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metroidvania photo

Heart Forth, Alicia is really coming along

Get outta my dreams
Nov 30
// Jordan Devore
The latest Kickstarter update for Heart Forth, Alicia is a lot to get through. There's been a delay -- from Q1 2016 to the second half of the year -- but rather than just give a basic explanation for the change of plans, the ...
Steam sale photo
Steam sale

Steam's autumn sale is different this year

Prepare to scroll
Nov 25
// Jordan Devore
Send help! It's that deal-filled time of year when I have far too many browser tabs open. As you might have noticed from the new storefront illustration, Steam began its autumn sale today (officially, it's the "Exploration Sa...
Minecraft screenshots photo
Minecraft screenshots

Minecraft: Story Mode Episode 3 screenshots, we got 'em

Look at last
Nov 24
// Darren Nakamura
The third episode for Minecraft: Story Mode is out today, and it's actually not half bad. I think I took more screenshots this time around than in the first two episodes as a result. Going through these after the fact, it's o...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: The Last Place You Look

Nov 24 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: The Last Place You Look (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: November 24, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit After having found Ellegaard the redstone engineer and Magnus the griefer in the previous episode, the gang needed only to locate Soren the architect for the full original Order of the Stone to be accounted for. The journey to find Soren takes the party to some peculiar locations, most located in The End. However, since Soren is a master builder, the areas highlighted are more diverse than the typical darkness of The End. Between Soren's feats of engineering in the overworld and colorful constructions in The End, it's a nice nod to Minecraft proper players who are known to build some of the craziest things. Soren himself is a much more likable character than some of the other members of the Order of the Stone. Where Ellegaard and Magnus were basically insufferable (especially after they were brought together), Soren is quirky and at times genuinely funny. Voiced by John Hodgman, he's neurotic and paranoid, but still fun to be around. [embed]321869:61211:0[/embed] Overall, the quality of the writing has taken a half-step up from the previous two episodes. None of the jokes elicited any sustained belly laughs, but I did let out a few snorts and chuckles along the way. The Last Place You Look started up a running gag where Axel falls on top of Lukas repeatedly, which happens just enough to be comical without getting tired. Some of the seeds of drama sown in previous episodes have begun to sprout, and while it still maintains the kid-friendly narrative, it's finally beginning to feel like the events happening matter and Jesse has an important role to play. The greatest success of The Last Place You Look is that it allows the player to feel accomplished while still moving the narrative along. This is, after all, only the third episode in a five-episode season, so anybody who knows Telltale knows everything won't be resolved here. But even so, the climax of this episode feels like a high point for the team. Sure, they're not done with their mission, but they did something, at least. There's never really any downtime during this episode either. Though there are a few sections of walking around and talking or searching for clues, they all serve a purpose and generally lead to action sequences. The first action sequence in particular is probably the best so far in the series, melding the fantastic environments, a sense of danger, and the classic Telltale decision-making into a tight opening credit roll. One thing that might turn some off is the quiet lowering of the bar for success during the action sequences. Some of the quick-time events seem more demanding here than usual, but I noticed after I flubbed a button press or two, the resulting animation didn't seem to react accordingly. Perhaps it takes multiple failures in a single section to make a difference. More experimentation is necessary. As much as I may praise The Last Place You Look, it is with respect to the first two episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode. It definitely is an improvement, but an improvement from mediocrity is just okay. The comedy is slightly improved, but still doesn't hold a candle to that of Tales from the Borderlands. The characters are becoming easier to sympathize with, but they aren't are interesting as those from The Wolf Among Us. The drama is beginning to heat up, but it doesn't come close to what we saw in The Walking Dead. Perhaps it's unfair to compare Minecraft: Story Mode to Telltale's more adult-oriented series. This is built for a particular demographic, and it seems like it's really hitting with that audience. The Last Place You Look is more of the same -- and slightly better, if anything -- so those who have enjoyed the series thus far will be pleased to just keep on trucking. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
Looking up
Minecraft: Story Mode didn't impress me with its first two episodes. Aimed at young players and Minecraft super fans, its writing didn't have a whole lot going for it past its Saturday morning cartoon plot and series in-jokes...

Steam sales photo
Steam sales

The next big Steam sales will have more stable discounts

So long, daily and flash deals
Nov 20
// Jordan Devore
Valve is tweaking the way it handles major sales on Steam -- at least the next pair. The upcoming autumn sale (November 25 - December 1) and winter sale (December 22 - January 4) will not feature the limited-time daily deals ...

Review: Renowned Explorers: International Society

Nov 20 // Darren Nakamura
Renowned Explorers: International Society (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Abbey GamesPublisher: Abbey GamesReleased: September 2, 2015MSRP: $19.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit In Renowned Explorers, the goal is to become a particularly renowned explorer among the group known as the Renowned Explorers. This is achieved by going on expeditions, recovering valuable treasures, making scientific discoveries, and navigating combat situations. Basically, an expedition is separated into two parts: resolving text-based events while traveling between nodes on a map and tactical combat on a modified hex grid. Both sections have elements of procedural generation, so there's always a sense of exploring the semi-unknown, even on an expedition to the same location as a previous run. Area maps are covered in fog of war, with only the nearest nodes visible. Combat arenas will vary the layout of obstacles, choke points, and healing zones. [embed]321138:61123:0[/embed] Indeed, Renowned Explorers is a "roguelite," meant to be played multiple times in order to truly master it. Herein lies one of the biggest hurdles I had to get over in order to enjoy it. For a game meant to be played again and again, it just takes way too long. A single run consists of five expeditions, and each expedition can take 30 to 45 minutes depending on how many encounters there are. It took me days to get through my first run because of the time commitment. This does speed up with experience, because combat becomes much faster after learning the ins and outs of it. Even so, expeditions easily last 20 minutes or more, so it's not the kind of "just one more" experience a roguelite needs to really grab somebody. This is exacerbated by the planning phase that occurs in between expeditions. Here, players spend the resources gathered during the previous expedition to purchase improved gear, recruit followers, and perform research. This is easily the densest part of Renowned Explorers for a new player. Every resource is connected to another in some way, and the game takes a laissez-faire approach; it presents a bevy of options and lets the player sort out what to do with them. Navigating the nooks and crannies of the planning phase can be exhausting at first, which makes the thought of taking on a new expedition right away seem that much more unreasonable. By far, my biggest disappointment starting off was with the combat system. It advertises multiple ways to resolve encounters; an explorer can be aggressive with physical attacks, be devious with insults and threats, or be friendly with encouragement. The three styles have a rock-paper-scissors relationship, so an aggressive approach is advantageous against a friendly enemy for instance. The problem with it is that each form of "attack" draws from the same "hit point" meter, which represents a foe's willingness to keep fighting. You could punch an enemy until he has only a sliver of health remaining, then finish him off by encouraging him to believe in your cause. Fighting and talking don't feel like they function differently. The battle system is hardly different than a simple three-element magic system at first. Only after really digging in did I spot the nuance. Some encounters will provide different rewards depending on how they are resolved. More importantly, it's the asymmetry in the rock-paper-scissors system that makes it interesting. Aggressive attack damage is a function of physical power, where devious and friendly attack damage comes from speech power, so an orator might have a stronger pair of scissors than he has a rock, so to speak. Within the speech powers, there is asymmetry as well. In general, devious skills cause debuffs while friendly skills cause buffs -- on friends and enemies alike. So while the current mood might call for a friendly attack, it is still necessary to weigh the risk of increasing the enemy's attack power in return. The point is: the combat system is deeper than it initially lets on, but it takes some effort for a player to really understand that. That basically describes Renowned Explorers: International Society on the whole. It features a set of deep systems with complex mechanics and relationships, but it places most of the burden on the player to discover it. I'll admit, I disliked it until it all fell into place and revealed itself for what it is. I'm not chomping at the bit to keep playing, but I am curious to delve deeper. Different combinations of explorers can beget different tactics both in and out of battle. That thought alone is enough to keep me from uninstalling it.
Renowned Explorers review photo
A lot to dig into
I'm glad I stuck Renowned Explorers out. For the first couple hours it was kind of a slog. Not exactly bad, but dense, unwieldy, and unexciting. I would finish an expedition and quit, not wanting to get back to it until days ...

Game of Thrones Season 2 photo
Game of Thrones Season 2

Telltale's Game of Thrones is getting a second season

Surprise, surprise
Nov 20
// Darren Nakamura
After finishing the season finale for Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series, I had my suspicions that it was all setting up for an inevitable second season. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Telltale CEO Kevin Bruner co...
Minecraft: Story Mode photo
Minecraft: Story Mode

Minecraft: Story Mode keeps up its brisk schedule with Episode 3 out next week

The Last Place You Look
Nov 19
// Darren Nakamura
This minecart just keeps on a-rollin' (whether we care about it or not). After having met up with and then subsequently lost track of Ellegaard and Magnus in Assembly Required, the team is now searching out the fourth member ...

Review: Hard West

Nov 18 // Zack Furniss
Hard West (PC [reviewed], Mac, Linux)Developer: CreativeForge GamesPublisher: Gambitious Digital EntertainmentMSRP: $19.99Released: November 18, 2015 Hard West starts off so promising. Instead of one big campaign, it's divvied up into eight little chunks starring different characters. The first one stars a father and his son trying to make their own way in life through a combination of mining for gold and killing the men that would try to stop them. This chapter serves as a tutorial of sorts, teaching you the basics of combat. You have two action points, which you can use to move, shoot, or use special abilities. Shooting always ends your turn (some weapons alleviate this), so it's always best to keep moving.  In some circumstances, you can make your own cover by kicking over tables or lifting up barriers. One of the special abilities enables you to ricochet bullets off of metal surfaces in a zig-zag of death across the battlefield, but you're never taught how to do this. Halfway through the game I noticed the slight glow that some metallic objects emanate denoting that you can use this ability. Once you get the hang of these shots, they become an impressive and effective method of dealing death. Though the battles feel mechanically similar to XCOM, one of the main differences in Hard West doesn't stick the landing. Whereas in the former game it was perhaps to easy to rely on the Overwatch ability (wherein you automatically attack enemies who pass your field of vision), here there's no such thing...for the player. If you get too close to an enemy, they have a small range around them in which they can use an attack of opportunity, but you're never afforded this same benefit. This leads to repeated scenarios where you're trying to cautiously approach the enemy so that you don't get too close and get blasted, and then they walk right up to you and shoot you from behind for higher damage. Another new system that Hard West tries is the "setup stage." In some levels, you have the drop on your opponents and you can sneak around. You only have one action point, so you move much more cautiously. In order to successfully infiltrate an area, you have to use the Subdue ability, which prevents enemies from firing at you for a few turns. Enemies sometimes have cones showing their field of vision, but this is inconsistent. Whether that was because of a glitch or my character's stats, I was never sure, The whole system is poorly explained, but luckily you're never forced to use it. Even when I figured out how to successfully do this, going in guns blazing always seemed to be the better option. One of the best parts of the combat is the Luck meter. While you still have percentages telling you how likely you are to hit an enemy, they don't feel as random as most tactical RPGs. Your Aim stat and your position determine if you'll hit, and the enemy's cover simply lessens the damage they receive. Each character has a luck bar that serves as both a sort of armor and your ability resource pool. If you have enough luck, when you get shot at, it'll soar right past you. If you get hit, your luck replenishes so you'll have better odds next time. Once you get a feel for this, you'll learn to risk taking weak hits through cover so you can use your more powerful skills. This all adds up to incredibly entertaining combat when it's not doing its best to frustrate you. Getting bum-rushed time and again isn't fun. But earning increasingly fantastical weapons and cards (which give you active and passive skills) in each campaign remains compelling throughout. When you aren't in combat, each chapter has its own world map and goal. In the aforementioned starting story, part of your HUD shows your family's gold-mining tools. Another chapter sees you managing peons à la Oregon Trail, making sure you have enough food to keep them strong enough to do your bidding, One of my favorites stars a clairvoyant woman as your main character, using her abilities to cheat both poker and death. If we're being reductive, these world map moments are just variations of text adventures, but they're enjoyable and convey a lot of flavor through both these different goals and the story text you have to parse. Once in a while you'll solve a puzzle for better gear, or choose the wrong thing and gain a crippling injury. All of these have a direct effect on the many battles you'll fight, so there's not as much of a disconnect as you might expect. Some choices you make will lead to differences in missions as well, such as choosing to sneak in through the back or charging in through the front. Consumable items, clothing, and weapons don't carry over into the next campaign, so each time is small arms race to get back up to the top. I initially thought this would be frustrating, but since each story is two hours long at the maximum, it never becomes monotonous. Each character's chapter has three special items that they can unlock through a variety of methods that are sold at a vendor who appears throughout the game. This allows you to get to the punch more quickly if you like, and it encourages thorough examination of the map. The playing cards that I mentioned previously are randomly earned by finishing battles and exploring and give you passive and active abilities like being able to turn into a demon or heal whenever you're in the shadows. In keeping with the theme of the ol' west, arranging them into straights and royal flushes provide additional stat bonuses. Since characters don't level up, this provides just enough customization to be interesting instead of overwhelming. So again, this all sounds great! But then there are the bugs. The hot desert sun didn't cook Hard West enough. This is evident everywhere, from menus that take entirely too long to open, to a glitch where accidentally hitting the delete key sets the camera at a horizontal angle on the ground that renders the game nigh-unplayable. There are typos galore in the text and there are times when said text implies that there should be another dialogue option, but there's nothing to be found. I also dealt with a handful of hard crashes. This is frustrating because there's a legitimately great game to be found underneath all of the blood and sand. I'm going to fondly remember the small vignettes in this game. Running around as an inquisitor, manipulating people into killing others so that I can build an eldritch artifact. Seeking revenge as a half-man, half-demon. Playing as the villains I saw in previous chapters, understanding what motivated them to become such evil pricks.  This is a world worth exploring, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of it. Maybe that'll be in the form of a huge patch that puts this broken machine back together, or a sequel that brings the best of Hard West to the forefront. What I'd really like to see is a tabletop game in this setting, because it honestly feels like it might be better suited in that realm. Either way, I hope there'll be a reason to come back. 
Hard West photo
A fistful of sand, blood, and bugs
After twenty or so hours in the blistering sun (my cold, unkempt room) with my hands on the well-used revolver (bargain basement keyboard and mouse), I'm walking away from Hard West in turmoil. A tactical turn-based west...

Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Ice Dragon

Nov 17 // Darren Nakamura
Game of Thrones - A Telltale Game Series: The Ice Dragon (Android, iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: November 17, 2015MSRP: $4.99 (episode), $29.99 (season)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The reason I'm being so cavalier with discussing in general terms how my story ended -- spoilers be damned -- is that other players might see things play out quite differently. It took the whole season to make good on the promises that we may shape the future of House Forrester, but The Ice Dragon finally introduces significant divergence. Important characters may live or die, depending on not only the choices presented in this episode, but also on those made earlier. With Asher joining Rodrik and the convergence of those two paths at the end of A Nest of Vipers, more time can be spent on each individual thread. Up north, Gared and company finally make it to the North Grove. Down south, Mira learns who had been conspiring against her. Nestled in the middle of it all is the drama in Ironrath, with the Whitehills mounting up for war against the Forresters. Gared's path is probably the most disappointing of the three. After five episodes wondering what the significance of the North Grove is, I was hoping for a revelation when he finally made it. The main concrete takeaway is that it's important and must be protected, but precisely why is up for debate. [embed]321059:61115:0[/embed] What makes Gared's journey to the North Grove sting so much as a part of the story of the Forresters is that it feels like he made no measurable impact on any other section. The final recap does hint that he might have been a bigger player in the grand scheme if I had made different choices, but my personal Gared could have been cut from the story entirely and it would have made no difference. In contrast, Mira's scheming in King's Landing is at least mentioned by the characters on the home front. She may not have had any concrete effects on the conflict at Ironrath, but her path still feels important in the overall narrative. In Sons of Winter, I was so pleased with myself for winning a war of words as Mira. I was shrewd and calculating, manipulating the situation to get exactly what I wanted. Somewhere along the line I lost that slyness and turned into a softie, and Mira paid for it. I can't say I'm happy with how Mira turns out at the end of this episode, but I don't think I'd be particularly pleased with the possible alternatives either. Of course, the main action is at Ironrath, where the Whitehills have mounted up for war against the Forresters. There were hints in this episode at a possible diplomatic solution, but as Asher and his band of gladiators, battle seemed like the most appropriate option. The climactic scene is probably the most brutal in any Telltale game to date. There was figurative backstabbing followed by literal backstabbing. There was frontstabbing. There was sidestabbing. There was ramming a greatsword into someone's mouth and out the back of his head. Good lord, there was a lot of stabbing. It fits the universe perfectly, in that in one fell swoop a dozen named characters meet their ends, and the whole time I'm watching in horror, muttering obscenities to myself and wishing thing weren't the way they are. Valar morghulis: all men must die; fans of the source are well-versed in that concept, but it hurts more when it's my men dying. There may still be a glimmer of hope for the Forresters, despite being broken, beaten, battered, and beheaded. The finale leaves a few loose ends open (possibly for a second season), but the family as we have known it is done. In a way, I'm almost pleased the story finishes the way it does. In Iron From Ice, I noted the similarities between the Forrester clan and the more famous Starks. I realize now that I modeled my Forresters' behavior after them as well. I fought with honor and I did the right thing, though it eventually spelled my own doom. I can take solace in the moral victory. The Ice Dragon caps off a year of fretting and worrying. Telltale's take on Game of Thrones has been spot-on in that regard. Now that it's over it's almost a relief, even with a bleak end. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Game of Thrones review photo
A chilling finale
In my review for The Lost Lords, the second episode of Game of Thrones, I lamented that I was making all the wrong decisions and that my version of House Forrester was doomed. With The Ice Dragon wrapping up the series, my pr...

Game of Thrones trailer photo
Game of Thrones trailer

The Game of Thrones finale trailer hopes you have been following along

Spoilers abound
Nov 16
// Darren Nakamura
Don't watch the trailer below if you aren't caught up with the first five episodes of Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series. It highlights a lot of the major choices from the previous episodes, including the one right at th...
Indivisible photo

Indivisible crowdfunding campaign extended

About $500K left to go
Nov 13
// Jordan Devore
It's not over yet. Lab Zero Games has secured a 20-day extension on its Indiegogo campaign for Indivisible, a stylish side-scrolling RPG with shades of Valkyrie Profile and Super Metroid. As it now stands, Lab Zero has raised...
Steam Weekend photo
Steam Weekend

Klei's games are free to play on Steam this weekend

Discounts, too
Nov 12
// Jordan Devore
Between Don't Starve and Mark of the Ninja, there's a lot of love for Klei around these parts. The studio is now a decade old, and it's celebrating that milestone with a Steam promotion. You can play these titles for free on ...
Game of Thrones screens photo
Game of Thrones screens

First screens for Game of Thrones finale are non-canon (for me)

Gared fights a claymation bear
Nov 11
// Darren Nakamura
The long-awaited season finale for Telltale's Game of Thrones series following House Forrester is almost here. It releases next week, but today we have a few tastes of what to expect. Mira looks like she's in trouble with the...
Deals photo

Steam Machines are out, so there's a game sale

The Steam Link sounds intriguing
Nov 10
// Jordan Devore
Today is a big hardware day for Valve. The Steam Controller ($49.99), Steam Link ($49.99), and Steam Machines (starting at $449.99) have officially launched in North America and Europe. Impressions of those devices have been ...
Contingency Plan photo
Contingency Plan

Invisible, Inc. gets new agents and more in next week's expansion

One of the best games of the year
Nov 05
// Steven Hansen
Six months after its release, one of my favorite games of 2015 (and also 2014) is getting its first expansion. Contingency Plan is heading to Invisible, Inc. (PC, Mac, Linux) next week on November 12. Contingency Plan offers,...
Deals photo

It's time for's big fall sale

Spend $5 and you'll get System Shock 2
Nov 04
// Jordan Devore has begun its fall sale on some 350 games and, all right, I'll look. But that's it! This year, there's an extra bit of motivation on top of the discounts. If you spend $5 during the sale, you'll get a free copy of Sys...

Review: Minecraft: Story Mode: Assembly Required

Nov 02 // Darren Nakamura
Minecraft: Story Mode: Assembly Required (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 27, 2015 (Mac, PC)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit The one big risk Telltale took with this episode was hinted at the end of The Order of the Stone. Depending on whether players choose to side with Olivia and seek out Ellegaard or to side with Axel and look for Magnus, the entire first act of the episode will play out totally differently. On the one hand, it's a bold step forward for Telltale, which is often criticized for touting its choice-based gameplay while delivering roughly the same story to everybody regardless of the decisions made. With the choice of Ellegaard vs. Magnus, the consequences were immediate and impactful, affecting a huge chunk of this episode. The final outcome might not be any different, but the journey certainly is. On the other hand, it provides for an experience uneven among players. The first half of the episode takes about 40 minutes to get through, and most people will only see one of the two segments. It stings a little because I chose to find Ellegaard, but was later led to believe that the Magnus section is the more entertaining of the two. If nothing else, it might convince me to start up a second save file just to see what I missed. [embed]318431:60938:0[/embed] Speaking of Ellegaard and Magnus, both characters are fairly unlikable. Ellegaard is haughty and aloof and Magnus is snide and combative. It creates a conflict between the two that might serve a narrative purpose in the future, but mostly just makes me wish I could have chosen neither of them right now. That turns out not to matter much, since both make an exit not long into the collective journey and bring the group back down to the core members again. Just when Story Mode threatens to feature a real, interesting human moment, the action leading to the episode's climax starts up, postponing the good stuff until a future episode. The cast continues to perform adequately. Each of the characters has his or her own distinct personality, and the actors deliver well enough. The writing is still falling flat for me. Things are happening, the narrative is progressing, but it's just not especially good yet. None of the jokes made me laugh. None of the drama made me think. After two episodes of Minecraft: Story Mode, I find myself struggling to care. It's a story and I am experiencing it, but that's the best I can muster. It's not bad enough that I'm dreading having to play three more episodes, but it's not good enough that I'm looking forward to it either. It could cease to exist and I would be utterly unfazed. There is some hope for the future of the series, as Assembly Required has planted some interesting seeds of what's to come, but it's not quite there yet. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Minecraft review photo
The story is building...
Telltale fans have grown accustomed to a two-to-four month wait between episodes. So when the studio surprise launched Assembly Required just two weeks after The Order of the Stone, it caught everybody off guard. Even though ...

Twitch experiments photo
Twitch experiments

Twitch users will attempt to install Linux together

'A cooperative text-based horror game'
Oct 30
// Jordan Devore
Twitch stumbled its way through the Pokémon series. Slowly but surely, it conquered Dark Souls. But can strangers work together over the internet to install Linux? With enough time, probably! The stream starts tomorrow...

Review: Tales from the Borderlands: The Vault of the Traveler

Oct 20 // Darren Nakamura
Tales from the Borderlands: The Vault of the Traveler (iOS, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: Telltale GamesPublisher: Telltale GamesReleased: October 20, 2015 (Mac, PC, PS3, PS4)MSRP: $4.99, $24.99 (Season Pass)Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit [Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.] At the end of the previous episode, so many questions were left unresolved. What happened to Felix? Where is Vaughn? How is Rhys going to deal with Handsome Jack? Who is the Stranger who kidnapped Fiona and Rhys to get the whole thing started? All of those questions get answered. The story of the Stranger is particularly well done. Over the course of the series it has become clear he was a known character. I had a couple of guesses, some of which were shot down along the way as people died. When it was finally revealed, it caught me by surprise, but doesn't feel like a cheap copout twist. Some hints were there on the way. The other big question looming over the series over its duration centers on Gortys. Most of the story takes place via flashback narration in which the perky robot is happy and healthy, but the present-day bits have had Rhys, Fiona, and the Stranger collecting her pieces all over again. What happened to her? [embed]315774:60751:0[/embed] It's a question I personally fretted over because Gortys has become my favorite character in the entire Borderlands universe. Her unrelenting optimism and childlike demeanor are so refreshing on the cutthroat planet of Pandora, giving her best lines that much more comedic weight. Gortys delivers several laugh-out-loud funny lines this time around, but a sad effect of Telltale design is that some players might never even hear them. My favorite came as a response to one of the dialogue choices. It almost makes me want to play through again just to see if there were any great lines I missed out on. This episode gives another substantial reason to warrant a second play through. Getting ready for the final confrontation, the usual gang of suspects has to put together a team, pulling from the supporting cast reaching back as far as episode one. In a move Telltale ought to adopt for all its series, it spells out exactly who is available and why or why not based on past choices. I covered for Athena when Janey was suspicious after the chase in Hollow Point, so she would be willing to fight with me again. I was hesitant to call myself a Vault Hunter, so Zer0 never took much notice and was unavailable. Not only would I have to replay this last episode if I wanted to see Zer0 in action again, I'd have to basically start from the beginning. Given how good this series is, I'm not upset about that. I doubt the final outcome of the fight with the Traveler is any different depending on which characters join in, but the battle itself is customized depending on who is there. It's intrinsically cool to see each character in action given the circumstances of the encounter, but I am reluctant to spoil the specifics. One of the aspects of this series that amazes me is just how impactful it can be on the Borderlands universe. What started out as a story about a middle manager and a lowly grifter has irrevocably altered Pandora as a whole. While The Pre-Sequel worked within the confines of the existing lore, providing back story for Hyperion and Handsome Jack, Tales builds new stuff on top, setting up for the inevitable Borderlands 3. Thinking of the future, there are a few open-ended plot points in this last episode. Though a lot of past choices were highlighted and their effects were explicitly shown, the choice that puzzled me the most is given to Rhys as he is describing his struggle with Handsome Jack. As far as I could tell, nothing in this series was affected by it despite its potentially huge consequences. Additionally, there's the very end. After the climactic battle with the Traveler, as the group is celebrating and grabbing loot, there's one final scene that might be setting up for a whole new adventure starring Rhys and/or Fiona. Whether that becomes Tales from the Borderlands Season Two or part of the mainline series, I don't know. But it will definitely get Borderlands nerds excited considering the possibilities. I cannot recommend Tales enough. Borderlands fans will love the fresh take on the dark comedy universe. Telltale fans will love the smart writing and callbacks to choices made throughout. People who don't fall into those categories might still love it because it is just that great. This last episode maintains the action, drama, and comedy present throughout the series. It ties up all the major loose ends while leaving just a hint of room for more to come. Most of all, it solidifies Tales from the Borderlands as Telltale's best series to date, a pinnacle of modern adventure gaming. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Borderlands finale review photo
Your journey ends here
[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, who consulted on the story for Tales from the Borderlands, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.] What a...

Weird west photo
Weird west

Tactical weird western Hard West hits Steam soon

Supernatural strategy game
Oct 19
// Jordan Devore
I hope Hard West makes the most of its setting. It's a supernatural western with turn-based, tactical combat against cultists, cannibals, and demons. I've been keeping tabs on it since Steven's preview a couple months back (a...
Mushroom 11 screenshots photo
Mushroom 11 screenshots

Mushroom 11's world is beautiful desolation

Have some screenshots
Oct 17
// Darren Nakamura
Every so often a game comes along that lends itself to a big ol' screenshot gallery. To fit the bill, a game obviously needs to look good, but it also helps if it has a simple control scheme that allows easy access to the F12...

Review: Mushroom 11

Oct 17 // Darren Nakamura
Mushroom 11 (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: UntamePublisher: UntameReleased: October 15, 2015MSRP: $14.99Rig: AMD Phenom II X2 555 @ 3.2 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, Windows 7 64-bit Creation through destruction is a central theme in Mushroom 11, represented both in its story and its gameplay. Here, players control a green slime mold with a peculiar trait: it will always try to maintain the same number of cells at all times. If one dies, another one grows anew. The kicker is that the new cell can appear next to any other currently living cell, so long as there's space for it in the environment. It can show up near where the original cell died, appear on the other side of the organism, or manifest in a totally different location if the mold has been split into two or more chunks. Instead of direct control over the blob, players are given what's basically an image editor erase tool. Click in a spot to designate a circular area that will destroy any cells within. Right click for a smaller circle and finer control. That's all there is to it. What results is a reversal in thinking in terms of movement across the desolate landscape. You don't have control of where it goes; you have control of where it doesn't go. Destroy in one place so you may create in another. [embed]316036:60766:0[/embed] The control scheme sets up for some great physics-based puzzling. Early on, the challenges are in reaching high objects, climbing steep walls, and clearing small gaps. Most are small feats of engineering, requiring the creation of towers and bridges with the ooze. Sometimes, this brings about a sort of "leap of faith" situation, where it can take ten or more minutes carefully constructing a shape that fits a puzzle's needs and very nearly clears an obstacle, but for the last push it requires a quick erasure of everything but the tip. It's a huge relief when it works, but an incredible bummer when it fails. Those who err on the side of caution may spend a lot of time tediously trimming cells one by one, hoping with each destroyed square, the new one will pop up in a desirable location. That example is a subset of one of my biggest problems with Mushroom 11. The cardinal sin of a physics-based puzzler is when the player knows the solution but cannot manage the execution. The tedium of the slow approach is one thing, but a small handful of puzzles get downright infuriating due to the semi-random nature of the cell growth. There was one in particular in the seventh stage that had me second-guessing my solution after almost an hour spent on it. I had the right idea, I was just not quite fast enough. When I finally did complete it, I didn't feel like I had done anything fundamentally different that time than I had during the hundred previous attempts. In broader terms, the difficulty of Mushroom 11 was a surprise. The first couple levels can be easily completed in less than a half hour. The next few clock in at under an hour. The seventh stage took me as long to complete as the other six combined. It is not messing around. Early on, a lot of the greater challenges are optional, rewarding players for exploration or going the extra mile. At the end, some of the mandatory challenges almost made me quit and the optional ones seem damn near impossible. I eventually had to take a break because my finger was sore from how hard I was holding down the mouse button. It's almost as if Mushroom 11 transitions from being a puzzler to an action game during the final act. Not only do some of the sections require precision, they also demand speed. The control scheme can provide for either on its own, but having both at the same time can take a bit of luck. The world this all takes place in is strangely beautiful. It paints a picture of an earth after humanity, full of desolation and decay. Each level has its own look to it, but the trend is toward less machinery and more nature as the game progresses. Humans may be gone, eradicated or forced to flee, but life still goes on in their wake. Again, creation from destruction. Overall, Mushroom 11 is a worthwhile experience. It has its missteps, most notably when its puzzles favor brute force over elegance or when it doesn't play to its unique control scheme's strengths. But its uniqueness is its greatest asset; there isn't anything else quite like it out there, and it takes a different kind of thinking to get through. I wouldn't be surprised to hear some may abandon it before finishing due to its difficulty, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see diehards pop up, going for the no-death and the 100 percent runs. For me, I'm totally happy with my single playthrough. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Mushroom 11 review photo
Doesn't quite go to 11
From the beginning, Mushroom 11 establishes itself as something different. Though it has been done before, the whole concept of traveling from right to left in a 2D game can still be jarring simply because of its rarity. It s...

Europa DLC photo
Europa DLC

The Cossacks coming to Europa Universalis IV this year

Plus free update to the game
Oct 15
// Steven Hansen
I've always liked the word "Cossack." It's fun to say, it's got two c's and two s's, it's how John Cusack's name should be pronounced, and it's basically a mashup of "cock" and "ballsack." So I was with the Cocksacks until t...
Wanderer photo

Feast your eyes on sci-fi platformer-RPG Wanderer

Lo-fi Firefly
Oct 14
// Darren Nakamura
When it comes to pixel art, there is good stuff and there is bad stuff. Recently launched on Kickstarter, Wanderer falls easily into the former category. I just love the look of the pixelated characters on the more painterly ...
Firewatch photo

Firewatch is such a lovely looking game

Releasing February 9, 2016
Oct 12
// Jordan Devore
I'm supposed to tell you that Campo Santo's wilderness-set exploration mystery Firewatch will release on February 9, 2016 for PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac, and Linux. That's the news today. But I've fallen into an image gallery wormhole, and I'm taking you with me.
Fungal Asshole photo
Fungal Asshole

Indie dev's angry rant demonstrates the stress after being Kickstarted

Or is it all satire?
Oct 08
// Jed Whitaker
Having never heard of Elysian Shadows -- a 2D RPG that was Kickstarted for PC, mobile, Ouya, and even Dreamcast -- I stumbled across the above video of one of the developers, Falco Girgis, seemingly going off. Apparentl...
Broforce photo

Are you patriotic enough for this Broforce ballad?

Urge to salute... rising!
Oct 08
// Jordan Devore
Broforce is almost done with Steam Early Access. The run-and-gun game starring action-movie lookalikes will see a full release for Windows, Mac, and Linux on October 15, 2015. Next up? Hell. Literally! In upcoming levels, the bros will wage war against Satan. Sounds about right. Until then, get ready to shed a few tears while watching this loving tribute to America.
Telltale Borderlands photo
Telltale Borderlands

Tales from the Borderlands finale releases on October 20

Here's a teaser for it
Oct 08
// Darren Nakamura
You might have heard how the first episode of Tales from the Borderlands is now available for free. If you haven't, well, Telltale really wants to drive that fact home. That's how they get you. The first hit is free. You want...
Astroneer photo

Reshape planets with a friend in Astroneer

I'm so into this
Oct 07
// Jordan Devore
It's morning still. I feel way too groggy to let out an audible "whoa!" while watching a trailer for a video game, but Astroneer managed to elicit one anyway. Two, actually. It was the player-controlled terrain deformation th...

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