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Opinion Editorial

Which is your favorite Batman: Arkham game?

Jun 29 // Chris Carter
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Batman photo
Don't say 'Origins!'
Let's start at the beginning, shall we? Batman: Arkham Asylum, through and through, is just a good video game. It took a simple concept ("Be the Bat"), introduced the free-flow combat system and the Predator stealth...

Troops vs Women photo
Troops vs Women

Murder women in SJW Riot: Troops vs Women - in Video Game


'Terrorising men, just for being men'
Jun 27
// Jed Whitaker
An Indiegogo campaign for a new game called SJW Riot: Troops vs Women - in Video Game, in which social justice warriors -- who are apparently only women -- have "lost their mind, again, and are terrorising men" according to t...
Broken games photo
Broken games

The Arkham Knight PC port proves yet again that only suckers pre-order


A real shame
Jun 24
// Nic Rowen
Tuesday morning, I had a moment of weakness. After reading some stellar reviews (of the console versions) I allllmost pre-purchased the PC version of Arkham Knight. I've loved every other entry in the series and with those re...

Feminism! photo
Feminism!

E3 2015: You play like a girl


And that's a very good thing
Jun 19
// Matthew Razak
[Here's a guest editorial from Matthew Razak, Editor-in-Chief of Flixist, and former Destructoid staff. You may remember him as Cowzilla. It's nice to have him back.] This year as I sat at home watching press events from all ...
amiibo photo
amiibo

What is your current take on the state of amiibo?


Are you out, or still in?
Jun 08
// Chris Carter
Wave 4 is over, collectors! Robin and Lucina have been fully confirmed as unicorn figures, making them near impossible to find. Peppered in there are some rarer exclusives like Jigglypuff (Target) and Ness (GameStop), and the...

22 (probably) games that are way harder than Dark Souls

Jun 01 // Steven Hansen
Conversation around From Software's turgid-uttered sacred cow, the Souls series (Bloodborne, too) has such a strange fixation on difficulty, of shuddering players shivering under its hurts so good sadism. Namco Bandai fed into it with Dark Souls and Dark Souls II's marketing. I've died hundreds of times in hundreds of games. And it's very strange how people nod in agreement to the novelty of death and difficulty as if instant fail states were not one of gaming's founding blocks (to the point where some people have stupid arguments about whether things are or are not games). It reminds me of how Telltale's recent adventure games trump up "player choice" as if players haven't been choosing since positioning their Pong paddle. Ok, "narrative" choice? Umm, how about text adventures from 1981. Come on. Souls games aren't hard. I don't say that as a nose-upturned, "gotten gud" vet. They are about endurance and resilience more than sadistic, chronic difficulty. They are a challenge, but not monstrous or mean as people often make them out. Heck, I've seen someone who plays maybe one or two games a year get a platinum trophy in Demon's Souls. There's no club. Anyone can do this. They're designed to let anyone play and finish. Over on the webpage (and mobile application) Twitter, one-time Destructoid contributor Stephen Beirne (no relation!) loosed a series of posts about Souls and I am in accord. "I can't get behind the argument that Dark Souls is abusive due to its (presented sense of) difficulty. And I think this is because I find Dark Souls to be far, far less difficult than a game like, for example, Super Mario Brothers. Platforming is difficult! It's very difficult! It's not fun and it's agonizing and it's pointless and hateful." I love platformers, but this raises some great points, aside from the subjectivity of difficulty. No one's good at everything. I am bad at not having loads of sex, for example. Irish Stephen (not to be confused with Welsh Stephen) is bad at platformers. Young Steven (me) was bad at telling Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze apart. There is a relative novelty to Souls games, though, and I think that's where some of the obsession over exaggerating the difficulty comes from (aside from general chest pounding reinforced by marketing to try and create a positive-feeling in-group). But it isn't in death. It's as a 3D action game. Late '80s, early '90s gaming was filthy with platformers. Mario, a pop culture icon up there with Michael Jordan and the wild shirtless Mark Farner, comes from New Jump City. The genre has only gotten easier, shedding quarter-gobbling design (the removal of "lives"), allowing you to skip levels after repeated death. While some folks are plum bad at 'em, we've had a lot of tries at being good at them. Compare to the 3D action game, which might not have even hit its stride until the PS2-era in the 2000s (PS1-era ones tended to be wonky and platforming-heavy), but at least didn't even exist until 3D graphics. In our young medium, the 3D action genre is younger still, (blood)born(e) of platformers and agèd over the last decade. Souls games occupy a genre that has a decent chance at being a new challenge to folks. It also operates different than genre-defining stuff like Devil May Cry or God of War, thanks in part to the RPG bits. The latter, reflex-based ilk are linear and need momentum. And so you can limp along, button mash, and be not all that good, for which they'll stratify you (chumps skirt by with C-ranks and stamina, experts carve up the world with SSS-rank endless combos). But you're still getting through, moving along. Even I meandered my way through the "hard" Devil May Cry games. And on the RPG side of the Souls mix, there's a history of having the numbers and grind fallback, limited reflex-oriented fighting. And suddenly, Souls, where the difference isn't "coast by or be good," but, more closely, "coast by or die." It rewrites the expectations of 3D, third-person action relative to genre standard bearers. All it asks you to do is get by, and so it skews the relationship to death and performance. The general experience of Devil May Cry is that sometimes you'll die. Mostly, you'll empty out rooms with the killing precision of a child flailing at a piñata. Eventually, you'll be an expert slayer. Souls changes that bell curve. Mostly you'll die. Eventually you'll get by. Rarely, you'll be a wrecking machine, an offensive weapon. It's about winning, eventually, instead of winning more and more impressively.  Souls offers other outs, too. You can go grind and level up, get more gear, buy more arrows. You can often fuck off elsewhere, to another stage, or on another path, rather than bang your head against one boss. Masochistic? When's the last time a text adventure let you type, "this is stupid, next question?" How about trying to suss a point-and-click puzzle that expects you to pry open a manhole, stretch a patch of human skin over it into a trampoline, and jump up through an open window? Souls games are designed to encourage you towards eventual success, even if it means breaks, detours, or extra hours. You don't get a gold star for killing the Flame Lurker without the ribcage exploit. You don't get a demerit for safely perching yourself with a bow and taking 100 potshots to down a far off creature. In Souls' judgment, it's all the same. What matters is you did it. I don't find that sadistic at all.
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Why the Souls series' hardened rep?
"Prepare to die," Dark Souls warns, flashlight under face, as if 30 years of video games hasn't already prepared me. "I'm not a masochist," people say, letting six years of Souls pass from afar, like they're looking out a tra...

Fighting games and roguelikes are my personal school of hard knocks

May 26 // Nic Rowen
Titles like The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Nuclear Throne and (my latest obsession) Darkest Dungeon make it their business to stymie and frustrate your futile attempts to get to the credits screen. They delight in throwing a wrench into the works, tearing apart promising looking runs or dungeon crawls with a few merciless rolls of the RNG. They move around the win conditions and goalposts from the traditional idea of “I gotta get to the end and dunk on the last boss!” to “oh God, please just let me survive a little longer this time.” Victory isn't just marked by, well, victory, but by discovery and learning. Seeing a new enemy, figuring out a new trick or strategy, and learning to avoid whatever awful thing killed you last time. Those small successes are what dubs a run a win. It's tough to turn that switch that demands progression off in your brain. It has been dutifully conditioned by years of games where victory is the expected outcome. But it's those wild unfair swings in a roguelike that completely mess you up that makes them so satisfying. The emotional roller-coaster of suddenly losing a beloved party member, or picking up an item that completely gimps your current build, or getting screwed by a few unlucky rolls that leave you facing almost certain doom. These factors that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to come up with new strategies broaden your horizons, you have to think about the game and really consider all of your options rather than relying on one or two recipes for success. Those runs that truly are hopeless? Well, they just let you appreciate the good ones a little more. It took me a long time to realize it, but fighting games are much the same when you get right down to it. While you always want to win a fight, just adding more notches to your W/L ratio isn't, and shouldn't be, the goal. What you really should be aiming for is learning. When Street Fighter IV came out, I was very hot-to-trot for some online play. I remembered dominating at SFII in grade school, all the hours I sunk into collecting every ending in Alpha 3 on the PS1, the times I used to rush through Marvel Super Heroes on one quarter in the arcade. I thought I was good at fighting games, and was looking forward to a chance to prove it. I swagged online like I was O'Hara from Enter the Dragon, obnoxiously breaking boards in front of Bruce Lee like it meant something. My fights ended up going about as well as his did -- Boards, and CPU opponents, don't hit back like the real deal. [embed]292757:58670:0[/embed] I'll be completely honest, I almost quit playing fighting games at that point. Nobody likes to lose, especially when you're losing at something that used to be a point of pride for yourself. Thankfully, despite its rough and tumble exterior, the fighting game community actually has a great attitude about these things. EVERYBODY loses. It's what you take away from those losses and how you come back from them that defines you as a player. Shortly after SFIV came out, I was introduced to David Sirlin's Playing to Win, a book that is all about the philosophy of fighting games and is as close to a bible for the fighting game community that exists. I remember when I first read it I distinctly thought “this guy is an asshole.” Playing to Win can be a very abrasive read if you come from a background of playing fighting games for fun. If you ever thought your next door neighbor was cheap for constantly sweeping in Mortal Kombat 2, or angrily called someone a “spammer” for repeatedly tossing out fireballs from across the screen, or think there is such as thing as too many throws in one round (a philosophy I can no longer recognize except in direct reverse), Sirlin's opinions will probably rub you the wrong way. These self-imposed rules and ideas about how the game should be played are the foundation for what he considers a “scrub mentality,” a mental framework that will always limit how far you can go in fighting games, and ultimately, how much joy you can derive from them. Embarrassingly, I saw a lot of that “scrub mentality” in myself. The way I'd get angry at “coward” Guile players for tossing endless sonic booms, or frustrated with people constantly choosing the blatantly over-powered emperor of Muay Thai, Sagat, for easy wins. But when you stop looking at what other players are doing as “cheap,” and start looking at your losses as learning experiences rather than straight out defeats, a lot of that frustration evaporates. It takes real effort and time, but when you internalize that outlook, fighting games become less stressful, more enjoyable, and infinitely more beautiful. Of course people are going to throw sonic booms as Guile, he's a machine made by the Air Force to do exactly that. It may be true that Sagat (or whatever character) is over-powered and easier to win with and disproportionally popular as a result, but how can you blame people for making a choice that will tip the odds in their favor? You have that choice and opportunity too, and if you decide to stick with a different character you'll just have to make peace with the fact that you'll run into tough matches and try and develop a strategy to deal with them. You can either get frustrated, stomp around, and quit/uninstall the game forever, or you can thicken your skin. Learn how to roll with the punches, and take something away from the mistake. Either figure out ways to avoid it in the future, or come to peace with the idea that sometimes things are out of your control. These are not new concepts, ideally we should always be trying to find the positive side to a set-back or learn from a mistake. But to me, at least, nothing else crystallizes the idea of learning from a loss into a rock hard truth than pitiless rougelikes and fighting games. And after spending so many years immersed in both genres, I like to think that I've been able to take those lessons and apply them to other areas of my life. It's not always easy, and I won't claim to be some kind of Zen master who never gets frustrated, but I know I'm definitely a more patient person now than I was five years ago.
Learning from failure photo
Learning from my (many) failures
The last few years of games for me have been all about defeat. Constant, unending, expected defeat. I think I'm better for it. It wasn't always like that. In fact, for most of my life, games have been all about completion, vi...

MOBA photo
MOBA

What major MOBA are you playing right now?


I'm down with Heroes of the Storm
May 26
// Chris Carter
"MOBA" is often a bad word/phrase in video game circles. As a fan of them since 2005 I kind of just shrug it off though -- this genre is here, and it's popular, guys. Embrace it or don't play it!  My MOBA history has bee...
HD remakes photo
HD remakes

What is your take on HD remakes this generation?


I'm for them, depending on the situation
May 19
// Chris Carter
Are you ready for some remakes? Capcom is, as are a ton of other publishers. It feels like every other week there's an announcement for a "remastered" or "definitive" edition of a recently released game, and at times, it can get a bit ridiculous. I've seen a lot of talk recently regarding this practice, and I figured it was time for a discussion.
Demos photo
Demos

Do you still use demos to make a purchasing decision?


Sadly, demos are rare these days
May 18
// Chris Carter
We now live in an era where an "exclusive Early Access beta test that can only be obtained by pre-order customers at participating retailers and download the app" is a thing. Whereas demos used to be straight-forward marketin...
Konami photo
Konami

What is your favorite Konami game of all time?


Man that's tough
May 15
// Chris Carter
With the new CEO of Konami focusing on the mobile arena, many people out there have called this a death knell for the publisher as we know it. Although it comes as a surprise for some, Konami has been experimenting with mobil...
Socially Awkward Gamer photo
Socially Awkward Gamer

Videogames, porn, and seclusion: The downfall of men?


Do you know how to talk to women?
May 13
// Jed Whitaker
Phillip Zimbardo, a leading psychologist at Stanford University, has warned that men are facing a "crisis of masculinity" because of porn and videogame addiction. A study of 20,000 young men's gaming and porn habits was condu...

Are you satisfied with the price you paid for your PlayStation Vita?

May 08 // Chris Carter
What about you? [embed]291796:58475:0[/embed]
Vita satisfaction photo
Yep
This morning I was typing up a few Vita related stories, and surprise, they were both ports. It reminded me of when I started to realize that the system was in dire straits -- at one point after the portable's launch I looked...

Things that the Persona 5 trailer is better than

May 01 // Steven Hansen
[embed]287234:58408:0[/embed] The first thing I did the morning I knew the trailer would launch was paw around in the dark, eyes half closed, for my phone to watch it and it was somehow as good as I expected it to be despite unreasonable expectations. But how good is that? We need context. Here are some things that the Persona 5 trailer is better than: 1) Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. 2) Having ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. 3) The love and acceptance of a parent, because a parent is just going to die and leave you alone. Persona 5 will never leave you. 4) The Iditarod. 5) The episode of Seinfeld where Elaine dances badly. 6) When America legalized standing with your feet close together, thus freeing public transport from sweaty, leg splayed wafts. 7) Ants. 8) Some cats. 9) This joke: "Need a friend named Nick so I can say 'what do you call a guy with no balls?' Eunuch." 10) The time 50 Cent's grandma made him take out the trash and he tweeted, "I'm rich fuck this I'm going home I don't need this shit." 11) Brett Makedonski's basketball game. 12) The time when I was like five years old, playing on the top of a bunk bed. I grabbed the guard rail, looked over the side, and the guard rail came loose, taking me down with it. I split my head open and lost so much blood that I had to be carried around the house (no, of course I didn't go to the hospital, what am I, made of money?) 12) List posts.
Persona 5? It's good photo
The Persona 5 trailer is better than a lot of things and here are some of those things
Kyle posted some new Persona 5 screenshots earlier, which got me excited, which got me watching the Persona 5 trailer again, which just got me more excited. I like when a trailer can turn me on (not sexual). I watch a lo...

Great alternative hamburger toppings that wouldn't go so well in a first-person shooter

Apr 30 // Steven Hansen
EGG "Egg" is short for "eggscrement," as it is the foul (hah!) byproduct of most poultry. In America, egg typically comes from the chick-hen, named for being the ladybird amore to the male cock. But just because egg comes from a chick-hen's buns doesn't mean it doesn't belong on yours! A nicely fried egg over easy with a drippy yolk makes for a great treat when biting down on a hamburger. It ain't a burger if you don't have to wash your hand after! Why it wouldn't go good in a first-person shooter? You have to crack an omelet to make a few eggs and executive types are more likely omelet someone work on wall textures than devote the processing power necessary for shell splattering particle effects or new viscous liquid engines -- and that's just in the butt-fresh, pre-cooked state. While the egg would serve as a good "Easter Egg" (hah!) in a grenade lob animation, the only scramble I want in my multiplayer shooters is towards a flag that needs to be captured. TOMATO CHUTNEY Have you seen what's in your grocery store ketchup? The All-American spread has been perverted by some strange new system wherein quality and safety become secondary to profit. And so ketchup becomes a slurry of high-fructose corn syrup, tomato flavoring and "spice." Take beck-up the ketchup! Or substitute it with a sweet, fresh tomato chutney. The onion, vinegar, and brown sugar will get you where you need to be. Why it wouldn't go good in a first-person shooter? Sounds foreign? GUACAMOLE No, not the 2D platformer, Guacamelee! We're talking the foodstuff for which it was named. I wanted to go "avocado" here -- a fine burger topping in and of itself -- but why not go-uacamole all the way! There are quite a few spreads that make surprising burger fixings. I recently mixed guacamole and an even spicier Calabrian pepper spread and loved the unexpected kick to my 'burg.  Why it wouldn't go good in a first-person shooter? The only spread first-person shooters seem to care about it bullet spread when discussing weapons such as shotguns. Also another spread they like are sheets. You know, like for accounting all the money they're making. Making guacamole, even if you throw the ingredients in a food processor, requires some manual dexterity to deseed peppers, deshell tomatillos and garlic. If you tried to make guacamole in the next big first-person shooter, it'd probably end up like playing Surgeon Simulator while the your enemy makes a nice spread of their own -- you! From your gutshot abdomen stirred up by your sucking chest wounds. JETPACKS My co-workers, public transit companions, and dentist have always expressed a universal thought when asked on a date: "Yeah, when pigs fly." The desire for airborne swine transcends race, social classes, and the irresponsibility of my request based on my familiarity or lack thereof with the responder. While not a "topping" per se, eating a hamburger (named for the gentle ham, the most ground-bound of all the lord's creatures) while in the air would be a noble gesture to the beast from which we derive so much pleasure. Why it wouldn't go good in a first-person shooter? No, no, no. Tightly controlled lanes of combat and no-more-than-two-story buildings are the "name of the game," and the game they are the name of is the first-person shooter. Jetpacks would require a complete design overhaul to account for them and do you know how hard that would be? I already know the buttons for shoot gun, aim gun, throw bomb, damn it. Look at Titanfall, languishing with no one playing but Nic Rowen and the "story-mode" robots. They think he's one of them. They don't even know he is alive. They trade self-deprecating asides about their faulty coding and sometimes run menial errands -- oil changes, circuitry hacks, taxes -- like he isn't even there. The idea of putting a jetpack into a first-person shooter is preposterous. That's what the sprint button is for. Are we supposed to just throw the stamina gauge baby out with the we-must-have-jetpacks-and-a-new-gauge-for-fuel bathwater? It's like putting a pineapple on a burger. Redundant, stupid, dunderheaded. Let me know in the comments if you have alternative hamburger toppers!
Hamburger toppings photo
Lettuce think outside the gun!
I recently picked up a controller to play some Mortal Kombat X with my lawyer after we finished working out (not sexual!) in the basement of his hilltop home. While he'd signed, sealed, and delivered (legal jargon) some Morta...

Five Nights at Freddy's photo
Five Nights at Freddy's

Do you 'get' Five Nights at Freddy's?


In less than a year, there's four games and a movie planned
Apr 29
// Chris Carter
I consider myself lucky that I have a number of younger kids in my life (neighbors, local extended cousins) to help educate me on the latest trends. It's not that I feel like I need to keep up with anything per se, I'm past t...
Season Pass photo
Season Pass

This 'Mystery Season Pass' nonsense is getting old


If you're going to charge us for it now, tell us what you're planning now
Apr 28
// Chris Carter
Season Passes are not inherently a bad thing. Take a look at how Nintendo is handling it. When it announced the pass for Mario Kart 8, it debuted at $12, provided a costume incentive bonus at launch, and Nintendo actuall...

The beauty and tragedy of a perfectly planned character

Apr 27 // Nic Rowen
I spent way too much time looking at screens like this. City of Heroes probably holds the dubious distinction of having the most skewed relationship in terms of “time spent planning characters VS time spent playing characters” in my life. I spent entire nights pouring over different power sets, ability combinations, and team synergies for a game that doesn't exist anymore. I devoted hours upon hours to figuring out the perfect stat progression for super villains that I knew in my heart of hearts I'd never take out of the starter area. The only crime they'd ever commit would be loitering. However, City of Heroes wasn't the only game to trigger this kind of obsessive cataloging, not by a long shot. I have a stack of character builds and ideas as thick as the Yellow Pages for Dark Souls PvP set-ups, gimmicky X-Com squads, and Darkest Dungeon dream teams. I have concept characters (complete with embarrassing back stories) sketched out for both of the modern Fallout games. All of their would-be perks, S.P.E.C.I.A.L stats, and fashionable item accessories already plotted out -- all that’s left would be to actually wander out in the wastes and find them, but who could be bothered after so much work? This goes way back, long before I had easy access to the internet where character planners and clever apps make it simple to plot these things out. Go back to the Precambrian era of high school days, dig through the fossil records of my notebooks and I'm sure you could find Diablo 2 skill trees scribbled in the margins of my English homework. The cave wall painting blueprints of a Hammerdin specced holy warrior looming above my predictable observations about MacBeth (probably, hopefully, accompanied by a cool doodle of a flying hammer crushing a zombie's skull).   When I step back and look at the sheer amount of go-nowhere ideas and try to tally up the time I've sunk into them compared to the relatively meager hours I've clocked into some of the games they're for, it dawns on me -- maybe this is kind of messed up. Maybe I've been living all wrong. Looking at it from a distance, it all seems quietly sad. I've spent more time in my head with some of these games (some of my favorite games, I might add) than I have playing them. There's a small critical voice in the back of my mind that is furious with me for squandering those hours, for not doing something more productive with the time -- both in the sense of actually playing the fucking games, and in the broader and more judgmental “what are you doing with your life?!” sense.  I have perfectly good reasons (or maybe I should call them “justifications”) for all the obsessive plotting and scheming. For one thing, there are just too many cool ideas out there and not enough time to see them through. For as much as I beat myself up for the papery death of my stillborn characters, I never really would have had the time to convert those dreams into reality even if I had the work ethic of John Henry. How long does a full play through of Diablo 2 take anyway? How many trips through Hell do you need to make to grind through the necessary experience points? If you're after a certain item set (and you know you are because you're the kind of crazy person who didn't stop reading three paragraphs ago) you'd probably need to go online to trade and wheedle your way into a full set to see it done. It's a hell of a lot more of a time investment than goofing off in English class, that's for sure. Sketching out those ideas for gimmicky Paladins and upstart Mages let me stave off the temptation to roll another character while I took my (unfortunately less imaginative) Barbarian to kick the shit out of the Prince of Lies. In a weird (insincere) way, I could even argue it helped me save time. Besides, an immaculately planned character can be satisfying in its own right. It's always good to get your intellectual hands dirty, to put your fingers into the putty of an idea, to roll it around and shape it. As far as pastimes go, you could do worse. Let's not forget all the situations where actually playing a game would be impractical. You can goof off a little at the office and play around with the Borderlands skill editor without causing much of a scene. But try and boot up your lv 30 Gunzerker at your desk just once and you'll never hear the end of it. Human Resources takes a dim view on bringing akimbo guns blazing justice to the wasteland during company hours, apparently.  Still, I look at the swollen and poorly organized folder where I dump all of my character ideas, filthy with PDF character sheets, webpage saves from online builders, .txt documents imported from PC to PC for games I'm not even sure I own anymore, and I wonder if I have a problem. I can justify all the characters I cooked up sitting in class or during lunch breaks? I know I spent just as many perfectly fine nights sitting in front of the same machine that actually displays and runs the games I was thinking about, tapping away at some poorly conceived concept character while utterly ignoring the game itself. At the same time though, I love those characters, I love those ideas. Yeah, most of them never made it out of the gate, but those characters had character. If videogames are mostly an exercise in mental stimulation, of burning off stressed out braincells and decompressing after a long shitty day, does it really matter if the satisfaction you get from them is through play or by tinkering with the ideas they present? If I could swap those hours around, gut about a quarter of that folder and take the time spent on the fantasizing about those ideas to actually playing out a few of them, would I be more satisfied? Or would it shake out to be about the same? I honestly have no idea. What I do know is that while writing this article, I did have an idea for another Dark Souls 2 character, and it's been all I could do to keep myself from drifting over to a wiki to start putting him together. There may be no hope for me.
Character building photo
I'm the man with the plan (and little else)
I've probably spent more time creating characters, builds, and dreaming up party compositions in my head than I have actually playing games. It seems odd to think of it in that way, but if I could somehow tally it all up I be...

Nintendo, your work isn't done on Mario Kart 8

Apr 25 // Chris Carter
New crossovers: The sky really is the limit for new franchises. While I initially wanted a full-on "Mario Kart All-Stars" for the next game, I soon realized after playing the Animal Crossing pack that Nintendo could just keep supporting 8, and it would be more than good enough. With a real online infrastructure and a visual style gorgeous enough to withstand the test of time, we don't have to wait years until a new console iteration. Keep the crossovers coming. Samus, Fox McCloud, Kirby (with his Warpstar) -- all of them would fit perfectly into the Mario Kart universe, and I can see some really ingenious tracks down the road due to Nintendo's rich history as a character factory. One request is to just go all-out for the new characters though -- no "half Mario half new" -- just go all-new. Just inject F-Zero into the game already: We've seen the Mute City and Big Blue homages, but really, with F-Zero considered by many to be the definitive racing experience over Mario Kart, that's a huge market ready to be tapped. I'm not even talking about a "Pack" here -- more like a full-on expansion in 2016 featuring cast members from F-Zero, at least 10 tracks from the series, and extra elements like new characters and planets. Use that as a barometer for gauging interest in a new F-Zero game. Miyamoto himself said last year that "the struggle is that I don't really have a good idea for what's new that we could bring to F-Zero that would really turn it into a great game again." I have an idea -- fans already like what you've done with the franchise in Mario Kart 8, so think about expanding on it. A real battle mode: Finally, we come to my one big problem with Mario Kart 8 -- a lack of a real battle mode. No, that sorry excuse of "racing with balloons" doesn't cut it. I want real, tiered arenas that are all-new. Although I loved the core game as a racer, it really loses a lot of its spark due to the fact that so many fans grew up only playing the battle minigame. It cuts down on the replay value for fans as well, as I remember plenty of Mario Kart marathons that would have ended after a few hours if it wasn't for someone suggesting that we play "just a bit more" within the confines of the arena. I'm hopeful for these additions because Nintendo has shown it knows how to to DLC right. For $12 right now, you'll net seven characters (Villager counts as two!), eight vehicles, and 16 tracks. For reference, the game shipped with 32 courses. While I wouldn't trust a lot of publishers with this charge, Nintendo has the opportunity to really make Mario Kart 8 one of the longest-lasting games in the series, as the company has proven that it knows exactly what it's doing.
More Mario Kart 8 photo
More crossovers and a real battle mode
When Nintendo announced its DLC plans for Mario Kart 8, there was a combination of collective groans and cheers across the internet. The latter group was on the right side of history, it seems. When the first DLC Pack dr...

Activision photo
Activision

Does Activision still have selling power for Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk?


In your mind, obviously
Apr 20
// Chris Carter
It's no secret that I'm a Tony Hawk guy. I'd enjoyed nearly every entry in the series outside of the boring Proving Ground and the iffy Ride subseries, and that rumor of a new fully-fledged game has me all hot ...

Captain of my own destiny: Micro-goals and player liberty

Apr 19 // Anna Anthropy
Every level of Captain Toad is a dense little 3D dollhouse. (In fact, you start to wonder why it wasn't released on the 3DS, where I wouldn't have had to constantly flick my attention between the TV and the thing I was holding.) The player's job is to steer Captain Toad -- or later Captain Toadette instead, once she's submitted herself to being rescued by the character who isn't femme-presenting -- through these little dollhouses. It's refreshing to see Nintendo finally catch up with more progressive developers, who allow playable women characters in their games, but only after male characters (or micropayments) have "unlocked" them. I'm not actually sure the game ever awards Toadette the rank of full Captain. Captain Toad or (Ensign? Admiral?) Toadette move through each dollhouse, avoiding (or occasionally vegetabling) threats, discovering new ways to get around the place, and ultimately attaining the shining Star at the end. That's the point of each little dollhouse, its ultimate goal. But there are "micro-goals" too: three special coins hidden in each little house. They're sealed, like plucky detectives in Nancy Drew novels, behind breakable walls, or tucked into secret nooks or out-of-the-way paths. Their purpose is to encourage (and reward) more thoroughly exploring each dollhouse, turning it over and over on your touch screen to peek into every part of it you can see. That's a legitimate way of playing the game -- call it a "deep" rather than "wide" play style -- and is legitimately rewarding to a certain type of player. That's not usually how I play these games, though. Playing Captain Toad, I was more interested in just seeing as much as possible - the wide rather than deep style of play. I wanted to see all the dollhouses. I wanted to see lots of neat, new things in succession, and not to be stuck on any one for too long. (Certainly the fact that I wouldn't be able to play the game once I'd left my friend's house made me reluctant to linger.) But this style of play is legit too. A design that incorporates both simple unlock-the-next-level goals and extra, optional micro-goals is, theoretically, one that accommodates both styles of play. If I want to see new things, I prioritize the overarching goal that will get me to the next level. If I want to feel like I'm really plumbing the depths of each individual level, I prioritize the micro-goals. But more realistically, my play style -- and probably most players' -- incorporates elements of both: going for a challenge coin when I see how to do so, but not replaying the same level over and over until I've gotten all three. Where the design fails in this case is when it turns out these optional micro-goals aren't optional after all, and that you can only see so much of the game without prioritizing them. My friend was way more challenge-coin-oriented, but even so, the available levels eventually petered out. "Did you unlock any more?" he asked me. I had seen a level or two later than he had. After a point, Captain Toad explicitly enforces the "deep, not wide" style of play where it teases that it will accommodate both kinds of play. And it's not the only Mario (or "Mario universe?" "Mario galaxy?") game to be structured this way: this is the way they're designing them these days. I also bailed on Super Mario 3D Land before seeing the end because it wanted me to replay past levels and harvest more hidden coins. Maybe the hope was that after playing "wide" for long enough, I'd develop enough of an investment in the game to play "deep" when I was forced to. Nope. I stopped playing. Oh, I stuck on for a few more levels, a few more tollbooths. But then I got tired of these forced intermissions between the stuff I wanted to be doing -- seeing new stuff -- to do stuff I was bored of: retreading old territory. I was up to the challenge of the new stages. I was capable, ready, and excited to do more. But the game was unwilling to let me, and I got bored, and I gave up. Surely that's not the outcome the developers were hoping for: player gets bored, gives up? I think it's a failure when additional goals are used to narrow, rather than broaden, the player's experience. One of the games I've been spending a lot of time with lately, Alto's Adventure, a snowboarding game for the iPad, has a few different levels of overlapping goals: get as far as possible in a single run (survive), get as many points as possible on a single run (perform tricks), complete the current "missions" the game has given you (perform specific tasks). Some of the missions are long-term: perform 10 backflips using a character who has a difficult time gaining air. Some of them are really specific: smash a rock during a chase scene. While I'm playing for the overarching goal of travelling as far as possible, these extra goals give me opportunities to explore wider aspects of the game systems. I might have never attempted a triple-backflip if the game hadn't suggested I try it, in addition to my already-established goal of getting farther, seeing more. And not all games need extra layers of goals: Monument Valley doesn't need "missions" to distract from its sparse vignettes. But when extra challenges are deployed, it should be in the service of expanding the player's experience of the game, rather than forcing it. Maybe if you're a garden fungus, the only way up the ladder to the rank of Captain is doing whatever authority tells you without question. Maybe Toadette is the real brains here.
Captain Toad photo
Where playground meets obstacle course
A friend of mine got a good deal on a Wii U recently. That meant that I finally got a chance to play Captain Toad. It's really humbling to know that people at Nintendo have also played Monument Valley. I played through a bunc...

Botched Pokemon tattoo becomes newest beloved internet meme

Apr 17 // Steven Hansen
[Vaughn Pinpin, 2012] But that out-there "blackface Charmander" design wasn't the result of a handful of pills and a Smirnoff Ice. It was a crudely drawn recreation of work done in artist Vaughn Pinpin's Tim Burton x PKMN Project collection, in which Pinpin drew Charmander, all its evolutions, and about 70 other pocket monsters in this style. We covered them almost three years ago. They're all on Pinpin's Tumblr. And while reddit was busy making fanart of this assumed addled original creation as fast as it designs amiibo mock ups, credit to the original artist fell by the wayside. Even the reddit top comment, "Looks like a Tim Burton Pokémon," links to an Imgur upload of the original Charmander drawing that points to the URL of a site that seems to aggregate and talk about art. The reply to that reply, the "full list" is a low quality, not-full collage featuring 25 of Pinpin's drawings. Finally, the third nested reply, after being edited, includes a link to Pinpin's Tumblr. One website actually posted Pinpin's original work under the impression that it was fan art of the tattoo, which is a bit like saying The Beatles sounds like Oasis. Lack of credit on an internet where it can feel as if things just materialize is a big issue today for people who create things. Artwork is passed around (sometimes watermarks maliciously removed, or added by outside parties), jokes are stolen, and people expect (and get) an endless influx of free stimuli. In this case, it went beyond fans giggling over a meme, as some folks started making and selling products -- necklackes, t-shirts -- with the tattoo's likeness. Pinpin responded to the situation on Twitter: "I'm cool with you guys getting tats of my dang Burton PKMNs, but try not to profit over it please. That's not entrepreneurship, that's theft." That was about as close to positive as Pinpin got about the situation, saying, "This just in: dumb kids did a dumb thing and everyone's laughing about it in the cesspool that is reddit. This is news!" before following up with, "I think I feel better about the whole situation now. But I don't think I can laugh with reddit. It's sort of like laughing with the school bully when the joke was punching me in the face." We all carry varying degrees of guilt for this sort of thing. I take shiba pictures and animal gifs for a public good. I tweeted out a still from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night last week without naming the film, director, actor, or cinematographer. While you enjoy the fun times with friends you have on the net, it's good to remember that some of the things you enjoy -- web comics that end up as images in comment threads, photo galleries that get linked to on Facebook -- come from people who worked hard to make them. Sometimes someone just took a picture of their dog at the right time. Still, crediting the source is always a good move.
Charmander tattoo photo
'My friend was drunk and on Xanax when he decided to tattoo a black face Charmander'
If there's one thing my grandfather fought for in World War II, it was the right to monetize memes. Of course, he was in the Italian army, the side that rightfully lost the war, because all your grandfathers were fighting aga...

Which low tier character will I waste my time on in Mortal Kombat X?

Apr 11 // Nic Rowen
When it comes to NetherRealm's fighters, I've been in top form. I took one look at Noob Saibot, the ninja-by-way-of-Darth-Vader, and decided to main him in Mortal Kombat 9. He was fiddly and awkward at close range, while being outclassed by more dynamic zoners at full screen where he was supposed (?) to dominate. Sure, his X-Ray move was undeniably dope, but when would you ever get a chance to use it when you were so busy eating Cyrax bombs and Kabal's aerial energy blasts? In Injustice, I mained Lex Luthor from day one and never looked back, even when facing ten game (and higher) losing streaks. Lex was a giant lug of a fighter with all the size and sluggishness of a grappler and none of the damage to back it up. He was a finesse character, based on set-ups and smart use of his hyper armor in a game where the most popular characters could evaporate half a health-bar with one combo and had moves specifically designed to ignore hyper armor. I doomed myself to living under Kryptonian tyranny and had only myself to blame. So which piece of deadweight will I pick up in Mortal Kombat X? Which character will I fall in love with early and stick by, despite it becoming increasingly apparent that they are absolute garbage? What kind of destructive co-dependent relationship will I get tangled up in this time? Quan Chi Quan Chi is a dark sorcerer shitbag that nobody likes, both in the fandom and in the series' narrative. He is a universally reviled toady, unsuccessfully scheming behind the back of whatever master he is currently serving like an incompetent, bald Starscream. The contrarian streak in me that identifies with underdogs finds these qualities strangely endearing (this is also why I'm doomed to fail). Quan has a couple of bizarre fighting styles that rely on the clever use of a summoned bat-demon or cheeky portals to force the opponent into mix-up situations and generally be an annoying jackass. He also has a variation that uses weird glyphs and symbols on the ground for a variety of effects, such as nullifying projectiles or pumping up his damage. Because that kind of gimmick couldn't possibly be a pain in the ass to try and use while Lui Kang pelts you with fireballs and bicycle-kicks right? Another trick-based finesse character that requires a lot of momentum to get going and can be shut down with a strong offense? Sounds like Lex all over again -- sign me up? I don't know, maybe I just have a thing for bald guys.   Jax MK 9's Jax had quite the character arc in the meta-game. He was one of the weakest members of the roster on release, but a few, possibly heavy handed, patches and buffs suddenly thrust him to the top of many tier lists. A real rags-to-riches story (or a great example of why fighting game players hate patches). Skilled Jax players could be a nightmare to deal with, hassling opponents from a distance with earthquakes and projectiles while utterly dominating up-close with powerful grabs and terrifying damage. Later patches toned him down a bit and in the end Jax retired as a respectable, but not spectacular kombatant. I'm not really interested in any of that. I honestly have no idea if Jax will be a ridiculously powerful demigod of command grabs in MK X, reduced back to his meek early MK 9 low tier hero status, or find some middle balance between the two extremes. I just think he looks awesome. Jax is a guy who pummels ninjas to death with a pair of robotic arms, which has been scientifically determined to be the coolest possible way to beat a ninja to death. He has a distinguished dash of salt and pepper in his beard, and the kind of preoccupation with cigars that I'm sure Freud would have something to say about. Or maybe not, considering he likes to alternatively snuff those cigars on his robotic fists, or the bloody neck-stump-turned-ashtray of his opponent. Jackson Briggs has it going on. If I can age half as gracefully (and cybernetically) as Jax, I'll die a happy man. I know it's an odd criteria, but if basing my fighting game character choices on aspirational life goals is wrong, I don't want to be right. Kotal Kahn Kotal Kahn is my wild card. He's a new character, so there's no telling if he'll be good or bad. On one hand, he was built with MK X's unique systems and play style in mind instead of being re-tooled to fit the mold. It's entirely possible he'll be an utter wrecking machine of sun-worshiping bad-assery. On the other, he hasn't had umpteen iterative appearances to figure out his place in the food chain, so maybe longtime favorites like Kung Lao will mop the floor with him using established fundamentals (such as -- hat throw, hat throw, hat throw, dive kick). This is all irrelevant. I've got my eye on Kotal because he looks like some kind of Aztec war-god, and that's pretty tough to beat aesthetically. Why would I want to throw a silly bladed hat at someone when I could fry them with divine sun beams, or cut their heart out with one of those cool wavy cult daggers? Kotal also as a variation where he carries around one of those crazy tribal swords that is basically a wooden board with a row of razor sharp sharks teeth inset along the edges, which seems like the worst thing mankind ever devised to cut another person in two with. It would be like being paddled by a frat brother and devoured by Jaws at the same time, two of my recurring nightmares condensed into one horrific device. I don't know how Quan, Jax, and Kotal will shake out. Going by my track record, the fact that I'm expressing any interest in them at all pretty much dooms them (so maybe you'll want to take this article as a cautionary tale and stay clear of them). Or maybe they'll turn out to be awesomely powerful specimens and I'll be retroactively accused of tier-whoring whenever I select them. It will be interesting to find out in a few months when people have had a chance to dig into MK X and test their might. Until then, I'd be interested to hear what characters you're excited about. Do you plan on sticking with the tried and true like Scorpion and Raiden? Will you embrace the next generation of fighters and take selfies with Cassie Cage and her crew? Or are you going to be that one freaky dude who mains Ferra/Torr from day one and beats everyone down Master Blaster style? At the end of the day, tier placement really doesn't mean much, what matters is your skill and enjoyment. As long as you're having fun and improving your game, any character is the right choice.
Low tier heroes photo
You do it to yourself, you do, and that's what really hurts
They say you should never marry for love, but I always do. Every single damn time. I guess you could call me a romantic. If you felt like being less charitable (and possibly more accurate), you could call me a scrub. I couldn...

Won't somebody think of the children?

Apr 09 // Nic Rowen
[embed]290207:58107:0[/embed] Thankfully, I had a secret weapon to get MK off the black list in my home. Aside from being a nightmarish murder simulator, I knew that MK was also fucking ridiculous; a fact all those self-serious senators stumping on the public decency ticket always seemed to forget to mention. Despite all the media hubbub, my mom was, thankfully, still inclined to give me the benefit of the doubt and listen to reason. We struck a deal, I'd be allowed to rent the neutered, bloodless SNES version under the condition that she would watch as my brother and I played it. If she felt it was too violent for our sensibilities or somehow mentally damaging, she would banish it straight back to the Netherrealm of Blockbuster Video and the veto would stand. In the end she didn't watch for more than an hour before realizing that MK was just too stupid to be considered harmful. When you break it down, MK is a game about karate men fighting each other one-on-one to save the world from a four-armed claymation monster and his boss who looks suspiciously like Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China. Even the famed gore of the series, when not breathlessly described by a dour parental advocacy spokesperson, was too dumb and cheap looking to take seriously. The production values on those original fatalities were a joke, character sprites awkwardly sticking into and through each other at angles and depths that don't line up quite right. The obvious cost-cutting steps of re-purposing animations and sprites stole a certain degree of gravitas from the executions. MK 1 has the same disarming flimsiness of a student film effort about zombies. It's hard to take stumbling freshmen in thrift store clothes splattered with red food coloring seriously -- the effect is more slapstick than sinister. My brother and I were left alone to throw fireballs and exchange uppercuts with the understanding that we weren't to tell anyone we were allowed to play MK (because who wants to have to explain that to the other moms) and that any attempt to actually rip a sibling's heart out would result in a summary grounding. I thought it was a pretty fair compromise. I felt mature. I was proud that I was able to hold my ground and defend a piece of media I thought was being unfairly vilified. But more than that, I was gratified that my mom believed in my ability to separate fantasy from reality. To know my own boundaries and limits and be able to compartmentalize what was totally rad in a game, but horrific in real life. Which is why I feel like the biggest, shittiest hypocrite in the world when I worry about kids playing MK X. It makes me feel like a crusty old man shaking his fist at those damn kids for doing the exact same thing he did when he was younger. I want to be able to extend the same charity, the same vigorous defense I gave MK 1 to MK X of the difference between fantasy and reality. But holy shit, have you seen this game? It is CRAZY. The way bones snap and break during x-ray moves, how skin will peel and tear to reveal musculature and ligaments, the fully detailed models of organs and intestines that are ripped apart and strewn about during fatalities, it's just so -- ewww. You can't say the game is too silly to take seriously anymore. If anything, if I were a kid now trying to convince my mom to let me play MK X, I think I'd probably focus on how it would be a great way to study up on human anatomy for biology class. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't the twist ending where I say it turns out all those senators and other finger wagglers from back in the day were right all along. They were wrong (and hysterically stupid) then, and they're wrong now. I still don't think MK X is intrinsically harmful. I don't think that the kids who weasel their way into playing it (and I absolutely guarantee they will) and watch Scorpion cut Sub-Zero's face off to let his brains slide out on the pavement will turn into a generation into of serial face-slicers. But I also know I'd hesitate to let a nine-year-old play MK X, especially a nine-year-old I was in charge of raising and ensuring didn't turn into a complete sociopath. I also know I'd probably feel a certain brand of ugly judgmental smugness, a lofty “tsk, tsk,” over any parent or guardian who didn't. There is a disconnect there that I can recognize but have trouble explaining, even to myself. Because at its core, I don't think MK X is really all that different from MK 1. Ed Boon is honestly just making the same game he has been making for 20 years. I don't think he is a different person now, that over the past two decades he really has taken the villain's part and is trying to corrupt young minds. The tone and intention of the MK series hasn't really changed at all, it's still all about silly ninja-men killing each other in completely ludicrous ways. But the technology behind that intention HAS changed. With two decades of graphical advancement and a production budget that dwarfs the cost of anything imaginable in 1992, MK X has reached a point where the fatalities and violence really ARE as gory and disturbing as the moral hand-wringers always claimed. This is the source of that disconnect for me. I've always defended the MK series as campy fun under the guise of gritty violence, and I still absolutely believe that is true. While the fatalities are not as outwardly silly as Johnny Cage uppercutting a guy so hard three heads pop off, they still rely on a completely over-the-top kind of violence that goes so far it loops back to comedy. When Kano cuts open his opponent's ribcage mid-match, only for his victim to promptly stand back up and continue fighting like nothing happened, I think there is still a sort of winking-at-the-camera comedy there. “Don't worry, none of this is too serious.” But the joke isn't as plain to see anymore, and it's even more difficult to articulate to others. There is a small shitty part of me that worries that kids won't “get it.” Ironically, part of the technological advancement that has made MK X slightly uncomfortable compared to its predecessors also ensures that there has never been an easier time for kids to circumnavigate any attempts to keep that material away from them. I mean, not that any of those efforts have ever worked. When I was a kid trying to play MK in 1992, my back-up plan if mom did ban the game was to just sneak off to the arcade or go over to a friend's house who had slightly less strict parents and play it there. Now, thanks to downloads, YouTube clip reels, and streaming Let's Play series, kids won't even have to leave the house to sneak a peek at a few fatalities. And overall, it's probably for the best. You can't stop culture or technology. Games will get gorier and crazier, and kids will find their way to them younger and younger. If little Johnny is going to eventually see a bisected brainpan or a perforated liver in full anatomical exactitude, he might as well see it in MK X; a game that is ultimately stupid and non-hateful (and I mean that in the most affectionate sense). So won't somebody think of the children? Well I have, and it's complicated and uneasy and difficult, but at the end of the day the old tricks are probably still the best tricks. Kids will play MK X, and it's going to be a little fucked up. But with proper parental oversight and a good explanation of boundaries and the divide between fantasy and reality, it shouldn't be anymore harmful than watching a 16-bit Johnny Cage awkwardly stick his foot kinda, sorta, into another digitized sprite. With that off my chest and out of my brain, I can get back to feeding Quan Chi to a buzzsaw-hat -- guilt free.
MK X Gore photo
Decapitations for the YouTube generation
When I was a little boy, Mortal Kombat was a tough sell around my home. Like most pre-adolescents of the era, I was darkly attracted to the idea of ninjas and movie stars decapitating each other in bouts of gladiatorial comba...

What is your favorite Souls series boss?

Apr 07 // Chris Carter
Chris Carter: Ornstein & Smough I'm already a sucker for humanoid encounters already, so a dance with two of the most fearsome warriors in all of Lordran is pretty much a perfect situation for me. It helps that they were sufficiently tenacious in taking me down, leading to the source of most of my deaths in all of Dark Souls. It wasn't just the fight that was memorable though. Forging on to Anor Londo for the first time and seeing the stark contrast of brightly lit skies was breathtaking, and felt like a brief respite from the challenging areas that lied ahead. Stephen Turner: Capra Demon The Capra Demon scared the shit out of me. Then I realised he had a problem with stairs. He didn't seem too scary after that. Also, Moonlight Butterfly because I made the ghost witch with the big hat do all the hard work while I cowered in the corner. Honestly, I gave up after the Gaping Dragon and stopped at the gates of Blighttown. Never went any further than that. I heard there was a lot of poisoning going around and it was a bit rundown, so I imagined it looked exactly like Swansea. Occams: Gravelord Nito Talk about doing more with less?!  Just a writhing ball of skeletons wearing darkness like a cloak.  And it's arm ending in that wicked scythe. For such a simple design, it conveys a lovely sense of dread and power. From Software could have made Nito some undead Lord and gone the ornate route.  Instead, they focused on making it a primal force of nature.  For me, this elevates Nito to one of the most memorable designs in a series rife with amazing bosses. Mike Martin: The Asylum Demon Meeting him for the first time set the tone of the game and showed you what you were in for. His size, his design and his moves all seemed to be designed to intimidate. It's not a hard a fight at all, but it really sucked me into the world. From the moment he crashed down from his chicken-like flight, swinging his hammer, destroying pillars I knew this was a game I was going to be absorbed and challenged by. Best tutorial ever. Ben Davis: Tower Knight I think the Tower Knight from Demon's Souls will always be my favorite Souls boss, although a few other bosses from the later games, like Sif and the Looking Glass Knight, come pretty close. The Tower Knight was the second Souls boss I ever fought, and it's all thanks to him that I fell in love with Demon's and the series in general. The Tower Knight beat me to a pulp so many times that I didn't want to play the game anymore, but everything about the battle (aside from the losing) was so awesome that I couldn't stop thinking about it. The music, the sheer scale of the giant knight, the knowledge that I could die in an instant if I made even the slightest mistake...something about all of this made me feel like this was a game I needed to beat, a game I would love if I was ever able to master it. And so I came back and finally beat the Tower Knight, and promptly fell in love with Demon's Souls. Nic Rowen: Black Dragon Kalameet There are more imaginative bosses (Smough and Ornstein), ones with better atmosphere (Nito, Gwyn), and better soundtracks (Seath), but Kalameet is the one and only dragon I've ever fought in a videogame that actually felt like fighting a dragon. After watching Kalameet douse the entire battlefield in black flame, snatch an adventurers life away with a quick swipe of his tail, or pound through a knight's tower shield with relentless tearing claws, who could ever go back to the listless, floaty dragons of Skyrim or even the immobile Dragon God of Demon Souls? Jordan Devore: Gwyn, Lord of Cinder As you push through the fog gate leading into Gwyn's ash-covered domain, he's off in the distance, waiting patiently. It's all come down to this. Somber music fades in and the Lord of Cinder charges at you, culminating in a massive leap with his fiery sword aimed at your chest. After fighting and slaying so many huge bosses that looked scary at first glance but ended up being clumsy or easy to read, Gwyn intimidates. He's not much bigger than you, but he's swift and persistent. For me, the hardest part of this duel wasn't timing individual blocks, or rolls, or sword strikes during vulnerable moments -- it was remaining calm throughout the entire fight. And when I finally did kill Gwyn many attempts later, any satisfaction I felt was quickly replaced by another feeling: guilt. From Software somehow made me feel guilty for killing the final boss. Kyle MacGregor: Tower Knight The encounter with the Tower Knight is far and away the most indelible moment I've experienced in a From Software game. Just crossing paths with the hulking warrior means charging across a bridge patrolled by a giant fire-breathing dragon and a small army of men armed to the teeth with crossbows and other instruments of death. And it gets no easier upon reaching the end of the line. The Tower Knight is an utterly massive, imposing figure. He stands two stories tall, greeting players with a stomp of his colossal solleret and impenetrable tower shield. Behind him a clown-like man chuckles, as dozens of crossbowmen flank the player from the surrounding ramparts. The battle figures to be a short one where the player either ends up riddled with crossbow bolts or flattened under the behemoth's boot. Then the music kicks in. It's an eerie chant accompanied by unsettling horns and strings that heightens the mood. It's harrowing. Death seems all but certain. More so than the Phalanx before it, the Tower Knight sets the tone of what players can expect out of Demon's Souls and the rest of the series. This doesn't feel like a fair fight. Not in the slightest. But if you keep your wits about you and are persistent you'll eventually triumph. It's an incredible challenge, but a totally surmountable one. And that victory is all the sweeter for your hardships.
Favorite Souls bosses photo
It's hard to pick just one
Yesterday, we talked about From Software Director Hidetaka Miyazaki's favorite boss fight from the Souls series. Interestingly enough it was the Old Monk from Demon's Souls, an encounter that blurred the l...

The Last of Us multiplayer DLC is not okay

Apr 06 // Darren Nakamura
Taking a look at the options, some of it isn't too offensive. New gestures for $2.50 apiece? Fine. New hats at $7 for a bundle? Sure. We can all lament the fact that this cosmetic content would have been free, perhaps locked behind a cheat code in years past, but I won't fault anybody for giving some extra money to wear a plague mask. I'm not about to pony up for any of it, but it doesn't affect me that some people are willing to. No, the more serious infraction here is in breaking one of the tenets of competitive multiplayer. Those who pay more should never have an advantage over those who don't. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the tactical weapons and survival skills bundles provide. Though it isn't utterly imbalanced with the premium content in play, the new guns and perks are often better than the base game counterparts. Not only that, but the loading screens are littered with advertisements, outlining just how great the new weapons and skills are. The Frontier Rifle sits in between the Semi-Auto Rifle and the Hunting Rifle in terms of damage and fire rate; it takes two shots to down where the Semi-Auto takes three and it has a better fire rate than the Hunting Rifle. There are benefits to the default weapons. The Hunting Rifle can one-hit a full health enemy with a headshot where the Frontier Rifle cannot. The Semi-Auto Rifle can get three shots off before the Frontier Rifle can get two. However, comparing only body shots, the Frontier Rifle beats out the Hunting Rifle in fire rate. Taking recoil and staggering of a face-to-face encounter into account, it is often easier to land two shots with the Frontier Rifle than to land three shots with the Semi-Auto. The Tactical Shotgun exists in a similar space as the Frontier Rifle. It isn't unequivocally better than the comparable base game weapons, but it enjoys some advantages. The most obvious benefit it has over the Shotgun and the Double Barrel is increased range, able to down in two shots from a range that either of the others would fumble to do anything worthwhile. Less apparent is that it can be equipped as a starting weapon where the other long shotguns are both "purchaseables," only attainable during a match after scoring enough points. Embedded in that purchase is the opportunity cost of not saving up for ammunition, weapon upgrades, or armor. However, the most egregious offender in the Tactical Weapons pack is the Crossbow. It's difficult to measure the advantage it gives because there is no other comparable weapon. It fires silently like the Bow but doesn't arc. Nominally, it can down in two shots, but it has a special ability that makes it absurdly powerful in some situations. After hitting an enemy with it, that enemy will bleed until he heals or is downed. This also lets the shooter see where the target is and what he's doing during that time period. In effect, it can be a delayed one-hit kill. If the target has no health kit, he's toast. If he has a health kit and he starts healing, the Crossbow user can see the opening and move in for a sidearm or melee kill. Even if the target isn't downed, it still takes him out of the fight for a brief period of time as he retreats and heals. All from a single, silent shot. The Risk Management Survival Skills pack is also difficult to compare, since it adds unique abilities to the mix. Still, aside from Lone Wolf (which rewards players for striking out away from teammates), the skills included are all pretty enticing to me. As a player who focuses more on support than kills, Lucky Break (get more ingredients and items from cache boxes) and Second Chance (cheaper armor after multiple deaths) both would fit my play style well. Jack of All Trades bundles other skills together for fewer loadout points than they would be piecemeal, which appeals to the deal-seeker in me. It skirts the edge of pay-to-win without crossing that line, but it still feels wrong. The downloadable weapons and skills are not unequivocally better than the standard ones, but having more options to choose from does allow for greater adaptation to variable combat conditions. Premium content in a competitive multiplayer title doesn't have to feel this slimy. The paragon of the idea is probably Team Fortress 2, which has been incredibly successful despite its wealth of purchasable weapons and items. On the surface, the two situations look similar; in both The Last of Us and Team Fortress 2, there are guns with functional changes that can be purchased for real money. In practice, there are several design differences that add up to keep TF2 feeling fair where TLoU does not. One thing that Team Fortress 2 does with its weapons that The Last of Us could is to make it possible to acquire them through play in addition to by purchase. A lot of the weapons and survival skills in the base game are unlocked by collecting parts through play; there's no reason the downloadable extras couldn't be included as unlockables or even as random drops. Less easy to translate are the specific game design elements that allow TF2 to get away with purchased weapons. TF2's large team size (compared to TLoU's four-player teams) allow for any discrepancy to be absorbed. If an overpowered weapon showed up in Valve's shooter, it would be on just one of twelve or sixteen opponents. Not only that, but the faster gameplay allows for quicker reaction; changing class or loadout in response to a particular weapon or tactic is much more tenable in TF2 than in TLoU. On that note, Team Fortress 2's class-based system still trumps any advantage a purchased weapon could afford. Sure, a Spy might get some equipment that lets him costume change more quickly, but he's still going to be beaten by a Pyro flame-checking his teammates. On top of all that, there's the immutable fact that Team Fortress 2 is a proper free-to-play title. It costs nothing to play, where The Last of Us potentially cost players $60 (or more for those who bought the original and upgraded on PS4). Adding free-to-play elements into a paid retail game would feel sleazy even if it didn't have measurable gameplay effects. To reiterate, I think The Last of Us has fantastic multiplayer. In a market full of "me too" shooters emulating Call of Duty or Gears of War, it does its own thing. The problem comes with the feeling that I need to spend extra money (on top of the money the game itself cost) just in order to compete. It isn't exactly pay-to-win, but it leans in that direction, and Naughty Dog does the game a disservice with this unnecessary cash grab.
The Last of Us DLC is bad photo
Where was the uproar about this?
[An earlier version of this piece had an inaccurate statistical description of one of the downloadable weapons. The offending paragraph has been updated for factual accuracy.] I know, I'm late to the party. Despite being inte...

Favorite Souls game photo
Favorite Souls game

What is your favorite Souls game?


Demon's, Dark, Dark II, or Bloodborne
Apr 02
// Chris Carter
Between the recent release of Bloodborne and Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, I've completed five playthroughs between them. It's a perfect time as there aren't a lot of huge releases currently, and I'll rarely, if ever, see the release of two Souls games at basically the same time. So that got me thinking, what's your favorite?
Telltale photo
Telltale

How do you feel about the current Telltale formula?


Does it need more complexity?
Mar 18
// Chris Carter
Once upon a time, adventure titles were among the hardest challenges in the gaming universe. "Pixel-hunting" is a phrase many old school gamers are all too familiar with, searching for the exact right spot on the screen ...

Why do some developers shy away from surrealism in gaming?

Mar 04 // Brittany Vincent
These games are an interesting alternative to the wealth of first-person shooters and survival-horror games that populate the market, and every one of them brings something special to the table. But the big guys remain reluctant to step into the fringes when it comes to worldbuilding. With the incredible power of today’s computers and consoles, there’s a definite push for realism in videogames. Some argue that we are on the cusp of producing photorealistic graphics, and while we’re not there yet, it’s impossible to deny just how good some of these big-budget games look. With that power has come the push for narrative gravity to back it up. In recent years, the story of a game has become a very large focus, with series like BioShock and The Last of Us drawing critical acclaim for the complex and emotional tales they weave. In an industry that seems to be trending toward the use of cinematics in gaming, it likely seems a big risk to try and approach things from a different angle. A title like Playdead’s Limbo, the silent and unsettling tale of a boy lost in the woods, likely doesn't trigger the same mass appeal that more conventional, realism-centric games have. The game industry is a gigantic money-maker. It has grown from a child’s plaything to a behemoth catering to a largely adult demographic. Like any business, it’s profitable to produce what people want. Right now, the trend is heavily weighted toward big-budget titles that cater to online play. These games sell, because mainstream gaming has changed from a single-player experience to a social one. The type of game that sold in 1994 has changed from the normal jumping-off point to a far more niche genre. Games that don’t cater to the online crowd just don’t sell as well. There’s a sort of divide that has developed in demographics because of the wealth of options available. People are playing games for different reasons. There’s base entertainment, yes, but think back to games like Bionic Commando or Super Mario World. They were an adventure and a challenge, just like many other games you experienced by yourself. Neither focused too hard on trying to tell a complex story, or present a moral or philosophical quandary, and they certainly weren’t capable of creating a social network, beyond the experience of eating too much pizza and trying to beat Bowser during a sleepover. This shouldn’t be viewed as a limitation, but a wholly separate experience. That’s what games like Studio MDHR’s Cuphead look capable of capturing -- that sense of nostalgia, wonder, and challenge that came with early video gaming. It may be a rosy perspective, but there’s something undeniably enthralling about the surreal worlds of older games. Perhaps the shift in age demographics has taken a bit of the wonder with it. We remember playing games even as recent as Super Mario Sunshine and Jak & Daxter and being awestruck by the cartoony worlds and the invitations extended to us. No, they were not worlds we could relate to, but they were so much larger than life, and more fantastic and colorful than any place you could ever imagine. Cuphead in particular is doing something practically unheard of, replicating the animation style of 1930s cartoons. The animation is gorgeous, and even has the same distortion and grainy look of old Technicolor cartoons. It’s definitely different, and it’s a ton of work to create. To quote the developer, “There haven't been any even medium-scale projects that use this style in the last 20 years.” Something as cool and different as Cuphead is totally in the realm of the big developers that make games for profit, but it’s the guys who are investing their own savings into their dream that are doing it, because it’s their dream, and not just because they’ve got a profit to make. One of the most interesting things about games developed without profit as the number one goal are the chances that are taken. Take a game like Honeyslug’s Hohokum, described by some as an “art game.” It lacks traditional interface, and there is no “point.” You navigate a serpent through a number of bizarre worlds, completing vague objectives in a completely non-linear fashion. There are no points, no time limit, and nothing in the way of a tutorial. Publisher SCE Santa Monica painted the game as something to simply be felt, describing it as "relaxing in a space and just enjoying the experience and the music, instead of trying to complete it to make progress." Though it was accused by some of lacking substance, it raises an important question: What exactly should a game be? Though the modern videogame landscape feels to many overpopulated with derivative titles and sequels that don’t innovate, it’s a refreshing thought to consider that there are still developers out there who are experimenting. Adding to, stripping away, completely turning concepts on their head. There is no shortage of interesting games to be found away from the mainstream, but right now they are not what is ultimately selling. If the industry is going to grow and change for the better, people have got to start responding more to these developers that are out there taking risks, for better or worse. That’s how they did it in the beginning. That’s how they’ll do it up until the bitter end… until the fear’s subsided.
Surrealism  photo
If loving surrealism is wrong, I don't want to be right
When it comes to crafting videogames out of the norm, there’s one question developers should ask themselves: What are we afraid of? Games are the perfect medium for exploration of bizarre, unnatural worlds, and yet it s...

Promoted Blog photo
Promoted Blog

Monthly Musing: I Love Arcades


Promoted from our Community Blogs!
Feb 11
// Luckrequired
[Dtoid community member LuckRequired takes us on a stroll through his memories of the heyday of arcades. Those of us who frequented these electric churches of joy will be brought back swiftly to a simpler time. Want to see your own stuff appear on the front page? Go write something! --Occams Electric Toothbrush]

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