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Jed Whitaker's dank picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 06 // Jed Whitaker
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is probably my most-played game of 2015 on an "amount of days played" basis, even if it released in 2014. During the past year alone, the game has added two single-player adventures, Blackrock Mountain and League of Explorers, as well as a new expansion called The Grand Tournament, amounting to over 200 cards. The metagame has changed drastically, which kept Hearthstone feeling fresh all through 2015 and is why it deserves a spot as one of my games of the year. Well played. Her Story can arguably be boiled down to a search engine simulator mixed with FMV, but the narrative presented is so interesting and well acted that it is hard not to love. I purchased it one night during a sale and said to my boyfriend, "I've heard a lot of praise for this game. We should play it for a minute." Over three hours later, I was still playing, engrossed in the murder mystery presented on-screen via interrogation videos. Finding a new clip to watch and piecing together the mystery is exciting, even if on paper the plot almost seems like something you'd find in a Lifetime movie or soap opera. I can't stress enough what an amazing story it is and how addictive Her Story becomes once you get started. YouTube videos can't possibly do this one justice -- just buy it and see for yourself without spoiling anything. Westerado: Double Barreled is a rootin' tootin' heck of a great retro-styled western with a large dose of revenge. Each playthrough is randomly generated, but one thing stays the same: someone you love is brutally murdered, and you're out for the kind of revenge that only cold steel can provide. The style, the music, the writing, and the entire presentation are just fantastic, capturing the feel of old-timey spaghetti westerns better than any game I've ever played. That said, even if you aren't a western fan, you can still find enjoyment in the true-to-cowboy-dialect writing. Yeehaw! Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime was meant to be played with a friend or lover, and when doing so, it is damned amazing. You and your partner work together to control a colorful spacecraft searching through space for kidnapped animal buddies. Controlling the ship is done by moving your chosen character around to various stations that handle specific functions including steering, weapons, shields, and so on. It's hands down the best co-op experience of the year, and possibly the past few years. Lovers is a must-own if you've got a special someone in your life who just wants to spend time with you doing your favorite hobby. I know my boyfriend and I love it. [embed]330637:61722:0[/embed] Did you really think my list wouldn't have Splatoon? Nintendo's first shooter turned out to be the most original one in years and everything about the game is on point from the characters to the music, graphics, single-player, multiplayer, and even commercials. Splatoon launched with what seemed like a small amount of content on paper, but since then Nintendo has continually released new weapons, levels, clothing, modes, and Splatfests to make up for it, and all for the low, low price of free. I just hope the rumored Octoling campaign DLC comes true in 2016! Also, in case you missed it the first time, watch Squid Now 2 here to basically see me naked. I'm going to be honest here: I haven't even finished Yo-Kai Watch, but damn do I love it. Just look at this picture of me in my Jibanyan shirt with my Jibanyan piggy bank and try to tell me I don't love Yo-Kai Watch. What could be better than a game that combines Pokémon with cute and colorful ghosts who speak English? Not many games in 2015, that is for sure. The character designs alone make this one of my favorites of the year, and I'm sure I'll love it even more when I get around to finishing it. Speaking of games I love but haven't had the time to finish, The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is one of them. Dare I say this is the 'gayest' Zelda game that has ever existed, and I love it all the more for it? So many of the characters are just flamboyant and utterly fabulous. Mix that in with a multiplayer version of that familiar Zelda flavor and you've got yourself a great game. Perhaps the online is sometimes laggy, and other players aren't always so good at communicating, but everyone has, at least, two friends to play with, right? I still laugh every time someone does the cheerleader emote, causing Link to pop up on my screen with pom poms. So cute, so fun, so colorful, and arguably so gay, Tri Force Heroes deserves a spot in your 3DS collection. Castle in the Darkness is the one of those games that flew under the radar for most people while being one hell of a game. If Castlevania and Cave Story had a love child, this would be it. For a game that costs $6, it is packed full of content. It took me around 16 hours just to 100 percent the campaign while unlocking two of the endings, and that is before I touched the other new game plus modes! While you're slaying hundreds of different enemies and giant bosses in this non-linear affair, you'll also be humming along to the best chiptune soundtrack I've heard in years and easily my favorite game soundtrack of 2015. Don't believe me? Then give it a listen. What is more impressive is the game was mostly developed (completely developed?) by one person, Matt Kap, and that includes the soundtrack. Even though it released in February, I've found myself thinking back to my time with Castle in the Darkness throughout 2015. It's easily my favorite single-player game of the year. Halo 5: Guardians is my second-most-played game of 2015 and my favorite multiplayer game of the year. Sure, its campaign is easily one of the worst in the series (what were they thinking having you fight the same boss so many times?), but what shines here is the online experience. 343 Industries took the base multiplayer we came to know and love from previous titles and plucked mechanics from other shooters to make the overall best multiplayer experience in the series. Aiming down sights, unlimited sprinting, clamoring up ledges, spartan charging, and ground pounding are all welcome additions. While there are microtransactions available, they only offer up cosmetics and consumables and are quickly unlockable without spending a dime, however tempting that might be. Because of their inclusion, 343 has promised that all future maps and modes will be provided free of charge. Thus far, it has kept its promise by adding multiple maps and modes since launch.  After putting over 72 hours into the multiplayer, I'm happy to report that this is easily one of the most balanced Halo games, and one that will keep me playing for many more hours to come.  That does it for my main games of the year list, but I'd like to toss out some honorable mentions: Niko: Through the Dream was the best first-person puzzle game I played in 2015. Undertale is the game I'm most likely to fall in love with if I ever play it after having bought it on release day. Rock Band 4 is my most regretful purchase of the year. The Jackbox Party Pack 2 is the best game to play with friends who can't stay off their damned phones. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the most innovative and stressful game of the year.  Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is the best walking simulator and free experience of the year. Downwell is the best mobile / cheap game that I love that I may or may not ever beat due to difficulty. Xbox One Elite controller is the best controller on the market (sorry not sorry Steam controller). It Follows is the best movie of the year and features a video game-esque soundtrack by Disasterpeace! [embed]330637:61722:0[/embed]
Jed's dankiest games 2015 photo
Bonus: See me nearly naked, again
I've heard a lot of people say 2015 was one of the best years they can remember, gaming-wise, but I can't say I agree. AAA titles last year were mostly more of the same, and most indie titles just didn't click with me. 2015 w...

Oculus Rift up for pre-order right now, costs $599.99, out in March

Jan 06 // Chris Carter
[embed]332092:61753:0[/embed]
Oculus Rift photo
Do you want it?
[Update: All initial "day one" stock has been claimed, apparently selling out in 14 minutes. Further units for sale are now pushed back to May 2016.] This week, Oculus had a few announcements up its sleeve, including the...

Review: Amplitude

Jan 05 // Chris Carter
Amplitude (PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: HarmonixMSRP: $19.99Released: January 5, 2016 (PS4) / TBA (PS3) Amplitude might be hard to master, but it's extremely easy to pick up. If you've played the series before you'll be able to jump right back in at the highest difficulty level, but for the rest of you, a quick five minute tutorial is all you'll need. Simply put, notes are laid down on tracks that symbolize instruments (or vocals), with L1, R1, and R2 (or Square, Triangle, and Circle) triggering the left, middle, or right notes respectively. Players are required to hit specific notes on beat on each track, then move to the next one. That's essentially it. There are a few more nuances like "Streaking" (combos, initiated by quickly moving and playing notes on a new track), and power-ups (simple concepts like clearing a track instantly), but you'll pick up the basics in no time. And in many ways, that's what's so great about Amplitude. The concept of a ship driving down a literal road that signifies your progress in a song is brilliant, and although it's been done a few times since the franchise's retirement, Harmonix does it best. All four difficulties (plus one bonus unlock) feel balanced, and the highest (Expert) is sufficiently challenging. Amplitude doesn't have a whole lot on offer though, content-wise. The campaign is a mere 15 songs long, consisting of a "concept album" created by Harmonix. It's a neat idea in theory, but it's over before you know it, and will definitely leave players wanting more. The fact that it cannot be played with friends and is required to unlock a handful of songs for multiplayer also isn't ideal. After finishing up the campaign, I had no desire to ever play it again. [embed]328939:61634:0[/embed] In that sense, the vast majority of your time will be spent in the free play mode, which supports up to four players in both versus or team play (1v3 or 2v2) situations. It's just as fun as it was in the past, as there's even more strategy involved with more ships on the track, since you can block out opponents from entering a track by claiming it first. With all of the power-ups being used in tandem, things can get hectic. It's Amplitude at its best, and truly successful players will need to watch their own track as well as peruse the entire board for the next move on top of counter-maneuvers, taking other ships into account. Where Amplitude really falls short is its lackluster 30-song soundtrack. You can take a look at the full setlist here to get an idea of what to expect -- spoiler: it's a lot of in-house work. Most of it is competent electronica crafted by the talented folks at Harmonix, but I just don't dig most of the vocal work -- either the performances or the lyrics -- and the majority of songs are not nearly as memorable as classics from the old games like Garbage's "Cherry Lips" or David Bowie's "Everyone Says Hi." I would play those songs for hours on end years back, but like the campaign, I'm willing to skip out on most of the new tracks. The original games weren't afraid to get out of their comfort zone with songs like "Dope Nose" from Weezer and "King of Rock" by Run-DMC, and the lack of risk-taking really shows with this new iteration. Another general issue I have is the way songs are doled out while playing. Tracks are locked behind the campaign as previously mentioned, but others require players to complete a ton of songs to access them. One even takes 60 plays to unlock! Why did Harmonix feel the need to do this? To gate the experience and ensure it lasts longer? It goes against the party-like nature of the game, and feels like a relic of the past. I wouldn't mind doing this if the reward were greater (like the original), but it isn't. Amplitude is a competent rhythm game that should provide lots of fun at parties, but the hamstrung tracklist is a severe detriment to its longevity. Harmonix was able to preserve the classic experience, but may have gone overboard in its effort to do so. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. I did not contribute to the Kickstarter campaign.]
Amplitude review photo
This Amp doesn't go to 11
Before there was an abundance of rhythm games out there with plastic peripherals, there were developers like Harmonix leading the way with controller-based experiences. Along with some long sessions of Gitaroo Man and Pa...

Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode

Jan 05 // Chris Carter
Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode (Xbox One [reviewed], Xbox 360, PC, PS4)Developer: Crystal Dynamics (Xbox One), Nixxes Software (Xbox 360)Publisher: Microsoft (Xbox One, 360); Square Enix (PC, PS4)MSRP: $9.99Released: December 29, 2015 Endurance Mode is very light on story, offering up a shaky excuse for its existence which isn't even all that necessary. Lara, seemingly breaking from her travels, is in search of artifacts as is the evil mustache-twirling Trinity organization. Her job is to locate caves and recover said artifacts, then signal a helicopter and high-tail it out of there with as many goodies as she can grab. The catch is, players now have a food and warmth meter. Grabbing supplies such as bark and berries (or killing animals for food) actually has a point now, rather than a gamified version of an upgrade system like the core story. Hilariously, it even goes as deep as needing resources to light the signal fire to even escape, something I failed at in my first run. Ammo is often much more scarce a la Resident Evil as well, which is a nice touch -- I'd almost always find myself out of arrows during nearly all of my runs. Relic caves are actually mini-crypts, and are roughly 5-10 minute, bite-sized dungeons of sorts with random trap types. They're fun to play through, and don't overstay their welcome given their short length. Additionally, the rewards for actually exploring these caves are decent, including credit payouts for more Expedition rewards, and new weapons. I would prefer a lot of these elements to just be baked into the core game, but since I assume a lot of folks would complain that it's "too hard," we have this mode instead -- a risk-reward, arcadey score attack concept. It even features challenges (locate five crypts), which are an achievement-ception of sorts. At times, it feels like a rushed bit of DLC. There's only one Endurance sandbox for starters, and as a whole, the map feels rigid and forced -- with plenty of ways to corral players into specific zones. All of that cheapness generally washes away when you're in caves, but I would have preferred the overworld to be just as enjoyable. The best part is that it involves cards. If you're into that aspect of Rise, this is probably the best game type for it, in fact. For the uninitiated, cards modify the experience -- making it tougher or easier -- depending on what cards you play before match. For example, you can up your rewards by making enemies do more damage, or lower them by taking a specific outfit that automatically grants you the entire Brawler skill tree. Some cards are limited to a one-time use, but tons more, including a large pack that comes with the Survival DLC, are permanent. Deciding whether or not to buy Endurance Mode for Rise of the Tomb Raider is a pretty easy decision. Did you play and enjoy the Expeditions? If so, go ahead and grab it, if not, skip it.
Tomb Raider DLC review photo
Don't starve
I'm surprised how much mileage I've gotten out of Rise of the Tomb Raider. While most developers are keen on stuffing multiplayer into every single project, Crystal Dynamics did the right thing but nixing it in Rise, instead adding in a much more enticing Expeditions gametype. Endurance Mode isn't exactly as thrilling as it sounds, but it expands upon Expeditions quite well.

Chris Carter's personal picks for Game of the Year 2015

Jan 03 // Chris Carter
Bloodborne What an amazing year for Souls fans. In addition to announcement of Dark Souls III coupled with a solid release date, we also got the fantastic Scholar of the First Sin, and of course, Bloodborne. Sony and From Software were absolutely genius with their timing of the latter. It was released earlier this year, leaving plenty of time to develop The Old Hunters DLC, just in time for our Game of the Year voting process. With a more twitchy action-based combat system in tow, Bloodborne felt significantly different from its predecessors, but was still a Souls game at heart. If the series is to truly end with Dark Souls III, it will end without one bad game under its belt. Yo-Kai Watch I've developed a full-on addiction to this franchise. I watch the TV show, I've acquired a few pieces of merchandise, and I love the first game. Yo-Kai Watch managed to make its way into my heart for one simple reason -- Level-5 put so much effort into this series that it truly shows. Whether it's the endearing references to the basically-but-not-technically Japan setting and hilarious cast, I'm usually smiling when I'm experiencing something Yo-Kai related. Heroes of the Storm When Blizzard first started talking about a "casual MOBA" years back, I never really took the prospect seriously. I was a devoted vanilla DOTA fan (and years later, League of Legends enthusiast), and the concept really didn't resonate with me. Until I played it, of course. The fact that the roster is made up of classic Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft heroes and villains is only the icing on the cake, because as a whole, the game works. I love that I can boot it up for just a bit, play a game that's only 15-20 minutes, and move on, instead of dedicating hours upon hours for it to truly get anywhere. The team-based XP system is brilliant as well. Fellow players are still able to keep up with everyone without getting left in the dust because they didn't last-hit every creep throughout a match. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Expectations were through the roof with Kojima's last project with Konami, but man did he and his team deliver. With open-world gameplay that absolutely smashes so many of its competitors, Phantom Pain was one of the most engaging games I've played in years. It also helped that it looked gorgeous, as every bullet, explosion, and setpiece was beautifully designed and orchestrated. While Metal Gear Online and the sum of its other, seedier microtransaction parts leave much to be desired, the campaign has earned a rightful place among the best work from Kojima's long, storied career. Ori and the Blind Forest I don't think I'll ever get tired of Metroidvanias, and Ori and the Blind Forest is a perfect example of why the formula still works. The platforming is spot-on, the environments are engaging and vivid, and the minimalist story is so well done that it hurts. Clocking in at 12 hours or less, there isn't any fat on Ori -- you need every bit of that game for the package to work. Shortly after completing it the first time, I went back and did another run. I can safely say that it will become part of my annual replay routine. Xenoblade Chronicles X Ah, Xenoblade. I still remember the very moment I knew how polarizing the game was going to be. I had cleared out an afternoon to do a story quest, only to find out that it needed a sidequest as a prerequisite. Having no idea how the flow of things operated, I thought it would be a mere diversion, and I would be able to power through the main questline. Oh how wrong I was, and six hours later, I still wasn't ready to continue the campaign. But you know what? That entire six-hour block was a joyous session. I found a heap of hidden areas, fought gigantic looming world bosses, unearthed a ton of useful loot, and just generally had a blast roaming around the sprawling maps. It's so easy to get lost in Xenoblade Chronicles X, and although it can be a bit too old-school for its own good, the journey is its own reward. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 I usually have one oddball pick every year, and this is it. It sounds like a cop-out to say recent Resident Evil games are better with friends, but damn it, they are. Even Resident Evil 6, despite its general garbage multi-campaign approach, had redeeming qualities with its "Mercenaries" component. My wife and I were hooked from start to finish, and the asymmetrical co-op characters really worked for us. The episodic format was a bit jarring, but ultimately fine, and I liked that some sections had multiple outcomes or endings, among the hundreds of other extras and goodies packed in. I must admit, though, most of my enjoyment is derived from the game's raid mode, which is probably my favorite incarnation of the game-type to date. I've spent more time playing it than practically any other game released this year.
GOTY 2015 photo
Another rad year
As I've said in the past, every year is a great year for gaming if you look hard enough. I see "this year sucked" so many times around the web and just can't relate, because while there may be disappointing releases on a cons...

2015 recap: The ten most popular posts on Destructoid this year

Dec 31 // Brett Makedonski
Ten most popular posts 10. Here are all the names Fallout 4's Codsworth can say Admit it: You clicked on this because you wanted to see if Codsworth can say bumbledick or shitsandwich or fuckface (he can say the latter). Just because Codsworth can say it doesn't mean you can say it, though! We'll wash your mouth out with soap and we're not bluffing this time. 9. The Last of Us multiplayer DLC is not okay Darren has thoughts. Opinions, man. Takes that are hot. He doesn't like the free-to-play multiplayer elements in The Last of Us -- a game that is absolutely not free-to-play. Over the course of, like, a million words, he explains his beef. I don't know if most agreed with him, but a whole lot of people wanted to see what he had to say. 8. E3 2015 press conference schedule They call him SEO Steven* for a reason. I don't have the hard statistics to back it up, but I'd wager that the old Google machine looked kindly upon this post. *No one calls him SEO Steven; they call him Arch Deluxe Steven on account of the crazy high arches in his feet. They're weird. They freak me out. 7. Where to find companions in Fallout 4 Word on the street is you need some friends. Loser. 6. Bethesda doesn't mind if you don't like Fallout 4's graphics Fallout 4 doesn't look great. It's not terrible, but it's not wowing anyone who's used to gaming on a PC, PS4, or Xbox One. Bethesda's perfectly fine with that. Let's face it: If you're playing Fallout for the graphics, you're playing Fallout for the wrong reasons. 5. Some jerk ruined Pixels' perfect zero Rotten Tomatoes score Adam Sandler's summer movie Pixels didn't fare all that well. For a while, it had a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I don't know much about movies and percentages, but that seems bad. Until some jagoff ruined all of that. Also, I'm pretty sure that I gave Darren the headline for this article, so he owes me a beer the next time I see him. Do me a favor and hold him to that. I'll take my beer in the form of a bottle of vodka. 4. Here are all the amiibo waves and figures we know about I can confidently say that amiibo are bad and Chris is a bad man for writing about them. Some would say that I'm also a bad man for writing about them, to which I'd threaten to sue my defamers for slander. 3. Nintendo's cracking down on speedrunning and ROM hacking videos Speaking of lawsuits, a little copyright talk brought all the attorneys to the yard. And they're like "Actually the purpose of copyright law..." That's not as catchy and I can definitely see why the other song was about milkshakes instead. 2. Man hate-buys Rosalina & Luma amiibo in bulk so fans can't have them Okay, you're right: I am a bad man for writing about amiibo. Almost as bad of a man as the Internet troll who bought a bunch of Rosalina & Luma amiibo so that other people couldn't have them. (In reality, he was probably just flipping them for megabucks.) 1. Bungie gets salty defending Destiny's expansion price Understandably, it didn't go well when Bungie asked Destiny players to re-buy content they'd already bought to get full access to the upcoming expansion. One of the biggest games on the market gouging its user base in this unthinkable manner was bound to be one of the most popular stories of the year. Five most popular reviews 5. Bloodborne Chris Carter does everything around here -- including the top five trafficking reviews of 2015. 4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Chris, did you ever know that you're my hero? 3. Fallout 4 And everything I would like to be? 2. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain I can fly higher than an eagle. 1. Dying Light For you are the wind beneath my wings. Also, how the hell did Dying Light, with a modest score of seven, end up beating those other titans? I don't understand the Internet, like, ever. This shit more or less makes no sense. Staff picks for five enjoyable posts (in no particular order) 5. 'Is that a Game Boy?' Navigating simple questions as a socially awkward adult Here's a little inside baseball: Darren wasn't even sure he should post this quick editorial he wrote. It wasn't really video game-related. Instead, it was more "How do I describe the nuances of gaming to a naive audience-"related. I'm glad he did because it tackles such an innocent, basic, yet all too familiar scenario: That awkwardness when trying to figure out when explaining becomes over-explaining. It's one that's tough to elegantly deal with no matter how many times you run into it. 4. Experience Points .25: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars I love Ben's Experience Points series. Too often, I realize that it has been a long time since I've had anything too nice to say about video games. The magic isn't the same when you deal with covering the industry every single day. Ben's Experience Points pieces come from a place of pure affection and appreciation, though -- an attitude that makes them a joy to read and helps recapture the feeling that got many of us into this gig in the first place. We went with his Super Mario RPG entry because, gosh, that game is so good. 3. Cell games: I tried to build a pacifist utopia but the Internet ate me up Agar.io is a game about being a cell and trying to grow. This is done either by devouring smaller player-controlled cells or by gobbling up an abundance of tiny non-player-controlled cells. Really, it's kind of the very essence of online multiplayer -- everyone out for themselves, hoping to eventually be the biggest dog in the yard. Steven found himself trying to subvert that. He wanted to play as a pacifist, seeing how big he could grow just from eating those insignificant small cells. What transpired was a mutualistic relationship with a fellow player, an unlikely friendship in a game meant to show as little human personality as possible. It's the kind of story that conjures memories of an unknown buddy helping you through the emotional highs and lows of Journey. 2. True Life: One man's descent into deliriumiibo This was the most therapeutic piece that I can remember writing in a long time. Having recently fallen victim to the amiibo craze, I kept stepping back and wondering what the hell I was doing before continuing right along my troubled path. It was a lighthearted reprieve where I could laugh about this sudden obsession while in the back of my mind thinking "Fuuuuck, I'm really doing this, aren't I?" 1. Nintendo announced a new Metroid so we gave Zack a haircut This bucks the editorial trend set by the other four posts, but that's okay because this is one of my favorite things that happened all year. Nintendo (kind of) announced a new Metroid title at E3 -- Metroid Prime: Federation Force -- so, we shaved the iconic alien into the back of Zack's head. Poorly, might I add. Zack, you're gonna go far, kid. -- We wrote a lot of good stuff in 2015. Only five got listed in this round-up, but there was far more that we were proud of. If you'd like, check out the Destructoid Originals tag to rediscover some of it. Now, onto 2016, the ten-year anniversary of your favorite Robot.
Popular posts of 2015 photo
So fetch
Even though the tradition is exactly two years running at this point, I look forward to closing up the calendar year by writing about the most popular posts on Destructoid. It's no secret that we, Internet people as we are, h...

Why are the only interesting parts of Rise of the Tomb Raider's story buried in audio logs?

Dec 29 // Zack Furniss
Remember when Rise of the Tomb Raider was announced at the Xbox's E3 press conference? If not, here it is: [embed]330081:61668:0[/embed] Lara is at a therapy session, and a psychologist is telling her that despite the trauma she faced, she needs to reintegrate into society, maybe "take up some hobbies". She impatiently taps her foot, clad in a hood, eyes downcast, obviously beyond uncomfortable. Her hands are wounded, a fact that she's trying to keep a secret from the psychologist. This all adds up to a surprisingly human look at what someone would face after the (admittedly ridiculous) harrowing events of the first game. That images of her continuing to delve into dangerous situations are woven throughout the trailer add an uncomfortable, yet empowering edge. Most games shy away from dealing with trauma, yet from the outset Rise of the Tomb Raider looked like it might have something to say about the subject. Some viewers interpreted the teaser as showing Lara as damaged, but as someone who regularly goest to a therapist, I saw it as a strength. However, this scene is nowhere to be found in the finished product. These therapy sessions are relegated to simple audio logs, and even worse than that, they aren't ones that you find lying around on the floor. At some point after Ana, Lara's father's lover (and member of Trinity, the capital E evil ancient order that's searching for immortality) betrays Lara, a pop-up tells you that you've unlocked some audio logs. It's easy to miss. If you give these a listen, you'll find an extra layer of fucked-up. These therapy sessions were actually orchestrated by Trinity, and they're pushing Lara to go in the direction that they want. One recording shows that they're trying to separate Lara from Jonah, her friend and fellow survivor. Each tape ends with Ana scheming about how best to further manipulate Lara. This is good stuff, and is so much more interesting than the rote plot that ended up in Rise. Therapy in general seems to be a big no-no in game stories, but this could have been handled in a way that gave depth to Lara's character, giving her more of a reason to detest Trinity. It also makes them seem like a more dangerous enemy, secretly pulling global strings instead of just giving an army of idiots guns so that they can all be massacred by a young woman who built a bow out of sticks. Ana's brother, Konstantin, is a leader of one of Trinity's battalions, and is memorable for three things: a gravelly voice, an under-cooked boss battle, and stigmata on his hands that bleed when his prayers are answered. Sure, I can believe in a holy figure that responds to prayers in a game that has immortal soldiers that explode into blue flames when you blast them with a shotgun. But another audio log from Ana's perspective reveals that Konstantin was directionless, lacking faith. One night, she decided to stab both of his hands so that he would believe he was chosen by God. This gave him the necessary push to keep him searching for the secret to immortality so that he could save Ana from a terminal illness. Why was this not touched upon in-game? Ana abusing her brother's buried zealotry for her personal gain, and him re-opening his wounds because he so desperately wants to believe in a higher power is a huge bit of character development that goes a long way in making these people at least somewhat believable in Tomb Raider's cartoonish world. I'm all for adding a human element into this series instead of making Lara an indestructible globe-hopping terminator (even though that's...still what they're doing), but someone is clearly stifling the writers' potential here. I'm curious how much of what Rhianna Pratchett is writing is getting thrown out in favor of "more explosions, less exposition." Again, I found plenty to enjoy in Rise of the Tomb Raider for the most part, and I'll play a sequel. Hopefully there'll the more thoughtful ideas will be allowed to float to the surface. And seriously, why isn't Lara using two pistols yet, especially since she used them for the final encounter in the first game (in a QTE, but I digress)? I promise you, it's not any less believable than her killing a billion guys. One last thing. Are we taking bets on whether or not Sofia was supposed to be another player character in a scrapped co-op mode? She has braids, a bow, and all but disappears in the last quarter of the game. I have a feeling there was a more volatile development cycle here than we know.
Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Short answer: because it's a video game
Pretty boy Steven Hansen enjoyed  our Xbox One Game of the Year Rise of the Tomb Raider, saying that it was "perfunctory Hollywood boilerplate, down to the set up for the sequel, but competently done." I agree with ...

Destructoid's award for Overall Best Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 23 // Niero Desu
Speaking of cereal business: The accidental legacy of the cock-branded corn flakes goes back to the late 19th century, when a team of Seventh-day Adventists began to develop new food to adhere to the vegetarian diet recommended by the church. In 1894, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the superintendent of The Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan and an Adventist, used these recipes as part of a strict vegetarian regimen for his patients, which also included no alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. The diet he imposed consisted entirely of bland foods. A follower of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of graham crackers and graham bread, Kellogg believed that spicy or sweet foods would "increase passions." Pictured: Mergo's Wet Nurse This idea for corn flakes began by accident when Kellogg and his younger brother, Will Keith Kellogg, left some cooked wheat to sit while they attended to some pressing matters at the sanitarium. When they returned, they found that the wheat had gone stale, but being on a strict budget, they decided to continue to process it by forcing it through rollers, hoping to obtain long sheets of the dough. To their surprise, what they found instead were flakes, which they toasted and served to the insane, who loved it.  In 1906, Will Keith Kellogg, who served as the business manager of the sanitarium, decided to try to mass-market the new food. At his new company, Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, Will added sugar to the flakes to make them more palatable to a mass audience, but this caused a rift between his brother and him. John thought the sugary version of corn flakes would get people laid. Heaven forbid: sex leads to babies, who are born bloody and can go on to produce murderous vicars and martyrs at sixty frames a second. Gross. Photo Credit: Blame Canada In 1907, his same company ran an ad campaign which offered a free box of cereal to any woman who winked at her grocer. To increase sales, in 1909, he added a special offer, the Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures Booklet. You probably had no idea how much the church, insane people, and masturbation have affected what many of you put into your mouths every morning. Luckily, moving pictures have evolved since. Congratulations, Miss Colombia, you're our game of the year. No seriously, she won. Fuck it, I own Destructoid, the Niero does what he wants. Duuude, have you seen that T-Shirt that has the old American food pyramid, but instead it says "I do what I want"? That's hilarious. Also, congratulations to Bloodborne and everyone at Sony and From Software. Sick game. [GOTY artwork design by Raul Cordoba. Miss Colombia photo credit: El Heraldo Colombia] Also, a huge thanks to the game's lead programmer, Jun Ito, who rarely gets his name mentioned by the Western press. I don't know anything about this person or the countless others that also contributed, but Ito-san is surely like many of hard-working developers in the industry who sacrificed countless nights of restful sleep. Taihen arigatou gozaimashita.
GOTY 2015 photo
Jun Ito
The downfall of Japanese game development has been greatly exaggerated. It sort of reminds me of what happened a century ago, when Dr. Kellogg introduced Kellogg's Corn Flakes in hopes that it would reduce masturbation. Kello...

Destructoid's award for Best Xbox Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 23 // Brett Makedonski
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as standalone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Before Nathan Drake, there was Lara Croft. This is important to note because recently, for a good number of years, Nathan Drake was Lara Croft. Shrewdly, developer Naughty Dog took the cinematic action baton and ran far,...

Review: Batman: Arkham Knight: Season of Infamy

Dec 23 // Chris Carter
Batman: Arkham Knight: Season of Infamy (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: WB Games MontrealPublisher: Warner Bros.MSRP: $9.99Released: December 22, 2015 Infamy is a bit confusing. It's not an "Arkham Episode," that's detached from the story by way of a menu option. It's an actual extension of the narrative, taking place before Batman initiates the Knightfall Protocol (the ending), and it's integrated into the open-world campaign. In other words, if you've reached 100 percent completion in the game, just load up your file to start the DLC. Four new missions pop up as a result of booting up Infamy, which you can complete in any order, featuring Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Ra's al Ghul, and Killer Croc. Each one is roughly 30-45 minutes long. Let's start with the Mad Hatter, the weakest link in the chain. His effectiveness as a Batman villain has always been questionable, and that goes double for his appearance in Arkham Knight. He was fine as a throwaway sidequest included in City, but the return of his presence does little to justify a premium price here. You'll be done with his bit in less than 30 minutes, running around Arkham with a minor series of fetch quests before confronting him at the Gotham City Police Department headquarters, and enduring another hallucination that amounts to nothing more than three easy combat challenges. It's a neat concept but it's so fleeting that I barely had time to digest it. Killer Croc is another of those one-dimensional foes that often functions as the muscle of an outfit -- a trope that leads you down a predictable storyline in the Infamy add-on. A prison ship has crash-landed compliments of an escape attempt by Croc, and you'll gallivant across the environment, chasing him down for a bit (with more fetch quests in tow of course). Consisting of a few platforming sequences and some combat, there's basically no thinking involved here in just about every facet of the short quest. It works better than Mad Hatter's portion though because most of it isn't comprised of re-used environments, and there is a nice brief reunion with Nightwing. [embed]328895:61630:0[/embed] Mr. Freeze on the other hand, is a villain that has always had a more interesting, nuanced characterization. He's not truly evil in the traditional sense -- rather, he sees his schemes as a means to an end, to save his wife Nora. The actual objectives for his quest aren't all that enthralling, but it's the only one that features Predator sequences, and the concept (and the exploration of his relationship with Nora) is compelling enough to see the tale through until the end. Plus, it has a Batmobile sequence that has more of a reason to exist than most of the ones in the campaign. Ra's al Ghul's quest is the other highlight of the pack, taking place mostly in Eliott General Hospital. Hush's part in Knight was extremely disappointing, especially after the buildup from City, so it's nice to see his family's legacy featured front and center to some degree. Along with some brand new zones you'll also work through a rather intriguing subplot featuring the League of Assassins (who are some of the only new enemies in the Infamy pack), and the Lazarus Pit -- one of the wackier bits of Batman lore. There's also a choice at the end that's actually pretty interesting that I won't spoil here. As a premium add-on, Season of Infamy really fails to produce much that feels like it's essential to the Arkham Knight experience outside of two tales. But on the other hand, it has a number of nice little touches, most notably a small expansion of the GCPD HQ, adding another wing (along with some easy WayneTech upgrade points), and the mission structure in the weaker two stories is competent at the very worst. If you really loved Knight and have been avoiding all the DLC thus far, Infamy is probably worth checking out at some point -- even if it's the only thing you buy piecemeal. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
Batman DLC review photo
Ice to see the end of the Season Pass
I've refrained from reviewing most of the DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight outside of the Batgirl add-on, because of the short nature of the mission-based tales. But Season of Infamy has four missions, so that means it's four times as good, right?!

Best Mobile Game photo
Downwell
There were some great slow-paced, methodical games up for this award (Lara Croft GO, Alphabear), but Downwell proves twitch action can still work on phones. It achieves this through its dedication to simplicity. Three colors....

Destructoid's award for Best Vita Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 22 // Laura Kate Dale
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Persona 4: Dancing All Night
The PlayStation Vita has not had the strongest year for releases. With some of the system's biggest exclusives moving to PS4 and a drastic reduction in the number of new games being produced by first-party developers, many ha...

Destructoid's award for Best PC Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 22 // Steven Hansen
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Undertale
This quirky, JRPG-inspired lovefest has been the unexpected smash hit of 2015, resonating strongly with a legion of fans that helped propel it to victory in a large "Best. Game. Ever." poll against some of the indelible class...

Destructoid's award for Best Wii U Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 21 // Jordan Devore
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as standalone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Splatoon
Simply put, Splatoon delivered. Nintendo's inventive take on the shooter genre was the best in its field this year and so much more. It's a multiplayer experience that is both competitive and joyful, one where seasoned player...

Destructoid's award for Best 3DS Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 20 // Chris Carter
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
The 3DS had a rough launch, but over the course of a few years, it bounced back in a big way. At this point if you count digital releases, it's one of my favorite platforms of all time -- and I'm not just talking about the po...

Destructoid's award for Best PS4 Game of 2015 goes to...

Dec 19 // Kyle MacGregor
[Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles and episodic games that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
GOTY 2015 photo
Bloodborne
Was there ever any doubt? Of all the distinguished and exemplary titles to grace the PlayStation 4 in 2015, few approach the wit and artistry of From Software and Hidetaka Miyazaki's Bloodborne. As the latest installment in w...

The best new IPs of 2015

Dec 18 // Laura Kate Dale
Undertale While Undertale's release this year was a complete surprise to most people who played it, a turn-based JRPG bullet hell game that remembers your actions, allows you to avoid murder, and has dateable skeletons is a pretty easy pitch to get people to check it out. The game has quickly amassed a rather large and dedicated fan following, and it's not hard to see why. The unusual blending of genre mechanics, the homages to EarthBound, the stellar writing, and the screenshotable nature of the cast was just prime for spreading like wild fire. Undertale may not be the longest game, and it's unlikely to ever get a direct sequel, but it has firmly cemented itself deep in the hearts of many a gamer this year. I laughed, I cried a bit, I screamed in frustration, and I walked away guilty. That's more of an emotional ride than can be said for most video games. Even if I now do feel my sins crawling on my back. Bloodborne While Bloodborne had a considerable head start on many of our best new IP contenders, as the spiritual sequel to the highly successful Dark Souls games, this particular IP did not take the easy design route. Taking Dark Souls' unforgiving combat style and pairing it with a rich new lore, additional mechanics that incentivized aggressive combat techniques, and a considerably upped gameplay pace, Bloodborne invites players to fight their way through a world that was memorable, challenging, and surprising on a regular basis. While there is a new Dark Souls on the way, Bloodborne is the franchise I'm more excited to see a sequel to. Splatoon Splatoon is the very embodiment of Nintendo looking at what other people were doing, and creating something fascinating by adding its own Nintendo Twist. The idea is simple: make a competitive online shooter where players' primary aim is not to shoot other characters, but to shoot non-sentient structures and surfaces. Online shooters are incredibly popular as a genre, but there's very little in the way of options for younger players to get into playing (you know, unless they play Call of Duty in spite being seven). It's an under-served market, and Nintendo seized it perfectly. Splatoon not only managed to capture attention with a unique art style and colour palette, its consistent long-term roll-out of new content has kept players engaged longer than many other comparable releases. Life is Strange Okay, I'll be the first to admit my beloved Life is Strange isn't perfect by any stretch. It's melodramatic, it's at times stilted in its writing, and it has some major issues with pacing. Still, the series is also one of the most memorable things I played this year, and it does things no other games are daring to do. Life is Strange managed to get a lot very right. It used time travel as a gameplay mechanic to get around not knowing the context of your choices in episodic narratives, allowing players to properly commit to choices they made. Pick a choice, watch it play out, rewind, check out another choice, decide which you want to commit to, and go ahead fully in favour of your actions. Life is Strange also managed to tackle some tough themes in a tasteful way, giving agency over real-life situations to powerful effect. Oh, and I really, really like Chloe. I played the entire game constantly trying to kiss her at every possible moment. Her Story Her Story is an ambitious game that tried something untested, and managed to pull it off. Set on a late-nineties British Police computer database, the game tells a nonlinear narrative through tagged, live-action video files. The concept was simple. Start with the word "murder," search the database for any relevant clips, investigate a woman's statements to police, and unravel a deeply bizarre crime. The performances of the game's leading lady were truly top notch, as was the narrative and the natural structure for unraveling plot threads. There was always something to look for more information on, and as additional clues became visible, the plot had numerous unexpected turns. Seriously, Her Story is really damn strong. SOMA SOMA is a terrifyingly grounded horror story about themes of desolation, humanity, sacrifice, and what it means to truly exist. Yep, those are heavy themes to tackle, but SOMA handles them admirably. Giving a wholly bleak view of humanity's future, it makes a strong case that everything we do is ultimately meaningless. Not a depressing thought at all. Besides the strong story, it also wowed with its presentation. From elaborate degrading structures to creature designs that twist expectations, I was constantly impressed with the cohesive structure of the game. Also, SOMA is just plain scary. Until Dawn Until Dawn is an interactive horror movie game, built from a collection of well-known genre tropes mashed together. Throw a bunch of kids in a spooky remote cabin with nightmare monsters, and see what happens. The genius of Until Dawn's design is that the tropes being drawn from are not consistent or predictable, making plot turns hard to see. Experienced horror genre fans will at times see what's coming and be able to make informed choices regarding what to do. Personally, I was a fan of deliberate murder. Let's see what we can do to kill everyone off as gruesomely as possible. I suppose you could try and keep people alive too, if you want.  I just hope we get new Until Dawn games in the future that are not on-rails VR shooters. Ori and the Blind Forest On a simple mechanical level, Ori and the Blind Forest is decent, but nothing special. It's a side-scrolling metroidvania that does everything solidly, but doesn't push much in the way of new ground. So, why is it on this list? Because it was god damn beautifully, visually and as a narrative. Picture those Rayman games from a little while back, but done to a much higher level and accompanied by a Ghibli-esque soundtrack. Ori and the Blind Forest is a technical masterpiece and I can't wait to see what the studio works on next. The Beginner's Guide The Beginner's Guide is a weird game, in that it caused a huge splash upon launch, with many reviewers hesitant to say anything at all about it. People were affected by it, not always positively, and it clearly had a strong impact on many players. A few months on, it's still unclear how genuine the narrative told is, or how much we can rely on the narrator of the experience. But if you have around and hour and a half and want to be floored by an unexpected narrative, you'll be hard pressed to do better than The Beginner's Guide. Just make sure to complete it within your Steam refund window, as there are legitimate reasons to want to return this game after purchase. [To clarify the above statement regarding refunds, while I view this game as a work of fiction, and recommend people play it as such, many players view the narrative as an accurate work of non fiction. If you fall into the camp that view this as non fiction, an aspect of the narrative implies that the content is stolen wholesale from another developer. While I paid for the game and believe doing so is a morally acceptable action, what I wish to make clear is that if players disagree with my reading of the narrative and feel I reccomended them an experience they didn't morally agree with, there is a financial way to back out of that purchase. This is not an encouragement to back out of payment due to length, but simply me pointing out that if you finish the game and believe the narrative to be non fiction, and if you believe that you purchased stolen goods, there is a way to avoid your money remaining with that developer in this very specific case. My initial vague comment was an attempt to avoid a major spoiler for the narrative, but has unfortunately left the reasons for my recommendations open to wider interpretation]  Dropsy In the lead up to launch, many people following Dropsy assumed that before its end, it would take some upsetting or dark horror twist. A point-and-click adventure, it is actually anything but a horror experience. It's a simple game about a socially isolated individual who wants nothing more than the simple joys of companionship. Beneath the initial appearance of Dropsy the clown is an individual whose primary interaction with the world is a hug button. Quests are told through pictorial desires. You bring people together, people see the good in you, and you hug. Dropsy is one of those games that's a beautiful palette cleanser. If you're feeling video game murderer fatigue, it's an experience poised to make you feel just a little better about the world. Gravity Ghost Gravity Ghost is a simple game mechanically. You play the ghost of a young girl, jumping among planets and stars to reunite animal bodies and spirits. It's relaxing. There are no punishments for failure, and the experience is almost mesmerically smooth and simple. It is a gorgeous, laid-back experience hiding a deep and relatable human story. The game deals with themes of growing up. It deals with taking responsibility for the consequences of your actions, processing loss, and the connection that remains to those we lose. Gravity Ghost's narrative is simple, elegant, and resonant in a way few games manage. Read Only Memories Read Only Memories is a charmingly written, wonderfully stylised, instantly memorable point-and click-adventure that released earlier this year. It tells a cyberpunk story of crime, politics, technology, and relationships that's super intriguing from start to finish. Oh, and it also happens to have a cast full to the brim with simply handled diversity. You've got gay characters, trans characters, a bunch of other different types of characters, and the fact they may be gay or transgender never becomes the forefront of who they are. They just happen to be those things without any fanfare, and it's wonderful to behold.
Best New IPs photo
Not every series is Assassin's Creed yet
Video games are increasingly expensive products to create. Every generation as graphics increase in quality, the sheer size of teams required to put together new amazing, fantastic worlds grows dramatically. With video games ...

Review: Yakuza 5

Dec 17 // Kyle MacGregor
Yakuza 5 (PS3)Developer: SegaPublisher: SegaMSRP: $39.99 Released: December 8, 2015 (NA/EU)  December 6, 2012 (JP) The tale unfurls from five seemingly unrelated vantage points, picking up two years after the events of Yakuza 4 with former yakuza and series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu attempting to live a quiet life as a cab driver in Fukuoka. Of course, our hero can't seem to escape his past, and with trouble brewing, it isn't long before he's pulled out of his taxi and back into the fray. Far to the north, Tojo strongman Taiga Saejima is nearing the end of a prison sentence in Hokkaido, where he, despite being 2,000 miles away from the events in Fukuoka, feels the ripple effects of what's going on. Meanwhile, Kiryu's adoptive niece Haruka has left her home in Okinawa to chase dreams of becoming a pop star in Osaka, where old friend Shun Akiyama, the affable moneylender from Yakuza 4, also happens to be setting up a new office for his company Sky Finance. Tossed into the mix is newcomer Tatsuo Shinada, a disgraced former baseball player living hand-to-mouth in a seedy corner of Nagoya after being thrown out of the league on suspicion of game-fixing. He, more so than the rest of the cast, appears to have little to do with the goings on of the criminal underworld, much less the tensions between the Omi Alliance and Tojo Clan. And yet he too becomes involved in this nationwide clash between gangs as everything intertwines and comes to a head. Speaking of heads, chances are, unless you're intimately familiar with Japanese geography or the series in general, that synopsis might have left your's spinning. With such a rich backstory and so many characters, locations, and groups, it can be difficult for even the best of us to fully grasp what's going on. But I suppose that's part of the charm; the complicated interweaving of everything makes for one hell of a soap opera delving into the fascinating world of Japan's organized crime families. Another strength of Yakuza 5, and the series in general, is the painstaking lengths at which Sega goes to make that world feel real. Everything from bustling city streets to the convenience stores and ramen shops is rendered with such attention to detail, it might just be the closest you can come to visiting Japan without hopping on a plane. In relief of that realism is the gameplay, which has a certain air about it akin to a smell that can send you back to a specific place and time. Whether you're brawling with gangsters, drag racing, fishing, participating in a FPS snowball fight, hunting, or playing Virtua Fighter or Taiko Drum Master in the arcade, the whole experience feels very much like a Dreamcast-era arcade game. Cut between the ultra-serious story of conspiracy and deadly consequences is a pastiche of ridiculous, over-the-top (and cloyingly dated) mini-games that serve to lighten the mood, smack you in the face, and remind you that it's a video game -- not just a television drama. Nowhere is this more evident than Haruka's portion of the story, which transforms the experience (for a while, at least) into an idol simulation with Hatsune Miku: Project Diva-esque rhythm game sequences and handshake meet-and-greet sessions with fans. Sadly, none of these elements are handled with the same care and dedication given to the story or world-building, which is a real shame, and leaves the experience feeling somewhat archaic. The fighting, in particular, hasn't seen much of a leap forward since the series debuted a decade ago on PlayStation 2. Even considering how long it took Sega to localize this particular entry, its stiff combat just feels woefully antiquated in contrast with most action games on the market these days. However, despite some rough edges like that or a bizarre fixation with hammering home an overarching theme about "dreams" near the point of self-parody, Yakuza 5 provides dozens upon dozens of hours of legitimate entertainment, the sort that kept me engaged and constantly left me torn between rushing ahead to see what twists and turns the story would take next and poking my nose into every single nook and cranny to explore the hostess clubs, remote mountain shrines, and everything in between. Yakuza 5 is exactly the sort of game the expression "greater than the sum of its parts" was made to describe. Each facet of the experience, taken individually, leaves room for improvement, but, reflecting on my time with Yakuza 5, I can't conjure much in the way of disappointment. Some bumps notwithstanding, it's a hell of a ride, one that I heartily recommend. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Yakuza 5 review photo
Who says crime doesn't pay?
With the chairman of the Omi crime syndicate on his deathbed, an uneasy truce with the Tojo Clan hangs in the balance. Anticipating a conflict, Tojo boss Daigo Dojima travels to Fukuoka in search of allies. But before an agre...

Review: King's Quest: Rubble Without a Cause

Dec 17 // Chris Carter
King’s Quest: Rubble Without a Cause (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: The Odd GentlemenPublisher: Sierra EntertainmentReleased: December 16, 2015MSRP: $9.99 per episode / $40 for the "Complete Collection" [No major spoilers are mentioned for the current episode, although events of previous episodes will inevitably be discussed.] Rubble picks up some time after the first tale, after Graham has become king. He's still the same lovable old rascal, but right from the get-go you can see the toll that his new responsibility has taken on him. Graham is chipper and the tone is still light starting out, but you can tell that the developers are slowly easing us into a more serious method of storytelling. Without spoiling too much, Graham and a few members of his kingdom have been taken hostage by goblins, who reside in an underground kingdom. Given his height, he's been tasked with a few daily chores, which allows him access to the tunnels, while the others are forced to rot in prison cells. As you can imagine, a few familiar faces return, but you'll get to meet a few new characters as well. What I love about this setup is that it feels connected to the first episode, but also maintains its own identity. You get to see Graham's relationship with other characters grow in a meaningful way -- even with many of his adversaries. While the goblins can't talk, the animations are incredibly expressive (just like Graham) and full of life. For example, upon entering the dungeon, Graham is exhausted, walking around in a hilariously lethargic manner. After gaining his strength back his state will alter, as will the captives over time. The animation team really deserves a shoutout here, as they deserve to have a long career ahead of them. [embed]326509:61517:0[/embed] In a stark contrast to the first episode, Rubble takes a decidedly more old school approach. You're basically given a giant playground to roam around in, which is gated off by Graham's own "strength meter." It's here that the aforementioned kingly choices will come in, as you'll need to juggle the needs of three prisoners in addition to your own. If you eat -- you can explore more of the cave -- but you'll risk having a member of your kingdom starve. It's such a small, almost gamey thing (it even has heart meters), but since I already had an emotional attachment with these characters, it worked. I was legitimately stressed out (in a good way) trying to keep everyone happy, while constantly divining solutions to secrets in my head. You'll need to keep your wits about you too, as a few puzzles even had me writing down a few in-game events on paper. Again, it's far more detailed than any Telltale game, without getting resorting to "pixel-hunting" and overly frustrating cryptic solutions. Also, if you didn't enjoy the action sequences in the last episode, they're basically non-existent here. The art style is still stunning, and that Don Bluth feel is intact. The goblin's caves also feel unique compared to the mostly above-ground setting of the first episode, and the scale is grand without being too overwhelming. Layout-wise, there's basically a few giant wheels with several spokes -- it's enough where it will be helpful to remember rooms off-hand. In terms of quality of life updates, the entire package gained a skip button in this latest update, which is incredibly useful for repeating dialogue or events. I haven't really noticed much carry-over from the previous tale, but choices made in Rubble that will impact future episodes are somewhat evident -- plus, there's a meta-narrative teased at the end. Second parts tend to be troublesome for episodic series, as they often feel like transitional stories that merely set the table for what's to come. But with King's Quest: Rubble Without a Cause, characters are growing right before our eyes with a subtle and effective tonal shift. The Odd Gentlemen also nailed the script, as it feels like a standalone episode that's also connected to the episodic format as a whole. We still have three tales to go, but for now, I'm feeling pretty good about King's Quest. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
King's Quest review photo
I really can wait to be king
The first episode of the newly minted King's Quest series really took me by surprise. While I had been loosely following it for years, I never expected it to be one of my favorite games of the year. The cast, the animati...

Cloud in Smash Bros. is all about the limit break

Dec 16 // Patrick Hancock
Let's start with his special moves. Neutral B: Blade Beam This is a pretty awful projectile. The best thing about it is that it lasts a decent amount of time and goes straight. It's an okay spacing tool but has incredibly small knockback and pitiful damage. The limit break version, on the other hand, is great. It travels quickly and has multiple hits, doing around 17% damage. It can be a decent edge-guarding tool (it hits hanging opponents) and can be used to catch opponents rolling. Side B: Cross Slash This is an interesting move. The standard version requires multiple presses of the B button to execute, which leaves Cloud with some options. Since people tend to mash button to get out of things, cutting this off early can catch players and force them into an exposed situation. The limit break version is very high damage, but won't kill too early. It comes out pretty much instantly so it's a nice punish if you catch an opponent in a poor position. Up B: Climhazzard First of all, "climb-hazzard?" What?! I've been calling it "Clim-hazzard" forever! Anyway, Cloud has some awful recovery. His normal up special doesn't get much height and definitely doesn't go very horizontal. Be careful not to tap B again, or else he'll head straight downwards, ignoring any and all ledges on his way [he can still grab ledges! Thanks LinkSlayer]. It's also not a very good attack; it's sort of like Kirby's up special, except you don't need to commit to the downward swing. The limit break version has some absolutely wonderful recovery, both vertical and horizontal, however it's still a lackluster attack on the ground. Down B: Limit Charge / Finishing Touch This charges Cloud's Limit Break meter and, more importantly, displays it to the players. The gauge is invisible normally, so knowing exactly where it is can be key. From zero, it takes about seven seconds to get to full charge. Once charged, this special becomes an instant, insanely powerful kill move. But it's all knockback; the hit itself does 1% damage. This is a huge risk/reward. It kills off the top hella early, as low as around 55% on standard character weight like Mario (without Directional Influence). If it doesn't kill, however, all you've accomplished is 1% damage, a huge waste of the Limit Break. While playing online, most Clouds I encountered would charge Limit Break at any given chance, even if it meant giving up stage control. I don't think this is the best strategy. Having a Limit Break can be a hindrance; the next special attack needs to count, which means you can't throw out a random special attack. When Samus has her Charge Shot, she can still shoot missiles and lay bombs without worrying. Cloud is forced into an awkward position where suddenly, everything should be a standard attack until an opening presents itself. Personally, I like to charge sparingly. Since the Limit Gauge charges automatically by getting hit, charging the meter close to 100% forces the opponent into a corner. By hitting you, they give you a Limit Break, but by not fighting, well, that won't get far. This gives the player an opportunity to play around with their specials for a bit before the Limit Break pops. Now, his stats are slightly better when the Limit Gauge is full, but I still feel awkwardly restricted at the same time. It's an interesting trade-off, and one that will definitely need more experimentation. And don't be scared to throw out a Limit Break attack like a Blade Beam, since there's little recovery associated with it. The others, however, are a bit riskier because of the lag time when missed. [embed]327136:61537:0[/embed] As far as notable normals, Cloud has some decent options. His forward smash is absolutely incredible. It can kill around 75% uncharged! It has a decent windup and ending lag, so it's not something that players should just throw out whenever. His forward and up tilts are basic sword swipes and come out pretty fast, so I've leaned on them for some quick reaction attacks. His down tilt is a slide, and damn do I love this move. It's quick and moves Cloud a decent distance, meaning it has use as an attack and a movement option. It pops up the opponent a short distance, leading to easy followups with an up aerial (which also comes out very quick) or a neutral jump/mind games. Cloud's forward tilt takes some time to come out, but has a large arc and spikes towards the end. His down aerial also spikes at the tip, and looks just like Link's. His neutral aerial, however, is easily his best option. It's arc is huge and comes out way quicker than his other options. In general, if I'm jumping, I'm throwing out a neutral air. Cloud has no kill throws at any reasonable percents. I've found that his down throw is a decent setup for followups. It pops them up just enough to perform a short hop and a quick aerial, which is nice. It's not a true combo from what I can tell, though. His grab range is also sort of garbage. As for his stage, it's amazing. No, it won't be at any tournaments ever. However, for groups like my friends and me, which enjoy playing on the wonky-but-not-too-wonky maps, it's perfect. All of the stage alterations from the summons are pretty tame. I'd say it's somewhere in between Pokémon Stadium 1 and 2 in terms of obtrusive stage hazards. Plus, it's got some of the best music so far in the game and YES I LOVE FINAL FANTASY VII SO WHAT I'M NOT BIASED. Unfortunately, I don't see Cloud rising through the ranks to top tier like I did with Ryu. He has some great power and an interesting mechanic, but his lack of recovery leaves him way too open to gimping and his slower moves will leave him at the will of quick characters like Sheik or Zero Suit Samus.
Cloud impressions photo
And the forward smash
Guys, Cloud is in Super Smash Bros. Holy shit.

Metal Gear creator starts Kojima Productions to work on PS4 exclusive

Dec 16 // Steven Hansen
Kojima also loosed this tweet. [embed]327182:61539:0[/embed] Oh, and here's the Kojima Productions logo, as black as Kojima's suit.
New Kojima studio photo
Console exclusive
Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima just formally announced his new studio, Kojima Productions (this was also the name of his in-house Konami studio before parting ways with the company). The above video has Sony's Andrew ...

Bayonetta is in Super Smash Bros.

Dec 15 // Patrick Hancock
Bayonetta in Smash! photo
Get Wicked!
Bayonetta, a character many fans have wanted in Super Smash Bros., has just been officially announced for the game! Bayonetta was the #1 choice in Europe's Smash ballot, and in the top five in North America. In fact, sh...

Review: The Bit.Trip

Dec 15 // Ben Davis
The Bit.Trip (PS4 [reviewed], PS Vita, PS3)Developer: Choice ProvisionsPublisher: Choice ProvisionsMSRP: $9.99 (Cross-Buy)Released: December 5, 2015 (PS4, PS Vita), TBA (PS3) The Bit.Trip is a collection of all six games in the Bit.Trip series which were originally released on WiiWare, similar to Bit.Trip Complete for Wii and Bit.Trip Saga for 3DS from a few years ago. It may have a different name than the other compilations, but it's largely the same aside from the controls, menus, and a few extras. The Bit.Trip differs in that it offers Trophies and leaderboards, which already existed for the PC versions of the games, but not for the Wii and 3DS versions. However, it's lacking all of the bonus content and extra challenge levels introduced in Bit.Trip Complete. Those extras would have been a nice addition here as a way to entice people who have already played some of the games before, but as it stands, it's basically just a straightforward compilation. [embed]326911:61531:0[/embed] Even so, the Bit.Trip games still hold up incredibly well, and the price is perfect for anyone looking to experience them again (or for the first time). All six games can be accessed from the slick main menu, featuring some neat concept art whenever a title is selected. Each game also allows the player to choose between Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty settings, which is nice because the Bit.Trip games can be quite difficult, even on Easy! For those who haven't played Bit.Trip before, the series spans several different genres with an emphasis on rhythm-based gameplay, all held together with similar themes to tell the story of the life and death of Commander Video. Bit.Trip Beat and Bit.Trip Flux are very Pong-like in nature, requiring the player to move a paddle up and down to bounce incoming beats back to the rhythm. Bit.Trip Runner switches things up as a rhythmic auto-running platformer, while Bit.Trip Fate takes the series in another drastically different direction as a musical on-rails shooter. Bit.Trip Core and Bit.Trip Void are a bit harder to describe, but they both offer gameplay that is completely unique to the series. Core gives players control of an X and Y axis which can zap any beats that pass over them, while Void has players controlling an ever-expanding black hole which must consume other black shapes while avoiding white ones. Void is actually my personal favorite of the series, simply because I've never played anything else quite like it. The biggest difference for the PlayStation versions of these games is of course going to be the controls. I found playing with the Dualshock 4 to be quite comfortable and intuitive, easily on par with the Wii controls. Both Core and Void let the player choose between the left analog stick or the d-pad for movement. I found the analog stick to be preferable in most situations, although the d-pad was useful for a certain boss in Void which requires precision movements, and some players will probably prefer to use the d-pad to play Core (I found it to be a little uncomfortable after a while). Fate uses both analog sticks -- one for movement and one for aiming and shooting -- and it felt perfect. The controls for Runner are about what you'd expect, since it only requires simple button inputs. It would be kind of hard to mess those up. As for Beat and Flux, the controls work similarly to the Wii Remote in that you simply have to tilt the Dualshock 4 forward and back to move the paddle. It seemed to really pick up on my hands shaking though, which caused the paddle to sort of vibrate slightly up and down all the time. This made it feel as though I didn't have as much control over the paddle as I would have like, but it wasn't too much of a deal-breaker for me since I wasn't going for high scores or anything. However, it did make the final boss of Beat especially difficult since it's easier to win by hitting the beats back with the very tip of the paddle. I kept missing even the slow-moving beats by the slightest degree, most likely because of the vibrations. Finally, for players interested in leaderboards, they'll be happy to know that each game has separate leaderboards for every individual level, divided between the three difficulty settings. These can be accessed directly from the main menu or individually from the menus of the specific games. While The Bit.Trip could have been made marginally better with the addition of any kind of bonus content (such as the extra challenges found in Bit.Trip Complete), it's still a solid compilation of an excellent series of games. Thankfully, they hold up just as well on PlayStation consoles as they did on the Wii. If you still haven't taken the dive into the rhythmic, arcade-y goodness of Bit.Trip, or if you've been looking for a reason to play through it all again, now would be the perfect time to do so. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
The Bit.Trip review photo
SERIES.COMPLETE
The Bit.Trip series holds a special place in my heart. With a wonderful blend of rhythm-based mechanics and arcade-style gameplay spanning various genres, the games are easy to pick up, quick to fall in love with, and yet inc...

The Smash Bros. update has been data-mined, Nintendo Direct spoilers inside

Dec 15 // Jed Whitaker
The biggest piece of leaked information is easily that fan favorite Geno from the SNES classic Super Mario RPG is getting his very own Mii costume! Pretty exciting for most fans, but personally I'm all about that Mallow life, as he is the best character from any RPG ever objectively, obviously.  More information about Cloud from Final Fantasy VII has also been revealed including his alternate costumes none of which are him in a dress sadly. Cloud's solo mode victory video featuring a cameo by a certain six-winged monstrosity, and his victory and stage music have also been leaked. The only other tidbit of information found is that the Kalos stage from Pokémon has been updated, but the details of what that include are unknown. So no new characters or stages may be unveiled, just more information about what we already knew was coming and a peek at a Geno Mii costume. Obviously, take this all with a grain of salt until officially announced from Nintendo. Find out if this final Smash Bros. Nintendo Direct lives up to the hype in just a few short hours! I'm personally still hoping for Scrooge McDuck and Shaq as playable characters. Super Smash Bros. subreddit [reddit]
By the seven stars! photo
One awesome new Mii costume!
The final Nintendo Direct for Super Smash Bros. for 3DS/Wii U happens today at 5pm ET. But, an update released last night for both titles has been data-mined revealing some new information, while keeping most surprises under wraps for Nintendo to reveal.

First hands-on with Crytek's newest game The Climb

Dec 15 // Steven Hansen
The Climb is simple. Once you strap into an Oculus virtual reality headset, two disembodied hands appear in front of you. Pulling the left or right triggers on the Xbox controller clenches the respective fist. "Aiming" the hand at a divot in the cliff, by way of moving your head towards where you're trying to grab, prompts the hand to appear as if it's reaching a bit more urgently, signalling to you it's ready to grab. And that's it, hand over hand, you're climbing rock. I played a course in south east Asia on easy difficulty, which only necessitates two types of grips. The most technical thing I had to do was let go with one hand and quickly grasp the same hold with the other. That and you'll want to occasionally hold the bumpers to chalk your hands so they don't start bleeding down your players' hip fitness wristband. I might be stereotyping, but I'm pretty sure it read, "YOLO" at some point. But that was it. There was some hand over hand lateral movement across a plank and a jump or two to otherwise out of reach handholds, but it's mostly about the physical intimacy of climbing up a giant rock and occasionally physically turning your head around to soak in the beautiful vista. Miles of CryEngine rendered landscape juxtaposed against surrogate fingertips. "The engine gives us that ability to do the distance, the scale, the largeness and intimacy," Crytek's Director of Production David Bowman said. Crytek came out hot in 2013 with three big releases: Crysis 3, Warface (hah!), and Ryse: Son of Rome. The first and third were sales letdowns. The second has a name that gave me immense pleasure for a year or so and might have made money in Asian and European markets where is launched sexy female soldiers. Its 2014 announcements -- a Johnny Come Lately MOBA Arena of Fate and Darksiders follow up from former Vigil employees Hunt -- have been radio silent in 2015. Its other known project is a VR game with dinosaurs. Bowman noted that Crytek is, "going to continue to make traditional great, fantastic games," but said that, "VR gives us a new toolset, a new platform, a new media that plays to our strengths. It plays right into what we do better than anybody. This is our chance to really shine." Virtual reality is an important part of Crytek's future. Where Ryse was basically an Xbox One tech demo, a piece of impressive "next gen" looks, The Climb is something like that for VR, albeit with a lot more substance than the QTE-heavy movie knockoff. Bowman calls it, "one of the premier Oculus content experiences," and says it will be released "early" in the Oculus' life cycle. "They love it," Bowman said. Oculus made a smart decision pairing its still-not-dated, still-not-priced Rift VR headset with a strong piece of software in EVE: Valkyrie. The Climb may not have that pack-in position, but Bowman says the simplicity is what will sell VR to a wider audience. "The approachability of this, we have really high hopes for it as far as bringing in people who might not consider themselves gamers. And if you are a gamer, there's a lot of sport here. It's free climb solo. That level of danger in real life means you're not going to go out and do it probably yourself, but here you have this extreme sport that's now accessible to you. "What every hardware platform needs is that application that you can say, 'Hey, I bought this, I have fun with it, and now I'm sharing it with my friends and family, and I feel good about it because they're able to appreciate it.' And now all of a sudden they're going, 'I had fun doing that, so I'm going to buy one,' and it tends to snowball. That's how hardware adoption happens." And while Bowman maintains Crytek will continue to make "traditional" games, the company has, "probably the largest VR team, the largest that I'm aware of anyway." "We're trying to position Cryengine to be the best toolchain to work in VR," Technical Director Rok Erjavec added. More people using the engine for good VR experiences increases the likelihood of VR somehow catching on where something like 3D has failed. "2016: Early adopters. 2017: Friends and family of those early adopters going, 'I want one too,'" Bowman said. "By 2019, I'm saying this is going to be one of those ways you access all sorts of experiences, not just games, but data in general. We want to be riding that curve, that wave." It starts with The Climb. "When we started doing climbing originally during our tech demos...we realized, 'Hey, this is fun. This a fun thing to do, just inherently." It took some time to get there, of course. The Climb started with a full pair of disembodied arms, but testers of different size felt out of sorts with the one-size-fits-all proportions, so the team lopped the arms off and reduce the interface to floating hands.  "We thought it'd be really fun to fall and hit the rocks and bounce and stuff. Man that makes you so sick. Don't do that." The sweet spot for falling -- to put that knot in players' stomachs without leaving them retching -- turned out to be 2.3 seconds of freefall and then a fade to black. "A lot of our developers and our QA team, god bless them, they have had to endure some really fun experimentation," Bowman said. He was cagey on how many staffers puked, but noted that during early prototyping, the team had to account for the fact that a developer might have to get out of the thing after about an hour of work due to nausea. Now, level designers work in the visor all day. "We had people run to the bathroom, though." Well, if anyone did puke during those early phases of prototyping, it's between them and their porcelain god. Bowman was cagey on just how much stuff would appear in The Climb, too. "We have a set amount of content and we're well under control as far as delivering that...and we're going to be expanding that content hopefully in the future as well," is all I got when I asked about different regions, or weather conditions. As for changes to the time of day, "absolutely." Beyond the physical interaction and varying locales, the team seems excited for the latent speed run and otherwise competitive angle to satiate the hardcore or give greener climbers something to keep them coming back.  To that end, VR does offer technically bombastic experiences pared down in a way that "non-gamers" might find appealing without being patronizing -- like I said, The Climb was simple, but plenty of fun. "When I put a strange controller in your hand and say, 'Okay, I need you to press this combination of buttons,' you've instantly alienated a lot of people," Bowman said. The Climb also supports touch controllers and features a, "solution set that works for a variety of different input devices," so hopefully we'll be bringing you Donkey Konga free climb speed run videos next year. As for other simple experiences that turned out to be "inherently fun" in VR that Crytek might want to explore? "Can't talk about them yet because we're going to use them."
Preview: The Climb photo
Crytek goes in with engaging VR
Is free solo climbing cool? I'm sure there's been some virality in its danger in the YouTube era, but we've had, what, Cliffhanger, which was more about guns and biceps than cliff hanging, and then the arbitrary opening Missi...

Very Quick Tips: MechWarrior Online

Dec 14 // Nic Rowen
Movement: Mechs are large, clumsy machines that move at a deliberate pace. There is no strafing side-to-side for these beasts and accelerating or coming to a stop takes a moment, so you really need to think about where you are going before you commit yourself to a course. If you’re piloting anything heavier than a light mech, always plan your actions out instead of moving willy nilly, or you might get caught in a crossfire with no way to retreat. Remember that you will always move in the direction your legs are pointed, not necessarily where you are looking. A mech's torso can swivel like a turret while its legs take it in a different direction. It may be helpful (and hilarious) to picture them as tanks on stilts. The C and F buttons will center your aim in the forward direction of your mech, or bring your legs to the same bearing as where you are aiming. Being able to center your view or movement after a disorienting fight can be a lifesaver. Try the tutorial and some of the newbie UI options if you have trouble getting the hang of it. Aiming and locking:  One of the odd things about MWO is that there are two different aiming reticles on the HUD representing weapons mounted on the arms and legs. The arm-lock feature will be enabled by default on new accounts, which means the arm and torso weapons will move and aim in sync. Turn that crap off right away. Learning to aim independently with the arms and torso is a crucial skill that you should start developing sooner rather than later. The torso crosshairs' range of motion is limited by a mech's ability to bend and pivot. Considering we're talking about robots the size of small apartment buildings, they're typically not very agile. Being able to independently aim with the arms allows you to strike at more angles. But it also means you need to be careful when firing weapons from both groups as once -- it can be easy to take your arms way off target while trying to make a slight adjustment with your torso. Coordinate your firing groups accordingly. Pressing R will lock on to the nearest enemy mech you can see, or indirectly if a teammate has a lock on someone. They cover this in the tutorial, but I want to stress it: PRESS R. The number one thing you can do to improve your play as a new player is to be constantly acquire locks. Locking onto a mech not only shows you where they are and the range they are from you (important since every weapon has a maximum range) but their status information and armor condition, absolutely essential for knowing what you are up against and where you should aim. Pressing R is love. Pressing R is life. People who don't press R are bad people. They don’t have souls. Don’t be one of those people. Heat:  Mechs build up heat as they fire weapons and shut down if you push it too far. If you're desperate to get off one more shot while riding the line, you can override the automatic shutdown by pressing the O key by default. This is some risky business though as every moment you spend past the heat threshold will cook the internals of your mech. Make sure that shot is worth gambling against an embarrassing suicide. When building a mech, you need to find a balance between firepower and the cooling required to use it. Having a huge arsenal of weapons won't do much good if you can only fire them every 30 seconds or so. At the same time, being able to repeatedly fire a single laser till the end of time is just going to tickle the enemy. Generally, it’s better to run a little hotter and practice good fire discipline than to run super cool, but keep it sane. There are some byzantine rules about linking too many of the same weapons together commonly referred to as “ghost heat.” In an effort to combat front-loaded boat builds that pack all their offensive punch into a single mech annihilating strike, a balance change was made a long time ago that punishes mechs with exponential amounts of heat for firing several of the same weapon in one salvo. For example, firing three PPCs at once builds a toasty four PPC blasts worth of heat while firing four at once is all but guaranteed to crash a mech into an insta-shutdown. You can get around this by staggering your fire, but it's still something to watch out for (the mechlab will warn you when building a mech that runs this risk). Combat:  Mechs are designed to take a beating, especially if you know how to roll with the punches. Instead of having a pool of HP that is depleted until death, damage in MWO is handled on a component-by-component basis. Mechs are made up of several parts with a layer of armor on each and an internal health value underneath. Knowing where to shoot (and where to take shots) is essential. You can shamble around like some horrible 90-foot-tall Frankenstein's monster after losing your arms, side-torsos, and even a leg. But if the internals of your center core are destroyed, the cockpit in the head gets melted, or both legs are disabled, you're done. Knowing how to tank damage by intentionally exposing expendable parts of your mech to cover vulnerable ones is probably the single biggest dividing line between ace pilots and average players. Twisting your torso to spread damage evenly between components when under fire will sustain you where others fall. It's better to lose half your armor over all your arms and torso pieces than to have an exposed chunk where your internals are vulnerable and full armor everywhere else. Don't get tunnel vision while fighting. Mechs are slow and move in predictable directions. You can afford to take your eyes off an enemy for a second to twist and take a shot in the shoulder instead of the chest. The dark side to this knowledge is that it can also be exploited. Weapons that do all of their damage in one front-loaded burst (PPCs, IS auto-cannons, etc.) can do full damage on a single component and there is little an opponent can do about it. Some mechs are intentionally built with an asymmetric design that puts most of the firepower on one side of the mech. This is a blessing and a curse. When riding these, you can use the entire other side to soak up damage, making your mech's arm a ghetto shield and that entire side torso a wall of meat for enemies to chew through. When a side torso is destroyed, damage done to it will bleed over into the center core, but only at a 50% rate, so it's better to take shots to a damaged side than straight on. The downside is that it puts all your eggs in one basket. Lose the side of your mech with all the guns and you might as well call it “GG.” Along with the different limbs and sections of a mech, individual pieces of equipment like weapons can also be destroyed once a mech loses its armor. Occasionally, it can be a good idea to try and disarm an opponent before going for the kill (the Hunchback with its huge shoulder cannon is the classic example). Gauss rifles explode when destroyed and often rip an entire side of a mech apart when they go, so pay attention to what your enemy is packing and where. Contrary to what some people may tell you, there is no way to specifically target a weapon (shooting the barrel of a gun is no better than shooting the area right beside it, and no, heating up the area with lasers before shooting it with ballistics does nothing. I can't believe some of these rumors are still around). The game rolls an RNG when an exposed area is hit to see what, if any, piece of equipment in a component is damaged. Machine guns and the shotgun like LBX cannons have an increased chance to damage equipment and Clan targeting computers can improve those odds as well. When building a mech, it's a good idea to pad a sensitive piece of equipment if possible by stacking expendable things like heat sinks and electronics to better your odds. Oh yeah, there is a chance that ammo can explode if hit by enemy fire, so keep that extra ammo in the knees where it will do the least harm. Building your mech:  Despite several redesigns over the years, customizing a mech in the mechlab is still a Kafka-esque nightmare of menus, drop-down lists, and microscopic fine print. I guess building robots is going to be complicated no matter how you try and slice it. Being effective in the mechlab is just as important as being effective in the battlefield though, so you're going to have to learn its quirks sooner or later. I recommend tinkering around with your builds in a third-party mech builder like Smurfy when trying to plan out your changes. It's a cleaner interface that's easier to use and you won't be risking thousands of your space-dollars on an accidental mis-click. Always invest in the double-heatsink upgrade if a mech doesn't come with it. Despite more than a few attempts at balancing it out, double-heatsinks are ALWAYS worth taking, and mechs that don't run them are obsolete out of the garage. Endo-steel always saves more weight than the ferro-fibrous upgrade and takes up the same number of critical slots, so always go for that one first between the two. Your first robots (hopefully on the cheap):  Building a garage of personalized killer robots is one of the best parts of MechWarrior. However, mechs are expensive, C-bills don’t grow on trees, and garage space is at a premium, so you want to make the best purchasing decisions you can. Accounts start with four mech bays (essentially character slots) for you to fill in with your own mechs by default. Seems like plenty, but they fill up fast. Progression in the mech skill trees depends on owning three chassis of the same kind of mech, so four bays will limit you to one particular brand of ride, or require some extremely tedious re-selling and re-buying. Mech bays can only be purchased with real money unfortunately, but diligent spendthrifts can earn free ones by participating in fairly regular weekend events and dipping their toes into the various faction play options (you unlock a free mechbay fairly early in the progression for each house or clan and are free to bounce between them after fleecing them for the reward). When buying a mech, you have to consider the cost of equipping it as well as the flat cost of the mech. Upgrades like endo-steel frames and double heat sinks are essential and bloat the sticker price of a mech. XL engines are used in several popular Inner Sphere mechs and cost millions of C-Bills on their own. Again, pre-planning your builds in a third-party builder is a smart move. You can move engines around between mechs, so try and purchase ones that you can reuse in several mechs (my single XL 255 engine is swapped between basically half of my medium and light mechs). The XL 300 is also used in many popular builds and might be a wise investment. You’ll notice when buying mechs that there is a divide between Inner Sphere tech and Clan tech. For folks unfamiliar with BattleTech lore, these basically represent two different sides of a galactic conflict. Clan mechs cost more than their IS equivalents, but you get what you pay for -- and here is the part of the guide where I make a lot of enemies -- because Clan stuff is generally better. Outside of any lore affiliations, in-game, the choice between Clan and IS represents a difference in power and playstyle. Clan mechs come equipped with XL engines (that don’t explode when you lose a side compared to the fragile IS equivalent), double heat sinks are standard, and many come with upgrades like endo-steel pre-installed. So while the sticker price is higher, it’s also a little closer to what you actually pay in the long run. By and large, Clan tech is lighter, hits harder, and has greater range than IS tech. On the downside, Clan weapons tend to fire in volleys or bursts and their lasers take longer to do full damage (all the more reason to twist and spread the damage). The potential to do A LOT more damage than IS mechs exists, but you need a steady hand to really take advantage of it. Clan weapons also generate more heat on average. In default game modes, you aren't locked into either side and are free to fill your garage with whatever mechs you want. If you plan on getting deep into the Community Warfare aspect of the game though, you will naturally want to focus on one team eventually. On the bright side for the IS, several mechs have positive “quirks” that let them leverage unique attributes with certain weapons, or give them a little more durability than their armor rating may imply. If you pay attention and build towards them, some IS mechs can be just as powerful (or more) than Clan mechs and cheaper if you can swap around parts. On the IS side, the Blackjack line of mechs are relatively cheap, has great high-mounted weapon hardpoints (they can peek over a ridge and fire without exposing too much of themselves) and thanks to a few quirks, can do surprising damage (the 1X with six medium lasers in the arms is a beast). You can also look into the heavier Thunderbolts with laser quirks if you want to make an impression, or the nimble Firestarter if the idea of backstabbing larger mechs appeals to you. For the Clans, the medium weight Stormcrow packs all the firepower of a heavy (and maybe some assaults) while staying incredibly mobile. Lovely hardpoint placements high on the torso and nose of the mech make it easy to use. The Timberwolf heavy is also a great (if expensive) choice with a ton of build flexibility -- it’s the poster child of the franchise for a reason. Good luck! For a “very quick tips” post this guide went on, didn’t it? There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of in MWO and it can seem bewildering when starting out, but with a little practice and some patience, you’ll be reducing giant robots to scrap heaps in no time.
MWO tips photo
All systems nominal
With MechWarrior Online hitting Steam, there are bound to be a lot of new pilots climbing into the cockpit for the very first time. But getting started might not be the easiest thing in the world. MechWarrior is a little more...

Review: Devil's Third

Dec 11 // Chris Carter
Devil's Third (PC, Wii U [reviewed])Developer: Valhalla Game StudiosPublisher: Valhalla Game Studios (PC), Nintendo (Wii U)MSRP: $59.99 (Wii ), free-to-play multiplayer (PC)Released: August 28, 2015 (EU), December 11, 2015 (US) / TBA (PC) Let's start with the campaign. It's puzzling why Nintendo got involved, and thought "yeah we should sign our name to this." Writers and fans alike have debated the merits of Bayonetta's titular character for years, noting that despite the low brow humor, Bayonetta's sexuality can be seen as an element of power, where she is constantly in control. That's on top of the fact that Platinum's pair of Bayonetta games are two of the most storied titles in the entire genre. But with Devil's Third, I'm struggling to really find anything worthwhile here. Now, I don't have a problem with pulpy, crass works in theory, but not all of them are created equal. Instead of an interesting character like Bayonetta or the campy (pre-Ninja Theory) Dante, we get Ivan -- one of the deadliest prisoners currently being held in Guantanamo Bay, but generic at heart. From there, Itagaki installs some of his famous military-based storytelling, involving a man stuck in the middle of his ideals and a government organization (in this case, the United States government). Satellites all across the world have been destroyed, creating chaos, and it's up to Ivan to put down his former comrades and put a stop to it. From the moment I started the adventure, my expectations were immediately curbed. Dialogue never really amounts to much more than boring, unmemorable lines like "that dude don't look like bullshit to me," and so on. Whereas I can usually recall a cheesy rant from a classic character like Krauser in a game like Resident Evil 4, nothing sticks out to me in Devil's Third throughout the entire five-hour campaign experience. As for the controls, they are much more manageable than you've probably heard. Yes the game is a technical mess, but I didn't have trouble acclimating with either the GamePad or the more desirable Wii U Pro Controller, especially when I came to terms that it was basically a PS2-era experience. If you have issues controlling a camera with a right analog stick you may have some problems, but for the most part, it works. [embed]324540:61465:0[/embed] Melee is swift and effective, with "fast" and "strong" variable attacks, followed by Arkham-like finishers (but in this case they usually lead to decapitations). Most levels start you off with a weapon in-hand like a katana, but you can also pick up items Final Fight style and use them throughout the mission. Close combat is probably my favorite part, but the level design seldom actually makes use of it, most of the time relegating players to shooting sequences. There's a section in the third level that pits the player against a series of melee enemies in a tight arena, and at that point, I saw flashes of a great game, only to be let down again moments later. Gunplay is enacted by way of first-person aiming, which did take some getting used to. The fact that it operates like an FPS is jarring, especially when the poor inconsistent framerate kicks in, and the hit detection goes awry. Sometimes you'll hit someone square in the chest and score a headshot, and vice-versa. The same goes for the cover system, which includes instant snapping to terrain, and doesn't work occasionally (both in the sense that cover doesn't provide cover, or you can't snap to it). Itagaki has gone on record as saying that members of the press didn't have the "skill" to play the game, partially stating that the GamePad (the default controller) isn't ideal. Well my friend, as someone who has been playing hardcore action games for years on the highest Dante Must Die-esque difficulty settings, and used a Wii U Pro Controller for this review, I can safely say that the game has a few mechanical problems that are not related in any way to skill. What really let me down was the linear design of the missions themselves. There is a level of verticality to their design in some cases due to the ability to jump and wall climb in certain areas, but for the most part, they are a series of straightforward paths. There's absolutely not enough discovery present, which is a shame as the Itagaki-led Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden 2 had some incredible secrets buried underneath the surface of their nuanced stages. Then you have the uninspired boss fights, several of which follow the standard "throw lots of guys at you to make it harder" (adds) school of thought. There are a few glimmers of hope though in these mostly humanoid encounters, particularly the Saha battle, which brought me back to the Krauser fights in Resident Evil 4. Those parts, like the aforementioned melee arena are fleeting, however, and the short nature of the campaign facilitates that they are few and far between. Okay, so that's the disappointing campaign knocked out, but there's another major element to Devil's Third -- the multiplayer. Simply put, this is far more robust than the story, with tons of rewards, silly cosmetic options, and gear to choose from. Players will have the chance to start off in a training ground to try out every weapon in the game (though you need to acquire in-game currency to buy them over time), and then pledge support to clans for large turf war-like battles, or participate casually in 16-player combat. The action system works far better here with human opponents, and the penchant for wackiness is extremely high. There's a high skill ceiling involved, and action fans will no doubt be able to stretch their legs a bit in this unconventional shooter. You're basically forced to use every tool at your disposal, like the slide and shoot ability, which you don't necessarily need to utilize in the campaign, to succeed. There is a caveat though. There is no option for offline play, split-screen, or bots. There are 10 modes available that span a number of fun game types, but in the end, who will play them? Sadly, it has been confirmed by the developers themselves that US and European players cannot play with one another, so there isn't even a large pool readily available. I'm struggling to find games, alongside of severe connection issues at launch. This is on top of the fact that Nintendo buried it in the US eShop so that it's difficult to find, and that there's a severely limited run of retail copies out in the wild. The best part of the game may not even be consistently playable in America, which is a damn shame. After sensing a sinking ship, Valhalla Game Studios was smart to start development of the free-to-play PC version of Devil's Third. Multiplayer is easily the shining star of the experience, and I can see a lot of people picking it up with the right marketing. That day is not today though, and not with the Wii U version of the game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer. Nintendo of America did not send out review copies for Devil's Third.]
Devil's Third photo
Well, it has multiplayer...
Devil's Third has been in the pipeline for so long, that any given year I completely forgot about it. Announced in 2010, after the infamous Tomonobu Itagaki left Tecmo in 2008, the game has been in development limbo, pas...

Review: Hearthstone: League of Explorers

Dec 10 // Chris Carter
Hearthstone: League of Explorers (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Blizzard EntertainmentPublisher: Blizzard EntertainmentReleased: November 12, 2015 to December 10, 2015 MSRP: $19.99 for all four wings The basic setup has been pared down a bit, and I'm mostly fine with it. Instead of focusing on five wings, League has four, strewn about over the course of four weeks (skipping an additional week for the Thanksgiving holiday). It's maddening sometimes to have to wait to access another wing that you paid for, but that's mostly because Hearthstone constantly leaves me wanting more. This expansion really delivers with its single-player scenarios, topping any other fight before it. That's primarily due to the "choose your own adventure" sections, where players will have to deal with an event rather than face a specific enemy. You'll be able to play the odds by taking a high-risk, high-reward option or play it safe, and in the end, strategy usually wills out. Other fights involve mechanics like a staff that makes you invulnerable, and a boss that persistently fills your side with useless minions that explode over time. From a lore perspective, there's a decent amount of references here for fans, from a duel with Lady Naz'jar in the ruined city, to a showdown with Archaedas in Uldaman. I never thought Blizzard would one day make a card game and base it on the rich Warcraft world that it's spent decades developing, but I'm glad it did. As for the other bits, Heroic (hard) versions are still in, and although Hero challenges are a little too easy and straightforward this time around, each one rewards you with one card, so they're still worth playing. [embed]324539:61475:0[/embed] The new cards are also rather disruptive, in a good way. The main characters (pictured above) drastically alter some decks, and a few even allow for completely new deck themes. My personal favorite is Sir Finley Mrrgglton (love that name), a 1-mana 1/3 card that allows players to swap their hero power. It's such a tiny thing, but the ability to use hero powers interchangeably can alter the course of a match. I've also been using the Summing Stone in a few of my decks, which summons a random minion based on the cost of any spell used while it's active. Other cards like Tomb Spiders and Jeweled Scarabs "discover" new minions. Like the themes before it, the types of cards in League are cohesive, and fun to use. Murloc decks in general also got a huge buff, with "Anyfin can Happen" (a 10-mana card that summons seven dead Murlocs), and the Tinyfin (a 0-cost 1/1 card that essentially buffs other Murlocs). Hearthstone: League of Explorers is probably my favorite expansion yet for the game. I feel like Blizzard iterates for every release, and I hope this isn't the end of the adventures to come, as I vastly prefer them to card-only expansions. Maybe next time we'll see even crazier mechanics, like the co-op fight that was only used once in a Tavern Brawl. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Hearthstone review photo
Cheerio
Blizzard is doing a great job of keeping Hearthstone players invested. In addition to the typical daily quest, weekly Tavern Brawl, and Arena schemes invented to reward people with new decks on a constant basis, it has a...

Nominees for Destructoid's Best Vita Game of 2015

Dec 09 // Laura Kate Dale
Best Vita Game of 2015 OlliOlli2 Grim Fandango Remastered Persona 4: Dancing All Night Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires Super Star Wars Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax [Incomplete products like Steam Early Access titles, and episodic titles that are not fair to assess as stand alone experiences, without a full episode count, were not eligible for this year's awards. The cutoff for entry into Destructoid's 2015's Game of the Year awards is December 4, 2015.]
Vita GOTY photo
Slip into something more portable
Oh, hey there reader, you've just caught me at that time of year where I and the other Destructoid editorial staff are beginning the long and often vicious process of putting together our Game of the Year awards. First come t...

Review: SteamWorld Heist

Dec 09 // Chris Carter
SteamWorld Heist (3DS [reviewed], PC, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox One)Developer: Image & FormPublisher: Image & FormMSRP: $19.99 ($16.99 until December 31, with a 3DS theme)Released: December 10, 2015 (3DS), TBA (PC, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox One) Although Heist is confirmed to take place in the same universe as Dig, the only thing that's remotely similar is the art style. Set in the future after the presumed fictional wild west period, the cast of the game is now spacebound, complete with more advanced weaponry at their disposal. The star of the narrative is Piper, captain of a smuggling ship who gets wrapped up in the ongoing conflict with pirates. Along the way you'll pick up more cast members to add to your home ship, Mass Effect style, all of whom boast unique abilities and statlines. The presentation is just as charming as Dig to boot, with gibberish dialogue (outside of the announcer), memorable characters, and some awesome vocal music tracks. One thing I wasn't too keen on though was the lack of character development, despite the fast-moving plot that gives you plenty of excuses to blow stuff up. While I felt very connected to Dig due to the smaller scale of its world that left me wanting more, the galactic conflict of Heist wasn't quite as compelling. Gameplay-wise, gone is the action platformer conceit, as things are now at a more deliberate pace. Think of how Valkyria Chronicles works -- players get a limited amount of movement, and can perform one action, including a skill or an attack, before their turn ends. You'll get to aim manually, and target any body part or object you wish. You can also opt to sprint further than your allotted movement, though it will immediately end your turn. Many strategy RPGs have used this same system, but I was surprised at how well it works in Heist's 2D space. [embed]324048:61439:0[/embed] Action is relatively fast-going, and there are a ton of nuances built into the combat system to constantly keep things interesting. For instance, weapon loadouts drastically change the way one approaches a situation, as some guns have laser sights, different rates of fire, or new ammo types altogether. When you add in the fact that headshots increase the chance for a critical hit, and that you can knock off enemy hats to add to your collection (of which there are nearly 100), it gets even more interesting. The whole equipment system alone is well crafted, from the way it starts off manageable and eventually ramps up, to the utility of the items in general. Players will have to choose two items per character, shifting their builds significantly and essentially turning them into new playstyles. Selling items is as easy as pressing a button, which makes inventory management effortless and fun without being too streamlined for its own good. Items like extra movement shoes, armor that restricts movement, and healing packs all come into play, and can be used in a static manner or more dynamically as a reaction to each scenario. It's deep without being too overwhelming, so newcomers shouldn't have any issues acclimating to it -- especially since you can alter the difficulty setting on every mission. It helps that maps are always interesting as well, providing multiple paths of entry even earlier into the experience. Because of how open each arena is, placement of your party is important, and finding cover can be relatively difficult when nearly all of it can be destroyed or blown up depending on the situation. There are so many variables involved in every level that missions never truly felt the same, even if I was repeating them to pick up some loot I missed, or clear an objective I previously failed. SteamWorld Heist is both a great entry point for people who normally shy away from strategy games and a good recommendation for veterans. With a deep combat system and a sliding difficulty scale, pretty much everyone can find something they'll like. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
SteamWorld Heist review photo
Smugglers with hearts of gold
SteamWorld Dig is a criminally underrated game. Although some were quick to judge its short length, it's the perfect thing to pick up and play at the drop of a hat, and the pacing is basically perfect. Heist is a co...


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