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Review: Arslan: The Warriors of Legend

Feb 09 // Chris Carter
Arslan: The Warriors of Legend (PC, PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)Developer: Omega ForcePublisher: Koei TecmoReleased: February 9, 2016MSRP: $59.99 One of the chief problems with Arslan is that it assumes, to some extent, that you're familiar with the source material. This will likely be a problem for a lot of you out there as it's a relatively obscure anime. I'm pretty surprised to see that it's been localized, truth be told. It isn't that hard to follow though, as the gist is mostly set up for you in the first few chapters. The titular Arslan is the 14-year-old crown prince of a kingdom who is forced to step up after one of the worst wars his country has ever seen, and he'll have a little help from his friends. That's all a given. But the ins and outs of each character, their idiosyncrasies, and backstories -- much of those are lost in translation, literally. With a history spanning three decades across multiple manga volumes and anime adaptations, there's lots parse. The encyclopedia menu option helps but it's merely a band-aid. That's not to say a certain type of person can't get get drawn into the world -- far from it -- as that's exactly what happened to me. Arslan is more flashy than previous games from Koei Tecmo (with the obvious exception of Pirate Warriors), but it also touches on a few heavy-hitting subjects, albeit on a tertiary level, like slavery and freedom. The anime cutscenes are wonderfully integrated, and there's often a seamless transition to gameplay. Note that it's fully voiced in Japanese and subtitled, with no dub track. [embed]334572:62104:0[/embed] As expected, the same two-button combo system holds up. Combos flow effortlessly once you pick them up, and the efficacy of multiple abilities ensures that you're not just flailing about wildly mashing buttons. There's also the added bonus of blocking and evading, as well as the classic "musou" super attack and a special that's unique to each character. Once I started to unlock more of the cast, I was surprised at how little Omega Force resorted to cloning, accentuated by said special abilities. For instance, Narsus (an outspoken critic of the status quo) wields a paintbrush. Well, a magical paintbrush that can set traps, queue up earthquakes, and cause rainbow explosions. Daryun, Arslan's right hand, is a pole-arm-wielding fiend reminiscent of Warriors characters like Guan Yu, but he sports some of the most interesting animations yet in the series, specifically his prowess on horseback. Elam, an unassuming young kid, ended up being one of my favorite characters. His bow skills surpass most ranged characters in action games today. One dude uses a lute! And the list goes on.  Switching weapons by way of the d-pad also serves to mix up your tactics on the fly. The "Mardan Rush" mechanic is also a standout feature, rallying an entire battalion as a single unit, causing all sorts of mayhem and kill-counts in the thousands in just seconds. There are also several fun RPG elements to Arslan. You can equip up to three skills by way of "cards," which can be earned by completing specific objectives or just playing the game, or by synthesizing your collection. This is fun to do on higher difficulty levels, but it's not something you'll have to micro on normal or below, so don't get too worked up.  But all of that flash and panache comes with a tradeoff: the boss battles are more tedious than you're probably used to. A "shield" system is in place here, which requires players to whittle down a meter until they can do proper damage. The tactic is usually the same, in that hammering on them as much as possible is paramount, saving your musou to deliver the blow after cracking it, and repeating. It would be more of a crushing feeling if nearly every level weren't such a joy to play through. If you can stomach a few minor issues that add up over time, Arslan: The Warriors of Legend will be your huckleberry. True to Warriors form there's plenty of collectibles to find, new weapons to discover, online and offline co-op, and a free-play mode. Like nearly every Omega Force game before it, I'll be playing this one for quite some time. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Warriors review photo
Dynasty anime
Koei Tecmo is killing it in the beat-'em-up action space. While a lot of detractors erroneously claim that all Warriors games are "mindless button mashers," the studio has managed to keep the series interesting for nearl...

Lumines photo
Lumines

Two new Lumines games are launching this year


On iOS and Android platforms
Feb 09
// Kyle MacGregor
Two Lumines games are coming to mobile platforms later this year, Mobcast just announced. One, a paid app tentatively titled Lumines 2016, is expected to launch sometime this summer, while the other, Lumines VS, is planned fo...
Pokemon Go photo
Pokemon Go

Beware those Pokemon Go beta sign-up pages, they're all scams


As real as Mewthree
Feb 09
// Kyle MacGregor
The Pokémon Company has put out a warning concerning Pokémon Go, stating nothing has been announced regarding the upcoming beta and any new information will be shared via the official site. This seems ...
Destiny photo
Destiny

Based on math, without challenges, it would take 'a year of raiding' to nearly get 320 in Destiny


LOL
Feb 09
// Chris Carter
A redditor decided to crunch some numbers related to gear in Destiny, and the results are pretty hilarious. For those who aren't aware, the max "level" (Light level) in Destiny right now is 320. According to hi...
Deep Down photo
Deep Down

Deep Down is still happening, according to Capcom's copyright extension


Deep down we doubt this game will launch
Feb 09
// Joe Parlock
Deep Down was originally announced three long years ago this month, at the debut event for the PlayStation 4. Since then, the PS4 has gone from strength to strength, but poor little Deep Down is still nowhere to be seen. Fort...
World of Warcraft photo
World of Warcraft

Blizzard thanks fans for supporting it for 25 years


Happy birthday, Blizzard!
Feb 09
// Vikki Blake
To celebrate its upcoming birthday, Blizzard has released a video as a thank you to all the fans who have supported the developer over the last 25 years.   "Here’s to 25 years of creating some of the most epic memo...
Dangerous Golf photo
Dangerous Golf

Devs are already thinking about the next generation of consoles


Devs need to 'build for that future now'
Feb 09
// Vikki Blake
Ex-Need for Speed dev Paul Ross is already thinking of next generation consoles. Talking to Edge (via VideoGamer), former tech director Ross - who’s currently working on Dangerous Golf - said he wanted to "start to...
Pancakes photo
Pancakes

Get flipped on with this awesome Undertale pancake


Happy Pancake Day!
Feb 09
// Joe Parlock
Today is the most important day. Christmas go screw itself and New Year can piss off because today is the most wonderful time of the year: it’s Pancake Day. Whether you’re religious or not, today’s a day wh...
Pokemon photo
Pokemon

Watch Pokemon: The First Movie online for free


Poor Mewtwo
Feb 08
// Kyle MacGregor
You can now watch Pokémon: The First Movie via Pokémon TV, The Pokémon Company's official video streaming service, via your web browser, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or Android device. I can ...
GameTrailers photo
GameTrailers

GameTrailers shuts down after 13 years


Best of luck to everyone affected
Feb 08
// Kyle MacGregor
GameTrailers is no more, the site announced today after 13 years in business. The unfortunate news was officially announced via the website's social media feeds, and was later confirmed by both Editor-in-Chief Brandon Jo...
PS VITA photo
PS VITA

Shiren the Wanderer saunters westward on Vita


Arriving July 26 in North America
Feb 08
// Kyle MacGregor
The fifth entry in Spike Chunsoft's Shiren The Wanderer series is coming west this summer. Aksys Games announced the good news earlier today over at the PlayStation Blog, revealing plans to publish the Mystery Dungeon spin-of...
The Divison photo
The Divison

Ubisoft didn't take 9/11 into consideration when making The Division


The subject apparently never came up
Feb 08
// Kyle MacGregor
Ubisoft recently held a press event for Tom Clancy's The Division in New York City, which is also the setting for the upcoming third-person shooter's post-pandemic survival story. The Division takes place in the wake of what ...
Promoted Blog photo
Promoted Blog

Comments of the Week: Love Love Love


Promoted from our Community Blogs
Feb 08
// Dreamweaver
Goooooooooooooooooooooood evening to all of my lovely audience members! Quick question: what the hell are you doing right now, and why isn't it showering me with love and affection? After all, your dear host, Dreamweaver, is ...
Firewatch photo
Firewatch

Get real printed pictures from Firewatch's photo mode


What else is on that old Kodak?
Feb 08
// Brett Makedonski
When Firewatch releases tomorrow, it'll have a neat little bit of functionality that blurs the line between video game and real life. Photo modes traditionally are used as a passive feature to memorialize something ...
Deals photo
Deals

Buy an Xbox One, get a $75 gift card plus a free game from Microsoft


Microsoft wants your tax refund
Feb 08
// Dealzon
Microsoft wants you to blow your tax refund on an Xbox One. To prove it, the Microsoft Store has fired up its Presidents' Day sale a week ahead of time. Xbox One bundles (including two new bundles) now have the first decent b...
Plague Inc on Steam photo
Plague Inc on Steam

Plague Inc: Evolved leaves Early Access soon


Spread disease with a friend
Feb 08
// Jordan Devore
After nearly two years and some 800,000 copies sold, Plague Inc: Evolved is ready for a full release on Windows, Mac, and Linux. That'll happen next Thursday, February 18. "By the time we launch, 18 major Evolutions (updates)...
Cookie Clicker photo
Cookie Clicker

Cookie Clicker wants back in your life


Version 2.0 is here
Feb 08
// Jordan Devore
Sorry about this. A new version of Cookie Clicker launched today with a revamped ascension system, quality-of-life improvements, and a cookie dragon, among many other additions. I'm telling you about it because I am a bad man...
And another one photo
And another one

Somehow DJ Khaled fits perfectly in The Witness


You smart. You very smart. We the best.
Feb 08
// Jed Whitaker
I've been playing through Jonathan Blow and gang's The Witness of which I have very mixed feelings -- unlike Brett who gave the game a perfect score in his review -- but that hasn't stopped me from falling in love ...
Bloodborne photo
Bloodborne

Badass blacksmiths make Bloodborne's iconic Saw Cleaver


Cleaver? I...
Feb 08
// Brett Makedonski
Bloodborne's rife with unique weapons, almost all of them fitting the criteria of being interesting enough to warrant a real-life adaption. But, the Saw Cleaver edges out the rest this time and is the one that's actually mad...

Review: Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia

Feb 08 // Chris Carter
Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia (PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed]) Developer: Climax StudiosPublisher: UbisoftReleased: February 9, 2016MSRP: $9.99 I was never really a fan of the modern settings in Assassin's Creed -- at least, the action sequences, because the walking simulator IT department bits from Black Flag on were cool -- but that doesn't mean they can't be done. As such, I was keen on seeing what Climax Studios could do with a tale set in 1918, this time shadowing assassin Nikolai Oreov and the quest for a Bolshevik artifact. The pulp animation cinematics are stunning, but the showstopping elements end there. The cast is simply not memorable, including Nikolai, who is doing "one last job" before he abandons the Assassins and finds a new life for his family elsewhere. It's a good hook but Russia never fully sells it, particularly given the underplayed performances. I don't need a charismatic, wisecracking Nolan North per se, just something to connect with. Russia also desperately wants you to know that "he's old," which should be meaningful, but we got a better angle on that storyline with Ezio in later core games anyway. That feeling of familiarity permeates throughout some of the other elements of the game. The Schlinder's List-esque monochrome and red aesthetics looked dope at first, but started to wear after a few levels. Outside of the blazing red and orange sky, a lot of the areas look too similar, even if it serves to differentiate all of the interaction zones (all those hidden little hovels). Though it does have the added benefit of cordoning off secret areas by purposefully not brightening them, which is rad. [embed]339981:62172:0[/embed] Beyond that, you can expect more of the same compared to the past entries in the trilogy, which is to say great things. The 2D switch-off works wonderfully. The controls are so responsive, and the tools available are not only effective, but succeed in not overwhelming the player. I love that you can approach levels with either a gung-ho or pacifist style, or anything in between, and the running slide assassination ability is still just as satisfying. Unique to Russia, yanking off grates Arkham style with a winch and using phones to distract guards is silly, but it works when juxtaposed to the serious art style. I'm a bit torn on the gunplay however, because while the art of sniping does technically fit the quiet nature of the universe, it wasn't done in such a way that elevates it beyond an arcadey shooting gallery. There are a few sequences where distraction is key, like a mini-puzzle of sorts, but in most cases you're just blasting away at folks until no one is left standing. With six challenges to do (just like India) and a New Game+ option, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: Russia has plenty to offer for a bite-sized package, but it fails to live up to the bar set by its predecessors. The loud and powerful styles of China and India simply trump the final piece of the pie, which goes out with a muted rebel yell. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Assassin's Creed review photo
Once more, with guns
Assassin's Creed Chronicles had a nice thing going on with China and India, delivering some of the classic stealth action the series is known for with a striking new art style and a shift to 2D action. Now Ubisoft i...

Mad Catz photo
Mad Catz

Three Mad Catz executives resign prior to tomorrow's earnings report


Probably not a great sign
Feb 08
// Brett Makedonski
Mad Catz is going through a tumultuous shake-up at a time that isn't likely to inspire confidence from investors. On February 9 (tomorrow), Mad Catz will publish its third-quarter 2016 fiscal results. In the lead-up to that, ...
N++ photo
N++

Precision platformer N++ headed to Steam


And possibly other places
Feb 08
// Jordan Devore
N++ released last year as a PlayStation 4 exclusive and, considering how dang good it was and how much of a following its predecessors N and N+ had, not nearly enough people played it. Hopefully that'll change this year when ...
Google VR photo
Google VR

Google will reportedly release a Gear VR competitor this year


And it won't be cardboard
Feb 08
// Brett Makedonski
The past four years have been VR hype-dominated, but if you were really pressed to pin one as The Year of VR, I suppose it would be 2016. That's when most of these machines leave their comfy nests and beta states, and they ac...
Mega Man photo
Mega Man

Mega Man EXE's 15th anniversary celebration looks fun


In Japan, of course
Feb 08
// Chris Carter
Over in Japan, lots of little events are held for almost every major gaming franchise. They're pretty much all awesome despite how intimate they are, and that's definitely the case with the Mega Man EXE 15th anniversary....
Street Fighter V photo
Street Fighter V

Necali goes full creeper in newest Street Fighter V CG trailer


Launch is near
Feb 08
// Chris Carter
Chun-Li laces up, Ken fixes his hair, Ryu gazes longingly at the sky, and Necali is creepy as all getup in the new CG trailer for Street Fighter V. I'm not a fan of the animation outside of that hand-drawn effect that the gam...
Fallout 4 photo
Fallout 4

This Mirelurk war in Fallout 4 does its best Starship Troopers impression


Mods away
Feb 08
// Chris Carter
More Fallout 4 machinima and mods are steadily pouring out from the community, some of which are better than anything the core game is offering. Rather than just throw a bunch of creatures into an arena and let things pl...
Clueless Gamer photo
Clueless Gamer

Clueless Gamer returns with guests for Doom


Last video was Fallout 4
Feb 08
// Chris Carter
Conan O'Brien hasn't had a Clueless Gamer video in a few months (that was Fallout 4 back in November), but he's back to promote Doom, and have a fun time doing it. NFL players Josh Norman and Von Miller join his antics, ...
Onimusha photo
Onimusha

Red Alert: Onimusha revival 'discussion phases' are happening at Capcom


Go on
Feb 08
// Chris Carter
According to Yoshinori Ono at Capcom, they are looking to potentially "revisit the series" at some point. Sure we've had the life-supportish PC and PS3 Onimusha Soul, but nothing significant has come out of this franchis...

Review: Firewatch

Feb 08 // Steven Hansen
Firewatch (PS4, PC [reviewed])Developer: Campo SantoPublisher: Panic Inc., Campo SantoReleased: February 9, 2016MSRP: $19.99 Henry is sad. Why else retreat to the woods of Wyoming to become a fire lookout? It starts in Colorado when Henry, plastered, tries to hit on a woman at a bar. She feels so bad for him she gives him a pity date that turns into a relationship. These bits are done purely with text and music, interspersed by full three dimensional segments of Henry walking out of an elevator into a parking garage and getting into his beat up, fire-engine red pickup. Not unlike Kentucky Route Zero, a high mark in the adventure game genre, Firewatch opens with opportunities for the player to partially define Henry's character. When your girlfriend Julia wants a dog, do you accept the beagle she falls in love with, or insist you get a German shepherd (for protection)? When she asks about children, do you ask her to wait? These choices are not superficial; they are real-life important. More than affecting the outcome of that relationship (you already know he is escaping to the Wyoming woods by the mid-80s), they take on personal meaning in how you sharpen elements of Henry's character.  Mixing these text-adventure-style segments with Henry's dutiful trek into the woods makes them more poignant because you already know how it ends. Badly. Yes. But with a surprising complication. Julia, by then Henry's wife, comes down with early onset Alzheimer's. I didn't expect to be hit that hard by two white text options, but the decision to keep minding her around the house 24/7 or put her in a home was not easy -- and I don't even know what she looks like. While Julia and the relationship are defined in broad strokes, the choice doesn't feel as abstract as choosing to save a character and let another die in The Walking Dead, for example. These are familiar, real-world issues. As Henry settles into his role as lookout, ascending his tower after an eight mile hike, he is met by the voice of Delilah, his boss, who communicates with him via walkie-talkie. This makes up the bulk of the gameplay: walking around, chatting with Delilah via radio. It is a welcomed evolution of the stationary choice-based dialogue trees (you use the triggers so you can walk, talk, and probably even chew gum at the same time). Their conversations are natural thanks to strong dialogue matched by each character's voice performance. Delilah's constant cursing and groan-inducing puns are met by Henry stammering "p-p-p-panties" on the way to keep those aforementioned nude teens from setting off any more fireworks in light of the extreme fire warning. The chemistry is natural as they alternate jabbing back and forth and opening up with one another, though still I found it difficult to bring up my abandoned wife the first few times opportunity arose. Silence is a viable dialogue option. Henry, though, is not just defined through player-guided dialogue. Everything about the production furthers his character. He is not a camera on wheels. You see shorts-clad legs when you look down or his large, meaty hands as he exerts himself clambering up a one meter lip. He is human, average, and the animation work reinforces that. Firewatch is filthy with telling details like these. Some pieces just add flavor (in the confiscated bundle of bottle rockets, one is called the Screaming Wife, and all have original artwork), but it all works towards a cohesive tone. [embed]339920:62167:0[/embed] Art director Olly Moss' color palette is not just pretty to look at. The exaggerated hues work towards the overall tone, from the warm oranges to vivid, dark evenings, while the stylized look is readable, moving away from obfuscating photorealism. I rarely got lost in the unfamiliar woods (though there is a paper map Henry physically pulls up and scribbles notes on). The area is designed and the story paced with just enough backtracking to breed familiarity with the territory, while the relative isolation still leaves it frightening, especially as the story moves away from potential drama-cum-romcom into a thriller.  Most impressive is the thematic cohesion. Firewatch is broadly about guilt, which metastasizes here as isolation-induced paranoia when things turn frightening. After day one on the job Henry comes back to his tower to find the place smashed into. The teens, maybe? Or that silhouette of a hiker spotted on the way back home? While Henry has Delilah on the radio, isolation is what drove him into the woods, perpetuating a cycle of guilt leading to self-imposed loneliness shared by the major characters. The same nagging doubt, decision-questioning, and fear is externalized in the second act as outside forces appear to be stalking Henry and monitoring the conversations between him and Delilah. At which point, incidentally, their carefree, innocent flirting now seems lurid. Something to be ashamed of for the still-married Henry. Let's not forget guilt, internalized anger that can lead to isolation. Ambient sound design shines brightest here, as everything from the weirdly strong rattle of a chain link fence to scurrying in the distance invokes fear -- especially after Henry is sucker punched unconscious on the way to do some fishing. It was here for me Firewatch accessed fear on a Hitchcockian level. No monsters. Only one encounter with some kind of assailant. Still the surveillance, the mystery, the vulnerability and the isolation left me wandering around always checking my six rather than frolicking through gorgeous woods. Music, art, and dialogue quickly established the forest familiar, giving me nostalgia flashes of camping as a kid and first stepping out of the car, dwarfed by redwoods, twigs crunching underfoot. Then that comfort is stripped away. The analog inputs (pulling up the walkie-talkie or map, spinning the same "1234" tumblers to unlock every single park lock box with Henry's paws) combined with unique animation and believable voice work help ground Firewatch, which manages both restraint and maturity in its story without ever going full mumblecore "walking simulator." The warmth of the budding relationship between two voices with natural chemistry is undercut by harsher realities and the drawn out segments of feeling stalked and vulnerable are legitimately stressful. The result is a tight, taut human tale well worth the trek.
Firewatch, with me! photo
A watched fire never kills you
The drunk, nude teens bathing in the lake at sunset summed up Firewatch neatly: "you're just some sad man out in the woods." Kids always know just where to cut. If you could translate the insult quadrant of their brains you'd...

Shantae: Risky's Revenge photo
Shantae: Risky's Revenge

Shantae: Risky's Revenge Director's Cut is finally coming to Wii U soon


Great news
Feb 08
// Chris Carter
According to WayForward, Shantae: Risky's Revenge Director's Cut might hit Wii U soon. The game has moved into the submissions phase in both Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe, and the publisher expects everything to ...

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