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Hitman studio just wants to 'get back to Hitman'

Aug 05 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]294082:59060:0[/embed] From what we saw, creativity should be a pillar of gameplay this time around. There's so much happening at any given time, leading to seemingly endless possibilities. Seifert pointed out how almost everything could be used as either a distraction or an instrument of death. Chandeliers can be cut loose, gas lamps can be tampered with, weapons could be smuggled inside electrical equipment, liquor could be poisoned, et cetera ad nauseam.  Our approach was a bit more customized. We planted an explosive device behind a guard and then threw a coin to alert him. Proficient in his line of work, he noticed the mine, disarmed it, and picked it up so no one would get hurt. He took it to the guard center inside which was past security. All we had to do was retrieve it later. Sucker. People who know and love Hitman might pick up on this style immediately, but newcomers won't necessarily know how the game's systemic nuances work. Seifert's solution to bridging this gap is an "opportunity alert" that doesn't quite guide the player, but informs them that something can be done. He noted that it's very important that the feature be able to be disabled. "Hardcore players will turn it off right away," Seifert said. "They want to discover things on their own." There's a lot to do in Hitman, and all these unique methods stem from the density of the levels. The stage we saw was set at the iconic Parisian Fashion Week (not my first time virtually touring the French capital). Seifert said that this was one of the smaller settings, yet it's still six times larger than anything in Absolution. Likewise, Absolution had around 30 NPCs with their own routines and lifecycles per level; Hitman will have around 300. Everything's bigger in Hitman, but it's not just for the sake of being bigger. It all leads to more options, which is exactly what players want from a Hitman game. There's no trick to being more efficient implementing this, either. It simply just takes more time. Seifert says that it has taken IO Interactive around a year to complete any given level. They take a while to create, but those levels will likely get a lot of use over time. One of the major planned features is an assassination mission that rotates out every two days or so. The catch is that players are only given a single try. If they botch it, the target gets away and they have a black mark on their permanent record. Success will be rewarded with unique items to carry into the campaign and leaderboard glory. This is indicative of Seifert's beliefs on post-launch content. He doesn't think that developers should spend four years creating a game, put it out, and then get working on another four-year cycle. Instead, he wants to offer players new things with regularity. That mindset isn't too unique, but Seifert is interestingly against paid DLC. That's why Hitman will have none. He said it's a model that he lobbied for, and admitted that it was a "tough sell." Everyone likes their money, after all. Still, somehow he won. The price of the base game is all people will have to pay to fully experience his game. Really, when you boil it down, Seifert's adamant attitude toward constant content is just another angle for all that Hitman wants to accomplish -- it's another way to give players options. The appealing idea here is that everyone will have a personal experience with the game -- their own stories to tell about an assassination gone right or awry. That, as Seifert would put it, is how they're getting back to Hitman.
Hitman preview photo
And the response to Absolution
"Hitman is 15 years old," IO Interactive head Hannes Seifert said. "That's a long time. Tastes change. It's time to get back to Hitman." That was Seifert's explanation for why the next game in the series has forgone a su...

Kamiya: Scalebound 'not a simple action game that Platinum is known for'

Aug 05 // Steven Hansen
[embed]297186:59795:0[/embed] Kamiya noted that Scalebound is, "a story about Drew...who has been transported from our modern world into this fantasy world," and by some held back plot point ends up in union with Thuban, the last of his kind. Very Dragonheart. Drew's devil may care attitude (and Devil May Cry Dante comparisons), "might be too early," according to Kamiya, who noted Platinum has released little information thus far. The "partnership between Thuban and Drew" is one of the many themes, both within the mysterious story and in gameplay. You're able to issue the AI-controlled Thuban basic commands which fall into 1) attack (at varying levels of scorched earth) and 2) fall back a bit. The latter is important because Thuban's stronger attacks can wipe enemies clean out of existence. If Drew downs them, he is able to crystallize them and collect the resulting red gems which can be used to customize Thuban. It's a bit weird you can actually change what kind of dragon he is, but hey, RPGs. "Pulse" drives the world of Draconis with its floating islands and colorful palette. It's also what powers Drew's Mega Man buster cannon-reminiscent pulse shot and the "colored accents on Thuban." I believe Kamiya called them green and I don't want to disagree, but they look pretty blue to me. I will ask my mother.  Aside from incentivizing you from not leaning too much on Thuban through the gem system, the demo continued past defeating the mantis boss in the trailer and into a much more narrow area where Thuban has to fly ahead and thus isn't free to use in combat. That means that, because of Thuban, "the world can't be too small," so there'll be plenty of open plains like the ones seen in the trailer. Other tidbits: Drew's transformation is "dragon mode" as it stands. Some trailer-like features montage showed off a large, NPC-filled city. There is also some sort of skill point system that seems like it's based on how well you perform combat. Drew also has access to a wide variety of weapons (halberds, enormous anime swords, etc.) that appear to be housed in a block-based inventory system (think Resident Evil 4). And, as learned yesterday, there's four-player co-op. "As kind of a policy for myself when I start creating a game, I am not creating to please everyone," Kamiya said. "My job is that you fall in love more and more with what I created." From what has been released, this feels like the most straightforward Platinum/Kamiya game. Basic action RPG stuff is appropriate for trade show reveals. Still, I think as crazy story details and mechanics are unveiled en route to the holiday 2016 launch (crossing back into the modern world? increased dragon skills and combo attacks?), I will get more and more into what is already a pretty, nice looking action game.
Scalebound at gamescom photo
Customizable dragon
First, note that I wanted to get Scalebound's Hideki Kamiya to say, "Ask your mom" on video, but gamescom meetings are too tight, too perpetually behind to get much good one on one in. Still, I got to see an extended playthro...

Panic! Dark Souls III is so easy I didn't die by the boss once

Aug 05 // Steven Hansen
[embed]297197:59811:0[/embed] Site Souls-expert Chris Carter reckons this slice of Dark Souls III was about five hours into the game, so it's no first boss gimme that I took down casually and without a sweat. Also, henceforth, I am Destructoid's resident Souls expert. Chris was the first to beat the boss out of everyone (I came in a close second), but not even he managed to do it first try and so he is usurped. In fact, I almost made it all the way to the boss without dying until I got stuck investigating a corner and some malnourished dogs attacked me. My attacks got caught on the shelves and wall on either side, interrupting the animation, and I was pinned. Streak nixed, I explored a bit more, fought a black tendril-y roof monster, and so on. My natural investigative nature is probably the only reason Chris beat me to the boss, if you think about it. Even to a handsome newbie like myself, Dark Souls III was instantly familiar. Despite matching Bloodborne's speed, it doesn't have that same novelty learning curve that came with playing sans shield, with a giant transforming axe scythe thing and a gun. The big new addition, Weapon Arts, are activated by holding L2 and then doing attacks for alternate strikes, but I never put them into play during combat. The skill went from unlimited to a cap of 20, refueled at bonfires, which should help undercut my joking fear mongering regarding the difficulty level of the game. All of this could change and likely will. We were shown a stage and system that feels completely final (art, animation, etc.) save for the most important thing: balance and tuning to feel. [Disclosure: Bandai Namco provided local travel to the event, as well as dinner.]
Dank souls photo
Hands-on preview
When I wrote about why Souls games are not that hard earlier this year, I told you all that I was neither expert (under 30 series hours total) nor savant (not skilled at anything). And yet, this lumbering galoot, after quite ...

Dark Souls III wears its Bloodborne influences on its sleeve

Aug 05 // Chris Carter
Our demo started out in an era called the "Wall of Lodeleth," which to me, looks like a mix between the Undead Burg and Boletarian Palace. The layout was fairly linear, but offered up a ton of surprises like the standard "dragon guarding loot" offshoot, and a mini-boss of sorts. Lodeleth was multi-tiered, and featured a number of side rooms accessed by way of ladders, as well as some rooftop shenanigans. It was par for the course, but still felt right. Combat as a whole is quicker, which is likely a direct response to Bloodborne changing the game. Rolls and dodges are faster, and enemies as a whole feel faster, too. It's not quite "fighting game" fast, but it's a comfortable medium between Souls and Bloodborne, which I'm more than okay with. One big addition is "Battle Arts," which are basically super moves triggered by different equipment combinations. "Not all shields parry now," I was told by Bandai Namco producer Brandon Williams, and you can see that distinction by way of an icon on the item itself in the lower-left equipment corner. A shield icon denotes a defensive action, and a sword icon is more aggressive. In this instance, it allowed my axe to power up for a short period, granting me a damage boon, which was depicted by a glowing aura on my weapon. In essence, it's a more "on-demand" spell system for folks who prefer direct combat -- I say bring it on. My personal style for Souls games involves using the shield as blocking insurance, but not necessarily for parrying, so I'm all for this change. As a note, these are limited-use abilities, and will recharge at a bonfire much like flasks. As I made my way through the demo, I eventually encountered the only boss, the Dancer of the Frigid Valley (1:45 in the trailer). Based on my experience, it was very similar to Bloodborne's Vicar Amelia fight -- for the most part attacks are easy to dodge, but if you get caught up, you're going to get punished, and possibly one-shotted. The boss also sports a flaming sword, which produces chip damage even if you block, forcing you to be more aggressive. It was a standard but fun fight. [embed]296887:59812:0[/embed] One problem area I noticed during my hands-on session however was the frame rate. There was often times a lot of enemies on-screen, but it chugged on all of those occasions. Bloodborne was 30fps as well, but it's high-time that the series moved on without needing a re-release to bring us into higher territory -- Scholar of the First Sin is incredibly smooth at 60fps. For reference, the build we played with seemed to be PC-based, using an Xbox One controller. Another sort of more personal issue I had was the fact that it felt a little too samey. As I mentioned above, Lodeleth felt like an amalgamation of existing areas in past Souls games. Even something like Huntsman's Copse in Dark Souls II, which is for all intents and purposes a "forest area" that had been done before, felt like something completely different. Bloodborne was a breath of fresh air, providing a unique perspective with a harrowing blight and a darker tone in general. With Dark Souls III, I'm distinctly getting the feeling of "more Souls," which for the most part is a good thing, but did wear on me a bit even during my brief time with the game. It took me roughly 30 minutes to make my way through the demo area and defeat the Dancer -- of which I was the first in the group to do (though Steven beat the boss in one shot!). At the end of it all, amidst the claps from my colleagues and the Namco Bandai reps, I felt that sense of accomplishment that I've felt since downing the Phalanx boss in Demon's Souls. I think Dark Souls III will be fine. [Disclosure: Bandai Namco provided travel to the event, as well as dinner.]
Dark Souls III preview photo
I also see a few problem areas
It's crazy to think that we're on the verge of yet another Souls game right after Bloodborne and Scholar of the First Sin. From Software doesn't seem to rest, and as soon as the studio has wrapped up one project, it's on...

Superhot asks that we do something different with a gun in our hands

Aug 04 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]297228:59815:0[/embed] "Time only moves when you move." That's Superhot's very to-the-point slogan. The game's stuck in a perpetual bullet-time that slows to an absolute crawl. Upon touching the left stick, it speeds up to the degree that you sped up. It's important to manage these movements almost like a resource of sorts. The polygonal enemies will swarm in the event that you're wasting movements. The most challenge lies in figuring out where exactly these enemies should be shot. Significant leading is required because they aren't going to stay where they were when the bullet was fired. Stylish headshots are tempting, but the smart money's on a well-placed round in the body. It accomplishes the exact same thing, but again, several years of experience have taught us to aim for the dome. Before long, a pattern forms. Slowly line up a shot, inch along in any direction at a safe pace until the bullet hits, stop and find the next foe. It's easy to understand but so counter-intuitive for most. That's why even when they showed restraint, they eventually gave into the urge to press forward quickly. That's a death sentence in Superhot. If you'll notice, I've been using most of this preview to critique others' performance at Superhot. That's because I played it on VR at E3 2014, and I was very good at it. Blazed through the demo, in fact. This non-headset business would be a breeze. Dammit, I just died. Okay, no problem, just a quick restar--son of a bitch, I died again. This doesn't make sense. I know what to do, I'm just not doing it for some reason. Oh, god. Am I playing just like all these foolish other journalists? Ugh, this is embarrassing. That's exactly what was happening. When I was cool, calm, and collected, Superhot was easy to manage. The second I got either too confident or flustered, everything went awry. The ability to throw the player between those two mental extremes at such a quick pace is a defining attribute of the game. And, a constant source of anguish. Just take it slow, and everything will work out.
Superhot preview photo
Keep your cool
One after another, I watched everyone play Superhot wrong. They all made simple mistakes, threw their hands up in pleasant frustration, and then made the same mistakes again. Every single person was bad, and it was kind ...

Homefront: The Revolution is very different than when we last saw it

Aug 04 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]297199:59800:0[/embed] When I first played Homefront: The Revolution, the world felt lived-in. The oppressive themes were apparent, but the citizens seemed to accept it and go about their daily routines (except for the ones sparking the revolution in secret, of course). I believed that this was a city I could change the face of. I saw the potential to revolt and to do so in creative ways. The chunk I recently saw was more chaotic than that. Things are on fire and smoke billows on the horizon. All those people doing everyday stuff don't exist anymore. There are a few freedom fighters, but not many. It's mostly an empty playground for me to ramp my motorcycle off stuff. Rather than showing off a functioning city, this version of Homefront: The Revolution opted for sporadic waves of enemies. Many battles took places in warehouses, often around large crates that are meant to scream "industry!" It was all just so boring. It was like a Call of Duty where you traverse more ground before the next section of bad guys with guns. The world was still open, but the enemies acted with the scripted ways of a linear game. The player reached the top of the stairs, so it's time to charge through the door. That is to say, this demo largely erased my positive attitude toward Homefront: The Revolution. I'm not going to care about liberating a city if there's no one in that city. Its lifelessness reminded me of every shooter I've played for the past ten years and then immediately forgot about. The thing is, this can't be the true Homefront: The Revolution. Its premise is one with promise, but this slice shows none of that ambition. There's no way the game's skewed this far from concept. I guess I'll chalk this up to another misrepresentative demo, and hey -- I just broke the rule I spent the first paragraph talking about.
Homefront preview photo
But not necessarily better
Sometimes when you see a game at a preview event, you don't even want to write about it. You just know that what was shown wasn't a good representation of the final game. Malicious intent isn't always to blame, either; there ...

Gears of War HD is fine, but why wasn't active reload its legacy?

Aug 03 // Steven Hansen
[embed]297093:59771:0[/embed] Fergusson calls Ultimate Edition "the first at its best." The team didn't want to update the gameplay to reflect every change brought about by the second and third sequel. It's a "balance between modernization and breaking Gears 1." You still can't move while downed, for instance, but you can spot enemies. Still, the ten-year-old game could use some cleaning up. Fergusson has talked about the slapdash putting together of the original. He noted that, "When you look at Gilligan's Island today, it's a terrible show that should never be watched." That it isn't really funny, "but Mary Ann was hot." This comparison doesn't make a ton of sense because Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is a tech overhaul. It's a shot for shot, line for line remake, like that Psycho with Vince Vaughn. An HD, visually remastered Gilligan's Island would still be Gilligan's Island. I played some Gears Ultimate last week in San Francisco. For shock value, they had Xbox 360s set up to play one round of multiplayer in the original. It is gritty and monotone. Characters feel appropriately like tanks and I struggle to discern between human and alien bug ground monster. This problem didn't go away completely when we switched over to Xbox One, but we can chalk that up to me being not particularly great. I think my team only lost one round, though the win piles were not me carrying folks. Here's a more important question: why is the gruff marine third-person cover shooter the thing that feels most copied from Gears and not active reload? Active reload is still so fucking good. It engages the player when they'd otherwise be waiting for an animation to finish, it has practical advantages, more button presses (in repeatable timing instances) makes for more rhythmic and fluid play. Why didn't everyone do this? The rest of it is still fun, too. The insult of walking patiently up behind a sniper and casually chainsawing them dead. The hulking movement and exploding heads. That one level with a killer train in between halves. And there are new additions like TDM, differing "competitive" and "social" matchmaking, 4K displays if you buy it on PC, additional content if you never played the original PC release. Playing Gears Ultimate will net you the previous Gears games when Xbox One sorts out its backwards compatibility, too, and you of course get early access to Gears 4 down the line.
Hands-on preview photo
Hands-on with the rebuilt Gears of War
Gears of War was not alone in ushering in an era of grimdark, of repetitive third-person cover-based shooting, but it ground our faces deepest into the dirt and grit. At one point an officer yells at prison-broke Marcus Fenix...

Neverwinter: Strongholds might get me back into the game

Jul 31 // Joe Parlock
Building your Stronghold [embed]296961:59747:0[/embed] With the goal of providing “interesting and meaningful experiences to guilds”, the process of creating and upgrading your guild’s stronghold is at the heart of the expansion. All buildable structures and upgrades are ultimately decided by the leaders of the guild, but those goals are worked towards by every member through the “Coffers” system. Coffers are the total resources available to a guild to help build up their stronghold, and they’re separated into three categories: materials, which are found in the lands surrounding your stronghold such as lumber; treasures, which are earned by playing through the campaign zones of the wider game such as the Dread Ring campaign; and stockpiles, the normal loot, gold, and astral diamonds players earn throughout the game. Finding these resources ensures creating a good stronghold for your guild isn’t just a case of the leaders fiddling with the UI; every member of the guild would have a role to play, be it collecting resources or planning out where structures will go.  Once there are enough resources to build a new structure in the stronghold, or to upgrade an already existing one, the guild leaders can then start the work of upgrading, while also setting the next goal for the guild to work towards. However, the amount of upgrades you can apply to a structure depends on the overall level of the guild’s keep. While structures have a maximum level of 10, the keep can grow up to level 20. However, structures can’t out-level the keep, so sometimes an effort must be made to upgrade the keep rather than simply rushing for all the new and shiny buildings. As players donate these hard-earned resources to their guild’s coffers, they are awarded guild marks with which they can buy new gear and items for themselves at the marketplace. It’s a way of incentivising altruism among the guild, and is one of the few times in the game players can make decisions for themselves that aren’t directly linked to the decisions of their wider guild. Another way the guild must coordinate in building their stronghold is in the new added boons. Boons are passive bonuses granted to players, and in Strongholds, structures can be built to grant the entire guild specific types of boons. There are currently four categories: offense, defense, utility, and Player vs. Player (PvP). The catch is not every type of boon would available for a guild at the same time, as there are only a limited number of boon structures that can be made. This requires decisions to be made about how players within the guild will be buffed. An example given would be a raiding guild may put more emphasis into PvP or offensive boons to increase their power. The boons in each category would be optional for each individual player, however what type of boon is available is up to the guild. It’s a neat mechanic, as now other players who you’d regularly play with have an active impact on how your character works, and how these buffs influence your character may well change in the future. Should the guild decide to change an offensive boon structure to a defensive one, the boons you previously had would no longer apply. It’s interesting, however I could also see it causing some conflict within guilds. The area given to a guild to build its stronghold on is the biggest zone Neverwinter has ever seen: it is three times bigger than the biggest previous one. The zone is split into multiple, smaller themed areas, each with their own enemies and quests. For example, there may be faetouched areas, or there may be areas that are more desolate, and different enemies may be encountered in each one. It’s nice to see some variance in the zone, as Neverwinter does have a problem of each zone being its own themed thing that gets boring sometimes: the snowy zone, the desert zone, or the city zone and nothing but that. Some areas will be sealed off and hidden until the stronghold has been built up and expanded on, but what’s interesting is that the future of the zone isn’t entirely known even to Perfect World yet. The strongholds system is planned to be expanded upon over the course of at least the next two expansions: Strongholds and a currently unannounced expansion after that. According to them, being “done” with building a stronghold simply isn’t possible, as new structures and boons will be made available in future updates.  While there is a storyline planned out for Strongholds and the expansion after that, the specifics of what sort of boons and structures will be included in them are apparently down to player feedback and community suggestions. New Player vs. Environment Content Building up a guild’s stronghold isn’t the only new addition to Neverwinter. Alongside it comes a new range of player vs. environment content, much like in the previous expansions before it. However, a lot of this will still directly help your stronghold grow. Firstly, the act of actually acquiring your guild’s new keep will be part of a quest line that changes as the stronghold grows. At first, your guild and a travelling band of Orcs will both arrive at the same time, causing there to be multiple skirmishes and missions available. Finding guards, protecting farms, and driving off Orcs to ensure that your keep is safe in the early days. As the keep levels up, new enemies will start to appear in the zone. For example, the second phase of the zone involves mercenaries appearing to try and steal the keep from you, giving you multiple quests involving dealing with them. The zone’s campaign appears to play out in much the same way as previous campaign zones such as the Dread Ring have, however there is also the added dimension of it being dependent on your keep’s level. Of course, there will also be a series of daily quests available from your stronghold’s steward too, and they will also help guide players to the next of their campaign quests. Greed of the Dragonflight That’s all pretty standard expansion stuff: more of what Neverwinter players will be used to. What’s particularly interesting is the major new boss fight that occurs in the Strongholds zone. Dubbed Greed of the Dragonflight, the boss is designed to be played by guilds of 40 or more players who must coordinate and plan out how to take down four powerful dragons simultaneously across the map. If one dragon is killed, the other three will flee shortly afterwards, requiring guilds to figure out which players are best suited to take on each dragon, and make sure all four of them die at the same time. Doing so will net the guild huge rewards, some of the most powerful items in the game, according to Perfect World. However, failure to nab all for dragons doesn’t mean nothing was gained. Due to some guilds not having enough players to take down all four dragons, there is a sliding scale of what rewards are given. The more dragons the guild can kill, the better the loot given. What I saw of this event reminded me of my favourite bit of Neverwinter: the timed boss events. Instances are great, questing is fun, but seeing the alert to head to an area of the map to slay as big-as-hell lizard was always really cool to me. It’s involving, it’s hectic, and it looks as though adding in the extra element of needing to size up who takes on which dragon will make it all the more satisfying when the guild succeeds. The difference between normal timed events and Greed of the Dragonflight is that it isn’t only a timed event. Due to a large amount of player requests, Perfect World is allowing guilds to trigger the event manually whenever they like, and so it could become a pretty big part of guild social life somewhere down the line. A New PvP mode inspired by MOBAs Player vs. Player in Neverwinter has been the centre of Perfect World’s attention for a while now: originally offering a fairly basic 5v5 arena mode, an open-world PvP was later added in Icewind Dale, and of course Strongholds will be adding even more for those who like stomping other players. The PvP added to Strongholds is a 20v20 Guild vs. Guild mode, which when I first heard about it reminded me a lot of Guild Wars 2’s World vs. World feature. However, it appears as though the new mode is being more inspired by the likes of Dota and League of Legends. This isn’t a compulsory feature, guilds must queue up to enter the mode. Once in the game, guilds will find their strongholds and surrounding lands “glued together”, with a river separating the two. The MOBA inspiration comes on the emphasis of controlling the various lanes between the two strongholds, while pushing forward and sieging the enemy guild. Perfect World has also catered to smaller guilds that might not have 20 players online at a time. When in queueing, if a guild has enough players to spare, they will be transferred temporarily to the other guild and fight for them instead. It’s a nice way of evening the playing field, but it will also be interesting to see where their alliances lie once the match is underway. It’s worth noting I didn’t get to actually see any PvP in action, due to the problems setting up a game with 40 players just to show me it would’ve caused. As such, all of this is only how it was described to me by Overmyer. Final Thoughts As previously mentioned, I’ve got a fair amount of experience with Neverwinter, however the lack of something to keep me interested once I’d finished the story quests meant I dropped out of the game soon after. Guilds have always been something in MMOs I’ve had an interest in, but never found the right match – I always ended up in quiet, inactive guilds where nothing ever happened. Strongholds looks like it wants to solve both of my problems, while giving me more of the solo content that got me into the game at first. I’m somewhat concerned that finding decent guilds might still be tricky, but maybe the new toys guilds can play with will convince people to give running guilds a go. PvP has never been a big interest of mine. I got into Rift’s quite a bit, but still eventually found myself going back to questing. Neverwinter in particular has been quite notorious for equipment you can buy in the store being perceived to be more powerful than stuff you can earn in-game, which always put me off PvP. However, if it’s true that the rewards from Greed of the Dragonflight are some of the strongest in the game, it could go a way to fix that problem. Overall, I’m excited. I’m definitely going to be going back into it just to see how all of these new mechanics change how people interact within guilds, if at all. Plus Dragonflight is a condensed version of everything I like about Neverwinter, which is great. Neverwinter: Strongholds will be released on August 11 as the next free expansion on PC. Neverwinter is free-to-play on both Xbox One and PC.
Neverwinter: Strongholds photo
An in-depth look at all the new stuff
On August 11, Perfect World will be releasing the latest expansion to their Dungeons & Dragons-based MMO Neverwinter, Strongholds. With its action-based combat, fantastic locations, and relatively simple mechanics, N...

How the hell did Galak-Z hide a Gundam for three years?

Jul 24 // Steven Hansen
Let's recap for a second if you haven't been following along. Galak-Z is broken into five seasons each with five episodes. The fifth season will be added in for free post launch. This is one diversion from the typical roguelike set up, in that when you die, you don't start all the way at the beginning of the game, but rather at the beginning of whichever "season" you're on. "One of [Kazdal's] pet peeves with roguelikes" is that playing very beginning segments over and over can get boring, so this blends that death-based need to replay with earned progression. More typically, levels are randomly generated, and you get different fractions of story and dialogue every time. This way you won't hear the same repeated bits death after death, but slowly glean more information until you finally get through the season. The space shooting half we already knew about is not just a twin-stick shooter, either. The ship maps thrusters (and a boost) to the triggers. There's also a backwards thruster so you can shoot and flee, a dodge thruster, and a a barrel roll (square) that juts the ship "toward" you like it's coming out of the screen (and over incoming bullets on the 2D plane). You have your standard weapon and an Itano Circus missile salvo (limited, but you can buy more if you find the shop during levels). [embed]296589:59676:0[/embed] Ok, so the not-Gundam? You can morph the ship into the robot at any time with a smooth, Transformers-like animation and change up the playstyle completely. It has a beam sword, which can be charged for a stronger, wider attack, and a shield that has parry capabilities. Perhaps most fun, though, is the extending claw arm that can grab dangerous space junk and throw it at enemies, or grab enemies themselves, bringing them in close so you can start wailing on them with punches. Keeping the mech locked up this long is impressive. The feature was locked off in the many public shows Galak-Z has been demoed at and no one slipped up about it. Kazdal tells me there were plans for a third, stealth-focused character, initially, but that it made for too many mental hoops in dealing with all the other things that could be happening at any given moment. Galak-Z is smooth, feels great to play, and the mech is a welcomed addition, adding one more layer to the game. There are warring factions you can sometimes pit against each other, environmental hazards to be aware of (and sometimes use to your advantage -- thanks alien trapdoor spider who saved my ass!), and instant shifts between ranged and close-quarters combat. It's tough, gorgeous, encourages exploration (beyond mission goals, there are blueprints for new gear and other upgrades to find), and a ton of fun.
HANDS ON: Galak-Z  photo
Spelunky by way of Macross...and Gundam
We've covered the "Spelunky by way of Macross" space shooting roguelike for a couple of years now and the follow-up from Skulls of the Shogun developer 17-bit is almost here, coming to PS4 August 4 and PC a few months down th...

3D Streets of Rage 2 is a return to classic brawler action

Jul 22 // Alessandro Fillari
Released back in 1992, Streets of Rage 2, called Bare Knuckle II in Japan, was an immediate hit with Genesis owners and still stands as a favorite among beat-'em-up fans to this day. Set a year after the events of the first game, our street-fighting brawlers have to take back control after the sprawling criminal empire the Syndicate kidnapps one of their allies and plunges the city into chaos. Teaming up with pro-wrestler Max, and a young rollerblading brawler names Skate (the brother of SoR1's Adam), Axel and Blaze have to scour the city while scrapping with vicious thugs that work for the ever-elusive Mr. X. I spent many hours with Streets of Rage 2 when I was a kid, and the flashy neon lights and bombastic atmosphere -- along with Yuzo Koshiro's bumping synth score -- are imprinted in my memories of those glorious Genesis days. Surprisingly, there's a strong focus on plot in these titles. While most beat-'em-ups settle for the save X from Y plot and call it a day, SoR goes a bit beyond that by wrangling in government conspiracy and even throwing in some crazy sci-fi angles. Though the narrative is pretty much on par with B-level action movies, it still goes a long way with setting the tone and atmosphere. While there was another follow up with SoR3, the second game is my favorite and holds up remarkably well. Fortunately for us fans, Sega agrees and it's since been ported over to many different platforms, including Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and even iOS. However, with its upcoming release on the 3DS, this marks the first time you'll be able to play the game in 3D. "Streets of Rage 2 was the most popular of the three games in the series, so we actually had 2 slated as a conversion candidate from the very beginning," stated producer Yosuke Okunari. "However, when we first starting the development on these games, there were technical issues around getting this game into 3D, and it was deemed an impossible task so we gave up on it. If you've spent time playing the game, you've probably noticed that these sorts of side-scrolling beat-'em-ups are extremely well-suited for stereoscopic 3D (we actually call them 'belt action' games in Japanese because it's like being on a conveyor belt). The benefit of being able to visually confirm that you are lined up with your enemy and thus avoiding whiffing is huge." Coming off the original, the sequel featured a number of innovations and upgrades that made it stand apart from its predecessor. Aside from the obvious visual upgrade, which features sharper graphics and more detailed environments and character designs, the combat mechanics were greatly expanded to include new character-specific moves and super attacks. While I'm sure there were many who missed the police backup from the original, the focus on character diversity and growth was what made Streets of Rage 2 a true upgrade. During their work on the original's 3D remaster, the developers overcame the challenges of translating the unique visual style to bring over its sequel. "The graphics in these games were not like modern 3D, so there's a lot of pseudo-3D going on [referring to the diagonal side-scrolling stages], and when you take that and apply real stereoscopic 3D to it, you get conflicting visuals. So at the time, we thought we wouldn't be able to get the game into 3D," explained Okunari. "That said, because we were able to get the first game in the series into 3D, the staff's ability and know-how around 3D conversions saw huge improvements, and we found ways to work around these sorts of conflicting situations, and thus making the project a reality." After several playthroughs with the 3D remaster, I was impressed with the quality of the port. I can assure you that the pictures do not do the game justice. The side-scrolling visuals really pop with the 3D enabled, and many of the animations and action sequences feel more pronounced. The visuals on the 3DS feel sharp and with no slowdown or loss performance, which is great for when things get really hectic. While the game is largely as it was, gameplay feels just as precise as it was back in its heyday on the Genesis. It's a true testament to the design of the game, and it feels right at home on the handheld. As with the other 3D Classic releases, Sega has decided to do fans one better with the addition of new gameplay modes. In 3D SoR2, players can now experience the new mode called Rage Relay, which gets people playing as other characters during their run. Upon death, your starting character will switch over to the next one from the roster. For instance, if you start out playing with Axel and you get taken during a tough encounter, then you'll switch over to Max upon respawn. Initially, I found it to be a pretty odd gimmick, but I'll admit it came in handy during tough bosses or enemies which called for a bit more brute force. The developers included this optional mode as a way to encourage trying out the other characters after noticing how often players would stick with their favorites. "The original development team that worked on SoR2 was heavily influenced by Street Fighter II when making this game, so rather than a normal beat-'em-up, they really wanted each character to have their own feel, so each character has a very unique play style associated with them," said the producer. "However, unlike competitive fighting games, people tend to only play with the character the choose first for beat-'em-ups, and we didn't think most people strayed from that initial choice. There's four characters here, each with their own play style, so we wanted to make sure every character got a shot and make it interesting by giving players a chance to try characters they didn't really used back in the Genesis era. Our answer to this was Rage Relay." To say I had a great time with 3D SoR2 would be an understatement. I was pretty damn happy with how this remaster turned out. Not only do the new features help liven up the experience, the core gameplay still shows that simple beat-stuff-up action can be a ton of fun. And with local play available, you'll be able to team up with friends to take down Mr. X. With its release approaching, I can tell that many fans of Streets of Rage 2 will feel right at home with the 3D remaster. Not only has this title held up well, but it makes some impeccable use of the 3DS hardware. Once you fire up the game, and Koshiro's synth score reverberates through the opening title crawl, you'll be hooked. It's a total blast from the past, and it'll get your adrenaline pumping in no time.
Sega 3D Classics photo
Taking back the streets on July 23
Growing up, one of my favorite genres was the side-scrolling beat-'em-up. From Final Fight to Double Dragon, I was quite fond of the action found in traveling through different stages and kicking the asses of gang members and...

Rising Thunder aims to shake up the fighting game scene

Jul 20 // Alessandro Fillari
The developers at Radiant Entertainment have quite a history with the Fighting Game Community -- particularly Tom Cannon, who not only was the co-founder of the development studio, but is also one of the founders of Evolution Championship Series -- and after Seth Killian joined the studio, who's been a key figure within the FGC for many years and has worked on several fighting games during his time at Capcom (the final boss of Street Fighter IV was named after him), they figured it was time they try to bring their own desires for what a fighting game can be into reality."For me, a big part of my history with fighting games has been trying to show them to people, talk to people about them, and try to get people excited about them and give them a chance," said creative lead Seth Killian while discussing his history with genre. "And while I've been doing that for a lot of years, and while I love it and I think fighting games are one of the greatest genres and one of the proudest achievements in gaming period, it's exciting and a little sad to see that of the twenty people I talk about fighting games, only one will have the same experience that I have. Fighting games are really hard, and often times the core game is buried behind this very tall executional wall. And it's not about making it easier so we can all be Justin Wong, but I'm saying the basic moves and mechanics can take a long time to get a handle of. Once you do, then you can start learning the intricacies of player strategy." Set in the far-future, players control a select group of battling robots from different areas of the world and duke it out for supremacy. Each of the six starting characters have their own unique skills and abilities, and special combos used from the variety of weak, medium, and heavy attacks. In addition to that, super moves called Overdrives are activated when the super meter is filled to unleash devastating attacks. Moreover, they can take advantage of kinetic abilities that range from breaking enemy combos and dash cancels. The developers wanted to allow for a great level of customization, and players will be able to select loadouts for their favorite characters, which determine what special moves they bring into battle. The minds behind this title have some ideas on how to make this new fighter more accessible to players who aren't as well-versed in the classic formula of fighting games. On the surface, Rising Thunder looks very similar to titles like Street Fighter IV or Mortal Kombat X. Action is on the 2D plane, with two fighters duking it out until their enemy's health is depleted. Using special moves and strategies unique to each character, players will have to equally overpower and outsmart their opponents to claim victory. Sounds familiar, right? Well, the formula is largely as is, which is a testament to how timeless the setup is. However, the developers saw an opportunity to alter certain parts of the formula in order to remove the initial anxiety and awkwardness from new players seeking to break into competitive play."We were really excited to build a game that could open the door to what's glorious about these games to more people, and to try and let everybody understand what's exciting about these game and kept us excited about them for most of our lives. We basically ended up making a list of all the things that kept most people out of fighting games. For one, Online Sucks, it's terrible and you can't have a serious competitive experience with others. And even if you like fighting games, you also need to be in a place where you happen to be around twenty or so friends that are willing to play with you all the time."Given that it's a PC exclusive fighter, and how candid Killian was about the state of online fighters, the developers wanted to ensure they didn't drop the ball in that regard. Not only is the game completely playable with the keyboard (which feels great, by the way), and they even consider it the default setup, they also have the means to update the title quickly when needed. But course, online play is the make or break point for online fighters. Thankfully, the other founder of Radiant Entertainment, Tony Cannon, is also the creator of the famous GGPO (Good Game, Peace Out) netcode, which started out as a fan-made solution to poorly designed netcode for online fighters, but has since been implemented into retail releases. With Rising Thunder, the creators are bringing in their new GGPO3 netcode, which ensures even more sophisticated tech powering online play. Even during its alpha state, my time online was rock solid and ran at a smooth 60 frames-per-second."The other thing was -- we didn't really know, but it was our suspicion, so we built a prototype to test it -- but when you look at a fighting game match you never go 'Wow, that guy did all his moves. He didn't mess up any fireballs, what a champion.' When you look at the great history of fighting game matches, it's all about the great decisions, reads, an in-genius play, using moves in ways that you would never thought of before -- no one cares about the guy who can do the moves, that's the basic bottom layer of skill," Killian explained. "My thinking was basically, what if we were to make these moves not a problem? What if we were to remove special move inputs?"You might have done a double-take after reading, and I kinda did mentally when he first explained it to me. Accessibility was a major focus for Rising Thunder. Though while many fans may cringe at the thought of moving or adjusting the bar to make things easier for the common player, the developers wanted to think up of ways to allow players who aren't as skilled or knowledgeable as many other players to get into the core gameplay of the fighter much faster. But in doing so, you'd have to go against an established and accustomed idea. In Rising Thunder, all core specials moves, along with the Overdrive moves, are executable with a single button and don't require directional inputs. Every character brings in three special moves, which are activated by three special buttons, and each move works on a cooldown.Initially, I was a bit taken aback. As directional inputs for special moves are pretty synonymous with the genre itself. However, this idea works much better in practice, and Rising Thunder makes great use of the mechanics. I was able to jump into the game pretty quickly, and with much of the initial awkwardness of having to get a feel of the character's inputs and moves correctly, I got over the awkward character introduction phase and started to think about how to utilize their moves within minutes of play. It sort of gave me some callbacks to MOBA titles that emphasizes setups and pick-up and play mechanics, but of course, it's still a deeply refined fighter at its core."Well, all the theorists on the internet will tell you you'll destroy fighting game, it wouldn't make sense anymore, it wouldn't be a fighting game, and if you would've asked me five years ago I probably would've agreed that it wouldn't work," said Killian. "But the way we decided to try it was to build it, and to test it. And not only did the game work, but I started to see things happen in a game ever in my twenty years of talking about fighting games. One guy went from total scrub, to started playing mind-games with me. Like for real. It opened a lot of interesting match-ups. [...] That's where fighting games to me really shine, it's where they can show off people's minds and the way they work in relation to one another."In addition to these tweaks and modifications to the classic fighting game formula, the developers also added in a number of interesting visual and gameplay changes to accommodate the focus on online gameplay. Certain character utilize moves that are telegraphed and use visuals that can used for strategies, For instance, the character "Crow" is able to drop a dome barrier that makes him invisible while inside of it. While the player using Crow is invisible (which is still somewhat visible on their screen), the opponent will not be able to see them during invisibility on their screen. This is to add a layer of unpredictability. With opposing players using their own screens, they'll be able to hide the more nuanced aspects of their moves from their enemies to surprise them.Radiant Entertainment is certainly confident in their new fighter, and given that they're allowing the FGC and newcomers full access to their game very soon (early alpha beginning on the 28th), they're looking forward to hearing their feedback. As with their other title Stonehearth, the community will have a major impact on the state and feel of the game. While Rising Thunder does a lot of things that may go against the more iconic aspects of the genre, there's a lot of thought that went into the intricacies of this fighter. As this title is still in fairly early stages, many features and visuals are not in place quite yet, but the developers are confident enough in releasing it as the true heart of the game is in place. They also plan to actively update the game, introducing new content, updates, and other additions to keep things interesting. "We love fighting games, we've loved them for a long time. We've seen a ton of games come and go, there's plenty of great fighting games out right now, but -- at least in our view -- they're not focusing on the real sources of the trouble [accessibility]," he said. "Don't charge people to try your game, don't ask them to spend six months practicing the game before they can actually start having a real game, and make the online good god dammit."If anything, Rising Thunder will prove to be a pretty interesting experiment. During my time with it, it was clear that a lot of love and passion went into the game, and the folks behind this title are putting a lot of trust into the FGC to be as honest and vocal about the game as possible. Which certainly won't be hard for them. In recent years, the fighting game genre has evolved significantly, and with more players mindful of the true core gameplay with every fighter, Rising Thunder aims to get players to the nitty-gritty of what fighters are all about right from the get-go. Rising Thunder [Alpha Sign-Up] 
Rising Thunder photo
PC, free-to-play, powered by GGPO3
If you were one of the many watching the EVO 2015 livestreams over the weekend, then you no doubt saw a trailer for Rising Thunder, a brand new fighting game featuring battling robots. While viewers didn't get much info about...

Forza Motorsport 6 certainly plans on making a big splash

Jul 02 // Brett Makedonski
Did you think the rabbit hole ended there? Turn 10's not offering water physics just anywhere -- only in the places that it makes sense. An example Cooper gave us was that it never rains in Dubai so players will never see rainfall there. From our understanding, there isn't even the option to set up a custom race with rain on that track. If Turn 10's obsession with water sounds a bit like overkill, well yeah, maybe it is. It got to the point where another journalist and I just said "Rain" to one another whenever we crossed paths for the rest of E3. I attribute it to what I call the "EA Sports Complex." The racing in Forza has been carefully honed over the course of a decade now. Just like EA Sports and its titles such as Madden and FIFA, Turn 10 can afford to focus on the smaller facets of its game in an effort to inch ever closer to realism. We have no real indication how well all this rain will actually turn out. The hands-off demo we saw looked great, but it was obviously a tightly-controlled environment. Notably,Project CARS attempt at rain was where the game was visually at its best, but it also took a significant toll on the Xbox One and caused gameplay issues. If anyone has the best chance of skirting that problem, it's Turn 10 who's a first-party developer and presumably has the full support of Microsoft's resources. If the game isn't optimized well enough to handle all these effects, you'd have to assume they wouldn't be such a priority -- not yet, at least.  Rain usually means gloom for most people in real life. Turn 10's pinning its hopes on rain making for a fun and realistic experience in its video game. After all, who doesn't love speeding through giant puddles? And, all that water should have those cars at their absolute shiniest.
Forza Motorsport 6 photo
Raindrops keep fallin' on my hood
When I looked at my E3 schedule this year and saw I had a Forza Motorsport 6 meeting at the Microsoft booth, I expected they wanted to talk to me about cars. That's the crux of Forza after all: cars racing real...

Into the Stars is an intense Space Opera, hits early access July 9

Jul 02 // Alessandro Fillari
Into the Stars (PC, [previewed], Linux, Mac)Developer: Fugitive GamesPublisher: Iceberg InteractiveRelease date: July 9, 2015 on PC (Early Access)Set in the far future where mankind has populated the outer reaches of the known universe, you take on the role of a captain for the last human ship carrying a most precious cargo. After a war with an alien race destroys the last colony of humans, you must lead the remaining survivors and your crew on an exodus through uncharted territory in order to find a new home in Titus Nova, located in the far end of the galaxy. Along the way, you'll recruit new crew members, trade with neutral alien factions, and wage an on-going struggle with the aliens that destroyed your home planet. With the fate of many lives in your hands, you'll have to make many tough decisions in order to secure the future of humanity, while also keeping your one and only ship in working order. The developers weren't shy about sharing their influences for Into the Stars. From Battlestar Galactica, to Firefly, Star Trek, and even Guardians of the Galaxy -- the folks at Fugitive Games wanted a space adventure that emulated the same wonder and awe from classic Space Operas, while injecting a tense and hectic atmosphere that gave players the sense that one wrong move could lead to disaster. Storytelling was an important area of focus for the devs, and while there aren't really any cutscenes or dramatic set-piece moments, the players will be able to create their own captain, crew, and ship parameters (with adjustable stats and areas of focus) from scratch -- giving them freedom in how they play and choose to forge their way across the galaxy.With an entire galaxy map to explore, you'll have to choose wisely where you want to guide your ship, as many different resources are consumed during travel, and dangerous foes might rear their ugly heads. Taking place on over 90 tiles shown on the galactic map, each space represents a sector of the galaxy that can be explored. Players can freely steer their ship within the tile and explore at their own pace. Each tile possess their own unique points of interests, planets, culture, resources, and other sources of intrigue. While some randomness comes into play, the developers wanted to give the entire universe a hand-crafted look and not rely on procedural generation to fill in the blanks. And the results are quite stunning. The visuals within Into the Stars are a feast to behold, and the work from the Unreal Engine 4 shows great promise. From soaring past gas-giants, derelict spacecrafts, to massive floating artifacts from alien cultures, there's much to explore within the galaxy, and it'll take more than one playthrough to witness all the visuals. Though be warned, spending too much time in a certain section of the galaxy will attract the attention of hostile forces that wish to wipe you out.Taking cues from titles like XCOM and FTL, the developers at Fugitive Games wanted to have a strong focus on crew and resource management while gathering resources and keeping ahead of danger. Your ship will need resources and a strong crew to keep flying, and in order to keep both on the up, you'll have to take risks and even make some sacrifices. When you come across planets and installations throughout your travels, you can send probes or Away Teams (a capable team of explorers) down to the point of interest to search for resources and valuables. Though bare in mind, these places can often be dangerous and result in some deaths or harm to your ship if things go south. During one instance, we sent our away team to a remote planet and found many valuable resources with no incidents. Unfortunately, our luck wasn't so great when we went to a derelict human spaceship. An accident occurred which resulted in the deaths of some crew. [embed]295154:59311:0[/embed]As a whole, Into the Stars is a game about taking risks. While some cases may call for the occasional space heroics, most of the time you'll have to play it safe. During planetary examinations, sometimes its better to send probes, which result in a mini-game where you mine materials. Though keep in mind, the lives of your crew and your cargo of human survivors are a valuable resource as well. While traveling in space, you'll come across merchants that may sell goods at the cost of valuable materials vital to the function of your ship. While giving away minerals may be easy, in some cases merchants may request some humans for the trade. It's a pretty grim prospect, and though it may be easy to turn down a request when its first presented to you, you might be in a tight spot and have to entertain the offer. By any means necessary, your ship has to make to Titus Nova, and you may have to make some decisions that could compromise your own captain's humanity.But what would any space opera be without epic ship battles? When you encounter foes that seek to raid your ship, or just want to wipe out what's left of humanity, you'll have to defend the vessel and command your crew in a battle of wits and instinct. Unlike other space-sims, battles take place in quasi-term based format within the confines of the ship. Within the bridge, you have a clear view of the attackers, and you'll have to simultaneously adjust shields, make repairs, and strike against the enemy when the time comes. Initially, I found the battles to be a bit confusing and somewhat dense. It's all in menus, and you have to keep track of different crew attributes and ship parameters to stay one step ahead of your enemies. When making repairs, your view switches over to the engine room as you monitor hull breaches and causalities, all while the enemies are still attacking. While the smaller foes can be easily defeated, facing groups of enemy ships and some of the more massive cruisers can result in somewhat lengthy battles.I was largely impressed with Into the Stars. While we're definitely seeing an influx of space-sims as of late, this title subscribes more to the technical school of thought, rather than the focus on action and explosions. While I admit I got a bit lost during some moments, and had to consult some tutorials, I found Into the Stars to be an incredibly ambitious game that seeks to install a simultaneous sense of dread and awe from players. Not many games can get me feeling nervous while traveling through a lush and colorful galaxy filled with rich cultures and places to explore. If you're looking for something a bit more introspective and technical for your spacefaring needs, then you'll definitely want to keep an eye on Into the Stars.Into the Stars - Early Access [Steam]
Into The Stars photo
Find a crew, find a job, keep flying
The Space Sim genre has been one of the most ambitious and sought after titles from developers and fans alike. Ever since the early days of gaming, there's been a desire to craft a title that allows for exploration across a s...

Willy Chyr's Relativity is Escher art come to life

Jun 26 // Jordan Devore
I only got to play around in one world, but there are others, each with a different theme or pattern. One was straight out of House of Stairs. Their designs make a lot of sense once you know that Chyr does, among other things, installation art. It shows. Relativity is somehow his first game. He has something cool in mind for how those worlds connect, but wouldn't say any more about the transitions. I'm curious to see how everything ties together, assuming I don't get totally lost.
Relativity preview photo
Walk on walls
When you jump off a ledge in Willy Chyr's Relativity, you can keep falling. Forever. The abstract world, made up of floating platforms and puzzle rooms, loops. Why climb a huge flight of stairs when you can just "fall" to the...

Goliath eliminates the repetition found in survival games

Jun 25 // Zack Furniss
In a hands-off session with Whalebox, I got to see some of the mechanics setting Goliath apart from other survival games. Playing as a 1930s fighter pilot who finds himself in a bizarre coalescence of time periods and alternate worlds, you're as likely to find a pyramid as you are a spaceship. Or lizard people. Or spacecrafts. Oh, and you have a fancy robot arm. The arm's purpose isn't solely to make your anachronistic character look dorky; this limb serves as your axe, pick, or other resource gathering tool that you would have to create in another game. Since you start out with it, dying is less heartbreaking since you won't have to gather rocks and logs just to build tools to begin your process anew. You won't have to wait long until you can build one of the titular Goliaths. I was told that you can access the first one, the Wood Goliath, within ten minutes of starting. Whalebox wants you to get right into the fray, since you can't fight in human form. Since the denizens of the wild may find you to be a delectable treat, it's usually wise to stay in your Goliath. If it's ever destroyed, you get about 80% of your materials back so it isn't too much of a grind to get it back up and running. If you need to get out to craft or forage, you can set it on autopilot to let it fend for itself. There seem to be plenty of options as far as Goliaths go, too. You can choose from three on the fly, but there are fifteen variants of the wood, iron, stone, and crystal types. You earn these variants via achievements; for example, using long-ranged weapons often can earn you a sniper Goliath. You can also draw on them to create your own custom designs, provided you find the right berries to create paint.  The stone type was my favorite out of what was shown in the demo. There's a temperature gauge whenever you reach extreme climates, and the stone Goliath acclimates to these rapid shifts in heat. When in snow, it covers your rocky exterior and you gain a defensive bonus whereas fiery surroundings give you a magma form with flame damage. Combining all of this with head, torso, arm, and leg slots to customize means I'll be spending most of my time trying to look fashionable. We went through a few basic quests in the beginning that showed how strange this world could be. The first one that we saw was given to the player by a self-aware robot who wanted his pet robot bird back. After tracking down the bird, we learned that he had found a group of real birds and thought he belonged among their number. After that, we saw various factions, including the fantasy-esque Forest Folk (read: fox people), a group of religious robots who worship their creator, and some lizard people. You can build reputation with these groups by doing tasks for them that start simple but become complicated. Since everyone that you meet was also warped into this new world, no one trusts each other. By aligning yourself with a faction you can earn special Goliaths, but midway through the game the opposing groups find themselves in an all-out war. You had better be confident in your choice by then. Though the world is procedurally-generated, it's broken up into fifty levels called shards. They're not very large, which eliminates the need for fast travel. Since this is more structured than an average survival game, death isn't permanent. When I asked them how death would work, they had one of my favorite ideas I've heard re: video games in awhile. They're not sure if they can get this to work yet, but they want several years to pass if your character dies. When you come back, faction dynamics will change and the world will look different. Everything you knew before has been altered in some way. Cool! The story will have multiple endings and will be written by an Eisner-nominated comics writer. Though they only showed the fighter pilot, Whalebox plans on having more characters so that players can identify with what they see on-screen. They mentioned a female medieval knight who has been masquerading as male. The more options the better, as there is going to be both co-op and player versus player modes. Four-player co-op will function similarly to Borderlands, where you can drop in and out of a friend's game and get credit for completing your own quests. While the team is undecided as to how many players the versus mode will support, they are going to let you bring your own customized Goliath. A "Capture the Human" mode was also mentioned as a possibility. While Goliath sounds enormously ambitious, even the early state in which I saw it showed promise. A survival action-RPG with a focused story mode, limited repetition, and customizable giant robots is right up my alley. It'll be coming out Q1 2016 for PC, Mac, and Linux. Consoles are an eventual possibility.
Goliath preview photo
This time your arm is the tool
Survival games like Don't Starve can provide some of the best moments in gaming. The early hours of trying to fathom how this new world works, the slow strengthening of self until you gain confidence, and the s...

Super Dungeon Bros plays like garbage, with humor to match

Jun 25 // Mike Cosimano
Super Dungeon Bros takes place in Rökheim. There are four rock-themed brothers: Axl, the angry one; Freddie, the one who knows no fear; Lars, the one who keeps saying 'love' ad infinitum; and Ozzie AKA Michelangelo From TMNT, But A Rock This Time. I had to look up this information on the provided fact sheet, because the 'bros' are not characters. They have a "thing" and that "thing" is drilled into your skull like a well-placed icepick at an Italian dinner party gone wrong. Here's an example: when the party encounters some enemies, Lars can say "Careful, they've lost that lovin' feeling." This is the patent pending "Bro Banter" system, controlled by the player via the d-pad. Now, imagine hearing this line dozens of times over the course of a single dungeon run. It's a joke that would be right on the edge of amusing...if told once. And that's not even the worst of it! Ozzie's catchphrase is "That's what she said," a phrase I literally have not heard in years. When this was presented to me, I had to check my calendar to make sure I had not been trapped in some kind of 2011-centric time vortex. The Bro Banter system is supposedly reactive -- you can respond to banter from your compatriots with banter of your own, but I never got it to work organically during my play session. I did manage to get a confirmation that more recorded lines would be coming. Although I wouldn't get my hopes up for that, considering the fact that somebody told somebody else that recording a line from everyone's collective middle school experience and putting it in the game was a good idea. Playing the game is on the same level as the writing; it's bad. The characters are floaty and unresponsive, it feels like you're controlling an invisible character pushing the player character around. And the combat is somehow worse. The heavy attacks and the light attacks feel almost indistinguishable. I also found myself struggling with the controls more often than I'd care to admit in mixed company. It's not that the game is complex, it's just flat -- like a can of soda left out in the sun. The enemies feel same-y, both in terms of design and attacks. What separates an ice giant from a small goblin? Not much aside from their health bars. And when the weapons feel so inefficient, that larger health bar can be a real nuisance. Some of the loot in the full game could potentially mitigate this issue, but the game still has fundamental control issues. Maybe it was that 'last day of E3 funk', but the action made me want to take a nap. In order to complete 100% of the game, players will have to spend about 100 hours of their time with Super Dungeon Bros, which feels like a threat. The game plays terribly, and it's not amusing. Yes, it has couch co-op, but so does the excellent Diablo 3 console port. There are funnier games, there are better brawlers, there are more engaging couch multiplayer titles, there are more rewarding dungeon crawlers. Just because Super Dungeon Bros comprises all of those elements doesn't mean any of them work.
Super Dungeon Bros photo
Keep that dungeon locked
Unnecessary negativity is a blight, especially for writers. It can poison the mind and alienate the reader; a cancerous state of mind that serves nobody. Personally, I try and avoid it whenever possible. That mentality does m...

Rodea: The Sky Soldier might be a bumpy ride

Jun 25 // Kyle MacGregor
Rodea: The Sky Soldier was initially conceived as a Wii game, but it came too late in the day for a system nearing the end of its life cycle. It needed to be reworked as a Wii U and 3DS title. The thing is, the Wii is a special console, and Rodea was developed with its unique attributes in mind. Motion controls are a tad different than standard inputs, and the transition between the two seems to have left an indelible imprint on Rodea's design. Taking to the skies in this aerial action game doesn't come as second nature. With the press of a button, Rodea lifts into the air and hovers for a moment as you aim where you want him to go. He can't fly indefinitely, though, and will fall to his death unless you find another object for him to bounce off within an allotted time frame. It seems like the type of interface that would work seamlessly with the Wii's IR pointer, but on Wii U GamePad, I found myself flying off at odd angles, often coming frustratingly close to objectives that seemed just out of reach. Perhaps it's the sort of thing that comes with practice, but in a brief demo on the E3 show floor, I only got a glimpse at what sort of joys Rodea might have to offer.  Though it never felt intuitive, there were flashes when I managed to soar through the air with some semblance of precision. And in those fleeting moments I could really feel Yuji Naka's (Sonic Adventure, NiGHTS into Dreams) fingerprints all over the game, as I bounded from one floating isle to the next, collecting rings in this ethereal obstacle course. More than anything, my time with Rodea: The Sky Soldier made me oddly happy the Wii U version is coming tethered with a copy of the game on Wii. I'm not sure how much easier it will be to pilot on its original platform, but it feels like that's how it was intended to be experienced. Either that or flight isn't a skill easily mastered in a few mere minutes.
Rodea impressions  photo
Awkward aeronautics
My first flight with Rodea: The Sky Soldier wasn't a smooth one. But perhaps that's to be expected of a title that's seen such a turbulent development history. The project went dark shortly after its initial announcement in 2010, then underwent a change of platforms -- something that seems all too apparent after a few minutes with the final product.

Mega Man photo
The classic series returns with remixes
Mega Man Legacy Collection bundles the first six Mega Man games for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and 3DS. I played a bit at E3. Gut reaction: it's probably going to be worth the $14.99 asking price. You might be wondering what's up wit...

I'm starting to care about Halo 5 thanks to Warzone

Jun 22 // Jordan Devore
The goal is to either score 1,000 points, collectively, or take down the opposing team's core after capturing enough points for map control. In the former case, you can be out there doing your own thing, earning points, and working toward big purchases. I saved up for the bipedal Mantis mech and stomped on some foes until hubris (and several Spartans) got the better of me. I tried once to engage a Promethean boss alone and that went south real fast. Similarly, tackling the exposed core at the enemy's HQ without sufficient backup is ill-advised. But whatever we did, it worked. The other team failed to get more than a couple hundred points. Had it pulled together and taken down our core while we were distracted, the match could've gone the other way. I'm not so into the series these days, and I didn't come into the session with an especially cheerful mindset. But I dug Warzone overall. The maps were big -- I felt like I had to chase after battles from time to time -- but I otherwise enjoyed the mode. Curious about the game's REQ System. [embed]294624:59201:0[/embed]
Halo 5 preview photo
24 players vs. each other and the AI
While E3 didn't officially start until last Tuesday, there was plenty of video game stuff happening in and around Los Angeles the day before (and even the day before that!). Covering press conferences from Microsoft, Electron...

Eitr photo
Eitr

Hands-on with 2D Souls-like Eitr


Eitr? I hardly even know her!
Jun 22
// Steven Hansen
Zack and I finally played Eitr, which I've talked about before, at E3 this year. Then we sat very close together in camping chairs, shared a mic, and talked about it. To quote a YouTube comment, "Is everyone is dtoid just ga...

Pee on sandwiches and poop on hot dogs in Butt Sniffin Pugs

Jun 22 // Jed Whitaker
[embed]294562:59185:0[/embed] While not a very deep experience, Butt Sniffin Pugs was good for a laugh and a break from all the seriousness that was at this year's E3. I laughed, I pooped, I pissed myself, I smelled butts; what more could I man want in life?
Butt Sniffin Pugs preview photo
Poop EVERYWHERE
Sometimes you're walking around a convention floor and you just find the diamond in the rough of the show. This year's E3 2015 diamond is for certain Butt Sniffin Pugs, a game played with a giant tennis ball, two buttons, and...

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is the mashup fans didn't know they wanted

Jun 22 // Jed Whitaker
Each character's jump is mapped to a different button, meaning to jump up one ledge requires three button presses; multiply that by hundreds of jumps and you'll understand how annoyed I was with the mechanic. Even in the demo, the amount of pressing three separate buttons just to move through the overworld felt excessive. I couldn't imagine doing this through the entire game. Hopefully an option is added that allows all characters to jump at the same time by the time the game releases next year.  Trio attacks and papercraft battles are two additions to the series. Paper Mario allows characters to team up for trio attacks which are timed attacks that play more like a mini-game from WarioWare than the normal timed attacks. One trio attack has your enemies falling from the sky as paper as you whack a ball at them with tennis rackets. Papercraft battles have the heroes standing on top of a giant papercraft Mario and using it to rush down other giant papercrafts to defeat them. Both trio attacks and papercraft are rather minor yet welcome additions to the series.  On-point writing, great dialogue, fun turned-based attacks with a timed button press element -- all staples of both the Mario & Luigi and Paper Mario series are still here and nearly unchanged, which is not at all a bad thing. Fans of either series will more than likely be pleased with this new crossover title, even if it mostly feels like another Mario & Luigi title. The series have always been rather similar other than aesthetic.  Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is scheduled for release on the Nintendo 3DS in spring of 2016 worldwide.
Mario & Luigi: PJ Preview photo
Too many jumps, too many jumps!
Are you a fan of the Mario & Luigi series? You know, the handheld RPG games that star everyone's favorite brothers in hilarious adventures? Then you'll be quite familiar with how Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam pla...

Super Hypercube would be great even without VR

Jun 22 // Jordan Devore
[embed]294606:59196:0[/embed] This is coming exclusively to Morpheus as a launch title from Kokoromi and publisher Polytron. (We've gotten word that Fez designer Phil Fish is also working on the game. He's back!)
Virtual Reality photo
First-person puzzler for Morpheus
Super Hypercube is another leading Morpheus game. It's a puzzle title about twisting a block around, in three dimensions, so that it fits through holes in oncoming walls. Tension builds as new pieces are added and your simple...

My favorite Morpheus game so far is RIGS

Jun 22 // Jordan Devore
Combat isn't anything new for the genre, but after you take enough people out and pick up orbs from fallen foes, you're put into an overdrive mode. It's at this point you need to make a mad dash toward the top of the map where there are ramps leading up to a giant hoop. Jump down through the goal as if you were a basketball to score, but watch out for incoming fire and melee attacks. If and when your mech is destroyed, you'll eject and skyrocket to the top of the map. You can take in the scenery, or get straight back into the action by looking at one of a few colored spawn points and confirming with a button press. Given the immersion of VR, free-falling felt awesome. Had the game just been standard team-based combat centered on blowing up mechs, I wouldn't have thought much of it. This mode, Power Slam, really was the best way to introduce it. RIGS won't be a compelling enough reason to own a Morpheus by itself, but it's a good starting point.
Virtual Reality photo
'Basketball with guns'
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and virtual reality -- those were the two things, by far, I most enjoyed at this year's E3. Steven did an exceptional job of capturing the essence of the former, so now it's on me to ...

Extended Rise of the Tomb Raider video is way better than the E3 trailer

Jun 22 // Steven Hansen
This goes along with bigger tombs, either secret ones or ones on the narrative path. At one point Lara came up on an abandoned Cold War installation, which was apparently one of the game's "hubs" that contain quest givers, crypts, secrets, and story missions. There are also "systems that celebrate Lara's intelligence and archaeological background." Reading documents and murals throughout the ancient world gives Lara more experience and improves her proficiency, allowing her to uncover greater secrets. Like the secret of immortality hidden in a lost city beneath a lake, which Lara is fighting evil organization Trinity to get to. One other major gripe I keep having with the snow-ridden portions shown off is that Lara refuses to zip up her jacket and instead keeps showing off that cute infinity scarf. On top of that, no hat or gloves despite that fact that you lose heat fastest through those extremities. Bad guys, too, are not appropriately bundled for Siberian winter. [embed]294565:59186:0[/embed]
E3 preview photo
E3 preview
I was beefing a bit with Rise of the Tomb Raider for its heavily scripted sequences in which you hold forward on the analog stick as the game just sort of nonthreateningly happens around you (except for when a brutal cutscen...

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash is a shockingly good time

Jun 21 // Jed Whitaker
Most of the time Chibi will be exploring levels looking for a plethora of hidden items, be them collectibles or upgrades that power up or extend his plug whilst solving platforming puzzles. Occasionally you'll be fighting bosses, whipping them to their demise. The Chibi-Robo amiibo included with the game can be used to power up the character and make it a bit easier. There are also other purposes Nintendo isn't letting us know yet, or so its Treehouse stream seems to allude to. While the game runs on both the 3DS and New 3DS hardware, currently amiibo can only be used on the N3DS as the adapter for the original 3DS line is still missing in action -- but it's expected to arrive sometime this year. Fans of both Metroid and platformers will want to pick up Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash. It may be linear, but it is the closest thing to Metroid Nintendo is releasing this year and the platforming is great. Nintendo has promised a great deal of collectibles that will take some time to 100%, so maybe by the time you're finished there will be a new proper Metroid game announced. As if.
Chibi-Robo preview photo
Zip it good
Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash for the 3DS seemingly came out of nowhere and captured our hearts, or at the very least mine. Nintendo describes it as a "whipping platformer," which is a phrase I'm not familiar with. But after playing, ...

Need For Speed is back with double spoilers and customization galore

Jun 21 // Jed Whitaker
While the cosmetic customization in the build I played was deep, it was nowhere near as in depth as the beloved Need for Speed: Underground. The car tuning was fantastic and simple enough for a none car guy like myself to understand. There is a slider that allows you to make cars control more like modern games in the series (drift handling), or more like classic games in the series (grip handling). You can also manually adjust features of cars to make them control as you see fit.  Hundreds of events are scattered around a large open world, and players just need to pull up and hit a button to start the event. Other players can fill out the roster as competing racers. Completing the events advances one of five stories based on different types of driving: speed, style, customization, hanging with your crew, and messing with the cops. It is still unclear how exactly these stories will be advanced, but story is rarely important in racing games. Need for Speed is looking like it really could be the definitive game in the series. Get your hype engines revving. 
Need For Speed preview photo
Definitive version of NFS
The upcoming Need for Speed doesn't have a subtitle because it wants to be the definitive game in the series, according to Craig Sullivan of Ghost Games. The developers have cherry picked the best parts of the previous subtit...

Persona 4 goes full Miku in Dancing All Night

Jun 20 // Kyle MacGregor
This is all a set-up for a rhythm game, where the spotlight shines on Atlus composer Shoji Meguro's infectious tunes, including some new tracks to go along with remixes of old favorites.  Persona 4: Dancing All Night's gameplay is reminiscent of Sega's Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA series, which makes sense given the tiles were both created in part by the same studio, Dingo. Unlike the Project DIVA games, where the notes fly in from off-screen toward the center, Atlus is taking the opposite approach with Dancing All Night. Star-shaped objects appear and fly from the center of the middle of the screen toward six points on the outer edges of a ring, all of which correspond to parts of the D-pad and individual face buttons. As rhythm game veterans know very well, how you time your button presses as the notes fly into these zones will impact how well you score. There are various levels of difficulty to select between, so fans of the genre can challenge themselves while those just looking for a new Persona story can breeze through the stages with less resistance.  As you tap along with the beat, familiar faces like Kanji and Chie will groove out to the music on the Midnight Stage while Shadows look on the in audience. Eventually, the stages will culminate in a Persona summon, which I got a real kick out of. Seeing (the main protagonist) Yu's partner Izanagi jam out on a bass guitar put a big smile on my face. Atlus also showed us the game running on a PlayStation TV, which might be a tad more challenging than playing it in the palm of your hands on the Vita depending on how far away you sit from your screen. Since we were pretty close to the monitor during our demo, this required us to rely heavily on our peripheral vision, which added a layer of challenge. Whether it's an RPG, fighter, or rhythm game, more Persona is always a good thing in my book and seeing Persona 4: Dancing All Night in action this week at E3 has me no less excited about the game. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of it when it finally launches sometime this fall.
P4D preview photo
Just set it free and dance!
It's been months since the Investigation Team cracked the case and life is getting back to normal. That is, until members of Rise Kujikawa's J-pop group suddenly go missing. And, surprise, surprise: The rescue mission brings ...

Mother Russia Bleeds is a brutal throwback to classic brawlers

Jun 19 // Alessandro Fillari
Set in an alternate universe where the USSR has been crippled with crime and drug abuse, leaving society in an ever-present dystopian fugue-state, a group of street fighters take it upon themselves to fight back against the criminal element. Addicted to mysterious drugs in syringes that enhance their abilities, they'll have to use their skills to take down the Russian mafia, the powerful government, and a secret society of sexual deviants to exact revenge on those that have laid waste to the motherland. While the plot is pretty standard for a beat-'em-up, the story gets damn dark throughout. What's interesting is that you're not necessarily a good guy -- just a lesser shade of grey roaming the streets. The presentation does a great job of pulling you into this twisted world. Much like Hotline Miami, it uses dark and hypnotic lights to set the tone, and also manages to mess with your head. There were several points where I really tripped by the visual style. And I mean that as a good thing. The style is trance-like, and once it gets you, it doesn't let go. Much like the classic titles Mother Russia Bleeds pays homage too, its controls are largely easy to get into and remember. With a combination of heavy and light attacks, including grab and dash moves, you'll be able to take out the various enemies trying to rush you down. You'll also find weapons and gear in the field, such as bats, guns, and bar stools. Moreover, each character possesses their own moveset and stats. Out of the three characters available, I chose Boris, a seemingly homeless brawler with serious speed. With his moves, I made quick work of the mobs. Oddly enough, friendly fire was enabled by default, which made battles hectic but also irritating. Thankfully, you can turn it off (unless you're in need of an extra challenge). With that said, there are a number of cool additions to the traditional mechanics. The syringes that the fighters possess grant them buffs for periods of time. When used, the screen turns dark and the fighter on his high will gain super speed and increased strength. Also, they get access to a unique fatality, which instantly kills one enemy. They're brutal and satisfying to pull off, but you'll sacrifice the remainder of your buff period. Also, syringes are used to heal yourself and revive downed allies. Though if you're running on empty, you can sacrifice some of your own life to revive them. Playing Mother Russia Bleeds was a trippy experience. Though there were a number of odd quirks they'll have to iron out before released, I was very pleased with what I played. We also got a peek of some upcoming features outside of the story mode. Along with Boss Rush, challenge missions, Arena, and Versus play, the developers plan on giving the people the total package. I got the sense that this was made from folks that loved the genre, and with their aspirations to help revitalize the brawlers, I can say fans will find a lot to admire here.
Devolver Digital photo
Launches on PC, Mac, and PS4 in 2016
One of my favorite types of games from back in the day was the side-scrolling beat-'em-up. Though the sub-gene has sorta evolved into more standard and narrative-based action games, I still feel there's more to be done with t...

Crossing Souls is a stellar tribute to the 1980s

Jun 19 // Alessandro Fillari
Set in a small town during the summer of 1986, a group of friends stumble across an ancient artifact that allows them to connect with the world of the dead. Interacting with ghosts of former residents, both long-past and recently departed, they begin to learn that things are not what they appear to be in their boring, quiet town. But soon after, they discover that several forces want control of the relic for themselves, and they must evade police, the U.S. government, and other supernatural entities in order to keep it out of their hands. The developers behind Crossing Souls cite '80s films and TV, along with '90s video games like EarthBound and A Link to the Past as their major sources of inspiration. During my half hour with the game, it was clear that this was a love letter to the era. It not only exudes style channeling the playful rebelliousness of E.T. and The Goonies, but also the sense of adventure found in SNES action/adventure titles. Stylistically, it's a charming game featuring VHS-esque distortion during many of the animated cutscenes. And with music from Timecop1983, one of the Internet's more well known Snyth-Pop artists, Crossing Souls pulls those nostalgia strings hard, and it does so in an evocative way. As the group must keep the balance between the world of the living and the dead, they'll have to explore both realms simultaneously. Each of the five friends possess their own strengths, which necessitates switching between them. Some have certain skills for climbing and heavy lifting, while others have access to ranged attacks. While exploring the town, you can freely interact with the folks from both the living and dead realms. It's completely open, and you can uncover side-missions and events that will have you explore the furthest reaches of town. My favorite part of the demo was exploring the town square and seeing ghosts from the past comment about 1980s culture. It was interesting to see the changes between the two. In one world you could be relatively safe in a populated area, but in another you might get swarmed by vengeful ghosts looking to attack anything alive. Also featured in the game will be an Arcade mode. Throughout your adventures, you'll come across mini-games and special encounters that will have you take part in a trial of wits and timing, and after they're completed you can play them again at any time within this mode. During one segment, I had to evade the police on my bike in style very reminiscent of Battletoad's infamous speeder bike sequence. Thankfully, this one was a lot more fun and less stressful. I wonder what else the game has in store. The mini-games were a cool diversion from the core gameplay, and I'm sure most players will find one they'll gravitate to. I wish I could've spent more time with Crossing Souls. I'm a huge admirer of 1980s culture and entertainment, and it hit all the right nostalgic notes. This was totally the type of game any '80s and even '90s kid would want to experience, and it recalled all the cool moments I had playing video games or watching cartoons back then. Fourattic channels that sense of wonder and awe of experiencing something so fresh and charming. I can't wait to see more from this title in the coming months, and with its release next spring, you'll get to re-experience an era of exuberance soon.
Devolver Digital photo
Releasing on PC and Mac in spring
In recent years, Kickstarter has opened the doors for a lot of developers looking to make things happen. It's a real pleasure to see titles that would've never been greenlit by publishers find an audience willing to put up ca...


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