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Bravely Second photo
Bravely Second

Bravely Second shows off some new jobs, including Astrologian


Also, Exorcist and Charioteer
Jan 28
// Chris Carter
If Bravely Second: End Layer is simply more Bravely Default, I can deal with that. Of course it will have some new stuff to go with its story continuation, including nine new jobs. That includes Guardian, Exorcist, Wizar...

PC Port Report: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Jan 27 // Joe Parlock
Rig: Intel i7-4790k 4GHz 4-core processor, 16GB of RAM (2x Corsair Vengeance 8GB DDR3), GTX 980. Windows 10 Pro 64-bit. Framerate measured with Steam. Game played at the “Very high” preset, with anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion slightly lowered. [Update: Due to playing a pre-release build, I did not have access to Nvidia's Game Ready Drivers while writing this. I can now confirm that installing the Game Ready Drivers that were released today (January 27) did not fix the problems I discuss below. In fact, I would say it's made things worse: the stuttering is more frequent and the loading times are now two or three times longer than what I saw pre-drivers.] The options menu is comprehensive, with menus both inside and outside of the game. Rise supports up to 4K resolutions for those with a PC strong enough to run it, which is a decent boost from Xbox One's native 1080p. The options include all of the usuals you’d expect in a decent PC port, such v-sync, anti-aliasing, and ambient occlusion. Full key rebinding is also available, with the ability to set both a primary and secondary key for every action. You’re not exactly spoiled for choice when it comes to anti-aliasing options, with only four options that might end up not being the most efficient for your graphics card. Being able to force your preferred style of anti-aliasing in the graphics card control panel means this isn’t a huge problem, but I would’ve liked more in-game settings. I also appreciate the existence of a few quality-of-life settings that I've I’ve never seen in other games before. They’re not huge additions: simple stuff like each character having their own subtitle colour and full support for Razer Chroma hardware, but I like that they’re there. Weirdly there aren’t any colour blind options, though, which would have been useful for some players considering how the game relies upon discerning different shades of the same colour for navigation. Visually, Rise is gorgeous. The textures are insanely crisp and detailed, and even when I rammed the camera right up against a wall I struggled to see much blurring. The lighting effects are also wonderful, and really add to the atmosphere of the many tombs and caves Lara has to jump through. I thought 2013's Tomb Raider was pretty, but when you pump Rise up to the maximum settings it really is a visual treat... if you can get it to run properly. [embed]336747:62000:0[/embed] As far as the port goes, that’s unfortunately where the positives end.  Playing it with keyboard and mouse is a mixed bag. While aiming and shooting feel nice and responsive, movement is slow, sluggish, and generally difficult to control. Climbing was the biggest challenge, as I’d often find Lara leaping to her death or in a direction I wasn’t even pressing. I heavily recommend you use a gamepad if you can, as standard PC controls can be quite a nightmare in the more fiddly portions. That's peanuts, though, compared to the biggest problem with Rise of the Tomb Raider’s port: the numerous, terrible, and sometimes even game-breaking performance issues. It’s worth noting that I have a new, beefy PC that is way above the already fairly high minimum requirements, and yet I still suffered from inconsistent framerates and memory usage problems that made playing Rise a chore. At some points, I was able to enjoy a solid, smooth, and stutter-free 60FPS, but then only a minute later my game would be dragged down to a low of 20FPS for seemingly no reason.  For example, a very chaotic set-piece with lots of explosions, snow, and flying debris had a totally stable 60FP, but then I was lucky to get 25 in the small, dark, undetailed cave that immediately followed it. I’ve even gone to an area running at 60FPS, briefly ducked into a cave, only to come back out in the exact same place and find the game was now running at 40FPS instead. Even putting the game on the lowest possible graphics quality settings didn't help, which makes me think this probably will affect everyone regardless of the strength of their rig. I’m not a programmer, and so I can't conclusively identify the cause, but I think it might have something to do with the game’s fairly significant memory usage problems. Sometimes it was using upwards of 6GB RAM, even in relatively quiet and simple areas. This is the only game I have ever had crash due to my PC running out of memory, and on 16GB of brand new RAM and a new video card with 4GB VRAM, that shouldn’t be happening. It especially shouldn’t be happening after only about an hour of play. I don't want to definitively say this is a memory leak, but it sure as hell feels like one. Overall, Rise of the Tomb Raider’s port is a strange one. It has all the hallmarks of a good job: lots of graphics options and it supports both a higher framerate and resolution than its console counterpart. It’s such a shame that those positives are then dragged down by numerous, unacceptable performance issues, even for PCs much higher than the minimum spec. If my brand new, high-end PC is having trouble running this game smoothly, I dread to think how it affects those who are closer to the minimum requirements. I have to admit, I wasn’t wowed by 2013’s Tomb Raider. On its own, it was a pretty good game. It had stunning visuals, exciting set-pieces, and great exploration, but it didn't feel like a Tomb Raider game. I felt that Square had pulled out the campy, trap-avoiding, dinosaur-shooting heart of the previous games, and replaced it with a generic, edgy, and sometimes borderline sadistic husk. Fortunately, Rise of the Tomb Raider feels like a great midpoint between the solid game design of 2013 and the campy, silly fun of the original games. It has a sinister organisation racing for a powerful ancient artifact, and it’s up to you, badass archaeologist Lara Croft, to beat them to the punch. If every animal in the area hasn’t become an endangered species by the time you’re done, you’ve been playing the game wrong. Mechanically there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between Rise and its predecessor. It’s still essentially Uncharted by way of Bear Grylls, but those mechanics are put to much better use in Rise, and you're given far more varied locations to play in. Whereas Tomb Raider 2013 rarely deviated from its green island setting, within the first hour of Rise you’ve been to a wintery cliff face, a vast network of desert ruins, and then eventually dropped into the forests of Siberia. And there are tombs! Actual, honest-to-God tombs that you can raid! In the previous game, tombs were rare as hell, and when they did finally show up they didn’t amount to much more than a single room with a simple puzzle. In Rise, not only are there are far more optional tombs to explore, they're well designed, lengthy, and actually worth doing. Exploring the world feels much more satisfying when you know the stuff you're going to find isn't unmitigated arse for a change. While I agree with Steven that Rise of the Tomb Raider is basically more of the same, it does feel a lot more confident in its execution. The story and dialogue aren’t afraid to ham things up, Lara is finally a decent character, and there’s a much greater variety of locales to explore.  Nice job, Crystal Dynamics. You've successfully got me back into a series that I've been turned off from since Legends. Here's hoping you're able to fix the port-specific problems soon. [This PC Port Report is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Tomb Raider PC Port photo
Rise of the Performance Issues
After being an Xbox One exclusive for all of five minutes, Rise of the Tomb Raider is finally making its way to PC. As the follow-up to the popular 2013 reboot, it certainly had a lot to live up to. Back when it originally la...

Life is Strange photo
Life is Strange

Square Enix is giving away a $10,000 scholarship in its Everyday Heroes photo competition


A good chance for avid photographers
Jan 27
// Joe Parlock
Square Enix has announced it will be giving away a scholarship to one lucky photographer, as part of its Life is Strange-inspired Everyday Heroes competition. This is totally separate from the identically named anti-bull...
FFXV photo
FFXV

Final Fantasy XV's January 30 update will detail stealth, magic


Oh and have some new screens
Jan 26
// Chris Carter
Square Enix has been peppering in "Active Time Report" updates for some time now, which are basically just big livestreams that detail more information for Final Fantasy XV. Normally I'd be over a gigantic hype campaign ...

Review: Final Fantasy Explorers

Jan 26 // Chris Carter
Final Fantasy Explorers (3DS)Developer: Square Enix, RacjinPublisher: Square EnixReleased: January 26, 2016MSRP: $39.99 Right at the character creation screen, it's immediately evident that Final Fantasy Explorers is a dated game. It was released in 2014 in Japan, after all, and the limitations of the tool itself will not inspire any confidence. I actually got a laugh out of the initial male avatar -- it had typical chibi-like features but a rock-hard manchild set of abs. It won't matter much when you're all suited up in gear, and the game has a Goku hairstyle in its small pool of options, so it gets a pass. Like many other entries in the series, Explorers revolves around crystals (of course), and the overall plot is kind of secondary to leveling up, acquiring cash, and completing missions, which lead to those sweet, sweet boss battles we all crave. You'll roam about in a Monster Hunter-esque hub world complete with shops, upgrade centers, and a few other fixins (like a one-mission-bonus-granting fortune teller who takes Play Coins as payment) as you take on new quests that lead you out into the overworld. Combat is based around AP, which fuels your abilities and is used when sprinting. The game has a rudimentary lock-on feature, the option to use the Circle Pad Pro (or the New 3DS nub) to control the camera, L or R toggles menus for your powers (with four mapped to each trigger, for a total of eight active abilities), an auto-attack button, and that's really it. To dodge or do anything fancy, you'll need to equip a skill for it, and even then, it's a bit rigid in nature. Make no mistake, this is not a high-intensity twitch action game. [embed]335296:61957:0[/embed] You'll get the keys to the kingdom so to speak after roughly 30 minutes of tutorials, where Explorers will provide you with five jobs (classes) right away: Knight, Monk, Ranger, White Mage, and Black Mage. Thankfully, it isn't as rigid as a lot of other RPGs in that jobs and abilities can often overlap. With the exception of, say, a Knight using bow-based skills while equipped with a sword, players can thankfully experiment a bit. Almost anyone can use magic, including the always helpful Cure spell. It's a great concession for newcomers and veterans alike. You can really mess around with nearly everything available to tool up your dream build -- which includes silly "Trance" modes featuring fan-favorite characters like Cloud. As time goes on it only gets deeper, as an impressive 21 jobs are at your disposal. The freedom to do what you want is even better when playing with a party (both locally or online). Team synergy and class makeups aren't necessarily bound by the RPG Trinity (tank, healer, damage), but are composed a bit more loosely, to the point where everyone can have fun with what they want to play -- like a Dragoon that can use his jumps along with evasion techniques from other jobs for maximum mobility. Speaking of multiplayer, there is support for lobbies online (rather than shoddy matchmaking), which allowed me to get into a number of games even before launch. If you're going at it solo, you can bring up to three other monsters with you on your travels, with the caveat that the AI isn't very intelligent or nearly as effective as players. By the time you fight Shiva several hours in, it picks up, but as a general rule Explorers is a slow burn. Now, I did have fun working my way up the ladder, earning more jobs, and crafting my own equipment, but it's a bit too slow going at times. As such, the "it gets better after you put time into it" argument comes to mind, but plenty of games do allow for an enjoyable early game to accompany the payoff. That's not the case here, to an extent. If you do end up sticking with it though, you'll find a 100-hour RPG full of stuff to do, including an endgame that involves fighting all of the core bosses again with new strategies in tow. Like many games filled to the brim with different classes, a lot of my time was spent trying out new jobs. While some of them don't feel wildly different from one another, the dichotomy between the three core playstyles (melee, ranged, and magic) is strong enough to feel like you're playing a different game. Final Fantasy Explorers has a litany of pacing issues, particularly when it comes to its quests and, visually, it feels like a DS-era game at times. But players who are willing to jump in with both feet will find a lot to love, and that goes double if you're planning to play through the adventure with a friend. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] 
Final Fantasy review photo
Eidolon Hunter
If one wanted to delve into the world of Final Fantasy for the first time, the barrier to entry is generally rather high. You have a host of 50-hour JRPGs, several daunting MMOs, and a number of complicated and deep tactical spinoffs. Final Fantasy Explorers tries to ease people into the world of Black and White mages with a different, gentler approach, albeit with its own set of flaws.

Dragon Quest photo
Dragon Quest

This Dragon Quest Builders display was built with lots of blocks


Go on, take a piece
Jan 25
// Jordan Devore
Last year, Square Enix promoted Dragon Quest Heroes in Japan with a huge wall of poppable slimes at a metro station. It was the stuff of dreams. (For me, anyway, but then again I see strange things when I sleep.) A similar ca...
Cracking photo
Cracking

Far Cry Primal and Rise of the Tomb Raider will use the Denuvo anti-tampering system


Hopefully it won't hurt the performance
Jan 25
// Joe Parlock
The PC releases of both Far Cry Primal and Rise of the Tomb Raider will make use of the controversial Denuvo anti-tampering software. Denuvo isn’t technically DRM because it doesn’t manage content licenses. Howeve...
Nosgoth photo
Nosgoth

Silenced Cathedral, Nosgoth's newest map, is out now


Left 4 Big, Burly Vampires
Jan 22
// Joe Parlock
I quite like Nosgoth. I know it’s hated by some long-time Legacy of Kain fans, but I’ve had fun with it. It’s basically a free-to-play, early access version of Left 4 Dead’s Versus mode, but with vamp...
FFXV photo
FFXV

Well, it looks like Final Fantasy XV has Magitek armor


Alright alright alright
Jan 21
// Chris Carter
Folks, Magitek armor has been confirmed -- nostalgia boosters, engage. New screens from Final Fantasy XV show the iconic suit in action, with the team battling one. Magitek has shown up in several games after its debut i...
Bravely Second photo
Bravely Second

Bravely Second: End Layer launches April 15 in North America


Props on that packaging
Jan 19
// Jordan Devore
Bravely Second: End Layer (video game names are just the best) hits North America on April 15, 2016, Nintendo confirmed today. If you're in Europe, you'll only have to wait until February 26. The collector's edition comes wit...
Life is Strange photo
Life is Strange

Life is Strange Limited Edition is out today


Plus an update for the digital versions
Jan 19
// Jordan Devore
Square Enix released the limited-edition boxed version of Life is Strange ($39.99) today in North America for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It's coming to Europe this Friday, January 22. What's included? The full five epis...
Final Fantasy Explorers photo
Final Fantasy Explorers

Final Fantasy IX gets the Final Fantasy Explorers snub


FFVII, X over-represented
Jan 19
// Steven Hansen
The upcoming Monster Hunter-ish Final Fantasy Explorers is a more nondescript, job-system-based affair, but that doesn't mean your favorite characters are absent. While in Trance mode, your character can use previously equip...
Square Enix - Activision photo
Square Enix - Activision

Rise of the Tomb Raider director leaves Crystal Dynamics for Infinity Ward


Now art director at Call of Duty studio
Jan 16
// Kyle MacGregor
Tomb Raider Senior Art Director and Rise of the Tomb Raider Game Director Brian Horton has left Crystal Dynamics, the developer announced via the official Tomb Raider Tumblr account Friday. "It’s been a huge honor to be...
Omikron photo
Omikron

You can grab Omikron for free in remembrance of David Bowie


From the Square Enix store
Jan 15
// Chris Carter
Square Enix is paying tribute to the legendary David Bowie today, who unfortunately passed earlier this week. All you have to do is go onto the Square Enix store, add Omikron: The Nomad Soul to your cart, and use the promo co...
Hitman photo
Hitman

Hitman's release structure changed, now fully episodic


Releasing monthly, supposedly
Jan 14
// Brett Makedonski
"What exactly is the new Hitman going to be?" That's a question that has been on players' minds for a long time now. Looking in from the outside, the development process has been confusing and unclear. Judging by the waffling...
Life is Strange photo
Life is Strange

Square Enix's Life is Strange-inspired #EverydayHeroes campaign helps anti-bullying charity


Share your stories in the hashtag
Jan 14
// Joe Parlock
Life is Strange, for the few problems it has, doesn’t shy away from dealing with some intensely personal and dark topics. Playing as a teenage girl in a residential school, one of those topics is, inevitably, bullying....

'I don't like champagne, but I'll grab a beer': Lightning on her Louis Vuitton ads, life

Jan 13 // Steven Hansen
ME: You've starred in more Final Fantasy games than most; is there some kind of equivalent to the club for hosting SNL multiple times where you all sit around and laugh at Zidane because no one gives a shit about Final Fantasy IX, or what? LIGHTNING: [Laughs] No, there's nothing like that. I don't really have that much connection with any of the prior cast just because, you know, it's a fresh story every time around. I crossed paths with a few of them on Dissidia, but even then schedules are crazy and people are booked for different times. ME: Are you aware of your status among series fans as, well, a less than ideal ambassador to the series? LIGHTNING: I know I upset a lot of people, yeah. I mean, I am doing my job, doing what I love to do, I don't want to apologize for it-- ME: No, I mean, you shouldn't have to, but why do you think you set people off so much? I get a Kristen Stewart thing where you become the face of a popular, but critically panned thing and people just freak out, or think that's all there is to you -- and you have that same kind of aloofness that can be seen as standoffish or wooden. LIGHTNING: Maybe modeling designer wear like an ice queen doesn't help [laughs]. Look, people are going to heap their discomfort on the easiest target, and a lot of fans didn't like the direction of the series that I starred in so I'm an easy punching bag, I get it. And I can't complain too much, because look where it's gotten me, right? I mean, 5-6 years ago I was a nobody, and now I'm part of a Louis Vuitton campaign and getting interviewed by Destructoid. I'm very blessed. ME: How do you feel about ISIS? LIGHTNING: What? ISIS? Oh, they're bad. ME: Good. LIGHTING: They're good? ME: No, I mean good you think they're bad. LIGHTNING: Oh, ok, yeah, they're bad. ME: Good. LIGHTNING: Huh? ME: Nothing. So, I noticed you're a fan of the classics. I read that you spent downtime on the set of Final Fantasy XIII trying to memorize "Rime of the Ancient Mariner?" LIGHTING: [Laughs] Well, I tried. Coleridge was my favorite Romantic. It's a long poem, though. ME: Did you ever get the whole thing down pat? LIGHTNING: It is an ancient Mariner, and he stoppeth one of three. [Laughs] I didn't get the whole thing, no.  ME: Where does that particular passion show up in your work? LIGHTNING: Well, it doesn't much, I guess. I mean, when you're an actor serving someone else's vision [as with the Final Fantasy XIII series], you're limited in your expression. Hopefully you can bring something unique, but they have a tone and style they're going for. I don't know. One of my obsessions right now is Fritz Lang. Have you seen The Big Heat? ME: No. LIGHTNING: It has to be Lee Marvin's best role. I mean, Lang basically invented film noir. His dark surrealism--like, all this started for me when I saw a still from The Testament of Dr. Mabuse and Rudolf Klein-Rogge's eyes just piercing the screen. The rawness, the darkness, I was drawn to it. And so I started exploring Lang beyond Metropolis. Sorry, did I answer the question? ME: Yeah, no, yeah. So, well, that segues into my next question. Which -- it doesn't seem like your interests are lined up with the direction of gaming. Do you think the industry is healthy, moving in the right direction? I mean, what the hell are they doing over at Square Enix? LIGHTNING: Square was so good to me. There are a lot of talented people working over there. I think, maybe [pause]. I don't know, I don't know enough about how things come from on high, or how things work over there. [Final Fantasy designer Tetsuya Nomura] is a bit much. Generally I think we're in a healthy space, yeah, but I would like to see more of reality -- and different realities, you know, other peoples' realities' -- reflected in games, in stories. ME: So do you feel at home here in Paris, where we're talking for this interview, at this Louis Vuitton party? LIGHTNING: God no! [Laughs] I mean, everyone's nice, the spotlight, you know, I'm used to that by now. And I like the clothes, I really do. They're cool, they look great. I prefer my day to day social outings to me a little more lowkey, though. I don't like champagne, but I'll grab a beer. ME: Who's your favorite member of Jurassic 5? LIGHTNING: [Chali] 2na! His voice is amazing. ME: Right? [Laughs] You answered that way too quickly. Most interviewees I ask that are really confused and then I just talk about Jurassic 5 at them for a few minutes while I think of other questions. Ok. Uhm. Would you go back in time and kill baby Hitler? LIGHTNING: Well, I've already learned time travel isn't something you want to mess with [laughs]. ME: Come on. LIGHTNING: What? ME: Don't do that. LIGHTNING: What? ME: The cutesy question dodge. Would you or would you not kill baby Hitler? LIGHTNING: I mean, I don't really want to answer that. ME: I'll take that as a no. LIGHTNING: I didn't say that! ME: So you would? LIGHTNING: [Pause] Do you have any other questions? ME: Will you go on a date with me? We can go to the Louvre or whatever's around here, in Paris, where we are. LIGHTNING: Of course! Fuck, I've been waiting all interview for you to ask me. You are so beautiful, understanding, and intelligent. And not to mention funny. I'm actually a huge fan of yours, I was nervous when I heard you were going to be interviewing me! ME: Thanks.
Interview with Lightning photo
'Coleridge was my favorite Romantic'
Final Fantasy XIII (and then some) star Claire "Lightning" Farron made headlines last week when the she became one of the new faces of prestigious fashion designer Louis Vuitton, for whom she will model the spring-summer 2016...

Hitman photo
Hitman

Square Enix just cancelled all Hitman pre-orders on PSN


The product you pre-ordered has changed
Jan 13
// Zack Furniss
If you pre-ordered the upcoming Hitman game, you'll soon get a message from Sony saying that your order has been cancelled.  Polygon found said message in full courtesy of David Scammel of VideoGamer.com: Thank you...
Dragon Quest photo
Dragon Quest

Square Enix is going all out for Dragon Quest's 30th Anniversary


So many games coming in 2016
Jan 13
// CJ Andriessen
2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Dragon Quest in Japan, and Square Enix is going all out for the celebration. During a live press event this morning, series creator Yuji Horii and producer Ryutaro Ichimura detailed the...
Final Fantasy XV news photo
Final Fantasy XV news

Final Fantasy XV's cafe-filled city and new battle mode


New combat style and switching
Jan 11
// Steven Hansen
Oh, baby, it's tidbit time. Over in the Final Fantasy XV forum, the development team has addressed some questions about the scale of its cities and changeable difficulty settings. First, Planner Ishikawa Tomonori, on the city...
Dragon Quest Builders photo
Dragon Quest Builders

Dragon Quest Builders will not support PlayStation TV


This thing is so confusing
Jan 11
// Chris Carter
When you pick up a game on Vita, it should inherently just be supported on the PS TV, right? Well that's not the case in a number of instances, and it's really starting to get confusing. For instance, just recently, Square En...
Adventures of Mana photo
Adventures of Mana

English release of Final Fantasy Adventure remake likely


But Vita version dropped
Jan 08
// Steven Hansen
Square has put up an English version website for Adventures of Mana, which is a remake of Final Fantasy Adventure. Square released that game as a Final Fantasy title in 1991 though it would ultimately lead to the Mana series...
Final Fantasy IX photo
Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy IX on PC will have the option to turn off random encounters


Lovely
Jan 07
// Chris Carter
Final Fantasy IX will arrive on PC this month with a few bells and whistles in tow, according to the game's official Steam page. Evidently there will be seven game boosters in this version, including "high speed" and "no...
Square shuts down company photo
Square shuts down company

Cloud none: Square Enix to dissolve Shinra Technologies


Didn't even make it two years
Jan 05
// Steven Hansen
In late 2014 Square Enix announced the formation of a new subsidiary company, Shinra Technologies. The Final Fantasy VII-nodding company name works on two levels, as Shinra's focus was cloud gaming, aiming to "break the stran...
Lightning photo
Lightning

Final Fantasy XIII's Lightning ad campaign confirmed for Louis Vuitton


::insert popular Lightning quote here::
Jan 05
// Chris Carter
I feel like a lot of the time when people dump on Lightning, calling her a bad character, they haven't played all of the proper Final Fantasy games she's in. Well I have, and even though I loved Lightning Returns, she's still...

Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode

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

Just Cause 3 multiplayer photo
Just Cause 3 multiplayer

Modders are bringing multiplayer to Just Cause 3


They move fast
Dec 31
// Jordan Devore
If you expected the modders responsible for giving Just Cause 2 multiplayer to do the same thing for Just Cause 3, well, you aren't going to be disappointed. A month after the game's release, they are already far enough into production that there's a trailer offering an early glimpse at the mod. JC3-MP isn't available for download yet, and there's no ETA, but it's coming.
Final Fantasy IX photo
Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy IX is releasing on PC and mobile next year


The one with the best chocobo mini-game
Dec 31
// Zack Furniss
Square Enix's Japanese website has just announced that Final Fantasy IX (which should be subtitled Vivi and his Less Cool Friends) will be coming to PC and Smartphones soon. There's no set release date, but I'm hoping it...
Dissida Final Fantasy photo
Dissida Final Fantasy

Ramza is coming soon to Dissida Final Fantasy arcade


Chaos characters too
Dec 30
// Chris Carter
Right now, the roster for the Dissida Final Fantasy arcade edition is complete. Well it mostly is, outside of Final Fantasy Tactics' Ramza, who will be added in "soon," according to Famitsu. Ramza was initially teas...

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

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


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