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InXile Entertainment

Wasteland 2 reactions photo
Wasteland 2 reactions

Unique snowflakes: Wasteland 2 NPC consider player gender


And more: Wasteland 2 to waste no chance creating meaningful encounters
Aug 12
// Steven Hansen
A cool piece of news regarding the much anticipated Wasteland 2 comes courtesy of Rock, Paper, Shotgun. World building, exploration, and individual experience are pivotal to this style of role-playing game. It seems that Wast...
Wasteland photo
Wasteland

inXile is bringing the original Wasteland to GOG, Steam


Free for backers of Wasteland 2
Aug 09
// Jordan Devore
Now this is a pleasant turn of events. inXile Entertainment plans to sell Wasteland on GOG.com and Steam ahead of the release of its new Wasteland 2. Those of you who contributed to the game's crowdfunding initiative will get...
Wasteland photo
Wasteland

Deep Silver to handle Wasteland 2 distribution for inXile


Parternship lets inXile concentrate on making the game
Jul 11
// Jordan Devore
The publisher of Saints Row IV, Metro: Last Light, and Dead Island will be working with inXile Entertainment on the crowdfunded Wasteland 2. Deep Silver will be responsible for the role-playing game's release at retail, quali...
Torment Kickstarter photo
Torment Kickstarter

It's official: Chris Avellone joins the Torment team


Colin McComb is now a very happy man
Apr 03
// Fraser Brown
Earlier today, the Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter hit another stretch goal. In combination with the project's PayPal total of $67,000, the title has gained funding of over $3.5 million, so Chris Avellone will no...

Chris Avellone on Torment and being a human stretch goal

Apr 02 // Fraser Brown
[embed]250577:47910:0[/embed] Despite exceeding its funding request by over $2 million, Torment continues to get more and more new backers every day. Chris doesn't think that his inclusion in the stretch goals is the main reason for that. "I’d argue that Pat Rothfuss and the other elements may have had more to do with the recent influx than me, especially since Name of the Wind is such a great book," he explained. I think he's being a bit too modest, though. Patrick Rothfuss may be a popular author, but Chris Avellone is a name synonymous with the thematic franchise.  "Beyond that, though, Brian and Kevin have assembled an impressive narrative and design league for the project, and it’s amazing having all that talent focused on one project," Chris continued. "Between Colin McComb, Monte Cook, Tony Evans, Mur Lafferty, Brian Mitsoda, George Ziets, as well as Nathan Long, who I worked with on Wasteland 2 – all of them are a great writing crew to work with, and I’m happy that I at least get the chance to be a part of it, and I certainly hope it pans out." Although Chris's potential involvement wasn't revealed until after the Kickstarter had smashed the initial goal, he was asked to join the team almost from the start. "Brian Fargo brought it up within a day or two of him acquiring the Torment name when I was in the office working on Wasteland 2. Working on Torment was an ongoing discussion, but between responsibilities to Wasteland 2 and [Project] Eternity, I couldn’t see how I could make it work, although I trusted Brian and inXile to do a good job." Brian Fargo and Kevin Saunders were obviously dead set on trying to get Chris onboard, and eventually they managed to work something out. "Once my design work on Wasteland 2 finished up, however, Brian and Kevin approached Feargus [Urquhart] and I with a plan that seemed reasonable to Obsidian, Feargus and I discussed the workload, made sure it wouldn’t impact Eternity, and I get to, hopefully, be part of the Torment team. This discussion didn’t come about until a week before my announcement on the project, so it came together really fast -- kudos to Brian and Kevin for making it happen, I’m grateful they pushed for it, and I’m glad Feargus and Obsidian were open to the idea." Last month, I spoke with Colin McComb and Kevin Saunders about the Torment Kickstarter, a mere 24 hours before it began, and Kevin described Chris as the "mastermind" behind making a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment a reality. It was Chris who hooked up Colin and Brian Fargo, and last year he spoke at length about the possibility of a sequel to the story of the Nameless One, or at least a spiritual successor. Chris doesn't think he lives up to that, however. "There’re people I’ve worked with who have really came through for projects in the past and have proven themselves, these people are my friends, and Kevin Saunders, Colin McComb, Tony Evans, and Adam Heine I’ve all worked with directly over the years and I feel they have a lot to add to Torment." It strikes me that Chris seems to be a bit more comfortable with talking about the work of his friends and colleagues, and their accomplishments, rather than his own. He continued, "Tony Evans, for example, I’ve told numerous times that if there was a Torment project, he’s a perfect designer for it based on his aesthetics and the fact he’s one of the most hard-working guys I know -- in terms of proving himself, he worked overtime of his own accord on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II even while his wife was pregnant, and I’ve never forgotten it to this day, so when it comes to a list of people I want to work with again, he’s on it -- even if I never want him to have to work those hours again. Monte I’ve worked with, too, although largely in the capacity of Planescape approvals and the many Hero Games submissions from me he rejected over the years, which I forgive him for, since he was right to reject them." One of Chris's roles on Torment will be the creation of an eighth companion, who will join the Last Castoff. I asked if he had been working on any concepts for it yet. "Yes! As soon as I heard working on it was a possibility, I started writing out a series of companion concepts based on the material that the crew has been developing -- I did eight different concepts, starting from a theme and then building on each one with supporting details. I don’t want to set any in stone just yet until I can swim around in the world a bit more and see how I can tie the characters to the plot and the theme more." I wondered how far along the other seven characters were,  if any had been properly planned out, and if that meant there was some potential for overlap, limiting Chris's design freedom. Apparently some have been planned out, but there's a broad range of personalities and a bunch of character development, so Chris wasn't concerned about overlap. "The universe is liberating for exploring ideas. Even when doing the original Torment, doing all the NPCs and CNPCs in that game was barely scratching the surface of the character possibilities of that world, and Numenera is much the same way." Character design won't be his only role, though, as he'll also have consulting responsibilities, which he explained. "Right now, my additional responsibilities include looking over the design documentation -- narrative, systems, themes, vision, and more -- and offering feedback, pointing out the positive design ties to the first Torment in case Kevin and Colin are being too modest, and suggesting iterations and reinforcing any other ideas that I think might make for a more compelling Torment experience. Based on the crew they’ve already assembled, including Tony Evans and George Ziets, I feel that a number of the designers already get what makes a great thematic and narrative experience based on their work on Neverwinter Nights: Mask of the Betrayer." I think it's worth noting that Mask of the Betrayer is probably the closest thing to a thematic sequel to Planescape: Torment, at least until Torment: Tides of Numenera launches. The complex characters and plane-hopping shenanigans are two significant things the games share, but it also had an affecting narrative that, frankly, blew the original Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2 out of the water. One of the most compelling companions in that title, Gann, was penned by Chris himself. The challenge with making a spiritual successor is finding a way to connect it to its predecessor without the use of the same characters and universe. Torment is a thematic franchise, with a major similarity being the metaphysical and philosophical questions. Chris told me what jumped out at him, making inXile's Torment remind him of its forebearer. "A few things. A set character, a story focus, a focus on themes, strong, detailed companions, the brilliance and innovative nature of the setting and locations. "The area design theme for the Bloom alone, for example, is a muse for all sorts of character ideas and adventure ideas: the fact it’s alive, it moves around, destroys/eats anyone that tries to quantify it, and has people and monsters living there, and oh, it also opens up pathways to other dimensions depending on what you feed it -- all of that fits perfectly with the area designs for Torment. Just hearing the idea for that location immediately sparked my imagination for doing [companions] and NPCs." With both Obsidian and inXile developing CRPGs considered successors to tabletop-inspired classics, there's a wee bit of friendly rivalry between the studios, which Kevin Saunders joked about in an earlier interview, but Chris noted that Project Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera have significant differences, such as the use of morality in the latter, and said that the studios made an effort to ensure that their core concepts and themes didn't overlap. If there is a friendly rivalry, the emphasis would undoubtedly be on the "friendly" part. Both studios are filled with staff who have worked together, and Obsidian is currently working with inXile on the development of Wasteland 2. I asked Chris if this was a relationship we could expect to see continue. "We’re sharing technology, design systems, area templates, and Brian and Feargus have a great working relationship, both personally and in their approaches to management. "There’s also a lot we’ve shared between studios regarding Kickstarter approaches, sharing copies of our games to help promote each other’s Kickstarters, and also the pipeline structure of Kickstarter -- inXile was one of our first and strongest supporters for Eternity, and now we’d like to do the same with them and Torment. Also, on a selfish level, I like drinking with Brian Fargo and discussing design and Kickstarter ideas, so that’s my acid test for a successful relationship right there." Further confirmation that drinking facilitates good working relationships. On the subject of Kickstarters, I wondered what else Chris would like to see come out of the funding platform, and if there were any particular games he thought deserved a second life. "Well, seeing elements of King of Dragon Pass brought out in Unwritten: That Which Happened was one mark off the checklist, as was seeing Shadowrun Returns and Dreamfall Chapters up on Kickstarter. Also, I’d love if someone *cough* Ken Levine *cough* did a System Shock 3. Which I would want to work on. Even if it’s just getting him coffee." You heard him, Ken Levine. Get to work! Torment: Tides of Numenera is currently sitting at $3,365,759 with three days left to go. 
Chris Avellone interview photo
Also, drinking with Brian Fargo
Just before he left to go on a likely well-deserved holiday, I had the opportunity to pester Obsidian's Chris Avellone about his role in inXile's upcoming RPG, Torment: Tides of Numenera.  Chris is a veteran of RPGs, par...

Tides of Numenera  photo
Tides of Numenera

Tides of Numenera's first screenshot shows off the Bloom


It's blooming marvellous
Apr 01
// Fraser Brown
If the first screenshot for Torment: Tides of Numenera is anything to go by, inXile's kickstarted RPG is going have some rather exotic locales -- grotesque and exotic. This in-game screenshot shows off the Bloom, and it sound...
Avellone to join Torment photo
Avellone to join Torment

Chris Avellone becomes a Torment stretch goal


$3.5 million for the man behind Planescape: Torment
Mar 22
// Fraser Brown
What would make Torment: Tides of Numenera, which recently smashed its Kickstarter goal in seven hours, a more scintillating prospect? How about the lead designer of its thematic predecessor, Planescape: Torment, th...
Torment setting photo
Torment setting

Torment: Tides of Numenera: A billion years in the making


It certainly feels like I've been waiting this long
Mar 06
// Fraser Brown
With the ridiculously speedy success of inXile's Kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera, it's only a matter of time until we'll be diving into the role of the Last Cast-off, the title's protagonist. I got up to speed on w...

InXile talks Torment, story details, and crowd-funding

Mar 06 // Fraser Brown
Kevin and Colin are no strangers to Planescape: Torment, and both offer the new project years of experience. Colin, the creative lead, co-wrote and developed Planescape: Torment with Chris Avellone and spent five years working with TSR on the Planescape campaign setting which is where he met Monte Cook, the mind behind Numenera.  Kevin, the project director, worked at Obsidian for more than five years alongside Chris Avellone, his first game at the studio being the fascinating, if unfinished, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. Notably he was also the lead designer on Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, an expansion that, in my opinion, was a vast improvement on the core game and probably the closest thing we've had to a Planescape:Torment sequel up until now. While the absence of Avellone may be felt by some fans, the team working on Torment, at least on paper, seems like the perfect group to be working on a spiritual successor to the Nameless One's traumatic journey, and includes members who worked on the art, writing, and even the music of the original game. Kevin described it as "serendipity," with Avellone as the "mastermind" setting up the project, despite not being a part of it. It was he who hooked up Colin and Brian Fargo, and last year he talked up a storm about wanting to see a new story with the themes laid out in the first game.  But for all its connections with the twelve year-old classic, Torment sounds like it will be very much its own game and exists within a brand new setting, Numenera, devised by D&D veteran Monte Cook. I wondered how much freedom this gave the team when it came to making their own mark on this world. "We are actually working very, very closely with Monte on this ... he is very happy to work with us, and provides us with guidance and direction when we need it." Colin explained, "We have a lot of freedom." Kevin noted that Numenera has been designed to give GMs a lot of flexibility, and that this makes the setting a good fit, as it offers them this freedom as game developers as well. Monte Cook actually has an official role on the project beyond just being the licensor -- he's also one of the developers. Torment has been described as a thematic franchise rather than one that's stuck in any one setting, and in Torment, inXile wants to expand on the questions and themes raised in its predecessor. If Planescape was meant to answer "What can change the nature of a man?", Torment answers "What does one life matter?" It's up the players to seek the answer themselves, however. The question ties into the rest of Torment's themes: abandonment, mystery, all lying at the heart of the game. While the scope is vast and metaphysical, Kevin emphasized that it's still a focused game. "It's a very introspective, personal journey that we're talking about. It's going to be really epic in feel, much like [Planescape] was, but when you get down into it, what [Planescape] really was was a very personal story about a guy trying to discover who he actually is." Set one billion years in the future, Torment shows us an Earth utterly changed and alien. Countless civilizations have risen and fallen, and humanity has now returned to an almost medieval level of technology and understanding. Magic played a large role in Planescape: Torment, and will do so again, but it's not divine or arcane magic -- this time the driving force behind it is long forgotten science.  "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -- Clarke's Third Law Colin expanded on this. "Magic is basically just science that we don't understand yet. In this case it's one billion years of scientific advancement. Think about all the cool things that are happening with science now, I mean they just invented cranium rats (terrible pests from Planescape: Torment that, when grouped together, increased in intelligence and even cast spells)." According to Kevin, inXile is emphasizing the mystery of science, thus things will feel more like magic, more fantastical, even if their basis is in science. "For people looking for a fantasy game, that is what it will feel like to them." Monte Cook describes the setting of Numenera as being like 1000 AD, where you have a lot of ostensibly simple clusters of villages and lead a subsistence lifestyle, but are surrounded by the remains of ancient civilizations, their ruins, and the remnants of their technology. The basic plot has already been worked out, and right now perfecting the narrative is the focus since, as Kevin stated, "it drives everything else." With that in mind, I picked their brains about the premise, not really expecting them to reveal much this early on. I was delighted to be wrong. Colin revealed the tale of the "Last Cast-off": "There is a man who didn't want to die. His motivations had been lost over the centuries, but at some point he discovered some ancient tools that allowed him to cast his consciousness into a new body, and he has used these tools to cast himself across a succession of bodies over the course of centuries, if not thousands of years. "What he doesn't realize is that every time he leaves a body, it awakens with a new consciousness. And so he has left behind all of these cast off shells, and they are awake and alive, and they realize 'Oh my god, I've been abandoned by my father. What's my place in the world? What am I doing here?' And it turns out that they attract suffering. Eventually there is so much of this suffering that has been created by these shells, that an age-old guardian has been awakened and is now hunting [their] sire." It's certainly a premise I couldn't have imagined, and it definitely has hints of Planescape: Torment about it, namely the refusal to die. Players will control the last of these living shells, and the first thing that they see as they are thrust into existence is the aforementioned guardian hunting their sire, and then they plummet to the Ninth World, taking over the cast off body. It sets up the story of self-discovery perfectly, and it's undoubtedly something of a tragedy, much like its predecessor.  Numenera doesn't have the plethora of classes other role-playing games may boast, instead using a focus to allow players to customize and define their characters. Torment will be doing the same, though there may be additional foci created by inXile in conjunction with Monte Cook. These foci are essentially super-abilities that can be used by any of the three classes, the Glaive, Nano, or Jack (ostensibly the trinity of warrior, mage, and rogue). Colin revealed some of the potential focus abilities that player could select. "You can speak with the dead, you can ride the lightning, you can control animals, you can master a weapon to an almost supernatural extent." Having such disparate abilities makes me think that this will be a title that will demand to be played multiple times.  There is a synchronicity between the foci and the unique tide system, Torment's answer to the unyielding alignment system in Dungeons & Dragons. "Somehow, your character has been constructed in a way that manipulates these invisible forces," Colin explained, "so the choices that you make will reflect your tides, and they change throughout the game and will have a visible effect on you and people will react to you based on the choices that you made." Instead of their being good, or evil, or having deities and external judgements, these tides are families of concepts that help to define the player character. They are named after colors rather than literal ideals, though there are ways of thinking, emotions, and concepts that are attached to these color-coded tides. One example was the blue tide, which in part represents things like reason. Not only will actions align players more to that tide and have an effect on the people who interact with the protagonist, it also relates to certain foci that require a more logical mind and greater wisdom. Five tides exist in the Ninth World. While Torment appears to have been set up with plenty of conflict, it is still primarily a narrative-driven experience. However, that does not mean inXile isn't making an effort on the combat side of things. Mechanics are still not being revealed, as the developer wants to get backers involved in deciding these things, but a more robust system is being promised. Although combat will be featured, a lot, if not all encounters will be avoidable, according to Kevin, and the battles will have a narrative purpose. "We want it tied into the narrative, so there will be aspects of the storyline that will have gameplay effects in combat, and we want it to be important from a strategic perspective, we want to concentrate on quality of combat encounters over quantity -- this won't be an action-RPG." The weakest part of Planescape: Torment was its combat, as I see it, and the dungeon romp side of things was a lot less compelling due to this. It was the story and dialogue that hooked me, but the Planes were filled with violence, so it was a shame that getting stuck into a good scrap was a bit boring. That inXile is already asking for funding via Kickstarter while its previous Kickstarter project, Wasteland 2, is still in development has worried some people. I'm a fan of the concept of crowd-funding, but I still see it as somewhat unreliable and untested, so I don't tend to dip my toes into those murky waters.  Kevin believes, however, that there isn't a better time to start the Torment Kickstarter. "For a small developer, having multiple projects is very important. During different stages of production or game development, you need different people and a different-sized team. Right now, being in pre-production for Torment, we are able to have the design all established and the writing complete by the time Wasteland 2 ships in October. Then the production team can take a well-deserved break, and come back and they know what they are making.  "If we were to wait until later, either those people are idle or not being used as efficiently ... or the design of the game gets off track because it's being worked on by people who have less of an understanding of what the game is." By starting their Kickstarter campaign now, they are able to keep working on the game's foundations so that come October, things will be able to go into full production. InXile is aware that it is asking backers to take a gamble, but that's also why the studio released the first gameplay videos of Wasteland 2 -- to show backers and potential consumers what they've been working on. According to Kevin, the response from backers was overwhelmingly positive, which has given them the confidence to go ahead with Torment, feeling that they've shown people they can live up to their promises. It's also worth noting that, as they don't know how well the Kickstarter is going to go, if they do get more funding than they ask for, that will mean they can be more ambitious and add more features, as well as hiring even more writers while improving the visual aspects of the game. These are things they need to know sooner rather than later, and by October it might be too late to make these additions. With one game already successfully funded, the setting of Numenera also funded via Kickstarter, and now their latest project, inXile are very much fans of the funding platform and crowd-funding in general. As Kevin said to me, it makes them closer to their players. "We love how Kickstarter makes us accountable to the players and creates this relationship of trust... so moving forward, at this time, Kickstarter will be a part of what we want to do with our products. It also gives the early backers ... in exchange for their faith in us they get a lower price point for the product and they help us shape it."  Obviously there are some restrictions when choosing the crowd-funding method, most notably the much smaller budget. The $3 million that Wasteland 2 secured may seem like a lot, but it's nothing when compared to the gross, bloated budgets normally found in, say, AAA titles. Due to the budget and the schedule, Torment will not be fully voice acted. It will, however, have voice acting for major NPCs and companions. These sorts of concessions make sense when working with less funding, and personally I'm happy that inXile is using its time to perfect the writing and mechanics rather than spending time recording hundreds of hours of dialogue. The Torment Kickstarter began today at 6:00am, and at the time of writing this it has already reached $400,000 of its $900,000 goal; so I imagine it will be fully funded by the end of the day, certainly by the weekend. It's going to be released on PC and Mac, as well as possibly Linux.
Torment interview photo
"What does one life matter?"
Twelve years ago, Black Isle Studios crafted a plane-hopping, tragic adventure set in the Planescape Dungeons & Dragons setting. With a nameless, amnesiac protagonist who had been both a hero and a villain, the developer ...

Torment raises $1.5M photo
And I'm not in the least bit surprised
InXile's newest roleplaying game and spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, Torment: Tides of Numenera, has been seeking funding on Kickstarter for well under a day. After three hours, it had already secured half of...

Torment Kickstarter photo
Torment Kickstarter

Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter begins March 6


And Chris Avellone gives the game his endorsement
Mar 04
// Fraser Brown
Torment: Tides of Numenera, the spiritual successor to the phenomenal Planescape: Torment, was revealed to be taking the crowd-funding route some time ago, and now inXile are finally about to st...
Torment sequel  photo
Torment sequel

Planescape: Torment spiritual successor gets a name


There's a website too!
Feb 20
// Fraser Brown
Planescape: Torment is, for me, the pinnacle of videogame roleplaying experiences. It managed to make boring stats meaningful by putting them to use outside of combat constantly, its story and dialogue blow even Baldur's Gate...
Wasteland 2 photo
Wasteland 2

Watch the first gameplay footage of Wasteland 2


Demoing the goods of inXile's highly funded Kickstarter project
Feb 09
// Conrad Zimmerman
Interested in seeing what Brian Fargo's team at inXile has been doing with the gobs of money thrown at them by backers of its Wasteland 2 Kickstarter funding campaign? Then you'll enjoy this video which features a full fifte...
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Leaked video of Wasteland 2 shows off isometric view


Sep 06
// Joshua Derocher
A video of Wasteland 2 has been leaked onto YouTube. The video is in Russian, but thanks to my excellent knowledge of Google's translator, I was able to deduce that this is supposedly from a talk given by Bria...
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The DTOID Show: Journey, FEZ, and Wasteland 2!


Mar 31
// Tara Long
Happy Friday, folks! In case you missed it, The Destructoid Show went live earlier today, and in addition to giving out four codes for Waveform on Steam, we also covered a metric shit-ton of news that happened recently - som...
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inXile might work with Obsidian on Wasteland 2


Mar 30
// Jordan Devore
Watching the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter progress has been a real trip, from inception, to this: the craziest moment yet. If the project manages to raise $2.1 million in contributions, developer inXile will collaborate with Obsid...
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inXile finally sets up a Kickstarter for Wasteland 2


Mar 13
// Jim Sterling
After weeks of talk, inXile Entertainment has finally set up a Kickstarter for Wasteland 2. The so-called "Godfather of post apocalyptic RPGs" is set to return, with a little help from the community.  The plan is for res...
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Brian Fargo may attempt kickstarting a Wasteland sequel


Feb 16
// Conrad Zimmerman
Back in 1988, Brian Fargo designed a post-apocalyptic game called Wasteland which would eventually fall deep into the shadow of its spiritual successor, Fallout. It seems that Fargo never quite let go of the game an...
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Live show: Mash Tactics to the rescue in Choplifter HD


Jan 12
// Bill Zoeker
Today, Mash Tactics proceeds to the helicopter in Choplifter HD. The old Apple II adventure has finally been brought into high definition, with new gameplay depth to match the enhanced graphics. This updated chopper run is av...
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Choplifter HD to get free helicopter DLC


Jan 11
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
inXile Entertainment has released their HD re-imagining of Choplifter for the PC, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade today for $14.99/1200 MS Points. Choplifter HD is just the latest in a long line of games to get the m...

Review: Choplifter HD

Jan 11 // Maurice Tan
Choplifter HD (Xbox Live Arcade [Reviewed], PlayStation Network, PC)Developer: inXile EntertainmentPublishers: inXile Entertainment, KonamiReleased: January 11, 2011MSRP: 1200 Microsoft Points, $14.99 The core gameplay of Dan Gorlin's classic Apple II title remains largely intact in this HD revisiting. Players still fly a helicopter across a horizontal level and pick up people in need of an airlift to safer ground, while trying not to be blown to bits by the enemies that litter each level. Like in the original game, you can turn your chopper to face left, forward, and right by pressing the associated bumper buttons. The the left stick is used to fly in any direction regardless of where you are aiming. Because simply flying left and right to shoot enemies and pick up people would quickly become pretty boring, the foreground of a level now features enemies that can only be targeted by facing that direction. This leads to a frantic type of gameplay where you try to push forward in a level to rescue people, or blow objectives to smithereens, while continuously shifting your chopper around to face the hostiles that target you from every direction. Sometimes enemy soldiers will shoot heat-seeking missiles at you that, for the most part, can be evaded by using any of the face buttons to boost out of the way. At other times, you'll want to use a rocket or two to get rid of an annoying soldier who ducks behind cover in the foreground, or just to destroy armored targets that much faster. [embed]219397:42342[/embed] Flying around costs fuel, which can be replenished at your starting-point base or at strategically placed fuel depots elsewhere in the level, and boosting across a level can save you a lot of time at the cost of a large increase in fuel consumption. Occasionally, you'll have to transport wounded soldiers who have a timer to indicate when they'll die, which forces you to prioritize your pick-ups while keeping fuel, a limited passenger capacity, and potential hazards in mind. Your helicopter's health points and rockets can be replenished at your base when you land, but ideally you'll want to land as little as possible and finish missions efficiently for a higher score. The upgrades to the core mechanics work remarkably well to give you the kind of arcade helicopter experience we haven't seen in a long time. Besides the deeper gameplay, different types of missions keep the game varied enough to stave off any issues with repetitiveness. One level you are rescuing P.O.W.s, in the next you are trying to escape to the end of a level without dying, and occasionally you'll have to drop down a Ranger to blow up a building or rescue scientists from an impending zombie invasion. Of course, you'll still be flying a helicopter left and right but you get the sense that the team at inXile had a lot of fun creating often outlandish scenarios. You get the same sense when you encounter the annoying reporter Scoop Sanderson and his cameraman in sometimes hard-to-spot locations, who counts as one of several hidden objectives sprawled throughout the game if you choose to rescue him. As often as Scoop will spout ridiculous lines at you, even more so will the two chopper pilots offer comedic banter in each level. Although their jokes can range from funny to relatively painless, it adds an unexpected amount of charm and personality to a game in which the main characters are just two immobile guys in a helicopter. Besides, it's hard to argue against picking up a Ranger who shouts "Get to da choppaaah!" Between the jokes, the variety of the missions, and the enjoyment of making things explode with a helicopter, Choplifter HD can offer a lot of entertainment. However, there is a pretty large obstacle in the way of players who just want to have fun blasting through the game's 30 missions: its difficulty. Choplifter HD's difficulty comes in three flavors: Normal, Hardcore (more hitpoints for enemies), and Survival (like Hardcore, but with less fuel). You have to complete the entire game on Normal in order to unlock the Hardcore difficulty, and the option to pick Survival becomes available after you finish any level on Hardcore. Alas, Normal difficulty is not really that normal at all. It's more like something you would expect in a bonus Nightmare difficulty mode. True to its retro roots, you have but one life to complete a level with. Although a mission-specific time limit may sometimes frustrate and ruin your score if your playstyle is too cautious, the major challenge comes from simply trying to survive the majority of the levels in the second half of the game. Whereas challenge in a downloadable arcade type of title is never a bad thing, since it helps to increase the lifespan and validate your purchase, there is a difference between skill-based challenge and the kind that elicits pure frustration. The problem in Choplifter HD is that you'll start to encounter punishing attacks that are initially manageable, after some trial-and-error and coming to terms with a level's layout, but which become increasingly hard to manage as these attacks start to coincide with each other. One of the main annoyances is found with the mortar shells that fire in the background to give you a general idea of when it's safe to fly through their smokey columns of catastrophe. These shells can dish out about a third of your health in damage if they hit you. However, in most cases you can't simply take your time to hover around and pass them as you learn their patterns, because at the same time there will be rocket infantry and AA guns shooting at you from the sides and the foreground, and time restrictions from wounded civilians don't give you the luxury of taking the cautious approach. Jets do a fly-by in the background before swooping in and unleashing a lightning volley of missiles, unless you boost out of the way (i.e., up or down depending on your initial position). You'll also hear an alert that you're about to be hurt, big time, but chances are you won't be able to distinguish this alert from the general beeping noise your chopper makes when you are low on health. Additionally, the timing between a fly-by and the actual missiles appearing on screen seems to depend on whether you are flying towards or away from the incoming jets, making it hard to gauge exactly when you're supposed to evade. When these jets start coming in while you are inbetween the columns of mortar fire, trying to deal with the enemies that are already shooting at you, it can be pretty hard to notice the incoming rain of missiles until it is too late due to the sheer amount of hazards that distract you. When a jet destroys you just when you were trying to fly back to base after an almost successful tenth attempt at a level, because you weren't paying enough attention to one out of a dozen simultaneous hazards, it becomes more of a frustration than a fun challenge. Some other frustrations lie with evading incoming fire in general. It primarily depends on your skill with handling the type of chopper you've selected for the mission -- helicopters are not the most agile of flying beasts after all -- but on occasion you'll be hit by an off-screen tank shell when you were adamant it wasn't going to hit you. You were wrong. Likewise, rockets from infantry do a fair deal of damage and need to be evaded at all costs, but it's easy to boost too late or too slowly to effectively escape from having them connect with your chopper's hit-box. These things inevitably add up to a large number of deaths that often occur with the player having little control over them. It's by no means impossible to complete the game on Normal, but it's curious that this is the easiest setting available. There is an option to unlock improved versions of your chopper by collecting more stars in the levels you've completed before, but using these choppers quickly becomes mandatory rather than optional if you want to survive. To be fair, if you take your time and persist through the frustrating deaths and finally pass a mission, it can lead to a level of elation not often felt in many of today's mainstream games. Some missions actually do feature an excellence balance between skill, challenge, and pacing, but this balance is skewed against you in far too many missions by putting too many hazards on screen to handle at the same time.  Choplifter HD boasts a more realistic visual style, and this type of realism is reflected by not being able to carry a near-infinite amount of people in your helicopter, or the unfortunate event when you accidentally land on top of someone you were supposed to rescue. The latter occurs more often than you'd hope for as NPCs will sometimes run around like idiots and suddenly end up underneath your tail, while at other times you just didn't think clearly before you changed your chopper's direction on the ground, mowing the back rotor into a bunch of civilians. The Unreal-powered graphics look good enough from a distance, but they also make soldiers and AA guns somewhat hard to spot at times. It makes you wonder if the game perhaps wouldn't have benefited from a more cartoon-y style for the sake of clarity, both with regard to being able to spot danger as well as the already zany comedy that is already in the game. The amount of default damage you incur upon making the smallest of mistakes at the wrong time can lead to the type of "instant restart" behavior you know from time-trial games, and a simple Easy difficulty would've made the game that much more accessible to a crowd of players who are less eager to deal with a retro level of hardship. Make no mistake, there is a lot of fun and spirit to be found here. It's just unfortunate that many of the jokes between the pilots grow stale as you restart a mission over and over again due to the punishing level design, and that the average player will likely give up well before reaching the end of the game. Some games are just hard games to start with, but the type of difficulty seen in the likes of Ninja Gaiden Black depends on tight controls and increases in player skill rather than the pattern learning and occasional luck you'll need in Choplifter HD. Given the amount of times I've shouted at my screen, came close to throwing -- even biting -- my controller in anger, and flipped off the game when it felt like I was being intentionally trolled by whoever designed the enemy placement in a level, I can't recommend playing it if you are an easilly annoyed player or generally not obsessive enough about completing a game to stick with it. If you are no stranger to the type of punishment you remember from playing arcade games in the '80s, Choplifter HD is definitely worth checking out. This is game that doesn't mess around, and doesn't allow you to mess around either. I only wish it would have allowed you to mess around just a little bit more without mutilating your psyche in the process.
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There has been a fair share of '80s arcade titles that made the transition to the current generation. From Pac-Man: CE to Galaga Legions, the downloadable platforms have become a haven for games that try to capture that nosta...

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Choplifter HD: Konami is getting to the chopper


Nov 30
// Fraser Brown
Choplifter HD, the re-imagining of the 80s classic, is getting close to take off. It has recently been picked up by Konami, who will be co-publishing the XBLA title with developer, InXile Entertainment. Prospective rescue pil...

Poor chickens: Hands-on with Choplifter HD

Aug 28 // Nick Chester
Built on the Unreal Engine, the first thing you'll note about Choplifter HD is that, well… it's high definition. The original flat, sprite-based chopper of the classic is replaced by fully rendered three-dimensional choppers. But despite the jump from 2D look to 3D world, Choplifter HD sticks to its side-scrolling roots.  Using the left analog stick, you can move the chopper up, down, left, or right. Choplifter HD will feature three aircraft types -- the light, fast Sparrow; the larger, slower Raven; and the Navajo. In the early demo inXile brought to PAX, only the Sparrow and the Raven were playable. Each had individual stats, strengths, and weaknesses, which made using them feel dramatically different. The Sparrow was quick, but small, only able to hold a handful of passengers. The Raven on the other hand was heavier, quite slower than the smaller chopper, yet had more than double the number of seats. Since you'll be facing resistance on your missions, it's fortunate that you've got a machine gun and missiles on your side. Aiming a laser sight with your right analog stick, you'll be able to take out enemies with a limited number of missiles and put holes into everything until your gun overheats. While you'd expect to take fire from the sides in the 2D-scrolling shooter, inXile has added enemies into the foreground, as well. Tapping the left or right bumpers on your controller, you can turn the chopper and fire into the frontline. While it was easy enough to move the chopper up, down, left, and right, this foreground shifting mechanic took a few moments to get used to. But once I got the hang of it, I was quickly turning my chopper in all directions, giving any opposition what for.  While the main goal of many missions is pick up and transport (yes, you can land on and kill passengers if you're not careful), inXile is switching up missions in a number of ways. In one, I had to drop off and then protect an agent as he ran into a building to plant explosives. After doing this in three key buildings, the location of hostages were revealed, opening up the second set of goals towards mission completion. Other mission variants could include timed objectives, and there's even something involving zombies that inXile isn't ready to tell us about just yet. In one of the three levels inXile brought to PAX, I ran into a familiar face: Duke Nukem. Landing next to Duke, I found that he wouldn't get in my helicopter. Apparently, it wasn't up to his standards. But Silva tells me that choosing the right chopper, Duke may hop in. Other videogame characters are set to make appearances, as well, including Super Meat Boy. Another thing to note: chickens are not safe in Choplifter HD. I landed my chopper in a crowd of chickens, causing them to startle and scatter. As they did, they got caught in the blades of the helicopter with expected results. (Yes, you'll get bonus points for this at the end of your missions.) Poor chickens.  Choplifter HD is scheduled for a fall release for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC. 
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It's been awhile since we've seen a game in the Choplifter series, about seven years if my calculations are correct, with the PlayStation 2 title Choplifter: Crisis Shield. So you're forgiven if you thought the classic series...

Review: Hunted: The Demon's Forge

Jun 04 // Jim Sterling
Hunted: The Demon's Forge (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: inXilePublisher: BethesdaReleased: May 31, 2011MSRP: $59.99 Much has been made of Hunted's unique blend of two different but equally well-worn genres -- roleplaying games and cover-based shooters. In fact, a popular way of describing the game has been to dub it Gears of Warcraft, due to its very obvious modeling on two highly successful franchises.  In truth, the game has very little in common with roleplaying games outside of its aesthetic qualities. There's no leveling up, no inventory, and very little in the way of loot. While there are a selection of weapons that appear with increasingly powerful attributes, characters are restricted to one melee and one ranged weapon at any time. You also get a shield and one piece of armor. That's it for your equipment. So, Hunted is not so much World of Warcraft. The thing is, it's not much like Gears of War either. While ranged combat with bows is a central focus of the game, and a cover system is in place, it won't take you long to work out that using cover is a bad idea. In fact, even manually aiming is a waste of time as it's far more useful to run-and-gun -- or run-and-bow, as the case may be. If you're looking for a game that truly mixes shooters and roleplayers, you actually won't find it here.  That's not to say Hunted is a bad game. In fact, despite failing in its central objective, Hunted is a surprisingly fun action title that gives you a choice between ranged warfare and hack n' slash brutality, managing both with respectable adequacy.  The Demon's Forge stars two antiheroes, Caddoc and E'lara, a pair of mercenaries who find themselves working for a mysterious woman on a particularly shady quest. The story is pretty forgettable and your mileage may vary in terms of whether you find the protagonists charming or irritating, but it's a relatively inoffensive narrative with a lighthearted edge to it, in spite of the dark visuals and a handful of grisly concepts. There's also an intriguing method of getting alternate endings, something that could have been truly outstanding if the developers had fleshed it out a lot more.  Although both characters are equipped for ranged and personal combat, Caddoc and E'lara are each suited to a particular role. Caddoc, with his ability to unleash a powerful physical attack and equip more powerful hand-to-hand weapons, is the fighter, while E'lara uses a wider range of bows and unique projectile attacks to provide support from afar. The two characters compliment each other quite well, though I find that E'lara is much more fun despite my usual gravitation toward melee characters. It's not that Hunted's melee combat is particularly bad, it's just not very well refined. Enemies tend to crowd the player and it's much more effective, not to mention fun, to circle them and repeatedly fire arrows (tip: Always use the weaker, "Fast" type bows, as they are misleadingly more deadly than stronger, slower ones). As well as general attacks, players will use collected crystals to enhance a variety of character-specific and general magic attacks. E'lara can charge her arrows with unique properties, such as ice and armor-penetrating arrows, while Caddoc gains offensive charges and whirlwinds. There are three battle spells that either character can use -- lightning, fireballs and area-of-attack sigils. Each skill and spell can be further upgraded by using more crystals, with benefits including greater damage, less mana cost, and wider areas of effect.  Although they don't level up, Caddoc and E'lara can fulfill certain gameplay objectives to improve their attributes. These requirements are naturally earned through the course of play -- for example, earning a certain number of ranged kills can increase the damage done with arrows. These extras are cool, and the health and mana extensions are very welcome, but there's not much to the character development that will dramatically alter the gameplay. As well as combat, the game serves an occasional puzzle, mostly centered around the co-operative powers of Caddoc and E'lara. As with so much in this game, the attempts at brainteasing are shallow at best, usually consisting of simply "push this wall" or "shoot an arrow here." The more puzzling elements are often completely voluntary, hidden off the beaten path and often bestowing optional rewards -- usually a weapon with a powerful charged attack that, when out of charges, will become much weaker. Until you unlock a secondary weapon slot, these "rewards" are pretty worthless, as any player will foresight will keep a permanently moderate weapon over a temporarily powerful one. Hunted is a pretty decent game at its core, and the mix of fighting styles works better than one would expect, especially from a company that has never been known for action games and has spent over half a decade working on very small titles. While there's a definite lack of polish (for instance, players can perform executions on weakened enemies, but the animations never sync up properly), The Demon's Forge is a fun ride with combat that mostly remains quite tight.  However, Hunted is let down by the fact that it consistently reinforces one's belief that it could have been so much more. The bare bones approach to storytelling and character development is surprising, when a little more depth could have made this game a real keeper. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the boss fights, most of which are built up as large, epic encounters, but end up as rather short, underwhelming, unchallenging fights. Every time Hunted threatens to make a leap from decent to great, it seems to sink back to complacency, afraid to risk aiming above its station.  Playing with an AI partner brings its own set of frustrations, since your allied character seems intent on making life difficult. It will steal your kills, frequently stand in the way of your ranged fire, and run to weapons racks to steal the loot before you. If you accidentally swap your shield for one you don't want, it'll likely pick up your superior equipment before you can correct your mistake. The AI is unhelpful, greedy and selfish ... and in that way, inXile possibly deserves praise for creating a partner that perfectly mimics a random Xbox Live partner.  As far as the vaunted two-player option goes, I'm going to tell you right now that I wasn't able to try it, but that my inability to play adequately matches the experience players will have. The game does not feature drop-in/drop-out co-op, something that I would've thought was obligatory for a campaign-driven game like this. With that in mind, I tried to find a game over several days, at different times, and came up short. Usually the game found nobody online, but sometimes I'd get a "game session full" message. If I had been able to play the game while keeping it open for a player to drop in, I may have had luck, but no player should be expected to sit in an empty lobby, hoping that another lost soul will wander through Hunted's desolate servers at the same time. I am absolutely baffled that a game so reliant on co-op gameplay offered such a pathetically lackluster matchmaking system. The same can be said for Hunted's "Crucible" mode, inXile's answer to a map making system. To call it a map maker, however, would be to heap grossly undue praise upon it. In reality, Crucible mode offers potential level editors a selection of pre-packed arenas in which they get to control the type and number of enemies, the available weapons, and various other simplified gameplay modifications, all of which are unlocked by collecting gold in Adventure mode. The actual potential for individuality is rather sparse, and players can't even keep their developed characters from the campaign. Yet again, what could have been an incredible and differentiating option comes up incredibly short.  If I sound harsh, it's because I genuinely like Hunted and enjoyed the majority of my time with it. However, to see a game do itself such a disservice and offer so little in comparison to its significant potential is exasperating. It's obvious that Hunted was never going to be a triple-A smash hit success, but that doesn't mean it had to willingly underachieve. Instead of getting a uniquely special game, players will get a relatively fun little action title with an overwhelming sense that many things are missing. I want The Demon's Forge to be a success because I want inXile to make a lot more games and Hunted to become a series that fulfills its promise. However, I have to be honest and say that you will miss nothing at all if you choose to ignore the game. I'd definitely recommend you try it out if you're bored and looking for a good time waster, but playing Hunted is just not essential, especially in a period where bigger and better games are looming on the horizon to snap up your time and money.  A solid experience let down by the fact that it never strives to be more than a solid experience. 
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The last time inXile graced the world with a console roleplaying was with The Bard's Tale back in 2004. Since then, the studio has been quietly working away on a number of mobile games, so it's certainly interesting to see th...

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Hunted: The Demon's Forge official launch trailer


May 26
// Jim Sterling
Here's the launch trailer for Hunted: The Demon's Forge, which finally releases next week. I've had my eye on this game for quite some time, and I'm certainly hoping for good things.  The trailer does a good job of maki...
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Hunted: The Demon's Forge video is about some sounds


May 20
// Jim Sterling
Developer diaries really are arrogant. It's like nobody asked the developers to make a documentary, so the developers made it themselves.  Nevertheless, I'm still looking forward to Hunted: The Demon's Forge, so I'll le...
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Hunted: The Demon's Forge goes to war with monsters


May 12
// Jim Sterling
Bethesda has released a new trailer for Hunted: The Demon's Forge, titled "At War With Monsters." The footage features monsters and some war. That's good.  Hype for this game has been rather low, but I'm very much into it and I'm looking forward to seeing if the final product turns out well. Guess we'll see!

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