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XCOM 2 gallery photo
XCOM 2 gallery

XCOM 2 looks quite nice outdoors

Can't take my eyes off of you
Nov 20
// Jordan Devore
Sometimes, I just want to look at the world of XCOM free of distraction. It's quite pleasant, in fact, when you aren't obsessively worrying about the many ways in which your squad can and likely will perish. Or how your never...

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...

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...

Review: Satellite Reign

Aug 31 // Josh Tolentino
Satellite Reign (PC)Developer: 5 Lives StudiosPublisher: 5 Lives StudiosReleased: August 28, 2015MSRP: $29.99Reviewer's Rig: Intel Core i5 3.40Ghz, Nvidia Geforce GTX 780 Ti, 8GB RAM I mentioned the discrepancy between my memory of what Syndicate was and the fact of how it actually played, and Satellite Reign's existence makes that difference all the more apparent. That's because, despite the latter game's obvious tonal and thematic debt to Syndicate, it's a closer cousin, mechanically speaking, to Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown.  Whereas Syndicate and Syndicate Wars had you controlling a squad of roughly identical agents, each distinguished mainly by the weapons you had them carry, the corporate wetworks team you run in Satellite Reign's consists of four distinct character classes; each class has unique abilities unlocked through the leveling system, as well as individualized ways of dealing with the obstacles in their way. Soldiers can attract and resist enemy fire or hardwire enemy power generators to turn off turrets, doors, and cameras. Hackers can shut down security systems, use drones, and "hijack" enemy and civilian NPCs to puppet as they please, a la Syndicate's Persuadertron. Support agents heal their comrades and can use a "World Scan" ability to trace systems and find suitable hacking targets. Infiltrators can use ziplines, vents, and cloaking devices to sneak past guards while packing powerful melee and sniper attacks.   [embed]307082:60210:0[/embed] This class system, in addition to the game's requisite suite of cybernetic augmentations, weapons, and equipment, as well as an XCOM-like cover system, makes every encounter and excursion in Satellite Reign a far more involved affair than in its inspiration. Whereas those older encounters usually boiled down to how quickly your guys could mow down theirs, here, every member can work in concert, their abilities complementing each other to lay even the toughest defenses bare. Evasion, subterfuge and pitched combat all have their place, and can happen at virtually any time on the game's open map. That open map is another way 5 Lives stands apart from its peers and inspirations. Instead of missions, whether bespoke like in Syndicate or procedurally-generated like in XCOM, Satellite Reign opts for an open-world structure set on what the developers claim is one of the largest maps ever generated for the Unity Engine. The map is that of a city owned and run by Dracogenics, a massive future megacorporation propped up by selling "Res-tech", a cloning technology not unlike that seen in The Sixth Day. Your team, part of a rival corporation, is dropped into the city with an older, pirated version of Res-tech (their explanation for respawning), and tasked with overthrowing Dracogenics' monopoly in the name of business, no matter how much murder and robbery it takes to do so. Everything happens on the map, as your agents claw their way through the city, with nary a loading screen between tasks. Each district, from neon-soaked Downtown to the smog-choked Industrial zone, houses a number of side missions designed to reduce Dracogenics' control. For example, infiltrating the local police station can lengthen the time it takes for guards to call in reinforcements, while planting bugs in a surveillance center keeps security cameras from recognizing your agents too quickly. Breaking into the district bank can increase the speed at which ATMs funnel cash into your coffers. Bribing a disgruntled sanitation worker can unlock a side entrance into a heavily-guarded military base. Locating a conveniently hung power line might give your agents a quick way over the walls, but only if your Soldier can sabotage a nearby generator to keep that line from frying anyone trying to slide down it. It all feels interconnected and detailed in the manner of the best obstacle courses and levels. Through it all your agents will be getting their hands on new gear, unlocking new abilities, and getting more formidable, as the game's structure allows for a near total freedom of approach. Virtually every scenario can be handled in the way you choose (short of peaceful negotiation), limited only by your ability to coordinate your agents and their own equipment and abilities. Every upgrade makes you feel more powerful, but not just in a simple "numbers went up" sense, but in the way that new upgrades unlock new options and ways to break past barriers that limited you before. Unfortunately, like a proper cyberpunk story, Satellite Reign's shiny, polished exterior reveals some grit and ugliness upon close examination. Civilians walk aimlessly to and fro, only there to provide a source of fresh clones for your agents and inconvenient witnesses for their crimes. The open-world structure of the game excises the possibility of truly lasting consequence, with the world, guard patterns, and even destroyed cameras eventually resetting over time. Enemies are a touch too durable as well, their multiple layers of armor, health, and energy shielding limiting certain approaches, and turning most firefights into drawn-out affairs as enemies summon reinforcements faster than you can kill them. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this otherwise brilliantly-executed game is how hollow its world feels. Despite the gorgeously rendered city visuals and a goodly amount of text to be found by digging through random data terminals, Satellite Reign's city feel less like a world than a cyberpunk-themed playset. You direct your little squad of action figures around and play as you like, but rarely feel lost or immersed in the setting. It would be churlish and greedy to demand storytelling on the level of, say, Deus Ex from the game when it already does everything else so well, but it's saying something when Syndicate still manages to establish a better mood despite being nearly twenty-two years older. At the same time, rough edges like that are a small price to pay when Satellite Reign does Syndicate better than Syndicate ever did.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] [embed]307082:60210:0[/embed]
Satellite Reign Review photo
Guerilla Startup
I can still remember the first time I played Syndicate. It was after school in late 1993, and I was messing around on an office computer while waiting for my mother to finish a meeting and take me home. I remember the cool mi...

Armello photo

Armello's got two new characters, ready for full release on September 1

Fur-nal Fant-fur-sy Tactics
Jul 29
// Joe Parlock
Armello, a game that Dale North described as “Magic the Gathering meets Final Fantasy Tactics”, is finally graduating from Early Access on September 1 in all its Redwall-esque glory. Along with the news of the fin...

Review: Lost Dimension

Jul 27 // Kyle MacGregor
Lost Dimension (PS3, PS Vita [reviewed], PS TV compatible)Developer: LancarsePublisher: Atlus USA (NA), NIS America (EU)Released: July 28, 2015 (NA), August 28, 2015 (EU)MSRP: $39.99 The story begins with a man who calls himself "The End" authoring a string of deadly terror attacks and threatening to destroy the planet in 13 days unless someone can stop him. To do just that, the United Nations dispatches S.E.A.L.E.D., an elite team of teenage warriors with psychic powers. But before the final showdown, the kids must climb the villain's mysterious spire, where he awaits their arrival. The task is easier said than done, though, as the group soon discovers. During the ascent the team is locked in a room, where they learn there is a traitor in their midst whom they will need to "erase" before moving on to the next level. The task falls on central protagonist Sho Kasugai to use his visions and deductive skills to root out the traitors. When they're not pointing fingers at one another, the squad of psychics will need to work together to defeat an army of enigmatic robots that stand between them and their main objective. While the ensuing battles have been compared to those of Valkyria Chronicles, the resemblance isn't overly deep. Lost Dimension is indeed a tactical role-playing game with a similar aesthetic, but the combat here is entirely turn-based and has enough distinctive features to make it feel unique.  All of the characters have unique psychic abilities, ranging from offensive powers like telekinesis and pyrokinesis to defensive powers like healing and buffs. Using these abilities is tied to a pair of gauges, one of which is a sanity meter. In addition to managing what is essentially a mana bar, players will need to be mindful of the sanity meter, as depleting it can turn the tide of battle. Should a character run out of sanity, they will go berserk. In this state, players lose control over the character, who no longer differentiate friend from foe. It sounds bad at first, but berserk characters are extremely powerful, and utilizing them effectively is an essential strategy. Another great tactic at players' disposal in Lost Dimension is deferring, which, at the cost of a little sanity, can allow allied units to have multiple turns. This is great for taking advantage of enemy weaknesses with a powerful attacker or moving your forces across the battlefield quickly to close distance or retreat to a more defensible position. Since nearby units will assist their buddies in battle, stacking assists is another important part of the equation, netting you extra attacks for every ally in range. Of course, enemies can pull off this maneuver just as well, which can be pretty devastating. Missions are usually quick affairs, lasting around 10 minutes or so on average, which was ideal for playing the game on Vita. After they're finished, Sho will have a vision where he'll see brief glimpses into what his teammates are thinking -- which might help players identify traitors. There's another ability that should help you do this as well, which allows you to go into someone's subconscious mind and tell for sure if they're the traitor or not. Thing is, you can only use this ability three times per floor, so it's best to narrow down suspects before firing your silver bullets. Since the traitors are randomized, each experience with the game will be somewhat unique, ensuring someone's first run through the game will be different than the second. But it might be a tough sell for most to invest a couple more dozen hours in the game after seeing the credits roll. When a character is erased, they become Materia, which allows other characters to use the abilities they learned before their untimely demise. It's little things like this, and the whole tension surrounding judgement and betrayal that made Lost Dimension an enjoyable experience for me. Knowing I made a blunder early on and would have to watch one of my favorite characters betray me was something I dreaded throughout the journey. It was a huge source of dissonance, enjoying my interactions with someone that I knew was playing me and would ultimately make the final showdown with The End all the more difficult. Lost Dimension isn't particularly exceptional at anything it does, but I still really enjoyed the overall experience. It's a genuinely satisfying and memorable tactical RPG that I won't soon forget. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]  
Review: Lost Dimension photo
Keep your friends close, then kill them
It wasn't long before I realized my adventure in Lost Dimension wasn't going to end terribly well. My comrades and I were turning on one another, agreeing to sacrifice a teammate at the behest of our sworn enemy. None of...

Rainbow Six Siege trailer photo
Rainbow Six Siege trailer

Meet the GIGN in this Rainbow Six Siege trailer

Along with some counterterrorist magic
Jul 10
// Darren Nakamura
Ever since the days of Counter-Strike 1.6, I have pronounced GIGN as an acronym rather than as an initialism ("giggen" instead of "G-I-G-N"). I know it's wrong, but it has always made me smile for some reason. Smiling is nic...
Lethal Tactics on Steam photo
Lethal Tactics on Steam

Lethal Tactics brings its intelligent gameplay to Early Access

Like Frozen Synapse, but with graphics
May 25
// Patrick Hancock
Lethal Tactics has recently popped up onto Steam's Early Access program and will immediately look familiar to anyone who has played the brilliant Frozen Synapse. The gameplay is, at its core, the same: click to assign o...
Expeditions: Viking photo
Expeditions: Viking

Historical RPG Expeditions: Viking announced

Historical means no horned helmets!
May 21
// Patrick Hancock
Expeditions: Conquistador by Logic Artists is a great, and difficult, tactical RPG. So naturally, when I heard that another game is being made in the same vein, I immediately became excited. Expeditions: Viking&nbs...

Review: Chroma Squad

May 04 // Josh Tolentino
Chroma Squad (PC) Developer: Behold StudiosPublisher: Behold StudiosReleased: April 30, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Not that they really needed to, of course. Such a "feature" would interfere with play, and there's plenty of service in the game as it is for fans. The play, in this case, is of the turn-based tactical variety, as if Behold took XCOM and ran it through the parodic, pixelated filters of Knights of Pen and Paper.  Like the former, players will manage a small squad of combatants, with unique classes and abilities, running them up against groups of goons and the occasional boss, one turn at a time. Like the latter, every mechanic serves as a distillation of tokusatsu's essence through heavy referencing and a clear, almost palpable appreciation of the source material. The premise alone is ripe enough with potential that it's baffling more games haven't taken advantage: Players manage a fledgling production studio, with each mission treated as an "episode" of an upstart spandex superhero show. Names, casting, and even catchphrases are up for customization, as well as the requisite selection of bright primary colors to outfit the roster with. If players want to commit sentai sacrilege and name a non-red-colored character the "Lead," no one can stop them but their inevitable guilt (guilt, I say!). Cast members can also be selected from a pool of actor candidates, each with their own special qualities.  [embed]291251:58411:0[/embed] When the cameras start rolling and the minions exit wardrobe, the fight is on. The goal of any given mission is to amass as much "audience" as possible, by performing flashy attacks, fancy stunts, and of course, winning the fight. Additionally, optional "Director's Instructions" add extra conditions, such as finishing off boss monsters with a screen-filling finishing move, or not killing off the boss before dispatching the cannon-fodder minions. Such extra goals help introduce variety to the combat, which is more simplistic than one might find in XCOM or other dedicated tactical titles. Enemies follow simple patterns and lack much in the way of extra abilities, so most of the tactics devolve to crowd and ability cooldown management rather than more elegant stratagems. Chroma Squad's main mechanical wrinkle comes in the form of "Teamwork," which allows squad members to leapfrog over each other to boost their movement range, or carry out simultaneous attacks with adjacent teammates. This, alongside somewhat simplistic giant-mecha boss battles, give the game enough of a unique flavor to override its otherwise thin tactical substance.  Following the mission, gained audience is converted into "fans," and also into increased studio funding, the better to buy one's way out of Papier-mâché costumes and into some real spandex duds. Behind the scenes, the studio itself can be outfitted with various upgrades that improve performance in each episode. Buying health care for the actors improves their health in combat, and improving the lighting on set reduces enemies' chance to dodge or counter blows. Materials dropped in combat can also be used to craft customized gear with semi-random statistics, a useful (and cheap) alternative to costly store-bought costumes and weapons. Fan mail can be answered for flavor and smaller benefits, and players can even choose marketing agencies to confer more benefits. Going with a niche-market enthusiast firm might increase the amount of fans gained after an episode, but will likely lack the mass-audience-gathering benefits of a more mainstream advertising push. Tradeoffs like that characterize much of Chroma Squad's meta-game. Speaking of meta-things, the game's narrative and missions regularly break the fourth wall, and form one of the game's potentially divisive aspects. While the self-aware script and obvious understanding of tokusatsu's many conventions and tropes lend it an endearing level of charm, some players might be turned off by references to dated Internet memes and other metahumor. Personally, I found the story hit quite a bit more than it missed, but I will admit that at times the dialog read more like a forum chat log than a script, and wasn't always helped by rough spots in the localization and editing. Then again, it's not like tokusatsu attracts its fans for complex plotting and characterization, so it may balance out in the end for players in the right mindset. What isn't as easy to let by are some unfortunate, if minor, technical and design blemishes on Chroma Squad's pristine pixelation. Mission scripts would occasionally freeze in "cutscene" mode, forcing me to start the mission over. A nasty little bug accidentally equipped low-level equipment on my giant robot, making some late-game boss battles much more tense than I'd have liked them to be. One bug even gave me control of an enemy unit rather than my own squad members for a few turns! Thankfully, dev posts on the forums appear to indicate that Behold is aware of most of the bugs I encountered, and a patch is in the works at the time of this writing. Beyond that, the lack of a mid-mission checkpoint or save, or a mission-select option is inconvenient for players wanting to explore the game's branching story paths (especially for those curious to see what Behold has to say about Kamen Rider). That said, the team has stated a New Game+ option may yet be in the cards for a future update, so repeated playthroughs may become more appealing in the future. Zordon may have wanted "teens with attitude," but Chroma Squad and its unabashed, utterly geeky love-in for all things tokusatsu shows something even harder to find: A game with heart and soul. That heart shines through the rough edges, and in some ways even turns them to its advantage. It might have taken quite a while in getting here, but fans of spandex-clad superheroic finally have the videogame to help them fill that little fantasy. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Chroma Squad review photo
Lights, Camera, Henshin!
Ever since a badly-dubbed lady popped out of a dumpster on the moon, sending a weird computer-man to seek "teenagers with attitude," geeks of a certain age have been on the lookout for a game that can capture the essence of w...

Chroma Squad photo
Chroma Squad

Run the Japanese superhero TV studio of your dreams in Chroma Squad

Out now for Windows, Mac, and Linux
Apr 30
// Jordan Devore
Chroma Squad, the game about running your own Japanese superhero television studio, is now available on Steam,, and the Humble Store for $14.99. What a cool niche. This is part tactical role-playing title, part manage...
Chroma Squad  photo
Chroma Squad

Power Ranger sim Chroma Squad gets dated, trailered

Teenagers with Attitude!
Apr 24
// Josh Tolentino
Ever since I, as a grown man, got back into watching Japanese television shows targeted at seven-year-olds, I've wanted to see a proper, well-done videogame inspired by Super Sentai, Power Rangers, Kamen Rider and other...
Strategy RPG on PC photo
Strategy RPG on PC

Telepath Tactics is out now on PC and it's hard as dongs

Oh good, everyone is dead...again
Apr 22
// Patrick Hancock
Telepath Tactics, a PC strategy RPG, has released today for $14.99. It's created from the ground up by a huge tactics fan, Craig Stern, and it shows. The game is brutally difficult and is intended for "Fire Emblem v...

Review: Frozen Cortex

Mar 18 // Patrick Hancock
  Frozen Cortex (Linux, Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Mode 7Publisher: Mode 7Release Date: February 19, 2015MSRP: $24.99 (contains two copies) "Cortex" is a futuristic ball-sport played by robots. The rules are pretty simple: get the ball into the opposite endzone to score seven points. If a robot carrying the ball goes over one of the highlighted "Midzone" squares before scoring, two points are immediately added to that team's point total. To win, a player must simply have more points than the other team and possession of the ball by the time the game is over, which happens after a certain amount of turns. Once the ball is acquired, the player can either run or pass with it, and there is a limit to how many passes can be performed in a single possession. The ball can also only be moved forward at any point. Robots who aren't moving are considered blocking, and any other robot who comes within close proximity of that motionless robot will be hit and deactivated for a short time. Gameplay will be familiar to those who have played Frozen Synapse. Using the mouse, players can map out the path of every robot for the upcoming turn, and can even do so for the opposing team's robots. Then, players can watch the events play out before committing to anything. Dedicated players will take their time and plot out many possible alternate scenarios before finally deciding on the best one. Once a series of moves is "primed," it is sent to the opposing player (or AI) and will play out once both players are done. The default rules can feel rather limiting, but it is possible to create a custom game so players can enjoy the game the way they see fit. In fact, my favorite moments from Frozen Cortex were from playing online custom game modes against friends, since we felt the original rule set was far too restrictive. However, doing this occasionally broke the game.  [embed]289060:57841:0[/embed] All of the single-player modes do use the traditional rules, so it is best for players to get accustomed to them and the strategies that go along with them. In the main game mode, Knockout, players are tasked with taking a team as far as possible without losing. One loss results in a game over and all progress is wiped, traditional to roguelike games. While it can be frustrating to get rather far and lose, the threat of losing everything forces the player to truly think about each move and puts way more importance on every single game compared to the other modes. In between games, there's the opportunity to add new players to the roster, each with their own stats. Want to have a team that is completely beast at blocking? Draft those players! Be warned though, there is almost always a downside to being very proficient in something. It can take some time to get a team that truly fits a playstyle, especially when a single loss will knock players out and the player pool is random, but it's great to be able to personalize a team.  The Global Cortex League and Randomized League mode function similarly, except the latter gives the player a completely randomized team, as the name implies. These modes will keep track of players' wins and losses, and the object is then to simply be the best out of the assortment of teams involved while continuously customizing the team. In Global Cortex League, getting new robots involves spending money on them, and money is gained from either winning or placing bets. There is an underlying theme of corruption that takes place in both the Knockout and Global Cortex League modes, and this is the player's chance to participate! It is always interesting to monitor how a team does and then feel confident enough to place a bet based on past performances. Just like real-life betting, I assume! Though once the betting screen is opened and closed, there doesn't seem to be a way to bring it back up.  While playing, three narrators banter back and forth. In single-player, the opposing coach generally joins in the banter as well. Their banter is incredibly witty, and often elicits a good chuckle, though there is no voice acting. Their personalities become immediately apparent, and will even talk about previous matchups and statistics, just as expected from sports commentators.  The amount of options at any given time is rather small. It's a pass-or-run type situation on offense most of the time, and it simply depends on the situation at hand. Once a player decides to run the ball, they must hold on to it until it's either in the endzone or turned over. This makes running unlikely in a lot of scenarios, but Frozen Cortex is all about mind games with the opponent. "It's highly unlikely they would run at this point" can mean "I should run it" for the offense. The play will end once the ball has traveled a certain amount of distance in the air, but not after a long run. This allows surprise runs to really be effective and takes some effectiveness away from long bombs. The map plays a huge factor in strategy since placing a good blocker in an important intersection completely denies that area from a player. There are certain situations in which the ball carrier cannot score, forcing them to purposefully create a turnover. Players near a grounded ball will automatically run towards it, which can be used to the passer's advantage in turnover situations. For example, if the defense has blockers set up at every possible route, the offense can pass it near a defender to force them to run towards it while they set up to be defense on the next turn. On defense, it is all about placing blockers in key positions and forcing the opponent into as few options as possible. Oh, and always being aware of the "Hail Mary" passes. Often times I set up a strong defense and did not change it for a handful of turns, which makes the game feel overly simple at times. If a player is ahead by a certain score, the opponent may not be able to come back in time, making it useless to even try. In fact, the amount of "unwinnable" situations in Frozen Cortex I've encountered can easily remove a lot of enthusiasm from the game. Its strategy isn't too simple or too deep, but falls somewhere in the grey area in between. The amount of options are always limited, but how those options are utilized is what separates the scrubs from the champs. Often times I feel as if "I've got this," only to be surprised by a huge pass that goes over every single one of my defenders. Other times I'll pull off a run that not only ends up in the endzone, but travels over five Midzone areas as well, staging a huge comeback victory. Players can also challenge each other online in a variety of modes. The variation generally comes in how player stats are distributed among each team's players. The beauty of Frozen Cortex's multiplayer is that it is easy to play a game over a series of days, since it never requires both players to participate at the same time. This, alongside the lack of super-deep gameplay, make it easy to enjoy for those who tend to have a busy schedule in life. Players can customize a team for use in multiplayer, including dividing stats specifically to certain robots as well as customizing the team's look. This is really where some of the best matches come from: the team that players have invested in personally and have customized completely.  The music in Frozen Cortex is, as expected, perfect. It has catchy futuristic tones and really picks up at opportune moments throughout the game. The game's animations truly steal the spotlight visually. I highly encourage all players to watch their matches after they've been completed. Watching the plays in a single series without player turns in between is an amazing spectacle. It's best to approach Frozen Cortex without any preconceived notions. It isn't American Football and it's not just Frozen Synapse with a ball. Frozen Cortex blends these things together and comes out as its own unique experience. There is a good balance of complexity here, so most players shouldn't feel overwhelmed after grasping the basics. The AI does a great job of teaching the player the ropes, by virtue of kicking their butt, which allows them to acclimate quickly. At times it can feel a bit helpless, as certain situations become unwinnable, but generally that boils down to the fault of the player earlier in the match. Frozen Cortex is a great competitive game to play either in short spurts or in longer sessions thanks to its turn-based playstyle, and has a very low barrier to entry for players. [This review is based on a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Frozen Cortex review photo
Though it may be easy to see Frozen Cortex and immediately dismiss it because it seems to be rooted in American football (the best football), I want to make it clear that no American football or sportz knowledge is neede...

Talk turns technical with Masquerada: Songs and Shadows' Ian Gregory

Mar 18 // Rob Morrow
[embed]289169:57825:0[/embed] While discussing these various systems, the word synergy came up many times during our brief chat. It became obvious that the team has put a lot of thought into how each classes' skills can and should complement the others, ensuring that no single character is ever considered the "best." As such, each character class has specific strengths and weaknesses, but if each are used effectively, players can manipulate the battlefield by splitting up and isolating creatures from large mobs, as well as maximize the group's damage output potential by layering the classes' complimentary spells and skills into the more lethal combined attacks. Gregory showed me several examples of how the different classes could work together to greater effect. For example, using a pull-like Void spell to gather enemies into a tight group could be combined with a well-timed use of the Sicario's Fissure ability -- a charge attack that damages all enemies in its path -- to maximize your damage output. Another method of combining the group's unique characteristics would be to leverage their elemental capabilities. An example of this would again make use of the water-based Void ability, but this time, instead of lining up enemies for an efficient physical attack, another character's lightning ability could come into play, electrocuting the drenched mob. Positioning on the battlefield also has additional importance in Masquerada. Gregory notes that "all player characters, NPCs, and enemies have armor (seen in the video above as color-coded circles surrounding each character) that must be dealt with before being able to damage them directly." For example, character's attempting to tangle with foes head-on will find themselves dealing damage only to that foe's armor until it can be destroyed. However, armor mitigates only half the damage dealt to a target when struck from the flank and attacks to the rear cause full damage to a target, rendering armor useless. A side note to armor is that the player character's armor has the capacity to regenerate unlike an enemy's, which is rendered useless after a certain number of attacks. Also, certain characters, such as the Sicario, can sacrifice armor altogether for an added boost to damage output at the risk of becoming injured in the act. Character skills are another important aspect that warrants explanation when discussing Masquerada's combat systems. As shown in the video, each character has a row of different abilities at their disposal in the action bar. Gregory notes that anyone familiar with Dota 2 or League of Legends will have a general idea of how to use them from the onset, e.g.,  after each use of a particular ability it won't be available again until its cool-down timer refreshes. One big difference in the way Masquerada handles skills is in how they evolve over time. Witching Hour Studios has chosen to eschew experience points altogether. Instead, at certain key points in the game's story each character will be issued a set amount of skill points to spend in their respective skill trees. This not only avoids tedious grinding, but it ensures that the developers have a good handle on all of the potential outcomes of character development and can tailor the game's encounter difficulty accordingly. Also, each skill can be modified as you progress further in the game, allowing you to tailor characters to your particular play style. Gregory gives a specific example of this when talking about upgrading Cicero's teleportation skill, Zephyr. In this instance, Zephyr can go two ways: offensively or defensively. The offense-oriented modification blasts out hot air when Cicero re-appears and the defensive modification blasts cold air to freeze enemies at Cicero’s original location, buying him valuable time to recover or cast other spells. As the "pause-for-tactics" descriptor indicates, all aspects of Masquerada's combat can play out in real time or the game can be paused to enter a tactical mode by hitting the spacebar for more contemplative and complex setups. You can of course use a mixture of the two if you wish. It's up to the player on how they decide to enjoy the game. However, as mentioned earlier in the article, the game's combat is designed around leveraging each of the character's special abilities in concert with the others to achieve the greatest effect, so the tactical mode will probably be necessary for the more dangerous encounters. A year seems like a long way out to be this intrigued about a game, but I must admit, after getting some quality hands-on experience coupled with Gregory's intricate and passionately detailed description of the mechanics, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has turned out to be one of my first most-anticipated games coming out next year.
Masquerada preview photo
Character synergy, combat, and skill systems detailed
While at PAX East, I was fortunate enough to schedule a chat with the co-founder and creative director of Singapore-based Witching Hour Studios, Ian Gregory, to talk about the studio's beautiful upcoming "...

Liege trailer photo
Liege trailer

Liege is like chess, but with more face-stabbery

It's looking badass in this new GDC/PAX East trailer
Feb 25
// Rob Morrow
Coda Games' sole developer John Rhee just uploaded a revealing new pre-expo teaser for his Kickstarter-funded SRPG trilogy, Liege. In it, we get to see the most recent gameplay footage of the elegant, turn-based/tactica...
Shadowrun Online update photo
Shadowrun Online update

Shadowrun Online gets major Early Access update

Adds new Rigger class, custom character creation, and much, much more!
Feb 18
// Rob Morrow
"Watch your back. Shoot straight. Conserve ammo. And never, ever cut a deal with a dragon." Hoi, Chummers! The eighth Early Access update for Shadowrun Online just went live yesterday and it's a massive one. Major f...

Breach & Clear: Deadline is a surprisingly good action-RPG

Feb 05 // Jason Faulkner
[embed]287208:57182:0[/embed] Although there are some kinks to work out before release, the core gameplay feels solid. The game is played from an isometric perspective, and focuses on small-unit combat using the four soldiers who make up your squad. This game does something I absolutely love, and that is the ability to switch instantly from a turn-based command mode to real-time combat. I love turn-based games, but if this whole game was turn-based it would be a slog fest. Being able to real-time single zombies or small groups without having to slow-down makes a huge difference for pacing, and I found myself only switching to command mode for hordes or the more powerful mutations. The open world was a real startle. After the tutorial, the game opens up into an action RPG similar to Diablo III. There's tons of exploration and NPCs to meet, some of who will give you quests. The overworld is a constant, but the dungeons look to be randomly generated each playthrough, with different loot drops and enemy varieties. The items themselves need some work as far as interface, but I really liked that the firearms were modeled after real life counterparts, which is a huge attraction for gun buffs. I did run into some issues, the most frustrating being during the tutorial when I was asked to use one of the squad's abilities and the confirmation key didn't work. I had to re-plot the movement and action around 15 times before I was finally able to proceed. The menus still need work, not all the graphics options are there, and there are a few graphical glitches here and there. Whether it's unique or not, I had a lot of fun and with a little polish it could turn into something really great. Breach & Clear: Deadline is currently in alpha and is not a finished title. If you wish to try it out and support the developers, the game is available on Steam Early Access for $14.99.
New Breach and Clear photo
You got your Diablo in my Rainbow Six!
The original Breach & Clear was a tactical strategy title in the vein of the XCOM or Rainbow Six series. It was fairly surprising when its sequel Breach & Clear: Deadline turned out to be an open-world tactical action...

Deadnaut impressions photo
Deadnaut impressions

Exploring the ghost ships of Screwfly's Deadnaut

While it's easy to overlook, this squad-based indie should not be missed
Jan 30
// Rob Morrow
Deadnaut is a tactical, squad-based, sci-fi horror affair from Australian developer Screwfly Studios. The title launched on Steam last November and I'm regrettably only getting around to playing it now. Its un...
Breach & Clear: Deadline  photo
Breach & Clear: Deadline

Breach & Clear: Deadline raids Steam Early Access

We have one copy of the game to give away, courtesy of Devolver Digital!
Jan 26
// Rob Morrow
Mighty Rabbit Studios and Gun Media's top-down tactical thriller, Breach & Clear: Deadline, entered Early Access last week on Steam. After a brief stint in a public pre-alpha, the Gambitious Digital Entertainment&nb...
Breach & Clear: Deadline photo
Breach & Clear: Deadline

Devolver, Gambitious and the Breach & Clear: Deadline teams WANT YOU

To help make their latest title the best Early Access game it can be
Jan 12
// Rob Morrow
Back in September, I had the chance to check out Mighty Rabbit and Gun Media's latest title Breach & Clear: Deadline in person. If you'd like to read my thoughts on what I saw while there, this should get you back up to s...

Crookz brings 1970s style and swagger to heist gameplay

Nov 14 // Alessandro Fillari
Crookz (PC [Previewed], Mac, SteamOS)Developer: SkillTree StudiosPublisher: Kalypso MediaRelease Date: Q2 2015 Set in the 1970s, Crookz places you in charge of a group of thieves, grifters, burglars, and other sneaky individuals in order to break into secure locations that house loot and other treasures. As the trailer suggests, the people you're robbing are sleazy and shady folk that certainly have whats coming to them, and it's your job to ensure the cash moves from their pockets to yours. With each successful score, you expand your arsenal of gadgets and crew members, while taking on increasingly more difficult jobs that will test your skills as a pro robber. While most games follows the more action oriented approach to heists, Crookz takes a very different stab at it by turning it into a quasi puzzle-strategy experience. Instead of getting into massive shootouts and high-speed chances, seeking to emulate the infamous bank heist scene from Heat, you'll have to plan each move step-by-step and utilize your crew's strengths and weaknesses to covertly break into secure locations and procure valuable items and intel. [embed]283824:56325:0[/embed] Similar to a real-time-strategy experience, you can move your characters to specific points on the map, while using their abilities on the fly as you evade guards and avoid alarms. During our demo, we were taking part in a score at a private mansion, and it was loaded with guards and other traps. While it looked daunting at first, it was readily apparent what was required for the score. For every heist, you'll need the right people for the job. Before each mission, you can outfit them with various gadgets and augment their skills to facilitate the needs of the heist. With several characters classes, such as Runner, Tough Guy, Locksmith, Hacker, and of course Robot -- you'll have to learn the lay of the land and get a read on things to succeed. For the mansion job, the runner, tough guy, and locksmith were able to break into the site with ease and take out guards while making it to the loot. If you're unsure of what you need to do, you can take your time and go through each step to figure out the best course of action. But if you're an especially clever planner, than you can meticulously analysis the layout of the environment, guard routes, and security systems to plan out your heist step by step. If done right, you can watch as your crew methodically and expertly tackles the score as if you were witnessing a Rube Goldberg Machine at work with the style and grace of Ocean's Eleven. I found the style and presentation to Crookz to be very refreshing for the heist genre. The music and atmosphere evokes the hip and energetic style of caper films from the 1970s. The music in particular is very much exciting and smooth, the themes throughout the heists pull from influential period films such as Shaft or Deep Throat. In any event, it works well. It has style and swagger in spades, and it feels exciting to play through a heist game that manages to not take itself too seriously, while still looking cool as you pull off the score. Set for release Q2 2015, Crookz is very interesting blend of puzzle and strategy elements sent across the backdrop of 1970s heist thrillers. I'm quite the fan of the era, and the style it evokes is very refreshing to see. With over 20 different mission and some online challenges to tackle, it's very rare to see heist game like this, and I'm very much looking forward to checking more.
Crookz photo
Cleopatra Jones and the Funky Bunch
What happened to the style and cleverness that came from heist thrillers? I remember watching films like Ocean's Eleven and Thief, that had little to no action or shooting. But now, these high-pressure and tense moments just ...

Tactical Zombie Action photo
Tactical Zombie Action

Breach & Clear: Deadline coming this fall to Steam Early Access, co-published by Devolver Digital

iOS Tactical Strategy game returns to PC, adds Zombies
Aug 28
// Rob Morrow
In a somewhat interesting publishing move, Devolver Digital has announced that it will be teaming up with Gambitious to publish Breach & Clear: Deadline, a post-apocalyptic tactical strategy shooter, based on Gun Media's...

Crookz puts a '70s heist movie spin on tactical gaming

Aug 17 // Dale North
[embed]279728:55320:0[/embed] Crookz is a single-player tactical game has players guiding the movement of a crew of thieves through their missions as they infiltrate buildings, sneak around guards, and work through obstacles to lift their heist target. These thieves all have unique skill sets that forces players to think about how they'll work together achieve goals. For example, a technician might have to cut the security cameras off so that the specialist can enter a room to pick a lock.  The game is presented in an isometric view, with the ceiling removed from a missions buildings and obstacles, letting players guide crew members through. Each member is directed by clicking on interaction points, like doors or locks, where context-sensitive options will pop up. Some of these situations have timing attached. For example, the runner would want to wait until an armed guard passed by before sneaking down a hallway. Otherwise, the game's action stays paused, leaving the player to issue commands and develop strategies. Crookz's missions play out like a large, multi branched puzzles. While applying different crew members' specialities to is at the heart of the gameplay, there is some freedom for creativity with the game's single-use items and found treasures. With the right item, the runner could temporarily take on the role of a technician to hack surveillance gear, for example. I watched a mission where a crew of three had to break into a protected building, work their way through laser traps, pick locks, sneak past guards, find keys, hack junction boxes, and more, to make their way to a room where an erotic gold statue protected a huge diamond. It sounds complicated, but you don't take all of these challenges on at once. With the way the player is able to move about the map and thoughtfully apply skills and item use, Crookz has a pretty laid-back pace. The music I heard during this showing was quite good. We were told that they hired a band to track the funky soundtrack, which comes complete with wah-wah guitars and drums.  There are a lot of games with thieves in them, but not many where they sport afros and leisure suits. I dig how the heist vibe somehow really fits with its tactical gameplay. With its 20 missions to work through, Crookz looks like a game that could be really groovy to really dig into. Crookz is coming to PC, Mac, and Linux in 2015. 
First look at gamescom
A tactical game with a '70s heist movie theme? Finding something like that at gamescom is about as unlikely as finding a videogame trailer with porn star Ron Jeremy in it. But here we are with both. 

The Red Solstice photo
The Red Solstice

Journey to Mars with seven other co-op partners in The Red Solstice

That's all well and good, but girls go to Mars to buy candy bars
Jul 04
// Brittany Vincent
The Red Solstice is a tactical cooperative survival game taking place on Mars in a very distant future. It's headed for Steam Early Access on July 10, and will support up to 8-players for co-op modes across randomly generate...
Tom Clancy's The Division photo
Xbox One owners can grab additional content before anyone else
Tom Clancy's The Division will see its DLC coming to the Xbox One first. Sorry 'bout that, PC and PlayStation 4 adopters. The upcoming tactical shooter is slated for a 2015 release, and the latest footage out of E3 2014...

Acaratus photo

Acaratus brings robots onto the tactical RPG battlefield

Who needs tactics when you have robots with swords?
Jun 03
// Darren Nakamura
There is something about turn-based battles on a square grid that always seems to captivate me. Taking that idea out of the generic fantasy setting garners bonus points for me too. Granted, Acaratus is described to take plac...

Tactical RPG Eiyuu Senki is coming to North America and Europe

For the first time in English
May 06
// Dale North
Cute Japanese tactical RPG/visual novel Eiyuu Senki is coming to the PS3 in both North America and Europe. This was developed by Tenco and published in Japan by MAGES (part of 5pb.Games) last year, and now independent localiz...

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