box may have Gramática and Abstergo one step closer to creating someone from the First Civilization, which would allow them to understand Pieces of Eden and other precursor technology. Maybe that's why Gramática sounds so stoked. If that's the case, it very well might mean the next Assassin's Creed puts a heavy emphasis on the present day. That fits right in line with the clues we found late last year. Abstergo's up to something and it might be huge. Who would've thought the Chronicles series would bring us three new protagonists with three separate stories, yet the biggest development would be on the Templars' side? At least it looks to have set the table for more Assassin's Creed to come.
Assassin's Creed photo
A precursor to something huge?
The Assassin's Creed Chronicles titles have been criticized (and rightfully so) for their lack of emphasis on narrative. Even though these are games where the narrative stakes are just as high as the mainline Assass...

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Kickfail

Honest Kickstarter details exactly how it'll waste your money (Fauxclusive)


See how every penny is mismanaged
Feb 07
// CJ Andriessen
Following allegations of behind-the-scenes financial misconduct with the crowdfunded Ant Simulator game, the team behind a newly-launched Kickstarter campaign is now promising complete transparency with how it will ...

What's so great about Undertale and The Witness?

Feb 07 // Ben Davis
That's unusual though, right? It seems like a new phenomenon. I don't usually come across games where I can't discuss some of the core mechanics without ruining it for others. The Witness creator Jonathan Blow made a point to warn prospective buyers that some reviews were full of spoilers, and I can definitely understand why he did. On the other side of the coin, in Destructoid's review of the game, Brett Makedonski was noticeably vague and short on details, and I know exactly why he wrote it that way. When I wrote my Undertale review, I had to dance around the parts of the game that excited me most. But Undertale and The Witness can't be the only games like this. While trying to think of other examples, the first that came to mind was Frog Fractions. Now, that's kind of an extreme example for a number of reasons, but I think the point still stands. If you've completed Frog Fractions, think about how you might describe the experience to someone who hasn't played it. It would be a challenge. You would likely have to convince them to try it without saying anything about it other than, "You're a frog, and you eat bugs to make fractions. Just play it!" Admittedly, Frog Fractions is a little different than Undertale and The Witness. There are many interesting aspects of those games one could discuss without giving everything away. But at best, I can imagine only being able to describe what sounds like an average to above-average video game. And then someone would (understandably) ask, “Well that all sounds okay, but what exactly makes it so special?" And that's a question you couldn't answer, even if you really wanted to, with anything other other than "Just believe me." It's even more onerous to justify the high praise to players who actually completed Undertale or The Witness, and somehow missed their hidden strengths. This could easily happen with either game. Even though I managed to discover Undertale's most unique element before even leaving the tutorial area, I've spoken to other players who had no idea what I was talking about, or had only noticed it in the game's final few boss battles. It's much more apparent once you start a second playthrough, but a lot of people that didn't get it the first time around probably wouldn't have much interest in playing the game again, so they might never know about it. In The Witness, I still hadn't discovered the coolest thing the game has to offer before the end. Brett actually had to nudge me in the right direction, and, when I finally found it, I was blown away. I was actually surprised I hadn't figured it out myself somewhere along the way, as it seems like something I should have noticed at one point or another, even if by accident. But it's certainly no surprise that, once again, many players will never stumble upon it. Some might argue this is bad design. 'Why hide an experience's greatest strengths to such a degree that some players might never find it?' you might ask. However, I've come to believe the reason these games leave such an impact on players is precisely because these secrets can be difficult to find. Undertale and The Witness start off as great games (or average, or bad, whatever your view), until something unexpected happens that elevates them to another level. And suddenly they might have you thinking, "Whoa, what?! This changes everything!' and make you want to excitedly tell everyone about how amazing they are before realizing, "Wait, maybe it's best to let them discover this on their own." If I've had a conversation with someone about Undertale or The Witness and it seemed as though I was deliberately vague or leaving out information, this is exactly why. I want to talk about them so badly, but at the same time, I know I shouldn't and it kills me. They really are amazing experiences, but unfortunately you'll just have to take my word for it!
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It's a secret!
In the last few months, two games were released that I feel might be among my favorite games of all time, Undertale and The Witness. But what exactly makes them two of the greatest gaming experiences I've had in recent m...

The hardcore Destiny community forgets why we play

Feb 06 // Darren Nakamura
There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but the most common among the hardcore players is because they are not at the maximum light level, or don't have every piece of exotic gear. Basically, they're in it for the stuff. This isn't some mindblowing revelation. Bungie has employed specific knowledge of human psychology in order to hook people into the loop. It's a classic Skinner box through and through, and Bungie wants players to keep hitting that lever for the chance at getting a food pellet. This is even more apparent now that Bungie has shifted to its limited-time events. I read a sentiment about the Sparrow Racing League from late last year that paraphrases to "I play SRL because the loot drops are high and frequent." More recently, Iron Banner Rift has seen players manipulating the Mercy Rule to intentionally throw matches and get to the end-of-game rewards more quickly. The problem with this mindset is that it treats the game like work. As players, we should be saying "I want to engage with this content because it is entertaining," not "I want to get to the end of this content as quickly as possible because my number might go up." I played a decent bit of SRL when it was around because the racing was a nice change of pace to the usual shooting. I played the most recent Iron Banner because Rift is my strongest game type and I knew I'd enjoy the process. I run King's Fall because it's a great feeling coordinating six Guardians into a well-oiled machine. Heck, I will still run the old raids, Vault of Glass and Crota's End, despite that they drop useless rewards. I play Destiny for the intrinsic value. I play Destiny because it is entertaining. When you treat a game like it's a job, then the saltiness comes out. Farming materials for the exotic sword quest is a good example. If you view it as an item on a checklist and try to power through it as quickly as possible, you're in for a bad time. Sure, you can mainline material routes for four hours straight to get it, but it'll be a boring four hours. Instead, I would go on Patrol, grab a few materials, participate in public events, kill some Taken champions, and head back to orbit when I felt like doing something else. It probably took me twice as long over multiple days to finish farming, but that was eight hours of enjoying myself instead of four hours of hating the world. The economics here are clear: if you play only for the reward at the end, you rob yourself of the enjoyment throughout. I implore players: divorce yourself from the reptilian part of your brain that is so susceptible to Destiny's operant conditioning. If you ever find yourself playing because you feel you have to rather than because you want to, ask yourself, "Am I enjoying this?" If you find yourself more interested in the reward at the end than the content in which you use the reward, ask yourself, "Is this worth it?" If your answers to those questions are no, there's no shame in finding something else to do, inside the world of Destiny or outside of it. Never forget the reason we play in the first place: to have fun.
Destiny opinion photo
Forget chasing loot for once
I've been playing a lot of Destiny lately -- late to the party, I know -- and going deep into the rabbit hole almost requires players to frequent r/DestinyTheGame or some other similar community site. Without it, I'd never kn...

XCOM 2 cover: Cool or #darksiders2?

Feb 05 // Steven Hansen
Even original Doom guy had a sick ass crop top exposing his abs and a bunch of ankle-biting demons. And so we come back around to XCOM 2. It's a hell of a lot more interesting than Enemy Unknown's squad silhouettes and science-y blue. But I've been torn on it since the first time I saw it. It feels oddly like an artsy idea and less artful execution. The logos don't help, of course. The title typeface doesn't, either (but how do you make "XCOM2" look not stupid?). Does it look, I don't know, busy? Does the title up top draw away too much from the close-up symmetry of the design? Did you notice that the skulls have different facial expressions? Look close. This is decidedly Not How Skulls Work. There aren't supposed to be some mad eye sockets, some happy eye sockets. Granted, I've never seen my own skull and lived to tell about it (kills me every time) and I'm no bonologist, but it's kind of goofy. And, hey, goofy skulls otherwise intended for ominous portent? [Darksiders 2 comes sliding through the doorway on cue like Kramer] For those of you too young to remember, we had a glorious time with Darksiders 2 here at Destructoid. That game looked like a goth teen's middle school notebook. Handy might've had the definitive blog, counting all of the skulls in a small batch of screenshots (over 100!!!), but #darksiders2 continued as a hashtag ready to be loosed anytime a bleach-tipped, puka-shell-necklace-wearer finger blasted his girlfriend in a Chili's bathroom (thanks, Occams!). The hashtag still persists anytime something so specifically assaults the senses. Sometimes people use it to reference the game by the same name. That's where I'm at. I like the hustle on XCOM 2's behalf. I like the ambition. I like that it isn't boring as all get out. I can't say they nailed it. It looks a tad goofy, a tad off to me, but that's okay. Better than bland. The actual game has a lot more visual flair going on this time around too. PS: Someone count the skulls, please.
IS IT ART? photo
Good luck, Commander
While I would sell out any one of you reading right now to have spent the last week or two playing XCOM 2, our review copy must have been lost in the mail. It's out, probably dope as hell, and my guy Nic is on it working on t...

FFVII first-timer photo
FFVII first-timer

Popping Cherries: Final Fantasy VII


Mako'd for the very first time
Jan 31
// Ben Davis
Nobody has time to play every video game. We all have classic games that have slipped us by for whatever reason, be it time constraints, money issues, initial lack of interest, or any number of other things. But that just mea...
Bad Updates photo
Bad Updates

New Vita update physically attacks anyone who tries to play with it (Fauxclusive)


You may want to wait for update 3.59
Jan 30
// CJ Andriessen
In its continuing efforts to convince fans to finally let go of the PlayStation Vita, Sony released an update for the device earlier this week that caused a wide variety of problems, including making it nearly impossible to c...

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 ...

The Silent Hill Retrospective: Homecoming

Jan 30 // Stephen Turner
Homecoming starts with an intentional bang; no dreaded slow burn, no setup, giving away all its secrets within the opening cutscene. The sounds of war give way to the harsh clatter of gurney wheels and slamming double doors. Alex Shepherd demands answers and receives a gory rebuttal, before waking up on a hitch-hike back home, after many years away. The déjà vu of Alex’s search for his missing brother is just too familiar, caught up in this mandated movie tie-in veneer. Homecoming’s biggest sin is that it’s sketchy. Not purposefully vague, just sketchy; from its supporting cast to its sparse locations and even loose endings. Whereas Silent Hill was fully imagined in its first appearance, Shepherd’s Glen is completely faceless, hard to differentiate from the infamous town during Homecoming’s final act. Despite Josh’s disappearance being a key motivator, Alex only has two memories of his brother – one good, one bad – and the rest are doled shown, oddly enough, without his presence. A sign of numerous redrafts, if we're being honest. It’s never enough to make you care, busy as it is with telling certain events with biased awe. Pyramid Head makes a fleeting appearance, spied on like a creature in the wild. Later, Deputy Wheeler talks about Silent Hill with mystical reverence. Gone are the days where the town was just an unassuming name on the road map, somewhere you wouldn’t think twice about passing by. [embed]337353:62057:0[/embed] Especially with concerns to the latter, Homecoming showed how Silent Hill’s fundamentals had radically changed under the Western gaze. It’s still a Silent Hill game at heart – any accusations can easily be applied to previous efforts – but one that looks inward at its own country’s history of horror. It’s all there in the way Alex and his companions stick together, make plans over the radio, survive sieges, and get too close to the truth. Yes, it’s insular, but one shouldn’t be critical of Homecoming’s influences for not being Eastern or spiritual. America produced some amazing horror tales in the '70s and '80s; a reaction to cinematic stereotypes, increases in violent crime, and the scars of Vietnam. Homecoming tries to at least update those themes with its protection of small town values and allusions to Iraq and Afghanistan. Alex Shepherd is seen as this well groomed soldier with a flashy fighting style, which at first plays well towards the critics of the game. Despite his all American values, it’s really his jacket that lends us this weight of authority and self-made heroics. But keen eyes will notice that the jacket doesn’t really fit him; too long on the arms, a little broad on the shoulders. When the twist hits, we learn Alex is merely living up to his father's legacy. That symbol of duty, their only connection, is really just a reminder of their estrangement. Duty and sacrifice are prevalent themes in Homecoming. Even the title itself recalls more to do with warriors than prom queens, especially in this day and age. The self-preservation of Shepherd’s Glen is a ludicrous compromise, where an unbridled fear of those across the waters (in this case, Toluca Lake and the Order of Silent Hill) ruins more lives than it saves. Heinous acts are committed by those in charge, fearful of religious retribution. And when the balance is finally upset, a reactionary Otherworld returns at its most vengeful. Shrieking monsters with impotent forms feverishly scale fences and walls, only wanting blood. The town’s sacrifices are reimagined as furious deities; their porcelain skin fractures and drowning lungs a reminder of their once frail former selves. They do lack the macabre, tumorous puzzles of Masahiro Ito’s designs, but we must remember that Homecoming was Silent Hill at its most casual. But more importantly, this was a Silent Hill title that lacked the time to go deeper. Even if it did, with the story it had, where exactly could it have gone? When you look at the games, post-The Room, they’re all variations of stories told; parental fears and domestic worries, a coming of age and religious interpretation, suburban loneliness, all filled in with mistakes and regrets. Nearly everything that Homecoming picked up on was already said in Silent Hill 2 and 3. It’s a cherry picker of ideas, hoping the best ones fit together. And maybe that’s why, beyond the more obvious debate of Eastern vs. Western quality and the terrible plot holes involved, Homecoming has a division of fans, rather than outright hatred. It’s a B-movie horror film within a B-tier game, nothing more, nothing less. As for the future of the franchise, we would never hear from Shepherd’s Glen ever again, but the past was worth revisiting. Silent Hill would take centre stage, once more. Though it would be very different from the one buried in our memories.
Silent Hill photo
'These people are your responsibility!'
Homecoming was the Hollywood take on Silent Hill. All crisp and clean, with a Jensen Ackles-type in the lead, and a straightforward plot that paid more homage to Dean Koontz’s Phantoms than Koji Suzuki’s Dark Wate...

The Witness photo
The Witness

The Witness puzzle that's vexing everyone [Update]


Again, puzzled
Jan 28
// Brett Makedonski
[Update: Jonathan Blow answered our inquiry. Here's what he had to say, edited slightly to omit anything that could be the most minor of spoilers: "Yes, I pretty much figured that one to be one of the hardest individual ...

All the crazy Beautiful Mind shit I did to beat The Witness

Jan 26 // Brett Makedonski
That screenshot really drove home how I've committed myself to The Witness and only The Witness. It got me thinking about not only the amount of time I've spent in-game, but all the crazy out-of-game tasks I've resorted to. Here are some pictures. (Note that there are minor spoilers in this post. While there are no direct puzzle solutions, there are representations of possible solutions. You'll probably be fine if you don't dwell on any of them for too long or give them any serious thought. Heads-up, though.) This is some sketching I did early on. I thought that was a little extreme. It got so much worse. Coloring some boxes, all on the back of a fast food receipt. This was about the time that I realized my TV was kind of dusty because the sunlight shining on it illuminated all the lines I had been drawing with my fingers. More sketches, this time on the back of a letter my grandma sent me. This is just a random screenshot I took so that I could move position and reference how something looked from another angle. My recycle bin is absolutely packed with these. I could show another hundred, but that'd waste everyone's time. [embed]335778:61949:0[/embed] Here's a video that I captured very early in the game. It seemed complicated and I was proud of myself for figuring it out. My original idea was to slap together a video titled something like "Five of The Witness' toughest puzzles at the beginning of the game." I soon realized that's in no way how this game works. Idea mostly scrapped, but a memento salvaged for this piece. I wrote this in a Google Doc at 2am one night. If I died and this were the only thing I left behind, philosophers would study me for centuries to come. Here's a keyboard I lugged down to the living room and started playing. Keyboards just make sense to me. I get 'em, you know? A shoddy night vision app that I gladly downloaded on my phone. Jonathan Blow didn't send me on a top-secret reconnaissance mission. I just wanted to see what everything would look like at night. Also, that app is riddled with ad-ware. It's miserable. There's more, but this collection seems like it nicely encapsulates my experience with The Witness. Had it taken one more day, the neighbors probably would've seen me drawing on my windows with chalk. Somehow, it never came to that.
The Witness photo
Puzzled
I've put a lot of time into The Witness lately. Like, a lot a lot. Effort too. This might be the most draining review experience of my career. It's rewarding though, and that makes it less burdensome even if it...

Ono: Street Fighter won't see a SFIII-style reboot 'as long as I'm involved'

Jan 25 // Steven Hansen
"What we actually learned through from Street Fighter III and putting in all those new characters we found out that the really hardcore people really enjoy it," Ono said through a translator, though pantomiming enough that I understood about 30% of every answer before the English came in. "They really enjoyed playing all the new characters and figuring out how to use them, but it was very difficult to bring back the old generation of players who played Street Fighter II because they weren't sure, 'Who is this character? Why should I care about them? Why should I play this game?' "Now I've reached this super high point in the Street Fighter series...I can very safely say that as long as I'm involved in the game we won't be taking that approach, of a lot of brand new characters." Hopes dashed. The me who sells his last good kidney for a PlayStation 5 is going to be crestfallen. Still, fair. Ono helped resuscitate the franchise with SFIV and the steps forward with SFV are all admirable. There's the "completely different direction" for post-launch content. Balance updates are all free for everyone, forever instead of tied to a new release with more confusing naming conventions ("it ended up segmenting everyone"). The first of six DLC characters is coming in March and playing through all characters' stories, survival, or online should earn enough Fight Money to get that first character for free. Then the in-game store opens up for the first time ("SFV does not have any day one DLC") along with new "Daily Challenges," the long-term method for players to generate Fight Money. It's a straightforward system that's good on paper, one instance where "games-as-service" doesn't leave me shuddering. The big news today is that there are individual character stories, per usual ("we always felt that that was kind of enough"), but also a big story with over an hour of in-engine cinematics coming in June as free DLC. "In Street Fighter IV we set out to try and bring everything together," Ono said. "We wrote each of the character's stories so it all kind of makes sense. But even after doing that there was a lot space in between where we finished off in Street Fighter IV and where Street Fighter III was. We're finally going to be encapsulating the entire Street Fighter universe." While the pro scene helped carry Street Fighter IV further than those of us who sniffed around its first iteration based on name alone, "a lot of the casual fans were speaking up" with regards to more story (be it in a new game or as a new anime series). "We came back with that feedback and thought about it," Ono said. "We saw that Ubisoft's got these immersive, awesome story experiences like with Assassin's Creed; we have it with Resident Evil; and looking at Mortal Kombat in recent history, they're trending that way as well." Erhm -- Assassin's Creed's story? Ok. That's where the June story expansion comes in to offer "a very clear picture of the Street Fighter universe" up to that point, with characters' individual stories cluing them in on other finer details. "We're really hoping people are going to become new Street Fighter fans throughout that process." A story isn't the only consideration for new players, for new potential fans. The word the team most frequently uses to describe Street Fighter V is a "reset," an even playing field. Ono notes that the SFIV player base "narrowed very quickly," likening it to the best baseball players working their way into the pros, and other onetime-players petering out. So you get characters like Rashid, meant to be an easy choice for new players. "The director was nice enough to design the character that way," Ono said. "After he designed Rashid he came up to me and said, 'Oh, I think this is someone even Ono-san will be able to use.'" It goes beyond that, though. There are the new V-Skills, which are unique to each fighter, opening up a network of metagame possibilities. Parrying was a core mechanic in Street Fighter III. Here, that entire mechanic is only used by Ryu.  "How do we keep Street Fighter's DNA and at the same time have characters have their own personality," Ono asked rhetorically. "This time, in order for Ryu to have his own personality" beyond the classic signifiers of hadoken et al, it's the parry. "Adding personality to the characters was a really big deal for us." In Ryu's case, that's provided you can execute. "Even for somebody like me, or Matt sitting next to me, [the Mind's Eye parrying] is also too hard for us to use," Ono giggled. The point, though, is not just accessibility, but to "reset the playing field and invite as many new players as possible." The V-Skills offer opportunity beyond that, "we understand that there are people who are out there who are playing neighborhood baseball." There will also be leagues in online play to try and keep matches competitive by skill level. Of course, Street Fighter V is also the "first product developed from the ground up with eSports in mind," according to Capcom's Matt Dahlgren. It will be balanced around the Capcom pro tour (where the game will run on PS4), meaning large balance updates will come during the offseason (January-February), giving pros enough time to react and train for EVO and the following Capcom tour. The goal is to, "stick to our guns for a whole season," though if any particularly egregious balancing problem presents itself (complete leaderboard and tournament dominance), there are quick fixes. "Knee-jerk reactions can stifle the community, it doesn't give the respect it deserves to players who came up with those tactics, and it prevents the meta game from forming where players can come up with counter tactics," Dahlgren said. I asked Ono if the individual V-Skills made this the hardest Street Fighter to balance and they did seem to be a factor, but "balancing is always hard. It's hard every single time." Especially with the lack of an arcade release this time around. Ono sees Street Fighter as a "a fighting tool" where the one on one battling reigns despite more effort put into single-player content. And so from designing characters that are a bit easier to use to, "input leniency we put in place so people feel like they can do what they're trying to do with their characters," the feel is important. "We're offering bats, balls, and gloves," Ono explained, with what must've been the fourth baseball metaphor, at which point I had to veer off course and ask if it was pure idiom or if Ono loved baseball. "I really like baseball," he laughed "It just happens to be that Capcom is moving offices next door to AT&T Park [in San Francisco, where the Giants play] and as a result I'm super-looking forward to this move because now I'm going to have even more chances to see baseball games here in the US. But if this gets out into this article and people from Capcom USA read this then people internally at Capcom might think, 'Hey, man, we got to do this freaking move just because Ono likes baseball!?' So there's a potential where I could be getting some complaints internally." The metaphors do go beyond a love for the sport a bit, though, as Ono praised the Major Leagues (be it Major League Baseball or the National Football League), which have done well in cultivating "sports as entertainment." Versus shit people do for sport, like hunting or seeing how long they can look at local real estate pricing without eating a gun. And Street Fighter can be entertaining to watch. Especially if Ono gets his R. Mika wish. "I kind of bought her way into this game by paying a bonus to the director and telling him, 'Put R. Mika in,'" Ono laughed. He is "really looking forward to, at next year's Capcom Cup, someone using R. Mika and doing the mic performance long enough to unleash the super powerful move to beat their opponent. Everyone's going to get up and cheer, but at the same time they're cheering they'll be laughing their asses off." Just about the only people not cheering and laughing are folks carrying water for characters that have yet to be announced. Skullomania. Q. Sakura. Dan. Dudley. Blanka. Ono talked about unveiling Laura at the Brazil Game Show where, "everyone realized, 'Oh, so, Blanka really isn't in the game, is he?'" He gets the question more often than any snub, likely because of the toy Blanka he carries around. Whether Blanka even fits in the Street Fighter V roster is, apparently, "quite uncertain because Laura herself has electric-based attacks so it maybe doesn't leave a whole lot of room." Ono picked up the Blanka figure from the table and asked: "Is there any hope for you?"
Yoshinori Ono interview photo
His fav fighter, reason for Capcom move
Aside from the immortal Street Fighter II and the clever (in a "Die Hard is my favorite Christmas movie" kind of way) Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo nod, Street Fighter III is probably my favorite in the series. The number of ...

The evolution of doujin brawler Croixleur

Jan 24 // Kyle MacGregor
To say Croixleur has come a long way since I first encountered the game three years ago would be a massive understatement. The original PC release, or at least the localized version boutique publisher Nyu Media released in January 2013, was light on content and rough around the edges. Inspired by Devil May Cry's Bloody Palace mode, the game initially starred the red-haired Lucrezia, a young noblewoman on a quest to fight her way through a gauntlet of arena battles known as the Adjuvant Trial. While the story was largely inconsequential, the experience of fighting my way up the Nitro Towers and racing against the clock (the story mode must be completed in fifteen minutes or less) was a downright enjoyable, arcadey romp -- and one hell of a challenge. While it certainly took me more (much more) than one attempt to successfully complete the main campaign, once I did, I discovered there wasn't much else to the game other than bonus modes, like score attack and survival, to flesh out the package. It left something to be desired. [embed]336428:61974:0[/embed] That situation improved when Souvenir Circ. debuted the initial version of Croixleur Sigma at Comiket 85, introducing a new playable character, more weapons, a second story mode, two-player co-op, a new challenge mode, voice acting, online leaderboards, and mild visual upgrades. Don't get me wrong, it was (and still is) a simplistic game, but that extra content went a long way toward making Croixleur feel less like a severed bonus mode and more like its own game. The recent PlayStation 4 and forthcoming PlayStation Vita versions improve the experience even more, though, giving the game a dramatic facelift, both in terms of content and visuals. Souvenir Circ. went back and gave the game a completely fresh lick of paint, adding shine and detail to what was once a dull-looking game. Lucrezia and friends certainly clean up nicely. Speaking of those friends, the PlayStation version also includes a pair of new faces, both of which come with 30-minute campaigns that make the original game feel like a cakewalk. Between those and the new 50-floor dungeon mode, the game is definitely no longer hurting for content. And on top of that, there's a myriad of useful new equipment to collect, incentivizing repeat playthroughs. Pulling up the original game and playing it side by side with the new PlayStation release, it's nice to see how far Croixleur has come over the years. And I'm happy to have been along for the ride.
Doujin Dojo photo
From Alpha to Sigma
Doujin Dojo is a sporadic column dedicated to spotlighting independent games from Japan and the people that make them. In the years I've been following Comiket, Japan's biannual indie media festival, one thing ...

Wii U photo
Wii U

How many more big Wii U announcements do you think we'll get?


How many would you even want?
Jan 24
// Jonathan Holmes
The Wii U is in a interesting place right now. The past 12 months have seen the console spawn relatively big hits like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker, plus the ongoing sales juggernaut known as amiibo. While the toys aren't c...

Experience Points .30: Dragon's Dogma

Jan 23 // Ben Davis
Mount your foes Ever since Shadow of the Colossus came out, I've always wondered why climbing on monsters never really became a thing. It's an effective strategy for dealing with massive enemies, and it really opens up options for interesting combat as well. But these days, it seems like monster climbing is relegated to quick time events, like in God of War and Bayonetta, where the majority of combat takes place on the ground or in the air, but every once in a while Kratos or Bayonetta jump up onto a giant foe to chop off its body parts, as long as the player remembers to press X at the right moment.Dragon's Dogma revisits the idea presented by Shadow of the Colossus, allowing players to grab onto enemies and climb around them in the heat of combat. This often makes it easier to deal tons of damage in a short amount of time. I could just latch onto one of that Hydra's heads and hack away for as long as my stamina allowed, or until the creature decides it's tired of being poked by some insect and tries to dislodge me. Even smaller enemies could be grabbed, but usually this was only useful for holding them in place while the pawns attacked freely. My favorite thing to do is to climb atop a flying enemy, such as a Griffin, so that I could keep stabbing it even when it tries to fly away. Some of my most thrilling moments involved slashing away at a vicious Griffin's back as it soared through the sky, its feathers catching fire thanks to my mages, until it finally plummeted back to the ground all bloody, singed, and ragged as I hopped off triumphantly to finish the deed. Those kills were always the most satisfying! Pawn to King 4 The pawn mechanic is an idea unique to Dragon's Dogma, or at least I can't think of another game that has done something similar in quite the same way. Along with creating a main character (the Arisen), players also get to create a pawn, their primary sidekick throughout the game. Pawns act on their own, but the player can choose their equipment, combat strategies, personalities, and so forth. And for a game with such a robust character creator, being able to make two different characters in any given playthrough was a godsend. I made my fighter pawn, Demetrius, a thin, muscular, bald man with a full beard. Eventually, I got him equipped with a huge, rather intimidating spiked mace, and gave him an incognito mask and a golden belt. He basically looked like an executioner who had just won a wrestling championship. Not sure what I was going for, but I thought he looked pretty cool anyway.Pawns also act as the primary way to interact with other people online. By entering a Rift Stone, players can browse through pawns created by others and enlist up to two into their own party. These pawns will have all the equipment and stats provided by their creators, and they might even know some strategies for defeating certain enemies or info about specific quests that the player has yet to encounter. Once a player is done using someone else's pawn, they can send along ratings, messages, and gifts to the original creator. I had a lot of fun simply viewing everyone's pawns to see what they came up with, from the beautiful to the grotesque.I always enjoyed logging back in every now and then to see how my own pawn was doing and find out whether or not he had been helping other people on their adventures. Demetrius received above average ratings and seemed to come back with a lot of different gifts for me, so I'm glad at least a few people got some use out of him. I figured his wrestler/executioner style might get him noticed in the Rift due to his bizarre, yet menacing demeanor. I wonder if someone is still using him today. Three heads are better than one I'm very fond of the enemy designs in Dragon's Dogma. They're based on classic depictions of mythical beasts, so even though they're not particularly fantastic or unique, they have a certain traditional charm to them. They almost look unusually realistic, at least compared to most other video games that contain the same types of monsters. My favorite enemy was the Chimera, one of the more common giant beasts to be found in the game. A chimera is simply a hybrid monster made up of different parts from more than one kind of animal, most commonly depicted as a lion with a goat's head protruding from its back and a snake for a tail. And that's exactly what the Chimera in Dragon's Dogma looks like.Chimeras are so fun to fight because of all the different tactics that can be used to defeat them. Each of its three heads have their own specialties; the lion primarily uses physical attacks, the goat casts magic, and the snake can inflict poison. Each head can also be “killed” independently, so its up to the player to decide which part of the Chimera to destroy first. Personally, I liked to take out the snake first, followed by the goat, and finish with the lion. The best part is seeing the effects of damage in action. The snake head can be chopped off entirely, leaving a severed, bloody stump of a tail flailing around. The goat head will remain attached to the body, but once it's been defeated, it comically flops around like a limp rubber toy. It's even possible to kill the lion head first, in which case it sort of droops and rolls around sadly while the goat and snake keep up the attack. It's a bit unsettling how much I enjoy watching a Chimera suffer, really. Your Dragon Aside from the pawns, another way for players to interact with others online was through the dreaded Ur-Dragon. This massive, undead dragon is the most powerful enemy in the game. While playing online, it's simply not feasible for any one player to defeat it on their own. Instead, the battle employs an asynchronous cooperative component, meaning players from around the world will be working together to slay the beast. Damage from each individual player will slowly stack over time until the Ur-Dragon has finally been defeated. Players lucky enough to be fighting during the killing blow will have the chance to earn some nice rewards, and any other player who contributed to the Ur-Dragon's death can enter the Chamber of Lament later to claim some loot as well. Afterwards, the next generation of the Ur-Dragon will spawn as an even more powerful foe than the last. This type of idea isn't anything new, as similar things have been done in some MMOs, but they're still fun to participate in every now and then. I fought a few of the earlier generations of Ur-Dragons, but never managed to land a killing blow (aside from offline). Last I checked, the PlayStation 3 Ur-Dragon was around Generation 800, so it's pretty cool that people are still fighting them. The legendary Hot Pants, forged in dragon's flame This one may seem a bit random at first, but it has to do with one of my funniest moments. There is a ton of equipment to choose from in Dragon's Dogma, ranging from practical, to stylish, to revealing. While there is some gender-specific clothing, most pieces can be worn by either gender – even some of the more revealing ones. Whenever I play games like this, I tend to choose equipment that I think looks good on my character, so I go for the highest possible stats while still trying to look nice.In my first playthrough, I left the first town with not much armor to speak of, since the shops didn't really have much to offer. Since I was playing a Strider, I wanted light armor anyway, so I was dressed in cloth wrappings and a pair of short pants, which basically look like denim hot pants. Not gonna lie, my beefy adventurer could really rock those short pants! I figured I would find better armor later, but eventually I was in Gran Soren and still wearing those short pants. Everything else I could find was either worse stats-wise or just plain ugly. And then I began adventuring farther north and encountered my first Drake. Why mention the Drake? Well, upon defeating a Drake, or any other dragon-type enemy, there is a chance for a piece of equipment to become “dragon forged,” meaning it automatically reaches the highest level of enhancement, past the normal three-star level. And it just so happened that the one piece of equipement to become dragon forged was my pair of short pants. Suddenly, this silly piece of sexy clothing was one of my most powerful possessions. It was a sign – my Arisen was born to wear these short pants. I never switched them out for the remainder of the game, because it was too perfect that they were the first thing to become dragon forged. Plus, by that point, they basically provided more defense than the majority of other pants anyway. My Arisen gets to show off his well-toned legs and can still take a beating doing it. That's definitely a win-win in my book! What is love? Romance options in games have never really interested me all that much. This is partly because there are usually no gay options, but even when it is an option (Mass Effect, Dragon Age), the romance subplots still feel weird, stiff, and out of place in context with the rest of the game for whatever reason. Romance in Dragon's Dogma is also really weird. Like, super weird. So weird that I actually kind of enjoyed it. You see, at a certain point in the game, a character is chosen as the player's “beloved.” Grigori, the antagonistic dragon (dragon-tagonist, if you will), kidnaps the beloved, supposedly as a way to get the player all fired up for revenge and rescue of the character they love most. However, most players won't know who they'll be rescuing until the big reveal. It's like a surprise love interest, and given the romance options provided by the game, the results can be hilarious.Almost any character in Dragon's Dogma can become the beloved. This includes characters of any gender or age, even children and the elderly. That's right, a player might get to the end of the game only to find out that their handsome, burly Arisen is in love with a frail, elderly woman. Or a small child. Or the court jester who bears a striking resemblance to The Legend of Zelda's Tingle (*shiver*). The perceived randomness of it all, while surely annoying to some, was very entertaining to me. I never knew who I was going to romance, and I always looked forward to the eventual reveal.Of course, there are ways to increase the chances of getting a specific beloved, primarily by completing certain quests and giving lots of gifts to increase affinity. However, even knowing that, it's still rather difficult to get who you want. I always had my beefy, bearded Arisen flirt with the armory merchant, Caxton. He may have some annoying catch phrases, but at least he has a nice beard! Apparently, my copious amount of gifts were not enough to woo him, though, because I always ended up with either the young witch, Selene, or the sultry merchant, Madeleine. Dammit, Caxton, quit leaving me with all these ladies! They're nice people, I'm sure, but you're the masterwork of my heart! Where did I go wrong? Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.26: Dark Souls.27: GoldenEye 007 .28: Pokémon Red/Blue .29: Skies of Arcadia
Dragon's Dogma photo
Masterworks all, you can't go wrong!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

eSports photo
eSports

ESPN interviewing busty blondes for eSports sideline reporter gig (Fauxclusive)


Job requirements include 'keep it tight'
Jan 23
// CJ Andriessen
Much to the chagrin of many traditional sports fans, ESPN is betting big on the future of eSports. The network has already hired reporters to cover the eSports beat, will broadcast this month’s Halo Championship Tour at...

Zack Furniss' favorite moments of 2015

Jan 18 // Zack Furniss
Bloodborne's Bagmen Hot diggety, there are so many moments I could choose in Bloodborne. I wrote this awkwardly-titled piece about how From Software so effectively used misdirection throughout the game's marketing (give it a read, that's one of my favorites!), but one particular enemy encounter immediately comes to mind. The first time you meet the Bagmen/Kidnappers, they're most likely going to kill you in just two hits. That's terrifying enough already, but instead of the regular loading screen taking you back to the last checkpoint, you're greet with a cutscene. At this moment, you watch through your Hunter's eyes as he or she is dragged into an entirely new area, the Hypogean Gaol, where you're even more lost and confused than previous environments. It doesn't help that there are enemies in this area that can slit your throat, probably killing you instantly.  When dying over and over has become routine, changing the rules and subverting your deathly expectations is a smart way to discomfit the player. Well done, From Software. SOMA's second survey For some reason or another, I kept putting off SOMA. While I had enjoyed Frictional Games' previous work, the first few hours of its new underwater horror game put me off. I'm glad I came back and finished it a couple weeks ago, though, because the themes of transhumanism and body horror are probably permanently hard-wired into my brain now. Playing as a man who wakes up in an aquatic base long after the world should have ended, you soon realize there's no point in trying to save humanity in its current state. Instead of attempting to rescue the few remaining vestiges of mankind, you turn to the ARK. This device allows people's consciousnesses to to live on in a simulated utopia by way of brain scans, feeling for all intents and purposes like real humans.  After learning about the ARK, you take a survey that asks you questions, such as "Do you think this new existence will be worth living?" and  "How would describe your current mental condition?" Since you've recently found out that you're an imprint in a robotic suit, these questions are uncomfortable, but thought-provoking. You find new hope in the idea that you will, in a way, be able to regain your body and live in this new paradise. When launching the satellite, you try to transmit your consciousness to the scan on the ARK. However, you lose the coin flip, and remain in the body in an empty base, with no one to talk to and no reason to live. Even though you just "saved" humanity, there's a lump in your throat because you didn't get to save yourself. Puts things into perspective, doesn't it, you monster? The credits roll. But it gets worse. After the credits, you awaken in the serenely beautiful simulation of the ARK as the brain scan of your duplicated consciousness. On your way through an idyllic forest, a computer monitor nonsensically juts out of the soil. You can take the same exact survey as before, but knowing that you left part of yourself down to rot underwater on Earth, it's amazing just how much your answers will most likely change. Usually, games are more interested in altering the questions of the game, so watching Frictional Games morph your answers was a delightful surprise. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's Snowball Fight From an outsider's perspective, Geralt of Rivia sounds like a try-hard Dungeons & Dragons character made by an obnoxious friend: he has rippling muscles, wields two swords, is a mutant, has long, flowing white hair, and a magical penis that can't make babies or contract sexually-transmitted infections. Playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with expectations of him being that simple is a mistake, though. Sometimes he has an annoyed half-grin plastered on his face; he's not above getting drunk, or trying on women's clothes, and he has a paternal, caring streak that makes him want to protect Ciri. Ciri's constantly imperiled, but can handle herself. As her father figure, you can keep defending her and trying to shelter the girl from the evils of the world, or you can accept that she's going to face danger head-on just like you've taught her. In a poignant moment, when she's struggling to learn how to use her abilities, Geralt can choose to either give her yet another lesson, or take her mind off things with a surprise snowball fight. Better yet, this is a playable moment, rather than a cutscene, and you can either beat Ciri or let her win. Sure, Geralt seems like an amalgam of clichés at times, but throughout The Witcher 3 you get to see him from all sorts of perspectives. This tender moment was a welcome respite from the monster hunting and Gwent playing (Gwent is awesome, shut your mouth). Undertale's Photoshop Flowey So, like SOMA, I only played Undertale once this New Year started. I was apprehensive because some things were spoiled for me and people who love the game fucking love it. It's hard not to go in with inflated expectations in a situation like this, but somehow Toby Fox's little creation completely won me over. Just like Bloodborne, Undertale is filled with moments that could go on this list. But the final boss of the Neutral Route edges out everything else out for me. I've always enjoyed games that hide horror elements under a false veneer, like Eversion. So when you think you're about to get a somewhat upbeat ending and a small Flower ends up being a terrifying Photoshopped monster that can destroy in seconds, I was sold. Photoshop Flowey looks especially disturbing considering the rest of the game is simple pixel art. Sure, the music is wonderful throughout, and Undertale plays around with RPG mechanics in fun ways, but this boss (and the way he toys with you and your save file) will stay with me the longest. So that's my little list! Here's to a memorable 2016!
Best of 2015 photo
Well, a few of them!
I know, I know. The first month of 2016 is halfway done and I'm still writing about 2015. Well it was a damn good year for games, okay? Back off, Mom. Instead of talking about my top picks from last year, I'm going to tell yo...

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...

Kyle MacGregor's sexy picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 16 // Kyle MacGregor
Lara Croft Go If you were to glance through my collection of Wii games, you would see a number of rail shooters. This isn't because I especially love light gun games, though. They're just something the platform did particularly well. They played to the platform's unique strengths and sidestepped its weaknesses.  Acknowledging your constraints isn't a surefire recipe for success, but it does go a long way toward limiting the potential for failure. Had Square Enix Montréal attempted to craft a console-quality Tomb Raider game for mobile platforms, it might have come close. But doing so would have been an uphill battle, one where the best result would be a qualified response. "It's impressive, for a mobile game," you might say, rather than lauding it as a quality representation of the medium or series at large. Lara Croft Go doesn't attempt to do that. It goes with the grain, working with the limitations of a portable machine without buttons or joysticks. It distills the essence of Tomb Raider into a puzzle game with a limited scope and doesn't pretend to do any more. It knows exactly what it is and succeeds on its own terms, working with what is has instead of trying to be something it's not. Splatoon I've been playing a lot of Star Wars: Battlefront lately. I'm not entirely sure why, other than the fact it trades on nostalgia and I'm still caught in the penumbra of The Force Awakens hype. I've come to accept Battlefront as a competent multiplayer shooter, but initially I was quite disappointed in the game. It had me questioning whether the genre was something I could even enjoy anymore. Splatoon is a beacon of hope in the dark, gritty, stale, banal world of multiplayer shooters. It's difficult to believe that Nintendo, a company that owes much of its success to recycling decades-old formulas, to leave its comfort zone and brilliantly turn an established genre on its head. I pray this is a sign of things to come for Nintendo and its new generation of young designers. Downwell These days, there are so many games out there competing for our time. It's impossible to play them all. I only gave Downwell the time of day because my coworkers refused to shut the fuck up about it. And I'm glad they didn't. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid.  Under Night In-Birth: Exe Late As a member of the enthusiast press, it's sometimes easy to forget how small a slice of the gaming public are "core gamers." Even though it seems like everyone and their brother has a PlayStation 4, I think it's important to remember there are still a lot of PlayStation 3s in active service around the world. Hell, I know a good number of people who never moved on beyond the Nintendo 64. That said, fewer and fewer games are coming out for the last-generation platforms all the time. And many of the games that are still trickling onto the older hardware are of the Japanese variety. Because Japan didn't take to the new machines as quickly as did the West, it's created a sort of lag between the generations, which in turn has been exacerbated by long localization times. The result is relatively niche games coming out on platforms where a large part of the hardcore audience potentially interested in them has moved on. That's how we end up with new PSP games in 2015. I think there's a reason publishers still put these games out on old hardware, though. It's because a lot of them are top quality and will still find a market, or at least that's the hope. Anyways, before I ramble on any longer, dust off that PlayStation 3 and find yourself a copy of Under Night In-Birth. It may have a silly name, but it's hands down the best fighting game released last year. Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain I feel like all I want to do is complain about Metal Gear Solid V. It comes so close to perfection, but it ultimately misses its mark, and does so in unbelievably frustrating fashion. The Phantom Pain is both unfinished and far too long. It's clear at some point there were plans for a third chapter, which Konami bizarrely decided to use as bonus material, showing off what might have been with work-in-progress cutscene footage and storyboards. And while it's disappointing Hideo Kojima never had the opportunity to properly cap things off, I honestly can't imagine that campaign being any longer. Even without its final act, Metal Gear Solid V goes to extreme lengths to pads its runtime, recycling a limited amount of content to artificially ensure the experience far longer than necessary. While I enjoyed my time with The Phantom Pain, I'm not sure if I'll ever manage to decouple my memories of it with all of the trifling bullshit it makes you go through to get to the "real" ending. Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim While Ys VI originally launched over a decade ago, XSEED Games re-localized the Nihon Falcom JRPG for a Steam release in 2015, allowing me to experience and fall in love with it for the first time. It may not be particularly new or innovative, but that's part of the charm. It's refreshingly old school. OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood  Its predecessor made my GOTY list in 2014, and this one takes things to a whole new level. IA/VT Colorful I wound up playing a lot of rhythm games this past year, but IA/VT Colorful was my far my favorite of the bunch (sorry Persona 4: Dancing All  Night). It's a pity Marvelous has no plans to ever publish the game to the West, but at least it's import friendly and doesn't require you to know Japanese. Xenoblade Chronicles X Ever since I lost a friend to World of Warcraft, I've had this belief that MMOs are intrinsically bad. They're time sinks designed to ensnare weak-minded individuals with senseless, repetitive tasks, keeping players hooked while the makers slowly bleed us dry with monthly subscription fees. So, naturally, I'm uncomfortable with how much I enjoy Xenoblade Chronicles X, which seems to veer dangerously close to MMO territory for someone who has vowed to hate all MMOs forever. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter AHHHHHH! IT'S HERE! IT'S FINALLY HERE! AHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHH! Yakuza 5 One of these days I'm going to finally make it out to Japan and it's going to be glorious. But until then, I'll have to make do with living out fantasies of romping around Tokyo with the Yakuza games. I'm not sure Yakuza 5 is the high-water mark for the series. Yakuza 4 currently holds that distinction, at least in my book. But I'm always more than happy to hit the streets of Kamurocho once again.  Even though it arrived on western shores three years after its Japanese debut, Yakuza 5 was well worth the wait. Sega's Yakuza Team does incredible work. I sincerely hope they never stop. Bloodborne I already wrote some nice words about Bloodborne when it won Dtoid's award for best PlayStation 4 title released in 2015. So, instead of delving into why I think it's wonderful, I'll just say it's a rare game I've volunteered to help teach and shepherd people through. I think that speaks to how much I love Bloodborne, that I am willing to go out of my way to spread its gloomy, Lovecraftian gospel. 
Kyle's Goaty photo
Staaaay fresh!
It may be 2016, but I'm still writing 2015 on all my cheques. So, here are a list of games that came out last year that I liked a bit and am still thinking about because I'm clearly living in the past.

OMG! It's Stevil T's personal faves of 2015!

Jan 14 // Stephen Turner
HOTLINE MIAMI 2: WRONG NUMBER I get why this isn’t on many writers’ lists, I really do, but it’s my GOTY, bar none. Wrong Number is the Ying to Hotline Miami’s Yang; taking under-utilised elements of the original and pushing them to the forefront of its sequel. Left Shift/Look Ahead became essential, guns were integral, and the safe reliance of mask powers were replaced by changing character tactics. Wrong Number is a reactionary game, using its cast of oddballs and misfits to represent Dennaton Games' reflections on critics, fandom, and its own legacy. It’s a surprisingly affecting game at times, humanising perceived antagonists or showing poignancy in its uber-violence by a mere change in setting. Look past the combo kills, the shock value, and conspiracy theories and there are wonderful messages to be told. It also happens to be blissfully nihilistic, throwing any complaints you had about the plot retcons or broken gameplay to the wind. As the final fire rises, there’s a conversation about how very little matters as long as you enjoyed yourself. And I certainly did, even during the times when a dog would warp through a wall and kill me. STASIS The more I think about STASIS’ plot and puzzles, the more it falls apart. But for that initial run, it was definitely one of the best old-school adventure games I’d play in a long, long while; totally deserving of Patrick Hancock’s plaudits. STASIS is relentlessly grim, yet lovingly detailed with its audio/visual designs. It’s Sanitarium by way of Event Horizon/Pandorum/Dead Space, if you will. Puzzle-wise, it’s rarely obtuse, mostly a case of using everything in your inventory until something works, and only becoming a problem when the puzzle is technobabble-centric. But overall, STASIS works best when you’re allowed to pass through its story of unethical medicine and human spirit at a brisk, unnerving pace. It’s pretty easy, though, to see how the similarly themed SOMA stole its thunder. STASIS is a pulpier take, narrower in scope, and lacking a good cast; which explains why it’s been left at the wayside after getting some praise earlier in the year. But for a solid point-and-click adventure in an era where the puzzles have given way to dialogue choices and morals, this horror throwback is well worth a look. D4: DARK DREAMS DON’T DIE (PC VERSION) Much like the excellent Deadly Premonition, D4 has big ideas on a small budget. The whole game is basically one man wandering around his apartment or in a plane aisle, and yet it manages to tell an involving story about love and loss, not to mention fashion and gourmet cooking. I love Swery65. He and his games always remind me of my film school days, where hard work on a good script would overcome real-world restrictions. That’s why I see him as a filmmaker at heart, a genuinely good one who understands the importance of characterisation in storytelling, and I don’t doubt that’s been shaped by his low-budget experiences throughout the years. Sure, D4 might not be on Deadly Premonition’s level, due to the lack of resolution and breakneck absurdity of David Young’s investigation, but it’s a wonderful slice of Japanese weirdness mixed with a memorable set of characters. I also absolutely adore the idea of getting into Young’s head and asking questions as he would to get the best possible answer. It’s a rewarding way of playing detective without ever having to worry about penalties. They’re all right responses, but the best ones show you how close you’ve grown to David, crazy Bostonian accent and all. I know I’m cheating by using the PC version here (released in 2015), but that’s the only version I’ve played and it’s thoroughly deserving of a second season. Mouse controls during the action scenes need a little work, though. HARD WEST Liev Schreiber impersonator Zack Furniss wasn’t a fan of Hard West, and while I agree with his points, I’m a little more forgiving. Yes, it’s a buggy experience (I had to contact a developer for an upcoming fix, yikes) and the lack of character progress is off-putting, but there’s potential under the initial shock and disappointment. Once you get over the fact there’s no Overwatch and learn how the Luck system works in its place, it’s a dynamic little six-shooter, where you’re encouraged to flank enemies and take risky maneuvers. I’d actually compare it more to Shadowrun and FTL than XCOM. In between the shootouts, you get some tough dilemmas to mull over, where nothing is black and white, and every helping hand comes with long-term consequence. The main story is incredibly slight, but the low-key Weird West/Deadlands vibe works well, smirking away at every choice you make. With a little more time in the oven, maybe a better explanation of the gameplay, or bigger crowdsourcing funds, it could’ve been universally liked. The potential is there, especially for an expanded sequel, though if you’re currently interested in purchasing Hard West, I’d strongly recommend waiting for a patch or two. BREACH & CLEAR: DEADLINE I’m going to be honest, here: Deadline is not GOTY material, far from it, but I did enjoy my time with this tactical zombie shooter. Think an isometric Left 4 Dead-meets-SWAT with a bit of looting thrown in and that’s Deadline in a nutshell. Deadline is more than rough around the edges, and despite having the Breach & Clear preface (it’s a horror spin-off), the tactical planning rarely comes into play. For what it’s worth, Deadline is a co-op arcade shooter, only slowing down when you have to root survivalists out of a gas station or suburban household. That’s not to say there’s no tension, though. Its finer moments come from surprise sieges, like you’re re-enacting the Operations attack from Aliens. It also happens to be a highly customisable game, from the look of your squad and weapon upgrades to the levelling up of their skill trees, with the RPG elements being pretty useful as the combat scenarios get tougher. I suspect if you bought Deadline for the full price, you’d be pretty disappointed, even with the co-op incentive, but considering how I picked it up for £3/$5, I got my money’s worth. If you’re still interested, my advice is to wait for a sale and completely avoid the pointless dungeon crawling maps, unless you loved the Chrysler Building in Parasite Eve. You sycophant! WAY OF THE SAMURAI 4 (PC VERSION) Alright, I’m cheating again since I’d played this one on the PS3 and eventually bought it on PC, which was ported over in 2015. But my cheekiness is worth it to say this, and only this: Way of the Samurai is a criminally overlooked series. Under its exploitation cinema veneer and the bawdy Japanese humour lies an incredible complexity, from combat stances to the swords, from mini-quests to branching storylines. Sure, every instalment is exactly the same – you’re the next Yojimbo looking to play off all the different factions for personal gain or selfless heroics – but its one of the few games where your choices will drastically change the direction of the plot (and back again, given the right circumstance); like if Yakuza wasn’t so tied down by its soap opera narrative. WotS 4 is probably the most audacious and comical one, yet; vibrant in colour and tone, a far cry from its maudlin predecessors. It’s more Samurai Champloo than 13 Assassins (an effort to stand out more, perhaps), but that doesn’t take anything away from your Machiavellian actions and lone wolf skills. The only thing that would elevate the solid PC port (save for the 30 FPS lock) is if every massacre ended with you walking away to the Shogun Assassin theme. DR. LANGESKOV, THE TIGER AND THE TERRIBLY CURSED EMERALD: A WHIRLWIND HEIST As a troubling peek into how my mind works, there was a random bit in A Whirlwind Heist that instantly took me back to a school production of Grease. The snooty girl playing Sandy had just done her big solo number, did a bit of sad acting, then turned around to exit through the curtain. She tripped on her nightgown at the last second. Her feet were the only thing left on stage, lit up by a spotlight brighter than the sun. As a stagehand, I remember wincing through the slow dragging of her body through the curtains, like a victim being dragged into a dark alley. Then I burst out laughing. A Whirlwind Heist is all those horrors of stage production, like a hundred It’ll Be Alright on the Nights, rolled into a perfect 20 minutes. It’s also one of the few genuinely funny games I’ve ever played, both layered and sharp as it pokes fun at the thankless hard graft behind your favourite artistic endeavours and player defiance. Simon Amstell is perfect as a stage manager barely holding it together. Justin Roiland of Rick & Morty fame does some optional improvisation, but his rambling is probably the weakest part and also fairly intrusive of the real-time humour. Tim Kasher of Cursive once sang, “We all know art is hard,” and as a film school graduate, I totally agree with him. But behind the scenes, it can also be an extremely enjoyable adventure of its own accord. CLANDESTINE I’d never even heard of Clandestine until Patrick Hancock (him again!) splurged all over it in a recent review. So thanks to him, I was totally sold on this Splinter Cell throwback. I’m still in the midst of playing it, but I already love what’s on offer. Clandestine looks and plays like a stealth game from the early '00s, but it’s also quite astute when combating its own technical limitations, like setting the whole plot during the mid-'90s as a way of covering for the lack of in-game gadgets and an emphasis on real-time hacking. I’m sure the whole game worker smoother in co-op, but even in solo play, there’s real tension to be found when stalking the corridors as rookie spy Katya, only to hit “H” and disable cameras as her stationary partner, Martin. Though, honestly, I have more fun playing as the latter because Clandestine is not without some major faults in the stealth department; think more along the lines of Pandora Tomorrow than Chaos Theory, because the stealth really is that archaic at times. But you know what really makes up for it in my books? It’s like every spy show and conspiracy movie that cropped up in the paranoid '90s, with its chunky monitors and modem connections, a needlessly angry boss, and a cool spy duo that ticks every post-Grunge look known to fashion. Part-Alias, part-The Lone Gunmen, part-Spy Game with that guy who played Johnny Cage, all badly acted and jarringly animated. I already want a sequel.
GOTY photo
No, I didn't play Bloodborne, okay!?
At the start of 2015, I was basically done with video games. I’d made myself a promise to read more books and play fewer games, which lasted all of two months before I read Willy Vlautin’s utterly depressing North...

'I don't like champagne, but I'll grab a beer': Lightning on her Louis Vuitton ads, life

Jan 13 // Steven Hansen
ME: You've starred in more Final Fantasy games than most; is there some kind of equivalent to the club for hosting SNL multiple times where you all sit around and laugh at Zidane because no one gives a shit about Final Fantasy IX, or what? LIGHTNING: [Laughs] No, there's nothing like that. I don't really have that much connection with any of the prior cast just because, you know, it's a fresh story every time around. I crossed paths with a few of them on Dissidia, but even then schedules are crazy and people are booked for different times. ME: Are you aware of your status among series fans as, well, a less than ideal ambassador to the series? LIGHTNING: I know I upset a lot of people, yeah. I mean, I am doing my job, doing what I love to do, I don't want to apologize for it-- ME: No, I mean, you shouldn't have to, but why do you think you set people off so much? I get a Kristen Stewart thing where you become the face of a popular, but critically panned thing and people just freak out, or think that's all there is to you -- and you have that same kind of aloofness that can be seen as standoffish or wooden. LIGHTNING: Maybe modeling designer wear like an ice queen doesn't help [laughs]. Look, people are going to heap their discomfort on the easiest target, and a lot of fans didn't like the direction of the series that I starred in so I'm an easy punching bag, I get it. And I can't complain too much, because look where it's gotten me, right? I mean, 5-6 years ago I was a nobody, and now I'm part of a Louis Vuitton campaign and getting interviewed by Destructoid. I'm very blessed. ME: How do you feel about ISIS? LIGHTNING: What? ISIS? Oh, they're bad. ME: Good. LIGHTING: They're good? ME: No, I mean good you think they're bad. LIGHTNING: Oh, ok, yeah, they're bad. ME: Good. LIGHTNING: Huh? ME: Nothing. So, I noticed you're a fan of the classics. I read that you spent downtime on the set of Final Fantasy XIII trying to memorize "Rime of the Ancient Mariner?" LIGHTING: [Laughs] Well, I tried. Coleridge was my favorite Romantic. It's a long poem, though. ME: Did you ever get the whole thing down pat? LIGHTNING: It is an ancient Mariner, and he stoppeth one of three. [Laughs] I didn't get the whole thing, no.  ME: Where does that particular passion show up in your work? LIGHTNING: Well, it doesn't much, I guess. I mean, when you're an actor serving someone else's vision [as with the Final Fantasy XIII series], you're limited in your expression. Hopefully you can bring something unique, but they have a tone and style they're going for. I don't know. One of my obsessions right now is Fritz Lang. Have you seen The Big Heat? ME: No. LIGHTNING: It has to be Lee Marvin's best role. I mean, Lang basically invented film noir. His dark surrealism--like, all this started for me when I saw a still from The Testament of Dr. Mabuse and Rudolf Klein-Rogge's eyes just piercing the screen. The rawness, the darkness, I was drawn to it. And so I started exploring Lang beyond Metropolis. Sorry, did I answer the question? ME: Yeah, no, yeah. So, well, that segues into my next question. Which -- it doesn't seem like your interests are lined up with the direction of gaming. Do you think the industry is healthy, moving in the right direction? I mean, what the hell are they doing over at Square Enix? LIGHTNING: Square was so good to me. There are a lot of talented people working over there. I think, maybe [pause]. I don't know, I don't know enough about how things come from on high, or how things work over there. [Final Fantasy designer Tetsuya Nomura] is a bit much. Generally I think we're in a healthy space, yeah, but I would like to see more of reality -- and different realities, you know, other peoples' realities' -- reflected in games, in stories. ME: So do you feel at home here in Paris, where we're talking for this interview, at this Louis Vuitton party? LIGHTNING: God no! [Laughs] I mean, everyone's nice, the spotlight, you know, I'm used to that by now. And I like the clothes, I really do. They're cool, they look great. I prefer my day to day social outings to me a little more lowkey, though. I don't like champagne, but I'll grab a beer. ME: Who's your favorite member of Jurassic 5? LIGHTNING: [Chali] 2na! His voice is amazing. ME: Right? [Laughs] You answered that way too quickly. Most interviewees I ask that are really confused and then I just talk about Jurassic 5 at them for a few minutes while I think of other questions. Ok. Uhm. Would you go back in time and kill baby Hitler? LIGHTNING: Well, I've already learned time travel isn't something you want to mess with [laughs]. ME: Come on. LIGHTNING: What? ME: Don't do that. LIGHTNING: What? ME: The cutesy question dodge. Would you or would you not kill baby Hitler? LIGHTNING: I mean, I don't really want to answer that. ME: I'll take that as a no. LIGHTNING: I didn't say that! ME: So you would? LIGHTNING: [Pause] Do you have any other questions? ME: Will you go on a date with me? We can go to the Louvre or whatever's around here, in Paris, where we are. LIGHTNING: Of course! Fuck, I've been waiting all interview for you to ask me. You are so beautiful, understanding, and intelligent. And not to mention funny. I'm actually a huge fan of yours, I was nervous when I heard you were going to be interviewing me! ME: Thanks.
Interview with Lightning photo
'Coleridge was my favorite Romantic'
Final Fantasy XIII (and then some) star Claire "Lightning" Farron made headlines last week when the she became one of the new faces of prestigious fashion designer Louis Vuitton, for whom she will model the spring-summer 2016...

Madden Ultimate Team photo
Madden Ultimate Team

California dad betting on big lottery win to pay son's Xbox One bill (Fauxclusive)


Son totally not to blame here
Jan 13
// CJ Andriessen
Millions of people across the country will be watching tonight when the winning numbers for the biggest Powerball jackpot in history are announced. California father Gerald Present says he hopes the $150 he spent on tick...
GOTY 2015 photo
GOTY 2015

Mike Martin's picks for games that he picked in 2015


My picks bring all the boys to the yard
Jan 11
// Mike Martin
Hello everybody! Your (not so) favorite, foul-mouthed, perverted, shit-posting Community Manager here. 2015 was a helluva year for games. All bullshit aside, we are starting to see some truly amazing games come out. When I wa...

The top 33 indie games to look for in 2016

Jan 11 // Patrick Hancock
Let's start with a handful of games I listed in 2013 that have still yet to come out. They aren't counted for this list, but you should still look out for them and I hope they come out this year: A Hat in Time, Distance, Intruder, New Game+, Overgrowth, Owlboy, Project Zomboid, Quadrilateral Cowboy, Routine, Scale, The Iconoclasts, The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa, The Moonlighters, The Witness, Under the Ocean. Wow, so that's 15 games that have taken at least 2 years longer than I thought they would. Whoops! Anyway, here's some more that will be sure to disappoint me when they release in 2020. [embed]330358:61679:0[/embed] BombernautsDeveloper: Eyebrow InteractiveFollow it: Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I play it now? Yes It would be easy to write Bombernauts off as just some Bomberman clone, but you'd be doing yourself a huge disservice. While this is a large departure from the studio's last game, Closure, the pedigree is there. Bombernauts is online, voxel-based mayhem that reminds me more of the multiplayer in Super Monkey Ball than traditional Bomberman. It's wacky and zany, and is even available now on Early Access. [embed]330358:61678:0[/embed] CogmindDeveloper: Grid Sage GamesFollow it: Newsletter on official site, TwitterCan I play it now? Yes  Please, don't let the aesthetic turn you away. I get it, ASCII graphics are a turnoff. But think about the beauty of Dwarf Fortress! What I'm trying to say here is that gameplay is everything. Cogmind's world is procedural and challenges the player to think strategically to navigate it. And really, it's not pure ASCII graphics. As the website puts it, it's "ASCII evolved."  Seeing the aesthetic in motion clears things up a bit, and in fact, it's rather beautiful. It's a roguelike with permadeath and turn-based combat, which is like taking the highway straight into my heart. All the little things start to add up in Cogmind: a destructible environment, lack of grinding XP, stealth as an alternative to combat, and its apparent "living world" that will evolve as the player exists within it. This is definitely one to look out for. [embed]330358:61680:0[/embed] Courier of the CryptsDeveloper: Emberheart GamesFollow it: Mailing list, Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it now? Yes Courier of the Crypts is one of the most intriguing games on this list to me. Players guide a courier through crypts (duh) using his handy-dandy torch, solving puzzles and killing enemies along the way. But the way it's presented making it look slower and more methodical than you might think. For example, it seems that the primary way to kill enemies is leading them into traps that, from the looks of it, are likely designed to kill the player instead. It's got great pixel art and a wonderful premise, and I'm very interested in these "magical torch mechanics" the game mentions...   [embed]330358:61681:0[/embed] CRYPTARKDeveloper: AlientrapFollow it: Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Yes  I've played CRYPTARK in its current Early Access stage, and it's easy to see this game's bright future. Made from the same team that did Apotheon, one of my favorites of 2015, CRYPTARK brings players into space as they search through "alien space-hulks" with their space mech. It's got a lot of customization, a great art style, and most importantly, wonderful impact behind the gameplay. Going through these alien vessels is a blast, thanks in large part to the combat mechanics at play. [embed]330358:61697:0[/embed]  CupheadDeveloper: Studio MDHRFollow it: Blog, TwitterCan I buy it?  No Cuphead is all style. If you're not enraptured by the complete dedication to its aesthetic, well, I have nothing more to say to you. While aesthetic can only go so far, I think the level of love poured into a project like this speaks volumes. We can only hope that Studio MDHR has put the same amount of time and dedication into the actual gameplay as they have the aesthetic. [embed]330358:61698:0[/embed] Darkest DungeonDeveloper: Red Hook GamesFollow it: Steam, TwitterCan I buy it?  Yes This one is coming out soon! January 19, to be exact. Darkest Dungeon has been in Early Access for most of 2015, and has certainly had its ups and downs. Fans were very disappointed at an update that made the game incredibly hard, but Red Hook Games responded appropriately and listened to its community. Long story short: the disliked elements have been turned into options that can be toggled on or off, depending on an individuals preferences. This is a brutal roguelike that focuses on heading into dungeons with a handful of party members and doing your best just to make it through alive and sane. Party members can have mental problems creep up and take over them, hindering their abilities. Definitely worth it for fans of brutal challenges. [embed]330358:61699:0[/embed] Dead RealmDeveloper: Section StudiosFollow it:  Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Yes I've had my eye on Dead Realm ever since it was added to Steam. My friends and I have spent a good amount of time in Damned, a clunky, yet enjoyable multiplayer horror game, and Dead Realm looks like a great addition to that genre.  It's basically a horror-filled version of hide and go seek or manhunt (the outdoor game, not the video game). The asymmetric gameplay and the environments are key here. The humans need to escape from the ghost in any way possible, which includes moving objects around and building little forts. I'm hoping this is a little more complete and fluid than Damned is, but it looks to be a fun time with friends regardless. [embed]330358:61700:0[/embed] DrifterDeveloper: Celsius Game StudiosFollow it: Steam, TwitterCan I buy it? Yes I've mentioned this a lot in the past, but Freelancer is one of my favorite games of all time. Drifter looks to capture a lot of the same vibes with space trading, exploration, bounty hunting, piracy, all in a procedurally generated sandbox galaxy. It's been in Early Access for quite some time, and is currently in version "0.6.3." The last time I booted it up it was genuinely enjoyable, but incredibly clunky. With those clunks ironed out, this might be my go-to game to kill time in. Oh, and the music is by Danny B, so you know that will be great. [embed]330358:61701:0[/embed] Due ProcessDeveloper: Giant Enemy CrabFollow it: Blog, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? No, but there is an alpha sign-up I want this game....so bad. It's a multiplayer strategy first-person shooter where one team must defend an area while another must infiltrate. What's unique is that there is a planning phase beforehand where players literally draw on the map to orchestrate their plan, all while choosing weapons and discussing strategy with the team. All of this culminates in (hopefully) everything being executed and seeing who had the better plan. It's brilliant and simple to the point where IT NEEDS TO BE OUT RIGHT NOW. This is easily one of my most anticipated games of the year. [embed]330358:61702:0[/embed] Dungeon SoulsDeveloper: Mike StudiosFollow it: Steam, Tumblr, TwitterCan I buy it? Yes What I love most about Dungeon Souls is its pace. It's quicker than many roguelikes out there, which forces players to really think on their feet. When last I played it, it was a bit easy, but the game is still in Early Access. It's more hack-n-slashy, which contributes to the fast pace, but attacks really feel like they pack a punch. With various classes and an amazing art style, Dungeon Souls stands out in an incredibly over-saturated genre. [embed]330358:61736:0[/embed] DuskersDeveloper: Misfits AtticFollow it: Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Yes Duskers is...sort of hard to describe. Players remotely control various drones inside of empty spaceships in order to find out what has happened to the ships and possibly the universe. What's unique is that all drone commands are given by legit command prompts. Oh, and don't worry, the game has an auto-complete feature for typing, so players won't have to type the same things a million times during a playthrough. What makes Duskers worth keeping an eye on is its atmosphere. Everything is seen through the drone's motion sensor, and there's always a lot of unknowns out there. This stuff gets creepy real fast. It also forces players to continually think of and implement new strategies to tackle the obstacles in their way, which helps prevent things from getting stale. [embed]330358:61737:0[/embed] Dying EmberDeveloper: Private Beats NinjaFollow it:  Twitter, TIGSource ForumsCan I buy it? Nope Dying Ember is described by its creator as "2D/3D isometric action RPG inspired by Dark Souls."  That have your attention? Good, it should! Now, I'll admit, this one could easily be pushed into a 2017 release date, as stated by its developer, but it's too interesting to not put on your radars right now. The animations look smooth as butter from what's been shown, but unfortunately it's all in small chunks. Scrolling through the Twitter page reveals plenty of short GIFs that exemplify my point. As long as the combat feels as good as it looks, this is sure to steal the hearts of many. [embed]330358:61738:0[/embed] Enemy StarfighterDeveloper: Marauder InteractiveFollow it: Twitter, NewsletterCan I buy it? No Space games are hot right now. as evidenced by this being the fourth or so game already on this list that focuses on space. Enemy Starfighter is being developed by ex-Bungie employee Mike Tipul, and focuses more on the combat portion of space travel (hence the name). It's great to see a project more focused than the tradition "do all the space stuff!" pitch. The aesthetic looks wonderful, and from the videos produced so far, much of the fun will come from unscripted events, which are pretty much my favorite. [embed]330358:61739:0[/embed] ErnestoDevelopers: Daniel Benmergui, Jeremias Babini, & Hernan RozenwasserFollow it: Twitter, Dev Blog (tumblr), NewsletterCan I buy it? No Note: The video above gets the concept across, but the art is very outdated.  Ernesto is a puzzle game with combat, loot, and riddles, oh my! Sorry that was lame. Regardless, Ernesto puts many things into its design blender and the result, so far, looks wonderful. It's a game about dealing with the punches and optimizing a path through the enemies and chests in order to get the best result. Perhaps the best news is that it's coming to PC, Mac, and tablets, since this game looks perfect for a touch-interface and could also be great in small bursts! [embed]330358:61741:0[/embed] Gang BeastsDeveloper: BoneloafFollow it: Twitter, SteamCan I buy it? Yes Oh boy. Where do I begin with Gang Beasts? It's a game of goofy physics and relatively complex controls that my friends and I have played for hours on end, even past the point where sanity was still with us. I guess it's a 3D fighting game? But that sort of sells the game short. It's a physics-based local multiplayer combat game, where players can individually control arms and grab things. You can pick things up, including other players, climb walls, jump around like an idiot, and even get thrown into meat grinders. The game sets itself up for some of the most hilarious unintended consequences during these fights, and the animations only play in to the fact that you will be grinning ear-to-ear if you get some buddies around the TV to fight each other. [embed]330358:61742:0[/embed] Hyper Light DrifterDeveloper: Heart MachineFollow it: Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Pre-order Damn, is this game gorgeous or what? A "2D action RPG" that oozes personality, this is sure to make any list similar to mine. It just seems to nail the feel of the every move. Even just watching the trailer, there's so much umph to things! I mean, I just can't stop italicizing words! Dang! Our past preview had great things to say, and boy am I jealous that other people have played it who aren't me! Also, the music is by Disasterpiece, so fuck yeah! [embed]330358:61744:0[/embed] KrautscapeDeveloper: Mario von Rickenbach, PlayablesFollow it: Steam, Newsletter, TwitterCan I buy it? Yes I absolutely love Krautscape. It's a racing game that actually feels innovative and enjoyable. First of all, the leader of the race dictates how the track is set up. The track is built as players race on it, and the next "chunk" is created depending on where the leader drives when they reach the end of the current track. If they are all the way to the right, it'll be a hard right turn. In the center? Keep it going straight! Slightly to the left? Slight left turn is next. You get the idea. OH AND DID I MENTION YOU CAN FLY? At any time, players can sprout wings and take to the skies. This is especially helpful for the players who fall behind, and adds a new layer of strategy to track creation. Oh, the leader is making a harsh right turn next? I'll just jump off the edge and fly straight there! The music and overall aesthetic are soothing and beautiful, and I hope that more people enjoy Krautscape as I have done in its Early Access period. [embed]330358:61745:0[/embed] Lethal TacticsDeveloper: SkyBox LabsFollow it: Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Yes I've already written about Lethal Tactics before, and I'll take any opportunity to do so again! It's very much like the amazing Frozen Synapse, though does enough to differentiate itself. Plus, more of a great thing is still a great thing! The environment plays a key role in Lethal Tactics, since various objects can be destroyed during play. I just hope they add enough singleplayer content to satisfy a large chunk of potential customers. [embed]330358:61769:0[/embed] LiegeDeveloper: Coda GamesFollow it: Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Pre-order I finally got to try out Liege at PAX East last year, and now it easily tops my list of most anticipated games. Though it describes itself as a "JRPG," I'd say it's more along the lines of an "SRPG" because of its turn-based tactical approach to the battle system. Actually, developer John Rhee just came out with a blog post talking about the battle design. He transitioned the battles to have player and enemy turns happen simultaneously, but has recently decided to move back to the separate turns design. As I played through a tutorial-ish area at PAX, I couldn't help but fall in love with the game's aesthetic and accessibility. I understood the mechanics quickly, but could tell that things would go way deeper further into the game. As a huge SRPG fan, this game feels made for me. [embed]330358:61771:0[/embed] MiegakureDeveloper: Marc ten BoschFollow it: Newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, feedlyCan I buy it? No I don't understand what the fuck is going on in this game and I love it. (There's actually a really well written explanation here and you should all read it and be super stoked for Miegakure) [embed]330358:61772:0[/embed] No Man’s SkyDeveloper: Hello GamesFollow it: Newsletter, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? No I've always wondered if it's difficult to go from making games like Joe Danger and its sequel to making No Man's Sky. Not only is the scope a billion times bigger, but just about everything is drastically different. Unless maybe there are motorcycles and jumps hidden away on planets? Or maybe we can be giant cupcakes and race our friends through loopty-swoops and fire pits! Yeah, definitely thinking that last one is true. [embed]330358:61773:0[/embed] OverlandDeveloper: FinjiFollow it: Newsletter, TwitterCan I buy it? No When the creator of Canabalt is making a new game, you know it belongs on this list. Overland is a survival strategy game that has players on a "road trip through a ruined continent." Players will be scavenging for supplies in randomly generated levels in order to complete their journey. After watching the gameplay overview (embedded above), it looks like players will have to make a lot of smart and challenging decisions. This is yet another game where the art is wonderful. The whole thing gives me a bit of a Kentucky Route Zero vibe, which is probably one of the best compliments I can give! [embed]330358:61774:0[/embed] Paradise NeverDeveloper: Kitty Lambda GamesFollow it: TwitterCan I buy it? No Playing Paradise Never at PAX East and speaking with developer Calvin French made me realize that this game is going to be big. It has a repetition cycle reminiscent of Majora's Mask, with a cellphone that keeps data between time skips. Judging from French's work with The Real Texas, I expect wacky and memorable characters alongside meaningful mechanics, with a good dose of goofy thrown in for good measure. [embed]330358:61794:0[/embed] ParkitectDeveloper: Texel RaptorFollow it: Twitter, TumblrCan I buy it? Yes Parkitect is taking something that many people hold sacred, the rollercoaster management sim, and attempting to make it worthwhile in 2015. If this were some run-of-the-mill sim game, it wouldn't make it on this list. Parkitect seems to nail every aspect. It uses a light-hearted aesthetic to create a beautiful atmosphere that fits perfectly with the theme (heh) of the game. I'm not sure I trust any major players to re-ignite the love of theme park sims, but I believe that this indie team can do exactly the right thing!  Plus, it has mod support! Just think of all the crazy crap the community can come up with. [embed]330358:61795:0[/embed] SpeedrunnersDeveloper: DoubleDutch GamesFollow it: Steam, TwitterCan I buy it? Yes Similar to Gang Beasts, Speedrunners has been on regular rotation at my local multiplayer game night for quite some time. There is nothing as intense as a match of Speedrunners. Players race laps around a 2D platforming level and can run, slide, jump, and most importantly, grappling hook their way into first place. Jumping and nailing a perfect grappling hook to get around obstacle is easily one of the best feelings in competitive gaming. I think my favorite thing that Speedrunners does is slowly brings in the edges of the screen to focus on the remaining racers and eliminate the one who are too far behind. What you're left with is two racers with no peripheral vision where one mistake means losing. God damn, what a thrill! [embed]330358:61796:0[/embed] SquadDeveloper: Offworld IndustriesFollow it: Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Yes I'm a sucker for games that go for a strong cooperative experience. Squad is all about coop. I mean, it's called Squad! Reading experiences from those who have been playing it in its Early Access phase, it's somewhere between Counter-Strike and Arma in terms of realism, leaning towards Arma. In other words, it's pretty realistic but not inaccessible. It's a game that relies on solid communication, so prep your headsets and get ready to COMMUNICATE! [embed]330358:61797:0[/embed] StarCrawlersDeveloper: Juggernaut GamesFollow it: Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Yes I haven't played StarCrawlers since its early days, but even then I knew it was something special. The atmosphere is wonderful, regardless of whether you're exploring ships like Legend of Grimrock or sitting in the hub city talking to NPCs. The gameplay goes back and forth between roaming spaceships and turn-based combat. This is a game that I briefly lost myself in, and forced myself to stop and wait for it to be more completed. ....is it completed yet? Stephen’s Sausage RollDeveloper: Stephen LavelleFollow it: TwitterCan I buy it? No It's a puzzle game. With a sausage. What else do you need to know? Also, please do yourself a favor and check out the website.  [embed]333190:61809:0[/embed] STRAFE Developer: Pixel TitansFollow it: Tumblr, TwitterCan I buy it? No DISCLAIMER: I BACKED THIS SHIT ON KICKSTARTER Personally, I'm excited that more indie developers are going for the 90s low-polygon count models. I don't want it to get abused, but I enjoy it as of now. STRAFE is a fast-paced shooter that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's "90s retro" as hell and makes no apologies about it. It's got attitude that only 90s kids will remember lololololol ;) This also has an amazing website which you need to check out ASAP. [embed]330358:61800:0[/embed] Sub RosaDeveloper: Cryptic SeaFollow it: Steam, TwitterCan I buy it? No One of my favorite things is to watch people play Sub Rosa. It's not a competitive eSport or anything that I usually watch, but the events that happen are completely player-driven. It's a game that gives the players a world, objectives, and mechanics, and let's the rest happen naturally. Players work for corporations and have to make deals with other players for colored discs, which grant the players and corporations bonuses. The result is tense deals, double and triple crossing, and plenty of hilarity. [embed]330358:61806:0[/embed] TacomaDeveloper: FullbrightFollow it: TwitterCan I buy it? No This is another game that deserves attention by pedigree alone. Fullbright, the team behind the game Gone Home, is back with a more Rapture-esque feel to it, except it's in space and not underwater. If anyone can create an atmosphere and own it, it's Fullbright games. I look forward to rotating many space things in 2016! [embed]330358:61807:0[/embed] Tooth and TailDeveloper: Pocketwatch GamesFollow it: Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? No Tooth and Tail has had a couple of name changes so far. Announced as Armada, it later became known as LEADtoFIRE. Now, it's Tooth and Tail, which is leagues ahead of both of the previous names. This is a real-time strategy game by the developers of Monaco: What's Yours is Mine. The goal is to create an accessible RTS that feels comfortable on a controller. Very bold goals, since the RTS genre is notoriously difficult to get into for many. If Andy Schatz and company can pull it off, this could be a breakthrough game of the genre. More accessibility is a great thing, especially in such a tough genre. [embed]330358:61808:0[/embed] The Long DarkDeveloper: Hinterland Studio Inc.Follow it: Steam, Twitter, FacebookCan I buy it? Yes I bought The Long Dark during the most recent Steam sale, and absolutely fell in love with my first experience with it. It's unforgiving as hell, which is ironic because the game world itself is cold as....ice? It's a survival game that tasks the player to simply survive while dealing with the elements. I'm terrible at it, but that hardly prevents me from thoroughly enjoying my time dying. I'll likely never forget my first venture out into the wilderness. I left my cabin behind in search for something, anything, to help my sustain my future. Well, turns out that night wasn't too long off. So I headed towards a broken down cabin I came across, hoping it had a stove. It did! However, it also had a corpse right next to it. So, with no other real options, I opened my bed roll, threw some wood and tinder into the stove, and slept all night next to some stranger's corpse. It was a bit of a harrowing experience, and I can't wait for the game to be completed. -- So, what did I miss? What indies are you pumped for in 2016? Oh, and I made a convenient Twitter "list" of all the games and developers mentioned here in case you want to use that.
Top 2016 indies photo
Or 2017, or 2018...
Alright, last time I did this, most of these games didn't come out the next year. In fact, some of the "top indies of 2013" according to me still aren't out. That's the indie lifestyle I suppose, releasing a game "w...

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,...

Experience Points .29: Skies of Arcadia

Jan 09 // Ben Davis
Sky's the limit Skies of Arcadia has one of the most intriguing worlds I've ever explored in a video game. Civilizations of people living on floating islands, traveling between them via airships, with fish and other creatures normally associated with the sea flying around in the clouds, and entire sections of the world blocked off by powerful air currents and other obstacles that could tear ships apart. It was all very exciting and mysterious. I constantly wondered what secrets lay hidden on the other side of those currents, or past that ominous rift. Would it be possible to descend under the clouds, or perhaps fly even higher into the sky? Eventually, Vyse gets to explore all of these places, satisfying every last bit of the player's curiosity. Each new area discovered is a thrilling experience. Everything from the lost civilization of Glacia, the thriving society of Yafutoma that had been cut off from the rest of the world, the terrifying depths lying beneath the clouds, and the bright, open atmosphere above. I kept wondering what I might find next. The most powerful moment for me was when they dive beneath the clouds and enter Deep Sky for the very first time, by flying through the huge maelstrom known as the Vortex. Entering the land beneath the clouds was unheard of for Vyse and his people, but they attempt it anyway in order to retrieve Fina's lost ship, even though they run the risk of damaging their own ship in the process due to atmospheric pressure. The area under the Vortex resembles a deep ocean abyss. It's incredibly dark and murky, and almost looks alien compared to the bright, airy world above. The crew of the Delphinus must use sonar to navigate the area and locate Fina's ship, but they also need to be wary of the giant bioluminescent creatures known as Raja which lurk in the darkness! There's nothing more terrifying than the unknown horrors of the deep. Wonders of the world Continuing the theme of exploration, my favorite activity in Skies of Arcadia was flying around and making Discoveries. This involves searching the skies for hidden landmarks, rare creatures, forgotten shipwrecks, and other special locations which don't normally appear on the map. Once Vyse makes a Discovery, he can then sell the information of its whereabouts to the Sailor's Guild for cash. But he also needs to be mindful of other Discovery hunters, such as the famous explorer, Domingo, who might find them first if Vyse takes too long. I've always been the explorer type while playing video games, keen on visiting every last location and wandering around all edges of the map to see what I might find. So games that try to reward that exploration really make me happy, and Skies of Arcadia is just about the perfect example of that with its Discoveries side quest. It may not seem too exciting for some, searching for hidden objects which don't really do anything except float there and are only good for making money, but I found it to be oddly captivating. In the world of the game, Vyse is the usually first person to have found these things. Lost landmarks like the Giant Throne spoken about only in legends, fabled creatures like the Ancient Fish which many believed to be extinct or pure fiction, shipwrecks that no one had been able to locate, slowly fading from memory. Finding things like that in the real world would be truly awe-inspiring, and it made me really get into playing the role of Vyse because I loved the idea of living that kind of life. From Hell's heart I stab at thee The story of Captain Drachma and Rhaknam is heavily based on my favorite book, Moby Dick, so it's no surprise that it left an impression on me. But even for those unfamiliar with the themes of Melville's classic novel, Skies of Arcadia's take on the relationship between man and whale was quite powerful in its own way. Much like with Captain Ahab and the white whale, Drachma had dedicated most of his life to hunting down the giant purple arcwhale, Rhaknam, who not only stole Drachma's right arm from him but also caused the deaths of his crew, his wife, and his only son, Jack. The hunt eventually proves fruitful, when the crew of the Little Jack confronts Rhaknam and manages to spear it with the ship's harpoon. Unfortunately, an enemy ship manned by Ramirez takes the opportunity to fire upon the Little Jack while they're distracted with the whale, setting the ship aflame and forcing Drachma and crew to evacuate. But at the last moment, as Vyse and the others are getting into the lifeboats, Drachma pushes them overboard. He remains on the burning Little Jack, dragged along by the harpoon stuck in Rhaknam's back, presumably to his death. Of course, that wasn't the last we would see of Captain Drachma. Vyse and crew eventually meet up with him again in the most unexpected of places, the abandoned ancient city of Glacia. Rhaknam had apparently made the place its home, and fled to the icy fortress with Drachma in tow. Realizing that the whale had actually saved his life, Drachma had a sudden change of heart and decided to care for and comfort Rhaknam, who had been mortally wounded during the attack by Ramirez. Vyse and friends arrive just in time to witness Rhaknam's final moments, as the whale sings mournfully and sheds a single tear before passing on. Afterwards, Drachma decides to live out his days as a fisherman now that he no longer has to spend his life hunting down his arch-nemesis. Even though the death of Rhaknam is rather sad, it's still heartwarming to know that the two lifelong enemies were able to make amends. It's actually a much cheerier end than the one Captain Ahab received. Kraken the sky While most of the battles aboard the ship are fought against other ships, there are a few optional engagements with huge, frightening sky beasts which are particularly exciting. My favorite is the battle against a certain blue cephalopod. For a game centered around sailing (even though it takes place in the sky), you just know there's going to be a giant squid encounter, and Skies of Arcadia doesn't disappoint. Of course, any game with a giant squid is going to get a shout-out from me, because giant squids are awesome! Once Vyse's ship gains access to certain parts of the map, the crew might happen upon an open area with nothing but some floating rocks and an ominous Discovery called the Giant Squid Nest. Nearby lurks a beast named Obispo, a huge blue squid floating lazily through the clouds. Flying up to Obispo, who is larger than the Delphinus itself, will initiate an optional ship battle. Obispo will attack the Delphinus with huge bursts of ink, but it's probably no match for the ship's cannons. Cause enough damage, and the giant squid's tentacles will begin to fall off one by one, sinking to the clouds below. Upon death, the animal actually bursts into flames and falls out of the sky. I almost expected it to go out in a glorious explosion! Build-a-base At one point in the story, Vyse finds himself stranded on a desert island where he is forced to figure out a way to survive while rebuilding a lifeboat to escape. This island, called Crescent Isle, later becomes the base of operations for Vyse and his crew. A small settlement is built for crew members to live while not aboard the Delphinus. But the coolest thing about Crescent Isle is that the player actually gets to customize it to their liking. Players can choose which buildings to upgrade, decide who should rebuild them (which changes the architecture), add decorations like fountains or cliffside reliefs, bring animals to the island (like fish, flamingos, alligators, and pandas), and pick a flag to represent the crew. I had Kirala construct most of the buildings in the exotic Yafutoma style, with fish and pandas to liven things up. I decided to forgo the cliffside reliefs, because having a character's giant face looming at everyone seemed kind of unsettling to me. I also went with Fina's flag design, which features a super happy flying dolphin, because duh. I loved being able to give the island my own unique flair; it made the place actually feel special to me, rather than just some rock that I could return to every once in a while. I wonder how many others spent as much time designing their islands as I did. Trial by dragon Skies of Arcadia's battle system featured Super Moves, which were special attacks that had short cinematic sequences to go along with them. They were all pretty cool. Vyse had a bunch of pirate-themed moves, Aika's were named after the Greek alphabet for some reason, Fina called upon the power of the moons to help them out, and Drachma straight up body slammed dudes. But my favorite Super Move belongs to Enrique. Upon activating his final move, “The Judgement,” Enrique summons a huge colosseum full of roaring spectators, announcing, “Your trial shall be swift and just!” as if this is a perfectly normal thing to just suddenly appear out of nowhere. He then calls upon a dragon-shaped sigil on the ground, which opens up a portal in the sky above him to release an actual dragon. The silver beast spirals through the air before flying face-first into the enemy, slamming into them for massive damage as Enrique yells, “Face your punishment!” And then he ends the attack with a confident flourish of his sword. Wow, Enrique. Way to make everyone else look bad! Past Experience Points Level 1: .01 - .20 .21: Katamari Damacy.22: Tomb Raider.23: Mother 3.24: Deadly Premonition.25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.26: Dark Souls.27: GoldenEye 007 .28: Pokémon Red/Blue 
Skies of Arcadia photo
Cutlass Fury!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

GOTY 2015 photo
GOTY 2015

Games CJ would have played in 2015 if he weren't so goddamn lazy


I'll totally get to these in 2016
Jan 09
// CJ Andriessen
2015 was a very weird year for me. Back in January I was just another blogger trying to be funny by making light of the industry we so love. When Jonathan Holmes first asked me to join the main page, I told him no saying that...

Myles Cox's dope picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 07 // Myles Cox
10: Nuclear Throne Huge props to Vlambeer for pulling out all the stops on Nuclear Throne. I don't necessarily have a lot of time to sink into huge games (unless it's a mainline Metal Gear title), and Vlambeer games have usually always been the staple of my Friday nights. It's exactly what I want out of a twin stick shooter, and it's even better that it feels vaguely like a cross between Hotline Miami and The Binding of Isaac, two games I hold very near and dear to my beating heart. There's something to be said about a game that not only looks and plays well, but a game that just straight up feels good. Nuclear Throne is addictive as hell and I could write paragraphs and paragraphs on the subtle things and incredible attention to detail that make the player-feedback loop feel so incredible.  9: Splatoon If you turn off motion controls in Splatoon, you're a baby and deserve to get splatted. Splatoon is one of the cutest and genuinely fun video games I've had the pleasure to play in a long while, and the pure sense of style this game constantly throws at your face is incredible. I had just as much fun playing around in the different online modes as I did offline, with the game's stellar single player campaign (which has one of the greatest songs to grace a Nintendo game). A small portion of my immense love for this game might be due to the Jet Set Radio-esque vibes I'm picking up throughout, which really just reminds me once again that we definitely need a new Jet Set Radio title. Don't you dare tell me otherwise or I'll cry. 8: The Beginner's Guide If you haven't touched this game or looked anything up about it, please close this webpage, point your web browser here and play The Beginner's Guide right this instant. Go ahead, I'll wait. There's not even much I can or should write about this game. A part of me almost didn't even want to give it a ranking among my top ten games of the year. I went in expecting a spiritual sequel to The Stanley Parable, and it left me with tears on my face and a slew of emotions I had to deal with lying down. As a content creator, one of the most important things is to show your work with other people and accrue feedback from others, as well as to strive to hit your own goals and show your own personality through your work. The Beginner's Guide plays heavily on the theme of exploring the process behind the creative process, and touches gently at human relationships as well as the effects one might not know they have on others. If you've ever lost a friend for a reason unbeknownst to you, I'm sure The Beginner's Guide will tug gently at your psyche until you're on the edge of your seat and then punch you square in the face, unraveling you like a ball of yarn. 7: Super Mario Maker Level design used to be something I loved to do in my spare time when I was younger, so much that I designed levels for a Portal mod years and years ago. Don't bother looking, you won't find it. Being able to try my hand at creating my own Mario levels had been a dream of mine for so long -- but be careful what you wish for. I just can't get over Super Mario Maker's ability to look innocent and cute, masquerading as a simple level editing tool, and ensnare you in its gaping maw of expert levels and Cosimano traps once you've shown literally any sign of weakness. It'll catch you off-guard and tear you apart, and I think the unpredictability of the Maker community really drives home the point that humans are fucked up and dangerous.  Super Mario Maker was single-handedly knocked down a few spots by the devastating torture level that Mike unleashed upon me in September. I will not forgive him. My heart goes out to Patrick Klepek for enduring the gauntlet of madness that is Dan Ryckert and his cruel Super Mario Maker creations. Pouring one out for you, buddy. 6: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Pure. Adrenaline. This game makes me sweat and I love it. No other game to my knowledge nails the pure essence of tension and urgency quite like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Think of the drowning song from the original Sonic The Hedgehog games, distilled and refined into a playable title about bombs and wires and yelling and absolute chaos. It fits very nicely into a small collection of games I keep around for parties, like SpaceTeam and Quiplash. I ended up playing this game a lot with my roommate, using an Oculus Rift and Skype from separate rooms to increase the immersion and difficulty factor. Don't get me wrong, it's stressful as all hell, but nothing beats the sigh of relief you get after clearing a bomb with eight modules in five minutes, all the while knowing exactly zero Morse code and not knowing who's on first. Keep Talking is an endlessly fun experience that's predictable yet fresh with every new bomb you take on, and it's a perfect way to wake up your neighbors on a Saturday night. 5: Bloodborne Bloodborne was, admittedly, completely out of my radar for a long period both before and after release. Only my best buddies Braden and Cameron were able to push me in the right direction, and after some drunken arguing and mumbling I created a character in the guise of beloved Twitter user @dril. I went into Bloodborne with much hesitancy, having previously failed to grasp Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. Muddling my way through the first few hours of the game did end up proving to be an increasingly enjoyable experience, but it all got kicked into twelfth gear once I got my bloody hands on the Kirkhammer. Hell, this section could just be me gushing about how I think the Kirkhammer is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying weapons in all of video games, right up there with the double-barreled shotgun in Doom II.  What started out as a joke playthrough quickly evolved into something far more engrossing. Absolutely everything I love about Bloodborne lies in the animation-prioritized combat, and boy do I like taking huge risks to accomplish most things (hence, the Kirkhammer). With fun weapons, a fantastic art direction, and seemingly bottomless depth, Bloodborne is a magnificent experience that I very much wish I could spend more time with in 2016. 4: Rocket League Now, I don't necessarily see much appeal in the prospect of eSports (or real sports, for that matter), but Rocket League certainly makes a strong and undeniable case to the contrary. Hooting and hollering usually doesn't occur too often within the House of Cox, but when it does, somebody probably just scored a sick goal from across the field with only seconds left to overtime. These are moments I cherish in the form of saved replays I can then use to stroke my own ego over and over again. Rocket League meshes extremely well with most of this list in the fact that it controls like a dream. There just hasn't been a game since Super Smash Bros. Melee that seems so accessible at first, and hides the inner complexity far underneath its tight controls, even though the depth is a bit more apparent in Rocket League. Even if you completely suck at the game, I guarantee there will be at least one moment where you felt like you pulled off something seemingly impossible, a sweet-as-hell move that pretty much nobody saw because screen peeking is a dick thing to do. It feels so good. 3: Downwell Continuing further down the list of games that control great and have tight gameplay loops, Downwell is, penny for penny and hour for hour, the best investment I've made in a game during the whole year. I do a ton of commuting via bus these days, and it's thanks to Downwell that I look forward to sitting with a bunch of strangers inside a large smelly rectangle. If I'm being quite honest here, even I'm surprised that this game is so high up on my list. But what can I say, some of the most joyful moments I've had in 2015 were the constant cravings to play just one more run, visit just one more shop, just one more gem high. In fact, I'm not even going to write any more, because Downwell is cheaper than a coffee and one of the best video games released in 2015. 2: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Goodness gracious, it finally happened. I was alive to experience the release of Metal Gear Solid V, as well as witness the apparent death of the series shortly afterwards. Like it or not, this is what we ended up with, and for the most part it exceeded my expectations built up over the years of waiting.  Yes, yes -- I know, you want to know what I thought of the story. I'm afraid... the series has definitely seen better. Since The Phantom Pain sits right smack dab in the middle of the transitional period between Big Boss' story and Solid Snake's story, we all knew how it was going to end, it was just a matter of subtlety and details, of exactly how the loop is closed up nice and tight. Even the Truth ending left much to be desired, and the entire existence of The Skulls was a complete pain in the ass. Now that I'm done talking shit about The Phantom Pain, I can tell you just how much I loved it. The game is absolutely huge in every way, and it's almost illegal just how much content, love, and care that was packed into it. Backed with the best gameplay of any Metal Gear title, the open world breathes so much life and diversity into the tactical espionage operations we've all come to know and love that I never wanted to stop Fultoning soldiers and resources to build my Mother Base all big and strong. The Phantom Pain has soured my taste for any other open world game at this point, since it actively encourages experimentation and clearing obstacles in drastically different ways. I'm not talking about picking between going in stealthy and rushing in loud and hot, I'm talking about experimenting with traditional Metal Gear guards in an open world context with Metal Gear toys you're familiar with. I think probably 20-30 hours of my playtime with V consisted of straight up fucking around in the world, trying to cause trouble in the stupidest ways possible. Even replaying missions is a joy with self-placed limitations (try a grenade-only run sometime, it's a blast). Despite the less-than-stellar story and questionable characterization of pretty much the only female in the game, the gameplay alone solidifies its slot as my second favorite game of 2015. 1: Undertale Toby Fox, if you're reading this, I wanna give you a kiss on the mouth. Undertale is without a doubt the most enjoyable and delightful experience I've had over the year. I don't know how you did it, man. Somehow you managed to surpass Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door in terms of writing, which is something that is incredibly hard for me to say with a straight face. It's filled to the brim with clever moments, amazing music, charming characters, tense boss battles, all tied together in a nice bow that's actively designed to make you smile, as well as question your own motives and play style. Here's a testament to how much I love Undertale: I have purchased this game nine times, as gifts for several different people who all ended up loving it. I named my cat after Undertale's player character. Replaying RPGs is not something I do very often. Undertale hooked me so deep that I ended up playing over and over to get every possible ending and see as much of the dialogue and world as possible. Did you know that reloading a save file five or six times right before one of the final encounters both establishes context and explanation for a certain character's powers, as well as grants you a key to a locked door in Snowdin? Did you know that during a genocide run, silly inventory abbreviations such as "ButtsPie" (Butterscotch Pie) turn into just "Pie"? That the final boss is foreshadowed in an optional secret room during a pacifist playthrough? What if I told you that saving the aforementioned Butterscotch Pie for a later fight will make the encounter drastically easier? Undertale is filled with so many subtleties and tiny details that are so specific and fleeting -- just when you think you can predict what's next, it throws something entirely different at you. I cannot write enough about how much I adore Undertale without either spoiling it or boring you all to death completely. It's a delightful game that managed to stick with me closer than any other game on this list, and I sincerely hope that you'll give the game a shot. [Undertale header art credit: palidoozy-art on reddit]
GOTY 2015 photo
It's a good one!
Another year, another dollar -- that's what they say, right? More importantly, who is this mystery entity giving you a dollar every year? What the hell am I supposed to do with this dollar, slide it into my piggy bank and sav...


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