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Review: Dying Light: The Following - Enhanced Edition

Feb 09 // Zack Furniss
Dying Light: The Following - Enhanced Edition (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One)Developer: TechlandPublisher: Warner Bros. Interactive EntertainmentReleased: February 9, 2016MSRP: $19.99 The Following doesn't weave into Dying Light's main campaign. To start the expansion, you choose it separately in the main menu. You can drag your character's progress and inventory back and forth between the two campaigns at any time, but you can't just go to a fast travel and warp from one to the other. Once you begin, a short cutscene cuts to the chase: your character, Kyle Crane, has become aware of a route leading out of Harran. In this wild outback area, there's a cult that claims to have found some kind of immunity to the zombie virus. As this would benefit your cadre of survivors, you set out to investigate. The new area, called the Countryside, is huge. Techland claims that it's larger than the entirety of the original game, and I'd agree with that after playing to 100% completion. Since there are numerous open fields, it's not quite as packed as the urban environments in Dying Light proper, but I found this to be welcoming. It's not all open, either: you'll go from farms, to beaches, to graveyards, to caves, to factory areas, so you're constantly being stimulated in a new way. With a larger map, the customizable buggy goes from novelty to necessity rather quickly. Using a new Driver skill tree, which you level up by doing racing competitions, ramming zombies, maintaining top speed, and jumping off of ramps, you'll be able to improve your ride and add gadgets such as electrical pulses and UV lights. Since there are always zombies to squash under your wheels, this tree levels up rapidly. The buggy starts off entertaining, and gets better as you tinker with it. You can craft better tires, brakes, engines, and the like to make it faster and more responsive. I'm a sucker for driving in first-person games as it is, and driving in The Following might be the best incarnation I've played to date. A crossbow has also been added to your arsenal, which is a nice way to take out biters without attracting a horde. There are four different bolt types that you can use: normal, toxic, impact, and stun. I generally stuck to the normal arrows, especially when I snuck around the new Volatile caves. In Dying Light, Volatiles are the creatures that only come out during the night and can kill you within seconds if you aren't paying attention. In The Following, you can go directly to their nests to try to thin out their presence in certain areas. If you go in during the day, the caves will be littered with these bastards, and sneaking through with a crossbow was about the most tense this game can get. Going during the night is the safer bet, but I found it less thrilling when the odds weren't stacked against me. Another welcome addition is the Freaks of Nature, giant versions of the more devious types of infected strewn throughout the Countryside. The game recommends that you only try to fight these jerks with friends in co-op sessions, but if you find their weak point (or bring a really good gun like a cheater [me]), you can take them out solo. They offer special blueprints to create ever-more-vicious weapons. Usually you'll find these Freaks when you're on another mission, and suddenly a health bar will appear on the top of the screen a kick-ass John Carpenter-esque song will start pulsing. As far as the missions and story go, they're handled much better than the original game. This time, Techland is less interested in trying to make you care about certain characters and more interested in getting you to find out more about the cult. Instead of being a scary group of folks that are out to kill you, you're tasked with earning their trust so you can learn their secret. This leads to a mission structure where the side quests must be completed in order to progress in the main story. I didn't have a problem with this, because the side stuff, as before, is generally more intriguing than the actual story. Looking back on it, there aren't many story quests in The Following, but it all feels interwoven in a way that encourages you to scour every last bit of the Countryside. The only quest that I had trouble with was the penultimate one that involves some timed driving, and if you have no health packs, you're sort of fucked. I eventually persevered, but it was frustrating to be locked into the finale and unable to make it easier.  The final mission has some curious implications about the overall plot in Dying Light, but the ending shoots that momentum right through the head. I'm still hoping a sequel comes out of this, but I'm a little confused as to where it would go now. At this point, I must mention a caveat: I found Dying Light to be too easy about halfway through the game, so I played The Following on hard. I usually don't like to blather about the "right" way to play a game, but if you're going to play this expansion, I urge you to play hard mode.  Instead of the usual "enemies do more damage, and you do less" type of difficulty, Techland's version of hard is an improvement in almost every way. Medkits are no longer an instant heal, and instead provide healing over time. If you want to craft something or look at your map, you can't pause the game any more. Survivor sense doesn't show you every little item in every little room, so you have to more carefully observe your environments. If this sounds tedious, I promise that it makes the game both more immersive and more rewarding. Since this is part of the Enhanced Edition, which owners of the base game get for free (minus the expansion), there are a litany of other improvements to be found. There are daily bounties and a new Nightmare difficulty that have been added to rack up tons of experience, which you'll want for the new legendary levels. After maxing out a skill tree, points that would've gone to that tree now go to your legendary rank. You can spend these points on various buffs: 50% more firearm damage, more crossbow damage, better health regen, and other bonuses. There are a total of 250 of these points to earn, and they make you incredibly powerful. You'll earn them pretty slowly unless you play on Nightmare mode. In my 22 hours with The Following, I reached level five. Clearly, I need to jump back in there already. The Following was larger than I expected, and it maintains a high level of quality throughout. Being pared down from the bloat of Dying Light earns it more moment-to-moment excitement, and I greedily consumed it over the weekend. The last few minutes have me pondering the future of what's clearly going to become a franchise, and I'm ready for whatever Techland brings next. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Dying Light photo
It should still be called Far Die
Dying Light surprised the heck out of me last year. While I mostly agree with Chris about the various faults and clichés found within (you can read my thoughts here, from back in my before-Destructoid days), it wa...

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...

Podtoid 322: Football or Gay Porn?

Feb 07 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]339412:62155:0[/embed] Recent Episodes: Podtoid 321: Witness the Rise of Bombshell Podtoid 320: Grandma is a Climate Denier Podtoid 319: Kangaroo Hotdish Podtoid 318: Oculus Butt Plug Podtoid 317: Sad Christmas Want to help the show? Send questions to [email protected] or leave a comment below.  
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Harder than you'd think
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. In celebration of today's Super Bowl football fight, Darren took the liberty to write a little trivia quiz where the rest of us were forced to guess whet...

What changes can we expect from an official Mother 3 localization?

Feb 06 // Ben Davis
So, what would Nintendo change during the localization process of Mother 3? Well, let's first take a look at EarthBound, a game that received quite a few notable changes before it made its way out of Japan. This might give us a clue as to the types of things Nintendo will be looking for in Mother 3. Ignoring the many revisions to text and dialogue for now, EarthBound featured several sprites and background visuals that were altered for various reasons. The major ones include: Ness's nude sprites in Magicant being covered with the pajama outfit from the beginning of the game, obviously because nudity would be more problematic in the West. The Octopus and Kokeshi statues changing into Pencil and Eraser statues, since the cultural references would be lost on a young international audience. The Insane Cultists' battle sprites had the letters "HH" removed from their hats and were replaced with little puff balls to make them look less like KKK members. Also, the town name Threek was changed to Threed, possibly because Threek could be interpreted as Three-K, or KKK. Red crosses were removed from hospitals and a certain red truck's appearance was altered to avoid potential lawsuits with the Red Cross and Coca-Cola. Signs that read "drug" were replaced with "store" in most instances (but not in the Dusty Dunes Desert, for some reason), and signs that said "bar" were changed to "café." Moreover, any references to alcohol being replaced with coffee, espresso, cappuccino, and the like. There was an emphasis on removing or reducing references to violence and death, including new sound effects used when Pokey and his brother are disciplined by their father. More changes can be found over at Legends of Localization, a handy resource compiled by Clyde Mandelin of Starmen.net. So, to break it down, with EarthBound, Nintendo was specifically interested in nixing or mitigating any references to nudity, sexuality, drugs, alcohol, violence, material that might lead to a lawsuit, and obscure cultural references. Since Mother 3 happens to contain a few of those things too, here are some of the changes I expect Nintendo might make if (*ahem* when) Mother 3 finally comes to western shores. First off, a few name changes are probably in order. It's safe to assume that the game will be called EarthBound 2, or some other variation on the EarthBound name, rather than Mother 3. With the original Mother being changed to EarthBound Beginnings for its western release (I still wish Nintendo stuck with"EarthBound Zero!"), this would come as little surprise. There are also a few character and location names that might need to be reconsidered. Specifically: Kumatora, Hinawa, Club Titiboo, Osohe Castle, and DCMC. Of course, it's important to note Super Smash Bros. Brawl did use the names Kumatora and Hinawa on stickers, so they would probably stay the same -- although I honestly wouldn't mind Hinawa's name being changed to correspond with her husband's name, Flint. "Hinawa" refers to a matchlock gun, similar to a flintlock gun, and considering the names of with neighbors, Lighter and Fuel, I've always wondered why Hinawa wasn't changed to something more consistent. "Match" would be a weird name, but I'm confident a localization team could come up with something suitable to keep with the theme. As for the others, I'm sure Club Titiboo could be seen as potentially offensive (heh, Titiboo), Osohe Castle is a little hard to pronounce, and the band name DCMC might be too similar to ACDC. They already re-colored the Runaway Five to look less like the Blues Brothers, so who knows what else they might change, but I hope they leave it as is. I also expect we won't see an enemy called the Gently Weeping Guitar for similar reasons, even though it's a great name! Now onto the bigger stuff. Whenever the topic of Mother 3's localization comes up, fans point to a handful of scenes and characters as reasons why it will never see the light of day outside of Japan. For starters, we have the Magypsies. These wonderful characters are technically not human and have transcended gender. Their appearances resemble those of stereotypical drag queens, complete with dresses, makeup, and facial hair. They even give Lucas and friends mementos comprised of razors and lipstick. The Magypsies are some of my favorite characters in the game, but given their depictions, it would be no surprise if Nintendo thought they were too controversial for a western audience. I could see Nintendo changing their outfits, mannerisms, removing any references to gender, or choosing one specific gender and sticking with it. However, I sincerely hope the Magypsies would be left unchanged. I think they're perfect just the way they are. There's a specific moment involving a Magypsy named Ionia that I can almost guarantee would be changed, though. The scene in question occurs in a hot spring, when Ionia teaches Lucas how to awaken his PSI powers for the first time. The fan translation makes it a bit unclear what is actually happening, and it's probably just as ambiguous in the original Japanese text. Basically, Ionia (who admits to being naked in the hot spring) turns Lucas around as the screen fades to black. We then hear Ionia saying, "Don't struggle! Just endure it for a little bit!" After a moment, the screen opens back up to Lucas with his head under the water and Ionia standing behind him. And suddenly, Lucas has awoken to his latent PSI abilities. [embed]339478:62147:0[/embed] Now, I'll admit this scene has always left me feeling rather icky. It's more than likely that the scene was meant to be a sort of "baptism," with Lucas keeping his head under the hot water until the stress and pain forced his mental powers to surface. But it's definitely not made clear, and it's easy to see how it could be interpreted in a more sinister, suggestive way. This is actually one change I really hope Nintendo does decide to make, and it would be very easy to do. Simply add a bit of text when the screen goes dark to make it clear what's actually going on, or better yet, don't have the screen go dark at all so that we can plainly see what's happening. Problem solved. Aside from the Magypsies, the other big moment occurs in the jungles of Tanetane Island, where Lucas and friends consume some suspicious-looking mushrooms and end up with some seriously psychedelic hallucinations. With Nintendo's insistence on removing references to drugs and alcohol in EarthBound, it's no wonder why fans would be skeptical of this scene. Personally, I honestly don't think this part of the game is too problematic. They're eating the mushrooms to survive, rather than for recreational purposes, and they have to deal with the consequences. It's meant to be humorous. However, it's possible Nintendo doesn't not view this issue the same way and might decide to alter it, but how anyone's best guess. I think it's likely the mushroom sprite could be changed to something else, perhaps a pool of liquid or a food that causes dehydration, some kind of creature that uses hypnosis, or whatever other creative solution localization editors can come up with. Then just rewrite the text and remove any potential drug references, and Nintendo is in the clear. If they do decide to keep the shrooms though, it would certainly be ideal. It's one of my favorite moments in the story, after all! Staying consistent with the removal of drugs and alcohol, they might also decide to remove the wine-drinking ghost in Osohe Castle. They could also just make a point of having the ghost call it "juice" or something, kind of like the guy in EarthBound who calls his drink a cappuccino when it's obviously a mug of beer. Watching the wine flow through the ghost's body and splash onto the ground is always hilarious, so I hope they keep him. [embed]339478:62148:0[/embed] Next up is the issue of violence. Ignoring the final boss fight (which better not change, or so help me, Nintendo!), there are two questionable moments: the campfire scene and the chapter with Salsa and Fassad. The former is one of the most powerful moments in the story and it would be a huge shame to see Nintendo cut any of it out. But Flint straight up smacks a dude in the gut with a piece of wood and whacks another guy across the face with it before getting clubbed in the back of the head with a huge piece of lumber. If Nintendo is still concerned about the violence in EarthBound, then it's possible some parts of this scene could be edited. As for Salsa and Fassad, there's the whole issue of animal cruelty. But seeing as how Salsa eventually gets revenge on both Fassad and the device he uses to electrocute the poor monkey, hopefully none of that will have to be altered. Last, but certainly not least, we have the Oxygen Supply Machines of the Sea Floor Dungeon. These machines were made to resemble mermen with luscious lips, and in order to get oxygen from them, one must give them a nice big smooch. So, basically, we have a young boy, a woman, a man, and a dog making out with mermen in order to stay alive under water. Now, I'm of the opinion that the Oxygen Supply Machines are too ridiculous and hilarious to be seen as sexually obscene, but it's entirely possible Nintendo feels differently. I sure hope the company would keep them, though, because I love those guys. The Sea Floor Dungeon just wouldn't be the same without them. Oh yeah, and there's also the scene where we see Lucas's butt. Are butts okay, Nintendo? It's a funny moment, but I could take it or leave it. Other than that, I'm sure we'd see some new dialogue, updated enemy and item names, and many other changes to the text to make it stand out from the fan translation. I know the creators of the fan translation offered to let Nintendo use their work for free, but I highly doubt Nintendo would take them up on that offer. And that's fine! I'm excited to see what Nintendo's localization experts come up with, and if I don't like it as much, I can always go back and play the fan-made version. Those are the biggest changes I expect we might see if and when Nintendo finally localizes Mother 3. A few of them I would honestly be okay with, but some others would be severely disappointing. Of course, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I'll be happy as long as we actually get the game. Anything is better than nothing, and I say we've waited long enough. Nintendo, we want Mother 3!
Mother 3 localization photo
Lucas' butt might be a no-no
We've waited nearly 10 years for Nintendo to officially localize Mother 3. The wait has been so long, it's started to seem like an impossibility. However, due to some rumors over the past week, it's beginning t...


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...

Humble Monthly Bundle has 70K subscribers

Feb 05 // Jordan Devore
Graham says subscriptions are at a point where "we can make meaningful deals with game developers to secure great content, we get to write our featured charity a $30,000+ check, and, because we can predict revenues fairly accurately, we've even started funding some small gaming projects, Humble Originals, that you won't find anywhere else and that our subscribers will get to play first." Supporting charities is a big part of the company's identity, whether it's giving back ten percent of proceeds from the Humble Store, five percent from Monthly subs, or left up to the user to decide in name-your-price bundles. I asked how they arrived at that amount for this service. "It's always tricky to craft a new business model," said Graham. "When we launched Humble Monthly, we had to do a lot of guesswork about the best way to frame everything so that we could get the product off the ground. By giving ourselves more flexibility with which we can use to pay for game content, I think we have helped the product be more successful and more sustainable, which I believe will actually mean more money for charity in the long run." Today is the first Friday of the month, which means February's games are unlocked for existing members. The full lineup is Alien: Isolation, Titan Souls, Broken Age, Volume, Penarium, Dropsy, Elephant in the Room (one of the "Humble Originals" made specifically for subscribers), and a "sneak peek demo" of Planetoid Pioneers with custom content. The early unlock for next month's bundle is Ark: Survival Evolved, that open-world game with ridable dinosaurs. Folks who sign up now will get immediate access to the title, but it's too late to secure February's offerings.
Humble Monthly Bundle photo
February's games revealed
Last year, Humble began a new monthly bundle service. The basic idea is that on the first Friday of each month, subscribers receive a batch of undisclosed PC games. One of the featured titles is always announced and made avai...

Review: Tachyon Project

Feb 05 // Chris Carter
Tachyon Project (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Eclipse GamesPublisher: Eclipse GamesReleased: July 15, 2015 (PC, Xbox One), Jan 19, 2016 (PS4)MSRP: $9.99 Tachyon, as the name probably suggests, is housed upon a foundation that involves a cheesy cyberpunk hacking plot. Players are placed into a dystopian future of sorts, hacking police stations and corrupt governments by way of a tiny ship. In a way, it's kind of like the setup for the Sly Cooper spinoff Bentley's Hack Pack, but a lot more serious. And really, there is a bit of charm there, especially if you dig the cyberpunk aesthetic. I commend Eclipse Games for trying something other than the "menu to shooting" approach, and it helps ground the campaign a bit and give the whole affair meaning. Some light commentary during missions also helps make things interesting while you're blasting away. The soundtrack, like the story, has a muted, chill feeling to it, which I dig. While Happy Hardcore songs during bullet hell dodging is great, I like the low key electronica soundtrack here, as it meshes well with the game's dark hues and not-too-bright neon visuals. Gameplay-wise, Tachyon operates on a twin-stick control method, with two sets of power-ups mapped to two buttons. That's all you really need to know, and once you start progressing on your journey, more options will open up. The shooting bits in general work well, and I like how using your normal cannon has a recoil effect (but not jarringly so) -- forcing players to course correct and get to know their ship a bit better. Players can also min-max stats by choosing a new chassis to suit their own style of play. I'm more of the defensive health-conscious player myself. Levels primarily stay engaging because of interesting enemy types. It's mostly stuff you've seen before, but black holes that suck up bullets, kamikaze ships, and generally aggressive AI will keep you on your toes. It's also easy to tell everything apart and identify its logic, so you don't have to constantly guess what a specific enemy type is. Tachyon Project isn't a remarkable shooter, but it's well-designed on several levels. There's no multiplayer to speak here, but with a decent campaign, lots of customization, and New Game+/Endless modes, you'll be perfectly fine going at it solo. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Tachyon Project photo
Hackin' like Jonny Lee Miller
While the shoot 'em up genre isn't the king it once was, more and more gems are coming out every passing year. New development studios are taking to Steam and mobile, and even Cave is coming out of the woodwork to become rele...

Fire Emblem Fates photo
Robin, Ike, Marth, Lucina
I've been playing Fire Emblem Fates this week (Nintendo sent the Special Edition cart that has all three versions) for review, and I've had a chance to test out the amiibo feature. To my surprise some folks didn't even k...

Destructoid Rocket League photo
SW33T!
Mr. Destructoid has been around for almost 10 years now (!!), and in that time his cold steel frame has graced a few video games. First there was Bomberman Live, then came Raskulls and BurgerTime World Tour. Heck, the green m...

F.A.N.G is a poopy pigeon in Street Fighter V

Feb 04 // Steven Hansen
[embed]338701:62136:0[/embed] You see the above image of F.A.N.G seemingly flapping about with his giant sleeves? He does that. Homie will literally go airborne and carpet bomb the entire horizontal plane with poison bombs like an awkward pigeon dropping shits on businessmen. Actually I love everything about F.A.N.G's movement, not just a special that looks like you modded a humanoid character model rigged onto a small bird's animations. Even his walk is a Looney Tunes style creep complete with hunched shoulders and craned arms like a goofy t-rex or Montgomery Burns. What I love less is my inability to use the character to annoy people. You see, F.A.N.G is a charge character, requiring second-long maintained button presses in various directions to properly execute moves and my slow ass just plays Ken in Third Strike so I'm screwed. Look at this hieroglyphic shit.  The only "charge characters" I want to know about are the digits of the credit cards I steal. The good news? I performed admirably with Chun-Li after years of disuse, enjoyed the hell out of Laura (like souped up Yoga Bro Ken and Chun-Li, her kicks are dynamite). Actually, question: is it more or less racist if F.A.N.G isn't Chinese? Because he looks like an XCOM Thin Man, but when I was playing as Chun-Li she noted that his favorite number, 2, was not written out in proper Chinese characters on his shirt and questioned if he's really Chinese at all. We might just have a really big Mickey Rooney Breakfast at Tiffany's fan who really wants to blow Bison for some reason.
First hands-on with FANG photo
Plus move list because I can be helpful
I know what you're thinking with Street Fighter V (PS4, PC) less than two weeks from release: everything is mined. There was the big reveal that Arcade mode will have standard text and art stories to be followed by a post-lau...

Review: COUGAR 450M Optical Gaming Mouse

Feb 04 // Joe Parlock
Product: COUGAR 450M Optical Gaming Mouse Manufacturer: Cougar Input: One USB 2.0+ Port MSRP: $49.90 First, the numbers. With a maximum of 5000 DPI and a polling rate of up to 1000 Hz, the 450M is fantastically sensitive and responsive. Adequate mouse sensitivity is down to personal taste to an extent, but with that 5000 DPI maximum, I severely doubt anyone is going to find this thing too slow. I played about an hour of Far Cry 4 on it, and noticed absolutely no delay between me and the movement on-screen, which is great.  Using Cougar’s UIX software, the 450M can support up to three different profiles that can contain everything from three DPI settings, which can be swapped between using the on-the-fly DPI switch button, to the more advanced settings like angle snapping, lift distance, and polling rate. The amount of control you’re given over how the mouse works is utterly fantastic, and the UI is easy enough that I was able to get it up and running just how I like it within a couple of minutes. There are four extra macro buttons, two on either side, which can be bound to any function you like in UIX. Personally, I have my top left button bound to my screenshot key, and my bottom left bound to a particularly handy ‘sniper’ function, which lowers your sensitivity and allow you to line up shots more easily while it’s held. I’ve seen this as its own advertised feature with a dedicated button on other mice before, so seeing it simply thrown in as an optional extra for any of those four buttons sure is nice. The thing that surprised me the most, though, is how comfortable the 450M is to hold. I have the dubious luck of having huge ham hands, and so far I’ve very few problems with how the mouse sits. It’s big enough for me to comfortably hold it in a full palm grip without my fingers peeking out over the top of the buttons, which is something I’ve never been able to say about a mouse before. The easy-grip texture on the flanks of the mouse aren’t rough enough to be uncomfortable, but provide just enough grip to make sure your hands don’t slip during gaming. Unfortunately, there are three minor negative points which do take away from the comfort somewhat. Firstly, the glossy finish of the mouse means that people with clammier hands may have trouble getting a decent, comfortable hold on it after a while. It also means if you’re a stickler for clean peripherals, you’ll be forever wiping off finger and handprints from it. Secondly, the mouse is pretty dang thin, meaning the sides of my hand couldn’t get enough lift off of my coarse mouse mat and would wind up rubbing up against it. If you have smaller hands, this might not be a problem, but I would’ve liked the mouse to be a bit wider just to reduce the contact area between my hand and the desk. Lastly, the extra macro buttons on either side of the mouse are placed slightly too far forward for me. I have to stretch to hit the top button on either side, which can be uncomfortable if they’re bound to a function I need to use regularly or kept held during gameplay. None of these are major, deal-breaking problems, but they’re things that also could’ve been easily avoided during the design process. Build quality is a bit of a mixed bag, and is honestly where most of my complaints about the 450M lie. It’s not all bad, of course. The Omicron Micro switches under the buttons are really responsive and 'clicky,' with absolutely no smushing feeling when pressing them. The mouse wheel is also one of the best I’ve ever seen, with it being coated in chunky tire-style rubber. The wheel isn’t set inside the mouse, but occupies a gap in between the two buttons, which makes it easy to clean from all angles. I never thought I’d give so many words to something as nondescript as a mouse wheel, but this one is seriously nice. Unfortunately, the 450M feels more cheaply made than others in this price range that I’ve used, being made out of lightweight and glossy plastics that aren’t as resilient looking as I would’ve liked. For £40-50, I would want something strong and chunky that I know would last many intense gaming sessions, but I just don’t think the 450M would be able to stand the test of time. The Cougar 450M Gaming Mouse is really nice in a lot of ways: it’s comfortable, responsive, and has a vast array of customisable settings. It’s just a shame that there are definite areas for improvement, mostly in the build quality. The mouse is the peripheral which gets the most use, so making sure you have one that both feels good and won’t die on you is important. If you spot this on even a slight discount somewhere, I can wholeheartedly recommend you pick one up. At the price range it’s normally at, there are probably better alternatives out there. [This review is based on retail hardware provided by the manufacturer.] Using Cougar’s UIX software, the 450M can support up to three different profiles that can contain everything from three DPI settings, with can be swapped between using the on-the-fly DPI switch button, to the more advanced settings like angle snapping, lift distance and polling rate. The amount of control you’re given over how the mouse works is utterly fantastic, and the UI is easy enough that I was able to get up and running just how it like it within a couple of minutes. There are four extra macro buttons, two on either side, which can be bound to any function you like in UIX. Personally, I have my top left button bound to my screenshot key, and my bottom left bound to a particularly handy ‘sniper’ function, which lowers your sensitivity and allow you to line up shots more easily while it’s held. I’ve seen this as its own advertised feature with a dedicated button on other mice before, so seeing it simply thrown in as an optional extra for any of those four buttons sure is nice. The thing that surprised me the most, though, is how incredibly comfortable the 450M is to hold. I have the dubious luck of having huge ham hands, and so far I’ve very few problems with how the mouse sits.  It’s big enough for me to comfortably hold it in a full palm grip without my fingers peeking out over the top of the buttons, which is something I’ve never been able to say about a mouse before. The easy-grip texture on the flanks of the mouse aren’t rough enough to be uncomfortable, but provide just enough grip to make sure your hands don’t slip during gaming. Unfortunately, there are three minor negative points which do take away from the comfort somewhat. Firstly, the glossy finish of the mouse means that people with clammier hands may have trouble getting a decent, comfortable hold on it after a while. It also means if you’re a stickler for clean peripherals, you’ll be forever whipping off finger and handprints from it. Secondly, the mouse is pretty dang thin, meaning the sides of my hand couldn’t get enough lift off of my coarse mouse mat and would wind up rubbing up against it. If you have smaller hands this might not be a problem, but I would’ve liked the mouse to be a bit wider just to reduce the contact area between my hand and the desk. Lastly, the extra macro buttons on either side of the mouse are placed slightly too far forward for me. I have to stretch to hit the top button on either side, which can be uncomfortable if they’re bound to a function I need to use regularly or kept held during gameplay like. None of these are major, deal-breaking problems, but they’re things that also could’ve been easily avoided during the design process. Build quality is a bit of a mixed bag, and is honestly where most of my complaints about the 450M lie. It’s not all bad, of course. The buttons are responsive and ‘clicky’, with absolutely no ‘smush’ when pressing them. The mouse wheel is also one of the best I’ve ever seen, with it being coated in chunky tire-style rubber. The wheel isn’t set inside the mouse, but occupies a gap in between the two buttons, which makes it easy to clean from all angles. I never thought I’d give so many words to something as nondescript as a mouse wheel, but this one is seriously nice. Unfortunately, the 450M feels more cheaply made than others in this price range that I’ve used, being made out of lightweight and glossy plastics that aren’t as resilient looking as I would’ve liked. For £40-50 I would want something strong and chunky that I know would last many intense gaming sessions, but I just don’t think the 450M would be able to stand the test of time. The Cougar 450M Gaming Mouse is really nice in a lot of ways: it’s comfortable, responsive, and has a vast array of customisable settings. It’s just a shame that there are definite areas for improvement, mostly in the build quality. The mouse is the peripheral which gets the most use, so making sure you have one that both feels good and won’t die on you is incredibly important.  If you spot this on even a slight discount somewhere, I can whole-heartedly recommend you pick one up. At the price range it’s normally at, there are probably better alternatives out there.
Gaming Mice photo
Feels a bit flimsy, but works great
I’ve never had much luck with gaming mice; either there’s too many moving parts and I break it, or the shape doesn’t fit my hands and feels uncomfortable to use. So when I got Cougar’s 450M ambidextrou...

Review: Blitz Breaker

Feb 04 // Chris Carter
Blitz Breaker (PC [reviewed], iOS)Developer: Boncho GamesPublisher: Boncho GamesReleased: February 2, 2016 (PC), TBA (iOS)MSRP: $2.99 Blitz Breaker doesn't waste any time. Within seconds, you're in, learning the game's ins and outs, which are comprised of a sole jump button and directional inputs (with support for a keyboard or gamepad). Your player character can't move traditionally, and therein lies the gimmick. Instead, pressing a button will allow you to dash in any one of the cardinal directions. Jumping is a tertiary function, only used in specific cases, because trying to actually control your leap will only result in a wild dash. Here's the most interesting part of the game, mechanically -- once you commit to a direction, you have to see it through until you hit something. Since you can't just course correct constantly, it becomes part puzzler in that sense, especially when rooms start filling with spikes and conveyor belts. Smashing against a wall is commonplace, with the resulting force often catapulting you into danger. You'll need quick reflexes to get through this one, but paying attention to your surroundings is key too, so there's a balance. Some of my favorite puzzles involve multi-screen sequences, which force players to recall layouts to unlock doors and smash barriers that are required to reach the exit at the end of every stage. There is some trial and error involved though, as dashing into another unknown screen can result in an instant death. It's not too frustrating given the lenient level restart option, with the exception of boss gauntlets, which can get pretty tough and lengthy. [embed]338811:62114:0[/embed] The simplicity and relatively small rooms are clearly made with a mobile audience in mind, which makes sense after I realized that it's coming to iOS at some point in the future. Thankfully, pesky IAP (mobile DLC) is nowhere to be found, and you're getting the whole enchilada with your purchase. There is an "arcade" mode, but it's basically just a different delivery system for the campaign. With no multiplayer component, there isn't a whole lot there after all 101 levels are completed -- and once you get the hang of the game, they go by quickly. Blitz's art style is reminiscent of a bygone era, but the design team puts its own spin on it, and the soundtrack is one of the best indie productions in recent memory. Blitz Breaker will bring a smile to your face if you enjoy games like Super Meat Boy, though the experience isn't nearly as deep. Once you've blazed your way through, there isn't much there to coax you into staying, but you'll have fun with the ride all the same. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] 
Blitz Breaker photo
Gotta bump fast
I've said it before, but I really enjoy this era of gaming. Sure, there were a lot of classics in the retro era, but many were few and far between from the same usual suspects. Now we have talented developers ready and willin...

Guitar Hero Live is resurrecting the infamous 'Through the Fire and the Flames'

Feb 03 // Chris Carter
As explained by Coppard, "veterans have risen to the challenge so far which everything we've thrown at them, so bringing this song back is the next natural step. We found that with this challenge, the tracks we've identified as 'difficult' are on the level. We'll be surprised to see full combos for these songs back-to-back, but we know people are going to do it." With the "Rivals" leaderboard feature enabled throughout the challenge, you're also constantly going head to head with other people through this gauntlet. The rest of the event includes Hangar 18, Strife, Ghost Walking, and Cry of Achilles. When asked how the team builds these tracks (particularly the madness of Fire and Flames), Coppard noted that they "start from the top, then work their way down." He says once they have all the notes they need for Expert level, they can then start simplifying it further. But for Guitar Hero Live they had to add in a few new elements, which Coppard says will weed out a lot of players right off the bat. "First off, if you couldn't play the intro to Fire and Flames, you were kicked out, full stop. It's like a right of passage. Now we're using open strums and the six-button layout that wasn't in the original, so it adds a whole new dimension to the song." He calls it the "final boss of all of Guitar Hero." I believe him, as the song caused a bunch of people in my play group in college to quit. The event kicks today, and will run through February 8 at 7AM PT. After the event, Fire and Flames will be added into the normal rotation of GHTV.
Guitar Hero Live photo
For a five-song expert marathon event
Activision has been steadily supporting Guitar Hero Live's TV element for months now, adding constant new content to the game. Although it has microtransactions the system is more than fair, and allows for a ton of songs to b...

Review: AIPD - Artificial Intelligence Police Department

Feb 02 // Chris Carter
AIPD - Artificial Intelligence Police Department (PC, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: Blazing BadgerPublisher: Mamor GamesReleased: January 29, 2016MSRP: $9.99 One part Geometry Wars, one part...Geometry Wars, AIPD is a shmup that sports interesting neon visuals and a bumpin' soundtrack. It's relatively easy to pick up given its twin-stick nature, as the only nuances you'll need to learn are the differences between the scant few powerups at your disposal. There's gadgets like slo-mo, shields, and the like to choose from, most of which you've seen before. Despite the lack of innovation, AIPD succeeds at a base level with tight controls and a fun aesthetic. I also like how it occasionally switches objectives after clearing out specific waves, and presents players with a choice of challenges -- something like picking between "enemies do more damage," or "players earn less points." It keeps you on your toes constantly. And since there's several difficulty levels available, the top of which is actually challenging, it mixes things up even more. But once you realize that those challenge nodes are basically there as a smoke and mirror effect to hide the fact that there's one level (a circle), the formula starts to falter. There's just a few enemy types in total to do battle with, and only two -- the laser-blasting Battleship and the snake-like Bouncer -- are truly unique. The rest feel like fodder, and wander around aimlessly without any real rhyme or reason. Even though there's two colors (red and purple) to differentiate them, most of the time I couldn't tell them apart. [embed]338525:62101:0[/embed] As time goes on, you have the options to unlock new weapons and starting loadouts, but that's about it. Mechanics like the heat meter, which halts fire momentarily to jettison a bomb that can harm the player, are cool in theory (it sounds cool just talking about it), but they only serve to break up the pacing. The few modes that are available feel too similar, and the "creation" mode that I was initially excited to dive into only allows players to choose custom rulesets from a strict table, so you aren't actually given a lot of freedom. The good news is that AIPD supports up to four players locally, so if you have three other friends who are die-hard shmup fans, it's worth checking out. Otherwise you can steer clear and pick up the heap of other great shooters on Steam or PS4. Those platforms have no shortage of them. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
AIPD review photo
Yes, that's the actual title
Who polices the AI Police? Good question.

Hearthstone photo
'Too daunting'
In case you haven't heard, Blizzard is changing up Hearthstone big time later this year with a major update. There are a few good things coming -- 18 custom deck slots for one, promised balance changes for select cards, ...

Not a Hero nearly broke me

Feb 02 // Jordan Devore
I wasn't sure how I'd like cover-based shooting in a 2D game, going in, but in the case of Not a Hero, I'm quite fond. This isn't so much standing still, popping out to take a few shots, and retreating back into hiding as it is shuffling between safe spots to close the gap, sliding right next to (or into!) enemies, and racking up split-second kills. Think Vanquish more than Gears of War. Cover is plentiful, but you won't stick to it for long unless you're nervously waiting on your few precious health points to restock or your gun to reload. Death comes quickly and repeatedly, both for you and for the hundreds of criminals you're meant to wipe out across three city districts. A single hit can be enough, especially in the later Yakuza-ish levels with samurai chasing you down. That's where I started to lose my cool over the lack of checkpoints. It's also where Not a Hero almost broke me with two overly long, overly demanding levels. (The exact same ones Steven struggled with.) By the time I hit the credits, I felt exhausted, not accomplished or elated. Getting up to that point was great fun, though. Still an experience I'd recommend. The story isn't as successful. Basically, you're helping an anthropomorphic rabbit claim his rightful spot as mayor by, uh, killing loads of people. The tone is Internet Silly to the point of going way overboard, at times, and the humor didn't consistently land for me. But on the whole, I admire the effort that went into the presentation -- particularly the funny graphics in the interludes. Great tunes, too. The story is there, if you want it, but otherwise you're only a few button presses away from getting into that next level. As far as this specific port goes, I don't have much to say. Despite being a PC/Mac exclusive until now, Not a Hero has always struck me as something of a console-style, couch-sitting experience meant to be played with a gamepad. Aside from a couple instances of glitches (my character going invisible once; the occasional floating dead body), there wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Existing fans won't find meaningful extras in this version to warrant double dipping, but it is a solid port of a surprisingly fresh little game. I'm glad I found my way to it. Shame about the canceled PlayStation Vita port, though. Not a Hero would've fared well there. [This impressions piece is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Not a Hero PS4 photo
Impressions of the PS4 port
Thank you, Roll7, for reminding me what an utter joy it can be to slide around in video games. I'm not sure what I was so wrapped up playing last May, but it wasn't Not a Hero, the studio's cheeky side-scrolling take on cover...

Podtoid 321: Witness the Rise of Bombshell

Feb 01 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]338048:62073:0[/embed] Recent Episodes: Podtoid 320: Grandma is a Climate Denier Podtoid 319: Kangaroo Hotdish Podtoid 318: Oculus Butt Plug Podtoid 317: Sad Christmas Podtoid 316: My Bowels Are Strange Want to help the show? Send questions to [email protected] or leave a comment below.
PODCAST photo
ソーセージ トイレ
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. This week, the Podtoid cabal is once again joined by our dear friend Hayden Dingman to chat about The Witness, Street Fighter V, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Bombshell. 

Like solving puzzles with little to no help? INFRA might be for you

Feb 01 // Jed Whitaker
Long story short, some rich guy bought up a lot of businesses in town and financially bankrupted them and is in cahoots with the local government, or so I gathered in my time with the game. While I enjoyed a lot of what I played in INFRA, I also found that it isn't a game for me. So instead of doing a full numbered review, these are my impressions for those of you who would surely love it. Most of your time in INFRA will be spent solving puzzles involving buttons, levers, and even some platforming. When those things work, they work great, but other times it can almost feel like you're glitching the game. For example, at one point I came across a saw mill and couldn't find a way through it. I did, however, find some crates that were able to be picked up and stacked, so I did just that to get on the roof and jump across to continue the game. Was this the solution the developers had intended or had I just "cheated" my way forward? I have no idea. "I have no idea" is a great way to describe many of the puzzles. I like to think of myself as a person of some intelligence, yet many times I felt I was just randomly pressing buttons or levers till I stumbled across the solution. Other times I'd piece together tidbits of information found on stationary or posters nearby to give me an idea of how to complete a puzzle, but most of the time there was no hand holding, for better or worse.  INFRA runs on the Source engine, but it makes good use of it; crumbling buildings, murky water, vibrant caves, and green foliage stand out while not being wholly impressive. For an indie title from a team that no one has ever heard of, it gets the job done and didn't make me want to tear my eyeballs out. If anything the graphics not being top of the line and striving to be realistic help set the tone of a city falling apart. I had hoped for a story driven mystery, but the story presented suffered heavily from a shoddy localization with bad grammar abound. On top of that, INFRA has some of the most unintentionally funny and awkward voice acting I've heard in a game. Upon starting the game, you'll be greeted with a boardroom where your boss is going over assignments with you and coworkers, and everyone is fully voiced in a scene that I'd call the video game equivalent of The Room as seen below. That is a both a compliment and a complaint by the way. If the original trailer hadn't had such wonderful voice work that got me to play the game in the first place, I wouldn't be writing this, but I also kind of love how awful it is.  [embed]336879:62074:0[/embed] After six hours, I got to the point that I felt I couldn't be bothered with stumbling through any more puzzles by chance. I don't think INFRA is a bad game by any means, just not one that I'm not ready for. It made me question whether or not I'm stupid or if some of the puzzles just didn't make sense, but it was often enjoyable. If you're looking for an interesting take on the first-person adventure puzzle game that will make you scratch your head, this is for you. Otherwise, maybe wait for a sale.  INFRA launched on Steam with the first part of the game available now, and the second part to be released later this year for free. Judging by the very positive Steam reviews, you'll get between 12 and 15 hours out of what is currently released for $15.  [embed]336879:62074:0[/embed]
INFRA IMPRessions photo
Voice acting equivalent of The Room
Some games just hand out answers to puzzles -- if you can even call them that -- with numbers or solutions written nearby. While the first-person adventure INFRA does this a bit, it certainly isn't holding your hand most...

News roundup photo
Strangely lenient towards cock fighting
I am very pleased to announce that this week is 100% bodily fluid-free. There’s no wee, no poo, no nothing. It’s been a totally wholesome, family-friendly week in gaming news! The most NSFW thing you'll find is th...

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...

Obscure Video Games: Top 5 Bosses of Ninja Baseball Bat Man

Jan 30 // Obscure Video Games
Makeshift Villain This mafioso makes quite a statement with his lavender trench coat and bowed-up hair. It's a fashion crime. Hit him with a bat. Windy Plane It's a plane with teeth. He cries a lot. Hit him with a bat. Ghost Buffalo You know that freaky deer head in Evil Dead 2? Well, what if he was a buffalo head? What would you do if he jumped off the wall and started biting you? You'd hit him with a bat; that's what you'd do. Mechanical Alligator This muscle-bound hunk of luggage wants to snap you in half. Before he does, you need to strip him down to his scales, once piece of armor at a time. Try hitting him with a bat. King Babe The final boss is Babe Ruth on steroids. A swing of his weapon creates pink tornadoes of destruction. Want to see the end credits? Hit him with a bat. Ninja Baseball Bat Man is a great game, especially if you like hitting things with bats. Unfortunately, the arcade machine is quite rare, and it's never been released on a console. If you can swing an emulator, you won't regret it. [embed]333518:61839:0[/embed]
Obscure Video Games photo
Hit them with a bat.
Ninja Baseball Bat Man is not a baseball game. It also has nothing to do with Batman. It's actually a wacky arcade beat-'em-up released in 1993 by Irem (maker of R-Type). You might assume it's just another example of Japanese...

Lupe Fiasco is going to kick Daigo's ass in Street Fighter V

Jan 29 // Steven Hansen
And, finally, onto our story, our ostensible reason for reading (you) and writing (me) this article, other than to put content online for pay, to pal around with my friends about music on a lazy Friday, but mostly to talk about Kanye lying about not liking his ass eaten. Rapper Lupe Fiasco's last album, a return to form, is called Tetsuo & Youth if you want to check the standard millennial nerd bonafides. He also he drops Lupin the III and Thundercats references in his verse on Kanye's "Touch the Sky" over a decade ago. Someone asked Lupe on Twitter if he watches EVO, to which he replied, "Only to study Daigo..." Mad Catz' Mark Julio -- who loved my recent dispatch from the Mad Catz Street Fighter V tournament, by the way -- asked Lupe if he was down to fight Daigo, who is sponsored by Mad Catz, in Street Fighter V. Lupe confirmed, "It would be an honor to lose to Daigo-San." Good week, all. See you Monday. [embed]337545:62043:0[/embed] [embed]337545:62044:0[/embed]
Rapper v pro gamer photo
This is Rocky VIII
Things are popping off in the hip hop world this week. Kanye lied about not liking his ass eaten after a deluge of tweet beef with Wiz Khalifa. Kanye eventually deleted the 20 or so tweets aimed at Khalifa, but they still ex...

Review: Bombshell

Jan 29 // Steven Hansen
Bombshell (PC)Developer: Interceptor EntertainmentPublisher: 3D RealmsReleased: January 29, 2016MSRP: $34.99 The most surprising thing about this 2016 heir to the Duke Nukem throne is how toothless it is. The Duke's puerile shtick is beyond dated as 2011's tragedy Duke Nukem Forever might remind us, but save for a rocket launcher called the "PMS" -- haha, menstruation! -- Bombshell is tonally distinct, and instead goes for a nerfed "ooh rah" à la Independence Day. It even opens with a Fourth of July alien invasion of the White House and kidnapped president (whose American flag eye patch is, admittedly, hilarious). The result is a milquetoast lead whose repeated, constant combat barks like, "I never thought aliens would land on the White House lawn" or "You're not worth the metal you're made of" or "Die, alien scum" do disservice to a solid acting performance. Making an old-school, character-led action game with a boring character is a huge misstep. In the opening cutscene, Shelly's jeep is blown up. It's on screen and blown up in a few seconds. There are two combat barks devoted to complaining about her lost car and they're totally unearned. I forgot there even was a car until roughly the 25th mention. At one point an enemy must've fallen off the map without dying because I had to hear his robotic droning about his shield every five seconds for the next 45 minutes.  [embed]337527:62042:0[/embed] In addition to being boring, Bombshell is a bit broken. I fell through the level and died three times. Shelly got stuck in place on a couple occasions, necessitating a restart to accompany the countless times she hitched on the environment. Enemies get stuck, too, or at least some choose to lay down arms and not attack until I kill them, anyway. Sometimes the map, which is uncovered as you explore, completely erases itself and leaves you with no sense of direction. The latter was far more annoying than I thought it could be, especially given that it was coupled with archaic level design. There are three distinct areas in Bombshell, including an ice stage, because this is a video game, and they're all designed like someone cracked a sheet of glass and traced the sprawling result. There are constant dead ends, fetch quests, and side quests that actually require backtracking to turn in. The mini-map, on the other hand, is incredibly useful because the camera is kept so tight that you will regularly run face-first into bullets if you navigate by watching Shelly move rather than watching the blips on the mini-map. Apparently fixed isometric perspective shooters were also missing a huge thing all these years: platforming. Most of my deaths came after falling into a pool of water or after walking over a nonsensical hole in the ground like some Wile E. Coyote shit, like the architect of the alien home world had a debilitating Swiss cheese fetish. But it isn't just that there is platforming, it's that it is floaty and unsatisfying. One of the reasons Shelly's lines bomb (besides that they're vacuous and repeated a hundred times) is that they're so disconnected from the character in the isometric view, and similarly there isn't anything to ground or give weight to her jumps. Even her walking animation is like a hockey puck on ice. That missing weight is a big part of why Bombshell's most redeeming factors, the twin-stick-style shooting, also falls flat. The weapons (rapid-fire machine gun, shotgun, flamethrower, and so on) have little stopping power. Enemies don't seem to react when shot, but instead absorb bullets like sponges until their HP empties and they limply rag doll to the floor. The first two worlds accost you with loads of pain-in-the-ass tiny enemies that poison (damage over time) or freeze you (slow movement speed) while the last just goes full bore and sends out six Gundam-sized robots at a time. I appreciated being able to see them more clearly than the ankle-biters, but seeing giant robot after giant robot go weak in the knees after getting hit with a laser beam was almost pathetic. Also, the last level theme (it goes alien, ice, metal) looks exactly like the end of Mass Effect 2 down to the Terminator-cribbed robots. Which reminds: Bombshell has some of the worst boss fights I have ever played. Sticking to conventions, they tend to be of the three-phase fare and toss regular enemies into the mix to make things more difficult. By the last form of the first boss I was out of ammo save for Shelly's default, infinite-ammo weapon. I beat it by standing pissing distance in front of the boss and holding the trigger for a few minutes while scrolling through Twitter. The same thing happened with the boss of the ice world, which decided it just wasn't interested in attacking me during its final phase. Every once in a while, during a taut firefight that actually necessitates mixing and matching weapons (the shotgun alt fire, a stun gun, is possibly too useful), there are glimpses of a solid shooter let down by everything else around it. As it stands, playing Bombshell for more than an hour at a time is like ingesting a sedative, save for flashes of rage as you fall through the map one more time or are asked to find six more crystals. [This review is based on a build of the game provided by the publisher.] 
Bombshell reviewed photo
Dud Nukem
"It's so hard to believe this is real. It's like a video game or something." A random soldier told me this in Bombshell and it's not the worst meta dialogue in the game. Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison is quick to complain about ...

Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider - Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch

Jan 29 // Laura Kate Dale
Rise of the Tomb Raider - Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Crystal DynamicsPublisher: Square EnixMSRP: $9.99Released: January 26, 2016 Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch is a short, story focused piece of Tomb Raider DLC that focuses on creepy supernatural elements, tough environmental puzzles, and exploring the complex relationship between Lara Croft and her father. Set in the Wicked Vale, a new region exclusive to the DLC, Baba Yaga tasks Lara with hunting down Baba Yaga, a witch who has allegedly terrorised locals for generations. Gone are the enemies that make sense, replaced by ethereal tormentors. While these foes and obstacles may be mechanically very similar to enemies in the base game, they feel very tonally different in practice and work well to emphasise the game's narrative themes. Oh, and the fact the DLC culminates in an over the top awesome supernatural boss battle, which provides satisfying amounts of conclusion to the plot, is fairly impressive. While most of the DLC is set in the Wicked Vale, an environment that was fascinating to explore, one section does throw you back into a combat arena from the main game. With the DLC only clocking in at two hours long, it's disappointing that any of it was retreading old ground. [embed]337554:62045:0[/embed] While the gameplay in Baba Yaga is unchanged from the main game, the difficulty of environmental puzzles is nicely ramped up, paced for progression from the end of the base game. Completing it unlocks a new weapon that fits nicely with the themes of the DLC as a bonus, but the lack of any new post game challenge tombs meant I had very little incentive to try my new weapon out. So, here's the deal with Rise of the Tomb Raider's newest DLC. If you're looking for several hours of story content that's supernatural in nature, yet offers very little additional content post story? Well, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch is probably your thing. Just be aware it reuses some assets in that two hour length and offers very little in the way of options for using your weapon once the story is over. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.] 
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
That's one freaky temple
Rise of The Tomb Raider's main campaign, while lengthy, tries to keep its gameplay grounded for the most part in realistic threats. The game's first story DLC, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, turns that on its head, repla...

Very Quick Tips: Darkest Dungeon

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

Review: Darkest Dungeon

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

Li-Ming is a powerhouse in Heroes of the Storm, but not overly so

Jan 27 // Chris Carter
[embed]337067:62020:0[/embed] I took her for a spin in PTR this week, and I have to say I'm impressed. Her magic missile ability is really fun to aim, as it alters its skillshot path depending on the amount of heroes present. It allows for a unique kill potential that a lot of players won't be expecting when she's fresh on the roster. Her Arcane Orb is also really fun to use, especially on objective-heavy maps like Cursed Hollow. Throwing a few of those bad boys in will definitely disrupt things more than most characters, and if you score a kill, Li-Ming's passive refreshes your cooldowns. A five second cooldown on teleport also makes her quite the mobile character, especially on maps with lots of twists and turns to phase through. She's fun to play if you're quick with your fingers, as she can both chase and escape (or dodge) damage on a near constant basis. Think of her first Heroic as a modified Diablo Lightning Breath, as she remains stationary for an angled beam attack. It's damage on top of damage, and it works with her passive. But where Li-Ming falters is utility and crowd control. Unlike Kael'thas who has a killer stun, zoning Phoenix Heroic, and a similar kit, Li-Ming is pure damage. Her teleport is self-serving, as is her passive. Her second Heroic can be used as a minor zoning power of sorts with a forgiving 20-second cooldown, but it just isn't enough, and takes insane coordination to really set up a kill like a stun can. As a result, I think Li-Ming is in a good spot balance-wise. Sure she seems overpowered at first glance, but I can already think of a few counters, and she just hit the PTR. Since their debut, Artanis and Morales (the latter especially) have climbed in winrate, as Blizzard tends to favor newer creations first when it comes to balancing. As such, Li-Ming seems like a safe bet to buy when she arrives in early February -- at the very least, she'll be a competent pick. There's also a few big changes coming, as Nova and Rehgar have been completely reworked (nerfs and buffs respectively), and a ton of new stuff is on the way.
Heroes of the Storm photo
Up now on PTR
The last two characters in Heroes of the Storm have ended up with rather disappointing when it comes to rankings. After two weeks, Greymane is the fourth worst hero in terms of win-rate, and Lunara is the fifth worst. That's ...

Nintendo 3DS's spring is an oasis of JRPGs

Jan 26 // Steven Hansen
Project X Zone 2 is full Japanese gaming fan service with appearances by the likes of anyone from Street Fighter's Ryu to Devil May Cry's Dante and Vergil to Shenmue's Ryo Hazuki to SPace Channel 5's Ulala. It's coming to 3DS February 16. Bravely Second: End Layer hits Europe on February 26 and the states on April 15. There are 12 new jobs in this old school JRPG from Square Enix, including Catmancer, a class that trains cats to use enemies' skills (like the past game's Vampire). Another involves throwing cake at people. It also tried to "take the pain out of the grinding" with a "let it ride" system where random battles will flow into one another so you don't have to run back and forth to trigger another. The caveat is that if you finally lose, there goes all the accumulated experience from those battles. It also "might be longer than Bravely Default." Plus, here are some actual lines of dialogue from Bravely Second: End Layer. Note: "Ba'als" is pronounced "balls." Like balls. "She studies Ba'als." "Ba'al buster Magnolia Arch is on the job." "A new Ba'al is headed this way and it's my job to bust it." "It's...it's huge [referring to a Ba'al]." "I'm Magnolia Arch and it's time to bust some Ba'als." The localization team went Ba'als to the wall with this joke. Oh, hey, Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow -- yes, the originals -- are coming to the 3DS eShop on February 27? Time to find out how well that game is actually balanced 20 years later. Also to argue over which version's sprites were best. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King and Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past are also coming to 3DS in 2016, with Dragon Quest VII coming first. It won't have random battles, instead getting treats like Dragon Quest VIII with enemies on a world map and other additions.
JRPG spring lineup photo
Six within a month
Fire Emblem Fates is just a few weeks away (February 19) and I'll finally have a reason to re-glue my face to my 3DS and play nosy match-maker. But the two versions of Fates are just, uh, two of the JRPGs (and adjacent genres...


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