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Fighting games and roguelikes are my personal school of hard knocks

May 26 // Nic Rowen
Titles like The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Nuclear Throne and (my latest obsession) Darkest Dungeon make it their business to stymie and frustrate your futile attempts to get to the credits screen. They delight in throwing a wrench into the works, tearing apart promising looking runs or dungeon crawls with a few merciless rolls of the RNG. They move around the win conditions and goalposts from the traditional idea of “I gotta get to the end and dunk on the last boss!” to “oh God, please just let me survive a little longer this time.” Victory isn't just marked by, well, victory, but by discovery and learning. Seeing a new enemy, figuring out a new trick or strategy, and learning to avoid whatever awful thing killed you last time. Those small successes are what dubs a run a win. It's tough to turn that switch that demands progression off in your brain. It has been dutifully conditioned by years of games where victory is the expected outcome. But it's those wild unfair swings in a roguelike that completely mess you up that makes them so satisfying. The emotional roller-coaster of suddenly losing a beloved party member, or picking up an item that completely gimps your current build, or getting screwed by a few unlucky rolls that leave you facing almost certain doom. These factors that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to come up with new strategies broaden your horizons, you have to think about the game and really consider all of your options rather than relying on one or two recipes for success. Those runs that truly are hopeless? Well, they just let you appreciate the good ones a little more. It took me a long time to realize it, but fighting games are much the same when you get right down to it. While you always want to win a fight, just adding more notches to your W/L ratio isn't, and shouldn't be, the goal. What you really should be aiming for is learning. When Street Fighter IV came out, I was very hot-to-trot for some online play. I remembered dominating at SFII in grade school, all the hours I sunk into collecting every ending in Alpha 3 on the PS1, the times I used to rush through Marvel Super Heroes on one quarter in the arcade. I thought I was good at fighting games, and was looking forward to a chance to prove it. I swagged online like I was O'Hara from Enter the Dragon, obnoxiously breaking boards in front of Bruce Lee like it meant something. My fights ended up going about as well as his did -- Boards, and CPU opponents, don't hit back like the real deal. [embed]292757:58670:0[/embed] I'll be completely honest, I almost quit playing fighting games at that point. Nobody likes to lose, especially when you're losing at something that used to be a point of pride for yourself. Thankfully, despite its rough and tumble exterior, the fighting game community actually has a great attitude about these things. EVERYBODY loses. It's what you take away from those losses and how you come back from them that defines you as a player. Shortly after SFIV came out, I was introduced to David Sirlin's Playing to Win, a book that is all about the philosophy of fighting games and is as close to a bible for the fighting game community that exists. I remember when I first read it I distinctly thought “this guy is an asshole.” Playing to Win can be a very abrasive read if you come from a background of playing fighting games for fun. If you ever thought your next door neighbor was cheap for constantly sweeping in Mortal Kombat 2, or angrily called someone a “spammer” for repeatedly tossing out fireballs from across the screen, or think there is such as thing as too many throws in one round (a philosophy I can no longer recognize except in direct reverse), Sirlin's opinions will probably rub you the wrong way. These self-imposed rules and ideas about how the game should be played are the foundation for what he considers a “scrub mentality,” a mental framework that will always limit how far you can go in fighting games, and ultimately, how much joy you can derive from them. Embarrassingly, I saw a lot of that “scrub mentality” in myself. The way I'd get angry at “coward” Guile players for tossing endless sonic booms, or frustrated with people constantly choosing the blatantly over-powered emperor of Muay Thai, Sagat, for easy wins. But when you stop looking at what other players are doing as “cheap,” and start looking at your losses as learning experiences rather than straight out defeats, a lot of that frustration evaporates. It takes real effort and time, but when you internalize that outlook, fighting games become less stressful, more enjoyable, and infinitely more beautiful. Of course people are going to throw sonic booms as Guile, he's a machine made by the Air Force to do exactly that. It may be true that Sagat (or whatever character) is over-powered and easier to win with and disproportionally popular as a result, but how can you blame people for making a choice that will tip the odds in their favor? You have that choice and opportunity too, and if you decide to stick with a different character you'll just have to make peace with the fact that you'll run into tough matches and try and develop a strategy to deal with them. You can either get frustrated, stomp around, and quit/uninstall the game forever, or you can thicken your skin. Learn how to roll with the punches, and take something away from the mistake. Either figure out ways to avoid it in the future, or come to peace with the idea that sometimes things are out of your control. These are not new concepts, ideally we should always be trying to find the positive side to a set-back or learn from a mistake. But to me, at least, nothing else crystallizes the idea of learning from a loss into a rock hard truth than pitiless rougelikes and fighting games. And after spending so many years immersed in both genres, I like to think that I've been able to take those lessons and apply them to other areas of my life. It's not always easy, and I won't claim to be some kind of Zen master who never gets frustrated, but I know I'm definitely a more patient person now than I was five years ago.
Learning from failure photo
Learning from my (many) failures
The last few years of games for me have been all about defeat. Constant, unending, expected defeat. I think I'm better for it. It wasn't always like that. In fact, for most of my life, games have been all about completion, vi...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: Sons of Winter

May 26 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: Sons of Winter (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: May 26, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] Those following along with the series shouldn't expect any major changes in how events play out. There is lots of dialogue, lots of split-second decisions, a handful of quick-time events, a little bit of exploration, and not much else. The split between the four living playable characters stays about the same as well: Mira's sections are almost entirely dialogue-based and Asher's are generally more action-focused. Despite being the Forrester known better for stabbing first and asking questions later, Asher's story in Meereen comes with some of the more interesting this-or-that decisions this episode. Where Rodrik has to choose between murder and mercy, Asher has the more nuanced quandary of loyalty to the family that exiled him and loyalty to his sellsword partner Beskha. Parts of Beskha's past come to light in Sons of Winter that give the situation more gravity. Of all the decisions in this episode, Asher's handling of the mission in Meereen is "the big one" for me, and I'm most anxious about the potential fallout from my choice, which won't show up until next episode at least. [embed]292557:58611:0[/embed] Mira's tribulations in King's Landing continue to be a high point for the series. Though this episode lacks the big names -- neither Cersei, Tyrion, nor Margaery makes a significant appearance -- the way Telltale handles Mira shows genuine understanding of what makes the source material so great. Any game could have quick-time swordfights, but a Game of Thrones game ought to be more than that. Her best scene is at Tommen's coronation feast. It comes closest to being like a classic adventure game. She must navigate the celebration cautiously, eavesdrop on conversations to gain information, and use that information at the right time. Even if it turns out not to be the case in the end (as Telltale games often do), the feast scene felt like it could have ended with a much different outcome. As it stood for me, I came out of it laughing, pleased with how clever I felt to have achieved what I wanted and particularly smug about the last line I had Mira say to close out the scene. It reinforced the idea that in King's Landing, shrewd manipulation of information is just as powerful as a sword, if not more so. Rodrik has his own share of politicking to deal with on the home front. A new opportunity lands in his lap that could help return control of Ironrath to House Forrester, and he has his own decisions to make, though they seemed a bit more obvious. Satisfy a desire for petty revenge near the beginning and he loses some leverage for later on in the episode. I'm curious to know how things shake out with other choices; in contrast to the first few episodes I feel like I made the best decisions for Rodrik this time around. There is a tense scene as Rodrik at Highpoint, the Whitehill stronghold. Not only are the stakes high, but it also rewards an attention to detail. Prior to the meeting with Lord Whitehill, some light exploration can help to reveal information that can be used in the encounter. It's another instance where proper intel beats physical force that feels right in place in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. Gared's scenes were the least interesting this time around. Where prior episodes set him up to be part of the party that goes to Craster's Keep, he ends up with a blander story. It still has room to get better once the importance of the North Grove is revealed, but in this episode it felt a bit like he was stagnating. The oil paint aesthetic that turns people off remains, though it does feel like Telltale has tuned down the baffling polygon edge blur effect that plagued the first two episodes. It's still present, but not nearly as distracting as it used to be. There aren't any heart-stopping moments or dramatic twists like there were in the early episodes, but Sons of Winter sets a good pace and keeps it up throughout the episode. It's great to see the continued focus on shrewdness over brute strength for most of the characters, especially considering House Forrester's situation in Westeros. What the family lacks in soldiers, it must make up for in cleverness. Being party to the events makes me feel clever, whether I truly have much of an effect or not. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
Son of a...
At the end of Episode 3: The Sword in the Darkness, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series was in an interesting place. Nearly all of the playable characters were in tough spots, but all of them ended the episode with some h...

Review: Life is Strange: Chaos Theory

May 26 // Brett Makedonski
Life is Strange: Chaos Theory (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])Developer: Dontnod EntertainmentPublisher: Square EnixRelease date: May 19, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode) As Life is Strange plays out chapter by chapter, it's increasingly difficult to talk about with any degree with specificity. Doing so not only runs the risk of spoiling the many significant plot points that continually punctuate this game, but it also feels like a disservice to discuss Life is Strange's events in black and white when much of its brilliance lies somewhere else. It's not a linear story progression that makes this title worthwhile, rather it's the character building and continually changing relationships that constantly shine. While episode two felt like it meandered too much, it laid the framework for an effective third part. Just spending that extra time inside the head of Max, getting to know Chloe, and seeing the incessant vitriol at Blackwell made for characters who are easier to empathize with. It all pays off in a big way in Chaos Theory as the cast is finally at a place where the audience feels like it knows them and cares for them. At the forefront of this trend is Max's relationship with Chloe, as the duo is ditching the re-introduction stage and have hit a groove of sorts with their interactions. There are plenty of moments when Chloe's rebellious carpe diem spirit rubs off on Max in a charming way; likewise, Max's level-headed and rational demeanor affects Chloe, probably for the better. [embed]292750:58673:0[/embed] These conflicting personalities may have been most at equilibrium during a serene midnight dip in the academy's swimming pool. It's here that the two are at their most introspective and humble. It's here that they express that they lean on one another. There's an understated emotionality about it all that makes it one of Life is Strange's best scenes yet. Really, the swimming pool scene best exemplifies the quality that Dontnod's employed masterfully throughout the three-fifths of Life is Strange that we've seen: restraint. It would've been easy to highlight the moment with some sort of memorable event. But, the developer didn't. Instead, it let the two simply talk, which wonderfully lends humanity to them both individually and as a team. However, it's not just Chloe and Max that are further humanized. Almost all characters have some sort of sympathetic progression, as Life is Strange continues to prove that it excels at dealing in shades of grey. We get a glimpse at how scumbag drug dealer Frank has loved and lost. We see how "step-prick" David password protects his computer not with a nod to his army service or himself, but with a receipt that holds the date he met his wife. The latter of those revelations is discovered through a fetch quest-style puzzle. As painful as it is to admit, this element of gameplay is still where Life is Strange is at its very worst. The reason that's sort of tough to swallow is because it always encourages exploration and will often reward the curious. However, when it forces that wandering upon the player, the pacing drops from a self-imposed standstill to a mandatory one. It's enough to deaden the mood rather quickly. It's a rare instance of Dontnod eschewing that aforesaid restraint to somewhat negative results. Thus far, the developer has done a great job keeping everything in check so as to not go off the rails. The time-rewinding mechanic still doesn't feel as if it's taken over the game nor does it serve as a permanent crutch. Instead, it's mostly sparingly used, usually to glean more information from a tight-lipped witness. Similarly, Life is Strange hasn't yet gone full-out on the paranormal aspect that clearly hangs over the entire story. This reserved approach is appreciated, as it lends weight to the characters and their personal circumstances rather than spotlighting the supernatural. There may be an imminent deviation from that pattern in the very near future, though. In the waning minutes of Chaos Theory, Max discovers a new ability that could easily shift the narrative focus. Chaos Theory is effective in that it's the first time Life is Strange asks the player to evaluate the net benefit of Max's ability to alter time. Until now, it's mostly dealt in small affairs where the results are immediately noticeable. Episode three finds a way to work on a longer timeline and with more at stake. In all honesty, it's the first time I've felt that exact heart-wrenching emotion that I experienced eleven years ago when watching The Butterfly Effect. The cliffhanger that Chaos Theory ends on is so perfect for this portrayal of the fictional Arcadia Bay, Oregon where nothing's ever perfect. However, it's also scarily dangerous in that it very well might render most of the world-building a moot point. It'd be such an absolute shame if that were to happen. We have to wait to see if that's the case. But, Life is Strange now has me in its grips, and if I'm worried, it's only because I care. I finally really, truly care. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Life is Strange review photo
Tornadoes in Texas
I'm worried about Life is Strange. But, it's not the same concern usually expressed when a game's teetering dangerously close to mediocrity or worse. It's the type of uneasiness reserved for a title that's taken three install...

Final Fantasy was almost called Fighting Fantasy: Creator explains actual reason behind the name

May 26 // Steven Hansen
Sakaguchi recently gave a keynote address at Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University on, "the globalization of Japanese-produced games," according to RocketNews' translation of a Famitsu article. According to Sakaguchi, the team wanted a title that had a simple abbreviation in the Roman alphabet (FF) and a four-syllable abbreviated Japanese pronunciation ("efu efu"). Because of the setting and style, "fantasy" was an easy choice. "Final" wasn't the first choice of adjective, however. The initial proposed name was "Fighting Fantasy," but it was already taken by a tabletop game. And so it is, Final Fantasy. "To be sure, we had our backs to the wall when we were developing Final Fantasy," Sakaguchi said, "but really, anything that started with an F would have been fine for the title." Of course, Sakaguchi's explanation doesn't discount the fact that "final" could've carried some import, even if it was a secondary choice shoehorned into an earlier-made decision. Famed series composed Nobuo Uematsu was thought to have clarified the origin behind the name six years ago in a Wired interview. Uematsu confirmed Sakaguchi's often repeated explanation that he would have had to quit and go back to university had the game not been successful, but at that time Uematsu agreed that the ultimate reason for the name was that Square was going belly-up and the folks working on it figured it was their last production. At the least, Sakaguchi's explanation adds a new wrinkle to what has always been an inalienable piece of gaming history. Final Fantasy creator reveals the real reason behind the “Final” part of the hit series’ title [RocketNews24]FF』はどのように世界に広がっていったのか? 坂口博信氏と浜村弘一ファミ通グループ代表が“国際日本ゲーム研究カンファレンス”にて語る [Famitsu]
Fighting Fantasy?! photo
Disputes long taken for granted origin
Why's it called FINAL fantasy if there's a load of 'em, an internet commenter snickers before calling American football "hand egg" and ordering three more bacon meme t-shirts from Epic Threadz. The trodden joke has an equally...

Experience Points .14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

May 23 // Ben Davis
Cor Blimey! Yangus... how do I describe this man? He's sort of the comic relief character, he has a weird name, his background is rather shady, he wears some kind of odd spiky fruit husk on his head, he has an annoying catchphrase, he's short, fat, hairy, brutish, and overall conventionally unattractive. And yet I love him so much! Dragon Quest VIII lets the player choose which party member they want to walk around as, so as soon as I figured this out, I obviously picked the big, lovable oaf. I never played as anyone else. I mean, how often do I get to be a chubby hairy dude in a videogame? Not nearly often enough. Yangus' comic relief even manages to make its way onto the battlefield. If he pumps up his Humanity stat, he'll gain some pretty hilarious moves. One such move, Golden Oldies, has Yangus shouting "Grandad!" and calling forth King Trode and a mob of rowdy old men to rush the enemy for lots of damage. And then there's the Underpants Dance, which unfortunately does not involve Yangus dancing around in nothing but his underpants, but rather dancing around while waving two pairs of boxers about in an attempt to shock enemies. They're not the most useful of moves, but I still used them at just about every opportunity, simply because they made me smile. I mean, what's not to love about an underwear attack? Yangus actually got his own spinoff game, Dragon Quest: Young Yangus and the Mystery Dungeon, but of course it was only ever released in Japan (boo!). I'm glad he was apparently popular enough to warrant a game of his own, though! Slime, I choose you! Outside of the main quest, the best part about Dragon Quest VIII is the ability to recruit monsters from the field and form monster teams. These teams are primarily used for the monster arena sidequest, but they can also be sent out during normal battles to help the party fight at any time in the game. I've always loved the monster designs in the Dragon Quest series, so being able to recruit some of them for my own team was really appealing to me. All of my favorites, including the King Slime, Cyclops, Golem, Hoodlum, Orc King, Jargon, Jumping Jackal, and so many others are able to be recruited. I usually had one team full of monsters that I liked, regardless of how powerful they were, and one team comprised of monsters built to win battles. Depending on which monsters are placed on a team together, they might even be able to earn special bonuses or abilities. For example, a team composed entirely of slimes will get double the amount of hit points. My personal favorite team is called My Three Golems. A team of three golems will be granted a special ability which allows them to fuse together, creating a super powerful mega golem named Mazin with 999 HP and all-around impressive stats. So not only are the golems one of my favorite enemy designs, but they're incredibly useful in combat as well! Metallic menaces There's nothing more satisfying in Dragon Quest VIII than landing a killing blow on a Metal Slime. Not only are the metallic gelatinous blobs incredibly difficult to defeat, but they yield a crazy amount of experience points, so hunting them down is definitely worth it. These guys come in three variations: Metal Slime, Liquid Metal Slime, and Metal King Slime. Obviously, the Metal King Slimes are the rarest and most sought after of the slimes. These lustrous foes are so difficult for several reasons. For one, they have ridiculous defenses; most attacks will only deal a single point of damage or nothing at all, barely causing more than a scratch. They also have an extremely annoying tendency to run away from battle as soon as possible, meaning players have to rush to destroy them as quickly as they can before the slimes are able to slip away. Not to mention the Metal Slimes are rare enough that even seeing one usually causes my heart to skip a beat, only for my hopes to be swiftly dashed as the slime runs away in the first turn. Players need to have a solid strategy and plenty of luck in order to take them down. It takes a lot of patience, but it's worth it. The first time I defeated a Metal Slime was one of the best feelings ever! Shakin' it is all I know In just about any JRPG, you can expect to fall victim to status effects. JRPG veterans are always prepared to be poisoned, paralyzed, burned, confused, and put to sleep. But what about becoming so obsessed with dancing that you can no longer focus on fighting? In Dragon Quest VIII, they got a little creative with the status effects by adding in a few silly ones, including an effect known as the dancing bug. Certain enemies will occasionally break into a dance so infectious that the team of brave warriors just can't help but join. Characters who catch the dancing bug will be unable to act for a turn, since they'll be too busy busting a groove. The penalty of the effect is nothing special, just a missed turn, but it was so unexpected that it immediately became my favorite thing. Sometimes I'd just sit there and allow dancing enemies to attack me, just so I could watch each of my characters let loose and have some fun. It almost feels like more of a reward than a penalty. Who cares about a missed turn when it means I get to watch Yangus prancing around? Le Puff-Puff There's a running joke in the Dragon Quest series known as "Puff-Puff." It's a pervy joke based on the idea of rubbing one's face between a woman's breasts. Usually not my thing, but I have to admit that the secret Club Puff-Puff room in Dragon Quest VIII definitely made me laugh. It was actually the first time I had encountered the term before, so when I found the room I didn't quite know what to expect. A burly muscleman greeted Yangus at the counter and invited him into an adjacent room where a girl in a bunny outfit beckoned him into a chair and offered to give him a "Puff-Puff." I accepted out of curiosity. The screen went black, there were weird bouncy noises, and the woman asked, "Have you ever felt a pair as warm and soft as mine?" Uhhhhh... When the lights came back on, Yangus was sitting there with a blindfold on as the woman was rubbing two slimes on either side of his face. Blissfully unaware Yangus looked like he was having the time of his life, and I couldn't help but laugh at the unexpected turn of events. As a gay man, it reminded me of that scene in The Emperor's New Groove where Yzma pulls up her skirt and everyone starts cringing until they realize she's just revealing a hidden knife. "Whew, ohh okay!" The endless corridor Of all the fantastical locations and creepy dungeons in Dragon Quest VIII, there's one area that always stood out in my mind as being particularly interesting. In the final dungeon, the Black Citadel, there's a certain room shaped like a huge circle. The party enters from a hallway off to the side, eerily decorated with four statues of the party members themselves, and loops around the circle. But strangely, it just brings them right back around to the entrance. The first time I encountered this room, I was very confused. I ended up backtracking around the circle again thinking I had missed something. There's this huge circular room, with lots of windows and doors lining the exterior, but nothing to find there? No new paths or anything to interact with? I kept wandering around, thinking I had surely just missed some small thing, when I suddenly noticed the room had changed. As I was looping around, the windows and doors I had passed several times before had become mysteriously boarded up, and the ground was all cracked with pools of poisonous-looking water seeping in. What's going on? I looped back around to the entrance again, only to find that the entrance had disappeared! And even more unsettling, the statues of my party members had all been beheaded! Was I trapped and doomed in this creepy eternal hallway? Since there was nothing else I could do, I made another loop and the hallway started to change again. The walls lined with windows and doors began to disappear, only to be replaced by dungeon cells full of skeletons. Finally, an exit opened up across from where the entrance had been, although the beheaded statues were now completely decimated. Talk about creepy, but at least I was finally out of that place! Later on, when exiting the castle, I had to run back through the scary endless hallway (nooo!). The room slowly began to reform back to its original state, and the statues rematerialized. And then, right when I tried to leave through the entrance, the statues attacked me! Of course the creepy self-mutilating statues would come to life. To be honest, this area is kind of a chore to navigate, having to run through this long hallway until the entrance and exit appear, but the atmosphere of the place really left an impression on me. I was genuinely on edge the entire time, thinking something awful was about to happen. When did the survival horror genre creep its way into my light-hearted JRPG? I certainly didn't expect it, but I also kinda liked it! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing
Dragon Quest VIII photo
A slime appears!
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Weekend Deals: Witcher 3, Blizzard & WB Games titles on tap

May 23 // Dealzon
Top Deals Spintires (Steam) — $7.20  (list price $30) <- In Russia, mud plays in you Project Cars (Steam) — $33.99  (list price $50) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DRM-Free) — $39  <- use code DEALZO-N35OFF-WITCHE Humble Store Encore Sale <- over 300 titles to throw your $$$ at Bundle Star May Sale <- just added, better SoM value here Blizzard Games (US Only) StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm — $9.99  (list price $20) Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty — $9.99  (list price $20) Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls — $19.99  (list price $40) WoW: Warlords of Draenor (PC DVD) — $29.99  <- raise your hand if you still play WoW WB Games Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Steam) — $20  (list price $50) Gauntlet (Steam) — $6.40  (list price $20) The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (Steam) — $4  (list price $20) Injustice: Gods Among Us - Ultimate (Steam) — $4  (list price $20) Mortal Kombat Komplete (Steam) — $4  (list price $20) Bastion (Steam) — $3  (list price $15) <- muy excelente Recent Releases 05/21: Xbox One White Special Edition Halo Bundle — $349  (list price $399) 05/19: Farming Simulator 15 + $10 Gift Card (PS4, XOne) — $49.99   05/14: Galactic Civilizations III (Steam) — $40  (list price $50) 05/14: Not A Hero (Steam) — $9.09  (list price $13) <- not to be confused with the excellent Japanese manga 05/12: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (Steam) — $12.80  (list price $16) 05/08: Euro Truck Simulator 2: Scandinavia (Steam) — $14.40  (list price $18) 04/30: Solarix (Steam) — $12.99  (list price $20) 04/30: Block N Load (Steam) — $8.40  (list price $15) 04/28: Shadowrun Chronicles: Boston Lockdown (Steam) — $24.79  (list price $40) PC Game Deals Battlefield: Hardline (Origin) — $30  (list price $60) Need for Speed Rivals: Complete(Origin) — $19.99  (list price $40) Prototype Franchise Pack (Steam) — $16.83  (list price $60) World of Diving (Steam) — $13.29  (list price $20) Life is Strange: Complete Season (Steam) — $12.48  (list price $20) I am Bread (Steam) — $9.74  (list price $13) <- play as a bread. duh. Rugby 15 (Steam) — $7.98  (list price $40) Command and Conquer The Ultimate (Origin) — $4.99  (list price $20) Console Deals Wii U + Super Mario 3D World + Nintendo Land — $274.99 Evolve (PS4, Steam) — $39.99  (list price $60) Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate (Nintendo 3DS) — $29.99  (list price $40) Xbox Live Gold 3 Month + $10 Xbox Gift Card — $24.99  (list price $25) Turtle Beach CoD: Adv. Warfare Headset (PS4) — $19.99  (list price $80) Power A Mini Series Wired Controller (Xbox One) — $19.99  (list price $40) LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (PS Vita, 3DS) — $7.99  (list price $20) Laptop Deals 17.3" MAINGEAR Pulse, i7-4700HQ, GTX 870M, 16GB — $1,799  (list $2,399) 17.3" Alienware, i7-4710HQ, GTX 980M, 16GB — $1,699  (list $1,999) 15.6" Alienware, i7-4710HQ, 4K Touch, GTX 970M, 16GB — $1,599 <- actually decent specs 17.3" Lenovo Y70 i7-4710HQ, GTX 860M, 16GB — $949  (list $1,500) 14" Lenovo Y40-80, i7-5500U, Radeon R9 M275, 8GB — $629  (list $1,150) HDTV Deals 55" Vizio 4K Smart TV — $899.99  (list $1,000) 65" Sharp 1080p Smart TV + Wireless Speakers — $799.99  (list $1,000) 49" LG 4K Smart TV — $649.99  (list $1,600) - perfect for seeing Geralt's hair down sampled to 900p Game deals from Dealzon. FYI: sales from certain retailers help support Destructoid.
Weekend deals photo
All digital products must go
Got nada in plans for this Memorial Day weekend? For $7, you can enjoy getting stuck in mud while trucking around in Russia via Spintires. Currently historic lowest price that we've spotted. Rare discounts on Blizzard titles ...

Destructoid chats with Archie's Ian Flynn about Mega Man and Sonic's second 'Worlds Unite' crossover

May 22 // Chris Carter
Chris Carter: Why did you ultimately decide to create another Mega Man and Sonic crossover? Was there unfinished business with "Worlds Collide?" Ian Flynn: “Worlds Collide” was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, so we poured all our love into it. When we got the opportunity to revisit the idea in “Worlds Unite,” it was great to revisit the premise, but it begged the question: how do we top the last go-around? The answer, of course, was to go bigger, bolder, and with even more crossovers! C: Speaking of "Worlds Collide," how would you rate the sales of those issues in comparison to the regular Mega Man line? I: They were huge. People really responded well to “Worlds Collide.” Hopefully folks will be just as enthused for “Worlds Unite.” C: Did the decision to split them up between different comic lines work well? I: It did! It brought some extra attention to Sonic Universe and Mega Man. We made sure to make it very clear and easy to tell which issue readers needed to pick up next as they jumped from title to title. C: As you may know, there's been a polarizing reception to Sonic Boom, particularly when it comes to the games. How would you sell the inclusion of that subfranchise into the "Worlds Unite" universe? I: The games established the characters and world in that media, the comics and cartoons expanded upon that and have been very well received. The Boom characters help balance the franchise representation -- two types of Mega Man, two types of Sonic -- while also bringing some much-needed levity to an otherwise very dramatic adventure. C: As a follow-up, what went into choosing the additional Capcom universes to represent in "Worlds Unite?" There's massive amount of rich universes to pick from, so it must have been difficult. I: It was really hard to choose, because I wanted to play with all the toys! But we narrowed it down to those we thought would best mesh with Sonic and Mega Man. Resident Evil wouldn’t exactly fit the tone of brightly colored animal-people and robots, right? Capcom was very receptive and supportive. C: I'm really jazzed that the Red Arremer is making an appearance. What's your favorite non-Mega Man/Sonic character that will be joining the fray? I: It’s no secret that I’m a huge Skies of Arcadia fanboy, so having Vyse and the crew show up makes me happy. And I’ve always wanted to play around in the Street Fighter universe, and I had a lot of fun with those characters. C: Can you talk a bit about when the Mega Man X storyline will take place in regards to the game series? I: Everything kicks off some time after Mega Man X7. Axl is a member of the Maverick Hunters, and the Next-Generation Reploids have yet to appear. C: Finally, I asked this years back, but I'll ask it again! What are the chances of getting a standalone Mega Man X comic series? I: Unfortunately, a Mega Man X series is just not in the cards right now. C: Thanks for your time! The 12-part "Worlds Unite" storyline will begin on May 27 at comic shops across the country (and digitally), and will span roughly three months across issues of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Boom, Sonic Universe, and Mega Man. Feel free to peruse the gallery above for a ton of amazing artwork, preview pages, and cover art, some of which has never been seen before.
Mega Man and Sonic photo
It starts next week
Back in 2013, Archie Comics released a rather groundbreaking crossover -- "Sonic & Mega Man: Worlds Collide." It was a joint effort between Capcom and Sega properties, and brought the two iconic heroes together to battle ...

PC Port Report: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

May 22 // Patrick Hancock
[Note: Screenshots and video used in this post are taken from my experience with the game.] Tested on: Intel i7-4770k 3.50 GHz, 8GB of RAM, Geforce GTX 970, Windows 7. Framerate measured with FRAPS. I'd be remiss if I didn't address the now-infamous trailer of the game that incorrectly showed what it would look like back in 2013. The developers have since downgraded what the game can do, and have addressed the issue. There are lots of elements to this and it isn't as simple as "downgraded because consoles" or "they couldn't afford it," but the end result is still the same. Regardless of that trailer, The Witcher 3 still looks phenomenal. In order to achieve 60 frames per second with my setup at 1080p, I needed to play with the settings a bit. Most things were kept at the Ultra settings, except for the foliage and shadows, which were turned down to High. The game stays consistently above 60 FPS for me now, even during combat and most in-game cutscenes. Some cutscenes are evidently capped at 30 FPS, which is offputting and incredibly noticeable. The biggest setting to turn off in order to achieve a good framerate is HairWorks. With HairWorks on, hair does looks absolutely stunning and is perhaps the best rendering of hair I've ever come across, though up close it's still a bit funky looking. There are three options for HairWorks: on, Geralt-only, and off. If fully on, even the monsters and Geralt's horse will have HairWorks-quality hair. However, even when I had this on "Geralt only," the framerate would fluctuate between 30 and 50 at any given moment. Yes, the hair looks great, but it is not worth the huge dip in framerate. Another option to be aware of is the "Hardware Mouse." It's located under Options in the Video section for some reason, and anyone playing with a keyboard and mouse is likely going to want to turn this option on. Doing so disables mouse acceleration, essentially making the mouse "feel" like it is supposed to. Many of the .ini files located in the installation folder can also be edited to further customize many of the options. [embed]292553:58627:0[/embed] There's some strange odds and ends in the options to take note of. To turn on unlimited FPS, the FPS slider needs to be all the way to the left. The middle option is 30 FPS, and the right option is 60. For those playing on a big television screen via Big Picture Mode or something similar, be aware that the font size is rather small, and the HUD size does not get any bigger, only smaller. In fact, there's only two sizes for HUD size: Large and Small. Controlling Geralt with a keyboard and mouse is somewhat clunky. Turning is awkward and slow, and managing to interact with a specific object or NPC can be a struggle. Combat on a mouse and keyboard feels fluid, at least. Controlling Geralt with a controller simply feels better, all things considered. It's not that controlling him with a keyboard and mouse is awful, but there's an unfortunate feeling of "this just isn't right." Switching to a controller input is as simple as hitting any button on a connected controller. As soon as the game detects a controller input, everything is switched to controller prompts and the game immediately recognizes it. The same goes with switching back to the keyboard. The responsiveness of switching is fantastic, and future PC game designers better take note. The keyboard keys can be remapped, except for movement. The WASD keys are set in stone. When using a controller, all of the buttons are locked in at the default assignments; there is no remapping of any of the buttons. Since the PC release, there has already been a couple of large patches to help improve performance and fix bugs. CD Projekt RED has always put a lot of focus on the PC community, and that certainly still seems to be the case with The Witcher 3. More patches are on the way, and despite the console-esque nature of the third iteration, I would not expect the game to be neglected on PC going forward. It's also important to note that, apparently, it is coming to SteamOS/Linux. There was a banner on Steam saying as much, but CD Projekt RED has not commented on the Linux situation. Currently, the game is only available for Windows. Some users have been reporting crashes on their systems, but I have yet to encounter a single one. Mods are still in their infancy, but they are there. Mostly small game tweaks at the moment, but the toolkit is evidently on its way. It took a couple of years to get the official modding toolkit out for The Witcher 2, but it has been promised to come out sooner for the latest installment. Plain and simple, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a great PC port. Whether or not it should have ever been a "port" in the first place is a separate discussion, but what's presented here to the consumer is thoroughly enjoyable. Oh. and you can skip all the splash screens when booting up. 10/10, would port again.
Witcher 3 on PC photo
Gwent Simulator 2015
The Witcher is an interesting series on PC. The first game was a PC experience through and through: you could pause the action at any time and movement was mapped to mouse clicks. The second was way more action-oriented ...

Review: Til Morning's Light

May 21 // Chris Carter
Til Morning's Light (Android, Fire OS, iOS [reviewed])Developer: WayForwardPublisher: Amazon Game StudiosReleased: May 21, 2015MSRP: $6.99 At the start of the tale, Til Morning's Light feels like it's going to be a typical teenage adventure, with two "popular" girls and an outcast -- otherwise known as our hero, Erica. After being made fun of as a potential fan fiction writer, she's pushed into an abandoned mansion, and the door is boarded up behind her. Those are some pretty sick bullies! It gets even sicker when she realizes that the mansion isn't abandoned after all, and is actually inhabited by ghosts and gross insect-like creatures. Cue the Luigi's Mansion parallels. Armed with only a flashlight out of the gate, Erica will roam about, discovering the secrets of the mansion, filling in various bits and pieces as she goes. She'll go about this by wandering around, which is accomplished by simply holding the screen and moving towards a direction, or tapping where you want to go. Whatever feelings you may have towards touch controls, let me just say, they work wonderfully here. In fact, the entire game is filled with fairly inoffensive touch gimmicks, like rotating pieces of paper around to find more hints (a la Resident Evil), or flicking the screen to search pantries and the like. The whole affair is built upon a really fun atmosphere, as the characters (ghosts, mostly) you meet all have personality, and for the most part, are likable. Their personalities lack depth and the character building is pretty light fare, but it feels more akin to a Saturday morning cartoon, which a lot of potential players will dig. Erica jokes about there being a lot of keys to sift through though, but there's plenty of truth to it. You'll embark upon plenty of fetch quests, with a healthy mix of box puzzles (evoking more Resident Evil parallels) and basic problem-solving. For instance, one old-timey picture has a timestamp on it, which clues you in to the placement of the hour, minute, and second-hands on a nearby clock. If you find yourself stumped, you can pick up coins along the way, which can purchase hints, as well as items from an in-game store. Combat is another big part of the game, taking place on a rhythm-like stage. It's a lot like Elite Beat Agents (but less engaging), starting off with timed taps on the screen, then swipes, and so on. I like the idea in theory, but there's a lot of enemies to fight in the game, and since the battle system isn't super deep, it can occasionally feel tedious. It can get really tough even early on, and as the game states after booting it up, you'll probably want to use headphones. While the mansion isn't exactly open-ended and tends to be a tad too linear at times, you eventually will make your way to more interesting areas -- like the greenhouse wing, which features plenty of holes to dig up for hidden items. It's at this point in the adventure that you'll also unlock the Spectral Phone, which can spot hidden spirits in the wild, with 20 in all to find. That's about as deep as the exploration-angle gets, but it thankfully never gets to the point where it's straight-up dull. Think of a wheel with only one or two spokes on it, and you'll have an idea of what to expect. Til Morning's Light never really goes the full mile with any of its concepts, but they all mesh well together and the presentation is enjoyable enough. I don't think it's going to make headlines or change the horror game in any way, but it's a fun way to spend an afternoon and another respectable showing for Amazon's game division. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Til Morning's Light photo
Nancy Drew meets Luigi's Mansion
WayForward has stuck to doing what it does best -- platformers -- for most of its career. But every so often it branches off and does something a bit different, like Silent Hill: Book of Memories, and now, Til Morning's Light. As an odd mix of Luigi's Mansion filled with rhythm-based combat, it mostly works.

Review: Swords and Soldiers II

May 20 // Chris Carter
Swords and Soldiers II (Wii U)Developers: Ronimo GamesPublisher: Ronimo GamesReleased: May 21, 2015Price: $19.99 This time around, the playable armies of the Chinese and Aztecs have been replaced by Demons and Persians. Although the former two will be sorely missed (I'll never forget some of their sayings), the replacements have more than enough tricks up their sleeve to justify their inclusion. The way Swords and Soldiers II works is strikingly similar to its predecessor. As a strictly "one on one" affair, players will opt to build and research units, sending them in a straight line against another foe. If one gets close enough your units will start attacking their resource accruing units, and just like a complex RTS, your days are numbered as your enemy whittles down your base for a win. It's not just a "set it and forget it" style, as a constant array of diverse spells that can be used at any time keep you on your toes, and can change the tide of any given battle within a round. My favorite part of this scheme however is how quickly everything goes down. After you have the gold, units can be built instantly. Other than the select few instances in a match where you need to erect towers, no real "buildings" need to be created. It's all action all the time, but there is depth to it. While Soldiers does have a story mode, the heart of the game lies within its head-to-head versus and skirmish gametypes. [embed]292182:58551:0[/embed] The campaign is basically table-setting for everything else, giving you a rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of each individual unit, some ideas for how armies counter one another, all set to the tune of a really goofy story that illuminates some background on all three armies. It's not going to win any awards, but the jokes are occasionally laugh out loud funny, mostly due to the superb voicework that carries over into the other modes. Where the sequel mostly succeeds is diversity between the armies. Vikings mostly focus on spells, Demons, towers, and Persians have a health mix of both with their own unique trappings. Every time I started to embed myself in an army I felt like I was playing an utterly different experience, which is definitely a positive. Over time I ended up gravitating towards the Persians, who have some really cool abilities on-hand. I really love the invisible units that are only seen while attacking, but they're balanced, expensive to build, and have plenty of counters. I also enjoyed the low mana-cost cannon structure, which does nothing on its own, but can fire a low-damage, tiny genie-summoning canon shot across the map. I quickly learned that Demons could counter my stealth units by building barrel riders -- suicidal creatures that would explode and destroy them even if they were invisible, and were at a lower cost. In return I researched the bribe skill, which allowed me to take over specific units at a cost of gold and mana. There's hundreds of counters like that across the multitude of characters and strategies present in the game, and thankfully, it's never too overwhelming at any given time. After seeing a new unit you'll have an incentive to try out the army and use it yourself, which is really easy to do considering how open the research tree is at the start. If you want to spend all of your starting gold just to build one big unit -- you can do that. Likewise, you can bunker up with a defensive-strategy at the start, or "Zerg" rush with some low-cost units. It's surprisingly balanced and open-ended. Another new layer of depth is the gold and mana drop mechanic. On every map, airdrops will occasionally fall down and litter the map. You're presented with a choice -- let your gold gatherers stay within the comfort of your base for consistent riches, or brave the world for a massive reward. This is on top of micro-managing your army, spells, researching, and building responsibilities. It gets even more intense on one map in particular, where the only way to any resources of any kind is to pick up drops. Multiplayer is played by way of one mode -- a local versus setup where one player uses the GamePad, and another, the TV. Although the lack of online play is a bummer, Ronimo really chose a perfect platform that caters directly to the dual army conceit. In short, it's a perfect situation for my wife, who prefers the TV and the Wii U Pro Controller (though a Classic Controller Pro and Wiimote can be used), and myself, who vastly prefers the GamePad. I ended up plugging in some noise cancelling headphones so I couldn't hear her unit sounds (and vice versa), and it was a much easier setup than we achieved with the previous game, getting two PCs together, logging into Steam, and hoping we consistently connect to one another. There is one hangup though -- you can set your tweak a few extra stats in versus like your starting gold settings or change up build and cooldown rates, but you need to do this every round once you quit out of a session. It will work if you stay the same armies on the smae level to "rematch," but it feels like an oversight to have to switch it back every time. Your mileage may also vary if you don't have a friend to play with, but then again, that's where Skirmish comes in. If you don't have anyone on hand, you can opt to play with the AI. Surprisingly it's actually challenging, though I will say that the CPU cheats from time to time, like when it throws down an area-of-effect (AOE) ability on the ground, knowing that your invisible units will cross over it. Still, I can put everything on random and play skirmish for hours, despite the fact that there wasn't anyone to revel in my victories with on the couch. Although Swords and Soldiers II has a limited appeal for those of you who like to only game solo, it's a fine strategy title, and a perfect mix of brevity and depth. I'm likely still going to be learning the ins and outs of each army months down the line, which is a really great thing. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Swords and Soldiers II photo
Vikings, Demons, and Persians, oh my
Swords and Soldiers, released in 2009 as Ronimo's first game, was an underrated treasure. Although it was soon eclipsed by their subsequent release of Awesomenauts a few years later, it remained a staple in my house, as it was wonderously easy to pick up and play at any time. Swords and Soldiers II builds upon that foundation and adds just enough depth to keep things interesting.

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition brings the gang back together

May 18 // Alessandro Fillari
Now this isn't the first time that the original DMC series has received the Special Edition treatment. A year following the release of 2005's Devil May Cry 3, Capcom released an enhanced version that made a number additions and tweaks -- most notably the inclusion of a playable Vergil with his own moves and levels to play through. Now with the release Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition coming, nearly eight years after the original, the creative minds at Capcom sought to rekindle the same enthusiasm found in Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition for this supped up re-release. And much like the recent Definitive Edition for DmC, they looked their well-received PC release as the base."There was content in the PC version of the original DMC4 that was not possible for consoles at the time due to hardware limitations. We have always wanted to provide these features to more DMC fans, most notably Legendary Dark Knight Mode," said DMC producer Takashi Fujii. "We wanted to provide a good action game that really gives the player a lot to sink their teeth into. With the features I’ve mentioned previously, and the addition of three new playable characters we’ve designed, I think fans will be very happy with all the content we’re offering in DMC4 Special Edition. With the hardware capabilities introduced in the new console generation, it proved this was the right time to revisit DMC4 and provide all of these features that we had been thinking about."Back when Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition was revealed last year, we all got a nice tease showing that Vergil was going to be making a return. But who would've thought that DMC's leading ladies, Trish and Lady, were going to get in on the action as well? While the ladies were already present in the core DMC4 story, Vergil's campaign in the Special Edition features his own unique story taking place many years before the events of DMC3 and 4. In addition to these new characters are several tweaks and upgrades made to the core game. Such as higher texture and graphical quality, auto-saves, rebalanced orb and proud soul economy, official trophy support across all platforms (take that early generation seven architecture!), and also some tweaks to puzzles -- such as the infamous dice game. It's a pretty meaty package. You might as well call it "Super Devil May Cry 4." The larger cast was a way for Capcom to offer variety in a convincing and fun way that stayed true to its combat heritage."Everyone plays Devil May Cry games a bit differently, and so with Devil May Cry 4 Special Edition in particular, it was important to us to give players more ways to enjoy the gameplay experience," explained the producer. "It was important that these characters each had distinctive combat styles, so fighting a boss you may have fought as Nero, for example, will feel very different from doing so with Lady or Vergil." In the two hours I spent with the game last month, it was quite clear that a lot of work went into the new characters. Though of course they're still going through the same areas and fighting the same bosses from the original game, that didn't really bother me all that much after getting settled with the new characters. Any fan will tell you that the combat is the crux of the series, and the new characters offered a lot depth and complexity that are totally unique to them -- which really set themselves apart from both Dante and Nero. And yes, for those who've gotten really comfortable with Dante and Nero over the last seven and half years, you'll be please to know that they're largely untouched (aside from general gameplay tweaks). "No changes have been made to Nero or Dante," said the producer rather bluntly and with the utmost clarity. So please, use high-level tricks such as guard flying and intertia to your heart's content. And with the sharing functionality on PS4 and Xbox One, showing off your high-flying antics and finger acrobatics will be much easier than before.For those who read my long preview last month, you could tell that I was quite smitten with this title. Devil May Cry is easily my favorite Capcom IP, and seeing it return this year with two really cool titles was a total joy for me. Checking out the new characters in DMC4SE was a complete blast, and I can't wait to dive back in from the beginning. I'm telling you guys, Trish and Lady are not to be messed with. Vergil's got some serious moves, and his concentration mechanic is a total game-changer, but these ladies are total bad-asses. I cannot wait to see some high-level exhibitionist videos later once people get them in their hands.With the release next month just after E3, you'll have the opportunity to get some quality time with the gang again. We all remember that tease at the end of DMC4 with Dante, Lady, and Trish teaming up to battle more demons, so it's definitely exciting to see that it's finally coming to fruition. So don't let this slip past you. If you've been screaming for a chance to return to these wonderfully goofy characters in this over the top world, you finally got it.And by the way, be sure to check out Capcom's weekly twitch livestream on Wednesdays for sessions with DMC4: Special Edition  by Capcom staff.
Devil May Cry photo
Capcom Producer talks revitalizing DMC4
In case you missed it, Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition is now a thing. Following up on their release of the excellent DmC Devil May Cry: Definitive Edition (seriously, it's great), Capcom are readying their second hit o...

Review: Schrodinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark

May 18 // Darren Nakamura
Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark (PC, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Italic PigPublisher: Team17Released: May 12, 2015MSRP: $9.99 Raiders of the Lost Quark takes place in the quantum world, zoomed in so far the elementary particles of matter are visible. Previous knowledge about quantum physics is not required to play, though it does enhance the experience a bit. For instance, there are six flavors of quarks: up, down, top, bottom, charm, and strange. Schrödinger's Cat uses the first four flavors of quark in his platforming adventure (charm and strange are much rarer), and just like in real life, the quarks combine in groups of three. This central mechanic is smart. It allows Schrödinger's Cat to employ a lot of different abilities, using only the four shoulder buttons. It starts off with basic combos: three up quarks form a propeller that will carry the cat upward, three down quarks form a drill that will destroy terrain downward, three top quarks form a protective bubble to safely pass through hazards, and three bottom quarks form a platform to stand on. From there, quarks of different flavors can be mixed and matched. Two ups and a down (or two downs and an up) will form a missile that can be fired in any of the four cardinal directions. It ends up being one of the most useful abilities. With all of the combinations, there are 14 different abilities. Though it sounds confusing, it all comes fairly naturally, and there is a helpful quick reference on the pause screen detailing all of the different constructs. [embed]292295:58563:0[/embed] At its best, Quark takes the quark combination mechanic and applies it to a puzzle platformer. Half of the levels are designed, giving the player a specific set of quarks to overcome a specific task. Though several quark groupings can achieve similar outcomes (the copter, base, and bounce constructs will all help Schrödinger's Cat move upward), a limited supply of quarks means having to choose wisely, considering what will be left for other tasks. If it were just the puzzle platformer levels, Schrödinger's Cat would a tight little game that does its thing well. It's unfortunate that between the puzzle levels are procedurally generated filler areas. Though they still make use of the quark combination mechanic, the abundance of quarks takes away any sort of interesting decision making or a need for much forethought. Though there are 14 different abilities, I found myself mostly using the same 4 in these sections. There's no need for creative problem solving when the copter, missile, bubble, and net can do everything that needs to be done. It highlights the drawbacks of procedural generation. It can be a powerful tool for two types of games: enormous sandboxes that would be unreasonable to hand-design (Minecraft) and short, replayable experiences that reward experience over memorization (Spelunky). Raiders of the Lost Quark is neither of these. The procedural levels aren't interesting enough to merit a huge open world and aside from some new dialogue there isn't a whole lot of reason to replay it after going through once. Another downfall that stems from the procedural generation is in the environmental art. The destructible terrain and the chunky grid look outdated in the best cases. At worst, the environments are almost nauseating in their color choices and design. This come in stark contrast with the character artwork. Cutscenes have a sharp cartoon look, and the animations are smooth and visually interesting. Schrödinger's Cat's movement and combat animations are particularly good. The supporting cast members have really inventive designs, bizarre enough to fit well in the weird and wonderful subatomic universe. The art for the quark combinations is noteworthy as well. Looking closely at each construct, players can pick out which quark is performing which function, as they all stretch, bend, and combine together. It even helps from a gameplay perspective, where each design is memorable enough on its own that it helped me recall which quarks to summon for a particular ability. Even with the ones I used less frequently like the parachute, I can picture which colors go into it and use that to activate one without having to pause for the reference. Though the overall story is silly, the writing is good. Comedy in games is difficult, but Raiders of the Lost Quark had me laughing out loud a few times. That said, I'm a science geek, so your mileage may vary when it comes to the physics jokes. On a more disappointing note, I did run into a handful of notable bugs during my play through. On multiple occasions I got stuck in the level geometry. Sometimes there would be a creature listed for capture but that creature wasn't actually present, leading to unnecessary time wasted scouring the area. The Bosons were especially hard to work with; they are supposed to attack one another when brought too close, but I had several that wouldn't budge. None of these issues were gamebreaking; a reset to the last checkpoint or leaving and returning to an area fixed all of them. They still hurt the experience through wasted time. None of those waste as much time as the procedurally generated levels, which are easily the biggest flaw in Schrödinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark. They take up about half of the play time, present very little worthwhile gameplay, and feel like a drudge by the end. If it cut all the fat and featured only the smart puzzle-platforming found in the hand-designed levels, Raiders of the Lost Quark would be a leaner, more engaging, and ultimately much better game. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Schrödinger's Cat review photo
A superposition of good and bad
"Schrödinger's Cat" refers to an old physics thought experiment that highlights the weirdness of the quantum theory. Though it generally applies to very small particles, a device could be designed that leverages the prob...

What if Twitter was a Real Life Party? Video games and violence

May 16 // Jonathan Holmes
With video games in particular, there's absolutely no way of knowing what effect games alone will have on a person on a long-term basis. Some studies saw that many people show a diminished capacity for empathy after playing some videogames, but other studies show the opposite. Unless science is able to gather a perfect test group that is able to be studied by the effects that video games have on them alone, it will never be able to provide us with any conclusive answers. More qualitative, general observations aren't much more helpful. Sure, there are more mass shootings in America now than ever before, but the violent crime rate is also down overall. It would be easy to guess that means the rise of violent video games in America gives most people a positive outlet for aggression, decreasing their capacity for violent crime, while having the opposite effect on a group of outliers who later become mass murderers, but that kind of guess would be completely silly. That kind of guess would have to discount all the other concurrent trends in America today, like the increased levels of violence in film and movies, the increased use of thought- and mood-altering drugs (both street and prescriptions) in modern society, the drastic changes in our sociological/political/nutritional landscape, the Internet's influence on culture in general, and so many other factors. If you know a social scientist who can isolate video games from all those factors in determining how a person has been affected by his or her environment, I've got a crisp $20 bill with their name on it.  Regardless, this video wasn't meant to be a serious debate about all these issues, so I'm not even sure why I'm getting into them now. It's just a little animated reenactment of an unusual and semi-cute interaction I had with someone on Twitter. I hope you like it.  
WIT WAR LP photo
Social media animated!
One of the great things about the Internet is the limitless opportunity for social interaction it provides. While it always saddens me to see people use Twitter and other social media tools for the primary purpose of putting...

Weekend Deals: Witcher 3, Galactic Civilizations III up to 28% off

May 16 // Dealzon
Top Deals Witchin' Deals The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — $36 at GMG  Use code: 40OFFW-ITCHER-DEALZN The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — $42.99 at DLGamer  (list price $60) The Witcher 3 + $10 Rewards (PS4, Xbox One) — $59.99 The Witcher 3 + $10 Xbox Gift Card (Xbox One) — $59.99 More Top Deals Galactic Civilizations III (Steam) — $39  (list price $50) Xbox One Master Chief Bundle + 2 Games + $100 eGift Card — $379.99  (list $450) Monster Hunter 4: Ultimate (3DS) — $29.99  (list price $40) Tomb Raider GOTY Edition (Steam) — $4.68  (list price $30) Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition (Steam) — $4.68  (list price $30) Thief (Steam) — $4.68  (list price $30) Recent Releases 05/12: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (Steam) — $12.48  (list price $16) 05/06: Project Cars (Steam) — $36.99  (list price $50) 05/05: Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (Steam) — $15.60  (list price $20) 04/30: Block N Load (Steam) — $9.94  (list price $15) 04/21: Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China (Uplay) — $7.95  (list price $11) Upcoming Releases 05/26: Magicka 2 (Steam) — $11.70  (list price $15) 06/23: Batman: Arkham Knight Premium Edition — $70.19  (list price $100) 06/23: Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward — $31.20  (list price $40) 06/23: Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition (Steam) — $19.50  (list price $25) PC Game Deals Just Cause 3 (Steam) — $42.12  (list price $60) Ultra Street Fighter IV (Steam) — $14.44  (list price $30) World of Diving (Steam) — $13.29  (list price $20) Spintires (Steam) — $12.95  (list price $30) DMC: Devil May Cry (Steam) — $10.62  (list price $50) Red Faction Collection (Steam) — $10.19  (list price $60) Darksiders Franchise Pack (Steam) — $9.34  (list price $60) Remember Me (Steam) — $6.37  (list price $30) Enemy Front (Steam) — $5.85  (list price $30) Thief: Master Thief Edition (Steam) — $5.15  (list price $33) Demonicon: The Dark Eye (Steam) — $4.68  (list price $40) Killing Floor (Steam) — $3.90  (list price $20) XCOM: Enemy Unknown (Steam) — $3.51  (list price $30) Console Game Deals Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (PS4, Xbox One) — $47.99  (list price $60) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (PS4, Xbox One) — $47.99  (list price $60) Dying Light (PS4, Xbox One) — $39.99  (list price $60) Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360, PS3) — $29.99  (list price $60) The Crew (PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360) — $29.99  (list price $40) Skyrim Legendary Edition (Xbox 360, PS3) — $19.99  (list price $30) PS4 Borderlands: The Handsome Collection (PS4) — $47.99  (list price $60) Destiny (PS4) — $28.49  (list price $50) Xbox One Mortal Kombat X (Xbox One) — $44.99  (list price $60) Xbox Live 12 Month Gold (Digital Code) — $40.95  (list price $60) Xbox Live Gold 3 Month (Digital Code) — $16.95  (list price $25) Minecraft (Xbox One) — $14.99  (list price $20) Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Xbox One) — $9.99  (list price $20) Misc Console Deals Borderlands 2 (PS Vita) — $19.99  (list price $40) Freedom Wars (PS Vita) — $19.99  (list price $30) The Walking Dead: Season 2 (PS Vita) — $14.99  (list price $30) The Wolf Among Us (PS Vita) — $9.99  (list price $30) Laptop Deals 15.6" HP Omen 15t, i7-4710HQ, GTX 860M, 256GB — $1,049.99  (list $1,600) 14" Lenovo Yoga 3, i7-5500U, 8GB, 256GB SSD — $949  (list $1,250) 15.6" Lenovo Z51-70, i7-5500U, 8GB, Radeon R9 M375 — $829  (list $1,080) 11.6" MacBook Air, i5-5250U, 128GB SSD — $749.99  (list $900) HDTV Deals 49" LG 4K 3D LED TV with webOS + $200 eGift Card — $999  (list price $1,699) 60" Sony 1080p 120hz Smart LED HDTV — $889.99  (list price $1,799) 55" Vizio 1080p Smart LED HDTV — $597.99  (list price $798) 48" Sony 1080p Smart TV + $150 eGift Card — $498  (list price $528) Hardware Deals PlayStation 4 + Last of Us Remastered + PlayStation TV — $399.99  (list $400) Nintendo 3DS XL + Case (Blue, Red, Black) — $149.99  (list $175) Samsung 850 EVO SSD 2.5" 1TB MZ-75E1T0B/AM — $336.34  (list $450) Crucial M500 Series SSD 2.5" 960GB — $279.99  (list $520) AMD Radeon R7 Series SSD 2.5" 240GB — $99.99  (list $165)
Weekend deals photo
Now where's my $500 GPU...
Update 5/27: A new 40% off coupon has sprung up on The Witcher 3. Use code 40OFFW-ITCHER-DEALZN at checkout at GMG and drop the price to $36. The The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is finally releasing next week May 19th...

Review: Stretchmo

May 15 // Chris Carter
Stretchmo (3DS)Developers: Intelligent SystemsPublisher: NintendoReleased: May 14, 2015Price: Free-to-play with microtransactions ($9.99 for everything) The way Stretchmo's microtransaction setup works is very confusing at first glance. Initially, you'll have access to a select few intro puzzles. After that, there's one 100 level pack for $4.99, three 50 level packs for $2.99 each, and the option to buy all of them for $9.99 upfront. If you buy each add-on individually, there's a small discount for purchasing more. My guess is that the series didn't perform as well as Nintendo would have hoped outside of Japan, so they want to give international players a chance to "get a taste" for a few bucks. Whatever the case may be, it's not a bad idea as it basically functions as a demo, outside of the fact that there is no way to sample individual packs. As for the game itself, it's pretty much business as usual outside of one new addition. Our heroes will have to solve various block puzzles and reach a predetermined goal (usually at the top of the heap) by pulling and pushing them into submission to create new paths to jump and cross. In this edition you'll have the power to "stretch," blocks on the side, which actually adds quite a bit of depth to the proceedings. You'll soon learn that blocks can be manipulated in a multitude of different ways from every single angle, creating some of the most taxing puzzles yet. Intelligent Systems also brought back the convenient zoom feature, as well as the effective 3D technique, which makes it very easy to move about each creation. Beyond that one new mechanic Stretchmo's gimmick is found in its various level packs, which all have a different theme and character. The 100 core levels are hosted by Mallo, and are actually the easiest of the bunch -- some of which are even remedial. If you enjoy the core Pushmo experience, I'd recommend picking them up, but they aren't anything special. [embed]292153:58540:0[/embed] Poppy is next in line, with items that are themed after real-life objects. While her 50-stage gauntlet has a bit of charm to it it's only marginally more difficult than Mallo's adventure, and I wouldn't say that it's essential in any way. Corin on the other hand kills it with the Fortress of Fun. This add-on brings in more gadgets, including full-on enemy characters to deal with. They remind me of the Sackbots from the Little Big Planet series in that they're crudely designed and only sport a base-level AI, but they're probably the most innovative addition to the series yet, because nearly every level is crafted around avoiding them and jumping on their heads. It adds a degree of twitch action that wasn't really present before. Papa is the last pack in the bunch, and his theme is old NES classics. You'll find levels designed around retro art like an 8-bit Mario head, much like the maps that so many players have created and shared on their own. This add-on however has the benefit of being the most difficult set of levels in the game, and when you add in the stretch ability, I'd be comfortable with making the claim that they're actually some of the biggest challenges in the entire series. For those who are interested, yes, Stretchmo still has a creation studio (that's enabled after you make one purchase). It can read QR codes just like the old iterations, and your gadget unlocks are tied directly to your progress in each pack. In other words, if you want enemies you'll have to buy Corin's levels, and so on. [embed]292153:58557:0[/embed] While all of this is generally pretty great, there are a few downgrades in comparison to the previous version. In particular, the Pushmo World Fair feature from the Wii U release is sorely missed. Although the idea of socially sharing your QR codes with one another is cool, I loved the ability to instantly jump in and casually browse through online creations, even if I didn't play all of them. I also miss the screen real estate provided by the GamePad, which has since spoiled me. Still, the new concepts presented in two of the level packs (Fortress of Fun and NES Expo) make up for it. If you've never given Pushmo a fair shake before, trying out the free stages in Stretchmo is a great way to start. While I'd generally recommend going the full mile and buying the whole thing outright, you can also just spring for the Fortress of Fun for a few bucks and come out on top. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Strechmo review photo
Sure, I'll push some mo'
Nintendo has been silently crafting some killer franchises over the years. While he may not light up sales as much as Mario, after four years, I'd consider Pushmo's Mallo to be a fully-fledged Nintendo character. Now he's back in his fourth game on the 3DS in the form of Stretchmo, which adopts a rather odd free-to-play scheme that essentially functions as a demo.

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster on PS4 looks better than ever, but has major problems

May 14 // Brett Zeidler
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (PS Vita, PS3, PS4 [tested])Developer: Square EnixPublisher: Square EnixReleased: May 12, 2015MSRP: $49.99 In terms of the entire package, the PS4 version is the exact same compilation as the original remaster release. The international versions of both base games, Eternal Calm, Last Mission, and the super weird audio drama are all here. Nothing in terms of gameplay content was added or removed. However, there appears to be an alteration or a major bug affecting FFX's random number generation. People even more keen than myself on FFX have noticed the RNG system is completely broken in the PS4 version. Random encounters and events are supposed to be, well, random. However, this is no longer the case in this version. Encounters always occur when they are supposed to, they will always have the same enemies, and the battles will always play out exactly the same way. No matter how many times the game is reset, the occurrence and outcome of encounters or events that involve the RNG system are set in stone. This has a drastic affect in key aspects of the game. Say you're having trouble on a specific boss, and if you could just land that twenty-second hit it would change the tide of battle for you. Well, the bad news is on the PS4 version you're always going to miss that twenty-second hit as it stands. Additionally, this changes ribbon farming, blitzball, and likely everything else that involves RNG. I couldn't test every aspect of this, but I could easily predict down to the second when my first battle against two Chimera would occur during one of my saves in the Calm Lands. I could have tracked this up to as many subsequent "random" encounters as I wished. I checked the exact same save file on PS3, and encounters were always random. FFX-2 does not appear to have this problem. [embed]292113:58550:0[/embed] A major complaint of the PS3 and Vita release was the new rearranged soundtrack. It seemed a lot of people simply outright hated its existence, whereas others would have at least preferred the choice to switch to the original soundtrack. Thankfully, players now have that option at any point during their playthrough. I actually really enjoyed the remaster soundtrack, but on my current playthrough it's been nice to use the original. It sounds amazing. The Besaid Village theme in particular sounded the best even back in 2001. Unfortunately, the background music system also has a major bug in the PS4 release. Background music on the PS2, PS3, and Vita versions continued playing where the track left off once a battle occurred, but now this is no longer the case. For a game like FFX that has a ton of random encounters, you will likely only ever hear the first ten or twenty seconds of a track unless you stop and listen to the music. It appears to have to do with how the soundtrack switching system was implemented, affecting both FFX and FFX-2. The soundtracks sound amazing, which makes this bug so unfortunate. Hopefully it can easily be fixed in a future patch. Cross-Save was a great feature of the PS3 and Vita version, and it's been extended here for the PS4 version. Once a particular game is fired up, all old saves that were stored in the cloud previously can be accessed just as quickly and easily as before. It took me less than a few minutes to install the game, start up Final Fantasy X, load a save from awhile back, and instantly pick up right where I had left off at that point. That's pretty cool. The PS4 version of the remaster has even more enhanced visuals, which is pretty amazing considering how incredible and smooth the game looked on PS3. To check this, I started a fresh playthrough on both consoles on the same television and played them alongside each other. The PS4 does have a slight graphical enhancement overall, but I really only noticed it because I was looking for it. There's a sort of extra crispness to the PS4 version, and the occasional aliasing issues that were still on the PS3 version are gone here. It's not a major overhaul, but the improvements are there. Additionally, Square claims more NPCs and monsters received enhanced models. I didn't notice any of these in my current playthrough (it's really hard to just stumble upon these without knowing specifically which were enhanced), but seeing poor-looking character models in the same scenes with enhanced ones was a big complaint, so it's nice to know this was addressed in some fashion. However, some other major complaints were not addressed at all. Cutscenes, for whatever reason, are still not skippable and there's no option to toggle between the old character models and the remastered ones. These types of things don't detract from my experience, but they were definitely huge complaints upon release last year, and it's unfortunate they weren't taken care of here. Some of those cutscenes are really long, man. As is stands, the PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is not the definitive version of the compilation. Even for super fans of Final Fantasy X, it's hard to recommend a version of their favorite game that has broken RNG, a background music bug, and still no skippable cutscenes no matter how beautiful the game looks or how incredibly fast it loads now. With an MSRP of $50 it's also a really hard sell to a brand-new player when the other two versions are currently so much cheaper, even more so if they already own one of those two versions (especially since they launched at $40). The PS3 version does lack the original soundtrack, but other than that it offers the truest experience of Final Fantasy X and X-2. If you must have it on PS4 or that's your only option, I'd honestly recommend waiting for the RNG and background music issues to hopefully be patched soon and the inevitable price drop. If those two major issues are ever fixed, the PlayStation 4 version of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster would easily be the definitive package.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 PS4 photo
Spira never felt so good
Barely over a year after its original release on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster makes its way to the PlayStation 4. A remaster of a remaster, if you will. However, the original releas...

Review: Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition

May 14 // Chris Carter
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition (3DS)Developer: GungHo Online EntertainmentPublisher: GungHo Online Entertainment (JP) / Nintendo (EU, US)Released: April 29, 2015 (JP) / May 8, 2015 (EU) / May 22, 2015 (US)MSRP: $29.99 It's not just a checkmark on the side of a game box -- this 3DS package really is two full games in one. You'll get the traditional Puzzle & Dragons experience with Z, as well as a Super Mario Bros.-centric romp. But even the former feels like it was severely influenced by Nintendo, which is definitely a good thing. In the world of Z, Dragon Tamers roam the land in search of adventure, much like Pokémon Trainers. Hell, it even has the option to choose between a male and female protagonist, and the story starts off in your house with a conversation with your mom. It gets even more on the nose from there with a "D-Gear" instead of a Pokédex, and the presentation of red, blue, and green monsters as your first party members. Truth be told, despite how familiar this setup is, and how much the generic story drags at times, it's far more endearing than the gambling nature of the free-to-play mobile game. The events of the story are set in motion by a massive earthquake from the evil organization Team Rocket Paradox, but the world is more captivating than the actual characters or events involved -- odds are you'll be skipping a lot of dialogue. Thankfully, the creature designs in Puzzle & Dragons are interesting to fight and discover, as they look wholly unique, and even while battling static monsters with just a few animations on-screen the game still has a ton of charm. If you do happen to dig the story though, you'll quickly suffer a degree of disappointment, as it takes a backseat in favor of dungeon crawling and constant battling. [embed]291810:58494:0[/embed] Remember, the core principle is to match three orbs on a grid to damage your enemies. You'll drag and drop them on the bottom screen using your stylus, and said orbs will initiate attacks based on elements that you match. So for instance, a simple activation of three fire orbs will kick off a small fire attack from your appropriate party members, but a huge combo of red and blue will see a stronger counter from multiple party members. Matching more than three will also queue up more devastating attacks, and so on -- you've seen this before. Puzzle & Dragons does have a few nuances in place to differentiate itself though, like an active time gauge to keep you on your toes (allowing you to create combos while you're at it), the ability to target specific enemies with the D-pad, and a rock-paper-scissors mechanic with the elements involved. It also has a light amount of party building, as the best way to succeed is to diversify your setup to allow the most coverage in terms of orb attacks. Each character also has a super that can be used every so often, like a direct-damage power or an ability to change up colors of specific orbs. It's not incredibly deep, but there's some meat to it, especially when you pick up more characters and start making decisions on who to use, as well as who to upgrade, and who to sacrifice to make existing party members stronger. As it turns out, the Super Mario Bros. portion of the game is fairly remedial. If you've never played a match-three before or have children, you'll want to play this one first. It has the same basic gameplay, but with a new "story" that involves Mario and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom, including the lovable Koopa Kids. As usual the plot is fast-tracked here, with Bowser once again capturing Peach due to the power of "mysterious orbs" from the P & D franchise. That swift pace carries on throughout the experience, and it's rather jarring to go from the sprawling Z to this.Remedial as it may be, it has some challenging spots, and it's still worth playing if you dig puzzle games. The thrill of building a party is still present, and although the world isn't all that engaging (it feels as lifeless as the first "New" game on DS), most Nintendo fans won't pass up the chance to fight and capture classic characters like Goombas or Piranha Plants. It's disappointing that the Mario part isn't as fleshed out, but it's more excusable when you add in the fact that the core Z experience is worth the price of entry alone.Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition isn't likely to wow anyone, but it's a pretty comprehensive package that would make a great gift to any match-three addict. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Puzzle & Dragons review photo
Two games in one
Puzzle & Dragons came out some time ago in 2012, and has since taken the world by storm. Although its origins started as a humble match-three puzzle game, GungGo Online cleverly added in slot machine-like addictive qualit...

Review: Not a Hero

May 14 // Steven Hansen
Not a Hero (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4, PS Vita)Developers: Roll7Publisher: Devolver DigitalReleased: May 14, 2015Price: $12.99 BunnyLord, a rabbit from the future, is running for mayor to prevent humanity from some sort of possibly bee-related extinction on a campaign of hunting down and murdering various crime bosses. His mayoral bid starts with his campaign manager, Steve, and gunman join the cause with rising poll numbers. The health bar shared by Not a Hero's nine playable characters is only a few ticks. It regenerates rather quickly when you're not being shot, but you're often being shot, and one bad volley of enemy fire can kill you immediately. This frailty, which feels more "retro" than the pixel art in and of itself, is mitigated with a cover system, the crutch of the contemporary third-person shooter. Movement here is just as key as shooting, so there is a slide button that you can contextually release before pieces of cover to snap to safety. Shooting while in cover automatically exposes you and enemies can still come head-on and give you a thwack lest you think you can reload in absolute peace. You can play sheepishly -- and cover is helpful when you're down to the last tick of the health bar -- but are not encouraged to. Shots at close range do critical damage while sliding into enemies will knock them out and allow you to perform executions. The result is a cover-supported game rather than a cover-based game. It's there to be used when you're not slide tackling and brutally stabbing folks to death room to room. Your tactics are as brazen as the boss' campaign, which includes perpetuating the war on drugs, rescuing pandas, giving bees to the children, and shooting a not-insignificant amount of police officers. Established trends voters are for. [embed]292134:58536:0[/embed] There are power ups and limited secondary weapon pickups to go along with the nine characters, all of which except the last two feel distinct from one another. There were some power ups I tended to avoid, especially after unlocking an assassin with a devastating, but slow to reload, double barrel shotgun. Coupled with the quick reload power up, the only one not limited to one magazine worth of ammo, it's hard to beat. That same character is quick with a rapid slide which did end in some undue-feeling fall deaths. When I had to jet down a descending series of rooftops, it felt about as precarious as playing a 3D platformer. You can change direction midair which is great for busting out of a window and then busting into one on the floor below, but occasionally I found myself careening forwards to death despite feeling like I'd moved the stick the other way. Having multiple buildings to flit between and different points of entry keeps every multi-floored stage from feeling like a Donkey Kong zigzag to the top, but running or sliding in between any open spaces that weren't perfectly in line with each other just feels a bit off. Additionally, there's just the three visually distinct areas -- the first two of which are even more similar outside of the color swap -- that fall in line with Not a Hero's general flattened action tropes and references. First, it's the Eastern European shipping underbelly. Then it's off to the "urban" (read: dark skinned enemies) area, in an apparent reversal of the first two seasons of The Wire. One of the player characters is Spanish, named Jesus. He wears bright pink, is in a permanent hip thrust animation, and sounds more like Al Pacino doing a Cuban accent in Scarface. Meanwhile the black guy pulls extra magazines out of his afro. On the other hand, the rest of the cast are regional UK in-jokes. The most visually distinct area is the Yakuza-boss-run, an Asian-themed one (much of it related to a sushi restaurant run by bossman Unagi) that also introduces one-hit-kill samurai and ninja, as well as triad folks doing combat barks sometimes not in English, sometimes with thick accents. It also introduces timed door locks which are antithetical to momentum and are often situated at hall ends, meaning you've already done all the murdering on the way there and are waiting for nothing to move on to the next level. And while BunnyLord makes for a unique employer, the extreme irreverence is sometimes amusing and sometimes feels like a forced @dril imitation. There's a bit too much, "Look, it's so random!" at times, like a deadpan presentation of Borderlands 2. More importantly, BunnyLord gives post-mission and pre-mission monologues back to back and to keep the comedic timing you can't just read the text boxes more quickly. It's either wait for the slow text crawl hoping for payoff or just skip it entirely and go shooting. I often went with the latter. Each stage has three optional objectives, too, that go towards determining BunnyLord's political station. Apparently mayor doesn't cut it. But while I completed most everything in the first two areas on my way up from mayor to prime minister to King of England to Global Megalord, I'm stuck as mayor overall. The third act ratchets up the difficulty a lot. I almost spent as much time in the last and third from last stages as I have everywhere else. And I still haven't been able to complete any of the side-goals in the last level, which is basically a boss fight followed by a level, with no checkpoint. It's a bit of a pain, but given how quickly I breezed through a majority of the game, perhaps those more challenging, borderline frustrating bits add to the longevity of what is a pretty lean little game. Translating cover shooters into 2D makes for a good  mix of contemporary and classic sensibilities. It's nice to play a shooter where avoiding enemy bullets is a bit more necessary and I like the tools Not a Hero provides with its slick cover system, mechanically varied cast, and constant chain of slide kicks and executions. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Not a Hero review photo
I can be your hero, baby
Roll7 has received much adulation distilling skateboarding into pixel-based 2D fun with OlliOlli so it's not surprising that the team has been able to do the same with cover-based shooting. But OlliOlli's pixels belie the pol...

Newstoid, a Smash 4 guide by ZeRo, exclusive Bloodstained art, and more

May 13 // Jonathan Holmes
We've also got announcements related to our digital/print magazine with GameFan. We're in the process of generating some exclusive artwork from Bloodstained for our cover, an all new full color Arem comic by Corey "Reyyy" Lewis, an exclusive preview of Metal Gear Solid V, and a very special Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS mini-guide by Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios.  And that's not the half of it! I wish we always had the opportunity to pop the hood and show you what we're cranking away, but any time spent opening the hood is time that could have been spent cranking. Thanks as always for cranking along with us, and please stay tuned for more announcements coming soon.   
Newstoid photo
Newstoid, a Smash 4 guide by ZeRo,
Destructoid is a lot like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. It may look like just another unpredictable carnival of joy and horror on the surface, but behind the scenes, there are hordes of even more wonderful, horrible thing...

Review: Knights of Pen & Paper 2

May 13 // Zack Furniss
Knights of Pen & Paper 2 (Android, iPhone [reviewed], PC)Developer: Kyy GamesPublisher: Paradox InteractiveReleased: May 14, 2015Price: $4.99 (Android, iPhone) Knights of Pen & Paper 2 takes the concept of tabletop gaming and squashes it into something that fits comfortably in your pocket. Miniatures, character sheets, and multiple reference books aren't required to enjoy the world of Paperos. Instead, you'll play as both the dungeon master and up to five adventurers. As dungeon master, you will set up encounters, choosing where your quest will lead and how many/what type of enemies the adventurers will fight. Adventurers must be created by making choices in three different categories: the player's high-school archetype, their character's race, and their character's class. Each choice factors into the adventurer's combat prowess. That's a picture of my cheerleader dwarf barbarian up there for reference. The core stats are now based on the three 20-sided die you see above: red is body, green is senses, and blue is mind. Body determines damage, threat, and how quickly you shake off status effects. Senses is in charge of critical hits, initiative, and attribute rolls. Mind rolls affect health, energy, and your success when you try to investigate an area to find secret items. It's always satisfying to watch these little dice roll, and I'm glad to see they made the stats a bit more clear this time around. After assembling your party, you begin your quest to stop the Paper Knight, a player who is using the 2nd edition of the role-playing game against the wishes of the dungeon master. The residents of Paperos are suffering from the clashing of the 1st and 2nd editions and it is up to you to restore the balance. Having any familiarity with how drastically different editions can be between actual tabletop games goes a long way towards how much you'll get out of Knights' plot. To reach the Paper Knight, you're going to be fighting all manner of beasts ranging from lowly snakes to sky pirates. The turn-based combat has been beefed up since the first game, where the tactics mostly boiled down to finding your favorite ability and putting all of your skill points into it. Character classes still feature four abilities each, but it no longer feels like there's only one obvious choice. The sequel is more focused on status effects such as wound, weakness, stun, and poison. I was happy to find that the RPG sin of useless status effects wasn't implemented here -- the majority of enemies can be targeted by these abilities, and they even begin to feel necessary as the plot progresses.  Spamming one high-level spell isn't the only way to win anymore. My fights frequently went something like this: my Ninja would throw a smoke bomb to stun a crowd, my Thief would throw a barrage of knives to do double damage to the stunned enemies, and then my Warrior would cleave through a row of enemies. My Paladin would hold the threat from remaining monsters and my Mage would finish them off with chain lightning. The variety of character classes helps to reduce repetition, though I eventually got tired of the random encounters sparked by traveling on the world map (there's a roll for that too, of course). Like any good RPG, there is equipment to find and buy, though the crafting system is somewhat odd. While the first Knights had you waiting for real-time hours to pass before you could upgrade a weapon, you can now combine certain items to make better weapons and armor. What's strange is that by the time I had finished the campaign, there were still only a few recipes and I hadn't even seen a couple of the items that could be used. You are able to combine a weapon with an enchantment scroll and a charm to improve its stats, but I never found any charms, at least to my knowledge. It feels as if there are going to be more items to find later on when more content is added. Knights 2 isn't heavy on microtransactions like the first. Though you can buy gold to create more adventurers first or to buy better gear, it never feels required. Kyy Games has found a fun way to provide more content along the way that doesn't force you to pay real money. At any time you can press a magazine button in the top-left corner to see this month's edition of Modern Dungeon, an in-game tome that allows you to buy new character classes, archetypes, and trinkets while also providing silly lore. You can grind for in-game currency to buy these, and there's supposed to be an issue every month. I'll be checking in June to see what's been added. Paperos looks clean and crisp in the new 16-bit style. I played most of it in portrait mode because the interface is larger, but it does cut off most of the environments and I ended up missing some details. Landscape mode is better on the eyes but the buttons become so small that they are difficult to consistently and accurately press. The music is simple and catchy but much too repetitive. I hope you like hearing the same five songs over and over.  I can't help but wish that the jokes were kept to being about the intricacies of editions in Dungeons & Dragons instead of trying to be "sooo random." I realize humor is subjective, but hearing players accuse the dungeon master of making things up on the spot is more entertaining than finding a pixelated Bill Murray who wants your help to "bust" a "geese" because he's a geesebuster. Between Game of Thrones puns and trolls engaging in Internet-speak, I found myself rolling my eyes more than chuckling. If you're a Family Guy fan you'll probably find a lot to love here, but I'm judging you right now. Knights of Pen & Paper 2 is by no means a serious game, and this lightness can be as refreshing as it can be annoying. The refinement of the combat has gone a long way to mitigate the tedium of the first game, but the humor and plot won't do much to keep you engaged. I had enough fun with it that I'm looking forward to next month's Modern Dungeon. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] http://www.destructoid.com//ul/292095-/barbarian-noscale.jpg
Knights of Pen & Paper 2 photo
Fun, but it ain't funny
I played the majority of the original Knights of Pen & Paper on various toilets within the boundaries of Southern California. It was an enjoyable if shallow take on pen-and-paper RPGs with some cringe-worthy, referen...

Review: Action Henk

May 13 // Jordan Devore
Action Henk (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: RageSquidPublisher: RageSquidReleased: May 11, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Action Henk, who I desperately want to call Action Hank, is past his prime. He's a toy, and a middle-aged, beer-bellied one at that. If you played this game back when it was on Steam Early Access, you can dress him up as a certain ring-carrying blue hedgehog. More than just a fun nod, it fits. There are hints of Sonic the Hedgehog in how Henk builds up his speed, how he roars through loops, and also in the chipper, infectious music. But for as fast as Henk moves, and he is always moving (or you're messing up), it's not hard to follow him, and he doesn't get lost in the chaos. Ghosts are a big help in that regard. Even on your first time through a level, you can race alongside an AI ghost, allowing you to see precisely what it takes to achieve a bronze, silver, or gold medal before executing the winning strategy yourself. This cuts out a fair amount of guesswork and, as a result, unnecessary (see: cheap-feeling) failures. [embed]292039:58519:0[/embed] It's not just running across wooden blocks and vaulting over the (lava) floor of a messy kid's bedroom. Crucially, our aging action hero can slide down ramps to pick up extra speed. Knowing precisely when to start and stop sliding makes all the difference on the leaderboards, as those fractions of a second add up rapidly. It's hard to put into words how enjoyable the movement system is, so I'll just say this: some 70 levels later, it doesn't let up. I'm still digging it. Eventually, Henk comes across a Hookshot, though it's only usable in select levels. Which makes sense, given that the device demands bigger, more open-ended environments to accommodate its huge range. It fits in so well with the existing physics and feel of Action Henk. Flying off a ramp and firing the shot at the exact right moment to fling Henk directly forward is a never-ending joy. The way the device is introduced partway through the game led me to believe there might be more abilities or items later on but, sadly, there aren't. There are more characters to unlock, though. Stages are capped off with a head-to-head race against another toy -- beat them, and they'll join your side. By earning every gold medal for a stage, you'll unlock a coin collection level. These are more compact than the standard fare but they're also less linear. The challenge is primarily in figuring out the best possible route to grab every coin within the time limit. Clear these levels, and you'll earn a new character skin (including one reminiscent of Michael Jackson from "Thriller"). Even if I didn't have the goofy Sonic outfit for Henk, I probably would've stuck with him anyway. I found most of the other characters grotesque. Besides racing against AI and player ghosts, there's also a separate multiplayer mode complete with a chat room. Here, you're competing against other people in real time. You can redo the course as often as you'd like until you're satisfied with your score or the clock runs out. While it's the same old levels from single-player, there's a greater sense of urgency and competition. Finally, there's a level builder with Steam Workshop support. The editor is quick and intuitive to use thanks in large part to the simplicity of the user interface and building blocks. Just drag, drop, copy, and paste pieces onto the screen until you've cobbled together an obstacle course. It's that straightforward. Making something worth sharing will take more time, of course. Barring the final, post-credits set of levels -- which is absolutely brutal -- it shouldn't take more than a few hours to get through Action Henk with decent rankings. Although the game doesn't outstay its welcome, that can be difficult to appreciate. I was left wanting more, particularly in terms of level variety, but the essence of the game is great. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Action Henk review photo
Toy story
Going into Action Henk, a time-trial platforming game starring action figures, I expected to grow frustrated. I figured that once the training wheels came off, the challenge would rise to a point where perfection, or somethin...

Review: TowerFall: Dark World

May 13 // Chris Carter
TowerFall: Dark World (PC, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: Matt ThorsonPublisher: MattMakesGames Release Date: May 12, 2015MSRP: $9.99 The main draw for the this $10 add-on is the full four-player "Co-op" mode. It aims to improve upon the existing "Quest Mode," which previously was limited to two people at a time. While the original Quest is still alive and well, co-op actually feels like a legitimate campaign (albeit without a story), with a clearer view of progression for each level set, culminating in a boss battle. Oh, and just like before, you can play it by yourself if you want. Here, you can resurrect teammates by standing near their corpse for a few seconds, and the enemy waves feel more relentless and unique. It helps that there are more variations out there to deal with, from baddies that explode after their death, to doppelgangers, to these projectile-heavy...floating things that will annoy the hell out of you. On Normal mode all four sets of levels will probably take you an hour or so to clear. There are only four bosses on offer, but they're all fun to fight in their own way -- especially the final encounter, which strips you of your ability to fire arrows for most of the fight. These big bads are particularly tantalizing with multiple team members fluttering about the map, resurrecting each other en masse. With three difficulty levels to choose from (Normal, Hardcore, or Legendary, with the latter two limiting your continues), I can see myself coming back for the challenge every so often, especially with friends. [embed]292091:58527:0[/embed] Of course, the real draw here is the core deathmatch mode, which has been improved as a result of the expansion. Two new arrow types have been added, my favorite of which is the remote arrow -- a Bomberman-like attack that can be detonated at will. It even has an alt-fire (Circle instead of Square) that lets you lay down more than one. This one mechanic would be enough to deal with on its own, but when you add in the fact that other players can dash into the arrow before it's triggered to steal it, things get a bit more complicated. The Prism Arrow is also pretty fun, as it traps someone in a box if they try to snatch it out of the air. There's just so much more to learn, and the game is all the better for it. TowerFall's option toggles are also insanely detailed, allowing you to switch out every weapon a la Smash Bros., as well as change-up pretty much everything else, including the implementation of automatic handicaps, slow-mo, "there's always lava," and forcing the arena to always appear dark. My personal favorite is the "scrolling" option, which makes every level look like it's a traditional platforming level -- it works very well with the new DLC stages. It doesn't actually change the arena into a full-on adventure, as the level stays the same since players will simply warp to the other side if they "fall off," but it constantly keeps you on your toes -- particularly on vertically designed stages, where you can theoretically fall forever, fighting it out in the air. Other extras including 10 more characters and new time trials. While the actual archers themselves don't have any unique powers and are more like skins, and the trials feel like par for the course, they're nice additions all the same. For the record, the game still doesn't have online play. If you haven't picked up TowerFall yet, go get it. If you like it, then buy Dark World. It's that simple. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
TowerFall DLC review photo
How high does this tower ascend?
TowerFall quickly became the go-to arena game in my household, especially after it hit the PlayStation 4. While there has been a resurgence of the genre lately with new classics like Samurai Gunn and heavy-hitters l...

Review: NERO

May 13 // Brett Makedonski
NERO (Xbox One [reviewed], PC, Wii U, 3DS)Developers: Storm in a TeacupPublisher: ID@XboxReleased: May 15, 2015 (Xbox One), TBA (PC, Wii U, 3DS)Price: $19.99 But to spend a little more time in NERO's world is a wondrous thing. The omnipresent phosphorescent set-dressing strikes a dissonant chord against the subject material, but works in an odd mutuality. When hope seems like it's sure to slip away forever, the aesthetic inspires in an underlying way. Hey, maybe things will turn out all right after all. As this is a foray through a child's mind who's going through uncertain realities, nothing about NERO is metaphorically black and white. The journey is paced however you see fit. Meandering about is enticing, as everything about it begs for exploration. Backtracking is likely to occur often, as you realize you've been staring at the lustrous sky for too long and forgot to pay attention to your surroundings. Every time this happens, you'll fall a little more in love with NERO. Wandering off the beaten path has its benefits beyond taking in more scenery. NERO is a first-person puzzle-solving game, but it can be very light on the latter if you so choose. The majority of the puzzles are tucked away in areas that aren't even necessary to venture to. Those who opt to complete these brain-teasers will be awarded with an extra slice of narrative. [embed]292028:58522:0[/embed] Honestly, those who take the quick and narrow path through NERO are robbing themselves -- not just of a few puzzles, but of the core experience. It's a game where you slowly figure out that aimless wandering is the aim. It's something that requires some marinating, soaking in the world to fully appreciate it. Approaching NERO with a destination in mind is a mindset that will result in disappointment. Likewise, those who appreciate clearly drawn lines will similarly feel frustration. NERO is intentionally ambiguous at all times about its narrative, but its tone is always striking. Different thematic accents constantly punctuate different scenes; the ones that don't happen to arch over the course of the entire journey. For all the discussion it's sure to raise regarding plot, it's undoubtedly a story of love and loss, grief and guilt, companionship and family, and coping when the world is so goddamn unfair. All that being said, NERO isn't perfect. Detractors will knock it for a short run-time, flat textures, frame rate stutters, and lack of puzzle variety. However, isolating those issues is akin to missing the forest for the trees. There's something greater at play here, and letting yourself become immersed in NERO will likely render those shortcomings moot. Even after finishing, it's difficult to pin NERO down to a concept or feeling that's easy to explain. It's a game that prioritizes emotion above all else, and it does so wonderfully. But as the boy at the heart of this tale learns, emotions are tough to understand, and thus NERO is tough to understand. You'll just know that you felt something, and that sensation alone is worth the journey.
NERO review photo
A strange and distant land
I don't know why I kept playing NERO. That's not a statement meant to express disdain. I literally don't know what -- but something -- drew me to keep trekking through this sad, enamoring world. Its gravitas has a gravity abo...

Review: Invisible, Inc.

May 12 // Steven Hansen
Invisible, Inc. (PC [reviewed], Mac)Developers: Klei EntertainmentPublisher: Klei EntertainmentReleased: May 12, 2015Price: $19.99 Stealth games often offer two tonal paths. You are ill-equipped, powerless and possibly stay that way (horror), or you are preternaturally talented, improving stats and skills further until you are Batman-like (most "detective mode" games). Invisible, Inc. gives you all the information needed to succeed. Sight lines are obvious and clear. Enemy routes can be precisely observed (for 1 AP). You can peek around corners or behind doors (again, 1 AP). And you have the Incognita system which can hack devices -- cameras, turrets, item machines -- to help you complete your infiltrations. Screw ups aren't twitch-based dissonance, like frantically steering Snake into a wall when spotted. What you butt up against, then, is a series of balanced checks that gives you tools to succeed and becomes about execution. Hacking requires power, which can be stolen from consoles or generated once per turn (with the default Incognita setup). Agent movement is limited by action points. Hastily enter a door and you may be exposed, without enough AP to set up behind cover. Peek and observe the patrol route of the guard next door and you may find that he is coming right to where you are, your melee stun device is still recharging, and you no longer have the AP needed to get back into cover. And if you think the answer is to take things slow, creeping along a few squares at a time, know that each procedurally generated stage has an alarm that raises by one tick each turn. Every time the alarm goes up a full level, you'll be facing additional cameras or extra, better outfitted guards, or higher power costs when hacking.  [embed]291971:58506:0[/embed] All the systems are at odds with each other and it is exhilarating. You want to find the exit quickly, before things get too difficult to handle, yet the whole point of your infiltration to to quickly prepare for a big standoff, which means it's better to steal all the credits and gear that you can, to explore every room. You have to spend power to open safes, but also to rewire cameras or turrets, things that can more presently do you in. But not doing enough, not filching everything, feels like it will do you in in the long run, too. Credits buy you new gear, which becomes necessary for dealing with tougher enemies, but it's also what you spend to upgrade your agents' movement distance, ability to gain more power from consoles, and so on. It's elegant as hell. A commensurate arms race. You fly around the world, eating hours off the countdown clock. If you take a harder ranked mission, you're more likely to lose, but if you don't, will you be able to win in the long run? For every "2x armor piercing stun baton" you pick up, the next stage could have 3 times armored enemies. There are killing weapons, too. They're good because the enemies won't wake up a couple turns later (they stay incapacitated if an agent is physically pinning them down), but have limited ammo, raise the alarm level more quickly, and leave you paying a bit of "cleaner costs." Decisions, decisions. I love the constant duress and how many options you have. While all the stages are procedurally generated, you do have some idea of what you're getting into, depending on the type of infiltration (going for a vault? a terminal with locations of more points of interest? an executive's suite?) and the particular company (one is particularly robot heavy, rendering your knock out sticks useless) whose site you're breaking into. There's wiggle room. You decide what you're going for. Money takes precedence for me, mostly for agent upgrades, followed by labs that allow me to add cybernetic upgrades to my agents. Of course, a detention center could be housing a third or fourth agent as well, and numbers can be useful if you have the means to outfit them all, or ruthlessly treat new additions as expendable. And while you start off with two default agents and two default power-gaining and hacking programs, you can unlock more mid-game (buy new programs, rescue captive agents), as well as unlock them for use at the start of a campaign. They have different latent skills or default items. And each agent has an alternate with a different load out yet and a new backstory. The programs, too, offer anxiety-inducing risk-reward choices. One power per turn, or two power per turn with the chance of spawning a harmful daemon? Maybe couple that with a lockable character who gains power on enemy daemon installs in an attempt to even out the risks. Klei has also created a robust set of options that allows you to tune the experience to your liking. There are three "standard" modes: beginner, experienced, and expert. Mind you I've played Invisible, Inc. 40 plus hours prior to this, but I found beginner to be too non-threatening of a cakewalk, so maybe start with experienced? Note that expert is the "base difficulty and tuning." Within these options, you can toggle one-turn rewinds (and how many) as well as whole level retries. You can even go deeper than that to adjust settings to your liking. You can extend the campaign from 72 hours, dictate starting power level, turn off danger zone warnings, and more. And on top of all that, there is an extra difficult "expert plus," an endless mode, and an extra difficult endless mode. You can fine tune 20 or so settings in all of them. The turn-based stealth gameplay is empowering, but fraught and fleeting each time you dive deeper into one of the world's least architecturally sensible corporate buildings, rooms budding off rooms, some empty, some dangerous, all necessary. It's a fight to stay equally matched with your enemies and make it to the end. Things can and will go wrong. Sometimes life-saving maneuvering just delays an impending, inevitable loss as you bring the full weight of the guard down on your head. And it's almost always your own damn fault, which is why you'll try again.
Invisible, Inc. photo
Invisible, man
It feels weird to be finally reviewing a game I played more than anything else last year despite it being in Early Access. I mean, I already gave it a Game of the Year award. Klei (Don't Starve, Mark of the Ninja) has perfect...

Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

May 12 // Chris Carter
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: CD Projekt REDPublisher: Bandai Namco (Europe), WB Games (NA), Spike Chunsoft (Japan)Released: May 19, 2015MSRP: $59.99 From the very start, The Witcher 3 is a return to form in terms of presenting the core Witcher lore from the first game. Unlike the second iteration, where many elements important to the overarching story were teased or merely mentioned in passing, you get to see more events up close. You'll have the chance to experience The Wild Hunt itself even more-so than the original title, which is going to be a huge bonus for fans of the series. You get to delve deeper into the world as a whole, and the more personal take on Geralt makes it even better. Over the course of The Wild Hunt, players will experience Geralt as a teacher, lover, and hero. There are far more opportunities to actually be a Witcher, haggling for goods and demanding gold for your service. These elements were always communicated in past games to some degree, but given the vast scope of this title, you'll actually get to live it on a constant basis here. The script as a whole is also much sharper, with stronger dialog and a funnier general feel. It helps that it hosts the most interesting cast yet, like a funny young creature that loves to poop, a terrifying trio of witches, a dumb goat named Princess, and one very angry ghost baby. The setup this time around involves Ciri, a young woman that Geralt has essentially raised as his own daughter. She's trained with Witchers, but she also hosts a power no one quite understands that has sparked the interest of The Wild Hunt -- a mysterious and powerful group that roams the land and terrifies everyone who comes in contact with them. Geralt kicks off the adventure in search of Ciri, attempting to find her in various locations, learning of her whereabouts through story missions. Occasionally you'll get to control Ciri herself in short standalone sequences, which serve as a window into her point of view and are a welcome brief departure from the Geralt show. [embed]291344:58447:0[/embed] In general, choices feel like they carry more weight in The Wild Hunt, and the characters are more fleshed out as a whole. I felt like the second game had way too many "Would you like to do option A or option B?" black and white choices, but the third iteration brings back some of the ambiguity from the original. There is immediacy to your decisions, but there are lasting consequences in some cases, with individuals that I actually cared about. I like Ciri in particular, and was inspired to press on to find out what happened to her. More importantly, the game is designed as a large collective of little choices compared to a few sweeping options in The Witcher 2. Having a bit of control over nearly every aspect of your personal story is a much more desirable design. A lot of you out there will probably be disappointed to learn that combat is now essentially Assassin's Creed, as most of the nuances like stances from the first game and the slower flow of the second game are now gone. Instead, you'll attack with light and heavy attacks, spicing things up with a few magic abilities, and separate dodge and roll buttons. Geralt still carries his trademark steel sword for humanoid opponents and silver for creatures, but since he automatically takes the appropriate one out most of the time, that bit of strategy is quashed too. It's not enough to make the game "easy" (especially on higher settings) but normal is significantly more hack and slash oriented than The Witcher 2. For all of the streamlined changes though, I actually enjoy this take on combat the most. Your magic abilities run the gamut of everything you'd need, from traps to projectiles to a defensive shield, and the dodge mechanic works better than it ever has, which makes battles feel more action-oriented and less like an outdated pen-and-paper scheme. When you add in the ability to parry and counter, combat gets even more interesting. Ciri's bits are even less expansive, as she can't access an equipment or inventory screen at all, and only has a few unique spells at her disposal. When you're exploring about, the way fast travel is handled is just about perfect. You can technically use it, but players will need to have explored the target area first, and access an actual dedicated fast-travel signpost. It encourages you to see the world without pulling your hair out and losing tons of time manually getting to places you've already been. Roach, your horse, will assist in finding those new locations, and the controls are fairly versatile with walking, running, and galloping options. Sailing is probably my favorite means of travel, and in one instance I was even left stranded on an island after enemies capsized my ship! Questing is also much more satisfying now because The Wild Hunt is less "tunnel" oriented. Thanks to the advancements of newer tech, the open world can be fully explored by climbing, sailing, and horseback riding. The climbing mechanics are a welcome addition, but like a lot of other sandbox titles (I'm looking at you, Bethesda), it comes with its own set of glitches and rough animations. Specifically, ridges and edges are problem areas, and I had Geralt get stuck a few times in the game world or die to very questionable amounts of fall damage. It doesn't help the situation when a few main story quests have bugs in them as well. It should be noted though that there is a very forgiving checkpoint save system, and you can manually save at any time. I suggest doing so often. Once you get your first look at the world and see the new engine up-close, you'll likely forget about those stiff movements and occasional rough patches. The draw distance is wonderful, and the map in general is insanely detailed. While there are three particular areas that are instanced (cut off from the rest of the world), the core area is huge, and would take you hours to fully traverse and explore, even if you didn't stop to actually do anything. For the purposes of this review, I played The Witcher 3 on PS4, which features 1080p visuals, with a 30 frames-per-second cap. Unfortunately that latter figure is noticeable all too often, especially when you're outside, moving the camera about, and fighting multiple enemies. I have to give it to CD Projekt RED for creating a beautiful, vast universe with very little in the way of load times, but the console edition does feel like a compromise. If you have the rig, I highly recommend taking a look at the PC version, though I haven't had a chance to test out its stability just yet. There is something to be aware of in addition to the technical issues. While the combat and overall story have been improved, a lot of quests (particularly the transitions between story missions) involve "Witcher Vision." Yep, Arkham's Detective Vision mechanic is now a part of the Witcher world, and you're going to be spending a lot of time holding down a button, looking at footprints, and following them blindly to the next sequence. At first it's a really cool mechanic, and appropriately represents a Witcher's advanced sensory and tracking capabilities. But once you do it roughly 100 times, it gets a tad old. If you're looking for a lengthy adventure, you'll find pretty much everything you need here. With four difficulty levels (including a super easy mode) there's something for everyone. Alchemy mechanics shine in The Wild Hunt, as there are lots of ingredient nodes all across the world, easily visible on the game's mini-map -- almost like the developers took a page from the newer Far Cry games. There's literally hundreds of quests to complete, secret locations to find, and buried treasure to search for. The core story will last you a good while. It took me roughly 50 hours to complete the game. Hilariously enough, there is one point that feels like it's the end, to the point where the game even warns you that you should save and that you cannot turn back after entering the area. After I finished that sequence, it turned out that I had at least another 10 hours to go. Once the story is said and done, a few select sidequests can't be completed, but you're plopped back into the world, ready to explore. I suspect I'll be at it for over 100 hours by the time I'm ready to put the game back on the shelf. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a huge step up from its predecessor, mostly because it manages to tell a more compelling and personal tale. At the same time, that intimate feel is juxtaposed against a gigantic, sprawling open-world adventure that may hit some snags along the way but still comes out on top. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Witcher 3 review photo
100% more Witchay Woman
I have an odd history with The Witcher series. I absolutely fell in love with the first game near launch, at the behest of a friend, and adored the way it approached morality. Typically, games of that era would offer up black...

Review: Toren

May 12 // Chris Carter
Toren (PC [reviewed], PS4)Developer: SwordtalesPublisher: Versus EvilReleased: May 12, 2015MSRP: $9.99 Toren is a surreal game. You'll start off as an infant, quickly growing into a young girl who is seemingly trapped in a giant tower without any real context. The story is primarily told through clever poems, which are never on the nose or in your face. It's a good idea, as there are some awesome moments, like one specific event near the start where prose will shoot across the screen while looking into a telescope. Most of the narrative relates to the heroine and her direct conflict with a dragon, but a lot of it is also internal, and deals with the hero's journey trope in a unique way. It's just a beautiful game inside and out, but it's a bit rough around the edges. It's not optimized very well on the PC, and even using a decent rig (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M 8GB, 8GB RAM, i7-4810), Toren was consistently sluggish on the two highest (and even on medium) graphical settings, among a host of glitches like falling through floors and the camera getting stuck occasionally. There also isn't a whole lot in terms of menu customization, with a scant few resolution options, a fullscreen toggle, and a few checkboxes for motion blur and SSAO (screen space ambient occlusion). Additionally, I had a lot of problems with controller support. Despite trying multiple times with both Xbox One and PS4 gamepads, the functionality would often break mid-game, or wouldn't work in the first place. I can only assume it's handled better natively on the PS4, but the PC port, which is the only build I currently have access to, has been a source of contention for me. Gameplay-wise, Toren works on a three-button system -- one for actions (attacking or grabbing, usually), one to jump, and another to "look." Most puzzles involve rather simplistic platforming, but it must be said that the entire experience is just as soothing as the art style. In particular, I really like how the look button gives you vague hints without telling you directly where to go, and the solutions will usually have you saying "I can't believe I missed that" out loud (in a good way). It plays out much like your standard action-adventure game, with elements of free-roaming, puzzle-solving, platforming, and even stealth. In other words, it has a little bit of everything. Toren's jumping mechanics are a tad rough as they're very floaty, but the development team keeps things simple, so you won't be ripping your hair out too often outside of the aforementioned issues. Puzzles include things like dropping sand into specifically marked shapes, snapping statues into place (like Resident Evil), and so on. Said stealth sequences are equally simplistic, mostly involving quick movements to avoid an omega-attack from the dragon. You're not going to find a whole lot of cocnepts that aren't already present in other adventure games, but they're done well here. Thankfully, every aspect simply feels connected and in its proper place. For instance, early in the game you'll acquire a sword and turn into a young woman. Most gear acquisitions feel like an accomplishment with an emotional reward attached, rather than an item that raises your stats by a few points. These RPG-like mechanics are few and far between in favor of the more standard action-adventure elements, but welcome. Toren is a very cool concept that's held back by its rough presentation, especially on the PC platform. Truth be told though, I think developer Swordtales should keep making games and simply refine its touch, as the studio clearly has the knack for it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Toren PC review photo
No, not the Warcraft race
When I first saw Toren, I was intrigued. It has a killer art style, and the concept of seeing a young girl grow up into a woman before our eyes to fulfill a mysterious destiny is an interesting premise indeed. Sadly, not everything goes as smoothly as you'd expect, at least when it comes to the PC version.

Review: Project CARS

May 11 // Brett Makedonski
Project CARS (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developers: Slightly Mad StudiosPublisher: Bandai NamcoReleased: May 6, 2015 (PC), May 12 (PS4, Xbox One)Price: $59.99 Even though Project CARS is difficult, it's all rather appropriate. I've never raced cars before, but I imagine it to be an unrelentingly tough gig. There are a dozen or so drivers that are all after the same checkered flag. Slightly Mad has done a fantastic job crafting a racing experience that reflects real-life competition. Whereas other games often feel like races take place around the player, Project CARS feels like the player is one small part of the race. However, in the heat of the moment, one could be forgiven if they don't agree with that. Project CARS' AI can be so aggressive at times that it seems as if the game is trying to pound the player into submission. Opponents will veer across the track to block progress, and they'll occasionally send you skidding into the gravel trap. Sure, it's an accurate portrayal of racing, but, man, that comes as no consolation at all when it dooms the entire race. The AI isn't the only opponent in Project CARS; you're a constant threat to cause your own downfall. In the rare event that you break free from the pack, the most minute of miscalculated turns will send you straight to the back. One tire overstepping the bounds of the track will often send the car skidding off into a pile of tires, relegating you to an unimpressive finish. Also, this title doesn't play the rubberbanding game, so once the leaders have created separation, you're likely to stay off the podium. Again, frustrating, but that's what you signed up for when you booted up Project CARS. [embed]291507:58427:0[/embed] All that annoyance isn't aided by the fact that Project CARS starts the career with the lowest levels of kart racing, which just so happen to be the most uncontrollable vehicles in the game. It's almost like a trial by fire of sorts, a challenge from Slightly Mad that if you can command these unwieldy beasts, you're good enough to play this game. I was handily defeated so consistently during these races that I wondered if tweaking vehicle settings was an absolute necessity to success. That's where Project CARS' commitment to being for hardcore simulation fans became actively detrimental. Before each race, the menu will implore the player to make alterations, but offers little in the way of guidance as to what anything does. Those who know the ins and outs of cars may take great pleasure in adjusting camber angles and changing suspension heights, but the layman will be left wondering if they're actively at a disadvantage. Honestly, they probably are. Regardless of where all those sliders end up, Slightly Mad has some great driving to offer. The cars all have an appropriate weight about them, only seeming floaty when they're the lightest of vehicles. Project CARS also mandates a nice degree of subtlety with the throttle and brake, often requiring barely touching the gas to optimally weave through a set of turns. The most appreciated facet of driving is that most of the 70-some vehicles feel legitimately unique from one another, meaning that each takes some time behind the wheel before you can control it efficiently. That learning curve won't be welcomed by everyone, however. A lot of nuance is needed, and it's difficult to master. This is especially true with a standard gamepad, which is how the majority of people will play Project CARS. These controllers are often too finicky, and will send the car careening further and more slapdash than the player intended. Those with proper racing wheels will surely have an easier time. One aspect of Project CARS that never fails to impress is its aesthetic. Everything is stunningly gorgeous at all times, even when the sun blinds you as you're trying to corner. The scenery might be at its best during the rainfall, which looks fantastic, but adds another degree of difficulty as the slick roads definitely impact driving performance. Unfortunately, it also impacts game performance, as rainy weather acts as a kind of stress test, and it's where the frame rate dipped the most noticeably in the Xbox One version of the game. For a title that touts itself as offering a staggering amount of control, Project CARS is ironically rather shallow. While all cars are unlocked right from the get-go, the player has no say in what they drive throughout the career. Once signed up for a new league in which to compete, the game decides what vehicle the races take place in. Likewise, outside of the standard career progression, there just isn't much more to do in Project CARS. It basically boils down to the obligatory multiplayer, some community events, and some one-player quickmatches. The game doesn't give the player much incentive to keep playing, so that drive has to be internal. If it isn't, you might find yourself putting down Project CARS sooner than you'd think. Actually, Project CARS' career is paced in such a way that it directly conflicts with the desire to keep playing. Every race is preceded by a practice and qualifying round. Each of those lasts a minimum of ten minutes. You can probably afford to skip practice (easy, Allen Iverson), but qualifying is borderline mandatory. Bypassing it, or simulating to the end after a solid lap, means you run the very real risk of starting the race in last place. If that happens, it's unlikely that you'll finish first. The AI is just too good to let you overcome those odds. You were probably damned before you even began. Admittedly, Project CARS isn't for everyone. In fact, it isn't for most people. It's niche, and it's for those who take their racing games seriously. It does most of what it sets out to do, and it does that very well. However, the broad appeal is lacking, as the long learning curve likely outweighs what most are willing to put up with. But, for those who put in the time and manage to take the checkered flag, this title has a supremely rewarding experience that most anyone can feel proud of, regardless of familiarity with cars.
Project CARS review photo
Hard charger
Project CARS is a game that revels in its inaccessibility. It was made specifically for people who have come to expect more from their realistic racing simulators. Developer Slightly Mad took that desire and ran with it....

Castlevania's IGA back with 'dream game' Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

May 11 // Steven Hansen
Bloodstained stars Miriam, an orphan stuck in the middle of "a classic tale of magic, or rather faith and belief, versus science," Igarashi told me through a translator. A group of alchemists, fearing its waning relevancy as science captures the 18th century setting, try to warn against the world losing faith. Start fucking loving science, they warn, and a bunch demons will take over. When that doesn't happen, egg on face, the alchemists start fusing demonic crystals into orphans to call the demons to earth, attempting to instigate a global annihilating "told ya so." The demon crystals have a, "natural inclination to expand, eat away at hosts' bodies," not unlike bad videogame companies, perhaps. "Stained glass" acts as an artistic motif reflected in the art style, but those pretty shades in characters' skin are also the basis of gameplay. Enemies drop materials, which are forged into gems, which can be formed into weapons. Rare materials can be forged into ability crystals that can be stuck in Miriam's body. They can also be combined in a number of ways, like adding a strength+ attribute crystal to a double jump for a double jump attack move. Igarashi explained the new system would be a little less repetitive than old Castlevania's, naming Aria of Sorrow specifically, where "you're just grinding on the same enemy to create the same thing." Why stained glass? "Stained glass is already cool-looking as it is, but stained glass weapons is badass." A recent walk through Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has me in agreement. Igarashi, "wanted to have a more colorful palette," and so on top of the stained glass, you have a blue-heavy protagonist, purple tinted key items (candles, keys), and an active blood orange sky in the background (thanks to parallax scrolling) inspired by an 18th century Icelandic volcano eruption that killed 23,000 Brits and bore a "bloody sun rising." All of this is framed by classic Gothic gray. If the mock up is any indication, it could look lovely. That's a "could," of course, because the game has not been made yet. Igarashi is someone you can likely depend on to make a Castlevania-style game. Inti Creates has been delivering for a long time. And Bloodstained isn't even held hostage by its Kickstarter, though it's meant to fund the last "20%" of development (and make for physical, pressed Xbox One and PS4 discs). Still, it's a way's out. Igarashi hasn't been gone from Konami much more than a year and shopping this proved difficult, hence last year's "hold." Igarashi "scoured the globe" and "pitched every major -- even minor -- publisher on this concept." "There was a ton of interest, but for various reasons, from, 'we do distribution for Konami and...don't want to anger them,' to 'Oh, this looks like a Japanese game.' But they didn't realize Igavania games sold better in America than any other territory." Incidentally, despite the widening popularity of the term "metroidvania," the team is eschewing the "castle" and "metroid," opting for the term "Igavania," explaining, "We want to make sure we don't anger Nintendo, and Igavania is a more accurate name." This project will likely irk someone at Konami regardless -- "Konami doesn't know about it," Igarashi said last month -- perhaps even more if it proves successful, like Mighty No. 9 or the recent not-Banjo-Kazooie platformer from ex-Rare folks, Yooka-Laylee. Given those examples (or Double Fine Adventure Game, or a number of others), it feels like a sure thing, but Igarashi does seem a bit more unsure after constant publisher rejection. "A lot of them were more interested in AAA stuff," he said. "There's a big disconnect between what the publishers are giving people and what the fans want." Inafune's success, specifically, "proved that the Western audience would put its money where its mouth is and support the creators that it loves." Igarashi doesn't expect he'll generate "anything close" to Mighty No. 9. He remains modest about the whole thing. "I spent the last year trying to make this work because I believe that's what the fans are telling me. And if the Kickstarter campaign shows that's not the case, then in the end the publishers were right and I was wrong." "From Iga-san's perspective," the translator, explains, "the most frustrating, saddening part is that he did his due diligence. He tried to work within the standard publisher model." It does seem surprising that Mr. Castlevania shops around a Castlevania and no one bites. Then again, why did Igarashi have to leave Konami in the first place to make this sort of game? "In the good old days, it used to be, as a producer you'd put your neck out on the line to make a game and if it's didn't work out, then you'd be done," Igarashi explained. Speaking specifically of Konami, at least as far as he left it a year ago (and somehow it was in a better state then), "Recently, there's more of a delicacy at [Konami] towards how they handle IP to the point where rather than maybe making new games, 'let's just not touch it'" becomes the mantra. "Or, 'we have to do it a bigger way." The 3D Castlevania, perhaps. Igarashi thinks it's "more risk averse" because someone used to, "pledge it would be okay, and it was their responsibility," but given that he would've have pledged on a new Castlevania, or Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's likely ending relationship with the company, I'm not sure that's all of it. But Konami is in the past now. Inti Creates is making Bloodstained under Igarashi's direction. "We had several developers that were interested," he explained. "We needed a team that was both capable, but more importantly passionate. "They said, 'Listen, ever since becoming an independent studio, we've wanted to do three games.' One was a Mega Man type game, which they're now doing. The second was an Igavania game. And the third is a Zelda-type game, which they will probably never get a chance to do," Igarashi chuckled. Nintendo seems more open these days, though. Igarashi did dredge up some past, scoring the composer of Symphony of the Night, Michiru Yamane. "I basically tricked her into joining the campaign by getting her really drunk and making her promise she would help," Igarashi said. "You think that's a joke, but it's the truth." I believe it. And I believe Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's campaign shouldn't have a problem, "proving that this is a concept that the fans really want." I mean, all you have to do is ask "Sword or whip?" and they flip.
IGA's metroidvania photo
Publishers wouldn't touch it
Last year, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night assistant director and subsequent series producer Koji "IGA" Igarashi left Konami after nearly 25 years with the company. At GDC that year, Igarashi ended his interesting Symphony...

This post explains the entire Mega Man Legends copyright situation

May 11 // Chris Carter
Oronamin C is a real beverage over in Japan, and is sold in the vending machines in the first Legends game. In addition, there are a few other copyrighted references. Now, here is the problem -- Sony apparently does not allow the modification of source code for a PSN classic. In other words, it needs to be the exact same release. So unless these issues can be solved by Capcom's legal team (or Sony drops the policy), a full-on PSOne Classic release for Legends 1 is not going to happen. Nintendo however, does allow the modification of code. If it was deemed a worth endeavor by both Capcom and Nintendo Mega Man 64 could feasibly be ported. In fact, the original code for 64 already has a few of these changes already. Other options suggested by Protodude include the release of the PSP version (untranslated), a PC port by Capcom, or a full remake -- all of which have a low chance of happening in my book. Whatever the case, I'd love to see it happen. There's plenty of hope for Legends 2, but maybe Capcom wants to deal with everything and release them both at the same time. For now, we wait. Regarding Mega Man Legends and Property Infringement [Rockman Corner] [Art from Walls4Joy] [embed]291931:58501:0[/embed]
Mega Man Legends photo
Wow, it's complicated
For years now people have been clamoring for the release of Mega Man Legends 1 and 2 on the PSN (or the Nintendo 64 version on the eShop, for that matter), but Capcom hasn't budged. We're one step closer with The Mi...







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