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1:30 PM on 03.18.2015

Beyond Eyes abstracts the world as perceived by a blind girl

I have been following Beyond Eyes since I first heard about it a year and a half ago. Videogames can be powerful tools for relating experiences that may otherwise be difficult to comprehend. Blindness both fascinates and terr...

Darren Nakamura

1:00 PM on 03.18.2015

Talk turns technical with Masquerada: Songs and Shadows' Ian Gregory

While at PAX East, I was fortunate enough to schedule a chat with the co-founder and creative director of Singapore-based Witching Hour Studios, Ian Gregory, to talk about the studio's beautiful upcoming "...

Rob Morrow

2:30 PM on 03.17.2015

RIVE was my favorite twin-stick shooter at PAX East

When I learned that Netherlands-based Two Tribes Studios (Toki Tori & Toki Tori 2) was bringing its snazzy metal-wrecking, robot-hacking, twin-stick shooter RIVE to PAX East this year, I jumped at the...

Rob Morrow

4:00 PM on 03.16.2015

It's easy to zone out in the open ocean of Windward

The PAX East expo floor is one of the least peaceful places to play a game. There are sweaty crowds, children who haven't learned to use their inside voices, and booths blasting dance music and/or eSports commentary. And yet,...

Darren Nakamura

12:00 AM on 03.16.2015

Gigantic made me gigantic in the pants

At PAX East this year I walked past many of the larger booths and gave them little attention, as I am typically more interested in indie games. I got invited to a press-only demo for Gigantic -- a game I only knew of by ...

Jed Whitaker

9:00 PM on 03.13.2015

Just Shapes & Beats is bullet hell without the shooter

"Congratulations, you just survived the tutorial," Just Shapes & Beats coder Mike Ducarme teased the small crowd clustered around Berzerk Studio's PAX East booth. A quartet of us had just run the gauntlet, bobbing and wea...

Kyle MacGregor

7:30 PM on 03.13.2015

Magnetic: Cage Closed let me fling myself around with physics

"It's not a gravity gun; it's a magnet." Guru Games, developer of Magnetic: Cage Closed, stressed this to me at PAX East. It works like a real magnet, with fields radiating out in all directions, rather than affecti...

Darren Nakamura

1:00 PM on 03.13.2015

Dropsy challenges perceptions of beauty, proves that love really can conquer all

One of the highlights of my time at PAX East was sitting down and chatting with Dropsy’s creator, Jay Tholen. Jay’s a quiet, thoughtful man with what seems to be unlimited creative energy at his disposal. His some...

Rob Morrow

12:00 PM on 03.13.2015

Amplitude's multiplayer mode has been reworked for the better

I have some good memories of playing single player FreQuency years ago. However, the only memories I have of the multiplayer mode are of me playing against my friends in high school and crushing them, then going off...

Darren Nakamura

1:00 PM on 03.12.2015

We Happy Few's bright exterior hides a dark secret

For a while, the general aesthetic in games was dark and grimy, with muted colors to convey dismal feelings. The more recent counterculture of color was welcomed, bringing happiness back to the medium. But a funny thing happe...

Darren Nakamura

10:00 AM on 03.12.2015

Harmonix Music VR could supplant Audiosurf for me

Audiosurf is more than seven years old now (wow), but it still holds a place as a desktop icon on my computer. I still play it regularly. The thing is, I almost never play it on any setting other than Casual with Mono. It is ...

Darren Nakamura

3:00 PM on 03.11.2015

Cosmochoria is a perfect blend of serenity and chaos

Cosmochoria is a Kickstarter success story that is now about to see the light of day. It's a mix of exploration and tower defense all wrapped up in a warming, yet occasionally stressful package. There's a strong sense of...

Patrick Hancock

1:00 PM on 03.11.2015

Tumblestone is the most intelligent 'match three' game I've ever played

The first impression of a game matters a lot at PAX. If people aren't intrigued almost immediately, they may never play the game at all. My first impression of Tumblestone was "oh cool another match-three game." I don't ...

Patrick Hancock

6:30 PM on 03.10.2015

Harebrained Schemes nails it once again with Necropolis

As I explored the opening area of Harebrained Schemes' third-person action roguelike Necropolis at PAX East 2015, I discovered an inviting treasure chest. Upon opening it, I realized too late that I wasn’t alone in that...

Rob Morrow

8:00 AM on 03.10.2015

Severed is full of one-handed vengeance

There’s something serene about exploring a desolate place for the first time. Too often in games I find myself dropped into an environment, expected to pick up the pieces quickly to achieve a goal and left with little t...

Caitlin Cooke

4:30 PM on 03.09.2015

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

When Nintendo first unveiled the Wii U, my mind raced with ideas for games that could be created with the two-screen interface. A lot of the cool stuff that the DS did could be transferred to the big screen. Better yet, title...

Darren Nakamura

6:00 PM on 03.08.2015

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a brilliant asymmetrical game

In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a game originally developed at a game jam, one player wears the Oculus Rift and sees a bomb that needs to be defused but doesn't know how to defuse it. Their partner only has a binder...

Patrick Hancock

4:30 PM on 03.08.2015

I nuked the God of Lightning in Mayan Death Robots

There's been a lot of games that try to copy the success of titles like Worms or Tanks, but often come off feeling too derivative. "Yeah, it's like Worms, but not quite as good" has definitely left my lips a handful of ...

Patrick Hancock

5:00 PM on 03.07.2015

Final Fantasy XV looks great and feels even better

Even though the clock was ticking, it was difficult not to stop and smell the roses. I had a behemoth to hunt, but couldn't help myself. A gorgeous landscape teeming with majestic wildlife distracted me from my objective. I w...

Kyle MacGregor



Planet of the Eyes is a treacherous place for Polaroid robots photo
Planet of the Eyes is a treacherous place for Polaroid robots
by Darren Nakamura

Crash landing on an alien planet is the worst. There's hazardous flora, deadly fauna, and even rock formations that seem to have some sort of blood lust. That just piles on top of the existential crisis of being a robot with an unknown purpose. Such is the existence on Planet of the Eyes.

I played through a couple of demo sections at PAX East. One showed off puzzles while the other demonstrated more action platforming. Both were rife with opportunities for robot death and dismemberment. At the very least, the planet is beautiful as it is repeatedly and mercilessly trying to kill me.

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Downwell has a simple premise but it's damn fun photo
Downwell has a simple premise but it's damn fun
by Darren Nakamura

A glance at Downwell's tricolor palette in still shots doesn't really do it justice. Watching it in motion gives a better idea what it does, but not until actually playing it does it all click. It is built around a simple mechanic: press the button to jump; press it again in the air to fire gun boots downward.

The recoil doesn't act as a double jump exactly. No extra height can be gained from the shots, but the little protagonist's descent can be slowed. The catch is that the boots have limited ammunition in a magazine and reloading requires a stop on solid ground. Those simple mechanics produce a surprising depth in the trip down the well.

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Dungeon Defenders II is shaping up nicely on both PS4 and PC photo
Dungeon Defenders II is shaping up nicely on both PS4 and PC
by Brett Makedonski

Trendy Entertainment has already bestowed Dungeon Defenders II upon its most invested fans. In fact, they've had it for more than a month now. "Invested" is the only way to describe those people -- both financially and mentally -- as that's what it takes to pay an Early Access fee for a game that will eventually be free-to-play.

But, those same fans get the privilege of seeing Dungeon Defenders II along as it's molded through the development cycle, and better yet, they'll get to help shape it too. Early adopters are "rewarded" with influence points that allow them to vote on future game features. It's unknown how far their reach has extended thus far, but someone's doing something right with Dungeon Defenders II.

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Knight Squad was the most fun I had at PAX South photo
Knight Squad was the most fun I had at PAX South
by Brett Makedonski

If you were to take booths' popularity at PAX South and plot them on a heat map, most of the obvious candidates would stick out. Twitch would be red hot, as it constantly had a flurry of people swarming to watch their favorite streamers. Dreadnought would be lit up too, because it was one of the largest displays and the crowd seemed to take a liking to it.

But, there would be one outlier far back among the indie titles. Knight Squad, made by Chainsawesome Games, had a constant throng of people mulling about at all times. You wouldn't expect it given the location, but it was a party back there. Once you had a crack at the game, you'd understand why -- because Knight Squad is an incredibly fun multiplayer game.

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You might be tempted to call Ronin 'Kill Bill: the Videogame' photo
You might be tempted to call Ronin 'Kill Bill: the Videogame'
by Brett Makedonski

Devolver Digital has a penchant for picking up clever game jam submissions and giving them a chance to grow into fully-realized titles. Titan Souls is a fine example, and it would have never had any exposure outside of the tiniest of niche audiences; now, it's gotten enough funding and press that many eagerly await it.

One of the publisher's most recent pick-ups certainly has the moxie to follow the same path. Ronin is a smart, cerebral game -- one that requires care more than stick skills. A cursory glance invites comparisons to Gunpoint, but that'd be selling it short. Ronin melds real-time and turn-based play, a combination that results in an action puzzler of sorts, but with more emphasis on the latter than the former.

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Adventure Time Game Wizard has a pretty cool level editor photo
Adventure Time Game Wizard has a pretty cool level editor
by Abel Girmay

There's a new game coming out based on everybody's favorite television show, Adventure Time! You know what that means right? Go on and grab your friends, because we're going to some very distant la---actually, you might want to rethink going on this adventure.

Adventure Time Game Wizard's biggest strength is in its content creator. Using the iPad camera, you can scan in any level you've drawn out on a piece of graph paper, or you can draw directly in-game. From there, you can choose a themed backdrop based on the show including the Snow Kingdom, Candy Kingdom, and others.

There's a set of simple shapes and outlines you can draw, each corresponding to a type of platform. Want a lava pit? Just make two vertical shafts with zig zags in between. Need a moving platform? Just sketch out a striped rectangle.

There are a good number of platform types you can draw and combine to create your own levels, and Game Wizard offers an intuitive guide for all the shapes you can use. They never get more complicated than what you can trace on graph paper, and even when I didn't draw perfect lines, the scanner was always capable of translating past those errors.

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Titan Souls is my PAX Prime 2014 game of show photo
Titan Souls is my PAX Prime 2014 game of show
by Abel Girmay

Confession time: I'm pretty out of the loop when it comes to the indie game scene. I love me some Nidhogg, Samurai Gunn, and Crawl, but it's not uncommon for me to have only heard about these games just before release or later. With that track record, you won't be surprised to hear that I knew nothing about Titan Souls before sitting down with it at PAX.

I am so glad that I did, though. Between the music, art, and the brilliantly challenging combat, Titan Souls is far and away one of my most anticipated releases.

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Nicalis kicked my ass again with Castle in the Darkness photo
Nicalis kicked my ass again with Castle in the Darkness
by Jordan Devore

After checking out The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth at PAX Prime, I spent a decent chunk of time with another upcoming Nicalis project, Castle in the Darkness. It's a challenging platform-adventure PC game that feels all too appropriate given the company's prior involvement with 1001 Spikes.

Admittedly, words like "challenging" and "difficult" get thrown around often -- too often -- when describing games that aren't afraid to test players. But good lord, Castle in the Darkness was tough. I must have died 50 times during my playthrough, and that's being conservative.

Part of that has to do with your limited health -- a few hits is enough to do you in, at least early on -- and your knight's movement, which takes getting used to. He's quick, super quick, and his initial sword attack doesn't extend very far. It was frustrating at first to come to terms with all of this, but I suspect the fast pace will feel great with sufficient practice and muscle memory.

The game's structure is exploration-based in that you'll hit switches and acquire items that will allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas. There's also going to be a ton of bosses, based on what I played. That damn owl from the trailer gave me hell. Expect gear upgrades, too.

Castle in the Darkness is rather clearly inspired by NES classics in the genre, particularly Castlevania, which I don't consider to be a negative. Maybe you do. Either way, I'd suggest getting your hands on it before casting any final judgments. Could be pretty cool at the right price.

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After two straight hours of Fortnite, I'm a fan photo
After two straight hours of Fortnite, I'm a fan
by Jordan Devore

When Epic first announced Fortnite, I was on board based on the premise of defending player-made forts from monsters. But that was a couple of years ago. Things change.

My interest had been waning up until recently, when I got to spend two hours with the "action building" game during PAX Prime. Mechanically, it's like a mix of the third-person shooting and trap-laying defense of Orcs Must Die! with the scavenging and construction of Minecraft.

Pretty damn good combination, then.

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You’ll play Skullduggery greedily, whether fast or slow photo
You’ll play Skullduggery greedily, whether fast or slow
by Brett Makedonski

Flick, flick, flick. That’s all you’ll be doing in Skullduggery. Flicking to collect treasure. Flicking to outrun bosses. Flicking to line up stealthy headshots on unsuspecting enemies. You can play the game however you want (usually) -- fast or slow; just know that you’ll be flicking the whole time. And, if the build we saw at PAX Prime is any indication, it’s a flicking good time.

Skullduggery’s a title developed for tablets that borrows liberally from the simple mechanic that Rovio (maybe) popularized. By pulling back and letting go, players launch a skull across the screen. Do this ad nauseum, and you have Skullduggery. However, instead of an interspecies vendetta against pigs, this game’s protagonist has a goal that’s much easier to empathize with: riches.

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Neverending Nightmares is eerily evocative, and set for release on September 26 photo
Neverending Nightmares is eerily evocative, and set for release on September 26
by Alessandro Fillari

It's certainly an exciting time to be an independent game developer. With the rise of Kickstarter allowing anyone with the knowledge, the skills, and an idea to find support, we're seeing a larger breadth of games come out that try something a bit different. One such game is Neverending Nightmares, and last year Jonathan Holmes wrote up a nice post about its Kickstarter campaign.

After a few ups and downs, the Kickstarter for this evocative horror title managed to make its funding goal. With release set for September 26, the developers are finally ready to unleash their survival horror game that's far more personal than most would realize. At PAX Prime 2014, I got the chance to check out an updated build and chat with some of the talent behind the game.

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SoundSelf with Oculus Rift is the ultimate trip photo
SoundSelf with Oculus Rift is the ultimate trip
by Alessandro Fillari

It's no secret that gaming conventions are fertile ground for developers to try out their new creations. Back in April, Jonathan Holmes got the chance to check out SoundSelf with Robin Arnott, the creator of the unorthodox horror title Deep Sea, and saw first hand the impression it had on players. Utilizing virtual reality, players are taken for a ride through their own personal odyssey of light and sound.

During the hustle and bustle of PAX Prime, I got the chance to go on a special trip of my own, and it was clear that SoundSelf made quite a name for itself on the show floor. I also got some time to speak with Robin Arnott about his creation and the desire to create an existential experience that brings players to a state of zen and wonder.

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Fortified is a fun 1950s sci-fi take on base defense photo
Fortified is a fun 1950s sci-fi take on base defense
by Jordan Devore

Leading up to PAX Prime, Clapfoot released a trailer for its base defense shooter Fortified. It caught my eye for a few reasons, notably the '50s sci-fi movie theme and its general resemblance to Double Fine's Iron Brigade (formerly Trenched). There aren't too many games like it.

The build playable at PAX was fairly early in development but offered a decent enough idea of what to expect. Aliens are invading the city and you and up to three friends need to shoot them down, one wave at a time. I selected the character class with a jetpack, while my co-op partner had the unique ability to command soldiers around the battlefield. I think I made the right call.

We had the freedom to place defensive structures like machine gun turrets, a slowing device, and sandbags wherever we wanted within reason, and the shooting felt good -- surprisingly good. My favorite weapon was the rocket launcher, because it sent robot invaders flying all over the place. The physics were wobbly, exactly as you would hope. Again, think lo-fi science fiction.

With some proper maze-building techniques, we managed to funnel robotic spiders into a single lane so we could concentrate fire on flying saucers and other stragglers. The boss, a hulking robot, must have been inches away from our base before he went down.

I wasn't able to see the two remaining characters, upgrades, or any other levels -- I'm told they will more than likely all be set within a city -- but I liked what was playable enough to keep Fortified on my radar. The game isn't releasing on PC and Xbox One until next year, so there's time for more features and polish. In speaking with art director Adam Garib, it seems like the studio has a solid grasp on what's needed to flesh out the experience. Fingers crossed.

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Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker shows off the pros and cons of the GamePad photo
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker shows off the pros and cons of the GamePad
by Brett Makedonski

Anyone who has played Super Mario 3D World knows what to expect from Nintendo's upcoming Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. That's because Captain Toad made an appearance periodically in his own levels throughout 3D World to lend a slower, more methodical style to the cat-suited platforming that mostly defined the game.

Nintendo realized that it may have a hit on its hands with the Captain, and thus Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was born -- a game comprised solely of those bits where the protagonist hunts his way through puzzling levels for coins and gems. It's a simple concept, and one that our own Darren Nakamura covered in depth in an E3 preview.

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If you ever get to play Upsilon Circuit, the world will be watching photo
If you ever get to play Upsilon Circuit, the world will be watching
by Jordan Devore

At PAX Prime, I got my first and what could be only opportunity to try Upsilon Circuit.

You see, once it goes live, eight people will be able to play at any given time. That's eight people, total. And the "permadeath" here is actually permanent. You lose? Your turn is done.

While everyone else watches, waiting for their coveted chance in the spotlight to hack away at monsters and explore, they can directly influence the direction the game takes. The audience has control to, say, spec out players' skill trees, or spawn a deadly trap.

Legend of Dungeon creator Robot Loves Kitty is billing this as part online game show, part action-RPG. At PAX, I saw more of the latter than the former, but Upsilon Circuit's Max Headroom-esque digital host Ronny Raygon was set up on a nearby television to talk smack to attendees. He got into an argument with some kid about whose glasses were cooler.

Before you ask who would pay for something like this -- for a chance, maybe, to play once -- know that it's going to be free. In speaking with Robot Loves Kitty's Alix Stolzer, it sounds as if a large part of the monetization will be geared toward trolls or audience members who otherwise want to screw over the player characters, not help out. I told her that was a good idea.

It's still early days for Upsilon Circuit and there are a lot of unknowns, but what was shown at PAX gave me confidence in this somewhat crazy, definitely ambitious project. If the game catches on and finds a stable audience, it's going to be a fascinating experiment to take part in.

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I didn't think Dreadnought's hulking ships could be as fun as they are photo
I didn't think Dreadnought's hulking ships could be as fun as they are
by Brett Makedonski

A very specific connotation pops into your mind when you think about spaceship fighters. Your brain's flooded with thoughts of dogfighting ships zooming around, barrel rolling, and flipping end-over-end to fire unceasing space lasers at equally nimble opponents. That's not what Dreadnought is; not even close, in fact.

Dreadnought -- which is currently only slated for PC -- is a thinker's game, a title for those more adept at thinking two steps ahead rather than those that rely on their twitchy fingers. It's a chess match in space -- a chess match that trades in kings and queens for lumbering, massive ships that actually feel like they have weight to them.

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Never Alone may have stolen the show at PAX photo
Never Alone may have stolen the show at PAX
by Brett Makedonski

If Upper One Games’ Never Alone sticks out to you as one of the best examples of storytelling in recent memory, don’t be surprised. It sort of has an unfair advantage. You see, the tale it tells has only been passed down throughout several generations’ time. But, while its roots are in the past, the way it’s being told is unique and wholly original.

Never Alone is a puzzle platformer that’s about an old folktale of the Inupiat people -- one of seven major indigenous groups in Alaska. The project actually came about because the Inupiat’s tribal council wanted a way to pass their heritage down to the youths, who had become more enamored by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and of course videogames than they were with their own history. They reached out to E-Line Media to see if the educational game company would be interested in helping develop a game that would share a bit about them. The result was the creation of Upper One Games.

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The Behemoth's Game 4 is the strangest SRPG I've ever played photo
The Behemoth's Game 4 is the strangest SRPG I've ever played
by Jordan Devore

No, the next game from The Behemoth isn't a sequel to Castle Crashers. I mean, yeah, that'd be nice to have one day, but I'm loving how the studio is continuing to try new things. And its next project, the to-be-properly-named "Game 4," is most certainly a New Thing for the team.

It's a turn-based strategy role-playing game with the style and humor we've come to expect from The Behemoth. So, pretty freaking great. Will Stamper even returns from BattleBlock Theater to narrate again. What begins as a typical fantasy adventure with swords and shields quickly morphs into a tale of robots, vampires, and anthropomorphic cupcakes. Knights getting extracted via space shuttle? Yeah, something's not quite right here.

As shown in the teaser trailer, a space bear has crash landed into a planet -- your planet -- and the universe hasn't been the same ever since. Just chaos, left and right. I was fortunate enough to spend well over an hour with Game 4 at PAX Prime and in that time, far more questions were raised than answered. I laughed more than a few times, though, and really dug the combat.

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RollerCoaster Tycoon World is a return to form, features robust online modes and offline play photo
RollerCoaster Tycoon World is a return to form, features robust online modes and offline play
by Alessandro Fillari

Back at gamescom, Atari announced RollerCoaster Tycoon World, a new installment to the much-loved amusement park series. However, after a 10-year series hiatus from the PC and the debut of the polarizing RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile, which was loaded with microtransactions and other annoyances, many had reservations about the potential for a brand new title.

But during a private showing of RollerCoaster Tycoon World at PAX Prime 2014, the developers along with the CEO of Atari, Fred Chesnais, were keen to show how it's a welcome return to what made the series great. Right from the get-go, the developers at Pipeworks and publisher Atari were adamant about the title being a little more accessible while still retaining the deep customization and park management system.

Still, returning to the classic formula was a challenge, and the folks involved were open to listening to the community about what they want for the next game.

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Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell was inspired by Disney movies photo
Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell was inspired by Disney movies
by Jordan Devore

I've played and enjoyed all of the Saints Row games to date, but wonder how much longer this can last. How much more ridiculous can the series get, and even if there is room to up the insanity, do we even want that? Where Volition goes from here, I'm not sure.

Gat Out of Hell, a standalone expansion, will give the studio some breathing room to figure that out while keeping the series on store shelves. As will Saints Row IV: Re-elected, a "Game of the Year"-style re-release for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Both are due out January 27, 2015.

I played a brief demo of Gat Out of Hell at PAX Prime over the weekend and spoke with studio creative director Steve Jaros about how the game is influenced by Disney films. Yes, really.

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Hands on with Tales from the Borderlands photo
Hands on with Tales from the Borderlands
by Abel Girmay

Telltalle has been a busy beehive lately. Having wrapped up The Walking Dead Season 2 and season one of The Wolf Among Us, this fall will bring us right into the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands. Darren seemed positive on the game when he saw it at E3, but for a series like Borderlands that built its name more on its genre fusion gameplay than it's setting, I didn't know what to expect or hope for going into this demo.

After it was over, I came out with confirmation that Telltale is still the best at what it does.

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