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Destiny photo

Star in your own Destiny trailer

You are Legend
Sep 15
// Vikki Blake
You've seen the trailers, both in-game and live-action. You're either on the hype train, or are desperately staying out of the way of it. Whatever your position, not many can deny that an action-packed trailer starring your v...

Sublevel Zero mixes sci-fi space shooters with roguelike challenges

Sep 09 // Alessandro Fillari
Set in a facility in outer space that's slowly falling apart, you're tasked with flying your spacecraft through the tight corridors filled with rogue A.I. and other obstacles that seek to take you out. As you travel through the crumbling facility, you'll find new power-ups and other upgrades to your ship, which will give you the edge to make it through the ever-changing and increasingly difficult labyrinth. Much like many other roguelike titles, the plot is largely light and only seeks to set the scene. You're a lone space pilot in hostile territory, and you'll have to use all your skills in order to survive. The true meat of the game lies within the deep and intricate systems in place. The sub-genre is notorious for its difficulty and uncompromising challenges, so it's surprising to see a twitch-based shooter that allows you to travel in six degrees of movement to structure it within the system of an RPG title. With the procedurally generated world, along with randomly placed enemies and treasure locations, each run will be unique. As you travel around the facility, you'll find loot from downed enemies and space caches filled with new upgrade and abilities for your ship. Starting out, you'll have the basic energy cannons, but over time, you'll acquire missiles, long-range lasers, and high-powered rail guns to take on the ever-growing threats. I was pretty impressed with how well both styles of gameplay work together. Initially, I believed the fast-paced nature of this space-shooter and the roguelike systems wouldn't work too well together, but it all clicked for me quickly, and I was very much into it after going a few runs. By far, my favorite aspect of Sublevel Zero is its rich visual style. Channeling the retro feel with bright colors and a distinct visual palette, along with the claustrophobic design and layout -- I found myself quickly immersed with this title. With its release coming in October, this compelling hybrid of both fast-paced action with deep-strategic gameplay is very much unlike anything I've played in a roguelike, and its approach to the action-RPG is one you'll want to take notice of. Sublevel Zero [Steam] 
Sublevel Zero photo
Descent goes Rogue
One of the great aspects of this reawakening of the roguelike sub-genre is seeing the systems in place in genres that you'd least expect. For those unaware, roguelike is a sub-genre that features hardcore-focused RPG systems ...

MEG 9: Lost Echoes offers a surprisingly existential take on sci-fi exploration

Sep 09 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]309920:60291:0[/embed] After a group of scientists from the Horizon research facility goes missing, the corporation Quantum Multiphasics tasks one of their employees with remotely piloting a Rig, a high-powered rescue and assault vehicle, in order to find out what happened at the remote location. Unfortunately, Horizon is located within the mysteriously named Probability Aperture, a world that's located between dimensions. Using the Rig, the pilot must explore the remains of Horizon while uncovering the mysteries of the fractured and chaotic world, all the while defending himself against creatures that have taken up residence in the research facility. With a focus on narrative, the developers wanted to ensure that they had a strong foundation for the plot, in addition to getting the science right to give the story much greater believability. Luckily enough, they were able to team up with famed sci-fi author William Gibson, author of the prophetic and ultra-stylish Neuromancer and The Difference Engine. Interestingly enough, this is Gibson's second foray into game development, with the first being an adaptation of his novel Neuromancer. With MEG 9, he offered his insights into the mechanics and functionality of the Probability Aperture, and worked with the in-house writers on giving the general story a strong foundation. While exploration the world within the Aperture, players will pilot the rig and discover the remains of the lone human installation in the chaotic realm. As you explore, you'll acquire resources and other materials to combat the presence of the creatures corrupted by the environment. Throughout your travels, you'll receive backstory on the characters and world from your on-board AI, which offers some interesting commentary on all things relating to Quantum Multiphasics. Though the Rig is able to defend itself with machine guns and cannons, in addition to its thick armor, the pilot will have to rely on more advanced tools in order to survive. After acquiring resources, the Rig will be able to dispatch remote units to defend key points. During a segment while exploring the installation, I came across a massive reactor that was vulnerable to attack. Using several tools, such as remote turrets and placeable energy shields, I was able to hold off the creatures seeking to destroy the reactor. Surprisingly, this section offered a lot of strategy and kept me on my toes. I was very impressed with different this area felt. It definitely offered some callbacks to tower defense games, but with focuses on action and maneuverability. While it's still in pre-alpha, the developers have a pretty solid foundation for their title. And with more areas and creatures to explore, there's definitely a lot to look forward to. I found myself pretty intrigued by the basic premise of the setting. It's often we see games set on other planets, so it's pretty interesting to see on that's set in such an intriguing locale. With an Early Access release set for later this year, in addition to a PS4 release sometime after, the folks at Skunkwerks have got a pretty interesting title in MEG 9: Lost Echoes. I'm very much looking forward to see where it goes from here. MEG 9: Lost Echoes [Steam Greenlight]
MEG 9 photo
Featuring work from William Gibson
When it comes to games with sci-fi settings, the thing that usually excites me is the locations you'll be able to visit. Often times, you'll be blasting foes on other planets throughout the solar system, or invading enemy mot...

Star Wars Battlefront photo
Star Wars Battlefront

Drop Zone will be Star Wars Battlefront's take on King of the Hill

Campers beware
Sep 09
// Vikki Blake
Star Wars Battlefront's equivalent to King of the Hill will be a game mode called Drop Zone. The mode -- which can be played on planets such as Endor, Hoth, Sullust and Tatooine -- will feature eight vs. eight PvP combat, whe...

Review: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Sep 08 // Jed Whitaker
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (Linux, Max, PC, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Asteroid BasePublisher: Asteroid BaseReleased: September 9, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime takes place in outer space, the final frontier, a place of wonder filled with various anthropomorphic species, and a heart-shaped space station called the Ardor Reactor, which is powered by love and protected by the League Of Very Empathetic Rescue Spacenauts, also known as The Lovers. Everything was fine and dandy until the dark forces of anti-love destroyed the Ardor Reactor, ripped a hole in spacetime itself and took prisoner many of the lovely inhabitants. That is where The Lovers come in to save the day, running to and fro to control their circular spaceship while spreading love throughout the cosmos. While the story isn't exactly new -- evil force caused by evil being ruins the day, fix it -- the cute presentation and charm more than make up for it. Everything in Lovers is completely adorable, including the enemies. Lots of bright colors fill the screen, and love is emphasized at every turn. As you and a friend guide The Lovers through spacetime you'll be jumping from role to role inside various circular spaceships. Stations include thrusters, shields, turrets, navigation, and laser. Manning the guns is a pretty straightforward affair of aiming and firing, shields can be rotated around the ship to prevent damage from terrain, enemies, and projectiles, and the laser can be triggered causing it to automatically fire while rotating around the ship before needing to cool down. [embed]309747:60277:0[/embed] Piloting the ship is a bit different than any other game I've played. By default, you'll be rotating a thruster around the outside of your ship to determine what direction you'll be heading. If the thruster is on the bottom left of the ship, you'll be heading up and to the right, if it is on the top then you'll head down, and so on. While it may sound confusing, piloting only requires the brief tutorial to get used to and you'll be zipping through the cosmos in no time as if it were second nature.  Your goal throughout each colorful level in the four campaigns you'll be exploring is to find five of a possible ten captive critters to advance to the next stage. Collecting critters also increases your ranking, which unlocks different ships and upgrades for them, so exploring to find all ten critters per stage has its benefits. Gems are also found floating in containers in each stage and can be used to power up each station with power, beam, and metal abilities. Stations can be upgraded to hold two gems each, allowing you to mix and match gems to gain different effects. For example: two metal gems on the shield form a large spiky barrier that rotates a bit slower than other shields but provides more protection, or a power gem and a metal gem on a turret creates a powerful rocket that can be manually controlled. Experimenting with gems until you find the perfect configuration is exciting and leads to hilarious results, especially on the laser.  Campaigns have four levels and then a boss fight with massive creatures based on real-world constellations. Boss fights are as you'd probably expect: learn the bosses pattern, take its health bar down enough to piss it off, avoid an even larger barrage of attacks, success. Don't be fooled though, bosses are no pushovers and we found ourselves teetering on death whenever we finally defeated each boss.  Nearly every level seems to add at least one new enemy or mechanic, which keeps the entire journey fresh. The first campaign gives you the basics, before later campaigns add underwater combat, solar winds, and even wormholes that teleport you throughout the stage. Some of the more interesting stages include stationary defenses against waves of enemies and one particular stage that had to be completed in under five minutes before a star explodes killing everything in sight. We rushed through this time-limited level and ended up getting the last of ten bunnies with ten seconds to spare on the clock. We could see the exit as the clock hit zero, but luckily for us the explosion was a gradual one allowing us to make it by the skin of our teeth. I've never held my breath during a game as much as I have during Lovers, which makes the sigh of relief afterwards all that more rewarding. After finishing each campaign you'll be awarded a badge showing that you've completed it with each ship. While it isn't necessary to complete each campaign with each ship to reach the ending, it does add a bit of replayability and difficulty, especially if you're using the Jelly Roll ship. When piloting Jelly Roll your thruster rotates the entire ship, causing your controls to also change inside the ship along with it. When we played through one campaign with the Jelly Roll we found ourselves getting confused but laughing about it the whole time, though it certainly made the boss extra challenging. Completionists will be happy with the unlockable ships and added difficulty they provide.  Completing each campaign unlocks new cute Lovers to play as which don't change the gameplay, but instead just add to the overwhelming amount of cuteness the game already oozes. One of my favorite things about the Lovers is they have no gender signifiers, thus allowing you to technically be any gender you so wish to view yourself as. Those of you without a couch cooperative buddy -- as there is no online mode -- will be playing alongside a computer-controlled cat or dog that can be directed to man each of the stations at your will. Unfortunately your CPU partner will not control the thrusters, so all driving will be up to you, but the AI is very competent at the other stations. While Lovers is still very much playable as a single player title, it certainly shines as one of the best co-op experiences I've ever had and that is the way I feel it is meant to be experienced. Being able to blast asteroids and baddies out of the way while someone else is driving the ship is far more fun than watching an AI do it for you.  Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime reminds me why I love video games, because it provides a unique and colorful journey to get totally immersed in that can be enjoyed with a loved one. Probably the most original game I've played to completion in the past five years, and worthy every penny of its asking price. If you've got a loved one to play with, do yourselves a favor and play this game as soon as possible, you won't regret a your lovely journey through space.
Dangerous Space review photo
The Power of Love
Throughout my history of gaming there have been games that stand out as important bonding experiences: Bubble Bobble with my mom, Bomberman with my college roommate, and now Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime with...

Review: Satellite Reign

Aug 31 // Josh Tolentino
Satellite Reign (PC)Developer: 5 Lives StudiosPublisher: 5 Lives StudiosReleased: August 28, 2015MSRP: $29.99Reviewer's Rig: Intel Core i5 3.40Ghz, Nvidia Geforce GTX 780 Ti, 8GB RAM I mentioned the discrepancy between my memory of what Syndicate was and the fact of how it actually played, and Satellite Reign's existence makes that difference all the more apparent. That's because, despite the latter game's obvious tonal and thematic debt to Syndicate, it's a closer cousin, mechanically speaking, to Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown.  Whereas Syndicate and Syndicate Wars had you controlling a squad of roughly identical agents, each distinguished mainly by the weapons you had them carry, the corporate wetworks team you run in Satellite Reign's consists of four distinct character classes; each class has unique abilities unlocked through the leveling system, as well as individualized ways of dealing with the obstacles in their way. Soldiers can attract and resist enemy fire or hardwire enemy power generators to turn off turrets, doors, and cameras. Hackers can shut down security systems, use drones, and "hijack" enemy and civilian NPCs to puppet as they please, a la Syndicate's Persuadertron. Support agents heal their comrades and can use a "World Scan" ability to trace systems and find suitable hacking targets. Infiltrators can use ziplines, vents, and cloaking devices to sneak past guards while packing powerful melee and sniper attacks.   [embed]307082:60210:0[/embed] This class system, in addition to the game's requisite suite of cybernetic augmentations, weapons, and equipment, as well as an XCOM-like cover system, makes every encounter and excursion in Satellite Reign a far more involved affair than in its inspiration. Whereas those older encounters usually boiled down to how quickly your guys could mow down theirs, here, every member can work in concert, their abilities complementing each other to lay even the toughest defenses bare. Evasion, subterfuge and pitched combat all have their place, and can happen at virtually any time on the game's open map. That open map is another way 5 Lives stands apart from its peers and inspirations. Instead of missions, whether bespoke like in Syndicate or procedurally-generated like in XCOM, Satellite Reign opts for an open-world structure set on what the developers claim is one of the largest maps ever generated for the Unity Engine. The map is that of a city owned and run by Dracogenics, a massive future megacorporation propped up by selling "Res-tech", a cloning technology not unlike that seen in The Sixth Day. Your team, part of a rival corporation, is dropped into the city with an older, pirated version of Res-tech (their explanation for respawning), and tasked with overthrowing Dracogenics' monopoly in the name of business, no matter how much murder and robbery it takes to do so. Everything happens on the map, as your agents claw their way through the city, with nary a loading screen between tasks. Each district, from neon-soaked Downtown to the smog-choked Industrial zone, houses a number of side missions designed to reduce Dracogenics' control. For example, infiltrating the local police station can lengthen the time it takes for guards to call in reinforcements, while planting bugs in a surveillance center keeps security cameras from recognizing your agents too quickly. Breaking into the district bank can increase the speed at which ATMs funnel cash into your coffers. Bribing a disgruntled sanitation worker can unlock a side entrance into a heavily-guarded military base. Locating a conveniently hung power line might give your agents a quick way over the walls, but only if your Soldier can sabotage a nearby generator to keep that line from frying anyone trying to slide down it. It all feels interconnected and detailed in the manner of the best obstacle courses and levels. Through it all your agents will be getting their hands on new gear, unlocking new abilities, and getting more formidable, as the game's structure allows for a near total freedom of approach. Virtually every scenario can be handled in the way you choose (short of peaceful negotiation), limited only by your ability to coordinate your agents and their own equipment and abilities. Every upgrade makes you feel more powerful, but not just in a simple "numbers went up" sense, but in the way that new upgrades unlock new options and ways to break past barriers that limited you before. Unfortunately, like a proper cyberpunk story, Satellite Reign's shiny, polished exterior reveals some grit and ugliness upon close examination. Civilians walk aimlessly to and fro, only there to provide a source of fresh clones for your agents and inconvenient witnesses for their crimes. The open-world structure of the game excises the possibility of truly lasting consequence, with the world, guard patterns, and even destroyed cameras eventually resetting over time. Enemies are a touch too durable as well, their multiple layers of armor, health, and energy shielding limiting certain approaches, and turning most firefights into drawn-out affairs as enemies summon reinforcements faster than you can kill them. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this otherwise brilliantly-executed game is how hollow its world feels. Despite the gorgeously rendered city visuals and a goodly amount of text to be found by digging through random data terminals, Satellite Reign's city feel less like a world than a cyberpunk-themed playset. You direct your little squad of action figures around and play as you like, but rarely feel lost or immersed in the setting. It would be churlish and greedy to demand storytelling on the level of, say, Deus Ex from the game when it already does everything else so well, but it's saying something when Syndicate still manages to establish a better mood despite being nearly twenty-two years older. At the same time, rough edges like that are a small price to pay when Satellite Reign does Syndicate better than Syndicate ever did.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] [embed]307082:60210:0[/embed]
Satellite Reign Review photo
Guerilla Startup
I can still remember the first time I played Syndicate. It was after school in late 1993, and I was messing around on an office computer while waiting for my mother to finish a meeting and take me home. I remember the cool mi...

Review: Corpse of Discovery

Aug 27 // Jed Whitaker
Corpse of Discovery (PC)Developer: Phosphor GamesPublisher: Phosphor Games Released: August 25, 2015MSRP: $14.99Rig: Intel Core i7-3930K @ 3.2 GHz, 32GB DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, Windows 10 64-bit, Intel 750 SSD "Our feature presentation" is displayed on the screen the moment Corpse of Discovery is launched, followed by a live action video of a press conference with a representative from the "Corps of Discovery" -- a space exploration company -- explaining that communication with one of their astronauts had been lost. Cut to an astronaut groggily waking up in a space station to a recorded voice stating this is your final mission and to make your way to the main computer to be briefed. On the way to get briefed you'll come across various items to interact with including laptops playing silly videos, pictures, and a hologram with an audio message from your wife and kids. Upon reaching the main computer a hologram of the planet is displayed and your mission is read aloud by a recorded voice, letting you know you'll be placing markers on this unexplored planet. Just outside the main computer room is a space suit you'll have to slip on before stepping outside into a barren red planet. The atmosphere of this planet is exactly what one would expect as a lone astronaut on an unexplored planet; extreme emptiness, a lifeless wasteland, and your thoughts.  After you get over the initial awe of walking out of the spaceship onto the planet you'll notice the framerate often dips quite low when moving quickly, and there is a great deal of objects popping in thus breaking the immersion. I played the game on two different computers to see if it was just me or if the game was just optimized really poorly, to unsurprisingly find out my suspicions were confirmed. No matter what settings were adjusted, the results were the same: pop in and frame rate dips; It sure as hell didn't look silky smooth like the slow movement and quick cuts of the trailer lead me to believe it would be, nor was there a helmet around the edges of the screen like shown in both the trailer and screenshots.  [embed]307987:60150:0[/embed] Once you've accepted the dismal optimization, you'll find a nearby helper AI-- a floating orb-shaped robot with glowing blue eyes -- that gives you directions, tips, updates from the Corps HR department and seems to have an intelligent personality of all her own. She warns that standing in direct sunlight will cause radiation levels to increase and points to the first place that needs to be marked, so you set off in that direction. Along the way, between heavy breaths inside your suit, you'll hear the bot remind you that after this mission you will be retired, how appreciative your family will be for all your hard work, and that she hasn't been able to get out a distress call as your ship crash landed leaving you currently stranded. As you find the last marker the bot says her battery is about to die, her distress signal was never heard and that your family will be well compensated. After your bot passes into the battery-less afterlife, you'll be given one last point to go to while avoiding gigantic tornadoes surrounding the area. Taking floaty jumps across the map until arriving at the final point is horrifying, as you're given no hope of surviving and you're light years from home. Upon arriving at the last way point an alien flies onto screen and fills you with radiation causing you to black out, only to wake up back in the base for your final mission, again, only this time on a different planet.  This passing out, waking up back in the base cycle happens a handful of times before the credits roll. Each cycle has hints of passage of time and new messages from a family that misses you, all while being told this is your last mission yet being on a brand new planet. Each planet looks vastly different, with the second being full of lush vegetation and some living organisms, a stark contrast to the starting planet's emptiness, while others have floating rocks, lava, and deserts filled with caves and rocky peaks. There isn't a lot to do on any of them though, as every mission is "walk over there, press action, rinse, repeat" though eventually a jetpack is added to the mix. The catch is that it can only boost for so long before you'll have to wait a bit for its power to recharge, though you can reach the altitude you want and keep tapping it every couple seconds to nearly infinitely stay midair, allowing you to quickly glide between points of interest.  Other than the main objectives there are some other interesting objects to find -- though I use the term interesting loosely in this case as finding mirages of food you miss from Earth is anything but interesting -- that add a bit of information to the astronaut's backstory, giving glimpses at his family life and personal tastes. There are also a couple of kind of funny celebrity impersonators that can be found, one of which is Matthew McConaughey talking nonsense about wormholes like his character in Interstellar. The best extras to find though have to be satellites that play commercials, TED talks and a music video, all that are tailor made to reference what is going on in the game and taunting you with "You're going to die alone on this planet."  Later in the game the tone switches from mystery, to deep hypothetical questions about choice and religion before going off rails and becoming a satire of itself. Suddenly your AI robot friend is more self aware, swears and doesn't even provide you your assigned mission, before mocking you for doing the same thing over and over. Perhaps your character is going mad or is in Hell, the game doesn't really ever make it very clear.  I have a feeling the developers don't even know what to do with the story and kind of just gave up and decided to try to make it comical, which makes the last level feel less like an awesome sci-fi adventure game and more like a shitty mod a teenager would make of a game to impress their friends. Corpse of Discovery's intro sets a very serious and cinematic tone that is carried on through most of the first half of the game before derailing and turning into a parody of itself, ruining what could have been an otherwise beautiful experience apart from the horrible optimization. At around three hours, it's hard to recommend Corpse of Discovery to starved sci-fi fans, let alone the general public, and especially at full price. With some optimization patches it would be at least worth a play through for sci-fi fans, but as it stands I'd let this one get lost in space. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Corpse of Discovery Rev photo
One Man's Sky
I'm a huge fan of the recent resurgence of sci-fi blockbusters such as Gravity, Interstellar and the upcoming The Martian, and when I watched the trailer for Corpse of Discovery I couldn't help but see the influence...

Lovers Release Date photo
Lovers Release Date

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime finally gets a release date

And it's soon!
Aug 18
// Patrick Hancock
I've been waiting to play Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime since I first saw it at PAX East two years ago. It's a unique cooperative game that constantly keeps the players (see: lovers) on their toes. Each player can cont...
The Solus Project photo
The Solus Project

Get lost in space with the first eight minutes of The Solus Project

And you thought Dinklage was bad
Aug 13
// Jed Whitaker
The first eight minutes of the upcoming first-person survival game The Solus Project have been released and it looks pretty good. The voice acting, on the other hand, is atrocious. The harsh environment of the alien pla...
Stasis photo

Stasis shows sci-fi horror from a different perspective

Isometric adventure game releasing soon
Aug 10
// Jordan Devore
More sci-fi horror games? Sign us up. This one, Stasis, was made possible thanks to crowdfunding. It's an isometric point-and-click adventure game with shades of Event Horizon (cue mental images of a sliced-up Sam Neill). Ahe...
Destiny photo

Destiny players have clocked up 2 billion hours

(Only half of that is me, honest)
Aug 05
// Vikki Blake
Destiny has over 20 million players. Together, they have clocked up a combined total of two billion hours play time since launch.   That works out at around 100 hours of gameplay from each player. (Which is around half o...
No Man's Sky photo
No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky can't be spoiled

Game's so big, everyone's experiences will differ
Jul 13
// Vikki Blake
Don't worry about avoiding videos and interviews regarding No Man's Sky; the game can't be spoiled, according to the developer. Talking to The Guardian, Hello Games’ Sean Murray said the sheer scale of the gam...
No Man's Sky photo
No Man's Sky

I'm finally starting to get No Man's Sky

Extended footage
Jul 06
// Jordan Devore
What do you do in No Man's Sky? Hello Games could spend the rest of its time leading up to release trying to answer that question and people would continue asking anyway. This "18 minutes of uninterrupted gameplay" from IGN ...
Destiny photo

Destiny's Smith: 'My words made it sound as if Bungie doesn't care about their fans'

'That asshat was me'
Jun 25
// Vikki Blake
When Destiny fans made their views on the pricing - and content thereof - of The Taken King's Collector's Edition painfully clear, Bungie didn't say much. According to the latest Bungie update, however, the reason for their i...
Take On Mars photo
Take On Mars

Take On Mars gets a new trailer, beta this summer

Another A-Ha subheader probably
Jun 16
// Darren Nakamura
I've been interested in Take On Mars for a while, but I'm always a little wary of doing the Early Access thing. On the one hand, there's exploring real-life locations on the red planet. On the other, there's playing an unfin...
New Master of Orion photo
New Master of Orion

Wargaming is bringing back Master of Orion

Jun 09
// Jordan Devore
The original Master of Orion was before my time but, like Myst, the sci-fi strategy title was one of my uncle's favorites. He'd leave his laptop unattended and I'd screw around with it, failing miserably to explore, expand, ...
Dreadnought photo

If you lose your ship in Dreadnought, you get put in a dinky little jet

In one mode, at least
Jun 08
// Brett Makedonski
Everything we've seen of Dreadnought thus far has been relatively low stakes. Sure, your ships are big -- and it's not good when they blow up -- but you'll come back strong as ever after a short wait. That's how Team De...
Civilization Beyond Earth photo
Civilization Beyond Earth

Civilization: Beyond Earth getting an expansion this fall

Settle the oceans in Rising Tide
May 18
// Darren Nakamura
Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth came out last year, and although I loved it, a lot of the series' hardcore fans picked it apart as being less complex than past entries. Though it doesn't nearly address every complaint,...
No Man's Sky photo
No Man's Sky

Sony is treating No Man's Sky as a first-party release

Sony's pouring resources into this one
May 15
// Laura Kate Dale
No Man's Sky is not strictly speaking a Sony-exclusive game, but you might be forgiven for thinking it is permanently exclusive considering how ferociously the company is marketing it: prominent E3 press conference space, fin...

Review: Lost Orbit

May 11 // Darren Nakamura
Lost Orbit (PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed])Developer: PixelNAUTSPublisher: PixelNAUTSReleased: May 12, 2015MSRP: $11.99 Described as a "dodge-'em-up" by developer PixelNAUTS, Lost Orbit doesn't fall neatly into any one established genre. Harrison has no projectile weaponry, so shoot-'em-up isn't accurate. One of the secondary objectives is to complete levels in under a certain amount of time, but it isn't exactly a racing game either. Each level has the same basic goal: get from one end to the other without being smashed, crushed, dismembered, or otherwise destroyed by any of the many environmental hazards. To begin, Harrison has only a few tools at his disposal. He can hit his thrusters to move forward and he can turn. By collecting Obtainium, he can upgrade his suit with new abilities like a barrel roll, mega boost, and the ability to brake. Risk and reward are central to Lost Orbit's design, and that comes through in the boost ability. By the end, Harrison has a huge stockpile of fuel to use and it allows him to go much faster than normal. A skilled player can shoot for platinum times by cranking down on the boost and never letting up. An unskilled player who tries that will often smash Harrison into a rock. [embed]291882:58486:0[/embed] Peppered throughout the environment are objects more helpful than wayward asteroids. Some planets can be orbited by approaching them slowly. This replenishes and usually offers up a safe spot to collect oneself. Conversely, these planets can also be used to gain a mini boost. To activate it, Harrison must fly close to them with his thrusters on. This sets up its own little risk/reward scenario. Players going for platinum scores will want to blaze past these, but there's a limited window for success. Too far from the planet and no boost is awarded. Too close and well, you can guess what happens when an astronaut goes careening into a solid planet. This is probably one of the smartest pieces of design in the game; it's a single environmental element that serves a different function depending on the style of the player. There are other helpful/dangerous objects to find out in deep space. Gas planets can be flown through for an extended speed boost. Pulsars bounce Harrison off in a predetermined direction. Liquid planets hold the astronaut still before he choose a direction to shoot out. When everything comes together, it's almost like a game of pinball, where lights are flashing and objects are ricocheting and the player is right at the sweet spot of control. While maintaining high speeds the player doesn't have complete control over the situation, but always enough that it doesn't feel unfair. Supporting the gameplay is a poignant narration from an artificial intelligence drone (who sounds a little bit like our own Conrad Zimmerman). It isn't some grand story about good vs. evil, but instead takes a look at being human, growing up, and finding freedom. Forced into a perilous situation, Harrison reacts in a curious way. Previously working as a drone of sorts, he embraces the freedom to fly wherever and do whatever he wants. He puts himself at risk of death because for the first time in long while he is finally living. It's sad and beautiful but also pretty funny in its own way. The presentation complements the gameplay well. Despite being set in the deep darkness of outer space, there are plenty of purples and greens to keep things looking interesting. Some of the speed demon objects like gas planets and ramps have long visual lead-ins to let players know something important is coming a little before it shows up. The soundtrack deserves special mention as one that works well with the rest of the game. It captures the science fiction feel with its drifting electronic melodies, but also has higher energy sections that set the stage for Lost Orbit's fast action. Composer Giancarlo Feltrin did a great job with it; my only complaints are that I would have liked more tracks and for them to be unique to the various star systems. All in all, Lost Orbit is a winner. At about two to three hours to get through its campaign, it doesn't overstay its welcome, but it can definitely last longer for those who want to go for all the platinum medals. It is only ever as easy or as hard as the player wants it to be, and it does that through smart design rather than by artificial difficulty tweaks. Boiled down to its essence it's a game about dodging obstacles, which isn't exactly an amazing concept. But it takes that concept and runs with it, doing its dodging thing well. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Lost Orbit review photo
Cruisin' Milky Way
Flying through space can be great with all of the right tools. Automated navigation systems and high-power lasers can get a vessel through an asteroid field with little incident. Flying solo with just a jetpack and human refl...

Review: Shadowrun Chronicles - Boston Lockdown

Apr 27 // Chris Carter
Shadowrun Chronicles - Boston Lockdown (PC) Developer: Cliffhanger ProductionsPublisher: Nordic GamesReleased: April 28, 2015MSRP: $39.99 As a quick crash course on the story, "Shadowrun" literally refers to the act of carrying out plans which are "illegal or quasi-legal." You'll have plenty of chances to engage in said debauchery, as the world has gone through an "Awakening" 65 years before Lockdown, which takes place in 2076. Magic has returned to the world, dwarves, elves, orcs, and trolls are a thing -- oh, and dragons too. Returns took place in Seattle, Dragonfall was in Germany, and this is in Boston. Got it? Action will take place in an isometric strategic format very similar to the XCOM series. Using a classic mouse and keyboard setup, you'll have two maximum movement grids, the second layer of which will allow you to "sprint," and immediately end your turn. The first threshold will still allow you to attack, use a skill, or interact with the environment accordingly. Gameplay is all about positioning and outflanking your opponent, as well as placing emphasis on a risk-reward melee mechanic. For the most part you'll want to conservatively duck into various bits of cover, but since hand-to-hand attacks always result in a higher damage output, there's the chance to get up close and personal. It's all very functional, but to be frank, that's about as technical as the game gets. [embed]290948:58338:0[/embed] As you progress and earn more skills, you'll have the opportunity to delve into various trees and specialize in something that's more your style. Beyond your typical passive bonuses (Mind, Body) there's weapon-centric trees (blades, blunt, pistols, shotguns, automatics), summoning, spellcasting, hacking, and rigging -- the latter of which is more like a "gearhead" conceit. You don't need to hole-up into just one role (although you likely will at first), as you're free to distribute your skills as you see fit. Personally, I went with the automatic rifle route combined with a touch of summoning. Your basic summon includes a spirit bear, which can maul or stun enemies as its own autonomous unit -- it's really cool, but later skills are often less memorable or endearing as more progress is made. With 11 trees that feature anywhere from 13 to 20 skills each, there's a decent amount of options available, but since a lot of those double-up as "advanced" versions, there's not as much variation as I would have hoped. This is by design, as Cliffhanger Productions has stated that it wanted a more streamlined approach with Lockdown. I'd say that with some sacrifices the studio has achieved that goal (for instance, actual statistical changes for different backgrounds and races are marginal at best), but missions often lack that spark often found in other genre staples. Most runs are predicated on simplistic kill orders, which often result in a simple flank with a series of firefights. There's very little room for nuance when most of the weaponry effectively feels the same. The script also doesn't feel as poignant as Hairbrained Schemes' titles, and although there aren't a lot of glaring problems with it, it's tough to truly resonate with Lockdown's world beyond the occasional Red Sox reference. Your gameplay loop precedes as follows: a hub world visit to grab a mission, running said mission, returning to the hub to upgrade, and so on. There's no looming open overworld, no MMO-like exploration -- the hub is one small Boston neighborhood, with a taxi that takes you to each stage, an instance across the city. Along the way you'll earn cash to buy new weapons, armor, and augmentations, and karma nets you more skills -- that's all you need to know. It's a rather confining means of play, but it works, as the almighty call of upgrades and loot is just as powerful as it is anywhere else. So about that former "Online" moniker -- the first thing I noticed as soon as I booted up Boston Lockdown was the chat function. Nearly every avatar looks different due to the heavy amount of cosmetic options, which range from tattoos to visors that would make Geordi La Forge jealous. Even in the tutorial you're privy to a gathering of players, some of which are looking to help out new players, and others advertising their HP and gear to find a more professional-oriented group. The entire interface has been vastly improved from its former Early Access state, as players can simply click on someone's name or their avatar in the hub world to form a group. Friending people is also as easy as sending a request, and the UI itself is very clean, completely devoid of clutter. Players who enjoy a breadth of options are likely going to be disappointed, as Boston Lockdown only allows you to tweak your resolution (up to 1920x1080), fullscreen (with no full-windowed option), a few mouse scrolling variations, and volume control. That's about it. Dedicated Shadowrun fans will likely be disappointed at the lack of depth, and your mileage may vary in terms of the appeal of the multiplayer function, which seemingly took over some of the other more endearing aspects of the series. If you haven't played a game in the series since the SNES however, Boston Lockdown is a decent starting point, and a perfect way to re-acclimate yourself to the genre with friends. If you prefer to fly solo, just go with Shadowrun Returns instead. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Shadowrun Boston review photo
Not featuring Boston's Favorite Son
In case you haven't noticed, Shadowrun has been making a comeback lately. With Harebrained Schemes' Shadowrun Returns in 2013 and the subsequent Dragonfall follow-up, the series has enjoyed triumphant return to...

Starbound update photo
Starbound update

New Starbound update adds pets and teleporters

And what else? I don't know; SLIME!
Apr 21
// Darren Nakamura
It seems like these are being pushed out more frequently now. The last stable update to Starbound came out about three months ago, but before that it had been nearly a year. That said, this update seems much less substantial ...
Star Wars Battlefront photo
Star Wars Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront will lack space battles

At least Star Fox is still coming this year, right?
Apr 17
// Jed Whitaker
The official Twitter account for all things Star Wars from EA confirmed today that there will be no space battles in Star Wars Battlefront. When asked "space battles or not" EA responded: We’re focusing on air battles ...
Affordable photo

Peep the three roles in the new Affordable Space Adventures trailer

Science Officer, Pilot, and Engineer
Apr 02
// Darren Nakamura
Affordable Space Adventures is coming out in one week, so developer KnapNok Games has released a new trailer for the cooperative sci-fi puzzle action title. In my time with it at PAX East, I found the use of the Wii U G...
StarCrawlers preview photo
StarCrawlers preview

StarCrawlers is sci-fi dungeon crawling done right

Essentially, it's Shadowrun, but set in space. I'm perfectly fine with that
Apr 02
// Rob Morrow
Juggernaut Games’ Kickstarter-funded sci-fi dungeon crawler StarCrawlers went into Early Access on Steam just a couple of weeks ago and seems to be doing quite well for itself based on the positive Steam reviews po...
EVE Valkyrie trailer photo
EVE Valkyrie trailer

New EVE: Valkyrie trailer starts with a routine escort mission

'See you in the next life'
Mar 19
// Darren Nakamura
EVE Valkyrie has come a long way since the footage from last year's EVE Fanfest. The trailer above shows a more fleshed out mission, beginning with a mundane escort and ending with, well, something a little more exciting. Th...

Affordable Space Adventures is the Wii U experience I imagined in 2012

Mar 09 // Darren Nakamura
Affordable Space Adventures puts players in the role of space tourists, in control of a Small Craft™, a ship woefully underequipped for the perils of interplanetary exploration. It starts with only a flashlight, but gains new components over the course of the game. Early on the fuel-burning engine activates, and the explorers can get moving. As new systems come into play, they are controlled on the GamePad, referred to in game as the "heads down display" (heh). Some systems are binary; they are either on or off. Most have variable levels of power, from zero (off) to five (max). Success hinges on managing which systems have power at which times. For instance, pushing the thrusters' power up to the higher levels can allow for a quick escape but will overheat the engine if left for too long. Further on, the explorers encounter armed drones to circumvent. Though they are dangerous, their sensors are limited. Some detect heat, some detect sound, some detect electrical activity, and the most robust detect a combination of the three. Each ship component produces some amount of each, so the key to getting past the sentries is figuring out which systems are essential and which can be temporarily powered down or shut off. [embed]288785:57661:0[/embed] At this point, Affordable Space Adventures becomes a sort of puzzle game. It starts simple: if a drone senses heat and/or sound but the ship just wants to descend, then the trick is to hover above the danger zone, kill the engines, then restart it after passing safely by. Climbing through a similar situation would require the electric engine, which has a different feel to it in addition to producing different detectable effects. Later on, things get more complicated. Some drones can sense both heat and electricity, so players have to come up with clever solutions for avoiding detection or destruction. One section had us turning off the decelerator and coasting through a drone's area of effect. Another had me crank up the antigravity to gain upward momentum, kill the engines, then restore them just in time for my pilot to navigate us to safety. The game can be controlled by a single person using the GamePad, and it works fine, though it can get a little hectic coordinating the systems management on the touch screen with the piloting on the big screen. Where Affordable Space Adventures really shines is in two- or three-player cooperative mode. With two players, the one with the GamePad controls the systems and the flashlight while the other controls piloting, scanning, and firing flares. Almost everything players can do is interconnected so communication between teammates is essential. For instance, while the pilot is the one who activates the scanner, the engineer is the one who aims it. Adding a third player splits the labor further, adding a science officer to the mix. I was only able to play with two during my time, but even that was a great experience. It simulates the action on a spaceship bridge, where each person has specific roles and success comes from coordination and communication between teammates. Other games have done this, but Affordable Space Adventures is probably the most accessible of its ilk, requiring fewer players and just a single console. As a single-player or a cooperative game, Affordable Space Adventures makes excellent use of the Wii U GamePad. Any who like asymmetric cooperative multiplayer would do well to check it out. When the team works well together it can overcome some tricky circumstances. When the team doesn't work quite so well and the ship explodes and everybody dies, well, that's funny too. Affordable Space Adventures should be available on the Wii U eShop on April 9. The final price has not yet been decided.
PAX East photo
Better late than never
When Nintendo first unveiled the Wii U, my mind raced with ideas for games that could be created with the two-screen interface. A lot of the cool stuff that the DS did could be transferred to the big screen. Better yet, title...

Extrasolar photo

Extrasolar's mobile interface got a slick update

Controlling an exoplanet rover on the go
Feb 26
// Darren Nakamura
Extrasolar has always been a tough sell for hardcore gamers, in my eyes. Though it was one of my top games of last year, most readers tune out when they see a description like "free-to-play science simulator," and going any f...

We've got to go to Mars in Offworld Trading Company

Feb 26 // Jason Faulkner
[embed]288239:57517:0[/embed] I'm no math genius, but the Martian market is simple enough that it only takes a few minutes to pick up the basics. There are 13 resources that make up your stockpiles. Some of them, like power, water, food, oxygen and fuel, are required for basic operations. If you don't produce these yourself, you'll face a constant drain of funds as you're forced to buy them for a steadily increasing rate off the market. Aluminum, iron, carbon, and silicon are your basic building blocks. These are collected straight from the source and into your coffers. Steel, chemicals, glass, and electronics, must be refined in their own facilities from simpler materials, and typically give the highest return. Each resource can be bought and sold on the market, and this is how you'll be making your fortune. So without massive armies, how do you beat your opponent? You buy them out. Each company on the playing field has both a total price value, and stocks available for purchase. The easiest way to victory is by purchasing a companies stocks until you're able to get 100% owned, at which point you'll take management of their operations. The tricky part is that your company is public as well, so you have to balance keeping control of your own company by purchasing your stock, as well as attempting to take control of others. Buying stock, as well as paying off debt raises a company's price, while selling it, or getting hit by black market attacks, lowers their value. Most of the time, it pays to buy some and then lower the opposition's value before buying another batch. If another company (or yourself) own 100% of their own stocks, it becomes rather expensive to take over as you'll have to pony up the total price, cash money. I found that to really effectively control the market, I had to specialize. When I first started playing, I just tried to rake in as much of every resource as I could, but I found that I never had enough of any of them to produce a steady supply of the big selling materals. I changed my approach to work with the type of business model my headquarters was aligned with. For the expansionist headquarters, I claimed as much carbon and iron as I could to turn into steel as their need for the resource is much lower than other models. With a robotic HQ, their lack of use for glass allowed for a surplus. Scavengers high output of carbon allowed me to focus on chemical production. Lastly, scientists' ability to build hydrolysis farms directly on water hexes, and electronics plants on silicon, carbon, or aluminum hexes had me harvesting and selling food and electronics at a tremendous rate. When everyone has the same rules, to get ahead you've gotta break them. That's where the black market comes in. If you need extra claims, you can buy them here for an increasing fee. There are EMP blasts to knock your opponents buildings off line in a six hex radius, and a power surge that does the same thing but chains from building to building in a line. You can sabotage resource hexes with an underground nuke, which when used lowers the deposit level of a targeted hex by one. Dynamite lets you blow up a single building. You can also pay opposition workers to mutiny for a time which diverts the targeted building's resources to your HQ for a little while. Alas, the only defensive option is the "goon squad" which protects a hex from any of the above effects. Not all buildings are for collecting and producing resources. There are five of them that allow you to get an edge on the competition. The patent office allows exclusive access to technologies that vastly improve your ability to produce energy and collect resources. Also helping with resource collection is the engineering lab that utilizes the chemical resoures to upgrade collection rate up to four times for each material. The hacker network allows you to spread disinformation that can raise or lower the price of a particular resource momentarily. To keep your workers relaxed and spending their hard earned cash, you can build the pleasure dome which generates a steady stream of resource independent revenue. The most important of these though, is the launch pad, that allows you to launch 100 units of a particular resource to Earth at a time for massive profits. I felt that all of the buildings added to the game's dynamic except for the hacker network. Its effects were too temporary to really waste the time fooling with it. There are limitations in place though. Each player only has a limited number of hexes they can claim, and to raise them, resources must be spent on upgrading your headquarters. This is one system of the game I felt lacking. Once your HQ is level 5 and you've built out all your squares, there are times where you're going to be just sitting and waiting to be able to take your next action. There are random claims auctions, both for an extra general claim that you can use on any square, and for high resource squares, but they can be few and far between. Sure you can buy claims on the black market, but this is one part of the game that felt stifling, like it was there just to slow you down. I would have liked to see a more complex real estate and land claims system integrated into the Martian stock market. I think an opportunity was missed by not adding land valuation to Offworld Trading Company and I hope that future updates will show us something a bit more interesting in those regards. Although the beginning of a round is a bit slow, as you gradually build up funds to get that next building or mine operational the action builds with a frantic crescendo. In the late game it requires all of your attention lest you fail to sell at the right point or trigger a black market buff before your competition buys more of your stock. The problem I had though, is that the end of each game feels so anti-climatic. There's no capital city taken, or fanfare, just a pink slip if you lose, or a victory message when you win. In fact, because of the feeling of disconnect between your operations and your rival's, sometimes the game ended so abruptly it took me by surprise. I believe the primary problem with the game as of right now is the lack of information displayed about your rival companies. For a game that is basically an animated spreadsheet, aside from building management and targeting for the black market, there is a stunning lack of graph or statistics integration with the main user interface. You can access information about historical stock prices, how many of each resource you and your rivals have bought and sold, building numbers, and so on, but the menu it is held in is completely separate from the game. This makes it to where if you want to use this info to say, use the hacker network to drop the price of the resource your rival is making their money off of, you have to enter a separate menu, analyze the information, exit the menu, and then execute your action. With all the real-estate on screen, I hope that Stardock ends up integrating the user interface and statistics readouts before the game's official release. I have to admit, although I was intrigued when I first saw Offworld Trading Company, I never thought I would have as much fun with it as I did. There's quite a bit of balancing left to be done, and the whole experience is still rough around the edges, but it's got a truly unique play style. For someone looking for the mid-ground between a action-packed RTS like Starcraft and the menu driven depth of Crusader Kings, this game might be for you. For now though, unless you're absolutely sure that you want to take the plunge, a drop from the $39.99 price tag for Early Access might be worth waiting for. It's a very different game, and it's a bit too much money to gamble on something that is so hard to quantify by comparison to another title. However, with the quality of this early of a release, this title bears watching.
Offworld Trading Company  photo
Start the reactor
In a future where corporate greed has depleted the Earth's resources, humanity has taken to space to acquire the goods needed for survival. The asteroid belt was supposed to be the great salvation, an almost limitless bastion...

Neon Struct photo
Neon Struct

Eldritch developer's new game Neon Struct is out May 20

All the good noble gas puns argon
Feb 25
// Darren Nakamura
I didn't think that Eldritch had been out for that long, but it turns out that it has been available for more than a year. So what has developer Minor Key Games been doing in the time since its release? It has been working o...

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