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Focus Home Interactive

Vampyr photo
Vampyr

Vampyr teaser: Brief look at Life is Strange dev's new game


'The Role Playing Game'
Jun 18
// Steven Hansen
Dontnod is still wrapping up Life is Strange, but the Remember Me developer is also working on a new RPG with Focus Home Interactive called Vampyr. It was announced earlier this year, but this little concept teaser is the first look at the tone and whatnot Dontnod is going for its new project.
Divinity: Original Sin photo
Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition coming to PC, Xbox One and PS4


Say goodbye to another 100 hours
May 15
// Joe Parlock
People liked that Divinity: Original Sin thing last year, didn’t they? The CRPG won quite a few awards and was positively received here at Destructoid. Now developer Larian and publisher Focus Home Interactive...
The Technomancer photo
The Technomancer

Mars: War Logs studio reveals The Technomancer


Impressive to see Spiders keep at it like this
Apr 10
// Jordan Devore
The folks behind Mars: War Logs, Of Orcs and Men, and Bound by Flame are working with Focus Home Interactive on yet another action role-playing game. When it releases next year for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, The Technomancer will...

Review: Pix the Cat

Feb 03 // Steven Hansen
Pix the Cat (PC [reviewed], PS Vita, PS4 ) Developer: Pastagames Publisher: Focus Home InteractiveReleased: January 29, 2015 MSRP: $9.99 The main attraction is the arcade mode and its Main Grid. Pix is always moving, you pick the direction. You start on level one, collect eggs, gain a trail of duckling, deposit them into targeted holes without crashing into them or a wall. Once the plane is egg-free, you tunnel deeper and repeat until time runs out.  The rest is arcade perfectionism. If you pick up all the ducklings before depositing them into the holes, you get a combo bonus. More points. Stringing together planes of Perfects is the key to topping leaderboards. Impeding that is the occasional puzzle-like design of some levels, that organically encourage you to snake in on yourself unless you exercise on the fly route correction. You also pick up speed as you play -- you even get a speed bonus by grinding on walls if you make your turns well in advance -- which is the pure reflex-testing part. Going faster ensures you go deeper and have more opportunity to score but it's harder to keep from running into a spike, or your own tail, breaking your combo and the remaining eggs on the board.    [embed]287131:57148:0[/embed] That's about it. The Main board changes slightly every time you play -- the board will be flipped upside down, egg placement slightly offset -- just so the game can't be machine-memorized, but it's all about incremental improvement. And it's a heck of a lot of frantic, neon fun. You can also choose your announcer voice (Doctor Doom is great, but Lady Bot sounds like an older Beemo), turn various ghosts on or off (friends' best, your best, global best). My only real complaint is that this is the sort of game that begs for an arcade joystick. Playing with the Xbox 360 analog feels much looser than I'd like, while I couldn't be quick enough with three fingers on the keypad. Let's not talk about the 360 d-pad. Maybe those of you who picked it up free on PS4 or Vita have better luck in that regard.  Pix comes with three other modes as well. Nostalgia, with its 1920s animation aesthetic, is all about speed, with you picking up a board (or a few) worth of eggs within the time limit, no drop off needed. Laboratory slows things down and emphasizes the puzzle portion. You move in whatever direction you choose until you run into something that stops you, like a lot of games with icy floor puzzles, all the while collecting eggs to deposit only once you've nabbed them all. You're graded based on how many moves you make on the board. There's also an amusing two- to four-player competitive multiplayer mode that pits robot Pixs against once another. You collect eggs to use as single-shot ammo to stun your opponents and make a point by dashing into them. The Arena rounds out a varied package that, some looseness to the controls aside, manages to be fun in a few different ways.
Pix the Cat reviewed photo
Infinite nest
Pix is a mix of the two most saccharine basic emoticons, :3 and ^_^, a face for the forgotten mascot age. Just too cute, and not in a way that ever betrays the fiendish score-chaser underneath. Sincere cuteness. A real testam...

Vampyr photo
Vampyr

Vampyr: A new RPG from the Remember Me devs


'Take blood, save a life'
Jan 20
// Brett Makedonski
Dontnod Entertainment has yet to release its upcoming project Life is Strange, but it already has another game in the works. And, this one looks to be in a totally different vein (that pun will definitely make sense in a few ...
Battlefleet Gothic photo
Battlefleet Gothic

Games Workshop's Battlefleet Gothic becoming a real-time strategy PC game


This sure is pretty
Jan 16
// Jordan Devore
Kyle and I were just talking about how much we wanted a new Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. What a joy that was, all up close and personal. While we wait indefinitely on that dream to come true, there are plenty more videog...

Review: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

Oct 13 // Alasdair Duncan
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments (PC [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4)Developer: FrogwaresPublisher: Focus Home InteractiveReleased: September 29, 2014MSRP: $39.99 / £29.99 I'll applaud developer Frogwares for taking a fresh approach to its series of Sherlock Holmes titles. Previous games revolved around individual cases with an over-riding story featuring the likes of criminal masterminds Jack the Ripper and Professor Moriarty. Holmes and Watson would solve a series of mysteries, each feeding into the overall narrative but Frogwares has done away with that approach for Crimes and Punishments. As the name might suggest, this time there are totally separate cases with their own victims and criminals. While there's some dealings with Sherlock's spy-master brother, Mycroft, this has almost no bearing until the very end of the game and doesn't really affect the individual cases. [embed]282435:55943:0[/embed] Crimes and Punishments is an adventure game so there's plenty of looking for clues, consulting Holmes' various reference materials, and conducting scientific tests. There aren't inventory-based puzzles that you'd traditionally think of with an adventure game; any items Holmes acquires will be available when needed for their specific use. It's all practical solutions too -- like for instance, when Holmes is looking for a possible bullet hole high up on a darkened wall, you simply combine a pole with a lamp to proceed. There's nothing too taxing in that sense, as most of the difficulty comes from various mini-games and challenges which range from mental to dexterity-based. With the former, you'll have Holmes picking locks or doing experiments on hair and metal samples. The other type of challenges are a bit rarer, like beating a sailor in an arm-wrestling contest or crossing a rope bridge. These can be skipped at no real penalty to the player (aside from missing out on achievements) so while it's welcome that you can bypass the lock-picking mini-game after the seventh time you've seen it, there does feel like an absence of challenge. This isn't much of a change from the last Sherlock Holmes title but it highlights the focus on the newer elements of the game. The big new feature here is that there isn't just one suspicious party in each case and you have the ability to accuse whichever individual you feel the clues point towards. Your conclusions are formed from interpreting clues that you find pertaining to the crime in question and interpreting them in such a way that a motive and opportunity become clear. First, you'll have to link facts together to form a node in Holmes' brain map (I've made up that name). Most nodes will have two possible interpretations, like either a break-in was staged or there was a real robbery. Mapping out a crime isn't as elegant as the interface may make it look; you can click randomly on nodes simply to get the conclusions you want and it was even possible for me to condemn a completely innocent person all because I missed a single clue.  In each of the game's six cases, it's possible to point the finger of blame on incorrect parties  -- I finished with four cases solved correctly and two incorrectly -- but at least you're able to absolve the guilty if you feel they were justified in their actions. Crimes and Punishments unfortunately makes most of its murder victims fairly unlikable so it often feels like absolving their murderer is the natural choice. Whether they be murderers, bullies, wife-beaters, or worse, it's hard not to find sympathy for their possible killer. This undermines the weight of the choice you have to make by leaning on the side of the accused. Still, the game doesn't punish you for being wrong -- not directly anyway. Holmes will receive correspondence at a later date confirming if his decision was in any way correct. Crimes and Punishments looks great. Most outdoor environments are stunningly realized, especially locations like the archaeological dig site. The character models too are impressive but suffer from not having their lips move in sync with the dialogue. Kerry Shale and Nick Brimble do a fine job in voicing Holmes and Watson respectively as they have done in previous games and the standard of voice acting for the secondary characters is better than expected. In motion, there was a lot of screen tearing which after experimenting with the video settings still failed to go away. Loading times were hefty as well, especially on my PC which is equipped with plenty of RAM and an SSD. This wouldn't be such a problem if the game didn't insist on moving you from location to location, often on a whim. At one point, I was told I needed to retrieve Holmes' faithful bloodhound Toby from Baker Street. So, after selecting Holmes' domicile from the map, there was a loading screen, I arrived at Baker street, clicked on Toby, and returned to the crime scene after another loading screen. It took two minutes to do what frankly should have taken just a few seconds.  In most videogames that portray detective work, you're still guided on a linear path that has you eventually finger the right perp to continue the story. L.A. Noire came close to having actual deduction and investigations but you would still have to repeat cases where you charged an innocent party. Westwood's 1997 Blade Runner title lead the player on fairly fixed path but kept things fresh by randomizing whether certain characters were replicants. 2014's lo-fi adventure game Noir Syndrome has a randomized set of characters, murders and clues each time you play and I've found my success rate is 50/50 whether I find the guilty party. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments finds itself in a tricky predicament in the relationship between the great detective and the player; none of us really possess the razor-sharp deductive skills that Holmes is blessed with, so as a player controlling Holmes, surely it's logical that the wrong person is blamed for a crime. But are we playing a Sherlock Holmes game to make our own deductions and mistakes or are we playing to see the workings of the great detective's mind? Controlling the great detective is sometimes frustrating; he still makes leaps in understanding that's beyond the average person. At the same time, that's what makes him a compelling character. By allowing the player to make their own conclusions about who they think is behind a gruesome crime, Frogwares has introduced an element of doubt that I haven't seen in a detective game for some time. At the end of a case, the player is given a rating, either highlighting their compassion or their steely sense of justice. They're also given a breakdown as to how other players resolved the case and the option to find out if they identified the right suspect. Your enjoyment of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments will depend on whether you want to be guided on a series of baffling murders or have the great detective be fallible.
Sherlock Holmes review photo
Frogwares has changed the formula with mixed results
In Fyodor Dostoyevsky's weighty novel Crime and Punishment, the central character robs and murders a loan shark and pawn broker but justifies the act in his own mind because he will use the money for good. Doestoyevsky's anti...

Space Hulk photo
Space Hulk

I sure hope Space Hulk: Deathwing will be good


New trailer
Jun 27
// Jordan Devore
Here's a much better (in-engine) trailer for Space Hulk: Deathwing, a first-person shooter in development at E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy developer Streum On Studio for next year. The video shows the Deathwing squad blasting ap...
Space Hulk photo
Space Hulk

An Unreal Engine 4-powered Warhammer 40K first-person shooter


From the makers of hack-or-be-hacked E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy
May 22
// Jordan Devore
Streum On Studio, the developer behind the crazed E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy, already announced Space Hulk: Deathwing, its FPS take on the Warhammer 40,000 universe. But today might as well be our introduction to the game -- th...
Bound by Flame photo
Bound by Flame

One final trailer for action-RPG Bound by Flame


Wonder how this will review...
May 05
// Jordan Devore
Focus Home Interactive has put out a launch trailer for Bound by Flame, an action-RPG releasing this Friday at retail on PC, PS3, PS4, and Xbox 360. It's got that tactical combat appeal in that if you're just attacking enemi...
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Bound by Flame arrives on May 9 for PC, PS3, PS4, & Xbox 360


Yup, sure looks like an action RPG
Mar 15
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Spiders Studios' new action role-playing game Bound by Flame will be out on May 9 for the PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Xbox 360. Many of you seemed interested in this game last we posted about it. But then I read the...
Goblin thief photo
Goblin thief

Styx: Master of Shadows has you play as a sneaky goblin


Trailer!
Feb 14
// Steven Hansen
Maybe I'm crazy, but whistling to get guards' attention doesn't seem too stealthy. Styx: Master of Shadows, from developer Cyanide Studio, is slated for a PC release. You'll play as the titular Styx, an ancient goblin infilt...
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This ugly goblin is going to rob you blind


A new infiltraion game with RPG elements from Cyanide Studio
Jan 23
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Styx: Master of Shadows is a new infiltration game with RPG elements from developer Cyanide Studio and publisher Focus Home Entertainment. The PC title will see that ugly goblin above as the playable character. His name is St...

Review: Final Exam

Nov 12 // Wesley Ruscher
Final Exam (PC, PSN, XBLA [Reviewed])Developer: Mighty Rocket StudioPublisher: Focus Home InteractiveReleased: November 5, (PC, PSN); November 8, 2013 (XBLA)MSRP: $9.99 Mighty Rocket Studio’s 2D beat em’ up, Final Exam, wants to fool you into thinking it’s not another game centered around a zombie outbreak. For starters, the ghastly crew of abominations plaguing the world are referred to as “monsters.” But one would be hard pressed to see them as any anything other than stylized versions of the zombies from the Left 4 Dead series, once the action breaks outs. Being that this is a arcade game, it does not take long for the proverbial shit to hit the fan either. As a group of friends -- who would never in a million years actually hang out with each other -- head off to their high school reunion for some good old nostalgic times, the fun has to be put on hold when they, literally, come crashing into a horde of monsters. It's a simple set up, but then again this game is all about smashing and blasting anything dumb enough to get in your way. On its surface Final Exam appears to be your run-of-the-mill side-scrolling brawler. There are four characters to choose from, each starting out with their own affinities to certain play styles (explosives, hand-to-hand combat, and guns) and a set of zombie-esque monsters to slay over the course of eight stages. Combat is pretty straight forward too with melee attacks regulated to one button and guns and explosives set to the right stick (for aiming) and shoulder buttons for firing. It’s fun, for what it’s worth, in short bursts, but over the course of the game, it begins to wear thin. Mighty Rocket Studio aims to keep their title fresh; with basic RPG stat development, character skill trees, and environments that lend themselves to limited exploration for new weapons and collectables. Unfortunately, monotony sets in rather quick. Combat becomes the same combo strings over-and-over (regardless of melee weapon equipped) and ranged combat offers little variance. [embed]265479:51306:0[/embed] Levels additionally flow the same each time. Environments are typically multi-floored to allow the freedom to go in any direction, and while this could have been used more cleverly -- possibly hiding alternative routes and other secrets -- it's unfortunately used to send players on fetch quests. One level you may be rescuing and carrying children to safety and the next collecting samples, but regardless of what you're doing it all blends together in the end. Really the only shining light to the game’s level design are the few throwbacks to other old school arcade game genres tossed in the mix. There’s a shmup style boss fight and something akin to Space Invaders tossed in, but they are too few and far between. There is decent assortment of enemy fodder to to dismantle though, ranging from rampaging monsters to acid spitters, but by the end of the game you'll be quite sick of them. Enemies constantly come in swarms, and respawn over time, which causes any uniqueness they have to wear itself thin. What escalates the repetitiveness the most, and perhaps the game’s biggest shortcoming, is the reuse of environments. Nothing is worse than doing the same stuff on repeat in the same location. Multiplayer does little to fix anything. Local play is limited to two-players, with online supporting four, but over time the enjoyment of playing with others teeters off into just more monster mashing. Upon completion a timed survival mode unlocks (kill as many enemies without dying in seven minutes) as well as a harder difficulty to try out. If you're truly a sadist this will be up your alley, since the best scores for the leader boards come from playing at the highest skill challenge. I know I've painted a pretty grim picture of Final Exam, but I do want to state it’s not the worst of games. It does an admirable job bringing some modern systems into an old school brawler and at a more than affordable price. It controls well and the visuals are mildly entertaining with all the gooey giblets that are constantly flying around. It’s just  a game you'll go through once and never go back to again. To put it simply: Final Exam is forgettable.
Final Exam Review photo
Class dismissed
Eight years ago when Microsoft kicked off this generation with the Xbox 360, the concept of downloadable arcade titles on a home console was nothing more than a vision. With the Xbox 360 came the Xbox Live Arcade and one ad...

Contrast photo
Contrast

Contrast lets you solve puzzles in the 1920s as a shadow


One of the more original game premises in recent memory
Sep 05
// Jordan Devore
I hope Compulsion Games is able to build an audience for Contrast. While this may be a puzzle-platformer, its subject matter is darker, more adult than what you might normally associate with the genre. Caitlin and Spencer ca...
Warhammer photo
Warhammer

Developers of E.Y.E. are making Space Hulk: Deathwing


Terminator armor for everyone!
Sep 03
// Jordan Devore
With so many of these new Warhammer 40,000 games coming out now, I'm left sitting here waiting for that coveted Dawn of War III to steal away my weekends -- but it's nowhere in sight. In the meantime, Space Hulk: Deathwing h...
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Obscure now called Final Exam, still looks fun


Name changed of that other Obscure game
Jul 11
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Remember Obscure? It was that fun looking four-player side-scrolling beat-em-up/shooter. Well it's undergone a name change, and you can now refer to it as Final Exam. The name was changed largely due to how fans kept thinking...
Sim photo
Sim

Farming Simulator sure knows how to do a good trailer


Jet Set Farming
Jul 05
// Jordan Devore
After emerging from my post-Fourth of July coma this morning, it was this trailer for the console ports of Farming Simulator, of all things, that caught my eye. Do not -- I repeat, do not! -- watch this if you are still feel...
Contrast screens photo
Contrast screens

New Contrast screens are stark & stylin'


The shadowy indie platformer struts its stuff
Jun 28
// Steven Hansen
I fell for Contrast's Roaring Twenties, film noir meets Mediterranean architecture style when I caught its trailer during E3. Be sure to watch for the fabulous, jazzy, Ella Fitzgerald-inspired singing act, too. While I was ...

Review: Magrunner: Dark Pulse

Jun 27 // Steven Hansen
Magrunner: Dark Pulse (PC)Developer: FrogwaresPublisher: Focus Home InteractiveReleased: June 20, 2013 MSRP: $19.99 Magrunner begins with an ill-advised exposition dump. First, a lengthy cutscene, then more dialogue as you're confined to a closed, circular room you can do little in but wade in circles. Its protagonist, Dax C. Ward, the world's most average-looking, buzz-cut-sporting, young white guy, is a parent-less scientific genius raised by a socially outcasted mutant. This is not particularly important. The narrative is facile and squandered. Gamaji is a mutant, which we're told makes him a social outcast, but we're only shown a reporter being snooty and revolted by him once. Really all it means is he has a bunch of cool extra arms and helps Dax out throughout the game. Similarly, the reporter is there to be a bit of a jerk and then summarily ignored. Other stock characters make appearances, like "scummy CEO" and "off-kilter head of sciences who seems to be running everything." Every move in the story is telegraphed so blatantly, like when apropos of nothing Gamaji wants to tell you some secret about your parents, that I wonder why there even was a story. Still, things started out strong when the initial exposition dump ended and I was dropped into a testing facility of sorts and started figuring out how magnets worked. At least as far as the game was concerned. [embed]256727:49282:0[/embed] The system is simple, similar to Portal. The left mouse can give certain objects a particular charge, designated by color, and so too can the right mouse. Opposite charges repel, similar charges attract. Solve puzzles. I moved along at a steady clip for the first chunk of the game genuinely enjoying well-designed puzzles that featured inventive use of the magnet gun. Soon things in the testing facility start going wonky and you're pretty sure you just saw a fish monster murder a competitor and Magrunner gets legitimately and impressively creepy. You leave the stark white, sterile obstacle course for blueish gray, dank caverns exposed by a broken wall. Suddenly, chains are inexplicably hanging down from the ceiling just to make sure you know you're in an eerie place, early testing grounds of the tech. Platforms move a little faster, stop a bit harder, and with a more mechanical clunk -- it's a neat, subtle tonal shift from the gently hovering platforms in the obstacle course. This is when things start to get particularly creepy. At one point, I took my headphones off for a reprieve -- partially to relieve myself, partially to give my psyche a rest -- and there was a super spooky wind beating outside my window. I can't confirm, but I'm pretty sure the game set that up as part of its atmosphere. I wouldn't put it past Cthulhu. The slow, psychological pacing works well because the base mechanic is puzzling, not survival horror, so you're focusing on puzzling while things are getting slowly more and more unnerving. There are moments when you snap out of safe, numbing puzzle solving and hear a noise or see a scary thing and realize things are headed in a grim direction. You're even dared to wade through waist-high water at one point knowing full well a creepy fish monster could be swimming about. Jaws never scared me, but delving into murky water in games terrifies me. Where Magrunner really lost me, beyond its banal characters and plot, is that it stretches itself too thin. The moments of psychological tension eventual wither and rot in a game that just has too many puzzles. Eventually the creepy fish monster that could be around any corner becomes an enemy that walks around with a goofy animation and attacks you with an even more inept, floundering animation. In the last half, new mechanics are added arbitrarily, like Dax's mechanical dog that can be shot at randomly appropriate surfaces and gives off its own charge. Emphasis on precise platforming in overly expansive levels means a lot of retries. The difficulty spike alone kills any sense of progress or tension. Worst, it's not that things get more clever, but merely more complex and tedious. Magrunner does enough right that the things it does wrong become so frustrating. It riffs on Portal almost slavishly; the simple bi-color visual mechanic, the arc from clean testing facility to dank, early prototype areas, and so on. At the same time, it messes up the formula, including too many needlessly sprawling and tedious puzzles while jamming in banal characters and an uninteresting plot. What it does differently, it squanders, like the psychological horror aspects that devolve into indifference and annoyance. Even Cthulhu is rendered an inert set piece. The game looks gorgeous. Sometimes the puzzles are great. Sometimes the atmosphere is impressive. Unfortunately, Magrunner fails to live up to the sum of its best parts.
Magrunner review photo
Magrunning in place
Unless I've missed most of them, there hasn't exactly been a glut of first-person puzzlers post Portal. Here to help fill that niche is Magrunner: Dark Pulse, a colorful puzzler mechanically centered around magnetism and narr...

Magrunner trailer photo
Magrunner trailer

Magrunner is like spooky Portal with Cthulhu, out now


'Technology meets Cthulhu'
Jun 21
// Steven Hansen
Well, I'm sold. Magrunner: Dark Pulse looks great if this trailer is any proper indication. I'm in love with the starkly clashing, almost manic aesthetic that smacks of colorful imagination straight out of the PS2 era. Our ow...
Mars photo
Mars

Mars: War Logs update brings improved English translation


What a nice gesture
Jun 18
// Jordan Devore
Knowing what I now know about Mars: War Logs, it may end up being one of those titles that becomes a solid bargain-bin pickup. It's on the right track: Spiders Studio has put out an update for the PC game which promises a be...
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Contrast lights the way to fun platforming


And a has a cool setting to boot!
Jun 14
// Caitlin Cooke
Contrast is hands down the most unique game I played at E3. It's rare to find a game that melds adult themes with the whimsical storytelling mechanics of a child's mind. Blended with interesting puzzle platforming, Contrast is surely going to spark some interest when it arrives.
Magrunner photo
Magrunner

Magrunner: Dark Pulse looks really darn cool


Magnets, how do they work?
Jun 13
// Caitlin Cooke
Magrunner: Dark Pulse is a game that you may brush off as a Portal imitator at first - but I urge you not to do so. After playing through some levels on the E3 show floor, Magrunner has caught my attention not just with its delightful puzzle-solving mechanics but through the world and story itself.
Contrast photo
Contrast

Curious platformer Contrast also hitting PSN and XBLA


Looks promising
May 24
// Jordan Devore
Joining the already announced PC version, Compulsion Games has signed on with Focus Home Interactive to bring its hybrid 2D/3D puzzle platformer Contrast to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network later this year. Set in th...

Review: Mars: War Logs

May 06 // Jim Sterling
Mars: War Logs (PC)Developer: SpidersPublisher: Focus Home InteractiveReleased: April 26, 2013MSRP: $19.99Rig: Intel i7-3770K @3.50 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, GeForce Titan GPU  Mars' biggest problem is that it presents a selection of genuinely good ideas that never get taken to their conclusion. An action-RPG with player-driven narrative decisions, interactive party members, and a crafting and morality system, War Logs boasts all the comfortable trappings of such games as Dragon Age and Mass Effect, but only at a fundamental level. The result is a structurally sound skeleton of a game, bereft of much in the way of flesh.  The rushed narrative highlights this issue perfectly. It starts in a prisoner-of-war camp, where a freshly captured soldier named Innocence meets a gruff anti-hero by the name of Roy. After some trudging around in the prison, the next chapter jarringly ends the war and introduces an evil dictatorship that does very little in the way of visible villainy. Along the way, a woman from the prison, furious at Roy for killing her mentor, stops being furious, while a bounty hunter, paid to kill Roy, stops trying to kill Roy. The adventure takes about six or seven hours to beat, and in that time, it charges blindly through about three stories, any one of which could have lasted an entire game, and none of which are given any adequate sense of pace and build.  That's Mars: War Logs in a nutshell. A headlong sprint through established RPG tropes and character-building systems, with barely any time to stop and develop a single one of them. [embed]253183:48541:0[/embed] Leveling systems involve a quick and dirty skill tree with three paths, all of which get pretty full pretty quick. There are also separate character abilities allowing for passive crafting and experience perks, though it's a brief list containing little to be excited about. The game's reputation system is influenced by whether you choose to harvest fallen enemies for serum (which acts as both a craftable healing item and currency), and influences a few dialog options, but generally adds a few extra combat buffs or reduces merchant prices, depending on your choice.   Similarly, the crafting system floods your inventory with items to the point where you don't have to think very hard about what you make, while you enhance your one armor and one weapon slot with items that enhance a handful of bonus statistics. You meet various characters who join your party, but you only ever take one on as a follower at a time, and they can't be upgraded in any way. You can also build relationships with followers, though it involves scrolling through some basic dialog and, again, rushes the process (you can start trying to romance at least one female character literally within minutes of meeting her).  It's not like Mars is bad at what it does. All of its ideas are as competent as they are rudimentary, but the rudimentary nature of them fails to make any of it exciting. Upgrading weapons, leveling up, and building friendships are all so simplistic, so straightforward, that there's no satisfaction to be gained. It's difficult to maintain interest in the game, not because it's bad in any way, but because it's so utterly lacking in interesting player agency.  The combat system is the same way. It functions perfectly well, it's just not very remarkable. You can whack stuff with a big stick, you can block attacks, you can roll around, and you can break guarding foes with a swift kick. Each encounter revolves around using each of these abilities in fairly predictable ways -- enemies that block need kicking, enemies with shielded fronts need to be rolled behind. As the game progresses, Roy will access "Technomancer" abilities that give me electricity-based powers, but they're fairly muted attacks that aren't as reliable as the trust melee weapon, especially since they can be broken by enemy attacks easily.  During combat, one finds that their allied partner is almost entirely useless. Commands (again, very basic ones) can be issued to one's follower, yet it matters not, as they have zero survival ability and deal generally mediocre damage. Their job seems to be that of a temporary distraction. They break up the enemy's attention for a minute or two, before they're knocked out and you finish everybody off. Just be warned that, if you pair up with the fellow Technomancer character, she proves herself terrific at hitting you with her attacks, breaking your attacks and dealing damage. Sadly, she's the only NPC actually worth a damn in a fight. Combat mostly involves rolling around, smacking things, and rolling some more. The block function is too slow to be of much use, and enemies have a tremendously irritating habit of evading attacks with a dodge move far superior to your own, before counter-attacking. Like any good Spiders game, the adventure is imbalanced in favor of enemies at the beginning, before becoming pitifully easy toward the end once you level up far beyond the capabilities of the opposition. At the end of each combat round, one can begin a looting process that is, to say the least, fairly arduous. Looting anything involves an unnecessary rummaging animation, while harvesting serum from unconscious enemies initiates a cutscene every single time. The scene can be skipped, but doing so is still a pointless waste of time. There are also skippable cutscenes for every single door opened or small box climbed, and it never stops feeling like a waste of time with absolutely no contribution to the experience.  Due to the real-time nature of combat and the lack of keyboard control customization, I've found a controller is a better input method, though sadly Spiders neglected to include any form of automatic camera movement. So it is that the player is caught between a control scheme inadequate for combat, or one inadequate for navigating the narrow corridors that make up the game's small, maze-like maps.  Graphically, this is a Spiders game, so you should know what you're getting into. Visuals are basic, animations stunted, but altogether it's not an ugly game. It's worth mentioning that, during my playthrough, I didn't notice any bugs or glitches, with the game seeming a lot more stable than I've come to expect from this particular sector of development. As far as sound goes, there's a nice subtle soundtrack punctuated by absolutely awful voice acting -- a problem not helped by a generally laughable script that tries to sound grown up by casually tossing vulgarity and rape references around, but just comes off like childish rambling.  Mars: War Logs is the kind of experience one can only call serviceable. It exists, it does what it does, and it performs its job suitably. It doesn't do anything terrible, but it never once goes above a basic standard of acceptability. It's very clear that it wants to ape the best action-RPGs of the genre, but its too basal and hurried to pull off a single remarkable thing. It's a shame because Spiders' last attempt -- Of Orcs and Men -- was genuinely great, a game that similarly failed to be all it wanted to be, but at least had an interesting story and some wonderful presentation.  War Logs, by contrast, simply exists. 
Mars: War Logs review photo
Dead Planet
I have a considerable amount of respect for the studio auspiciously known as Spiders. Its games are not the prettiest, nor the most technically sound, and they're far from the best. They do, however, possess a certain tenacit...

Mars: War Logs trailer photo
Mars: War Logs trailer

Kick up a fuss in Mars: War Logs


It's already out
Apr 28
// Fraser Brown
The launch of Mars: War Logs somehow managed to slip past me, but it looks pretty damn groovy. Moral choices, rebellion, lots of sand -- it seems like my cup of tea. Mass Effect by way of Red Faction is a lazy...
Farming Simulator photo
Farming Simulator

Farming Simulator gets a console release date


Coming this September to Xbox 360, PS3
Apr 05
// Dale North
I was with some of you when you cried tears of joy over the news of Farming Simulator coming to consoles. I still get teary eyed when I think of that day. But get ready to cry again over this news of an official release date....
Wargame for Linux photo
Wargame for Linux

Wargame European Escalation is now available on Linux


Cross-platform multiplayer with PC and mac
Feb 27
// Joshua Derocher
Modern-day military simulation Wargame: European Escalation is now out for Linux users. If you own it on Mac or PC, you already own it on Linux thanks to Steam. Along with the strategy game being released on Linux, there is a...
Obscure  photo
Obscure

Obscure looks like a fun co-op side-scrolling shooter


Coming to PC, PSN, and XBLA
Feb 07
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Focus Home Entertainment announced a new game today called Obscure. It's being developed by Mighty Rocket Studios, and looks to be a fun 2.5D side-scrolling shooter. The game will feature four player co-op either locally or ...

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