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Dragomon Hunter: Anime MMO fan service by way of Germany and Taiwan

Dec 01 // Steven Hansen
It doesn't clear anything up, but Aeria Games actually started in Santa Clara, California almost a decade ago. It expanded globally, including into Berlin, as a a publisher and online portal (maybe you noticed the logo playing Tribes: Ascend) before being purchased by multi-billion-dollar German media conglomerate ProSiebenSat.1 Media in 2014. But even before getting Katamari'd up, Aeria boasted over "40 million players" and turned enough of them into paying players to finance continued publishing. "They basically leave us alone," Vice President, Global PC Games Business Tom Nichols said of his parent company. Of course, the advertising deals that affords alone are helpful. "The German market is much easier for us especially in regards to competition, it's easier for us to be visible," Bousquet said. "It doesn't always means that its necessarily a success. There's still a high dependence on the games and their mechanics and if they appeal to this audience. For instance, anime games, they work okay, but the two big markets are really the English and French markets. Germany's not really into anime stuff." The extra advertising oomph, helpful in Germany when Aeria is peddling more regionally popular medieval fantasy is somewhat emblematic of Aeria's strength, which is packaging something up for consumption by a new audience. As Nichols explained, "What Aeria does is take games that have been successful in Asia and brings them to the west." [embed]307904:60138:0[/embed] So the aforementioned "most changes [to appeal to the western audience]" for Dragomon Hunters are not for a general western audience, but knowingly for, "a much smaller audience...much more niche within anime MMOs," and that is the ultra chibi style. It is for western anime fans. The Japanese Dragomon Hunter publisher -- no, it's not a Japanese game -- brought on well-known anime voice actors (from the likes of Bleach and Naruto) and the western landing page has a link to a video excitedly pointing to, "the original Japanese voices" in this French and American localization by a German company of a game originally developed by Taiwanese developer X-Legend. I chuckled about anime-game fans who threaten boycotts over digital-only releases or the lack of dual language audio. "It's a very special audience," Bousquet said. The original title is Dragon Slayer. Bland, but much less of an obvious, broken-neck nod to Monster Hunter (the game is slightly more action oriented than many MMOs) and Pokemon (collecting). "We thought it didn't fit the genre or didn't communicate what the game was about," Bousquet said. "Dragon Slayer sounds like a game title you've heard a hundred times. You have a basic idea of the setting, but you have no idea what the game is. We wanted a title that caught attention just from hearing it." That's one way to do it. "I know some people, the first time they see it, they kind of interpret it as, 'oh, this is a ripoff,' but we feel it's much more of a tribute and a nod [to Monster Hunter] than a ripoff. If you look at the game closer, there are some similarities and .... the idea of collecting materials from slain enemies and using them for crafting is not a new idea, but this is an MMORPG at its core. It's not an action, skilled game. It takes cues from this existing game style, but takes very few elements from that." Playing up the [anime life]style isn't restricted to the title. The translated script is reference filled for game and anime fans (the story is sparse, so it doesn't necessarily come in at odds with a greater tone). "[Dragomon Hunter has been localized by anime and game fans for anime and game fans. We're not shying away from being referential and doing a few nods here and there." But the biggest changes in Aeria's fourth collaboration with developer X-Legend (you can still play the first, Grand Fantasia) have been on the gameplay side. "Most of the Asian RPGs are very grindy, like super hardcore grindy, which is something we try to get away from a little bit and be more action-player friendly." There are "better drop rates" and everything can be bought with in-game currency (versus spending real money). The tendency for Asian players in these types of games is to try out different classes and explore all the game's options, whereas western audiences seek out of whatever's figured to be the strongest class and work towards maxing levels and the like most efficiently. The archive system for the over 100 in-game mounts (all of the enemies have a chance at dropping an egg upon death, at which point you can use the monster as a means of transportation) doesn't exist in the original, but was added because, "Americans and Europeans like to collect things." Historically true! Dragomon Hunter also features controller support, something developer X-Legend neglected to mention because of how much of a non-feature it was in Asia, but that's a bigger deal in the US. And while Dragomon Hunter doesn't lean as far towards pure fighting game as something like Blade & Soul, movement is ostensibly important. I didn't find it too necessary in the early goings, the few hours I played from level one, but watching some high-level co-op plays against much more imposing baddies and opting to steer clear of a big, incoming attack is a smart move. Otherwise there are classes to choose from, monsters to catch (or buy), and Hoppalongs, your companion rabbits you design at the onset after making your player avatar. They're super cute and can be classes to balance and pair well with your character. And of course there's the need to preempt "pay-to-win" complaints that inevitably crop up around free-to-play properties in the west."What most companies like ours were doing was looking at game monetizing and saying you know what, we have those whales -- those few people who are spending crazy amounts of money and that's enough, so let's just focus on those people," Bousquet explained. "But that means it's extremely difficult to get people into the game because you're bringing in new people who are not going to have fun. They're going to go in there and the paying players are going to have fun slaying them, and those [new] people are not going to stay. What we're trying to do now is only focus demonetization on convenience and those anime games it is very important and does resonate with an audience. If people want to buy their mounts, that's up to them. If they want to hunt them down and get them as drops from the monsters that they slay, anyone can do that." The aim is to reward "people coming in and logging into the game often enough and staying in the game," versus just reward those who are "paying money up front." For a fun counterpoint to Dragomon Hunter, there's the trading card game Immortalis Aeria published on mobile. It took a card game that was successful in Japan and replaced the art assets wholesale while keeping the original gameplay mechanics. The more western fantasy art style worked and the release has a big success for Aeria. The company has gotten good in predicting what will sell and how. This year's fantasy MMO Echo of Soul was the biggest launch yet. "There's nothing about the game that makes it really stand out in terms of, 'oh, this has an innovative feature,'" Nichols said. "The MMORPG genre is really crowded so it's hard to come up with a new feature that nobody has done before, but EoS is just really polished and has all of the features an MMO gamer would want." Aeria seems to know what MMO gamers want; it's a fair, mid-Mel-Gibson-era claim when you're still running your first-published anime MMO six years later and simultaneously launching your fourth from the same developer. And Aeria is diverse, blending anime and fantasy MMOs with shooters and mobile development all while reaching interntional audiences. "The Turkish market loves shooters. They don't spend a lot of money, but there's a lot of players," Nichols said. You can still play WolfTeam, a shooter that lets you transform into a powerful wolf (that aspect is most popular in Germany). [embed]323419:61324:0[/embed] As for the future beyond Dragomon Hunter? Nichols sees, "fewer PC MMOs and shooters coming out of Asia" because of the mad dash towards mobile, "as a result, our PC business is kind of stable. We're launching one or two games a year at this pace, whereas two years ago we were launching four games a year. The growth strategy for our business is coming from mobile. We have four games all set to launch early next year. Each one of those games was very successful in its native market in Asia. We're optimistic that a game that can be successful in Asia will be successful in the West as long as we make the art and style of the game appropriate for the Western market." But mobile is getting full up, too. "We're seeing some signs that some of the developers are shifting back to PC because the mobile market is so competitive," Nichols said. "I thought, Capcom and Konami, they're late, because they've been so focused on consoles." "Even huge companies like Supercell are doing TV advertising in Korea -- that never happened before in Korea." You might remember Supercell's $9 million Clash of Clans commercial that aired during this year's Super Bowl in the states, unless you mute commercials and use the time to thumb through your phone or grab a drink. "And all the Korean developers are like 'what the hell is this,' because they can't spend that much money." 
Dragomon Hunters preview photo
And it all makes some kind of sense
"Dragomon Hunter is one of the games where we've made the most changes [to appeal to the western audience]," Aeria Games' Product Marketing Manager Alexandre Bousquet tells me. That doesn't mean shaving the points off of spik...

The Goon needs a video game, and so do these comics, too!

Nov 30 // Stephen Turner
The Goon What’s it about? The Goon runs a protection racket out of a Depression-era port town with his partner and only friend, Franky. It’s easy money until the zombies show up, and The Goon has to face the demons of his past in order to protect the sort-of-innocent. Did I mention the giant talking lizard, roller derby girls, and even a man made of wicker? Yeah, that happens along the way, too. How would it work as a game? You could easily set it up as a co-op brawler, where The Goon and Franky fight, shoot, shank, wrench, and quip their way through the zombie hordes, before tackling the more serious issue of werewolves, burlesque house killers, and Lovecraftian parodies. Think Hellboy: The Science of Evil, but more fun. Why isn’t there a game, then? It’s all about timing. Whereas the similar Hellboy broke the glass ceiling with a movie, during a time when obscure comics were worth a risk, The Goon hasn’t had the same chance. Years after its announcement, The Goon movie is still stuck in development hell and creator Eric Powell is currently slowing down his output, opting to do mini-series runs instead of monthly issues. So, in a way, the heat has died down on what is otherwise one of the best comics around. Fell What’s it about? Detective Richard Fell is maverick cop with plenty of book smarts and an ego to bolster it. But after he gets his partner seriously injured, Fell is transferred to Snowtown, a crime ridden burg where madness prevails and the good rely on magic to protect them. The more methodical and cynical Fell figures it's down to him alone to clean up the streets, even if it means being just as violent as the criminals he's chasing. How would it work as a game? I adore detective games, but unfortunately most punish you for not following the developers’ train of thought. Act too clever or arrive at the same solution from a different angle and you’re slapped on the wrist for not sticking to the script. Phoenix Wright and L.A. Noire were notorious for this, while Hotel Dusk and Heavy Rain were far more forgiving, allowing you get back on track with a roundabout line of questioning. The idea of Fell being too smart for his own good (and at times, to his own detriment) perfectly falls in line with the player's own inventiveness. So having a game where you're free in drawing your own conclusions, but having to know when to hold back information or lay it all down for the best sentencing would make for an intense balancing act; one that credits the player for being smart on their own accord. Why isn’t a game, then? Fell was short-lived at 9 issues long, released sporadically over 3 years (2005-2008). It’s probably too much of a risk for such a dead comic, and Warren Ellis is either too busy rocking out with Grinderman (Edit: Not the same Warren Ellis!) or writing another book to check his emails. Stumptown What’s it about? Dex Parios is the sole proprietor of Stumptown Investigations, a P.I. agency based in Portland, OR. She’s perpetually stubborn, witty in the face of danger, and not afraid to get into a fight. She’s also damn good at solving mysteries, which is pretty useful as she’s in deep with the casinos, has to look after a brother with Down syndrome, and owns a Dodge that needs repairing on regular basis. But as much as she needs the money, she never gives up on a client and her cases usually shine light on the darker side of Portland; the one all but forgotten in the midst of a hipster boom. How would it work as a game? I wasn't a fan of Life is Strange, but that’s really down to me wanting a straightforward neo-noir set in the Pacific Northwest than a Donnie Darko homage with bad dialogue. However, its point and click/choice-and-consequence gameplay perfectly suits Stumptown and Dex herself (brilliantly written by Greg Rucka, a man who understands solid female characters). In the comics, she’s constantly strong armed by client compromises and her own addictions, so it would be nice to see a game where a modern day white knight is bent out of shape as loyalties to one person has a knock-on effect to others. Plus, the episodic nature would be ideal for standalone cases. Why isn’t it a game, then? The straightforward detective game is a rare beast. It has to have a gimmick to work, to keep the player engaged and allow a broad audience to win. I’d love to see a no-frills experience happen, though, and the Portland backdrop has currently been refreshing mysteries in the media from Backstrom to Cold Weather and even the police procedural elements of Grimm. Look, I'm just obsessed with going to Portland at the moment, okay? DMZ What’s it about? The near future: America has been torn apart by a second Civil War. Manhattan is now a demilitarised zone, with its poorest citizens trapped in a Westernised No Man’s Land. Reporter Matty Roth enters the zone to get the scoop of a lifetime, but ends up becoming the news as the DMZ heads towards revolution. How would it work as a game? The Walking Dead and This War of Mine have both shown there’s an audience for moral choices and tough decisions. You could go either direction for DMZ, either as a Telltale adventure or as a survivalist scavenger hunt. Much like The Goon, this one writes itself with a rich lore without you knowing every little detail to buy in. Why isn’t it a game, then? Eh, This War of Mine already exists and does an excellent job of highlighting war from a civilian perspective. Plus, The Division, which is basically all the action parts of DMZ in one condensed package, is on the way. Got to love Ubisoft for taking existing IPs and tweaking them enough to pretend it was their idea all along; see also: Watch_Dogs and Person of Interest. Girls What’s it about? Petty bitterness and primal urges threaten simple common sense when a town is invaded by identical naked alien women who just want to procreate. Trapped in a giant dome, a battle of the sexes erupts between its human cast. Their very survival depends on telling the men to keep it in their pants. Guess how that turns out. How would it work as a game? Girls would be controversial as a video game, but played right, it wouldn't be anything more shocking than what Catherine achieved with its sexual dilemmas. Video games shine when they’re allowed to be reflective of player interaction, even throwing back excuses for our Machiavellian nature. There’s a scene in The Walking Dead: Season One’s finale, where Clem’s kidnapper goes over the choices Lee has made, and at times, breaks the fourth wall. Think about it: Did you really save Carley over Doug because she had the gun, or because she was a potential love interest? Imagine a game like Girls having the same “don’t bullshit me” attitude as you doom a whole town with your virtual dick. Why isn’t it a game, then? It’s a comic about naked alien women and the men who take advantage of them. Stark naked lady bits and all! As much as I’d love a game like Girls, it’s probably not going to be on Steam any time soon. 100 Bullets What’s it about? Several wronged people across America are given an offer by a mysterious old man named Agent Graves: One untraceable gun, 100 spare bullets, and a carte blanche for revenge. Some buy into it easily, others chew over the morality of it all, but those who impress Graves end up being taken under his wing and into a conspiracy that's integral to the country's violent history. How would it work as a game? Despite the snappy title, 100 Bullets is more of a hardboiled thriller than an action series. It's a saga where every pull of the trigger has a far reaching consequence, where loyalties shift, and just about every character struggles to see the bigger picture. When the violence does happen, it's the end result of some messy choices and the gory outbursts are nasty periods at the end of every chapter. As a game, 100 Bullets would work best as a cocktail of third person shooting and tailored choices, much like Blues & Bullets. It would make for some nail-biting decisions and morality plays, where killing someone actually means something, good and bad. Why isn't it a game, then? Well, it's not like someone hasn't tried already. Personally, the cancelled game had it all wrong from the start. Yes, Cole Burns is probably the second famous character of the series, but that doesn't make him a good fit for a shootbang protagonist. He's actually the kind of shit stirrer you'd find on an episode of The Apprentice. Also, making 100 Bullets a generic third person shooter just takes the depth away from, in my mind, one of the best comic books ever made. Criminal Macabre What’s it about? Cal McDonald is a junkie private eye and monster slayer for a bunch of ghouls living in the L.A. sewers. He's a total badass, and this is before he gets wings. How would it make a good game? Despite the umbrella title, The Cal McDonald Mysteries are usually solved with a lot of guns and even more painkillers. I can almost see a Max Payne-meets-Constantine shooter with moments of crime scene investigation and crazy demon boss fights. But mostly crazy demon boss fights. Why isn’t it a game, then? Cal's creator, Steve Niles, worked on F.E.A.R. 3, and I'm guessing that terrible game has scarred him for life. That, and as much as I love the series, it would have to be a stellar third person shooter to be remotely successful; something that's gone the way of the B-tier developer. Crossed What’s it about? Post-apocalyptic, rape and murder nightmare fuel, one that makes The Walking Dead look like a camping trip. Forget making any decisions, you’ve already been buggered and God knows what else. How would it work as a game? I don't know, try asking uber-fan and Community Manager, Occams Electric Toothbrush, because he's a sick son of a bitch. Why isn’t it a game, then? Because as I've already said, our Community Manager, Occams Electric Toothbrush, is a sick son of a bitch. Right, enough about my choices, what comic would you like to see made into a game?
Comics as games photo
Eric Powell, call me, yeah?!
I’m not a fan of “The Capes” when it comes to comic books, but I understand why they’re such an easy fit for video games. Superheroes are proactive investigators and brawlers with adventures based sole...

Dtoid Designs: The five best Un-Mario levels

Nov 30 // CJ Andriessen
[embed]323057:61316:0[/embed] Thank you to everybody who entered this month. We will have a new contest starting on December 1. If you'd rather play these fine levels than watch, here are the level IDs you need: #5 Out of Another World (v 1.1) Disqus User: Algator C8B5-0000-00E0-E743 #4 DonkeyKong Country Jungle Hijinx Disqus User: Anikid 443B-0000-00B9-9B52 #3 Mario RAMPAGE *Post Your Score!! Disqus User: Alfonso Navarro B36A-0000-00E1-CFB3 #2 Pitfall II - The Lost Caverns (Atari) Disqus User: GameMakr24 A4B4-0000-00EC-8BCA #1 Super Sniper Bros: Aim & Fire Disqus User: CTMike 16E0-0000-00E0-4AF8   If you would like to try out the level I created for the Un-Mario Challenge, check out Arino Hawkins & the 1001 Flames here: 43AF-0000-00DD-02F8
Dtoid Designs photo
Check out the winners of round two
This month for the second Dtoid Designs contest, I challenged you to use Super Mario Maker to create the Un-Mario level. How exactly does one create a level that doesn't play like it comes from a Super Mario game using only S...

Demon's Souls photo
To be announced at the PS Experience?
I know how many people love this game, so I’ll cut the preamble: Demon’s Souls might be coming to PS4. The game put From Software on the map, and introduced the format now used yearly for the likes of Dark Souls a...

Lara Croft GO's new expansion is sadistic

Nov 29 // Kyle MacGregor
The team at Square Enix Montréal has been listening to feedback, and "The Shard of Life" expansion is targeted squarely at players who wanted something more complex out of the base game. Comprised of 26 new puzzles, the free update has a high floor in terms of difficulty, picking up right where the main story left off and ratcheting up the tension from there. The Shard of Life sees Lara descend into a new ancient burial chamber, the Cave of Fire, where she comes across a new obstacle, immortal enemies, en route to pilfering the grotto's hidden treasures. The invincible creatures can be stunned, but will eventually rise back to their feet (or insert turn of phrase that better applies to snakes). This adds a new dimension of challenge, requiring players to approach puzzles from different vantage points and hastening the window of opportunity for certain obstacles to be surmounted. In addition to adding a new dimension of challenge (these immortal enemies often make it so precise movements must be made, narrowing the window of opportunity for you to get by them), they inject a new element to puzzle solving, where their felled-bodies might hold a switch down, but only for a certain amount of time before they start moving again and alter the landscape. While I confess I wasn't among the virtuosos who completed Lara Croft GO without breaking a sweat, The Shard of Life never feels unfair. That said, I've probably spent more time dealing with some of the individual rooms in the add-on content than I did with entire stretches of the original game. It definitely has me thinking more, as each puzzle is a multi-step process with nary an easy solution. At times, there's a bit more mental gymnastics involved than I might have preferred, considering I was comfortable with the campaign, but it's difficult to get too broken up over some mild frustrations in a sizable, free update to an experience I already love and enjoy. If you've yet to try Lara Croft GO, it's currently 40 percent off via iTunes and Google Play for $2.99.
Lara Croft GO impressions photo
But I still love it
Lara Croft GO might just be my favorite mobile game of the year. Having played through the campaign twice now, I can safely say there isn't much I'd change about Square Enix Montréal's minimalist puzzler -- though...

Podtoid 314: Sex Advice

Nov 28 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]322665:61289:0[/embed] Topics we discussed: What's the best potluck food? How do you avoid panhandlers? How to break up with your significant other What should be your college major? What to do after a one night stand Should you let your kids play games? Alaskan captivity Lara Croft Go, Fallout 4, Assassin's Creed Syndicate Elf Bowling Recent Episodes: Podtoid 313: Horse Cock Podtoid 312: Call of Duty: Black Oddish III Podtoid 311: The Fallout 4 S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Podtoid 310: Intergalactic Child Abduction Podtoid 309: Code Name Li Po Need hella good advice? Email us at [email protected] or leave a comment below.
And other hella good advice
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. This week on Podtoid, Destructoid's weekly advice show, we give advice. Hella good advice.

The wastelander's guide to building settlements in Fallout 4

Nov 28 // Nic Rowen
Creating your character to be a wasteland real estate mogul  Before you lay down the foundations of your personal empire, you need to get yourself right first. If you want to be serious about your settlements, you'll need a few perks to make it work, including a hefty investment in charisma. This could be tricky if you've already been playing for 50 hours with an anti-social radioactive super soldier and just now want to start rebuilding the Commonwealth, but not un-doable (remember, you can get a charisma-boosting bobblehead at the insane asylum and invest perk points into S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats if you really need to get that number up, among other less savory methods that I'll discuss later). You can also just roll up a new character specifically made to dive into the building and crafting aspect of the game. You'll need six Charisma to get two levels of the Local Leader perk and at least level two of the Cap Collector perk. These will let you make supply lines (ESSENTIAL) and awesome stores in your settlements. You'll probably also want to go deep on Intelligence -- the Gun Nut and Science! perks are practically necessary if you want to build the best versions of generators and defense turrets and Scrapper is a little too good to ignore (it will let you turn all those junky laser pistols and pipe rifles you normally throw in the dumpster into useful copper, gears, and circuitry). I know, it sucks that the way crafting in Fallout 4 works basically pigeonholes you into a certain build. There is still plenty of room for creativity even after those stat demands though and the joy of raising a civilization out of the ashes of history does take the sting out a bit. The basics you probably already know If you want your settlement to grow, you'll need a few things: water, food, beds, and a radio beacon. Each settler you bring in needs one unit of food and water per day and they get whiny if they don't have a nice downy pillow to rest their head on at night, so you'll want to get those things sorted first. Plant a few crops (easily done by raiding other farms for their crops and it quickly becomes self-perpetuating when you can just harvest your own fields for planting supplies), install two or three water pumps, and flop down a few beds. No need to go crazy, it takes a settlement time to grow and you can always add more as needed (and later crafting options can make old ones obsolete so no need to waste scrap on something you won't need). A radio beacon draws a steady flow of new settlers to your homestead. You'll need a power source to run it so build a generator (which will come in handy for other things, anyway). Remember, you can turn a radio beacon off when you think you have enough settlers in one place. In some of the smaller areas like the Red Rocket station near the beginning of the game, you may want to put a cap on the number of people you take in. You'll probably want to defend your patch once you have it all set up. Turrets are the go-to option for this (and why you need Science! and Gun Nut so badly so you have access to the upgraded versions). Each turret, trap, or manned guard tower adds a few points to the defense rating of a settlement. Try to keep that number the same or slightly higher than the sum of both the food and water points to discourage attacks. When an attack does occur, you will be notified on your Pip-Boy and can help your settlers defend their home. Raids on your property can be unpredictable. In my time responding to would-be home invaders, I've seen everything from realistic flanking attacks from Super Mutants pouring over the hills, to packs of feral Ghouls somehow spawning deep inside the walls of a fortified base. Your best bet is to spread out your defenses to cover likely avenues of attack while also covering populated areas where your settlers are likely to take a stand. Building things! You could just work with what each settlement already has, but what is the fun in that? Leave your personal mark on the wasteland with a proud series of ramshackle apartments, abodes, and disturbingly militaristic forts. The tools for building things in Fallout 4 are honestly pretty terrible. Objects float about in weird ways, mechanics are never explained unless you go digging through the help topics in the menu (and even then it's hit or miss), and the way walls and attachments snap (or fail to snap) together will give you no end of grief. But don't let that stop you! With a little patience and a few pointers, you can make some reasonably cool-looking digs for your wastelanders. If someone could make this monstrosity of wires and pressure pads work, you can probably get a few fences to stand up straight. First thing first, lay down a foundation and a floor. Uneven terrain tends to mess with the building tools so you'll want to keep things as level as possible to make things easier on yourself. Try to build up! Many of the settlement areas have limited usable ground space. Small areas strewn with debris and hills do not make for nice buildings, but you can avoid that problem by building vertically. Don't be afraid to slap down ladders and staircases and build on top of what is already there. Not only is it space efficient, but a rad tower fort on top of the local Red Rocket station looks much cooler than a bunch of square boxes crammed together on the parking lot. Set up supply lines from a central hub to make life easier. Trying to cart around tin cans and microscopes between settlements and keeping track of which place has what is a suckers game. With the Local Leader perk you can assign a settler to run supplies between locations and everyone can share from the same pool of salvage (but not hard items like guns or armor). Make a supply chain by assigning one runner from settlement A to take goods to settlement B, and one from B to take goods to C, and so on. That way you can just toss all your junk in any workbench in the line and use all of it anywhere. Provisioners seem to be immortal like Companions, so don't worry about them dying on the road the first time they run afoul of some Mole Rats. Fences can really help with invasions by funneling attackers into kill zones as well as give your settlement a homey, lived-in look (murder and comfort together at last!). Sadly, when you start putting rings around all your settlements they also become material hogs, gobbling up steel and wood like nobody's business. I recommend you pick up an issue of Picket Fences from Beantown Brewery so you can make, well, picket fences. They don't consume steel when crafting them and they look more charming than rusty chain link (granted, they look slightly less so when splattered with Super Mutant blood). Light up the night How you provide power to your settlements is poorly explained in-game but essential for making a great homestead, so be prepared to mess with it. Basically, you have two kinds of powered devices at your disposal. Active devices like laser turrets and water purifiers that require units of power to run (meaning your generator has to be able to match their power draw to keep everything working), and passive devices like lights and traps that can run off the ambient grid. Active devices need a line running directly into them, while passive devices need either a nearby connected pylon or wall socket to work. Power pylons can be used to run line from a generator to far-away devices or a conduit. The maximum length of a wire is fixed, but can be cut short by obstacles, hanging on the ground, and so on. I recommend you build your generators in elevated positions to get the most out of your copper. Pylons give off a radius of electrical power that can be used to run lights, traps, and other things. Plugging a conduit into the wall of a building supposedly provides power to the entire shack, but my experience with them has been mixed. Mostly, they seem to work just like pylons (but are slightly cheaper to make and more compact to string up between nearby buildings). Making complex grids for my settlements has been hands down the single most frustrating and rewarding part of building things in Fallout 4. It's a very fussy system (I can't tell you how many times I broke everything trying to slightly adjust one little wall tile or light bulb) but once you get used to it, you can really make your settlements pop. Capitalism Ho! Shops are wonderful. While having to invest into two ranks of Local Leader and Cap Collector to make the biggest shops (which really is the only way to go) is a drag, what you get out of having a few shops spread among your networked settlements can be well worth it. There are six kinds of shops you can make for your settlements with four tiers of value. Each type of shop will boost your settlement's happiness and pull in caps, but a few stand out as handier to have in your personal base of operations than others. Weapon shops can be a reliable source of ammo without having to make a trip to Diamond City, trade goods shops can help cut down on the time it takes to scavenge for parts, clinics can help you cheaply cure addiction and radiation poisoning at your convenience, and bars are great for ingredients for cheap healing items. Armor and clothing shops are fun too and you'll probably want one of each in your network at some point just for variety, but they're not as overtly useful. You can build the first two tiers of shop with just the second level of the Local Leader perk. They're fine and will do the trick if you want to be a skinflint about it. But if you invest all the way to the third tier of shop by getting two levels of Cap Collector, your market stalls will start to carry surprisingly great gear. What's better is once you have tier-three stores, you'll occasionally run into special vendors in the wasteland that you can invite to work at your locations who will turn them into unique fourth-tier stores that carry special gear. Shops will generate an income you can draw from on their own -- just check your workbench from time to time and you'll notice you have a handful of caps you can pull out. But don't get the wrong idea: shops accrue money slowly, so you won't be diving into a vault of caps like Scrooge McDuck anytime soon. The value of having a nice network of shops is the convenience of being able to talk to a merchant on demand rather than wander around looking for a traveling trader or making a special trip. It lets you make more money off of explorations (you can trade found gear for caps more easily) and enables you to restock and refuel faster to get you back out in the wastes. Advanced DIY tips There are plenty of mechanics involved in the settlement system that the game doesn't go out of its way to tell you. I'll try and shed some light on them here. Did you know the maximum population of your settlements is tied to your Charisma stat? Ten people by default plus one extra per point of Charisma. For most people, this either means a 16 settler max, or up to 20 if you went whole-hog on Charisma. I'm told wearing Charisma-boosting gear can let you break that cap but I haven't noticed it in my game. Spread out your beds. For the longest time my settlers in Sanctuary were complaining about “the bed situation” despite having plenty of cots to rest on. At first I assumed it was a bug (this is a Fallout game), but I stumbled on some other people online having the same problem. Apparently, putting too many beds in one area causes makes your tired and poor wastelanders cranky (maybe they'd like it back in the wilds with the Deathclaws where I found them). I haven't found exact numbers, and testing for it is difficult, but it seems like four beds to one room or hut is the sweet spot. Water purifiers are a godsend and you should put them in any settlement that isn't landlocked. A single industrial water purifier will produce 40 units of water, far more than you'll ever need for a settlement on its own. Plus, extra water goes into your workbench as an aid item. You can pull out a bunch for cheap healing, or sell them all to a trader who wanders into your settlement for a stack of caps. Equip gear on your settlers for protection and convenience. Instead of scrapping or selling every spare gun you pick up, try placing it in a settler's inventory and have them equip it (use the triangle or Y button on the console controllers) and a single piece of ammunition for it (it will last them forever, thanks to Lex for the tip!). I know this might be really obvious, but I keep hearing from people who missed it! Not only will they be able to help next time a Super Mutant wanders into the neighborhood, but you can coordinate their outfits to help you keep track of what jobs people are doing. Or just give them a creepy uniform look if you want to make your own apocalypse cult. Each settler assigned to work on crops can sustain enough plants to generate six points of food. This means you only really need three or four full time farmers, which frees up the rest of your population for things like guard duty at watch towers, scavenging for supplies, or manning the tills at your shops. Speaking of guard posts, while they initially seem like a terrible deal (only a measly two defense for a manned post), if you set up multiple posts and assign a person to one of them, he or she will walk between up to three of them like a patrol and provide the defense benefit of each. So one person on guard duty watching three posts can actually provide a decent six defense; better than a level-one turret. Folks assigned to scavenging benches generate a small amount of junk for the workbench on their own. What they gather is fairly inconsequential, but something is better than nothing if you don't have them assigned to anything else. Interestingly enough, they tend to walk around with their weapons drawn, seemingly looking for a fight. Not sure why they do that, but I like to put the best of my spare weapons on them so they can be ready to draw down on any intruders. Build a bell! In the miscellaneous resources menu you can find a bell that will summon settlers to your location. This will save you loads of time when trying to assign jobs or equip folks since they can hide like ninjas when left to their own devices. I didn't find this until embarrassingly late in my game and it would have saved me a lot of time. In a nice little touch, settlers will congregate at a bar after hours if you build one. When the workday is over, everyone just wants a nice slice of grilled brahmin and a drink, I suppose. So maybe spend a little extra time laying out chairs and making your bar area look nice. Hey, you can always cheat I've really enjoyed building up my settlements, tinkering with the crafting tools, and spending entirely too much time equipping all of my little serfs with laser pistols and shotguns, but I'd be lying if I said it hasn't also been a chore. It just takes too long to collect all the knick-knacks and scrap you need to make things. I don't want to have to root around in some raider-infested warehouse looking for power coils and broken light bulbs for hours just to wire up some patio lights in my fifth fully-loaded farm house. Or maybe, like I mentioned earlier, you built your character to tame the wastes with hands made of concrete and a bulletproof hide. You didn't give any thought towards a useless dump stat like Charisma when you started the game. Now you're stuck looking at the unappealing idea of tossing multiple perk points into your stats just to start building decent settlements. So might I recommend cheating? If you're on PC, this is easy. Open up the console command line and go to town. If you are like me and playing on the PS4 (or Xbox One for that matter), you'll have to get a little more creative. There are two super easy exploits you can pull in the console version of Fallout 4 that will make building your settlements much easier. The first is the vendor scam, where you can clean out a vendor's entire stock (including all their junk and tasty shipments of fiber optics and oil) with some tricky re-selling. First, see what ammo a vendor is selling. The near-useless .38 is always a safe bet. Transfer most of that ammo type to a companion or drop it on the ground or you'll lose your own stash of it in the process, but keep 15 or 20 bullets in your inventory just to make the trick work. Next, click on the entire stack of that ammo from the vendor like you were going to buy it all. Hop over to your side of the trade window and sell back a single round of that ammo type from your tray, then sell the rest. If it worked right (it can be hinky and isn't always 100%) you should still have a phantom round left to sell. Mash on that until the vendor owes you a hundred caps or so, then flip back to their tray and “buy” the stack of ammo from them again. Weirdly, it will still count as you selling it and they'll owe you caps. The effect compounds and you can hit this multiple times until they owe you some ridiculous amount like 10k and then clean out their inventory for free. Now I'm delighted every time I bump into Trashcan Carla because I know it's another shipment of fine asbestos coming my way. This may be one of those things that's easier to watch than explain, so check out this video for a demonstration. [embed]323060:61293:0[/embed] When it comes to boosting your special stats, Dogmeat can help you with that. Head back to Sanctuary with him and check out your old house. In Shaun's room you should find a “You're S.P.E.C.I.A.L!” book on the ground that will immediately let you boost a stat of your choice. Once the book is in your inventory, find a nice level place (one of the cleared houses works fine) and get Dogmeat ready. Drop the book on the ground, call Dogmeat to pick it up, and JUST as he goes to snag it, pick it up yourself. The timing can be tricky since Dogmeat will grab stuff from different ranges (and generally act like a fool), but when done correctly, you should have a copy in your inventory while Dogmeat drops one at your feet. Drop them again and pick them up and one will let you boost another stat. You can do this again and again to raise your S.P.E.C.I.A.L points as much as you like. I'd recommend a light touch (completely overpowered characters quickly become boring), but this is a great option if you decide to get into crafting with an already developed character who doesn't have much in the way of Charisma or Intelligence. Exploits like this are going to be something players will have to come to or avoid on their own. Personally, I don't recommend cheating like this right off the bat. It can ruin the experience. But if you're 30 or 40 hours deep into the game and pulling your hair out because you built your character wrong at the start or just can't find enough oil to keep your turrets up and running, it's nice to have a safety net like this available. 
Settlement guide photo
A beacon in the wasteland
Okay, so you've been playing Fallout 4 since launch and you've wandered the wastes, scoured the ruins of Boston, and swam in the glowing sea. You've had a lot of adventures. Now you're thinking about settling down, and checki...

What're you playing? IS IT FALLOUT 4?

Nov 28 // Steven Hansen
I was playing Fallout 4 recently, but I think I’m going to leave it for a while for some decent mods and bug fixes to come out before heading back into it. Instead, I’ve been slowly trudging my way through my first run of Bloodborne (currently trying to beat the Shadows of Yharnam), as well as the recent PC rerelease Sonic Lost World. Playing something as grimdark as Bloodborne and then immediately hopping into a Sonic level based on colourful tasty treats can feel like being hit by a freight train sometimes, but both games are a lot of fun!  I can't stop playing Rise of the Tomb Raider. I think it might be a sickness. I know I have a tendency to fall in love with games (even crappy ones), but there's something so soothing and zen-like about exploring the Geothermal Valley and scouting for Survival Caches. It makes me not wanna finish; in order to delay the inevitable, I've taken to returning to old paths and gathering all the collectibles and finishing up all the Challenges. Besides the diving. Lara will not fecking dive for me. Otherwise I'm playing Destiny. I did leave it for Halo 5 for a bit, but there's still no better multiplayer experience. Like a booty call, I came crawling back to Bungie, a bunch of wilting flowers in one hand and shrugging off my jeans with the other.  I've been a bit restless with my gaming recently, so I've gone back to play a couple of games that I know I enjoy, having a little bit of comfort gaming in among the big reviews season. Revisiting Danganronpa 2, replaying To The Moon and even briefly jumping back in to Half Minute Hero. Other than that I've been sinking some time into playing Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires for Destructoid which should be getting some coverage toward the end of this week and playing the odd game of Peggle on iOS while travelling. I just want to get through all those challenge puzzles again. I'm so bad at playing video games, folks. I've got probably six or so hours clocked on Fallout 4, and after my save being erroneously deleted I think I might wait a month or two before coming back to it. Meanwhile I've been dragging myself kicking and screaming through a genocide run in Undertale, as well as putting a few runs into Sublevel Zero before I sleep most nights. I went on a shopping spree a week or two ago and grabbed a bunch of Dreamcast games, so I'm finally learning Street Fighter III: Third Strike as well as finally getting around to playing Jet Grind Radio for the first time. Oh, and that Shovel Knight: Plague of Shadows DLC is dope. I've been in full-blown "gotta catch 'em all" mode with Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon and Yo-Kai Watch. I'm pretty much done with Yo-Kai Watch, but I'm still trying to beat some of those post-game bosses. They're really hard! I'll probably have to find a good place to grind if I ever want to beat them all. Apparently if I lived in the world of Pokemon, I would be a Mudkip. Who knew? I'm a bit disappointed that I haven't been able to recruit Cubone yet, but I'll manage (I guess). I like that Super Mystery Dungeon lets me see a side of the Pokemon that I don't often get to see. They all have personalities, quirks, and opinions and it's really fun to get to know them all. It's like that episode of the anime where they all wash up on a desert island and Ash's Pokemon end up hanging out with Team Rocket's Pokemon and you get to hear what they're actually saying to each other. Except in the game, you don't have to listen to all that "Squirtle Squirtle!" "Charmander!" "Bulba Bulbasaur!" nonsense. Thank god. At my real job, we're entering what is known as the busy season, aka hell month, aka all employees on suicide watch month. That's right, I work in retail. So after eight stressful hours of people telling me I ruined their Christmas or I made their children cry (both of which just make me laugh, laugh, laugh), I like to come home and play a game that really relaxes me; like Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson. Nothing helps me get through the holidays better than pretending the people I'm slicing and dicing up in that game are the customers who annoy me so much. What's that Mrs. Stevens? Your Christmas is a bust because we ran out of Monopoly sets and you decided not to order until December 22nd? How about I make it up to you with a katana to the face? Oh Mr. Peters I'm sorry. You were supposed to get that package before Thanksgiving so you could give it to your daughter as a Thanksgiving gift, as if that should be a real thing? Eat boot, asshole! Baby life has kept me from playing any game solo for more than 30 minutes at a time, but I've been playing Nintendo Badge Arcade every morning while I'm in the bathroom (70 badges so far and I haven't spent a cent), and I've got a new record on Super Graviton in VVVVVV (19.43 seconds!). I also finally managed to get through Plague Knight's campaign in Shovel Knight, and was shocked by how sincerely touching many of the cut scenes were. When other people are around, we've been popping in Runbow, Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, and Sportsball while swapping off turns keeping the kid happy. Juggling games and child care is like a game unto itself, and so far, I haven't lost any lives. Maybe I should go pro. My backlog's now ballooning to include the likes of Metal Gear Solid V, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, the last episode of Game of Thrones, Destiny and other games which I know are really good and fun to play, and it's all because of Fort Construction Simulator 2287 Fallout 4. About 30 of the 40-or-so hours the savegame timer is telling me I've had with Bethesda's latest have been spent with the game's gratuitously deep settlement system. On the one hand, it's dreadfully unnecessary and essentially cuts the legs out from under Bethesda's most accomplished main story so far (though that isn't saying a whole lot in the grand scheme of things). On the other hand, my Sanctuary Hills settlement is really coming along, in that romanticizing-shantytowns kind of way. Check it out below (complete with royalty-free music courtesy of Youtube's copyright enforcement thingamabob): [embed]322272:61236:0[/embed] I've spent every spare moment of the past two weeks as a post-apocalyptic hoarder in Fallout 4. Just like grandpa working on his train sets, the miniature model enthusiast in me has surfaced in a weird way and I've gone deep on the settlement building aspect of the game even though it's really, genuinely, terrible. All of my settlers have cute little ramshackle apartments, access to clean water, and all the laser guns they could ask for even though I'm still not sure what (if anything) they can do for me after 20 hours in. Please send help. After spending around ten hours getting the elderly Mama Murphy high as fuck in Fallout 4, I fell back into my own personal addictions: Halo 5: Guardians and Hearthstone. I can't help it, I just love opening card packs, as well as the rush of having close matches which both games provide. Recently played through the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands with my boyfriend which was surprisingly hilarious, plus it fed my newfound obsession of Hunter S. Thompson, as there is a character that looks and dresses like him.  Other times I'm lying in my bed with my Vita playing through Superbeat: Xonic for review obsessively, while loud techno and metal fill the air alongside my swearing.   I want to say I'm re-experiencing Undertale's charming pacifist run. A game chock full of so many secrets that I'd replay the entire game to see the things I missed like Sans' room or beating Thundersnails. Or I could say I'm replaying Bayonetta 2 and trying to unlock the other, extra hard secret characters like Rosa or Rodin. But I'm not. I'm playing Nintendo Badge Arcade. I put a dollar in to grab the Animal Crossing badges just now, because of course I will, I have the Isabelle and signboard 3DS theme. You can also never play too much Super Smash Bros. 4, especially with Cloud on the horizon. I recently finished up the latest Minecraft: Story Mode episode for review, and it was all right. I have a few games on my list to get to before we start working up our Game of the Year lists, like Undertale and Life is Strange, but I haven't started either of those. Right now I'm on vacation, away from my PC and consoles, so all I'm really playing is stuff on my 3DS and my phone. I've been getting through Hitman GO, which is dressed up like a cute little board game about murder. Also still chugging away at Ultimate Angler on the 3DS, because StreetPass games are always going to be the best. What am I playing? More like what aren't I playing, right?! But, can we talk seriously for a minute? I'm begrudgingly playing Fallout 4. Have a bunch of people above me already talked about Fallout 4? I haven't bothered to look, but I bet they did. You're probably reading this article while you take a break from Fallout 4. It's goddamn everywhere. I'm not sure I have a lot of nice things to say about it but I'm still playing it. I guess that counts for something. I think it's my favorite Ubisoft game ever. The missus and I are currently burning through The X-Files, just in time for the new mini-series in January. You know, I'm amazed at how well the entire show holds up (though, I say this as we currently work our way through Season 7, a.k.a. David Duchovny's last full season, a.k.a. it all goes to shit) and I've totally fallen back in love with Gillian Anderson, reigniting my first TV crush from all those years back. Not even her awful wig in those new trailers can diminish it, now! Anyway, as part of the binge, I played The X-Files FMV game in its intended place during Season 3; between Wetwired (where Scully goes coco-bananas due to broadcast signals) and Talitha Cumi (the finale where Mulder befriends that guy from The Invaders). As a game, it has all the hallmarks of why FMV failed, but also it works remarkably well in trying to emulate the show within such limitations; especially when it came out just as The X-Files loosened up, got cool, and put out its best work. Also, I'm currently playing through Breach & Clear: Deadline, which isn't too bad considering the Steam Sale price. It's a spin-off of a tactical shooter in the vein of Rainbow Six/SWAT/Doorkickers, but the fact it involves rushing zombie hordes makes a lot of your tactical decisions, and the very title, a tad redundant. But, hey, it's actually a fun little game if you're not too cynical about the planning and light RPG elements. Also, also I'm still playing PAYDAY 2 because I'm a monster on par with Hitler. If you've followed my quickposts of late, you know I have been on a huge Castlevania binge, which will be concluding soon with Rondo of Blood, Order of Ecclesia and then Symphony of the Night's Maria Mode. I also recently finished Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin. I've also been playing Child of Light, Fire Emblem: Awakening and Super Smash Bros. for 3DS. This will be my third time through Awakening, which is starting to become something of an annual tradition for me. It's just such a charming game and I usually lose Vaike along the way, but maybe he'll live this time. Sadly, I can't marry Tharja, but Nintendo will let me marry her prior incarnation in Birthright next year. Smash is the main obsession right now, though. Just unlocked Jigglypuff and I'm maining Zero Suit Samus, Robin and Pikachu so far. Mostly Zero Suit Samus since Samus is the best ever when she's not in Metroid Other M. Robin is an interesting challenge with the limited use of tomes and swords, I just have to get over Robin not looking like my Robin in Awakening. It's like seeing a Commander Shepherd, but it's not your Shepherd. I'm hoping Shovel Knight and Shantae get to join the fray through the Smash Ballot, too. If some sulky, spikey-haired, fake soldier with glowy eyes can get in, the Cerulean Spader and a bellydancing half-genie are fair game. I guess we'll see. My experience of Fallout 4 as read by SNL’s City Correspondent, Stefan: The hottest new experience in video games right now is Fallout 4.  This post-apocalyptic thrill kill club has it all. Ashes. Crab people. Mad Max Scarecrows. And just when you think you’ve seen it all…what’s that? Teddy Bear Night Light! (It’s that thing where you kill a Glowing One then cover it in teddy bears.) Thanks to The Old Hunters DLC, I'm back into Bloodborne. I left off months ago with a new game+++ save file, so I had to start fresh and work my way back up to even access the expansion, much less make any real progress in it. Far too many hours later, I'm so close to the end. I've done everything but take out the optional boss, and I can hardly imagine that ever happening without summoning a near-flawless co-op player. It's such an unforgiving fight! As much as it's a total slog and I've become exceedingly impatient, I'm too stubborn to give up. I also got one of those $20 PlayStation TVs and, after scrolling through the online system library, I'm now just playing old favorites like What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord? and Patapon. Worth it. People can pretty much see what I've been playing through reviews, but in addition to the Bloodborne DLC and Xenoblade Chronicles X, I'm peppering in some Final Fantasy XIV and Destiny. The latter is really winding down though as Bungie hasn't introduced anything new in a while, and since my normal raid group is starting to get pissed at the triple-RNG involved in hard mode (getting the item, then getting the right level, and the right roll), they don't play as much. Beyond that my wife and I still play Pikmin 3's bingo versus mode on occasion, as well as Black Ops III via split-screen. Whenever I'm in the middle of college finals, I tend to gravitate towards games that can be played in the space between cram sessions. And every year since 2012, the game I pick to fill that void is the regular Call of Duty release. I am part of the problem.  Black Ops III is difficult to come back to after the similarly-themed Advanced Warfare. The gun sight that lit up enemies and the corner-friendly boost in Advanced Warfare were cornerstones of my almost 1:1 K/D ratio (impressive for someone who is normally very bad at shooters), and losing those tools in the transition to Black Ops III was a blow. Plus, as of Thanksgiving, we've officially hit the point where people have those maps memorized from every angle. Call of Duty's progression system continues to be immensely satisfying on a macro and micro level, culminating in a cycle that's difficult to escape when there's an upgrade perpetually right around the corner, so it's not like I'm going to quit any time soon. I barely have time to play anything else! I'm still playing Dragon Age: Inquisition. Is it just me or does this game not have an end? Sure, I picked it up in the summer almost a full year after release -- but I'll be damned if I haven't given in to my completionist mindset trying to pick up every last shard. Is it worth it? Almost 100 hours into the game and at this point contemplating ways to conjure up a mass kool-aid suicide in Skyhold just to keep something -- anything -- moving along in the plot. That Cullen though. He's no Alistair, but you can't deny that fur mantle. BioWare - 3; Caitlin - 0 (let's not forget about Thane). Reporting live from Santa Teresa, New Mexico! This forced vacation has allowed me more game time than usual. On the way over here in the RV, I played Eldritch Horror and Dungeons & Dragons with my lady and her brother. On the digital front, I brought my laptop and I've been playing more Killing Floor 2 and some Downwell. If you think the latter game is difficult, try it on a bumpy ass RV with poor weather stripping. Before the trip, I finished Rise of the Tomb Raider, which I enjoyed, but might as well have been called Tomb Raider: The Exact Same Narrative Beats as the Last Time, or even Tomb Raider: Why are the Only Good Parts of the Story Buried in Shitty Audio Logs? Obviously, I have some thoughts about this. You'll be hearing from me soon. And gosh, I haven't even started playing Fallout. I might just wait until next year.  I've been eclectic. I jumped into some first-time-in-months Rocket League that dulled after winning at least 10 in a row. I turned on XCOM, got in that save where I was naming everyone after Destructoid staff, remember I'd fucked up last time I was streaming it, and proceeded to watch everyone I work with impaled and vomited on by chryssalids (only Caitlin and Darren survived by virtue of having been in the infirmary). Kicked around some Downwell but it wasn't pulling from the cloud save and knocking off rust sans Levitate style was taxing. Stopped myself from mindlessly playing more Resident Evil 4.  After all the hit 'em and quit 'ems I settled into some The Testament of Doctor Mabuse because I wanted to watch more Fritz Lang and fell asleep during Stromboli. All substitutes for Rififi and other Criterions not in Hulu's collection. I've also been watching that Jessica Jones program, the only superhero thing I've seen since Guardians of the Galaxy (and before that, the first Avengers, and part of some X-Men movie in the airplane window reflection of the guy in front of me). I appreciate the reduced scale and attempts at not sharing the same visual style as others of its ilk (all the action looks the same! They're all shot and edited the same!), I'm torn on always having "Basketball Jones" stuck in my head. - What in Sam Hill are YOU playing?
What'cha playin'? photo
With my heart?
Lord on a skateboard we did it, that's it, the year's over, there's nothing left to get through in 2015 (year 3 of Luigi). I'd like to thank everyone who got us this far and let's just coast into 2016, done completely with ho...

What is your favorite Bethesda era Fallout game?

Nov 27 // Chris Carter
Fallout photo
New Vegas, baby
Barring the amazing original PC series, I want to know what people think of the newer takes on the Fallout franchise. I've seen so many conversations regarding Bethesda's reign, and although there's lots of love for Fallout 4...

Review: Mighty Switch Force! Academy

Nov 25 // Chris Carter
Mighty Switch Force! Academy (PC)Developer: WayForwardPublisher: WayForwardReleased: November 23, 2015MSRP: $9.99 The gist this time around is that series heroine Patricia Wagon, instead of finding a new line of work, returns to law enforcement in the form of a VR training module assisting new recruits. Academy isn't like past titles in that it's a zoomed-in, Mario-like platformer -- players will see the entire map all at once, similar to one of my all-time favorites, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. As a result, everything feels a lot more sprawling and involved, especially on a larger monitor or TV screen. Bullets go across the entire board, and maps can be "looped" a la Pac-Man, opening up deep possibilities when it comes to strategic planning that weren't possible in prior iterations. I feel like the "whole screen" gimmick is also far more fair when it comes to the time trial element of the game, as players no longer have to guess as to what's behind a specific turn, or play levels multiple times to learn the layout. I was skeptical of this approach at first, but ultimately came around to it after just two missions. Having said that, there are sparing instances where maps are mirrored, forcing players to do the same basic run twice, even while playing solo -- presumably, this is a side effect of the four player co-op function. Even with that small caveat, Academy remains engaging throughout. Series staples like crumbling blocks and catapults return, as do most of the same exact enemies from the previous games. Academy doesn't really do a whole lot of iterating beyond the multiplayer and zoomed-out angle, but in most cases, that's completely fine. There's 25 stages in all, with five labeled as "classic" bonus maps (all of which support co-op), and four arenas to battle it out in. [embed]322505:61251:0[/embed] While there is a degree of replayability in the game's versus mode, I don't think it would be too forward to expect the entire first game to be added in at some point. Also, the complete lack of online play for either mode can really put a damper on things after you've mastered every level, and there's no level editor in sight, which would have been perfect for this release. Despite my mostly enjoyable experience, it's clear why WayForward works primarily with consoles -- this PC-only game suffers from a lack of options and optimization. For starters, there are nearly no visual options outside of HUD scaling, and the way control schemes are handled is barebones at best. Only player one may use a keyboard, and the others (two through four) must wield controllers. It's odd, because I had controller issues even during solo play, to the point where the "switch" button wasn't recognized. If you're big into the Mighty series, you'll probably have a decent time with Academy. It's a bit too chaotic to be a worthwhile multiplayer party game if that's primarily what you're looking for, but the great gameplay from the past Switch Force games has translated over in a nearly 1:1 ratio, which is fine by me. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Switch Force review photo
Patricia Wagon rides again
WayForward could probably make Mighty Switch Force! games until the end of time, and as long as they retained the basic concept, I'd still play them. They're fun puzzle platformers in spite of their faults, and the memor...

Batman: Arkham Knight's Catwoman and Robin DLCs aren't worth playing

Nov 25 // Chris Carter
[embed]322485:61248:0[/embed] At some point there was probably a kernel of a good idea with the Catwoman’s Revenge DLC, but ultimately, it feels rushed like the others. There's almost nothing interesting about the premise: Catwoman, one day after the events of Knight, wants to steal money from The Riddler, who is in jail. We get it, Catwoman likes to steal things, and there is no added depth for either character, nor is there any satisfying conclusion, mostly because the core villain isn't actually present outside of an interlude under the guise of a "prison phone call." It took me about 10 minutes, all told, across two challenge maps (one Predator, one combat), with one very short 30-second puzzle involved. Flip of a Coin is slightly better, but not by much. In this episode, Robin takes on Two-Face at some point following the retirement of Batman, with the help of Oracle by way of remote assistance. There's a slightly interesting dynamic afoot during the DLC, where Oracle assures Tim Drake (whom she is dating) that he can not only measure up to Batman's legacy, but end up coming out of it better than Bruce did. The [albeit mostly played out] duality of Two-Face is also shown quite well with a location that's half destroyed, and half pristine. But again, like every other episode before it, the sheer brevity of the adventure halts any meaningful discussion or character advancement. Players will basically auto-pilot their way through two small Predator maps and two combat rooms for about 20 minutes, all of which operate in the exact same manner as Knight. Unlike Catwoman, Tim feels exactly like Batman gameplay-wise, minus the bullet shield gadget from Arkham City, which is only used briefly during a very staged encounter. To add insult to injury, the final boss fight with Two-Face isn't a fight at all, but a quick one-button QTE. There also isn't even an ending tying together Tim and Bruce's relationship or narrative -- it boots out immediately after the QTE. If this is the last Arkham game from Rocksteady, the poor Season Pass definitely assists in tainting its legacy. There's almost nothing here of worth nearly five months later, and certainly nothing even close to justifying the $40 cost.
Batman photo
Holy Season Pass, Batman!
As I've said before, Batman: Arkham Knight's Season Pass is probably the one of the worst pass prospects in gaming right now. Besides an alright Batgirl DLC, there's a heap of mediocre challenge missions, sub-30 minute "...

Explore and conquer the galaxy in Stellaris

Nov 24 // Steven Hansen
Stellaris (PC)Developer: Paradox Development Studio Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release: TBA So, conquest in space, again, with Stellaris. The Beyond Earth comparison isn't just based on the sci-fi theme, as director Henrik Fåhraeus explained to me last week, Stellaris, "is a grand strategy game masquerading as a 4X game." In that sense it's a departure from past Paradox successes and the upcoming, WWII-set Hearts of Iron IV. He explained in a blog post earlier this year, "The early game is thus characterized by exploration and discovering the wonders of the galaxy," until reaching the mid-game wherein, "there is not much left to colonize and your easy expansion grinds to a halt. At this point, the map stabilizes into the Stellaris equivalent of the world map in Europa Universalis." You begin as one planet directed by a set of cultural guidelines (shown off to us last week was an Individualist Xenophobic empire, which made for a good first encounter with another large empire during which the only dialogue option was, "Alien scum!") that has just discovered faster than light travel. You'll choose between slower , free-moving warp travel; hyperspace across straight lines; and wormhole travels, which requires wormhole stations to be built. [embed]322210:61231:0[/embed] As opposed to pre-canned societies, there are over 100 alien portraits that can be aligned with a variety of traits, so "you will never meet the same aliens again;" or, at least, those bug-eyed purple asshole from your third game might be an inquisitive, pacifist sect next time you encounter that alien art. There are a few other parameters to set, like how many large empires will populate the galaxy you're exploring, but there are also quick start and preset options that reflect Paradox's attempt to widen its appeal, "without compromising our level of depth and complexity." There is an in-game adviser, for example, full voiced to help guide burgeoning emperors (or democratically-elected fish-faced idiots, whatever). In fact, Stellaris is Paradox's first project with a dedicated audio director. Coupled with all the space-faring in a full-figured galaxy and it could prove a little more inviting than playing on a giant map if the grand scope of spaaace isn't too alienating itself. Other simplifications include ditching tech trees for a system, "more like a collectible card game where you draw three cards and pick one." Research into Physics, Society, and Engineering is dictated by your scientists' traits and immediate options are weighted to be most convenient to you at any given time, though sometimes rare research opportunities pop up ("space amoeba weapons" were mentioned). Game progression goes something like this. Start on your home planet, represented by squares arranged 4x4 wherein you can place population unites (and strive for adjacency bonuses, like XCOM's base-builder). Send your science ship around to survey the galaxy, including addressing strange anomalies. In the demoed instance, we were drawn to a distress signal much like our own. There was a 10% failure rate, which just means missing out on the anomaly, though there is potential for catastrophic failure. In this case, the crew of the discovered ship was dead by brain parasite and a trait of our surveying scientist is the only thing that saved our crew from succumbing. Instances like these are neatly thrown into a Situation Log and you can research them from there. Then you'll want to send out ships for colonization and build construction ships to take advantage of resources (habitable planets are rare and meant to be cherished). There's a detailed ship builder, but you can auto-build for the best, too. "I don't want the flow in this game to be too micromanagey," Fåhraeus said. Other systems will start looping back around later. The population of a colonized planet or even your native planet can splinter off into factions of warring ideology, leaving you to choose if you want to say, quash the insurrection with force or give rein to a splintered, population-supported political spin off group. Eventually you will make it to the aforementioned mid-game, where it's "more like Europa Universalis" and you're butting up against large, rival empires. If one scouts you, it has the option to research you before you research it, and make first contact. There are other, smaller civilizations you'll discover, too, some pre-industrial, some post-technology.  To counter past Paradox games' anti-climactic endings when "you reach a point where you know you won," and are just trudging along to victory, late game crises are introduced, revolving around things like dangerous technological advancements or sentient robot worker uprisings -- things that threaten the whole galaxy. And there's maneuvering to do there, too, like letting the killbots off your biggest threat while allying elsewhere, bolstering yourself for the impending man-vs-bot slaughter. Also, you can "uplift" alien wildlife and, say, create a planet of space-faring, extremely loyal dolphins to go space crusade in your name, amen. Stellaris is "coming soon."
Stellaris preview photo
In space no one can hear you scheme
Earlier this year, Paradox offered an alternative for the many disappointed by EA's botched SimCity two years earlier by publishing Colossal Order's excellent city-building-simulator Cities: Skylines. Now Paradox's internal s...

A guided tour of Life is Feudal: Your Own's many, many loading points

Nov 23 // Joe Parlock
Our utterly fascinating journey begins when entering a multiplayer server. I chose a heavily populated one (around 60 out of 64 potential players), and was treated to a nice, incredibly lengthy loading screen. But that's alright, the loading screen taking the better part of five damn minutes isn't a problem! Just take a look at those suave jet blacks and those imposing yellows as they come together beautifully in a visual feast slap bang in the middle of the screen. Isn't it just delightful? Note how the relevant information. such as how close the loading is to being complete, is relegated to being dark grey text on the black background. It’s a bold move that screams “I’m absolutely taking form over function, but when your form is as sweet as mine who really cares, eh?” Now I know what you might be thinking: this piece isn’t technically a true loading screen. But don't you worry, we're accepting of all hangups, slowdowns, waiting periods and roadblocks here! Look at this abstract art dancing around the screen. Look at how those blues and whites gently give way to a more rustic and earthy brown. You may have mistaken this for a delicious artisinal blueberry muffin, or maybe a painting by Johan Sebastian Mozart himself. In reality, this is  actually the world popping in incredibly slowly all around you! Unable to move, all you can do is stand and absorb the waves of colour as they cascade over you. You may have already sat through the initial loading screen, but Life is Feudal loves to just spoil you with how much waiting you're allowed to do before having to play the game! With time, those lighter areas might’ve gradually become a tree or a patch of grass, but in those few minutes it was something so much more: it was a discussion of the nature of reality, and the futility of seeking perfection. All I can describe it as is ‘inspiring’. And now we come to the main event, the one I've been most eager to show you. To do literally anything within Life is Feudal, you are rewarded with this low-key progress bar, slowly scrolling from left to right. Want to chop a tree, make an axe, or even just pick up some grass? Don’t be silly, nobody wants to do that, we all just want to gaze longingly at the progress bar in all of its sluggish, beige splendor. Some critics might argue that this bar is a metaphor for the unyielding capitalist society we find ourselves in, where even the smallest and most insignificant of actions requires hard toil. Life may be feudal, but does it really need to be this difficult? Alas, the beige progress bar seems to suggest so. And so here we are at last, the very end of our tour, and the thing that I believe might well be the most exciting statement Life is Feudal's makes. Should you ever find yourself tiring of the artistic genius that is the game’s many loading screens, and should you ever want to to stumble wearily away from the deep philosophical questioning of its progress bars, Life is Feudal will leave you with one parting message: life is nothing but waiting. Our fascinating journey begins when entering a server. I chose a heavily populated one (around 60 out of 64 potential players), and so got to sit through a nice, minutes-long loading screen. Look at those suave jet blacks and imposing yellows coming together beautifully in an absolute visual feast slap bang in the middle of the screen. And look at how the actually relevant information is relegated to being dark grey text on the black background. It’s a bold move that screams “I’m absolutely taking form over function, but when your form is as sweet as mine who really cares, eh?” Now this one isn’t technically a true loading screen. However it will become clear in time why I’ve included this in our tour. Just look at this abstract art dancing around the screen, merging blues, whites and browns. You may have mistaken this for a delicious artisanal muffin, but it’s actually the world popping in incredibly slowly. Over time, those lighter areas might’ve become a tree or a patch of grass, but in those few minutes it was something so much more. A discussion of the nature of reality itself. All I can describe it as is ‘inspiring’. And then we come to the main event. To do anything within Life is Feudal, you are treated to a low-key progress bar, slowly scrolling from left to right. Want to chop a tree, plow a field, or even just pick up some grass? Don’t be silly, nobody wants to do that on this tour, we all just want to gaze longingly at the progress bar in all of its beige splendour. Some critics argue that this bar is a metaphor for the unyielding capitalist society we find ourselves in, where even the smallest and most insignificant of actions requires hard toil. Life may be feudal, but does it really need to be this difficult? Alas, the beige progress bar seems to suggest so. And so here we are at last, the very end of our tour, and the thing that I believe might well be the most exciting statement Life is Feudal makes. Should you ever find yourself tiring of the artistic genius that is the game’s loading screens and wanting to stumble wearily away from the deep philosophical questioning of its progress bars, Life is Feudal will leave you with one parting message. That is right, my most esteemed guests. Even closing the game and ending your presence in their world will give you another wonderful loading screen. Hauntingly similar to the first, yet instead of the welcoming bearded gentlemen bringing you into his world, you are given a dragon-headed longboat to guide you far, far away. I hope you enjoyed your tour of what might be the most poignant, emotive piece of digital art created this decade. Truly, Life is Feudal is an artistic cornerstone, a piece to be held up for generations to come who seek to learn how to most effectively waste a player's time.
Life is Feudal: Your Own photo
This game has to be performance art
Life is Feudal: Your Own finally released on Steam last week after a hefty period in early access. The idea is great: take survival sims like Rust and The Forest, and add a pinch of Mount & Blade to make the ambitious med...

Slain photo
I've been keeping an eye on Slain!, a PC project (and PS4 + Xbox One, eventually, with a possible Vita edition) that's going to be released soon on Steam. Well, it was going to be released soon, as developer Wolf Brew Games h...

Podtoid 313: Horse Cock

Nov 22 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]321993:61218:0[/embed] Recent Episodes: Podtoid 312: Call of Duty: Black Oddish III Podtoid 311: The Fallout 4 S.P.E.C.I.A.L. Podtoid 310: Intergalactic Child Abduction Podtoid 309: Code Name Li Po Podtoid 308: Back to the Force You can reach us by email at [email protected]
Destructoid's video game podcast
Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or download it here. The Podtoid gang returns from Korea and Canada to recount tales of their adventures, discuss Downwell, Star Wars: Battlefront, and other fine games releasing this holiday season, our favorite spreads to put on breads, and difficulties with daiquiris. Also, horse cocks.

amiibo photo
No need to wait in line
The amiibo season this year is nearly over. Pending the release of the Shovel Knight figure in "Holiday 2015" (which could very easily be pushed), Lottie is the last known toy to be released in 2015, as a Target exclusive. As...

The Silent Hill Retrospective: Origins

Nov 21 // Stephen Turner
Origins is, without being too harsh, a Xerox of the original. The big picture is always in frame, but many of the details, what made the original Silent Hill so special, are faded. Familiar faces fulfill their established roles, locations are revisited and remixed, and the journey from the outskirts of town to the middle of nowhere seems oddly comforting. It's Silent Hill re-told by fans; a closeness that robs Origins of an outsider perspective and player alienation. Narratively speaking, Silent Hill's success was down to its "one-and-done" attitude. For all the weirdness on display, its character motives were clear and the important historical aspects were found on every street corner; allowing us to fill in the blanks with little conjecture. Origins, as the name suggests, fills it in for us at the expense of brevity and credibility, as all those detours into exposition and connections actually harm the original's acts of desperation and improvisation. Be honest: Do you need to know exactly how a baby girl ends up at the side of the road in Silent Hill? Isn’t it more tragic and disturbing when the Masons stumble upon her, and letting our imaginations run wild? That's the major narrative flaw of all prequels, though. They can only embellish, not establish. Silent Hill never needed Travis Grady. While he’s actually a likable protagonist, and his profession as a trucker is quite metaphorical (motel suicides and freeway escapism go hand-in-hand), his story is, sadly, just an excuse for new gameplay ideas and player agency. Origins is Alessa Gillespie’s story, from the house fire to the rear view mirror. One passes into lore, the other is just a footnote, but both vie for your attention in an act of narrative dominance. Unsurprisingly, it seeps into every scene between Travis and Alessa, as he struggles with her manipulations, before succumbing to the role of catalyst. To its credit, Origins made good on its use of mise-en-scene when it comes to giving Travis definition. The various locations were grandiose, gothic, and theatrical - each one a conspiratory labyrinth beyond the understanding of a small blue collar man - with only the Riverside Motel being intimate and claustrophobic for the sake of acceptance and heroism. For a character dragged along by established events, Travis' only form of control is through the use of mirrors, now portals to The Otherworld and back again. Though it reinforced his strength to rebel against the ruling class of Silent Hill, the act also dampened its most foreign aspect. The Otherworld (here, a fire-damaged mess until the familiar rust-and-blood takes hold) was no longer this conceptual tour-de-force that made the audience endure for its narrative riches. Now it was a tourist attraction, one that could be appraised at the flip of a switch. Though their appearances are little more than novelty, seeing Silent Hill's cast all young and fresh faced left us with a wistful yearning, not unlike finding old snapshots of family and friends. Dahlia Gillespie was a white-trash brunette, while Dr. Kaufmann looked a little more dashing without the spare tires. Sure, their stories were already told, but if Origins couldn't escape the past, at least it would have fun reveling in nostalgia. Most affecting, though entirely arbitrary, is Lisa Garland. Instead of being seen through the eyes of a child, we see the drug addict once alluded to in her diary. At the motel, that sound of her having sex in a nearby room perfectly deconstructs the naïve adoration of her fanbase, bonding them to an equally heartbroken Travis in the process. Personally, it's one of the better parts of Origins, a subtle, real-time moment that Climax would refine in every one of Shattered Memories' car journeys. From then on, a grittier, gut-punch characterisation would permeate all of the Westernised Silent Hill games. Origins isn't an awful game, nor is it a stellar one. It simply exists. There's always a shallow memory waiting to strike, deep in the mist, lost to the shadows. Psycho-sexual images roam the halls, lumbering beats loosely touch upon its protagonist's travels, nurses make their return and substitutes like The Butcher step in for missing icons. Origins works best at conjuring up warm feelings when revisiting Central Silent Hill, left to your own devices and Akira Yamaoka's bite-sized score (which is more of throwback, than throwaway). But for every right, it's bound by a necessary wrong. Personally, that's what make the game so middle-of-road, rather than outright terrible. But it's impossible to ignore the fact Origins was meant to reboot the series with a fresh set of eyes, and sell a few PSPs in the meantime. Instead, it only served to strengthen the trepidation in its fanbase. Silent Hill would go through a difficult time, of which much is still up for debate, before Konami gave up on this outsourcing malarkey. From Origins to Downpour, as much as they tried new ideas, they were always reliant on what the fans liked to sell as many copies as they could in the face of dwindling interest. And who knows if P.T./Silent Hills will get that resurrection it deserves. But no matter what happens, just like Travis Grady, Origins will always remain the little guy in the big burning house, almost consumed by the flames of the past.
Silent Hill photo
'You all left that girl to burn!'
Silent Hill: Origins opened with an outsider saving a little girl from a house fire. But when you look back on its place in the series, it meant so much more than a simple rescue. Travis Grady had problems of his own, but the...

amiibo photo
The Trinity shortage was a year ago
It's crazy to think that exactly one year ago today, I was hopping from store to store to pick up the first ever wave of amiibo. While characters like Mario were extremely easy to find, I distinctly noticed that even though I...

Does it matter if Link is a boy or a girl?

Nov 20 // Jonathan Holmes
[Art by  Kuvshinov-Ilya] To its credit, Nintendo has done an admirable job of concocting a way to help fans to imagine Link as both a specific person and an abstract concept at the same time. He's actually not always named Link. You, the player, choose his name before starting each of his games. He also never speaks, further solidifying him as non-character who's only purpose is to act as doorway for the player into the game world. Yet, by leaning hard on both the reincarnation myth and the use of multiple timelines, Nintendo has managed to shape Link into a series of individual characters in the minds of many. In doing so, it has squelched most of complaints the character/non-character used to attract, though it took them a little while to get there. Many fans were outraged when the Wind Waker radically changed who Link was and how he was drawn. A lot of these fans had become extremely attached to a singular idea of who Link was and how he should look. This new Link broke from those ideas, causing their suspension of disbelief to break along with it. It's no surprise then that it was fans who originally came up with the theory that the Zelda series takes place over multiple timelines. They were clearly more invested in believing that Link was real than Nintendo was. Strangely enough, it looks like a lot of those diehard fans are also against the idea of Link ever being a woman. Their devotion to their head canon feels similar to how some Catholics hold tight to their traditional gender divisions. Just a few days ago, a diehard Zelda fan was telling me that making Link a woman would be "pointless," and if someone wants to play a game starring a woman, that there are plenty of other choices out there. I pushed back with the idea that what's pointless to them may mean a lot to someone else. To counter that obvious point, they put on their best empathy-face and said that the Zelda series should not have to bend to the preferences of fans. It's the exactly line of thinking I've heard from well meaning but overly dogmatic Catholics over the years, who advise folks who want to bear confession to a female priest to simply abandon Catholicism in favor of Unitarian Universalism or some other wacky new faith.  [Art by Liart] Nintendo itself has been relatively inconsistent in explaining if Link has to be a man or not. The director of the recently released Triforce Heroes said for that game's story, it wouldn't fit the mythology for the leads to be women. So that's one answer. On the other hand, Eiji Aonuma, producer of the Zelda series as a whole, has never ruled out that we'd get a woman iteration of Link someday, stating that he was going to wait and see how the playable women characters in Hyrule Warriors were received before making that decision. I'm guessing the fact that Hyrule Warriors sold pretty darn well is one of the reasons Linkle went from being a rejected concept sketch to a full-blown character (who may or may not be a reincarnation of Link). In the absence of official word from Nintendo, fans have created their own schema around the question of Link's inherent maleness, just as they they created the split-timeline long before it was adopted as canon. The one I hear the most is that Zelda must always be a woman (because it's the Legend of Zelda, not the Legend of Zeldo) and therefore Link must be a man, as the potential for heterosexual romance between the two leads is a key part of the Zelda's legend. Of course, Nintendo has never explicitly stated any of that. Why would it? As a company that wants to appeal to as many potential customers as possible, it'd have little reason to insult its queer fans or cut itself off from the option of a female Link someday. Linkle is clearly a move towards testing those waters, though it won't likely jump all the way in until it is sure it will be profitable. It's a direction it has been publicly headed in for a while, driven in no small part by the stats showing how women are becoming a larger and larger part of Nintendo's customer base.  It's arguable that the company has been moving towards giving players the option to chose the gender of the green clad Hylian hero for years now.  [embed]321406:61194:0[/embed] It wouldn't even be the first time, technically. Some of the Satellaview Legand of Zelda games allowed for players to chose the gender of their character. So does every modern Fire Emblem, Pokémon, and Animal Crossing game, as will Xenoblade Chronicles X when it's released outside of Japan next month. It's not just in the RPGs either. Nintendo's latest hit character, the Inkling, also comes in boy or girl shapes. In fact, the vast majority of Nintendo's Wii U titles allow you to play as a woman some or all of the time. It could be that the publisher finally noticed that Monster Hunter, Mass Effect, Fallout 4 (the potentially biggest entertainment release of the year) and countless other modern Action-RPGs have let the player decide the gender of their "link" to the game world without suffering any loss in sales. Maybe they are on the cusp of allowing today's Legend of Zelda players to do the same.  That said, it's clear that many people would be upset if Nintendo began providing players with that level of choice. Ironically, a lot of these players are also harshly critical of Nintendo for not keeping up with the times when it comes to cross-buy purchases across consoles games and other consumer friendly practices. What we demand out of our game publishers says a lot about us, and will eventually determine what those publishers end up producing. My guess is that like everything with business, the question of how much Link's gender matters will be answered not in some political debate, but in dollar signs. 
Linkle photo
Linkle: The new Samus or a next Waluigi?
Linkle's debut as a playable character in Hyrule Warriors Legends seems to mean something big to a lot of people, but I guess that's par for course. Regardless of how long it's been since you actually played a Legend of Zelda...

Dark Souls III photo
Says creator Miyazaki
From Software's Hidetaka Miyazaki has some sad news for fans of the Souls series -- the upcoming Dark Souls III might be it. Speaking to GameSpot, Miyazaki states, "I don't think it'd be the right choice to continue...

First Valkyria trailer photo
First trailer and way more screenshots
So I jumped the gun yesterday when I said Valkyria: Azure Revolution and Valkyria Chronicles Remaster (PS4) news was petering off. Yesterday's plain, boring website is now home to a bunch of new screens, the first footage of...

'We're drift compatible': My favorite weird co-op games

Nov 19 // Nic Rowen
Bimini Run Bimini Run is one of those old 16-bit games where I wondered for years if it was just some kind of fever dream of my imagination or not. Forget showing up on lists of “classic Genesis games” or anything, I could never find another person who played it let alone had an opinion about it. But it was something special for it’s time. A bizarre Miami Vice meets proto-open world speedboat game with an even more bizarre two-player mode. Bimini Run could be played alone, but if you were young and had an annoying little brother who insisted on playing as well (like I totally did), there was an option to let you both play at once by splitting the driving and shooting between two players. Player one would take the wheel (rudder?) while player two would man the machine gun and mortar launcher (like all speedboats have, right?) and together you’d try and weave around a pixilated coastline and light up other boats, helicopters, and huts. Make no mistake, this was the worst way to play. But it was also the best. For a game that we only rented once and has wallowed in relative obscurity ever since (although some fans did come out of the woodwork when Giant Bomb did a quicklook of it recently), I have fantastic memories of Bimini Run. It was a trial by fire for my brother and I of just how dedicated we were to beating the game in a single weekend balanced against the urge to kill each other out of frustration. I’m pretty sure it started the long-standing tradition we have to this day in co-op games where he’s the designated driver while I man the guns. Quite a legacy for a forgotten game. Lucky & Wild Speaking of driving and shooting, did you know there was an arcade rip off of the ‘80s cinema classic Tango and Cash? It’s true. Lucky & Wild, released by Namco in 1992 was a sit-down arcade cabinet that played like a hybrid shooter/racing game. The player in the driver's seat would drive with one hand, shoot with the other, and try and keep track of everything else going on at once. Player two would shoot and feel jealous/relieved that they only had one thing to do. I suppose driving and shooting is one of the more common types of co-op play out there, but Lucky & Wild added up to more than the sum of its parts. It was an anomaly, offering something completely different from the legion of other lightgun games sandwiched into the dark and dingy recesses of your local arcade. If you were smart, you’d divide up the work; Let player one focus on driving and keeping his gun trained on large, easy-to-hit targets. Player two was on crackshot duty, responsible for shooting down incoming rockets or bombs and making your quarters stretch as long as possible. It was also funny for its day. Lucky & Wild played the braindead buddy cop setup for all its worth, an affectionate parody of the most popular kind of movies from the ‘80s. Lucky & Wild really was wild, and we were lucky to play it. It’s the kind of arcade game that emulation just can’t do justice to. You had to be there, sitting in that cabinet, mercilessly elbowing the hell out of the ribs of whoever just steered you right into another rocket or wall. It’s a co-op experience that would be difficult if not impossible to relive nowadays. I’ll be honest though, Lucky & Wild is a favorite of mine for personal reasons as much as it was a legitimately cool game. One of my favorite dumb memories is convincing my mom and grandma to sit down in behind the wheel and guns to give it try in a food court. After a few minutes they did surprisingly well! What can I say, my grandma loved dumb ‘80s action movies. Battlefield There are plenty of cooperative shooters out there, but let’s be honest, most of them just have two players doing the same thing at the same time. In Gears, Marcus and Dom are both diving into cover, shooting grubs, and chainsawing the occasional unlucky goober. Maybe you’ll divvy up the equipment -- Dom will grip the sniper rifle while Marcus keeps things clean with the shotgun -- but that’s about as diverse as it gets. If I included shooters, this article would be a lot longer and a lot less interesting. There is one big exception I’m willing to make to the rule though, because when it comes to usual co-op strategies I have to give it up for the Battlefield series. Not only does the series promote some of the coolest class synergies and co-op strategies in any game, but it tests you and your partners to make them work in a chaotic shit-show of a massive firefight that is constantly changing. Sure, there are a lot of shooters with the “I’ll drive and you shoot” divide, but none of them do it quite like Battlefield. It’s more like “I’ll pilot this specific type of helicopter and man the dumbfire rockets and flares while you take this specific gunner position and simultaneously repair the bird, man the gun, and occasionally fire a guided missile” or “I’ll drive the APC, you all get out behind the objective, toss out recon probes, and storm the place from an oblique angle while I draw fire.” If you want to make the most out of the vehicles in the Battlefield series, you’ll need at least one teammate you’re in total sync with and ideally a few more for proper Thunder Cloud Formation action. Of course I have to give extra props to Bad Company 2 and BF3 in particular. My brother and I played an unhealthy amount of both of them and had a few techniques down to a science. BC2’s amazing destruction system (pound for pound still the best in the business in my opinion) let us breach and clear like pros -- if by “breach and clear” you mean my bro opening up a hole in the wall with a grenade launcher and me running in and quickly tossing around enough C4 to bring down the whole building. Or when we’d go fly swatting in BF3 with the Recon unit’s laser designator and the Javelin missile system, keeping the skies nice and clear. With some good teamwork, just two players working together in the right way at the right time could make a huge difference in a game defined by its massive player count. Brothers gonna work it out, indeed. Portal 2 Goddamn do I love the idiot robots of Portal 2’s co-op mode. Yeah, GLaDOS get’s all the love (and she should, she’s excellent), but I gotta give it up for P-Body and Atlas, the robotic testing duo of dubious intelligence. You know that trust game where one person leans back until they fall and trusts that their partner will catch them? It’s supposed to reinforce bonds and break down suspicion. Well, Portal 2’s co-op is kind of like that, only instead of leaning back till you tip over, you’re suspended over a massive chasm filled with acid or molten slag, and instead of catching you, nine times out of ten your dickbag partner decides it would be hilarious to make you take a swim. It reinforces resentment, and encourages squabbles and problem drinking. Portal 2’s co-op mode wasn’t long, but it was memorable. It let you play with puzzles that would be impossible in single-player, forcing you and your partner to think laterally and develop all kinds of new strategies and ideas. Especially when you get far enough into the game to play with the frictionless gel and bouncy paint. What I love most about Portal 2’s co-op though was how the addition of an extra player opened up ways to break the game. If one Portal player can come up with weird speedrun routes and unintended solutions to puzzles, two players working together could bust the testing facility wide open. Me and the person I went through the co-op campaign with were so committed to being clever little assholes that I’m still not sure if we ever solved all of the puzzles “properly.” The only thing more fun than playing with your toys is breaking them in some entertaining way. Just like strapping fireworks to G.I Joes behind the school. Left 4 Dead Yeah, yeah, I know I just said no more shooters, and yes, as the default survivors in L4D, you’re pretty much all doing the same thing -- shooting zombies and smacking things with your medpack. But that’s for the boring old humans with their stupid guns and lame one-liners. What I’m talking about is when you play for the other team, when you take control of the zombies. I don’t think L4D ever got the credit it deserved for its multiplayer, but on the same blush, I can understand why. Playing as the zombies in multiplayer was a tense game of peek-a-boo, chicanery, guts, and teamwork. It took three other teammates with a solid understanding of the game, excellent communication, and the wits to make the best of things when the RNG just refused to spawn a freaking Smoker for your team when you really needed one. These qualities were what made it feel so damn good when it all clicked, and what made it fall apart into one-sided stompfests for the humans when it didn’t. Each type of special infected the players could take control of had their own role to play in the zombie apocalypse, and it took careful coordination and skill to make them work. Because you never got to choose your infected type, you had no choice but to get good at all of them if you wanted to take the multiplayer seriously. I spent a long time trying to perfect 25-point Hunter jumps and Smoker skillshots in the winter of 2008. I watched a lot of YouTube videos about just how far Boomer spray could spread or how much it would arc at a distance before becoming ineffective. Learning how to not crack under the pressure of suddenly becoming the frighteningly (somewhat less than his reputation would have you believe) powerful Tank and not just eat a molotov as soon as it spawned. I think it’s a strange and wonderful thing that playing as the drooling zombies became the “thinking man’s” part of L4D. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes Bomb disposal might just be the ultimate co-op game. Who would have guessed that the threat of sudden explosive death could bring friends and family together like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes does? Turns out that confusing instructions, bad second-hand descriptions of what a device looks like, and the ruthless pressure of a ticking countdown is the perfect recipe for a fun evening with your crew. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is another one of those games that you have to play to really get. The Oculus version is probably the best (I wouldn’t know), but the PC version works just as well so long as nobody cheats and peeks at the screen. For anyone unaware, it's a game where one person tries to disarm an explosive device by relaying a description of what it looks like and what it's doing to his or her team of “experts” who can look things up in a confusing, often poorly organized, printed-out bomb disarming manual. Bonus points if you find a battered old binder to keep the manual in and mess it up with some coffee stains and dog ears for that “authentic” experience. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a group co-op game. While it’s fine with two players, it’s fantastic with three or four. Not because it will make you more effective bomb disposal experts, more the opposite (at least at first). Getting more hands on the manual means more chaos and squabbling, more people talking over each other and pulling the book away from one another. More sudden BOOMS. Eventually, everyone will pick up on their own tricks or areas of expertise and you can start delegating certain roles to different players. Suddenly you’ll actually start surviving and taking on more and more complex bombs. It’s like watching the Keystone Cops transform into the Hurt Locker crew over the course of an evening. Well, until the drinks start taking their toll. Then it might be time to segue over to Gang Beasts or Jackbox, something a little less cerebral. I'm still waiting for the dream weird co-op game. A kind of Qctodad meets Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes where you and four friends control the different limbs and head of a mech, Voltron style. The day someone comes up with that is the day I'll press-gang all of my friends into the robotic defense force. Until then I guess I'll have to be satisfied with forcing someone into playing Cho'gall with me. I'm always on the lookout for other weird co-op games. If you have some you love that I missed, please share them with in the comments below!
Drift compatible photo
You can always find me in the drift
I’ve been thinking a lot about ogres lately. Specifically, Cho’gall, the recently released two-headed character in Heroes of the Storm. As far as I know, he’s totally unique in the MOBA world as the only her...

Review: Typoman

Nov 19 // Ben Davis
Typoman (Wii U)Developer: Brainseed FactoryPublisher: Headup GamesMSRP: $13.99Released: November 19, 2015 In Typoman, the player controls a small hero made out of the letters that spell the word "hero." This little guy must navigate a treacherous landscape riddled with puzzles and traps, all of which are also made out of words and letters, in a quest to reclaim his lost arm. It's your basic puzzle-platformer, with the main draw being that all of the puzzles and platforms are composed of letters. Pits are filled with pointy As, ladders are built out of Hs stacked on top of each other, and traps are created around words like "gas" and "crush." Meanwhile, enemies formed from the words "hate" and "evil" roam the land looking to put an end to the hero's adventure. In order to solve puzzles and bypass traps, the hero must rearrange letters to spell new words. See a raising platform that won't move? Try to form the words "up" or "on" out of the letters nearby. Stuck in front of a flooded pit full of rainwater? Maybe the problem can be solved by adding another letter to the word "rain." The first area of Typoman (what you see in the trailers and demo) is full of simple, clever puzzles such as these, easy enough to solve without help but fun enough to make me smile. [embed]321539:61169:0[/embed] To make spelling easier, the Wii U GamePad can be used to quickly rearrange any nearby letters into new words, provided that the letters are all touching each other. The hero can also rearrange letters manually by picking up individual letters and pushing, pulling, or throwing them into place, but this takes a lot longer than using the GamePad. As the game goes on, the puzzles start to become a lot more complex, but not always in a good way. By the third and final area, almost all of the puzzles involve a "letter dispenser" which provides the hero with nine or more different letters to choose from in order to form a solution. Not all of the letters from the dispenser are necessary, and sometimes a puzzle might require choosing the same letter multiple times. I found these puzzles to be a bit too unintuitive for my liking. Usually, the area would be set up in a way where I wasn't exactly sure what the game even wanted me to do, what type of end-goal action I was looking for, so I ended up just sitting there staring at the letters on the screen for about twenty minutes trying different words that never did anything. Typoman does provide a hint system for these difficult puzzles, which essentially tells the player which word will help them out through vague inspirational quotes. The puzzles become so difficult, though, that it's really hard not to just give up and take the hints after standing around doing nothing for a long time. And even after the solutions were revealed to me, sometimes they still didn't make much sense. For these longer words puzzles, I would have liked for there to be multiple solutions. For example, one puzzle that had me stumped for a long while had a very simple (if illogical) four-letter-word solution to be created out of a possible eight letters. Other words such as "stairs" or "raise" seemed like they could have possibly helped, since the puzzle involved platforms of various heights and distances which needed to be connected, but they did nothing. Instead, each puzzle seems to be looking for one very specific word in order to perform a very specific action, and it's the player's job to try and figure out what exactly the game is looking for. The problem is, neither the word nor the action required is usually very obvious. Puzzles aside, the platforming segments also needed a lot of work. Jumping is very sluggish, and the player is often required to time jumps at the very last possible moment in order to clear pits. On top of that, many of the traps have no warning at all until they have already been triggered, leading to a lot of trial-and-error gameplay. Deaths often felt like they weren't my fault at all, since I usually had no way to know that death was imminent until it was too late (don't even get me started on the final boss, by the way). Luckily, there are no lives and dying simply brings the player back to the beginning of the last puzzle, but it's still frustrating since these types of things happen throughout the entire game. On top of the confusing puzzles and poor platforming, Typoman also had long load times, a surprisingly short length, and a strangely serious, eerie atmosphere which I felt clashed with the otherwise quirky nature of the game. In the end, I was left wondering exactly what type of person Typoman was meant for. As someone who loves words and word games, it wasn't very satisfying to try and figure out which exact words and letters I was expected to use. Getting creative never helped, and instead I usually had to resort to guessing blindly until something worked or simply relying on hints which was no fun at all. And for other people who aren't great at word games or simply don't enjoy them, I can see Typoman becoming very boring very quickly. The beginning of Typoman showed promise, full of amusing and creative moments, something that anyone could enjoy. But unfortunately it wasn't able to hold that momentum for very long and quickly devolved into tedium and confusion, and lots of standing around doing nothing. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Typoman review photo
Not grate
Word games have always been a passion of mine. Looking at a group of letters and trying to form new words out of them can be fun and intellectually stimulating. So what if we took a word game and combined it with a platformer...

Review: Super Star Wars

Nov 18 // Chris Carter
Super Star Wars (PS4 [reviewed], PS Vita, SNES, Wii Virtual Console)Developer: Sculpted Software, LucasArtsPublisher: Nintendo (SNES) / Disney Interactive (PSN)MSRP: $9.99 (Cross-Buy with PS4 and Vita)Release Date: November 17, 2015 Despite the fact that a lot of 2D platformers in the '90s were keen on a linear format, Super Star Wars mixed things up considerably. It's a run-and-gun title at heart, but it has arcade elements, vehicular portions, and some exploration elements peppered in to keep you constantly on your toes. While the first stage (the desert of Tatooine) is straightforward, the game really starts to open up on the third mission, the Sandcrawler. Here, you'll face ridiculously tough platforming sections with hazards, enemies, and moving platforms constantly at odds with the player. Almost every stage has something new to throw at you. Whether it's auto-scrolling sections with platforms crumbling underneath your feet or all-out arena brawls, no one experience feels the same. I love the silly liberties taken with the story, which only loosely follow the film, like Luke fighting a sarlacc in the very first mission. I'm glad that the developers were given a lot of leeway here, especially when you consider the limited settings in A New Hope -- the crew essentially hangs out on Tatooine before heading directly to the Death Star. This change of pace is especially evident for the boss fights -- hulking, memorable masses that are some of the toughest challenges in the game. Speaking of challenge, Super rewards those of you who don't die, gifting a permanent health increase whenever you come across a giant heart power-up, as well as full-use of whatever power-up you happen to have equipped at the time. Oh, and there's one more thing -- checkpoints basically don't exist. [embed]321401:61152:0[/embed] It is missing a bit of variety gameplay-wise though, mostly due to the fact that Luke doesn't really start his Jedi training until the next iteration. Because of this adherence to the source material, Super Star Wars is a shooter through and through, with very little emphasis on melee combat or special powers beyond the Contra-esque power-ups and some ancillary use of Obi-Wan's Lightsaber. Having said that, roughly halfway in you'll have the option to swap characters (Han and Chewbacca join Luke), who bring in their own set of animations with them. As for the "enhancements" that accompany this re-release, they're pretty light. The biggest addition is probably the save state option, which allows players to snapshot their progress anywhere in the game -- it's extremely useful for saving your progress before a boss, or when you just have to pick up and leave. Sadly, it's only one slot, and I would have loved to have seen an option to catalog all of the game's wonderful boss fights. Other than that, you're basically getting a selection of three filters, border options, and leaderboards. You can get a better look at everything in the video above. Super Star Wars remains a classic over two decades later, and I'm happy to see it being reintroduced to a new generation. I sincerely hope this leads to the production of remakes for the superior Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi entries -- perhaps with a few more extras along for the ride. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Super Star Wars photo
As old school as the Force
I'm really surprised that Super Star Wars is getting a re-release in 2015. No, not because "it's old," but rather the fact that it's an exceedingly unforgiving retro game, which doesn't really gel with the hand-holding landscape of modern gaming. While some elements haven't aged all that well, it's still very much a classic.

Review: Hard West

Nov 18 // Zack Furniss
Hard West (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: CreativeForge GamesPublisher: Gambitious Digital EntertainmentMSRP: $19.99Released: November 18, 2015 Hard West starts off so promising. Instead of one big campaign, it's divvied up into eight little chunks starring different characters. The first one stars a father and his son trying to make their own way in life through a combination of mining for gold and killing the men that would try to stop them. This chapter serves as a tutorial of sorts, teaching you the basics of combat. You have two action points, which you can use to move, shoot, or use special abilities. Shooting always ends your turn (some weapons alleviate this), so it's always best to keep moving.  In some circumstances, you can make your own cover by kicking over tables or lifting up barriers. One of the special abilities enables you to ricochet bullets off of metal surfaces in a zig-zag of death across the battlefield, but you're never taught how to do this. Halfway through the game I noticed the slight glow that some metallic objects emanate denoting that you can use this ability. Once you get the hang of these shots, they become an impressive and effective method of dealing death. Though the battles feel mechanically similar to XCOM, one of the main differences in Hard West doesn't stick the landing. Whereas in the former game it was perhaps to easy to rely on the Overwatch ability (wherein you automatically attack enemies who pass your field of vision), here there's no such thing...for the player. If you get too close to an enemy, they have a small range around them in which they can use an attack of opportunity, but you're never afforded this same benefit. This leads to repeated scenarios where you're trying to cautiously approach the enemy so that you don't get too close and get blasted, and then they walk right up to you and shoot you from behind for higher damage. Another new system that Hard West tries is the "setup stage." In some levels, you have the drop on your opponents and you can sneak around. You only have one action point, so you move much more cautiously. In order to successfully infiltrate an area, you have to use the Subdue ability, which prevents enemies from firing at you for a few turns. Enemies sometimes have cones showing their field of vision, but this is inconsistent. Whether that was because of a glitch or my character's stats, I was never sure, The whole system is poorly explained, but luckily you're never forced to use it. Even when I figured out how to successfully do this, going in guns blazing always seemed to be the better option. One of the best parts of the combat is the Luck meter. While you still have percentages telling you how likely you are to hit an enemy, they don't feel as random as most tactical RPGs. Your Aim stat and your position determine if you'll hit, and the enemy's cover simply lessens the damage they receive. Each character has a luck bar that serves as both a sort of armor and your ability resource pool. If you have enough luck, when you get shot at, it'll soar right past you. If you get hit, your luck replenishes so you'll have better odds next time. Once you get a feel for this, you'll learn to risk taking weak hits through cover so you can use your more powerful skills. This all adds up to incredibly entertaining combat when it's not doing its best to frustrate you. Getting bum-rushed time and again isn't fun. But earning increasingly fantastical weapons and cards (which give you active and passive skills) in each campaign remains compelling throughout. When you aren't in combat, each chapter has its own world map and goal. In the aforementioned starting story, part of your HUD shows your family's gold-mining tools. Another chapter sees you managing peons à la Oregon Trail, making sure you have enough food to keep them strong enough to do your bidding, One of my favorites stars a clairvoyant woman as your main character, using her abilities to cheat both poker and death. If we're being reductive, these world map moments are just variations of text adventures, but they're enjoyable and convey a lot of flavor through both these different goals and the story text you have to parse. Once in a while you'll solve a puzzle for better gear, or choose the wrong thing and gain a crippling injury. All of these have a direct effect on the many battles you'll fight, so there's not as much of a disconnect as you might expect. Some choices you make will lead to differences in missions as well, such as choosing to sneak in through the back or charging in through the front. Consumable items, clothing, and weapons don't carry over into the next campaign, so each time is small arms race to get back up to the top. I initially thought this would be frustrating, but since each story is two hours long at the maximum, it never becomes monotonous. Each character's chapter has three special items that they can unlock through a variety of methods that are sold at a vendor who appears throughout the game. This allows you to get to the punch more quickly if you like, and it encourages thorough examination of the map. The playing cards that I mentioned previously are randomly earned by finishing battles and exploring and give you passive and active abilities like being able to turn into a demon or heal whenever you're in the shadows. In keeping with the theme of the ol' west, arranging them into straights and royal flushes provide additional stat bonuses. Since characters don't level up, this provides just enough customization to be interesting instead of overwhelming. So again, this all sounds great! But then there are the bugs. The hot desert sun didn't cook Hard West enough. This is evident everywhere, from menus that take entirely too long to open, to a glitch where accidentally hitting the delete key sets the camera at a horizontal angle on the ground that renders the game nigh-unplayable. There are typos galore in the text and there are times when said text implies that there should be another dialogue option, but there's nothing to be found. I also dealt with a handful of hard crashes. This is frustrating because there's a legitimately great game to be found underneath all of the blood and sand. I'm going to fondly remember the small vignettes in this game. Running around as an inquisitor, manipulating people into killing others so that I can build an eldritch artifact. Seeking revenge as a half-man, half-demon. Playing as the villains I saw in previous chapters, understanding what motivated them to become such evil pricks.  This is a world worth exploring, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of it. Maybe that'll be in the form of a huge patch that puts this broken machine back together, or a sequel that brings the best of Hard West to the forefront. What I'd really like to see is a tabletop game in this setting, because it honestly feels like it might be better suited in that realm. Either way, I hope there'll be a reason to come back. 
Hard West photo
A fistful of sand, blood, and bugs
After twenty or so hours in the blistering sun (my cold, unkempt room) with my hands on the well-used revolver (bargain basement keyboard and mouse), I'm walking away from Hard West in turmoil. A tactical turn-based west...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Ice Dragon

Nov 17 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Ice Dragon (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: November 17, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The reason I'm being so cavalier with discussing in general terms how my story ended -- spoilers be damned -- is that other players might see things play out quite differently. It took the whole season to make good on the promises that we may shape the future of House Forrester, but The Ice Dragon finally introduces significant divergence. Important characters may live or die, depending on not only the choices presented in this episode, but also on those made earlier. With Asher joining Rodrik and the convergence of those two paths at the end of A Nest of Vipers, more time can be spent on each individual thread. Up north, Gared and company finally make it to the North Grove. Down south, Mira learns who had been conspiring against her. Nestled in the middle of it all is the drama in Ironrath, with the Whitehills mounting up for war against the Forresters. Gared's path is probably the most disappointing of the three. After five episodes wondering what the significance of the North Grove is, I was hoping for a revelation when he finally made it. The main concrete takeaway is that it's important and must be protected, but precisely why is up for debate. [embed]321059:61115:0[/embed] What makes Gared's journey to the North Grove sting so much as a part of the story of the Forresters is that it feels like he made no measurable impact on any other section. The final recap does hint that he might have been a bigger player in the grand scheme if I had made different choices, but my personal Gared could have been cut from the story entirely and it would have made no difference. In contrast, Mira's scheming in King's Landing is at least mentioned by the characters on the home front. She may not have had any concrete effects on the conflict at Ironrath, but her path still feels important in the overall narrative. In Sons of Winter, I was so pleased with myself for winning a war of words as Mira. I was shrewd and calculating, manipulating the situation to get exactly what I wanted. Somewhere along the line I lost that slyness and turned into a softie, and Mira paid for it. I can't say I'm happy with how Mira turns out at the end of this episode, but I don't think I'd be particularly pleased with the possible alternatives either. Of course, the main action is at Ironrath, where the Whitehills have mounted up for war against the Forresters. There were hints in this episode at a possible diplomatic solution, but as Asher and his band of gladiators, battle seemed like the most appropriate option. The climactic scene is probably the most brutal in any Telltale game to date. There was figurative backstabbing followed by literal backstabbing. There was frontstabbing. There was sidestabbing. There was ramming a greatsword into someone's mouth and out the back of his head. Good lord, there was a lot of stabbing. It fits the universe perfectly, in that in one fell swoop a dozen named characters meet their ends, and the whole time I'm watching in horror, muttering obscenities to myself and wishing thing weren't the way they are. Valar morghulis: all men must die; fans of the source are well-versed in that concept, but it hurts more when it's my men dying. There may still be a glimmer of hope for the Forresters, despite being broken, beaten, battered, and beheaded. The finale leaves a few loose ends open (possibly for a second season), but the family as we have known it is done. In a way, I'm almost pleased the story finishes the way it does. In Iron From Ice, I noted the similarities between the Forrester clan and the more famous Starks. I realize now that I modeled my Forresters' behavior after them as well. I fought with honor and I did the right thing, though it eventually spelled my own doom. I can take solace in the moral victory. The Ice Dragon caps off a year of fretting and worrying. Telltale's take on Game of Thrones has been spot-on in that regard. Now that it's over it's almost a relief, even with a bleak end. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
A chilling finale
In my review for The Lost Lords, the second episode of Game of Thrones, I lamented that I was making all the wrong decisions and that my version of House Forrester was doomed. With The Ice Dragon wrapping up the series, my pr...

Everything from the November Nintendo Direct

Nov 14 // Chris Carter
Zelda: Twilight Princess HD confirmed for Wii U Twilight Princess HD's Wolf Link amiibo looks hot Zelda: Tri Force Heroes gets a lot deeper next month Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon looks to please its fans Finding new Super Mario Maker levels gets easy in December New Splatoon map coming out tomorrow 'Free to start' Pokemon Picross is coming in December Zelda: Tri Force Heroes gets a lot deeper next month Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam finally has a release date Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow are coming to 3DS Lucas and other amiibo are coming January 22 Star Fox Zero launches for Wii U April 22, 2016 Final Fantasy Explorers Collector's Edition is the real deal Linkle confirmed for Hyrule Warriors Golden Mega Man amiibo confirmed, with exclusive challenges for Mega Man Legacy Collection Cloud Strife is the newest Smash Bros. character Fire Emblem Fates will have three different versions Dragon Quest VII and Dragon Quest VIII finally coming to North America and Europe Bravely Second journeys west next spring Pokken Tournament strikes Wii U spring 2016 Such a tease! Mother 3 is headed to Wii U in Japan [embed]320911:61108:0[/embed]
Nintendo Direct photo
Cloud Nine
That Nintendo Direct won E3. With a far better showing than its June event (sans the amazing puppets), Nintendo knocked it out of the park. While the Direct itself would have won over many fans, it blew up the entire Internet on Thursday with the unveiling of Cloud Strife in Super Smash Bros. Here's everything else that happened.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is sprawling and unforgiving, and I love that

Nov 14 // Chris Carter
Xenoblade Chronicles X starts off with a straight-forward premise: humans have been pushed off Earth by aliens in the future, and only one "ark" is said to have made it to a far off new planet. It's a Macross-esque setting where humans are fairly advanced with their weaponry and warfare, including the Skells (mechs). From there, your character (male or female) awakens in a pod, is greeted by your first party member, and the adventure begins. I really mean "your adventure," because early on, the story mostly takes a backseat beyond a brief rundown of the situation on this new planet. This is something I'm completely okay with because of how Monolith Soft has crafted each gigantic map. There are hundreds of locations to find, secret dungeons to delve into, and enemies to battle -- and nearly all of it rewards you for your efforts. Seeing gigantic, screens-high enemies towering over me induced Final Fantasy XI Notorious Monster flashbacks, you know, in a good way. Your primary source of damage is by way of auto-attacks, but combat gets much deeper once players start unlocking more abilities. Flanking options, bonus effects (for those who patiently wait for double cooldowns), and the power to instantly switch between melee and ranged attacks are a few mechanics that pop up. Dashing is also enabled in combat, which makes for some awesome fights when popping off an enemy appendage with a rifle, and running in with dual daggers to slash at their exposed body. [embed]320860:61101:0[/embed] I'm over 20 hours in so far and still don't have access to the Skells. Very early on there's an option to buy one for an exorbitantly unattainable price, but you still need a "license" to pilot them, which I haven't obtained yet. I've already seen this design choice turn off some prospective players out there after hearing impressions from the Japanese release, but I have to say, it doesn't bother me. Movement is fairly swift, as players can sprint indefinitely and leap high into the air like a superhero. It's very easy to get from place to place, and fast travel -- it still exists. Stay tuned for our review at the end of the month.
Xenoblade Chronicles X photo
Our review is coming later this month
I've played MMOs with smaller zones than Xenoblade Chronicles X. The scale here is absolutely breathtaking, and a mite surreal once you realize that you're playing on the Wii U, where the development team couldn't even optimize the game on a single disc. Here's a few thoughts after spending a ton of time with the experience.

Figuring out which of the usual suspects I'll play in Fallout 4

Nov 13 // Nic Rowen
Character creation is something I love in games, maybe a little too much. As I’ve talked about before, I have a tendency to slip into an eternal planning mode -- sketching out possible character builds, ideas, and dorky little stories -- while never actually sitting down to play any of them out if I’m not careful. Or I end up chain-smoking characters, making one, playing around for an hour or so (which barely counts as playing at all when you’re talking about the Fallouts and Dragon Ages of the world), and wandering back to the “new game” screen to try out another one. Pretty soon, I’ve had the game for over a week and have only managed to see the tutorial area. Not a great use of one’s time. What I’ve come to over the past few years has been a system of recycling a few characters over in different games in different genres. I take the same characters with the same basic preferences and attitudes and run with them. Building around a few personality traits like “loves sneak attacks and charms his way through conversations” or “always goes with the most aggressive combat option available and never tells a lie” and try to fit them into whatever game I’m playing. Sometimes that means running straight at the enemy with a two-handed sword, other times it means teleporting to them with a nuclear-powered shotgun in hand. To me, it’s been the best middle ground between ruthlessly planning out my characters and pointlessly faffing about. Not only do I have a rough idea of what kind of skills, equipment, and storylines I want to lean towards with a character, but by having clearly defined characters with their own weird ways of going about their business, it also keeps the gameplay fresh. I’ve made characters based on myself in the past, or just gone with the generic hero type they start you with, but you know what? That’s boring. When I call a character Nic, curse him with a mop of red hair, a slightly round face, and send him out to save the galaxy or tame the wasteland, he always turns out to be a real fence-sitting drag about it. Because I can’t help but start approaching the game the way I would in real life, as a kind of generally decent guy who doesn’t want to set off a nuclear bomb in the middle of a crowded settlement, or really stick his nose in other people’s business either. I end up equipping weapons and armor based on stats and efficiency because it’s not like I have a strong preference in real life. Left to my own devices, things tend to be a little drab. But if I put myself in the shoes of Jabberwalk, a bomb-chucking madman, it’s a different story. Or Sophie, a de facto serial killer who always takes the most backstabbing or underhanded “solution” to a problem possible and has a real love for stilettos and straight razors. Or Gershom, a lumbering old man driven by his principals to help the weak as best he can, and grind the wicked into a fine paste with the biggest hammer or piece of unwieldy artillery around. Or maybe Piss-Pot, a disgusting lizardman who is always a treat to try and build in games that don't include lizardmen as an option. Things get interesting fast with those weirdos. Their baked-in preferences force me to approach the game differently, to play around with different perks, conversation choices, and gear that I might not touch otherwise. Which leads me to Fallout 4 and trying to figure out which of my little rotating cast would fit the game best. Fallout 4, annoyingly enough, starts out presupposing the player character is the type to have successfully held down a pre-war job and a working relationship, not exactly traits a lot of my characters tend to fit in with (which maybe says a little bit more about myself than my characters). I plan to spend a lot of time wandering the Boston wasteland, and I want to make sure I’m doing it with a character that will enjoy it as much as I’m hoping I will, so it’s not a decision I take lightly. I’m leaning towards a sneaky type of character; the villainous side quests in Fallout are always the best, after all. I’d love to know how other people do it. Do you make a fresh character out of whole cloth every time you start a new game? Brew up a self-insertion character and stab orcs or shoot super mutants as a slightly cooler version of yourself? Or is this the most obvious thing in the world and everybody has their own set of recurring characters like me and I’m the last one to know about it? Did Fallout 4’s implied backstory change the way you made your character this time around? Let me know in the comments!
Character creation photo
A man's character is his fate
I never walk into a character creation screen alone. Every time I start a new RPG where you have to brew up a character to spend the next 30-80 hours with, I bring a few familiar faces with me. A small cast of characters I&rs...

Hearthstone's League of Explorers is probably my favorite adventure yet

Nov 12 // Chris Carter
Blizzard is trying something slightly different this time. Instead of the typical five-wing setup, there's only four, and it actually works out better for me personally. As a result, the price is dropped from $24.99 to $19.99, which is a bit more digestible. With one less wing, it's one less week to wait for each part to unlock. Plus it delivers more cards in the long run, with 45 in all, including some legendaries. The missions are a bit more inventive, too. The first quest involves a genie who grants you wishes each turn in the form of cards that you can spend for zero mana; these grant you random rewards, which are not bound to your current deck or class. The second fight is with an Anubis-like boss who holds an immunity staff, forcing players to attack it to gain its power -- and then defend it at all costs. But the third quest is by far my favorite, and probably the most original encounter yet. Framed around an escape from a crumbling temple, you have 10 turns to survive, essentially. What unfolds from there is a choose your own adventure of sorts, where you can pick from one of two buffs, or in some cases, two bad choices (take five damage now, or go for a 50% chance to take 10 damage, or none at all). It's really, really fun, and although I didn't have to make a specific deck to best it, I opted to replay it multiple times with different choices just to see how it played out. Class challenges are back too, with the Warrior and Warlock variety available as of today. They also reward you with cards.  [embed]320554:61090:0[/embed] League of Explorer's story remains tongue-in-cheek the entire time, and it looks like each wing will feature a different adventurer guiding you along the way. The first is led by Reno (third from the left in the above picture), who is a clear Indiana Jones reference, mixed with a bit of Kronk from Emperor's New Groove for good measure. Blizzard is also teasing an overarching storyline featuring the Staff of Origination, which you build piece by piece during each episode. Right now, only the first wing is open, with the others set to arrive over the course of the next three weeks. Once all of them are available, I'll provide a full review of the expansion.
Hearthstone DLC photo
45 new cards in all
Blizzard does a great job with its single-player expansions for Hearthstone. I dug Naxxramas despite the high price point, and I really enjoyed Blackrock. League of Explorers, by comparison, is a bit less straight-faced, aping films like Indiana Jones at every turn, and it's all the better for it.

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