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Darren Nakamura

Minecraft screenshots photo
Minecraft screenshots

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 3 screenshots, we got 'em

Look at last
Nov 24
// Darren Nakamura
The third episode for Minecraft: Story Mode is out today, and it's actually not half bad. I think I took more screenshots this time around than in the first two episodes as a result. Going through these after the fact, it's o...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: The Last Place You Look

Nov 24 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: The Last Place You Look (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: November 24, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit After having found Ellegaard the redstone engineer and Magnus the griefer in the previous episode, the gang needed only to locate Soren the architect for the full original Order of the Stone to be accounted for. The journey to find Soren takes the party to some peculiar locations, most located in The End. However, since Soren is a master builder, the areas highlighted are more diverse than the typical darkness of The End. Between Soren's feats of engineering in the overworld and colorful constructions in The End, it's a nice nod to Minecraft proper players who are known to build some of the craziest things. Soren himself is a much more likable character than some of the other members of the Order of the Stone. Where Ellegaard and Magnus were basically insufferable (especially after they were brought together), Soren is quirky and at times genuinely funny. Voiced by John Hodgman, he's neurotic and paranoid, but still fun to be around. [embed]321869:61211:0[/embed] Overall, the quality of the writing has taken a half-step up from the previous two episodes. None of the jokes elicited any sustained belly laughs, but I did let out a few snorts and chuckles along the way. The Last Place You Look started up a running gag where Axel falls on top of Lukas repeatedly, which happens just enough to be comical without getting tired. Some of the seeds of drama sown in previous episodes have begun to sprout, and while it still maintains the kid-friendly narrative, it's finally beginning to feel like the events happening matter and Jesse has an important role to play. The greatest success of The Last Place You Look is that it allows the player to feel accomplished while still moving the narrative along. This is, after all, only the third episode in a five-episode season, so anybody who knows Telltale knows everything won't be resolved here. But even so, the climax of this episode feels like a high point for the team. Sure, they're not done with their mission, but they did something, at least. There's never really any downtime during this episode either. Though there are a few sections of walking around and talking or searching for clues, they all serve a purpose and generally lead to action sequences. The first action sequence in particular is probably the best so far in the series, melding the fantastic environments, a sense of danger, and the classic Telltale decision-making into a tight opening credit roll. One thing that might turn some off is the quiet lowering of the bar for success during the action sequences. Some of the quick-time events seem more demanding here than usual, but I noticed after I flubbed a button press or two, the resulting animation didn't seem to react accordingly. Perhaps it takes multiple failures in a single section to make a difference. More experimentation is necessary. As much as I may praise The Last Place You Look, it is with respect to the first two episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode. It definitely is an improvement, but an improvement from mediocrity is just okay. The comedy is slightly improved, but still doesn't hold a candle to that of Tales from the Borderlands. The characters are becoming easier to sympathize with, but they aren't are interesting as those from The Wolf Among Us. The drama is beginning to heat up, but it doesn't come close to what we saw in The Walking Dead. Perhaps it's unfair to compare Minecraft: Story Mode to Telltale's more adult-oriented series. This is built for a particular demographic, and it seems like it's really hitting with that audience. The Last Place You Look is more of the same -- and slightly better, if anything -- so those who have enjoyed the series thus will be pleased to just keep on trucking. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
Looking up
Minecraft: Story Mode didn't impress me with its first two episodes. Aimed at young players and Minecraft super fans, its writing didn't have a whole lot going for it past its Saturday morning cartoon plot and series in-jokes...

Fig crowdfunding photo
Fig crowdfunding

Fig's next crowdfunding campaign will be open to smaller investors

No need to be a millionaire
Nov 24
// Darren Nakamura
Fig has had a bit of a rocky start as a crowdfunding platform. It is much more selective about its campaigns than Kickstarter or Indiegogo, so it has only featured two campaigns since its launch in August. Outer Wilds just ba...
Anchors in the Drift photo
Anchors in the Drift

Second Fig crowdfunding campaign Anchors in the Drift failed to meet its goal

Only made about 21 percent
Nov 20
// Darren Nakamura
I was ready to eat crow at the very beginning of the Anchors in the Drift crowdfunding campaign. After wondering aloud if the general public would get behind paying sizable chunks of money for a free-to-play game, it opened s...

Review: Renowned Explorers: International Society

Nov 20 // Darren Nakamura
Renowned Explorers: International Society (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Abbey GamesPublisher: Abbey GamesReleased: September 2, 2015MSRP: $19.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit In Renowned Explorers, the goal is to become a particularly renowned explorer among the group known as the Renowned Explorers. This is achieved by going on expeditions, recovering valuable treasures, making scientific discoveries, and navigating combat situations. Basically, an expedition is separated into two parts: resolving text-based events while traveling between nodes on a map and tactical combat on a modified hex grid. Both sections have elements of procedural generation, so there's always a sense of exploring the semi-unknown, even on an expedition to the same location as a previous run. Area maps are covered in fog of war, with only the nearest nodes visible. Combat arenas will vary the layout of obstacles, choke points, and healing zones. [embed]321138:61123:0[/embed] Indeed, Renowned Explorers is a "roguelite," meant to be played multiple times in order to truly master it. Herein lies one of the biggest hurdles I had to get over in order to enjoy it. For a game meant to be played again and again, it just takes way too long. A single run consists of five expeditions, and each expedition can take 30 to 45 minutes depending on how many encounters there are. It took me days to get through my first run because of the time commitment. This does speed up with experience, because combat becomes much faster after learning the ins and outs of it. Even so, expeditions easily last 20 minutes or more, so it's not the kind of "just one more" experience a roguelite needs to really grab somebody. This is exacerbated by the planning phase that occurs in between expeditions. Here, players spend the resources gathered during the previous expedition to purchase improved gear, recruit followers, and perform research. This is easily the densest part of Renowned Explorers for a new player. Every resource is connected to another in some way, and the game takes a laissez-faire approach; it presents a bevy of options and lets the player sort out what to do with them. Navigating the nooks and crannies of the planning phase can be exhausting at first, which makes the thought of taking on a new expedition right away seem that much more unreasonable. By far, my biggest disappointment starting off was with the combat system. It advertises multiple ways to resolve encounters; an explorer can be aggressive with physical attacks, be devious with insults and threats, or be friendly with encouragement. The three styles have a rock-paper-scissors relationship, so an aggressive approach is advantageous against a friendly enemy for instance. The problem with it is that each form of "attack" draws from the same "hit point" meter, which represents a foe's willingness to keep fighting. You could punch an enemy until he has only a sliver of health remaining, then finish him off by encouraging him to believe in your cause. Fighting and talking don't feel like they function differently. The battle system is hardly different than a simple three-element magic system at first. Only after really digging in did I spot the nuance. Some encounters will provide different rewards depending on how they are resolved. More importantly, it's the asymmetry in the rock-paper-scissors system that makes it interesting. Aggressive attack damage is a function of physical power, where devious and friendly attack damage comes from speech power, so an orator might have a stronger pair of scissors than he has a rock, so to speak. Within the speech powers, there is asymmetry as well. In general, devious skills cause debuffs while friendly skills cause buffs -- on friends and enemies alike. So while the current mood might call for a friendly attack, it is still necessary to weigh the risk of increasing the enemy's attack power in return. The point is: the combat system is deeper than it initially lets on, but it takes some effort for a player to really understand that. That basically describes Renowned Explorers: International Society on the whole. It features a set of deep systems with complex mechanics and relationships, but it places most of the burden on the player to discover it. I'll admit, I disliked it until it all fell into place and revealed itself for what it is. I'm not chomping at the bit to keep playing, but I am curious to delve deeper. Different combinations of explorers can beget different tactics both in and out of battle. That thought alone is enough to keep me from uninstalling it.
Renowned Explorers review photo
A lot to dig into
I'm glad I stuck Renowned Explorers out. For the first couple hours it was kind of a slog. Not exactly bad, but dense, unwieldy, and unexciting. I would finish an expedition and quit, not wanting to get back to it until days ...

Game of Thrones Season 2 photo
Game of Thrones Season 2

Telltale's Game of Thrones is getting a second season

Surprise, surprise
Nov 20
// Darren Nakamura
After finishing the season finale for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, I had my suspicions that it was all setting up for an inevitable second season. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner co...
Emily is Away photo
Emily is Away

Emily is Away's AOL-style chat hits eerily close to home

It's like a game about my life
Nov 19
// Darren Nakamura
The tagline for Emily is Away is what got me to try it out. "Relive your awkward teenage years." Sure, that sounds like a blast. It's a short text adventure set in the early 2000s and made to look like AOL Instant Messen...
GameBarcodes photo

GameBarcodes distill games down frame by frame

Journey's is the best
Nov 19
// Darren Nakamura
A couple weeks ago an imgur page was floating around the Internet showing various films with each frame reduced to its average color and represented as a single vertical line in what turn out to be often vibrant barcodes. Thi...
Minecraft: Story Mode photo
Minecraft: Story Mode

Minecraft: Story Mode keeps up its brisk schedule with Episode 3 out next week

The Last Place You Look
Nov 19
// Darren Nakamura
This minecart just keeps on a-rollin' (whether we care about it or not). After having met up with and then subsequently lost track of Ellegaard and Magnus in Assembly Required, the team is now searching out the fourth member ...
Rocket League Chaos Run photo
Rocket League Chaos Run

Rocket League December DLC adds first non-standard arena

Along with Mad Max-esque battle cars
Nov 18
// Darren Nakamura
We knew a new Rocket League announcement was coming today. It's not any more word on if/when the car soccer game would show up on other platforms. Instead, it's a handful of new car customization options modeled after brutal ...
Back to Dinosaur Island photo
Back to Dinosaur Island

Crytek's VR adventure Back to Dinosaur Island free on Steam

Not the same as Robinson
Nov 18
// Darren Nakamura
Is it possible to go "back" to Dinosaur Island without ever having been there in the first place? Apparently it is, because Crytek just released a short virtual reality demo on Steam called Back to Dinosaur Island. From the r...

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

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

Game of Thrones trailer photo
Game of Thrones trailer

The Game of Thrones finale trailer hopes you have been following along

Spoilers abound
Nov 16
// Darren Nakamura
Don't watch the trailer below if you aren't caught up with the first five episodes of Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series. It highlights a lot of the major choices from the previous episodes, including the one right at th...
The Game Awards 2015 photo
The Game Awards 2015

Nominees announced for The Game Awards 2015

Fallout, Metal Gear, Bloodborne
Nov 13
// Darren Nakamura
The Game Awards, the closest thing the video game industry has to film's Academy Awards, is scheduled for December 3. With only three weeks until the event, nominees have been announced for the 22 categories. After the usual ...
Fire Emblem Fates photo
Fire Emblem Fates

Fire Emblem Fates will have three different versions

Birthright, Conquest, Revelation
Nov 12
// Darren Nakamura
Nintendo's Bill Trinen detailed the release for the upcoming Fire Emblem Fates. When the 3DS strategy title releases on February 19, 2016, it will come in two flavors: Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest and Fire Emblem Fates: Birthr...
Splatoon DLC photo
Splatoon DLC

New Splatoon map coming out tomorrow

New guns today
Nov 12
// Darren Nakamura
During today's Nintendo Direct, Nintendo announced the immediate DLC plans for its hit multiplayer shooter Splatoon. Starting today, an update with new gear will be rolling out. The bigger deal is the new map, Museum d'Alfons...
Telltale Games Story Mode photo
Telltale Games Story Mode

Documentary Telltale Games: Story Mode tells Telltale's tale

Thirty minutes to cover fifteen years
Nov 12
// Darren Nakamura
Telltale Games is a big deal these days. It employs over 300 people who work with huge franchises like Game of Thrones or Minecraft. But it hasn't always been that way. Released today, the documentary Telltale Games: Story Mo...
Rocket League photo
Rocket League

Psyonix is 'looking at all kinds of platforms' for Rocket League

More news later this year
Nov 12
// Darren Nakamura
Thus far, Rocket League has seen some phenomenal success on PC and PlayStation 4 (in part due to the PlayStation Plus promotion), and developer Psyonix hasn't been shy about its desires to move onto other platforms in the pas...
Yooka-Laylee character photo
Yooka-Laylee character

New Yooka-Laylee character channels old school graphics

Nov 11
// Darren Nakamura
Ever since the announcement that Team17 would be publishing the Kickstarter-funded Banjo-Kazooie-like Yooka-Laylee, news has been pretty quiet on it. There have been a couple of backer updates, including one showing a cute sk...
Game of Thrones screens photo
Game of Thrones screens

First screens for Game of Thrones finale are non-canon (for me)

Gared fights a claymation bear
Nov 11
// Darren Nakamura
The long-awaited season finale for Telltale's Game of Thrones series following House Forrester is almost here. It releases next week, but today we have a few tastes of what to expect. Mira looks like she's in trouble with the...
Onett lullaby photo
Onett lullaby

Gentle Love does EarthBound as a tribute to Iwata

Proceeds go to American Cancer Society
Nov 09
// Darren Nakamura
[Disclosure: Jayson Napolitano previously worked for Destructoid. He is now representing Gentle Love.] You know Gentle Love, right? It's the Japanese duo responsible for the soothing Prescription for Sleep: Game Music Lullabi...
Dad Quest Kickstarter photo
Dad Quest Kickstarter

Close to home: dad throws son at foes in Dad Quest

Ah, the memories
Nov 09
// Darren Nakamura
I don't know why fatherhood has become such a prevalent theme among indie games lately, but I like it. There was Octodad, then Dad by the Sword, then Dad Beat Dads. Now there is Dad Quest, and it reminds me a lot of my own ch...
Call of Jr. photo
Call of Jr.

Carl's Duty: eat an absurd burger and win a gross gun skin

You know, for the veterans
Nov 06
// Darren Nakamura
The United States of America, right? Where our burgers are big and our guns are bigger. And our heart failures are spectacular. Or something. Let's start over. Carl's Jr. (also known as Hardee's) is teaming up with Activision...
Rainbow Six Siege DLC photo
Rainbow Six Siege DLC

Rainbow Six Siege has a year's worth of DLC planned

Some free, some paid
Nov 05
// Darren Nakamura
Rainbow Six Siege releases on December 1, but Ubisoft wants people playing well into 2016. In a post over on the Ubiblog, the studio shows off its Year One Roadmap and details its plans for downloadable content. In the wake o...
BeatNiks photo

Harmonix just released a music-powered virtual pet called BeatNiks

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
Nov 05
// Darren Nakamura
Harmonix sure has diversified in the past five years. Sure, the studio just released Rock Band 4 and it focuses on interacting with music in all of its games, but with stuff like Chroma and A City Sleeps, it has gone further ...
Ghost Trick iOS photo
Ghost Trick iOS

Ghost Trick is back up on Apple's App Store

Now compatible with iOS9
Nov 04
// Darren Nakamura
A few months ago, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was removed from sale on Apple's App Store due to compatibility issues with iOS9. That in itself didn't make a whole lot of waves, but then last month it was removed completely...
Paragon photo

Epic announces Paragon, teases a beefy dude with metal arms

No relation to Glitch in the System
Nov 03
// Darren Nakamura
Epic has been working on Fortnite for a while, but that's not the only title the studio has up its sleeve. Today, it announced Paragon along with a teaser video featuring a guy who kind of looks like if DmC's Dante got buff a...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: Assembly Required

Nov 02 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: Assembly Required (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 27, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The one big risk Telltale took with this episode was hinted at the end of The Order of the Stone. Depending on whether players choose to side with Olivia and seek out Ellegaard or to side with Axel and look for Magnus, the entire first act of the episode will play out totally differently. On the one hand, it's a bold step forward for Telltale, which is often criticized for touting its choice-based gameplay while delivering roughly the same story to everybody regardless of the decisions made. With the choice of Ellegaard vs. Magnus, the consequences were immediate and impactful, affecting a huge chunk of this episode. The final outcome might not be any different, but the journey certainly is. On the other hand, it provides for an experience uneven among players. The first half of the episode takes about 40 minutes to get through, and most people will only see one of the two segments. It stings a little because I chose to find Ellegaard, but was later led to believe that the Magnus section is the more entertaining of the two. If nothing else, it might convince me to start up a second save file just to see what I missed. [embed]318431:60938:0[/embed] Speaking of Ellegaard and Magnus, both characters are fairly unlikable. Ellegaard is haughty and aloof and Magnus is snide and combative. It creates a conflict between the two that might serve a narrative purpose in the future, but mostly just makes me wish I could have chosen neither of them right now. That turns out not to matter much, since both make an exit not long into the collective journey and bring the group back down to the core members again. Just when Story Mode threatens to feature a real, interesting human moment, the action leading to the episode's climax starts up, postponing the good stuff until a future episode. The cast continues to perform adequately. Each of the characters has his or her own distinct personality, and the actors deliver well enough. The writing is still falling flat for me. Things are happening, the narrative is progressing, but it's just not especially good yet. None of the jokes made me laugh. None of the drama made me think. After two episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode, I find myself struggling to care. It's a story and I am experiencing it, but that's the best I can muster. It's not bad enough that I'm dreading having to play three more episodes, but it's not good enough that I'm looking forward to it either. It could cease to exist and I would be utterly unfazed. There is some hope for the future of the series, as Assembly Required has planted some interesting seeds of what's to come, but it's not quite there yet. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
The story is building...
Telltale fans have grown accustomed to a two-to-four month wait between episodes. So when the studio surprise launched Assembly Required just two weeks after The Order of the Stone, it caught everybody off guard. Even though ...

Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider launch trailer features an original song by Karen O

'I Shall Rise'
Oct 30
// Darren Nakamura
Rise of the Tomb Raider is just a couple weeks from launch (for the Xbox One at least), so naturally we can expect a launch trailer to keep the hype train rolling. This one comes with an extra tidbit of news, past the new bit...
Mirror's Edge delay photo
Mirror's Edge delay

Mirror's Edge Catalyst pushed back to May 2016

What's another few months?
Oct 29
// Darren Nakamura
Mirror's Edge Catalyst, the long-awaited reboot/sequel/whatever to 2008's Mirror's Edge is almost upon us. We've been sitting idly, hoping to play as Faith again for seven years. The wait just got a little bit longer. Catalys...

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