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The Magic Circle tackles game development with clever satire photo
The Magic Circle tackles game development with clever satire
by Alessandro Fillari

You ever wonder what it's like to be a character in a videogame? Most people would think of something pleasant like Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog, not someone from Resident Evil or Silent Hill. But what would it be like to be in a game that's currently in development? One that's constantly in flux, similar to the classic Daffy Duck cartoon Duck Amuck. Would you still be you one year from now after several changes have been made? And who the hell is making all these changes?

That's a scenario former developers from Arkane Studios and Irrational Games want to tackle. At PAX Prime 2014, the developers of the newly-formed studio Question brought an early build of The Magic Circle, a game within a game. Players got to experience the results of a chaotic game development period in all its gory details as they tried to set things right. It made quite an impression at the Indie Mega Booth, with attendees calling it "punk" and a neat "retro" title.

We've been keeping our eye on this title ever since. Given special access to the current beta build of The Magic Circle, Destructoid had the opportunity to experience a sizable chunk of Question's upcoming existentialist adventure title. 

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Knight Squad was the most fun I had at PAX South photo
Knight Squad was the most fun I had at PAX South
by Brett Makedonski

If you were to take booths' popularity at PAX South and plot them on a heat map, most of the obvious candidates would stick out. Twitch would be red hot, as it constantly had a flurry of people swarming to watch their favorite streamers. Dreadnought would be lit up too, because it was one of the largest displays and the crowd seemed to take a liking to it.

But, there would be one outlier far back among the indie titles. Knight Squad, made by Chainsawesome Games, had a constant throng of people mulling about at all times. You wouldn't expect it given the location, but it was a party back there. Once you had a crack at the game, you'd understand why -- because Knight Squad is an incredibly fun multiplayer game.

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Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brings Barry Burton and Raid mode center stage photo
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brings Barry Burton and Raid mode center stage
by Alessandro Fillari

Capcom has been on quite a roll lately. With the announcement of Street Fighter V, new releases in the Devil May Cry series coming, and the recent success of its HD Remaster for Resident Evil, it seems like the once troubled publisher has found its way back to the hearts of fans. And with the reveal of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 late last year, it has plenty more in store for fans of the survival horror series.

I got the opportunity to play a decent chunk of Revelations 2 last year, and I was pretty impressed with how the mystery was being brought back to the series. Dabbling into episodic gaming, this installment is set to be released through four episodes; one will release every week from February 24th to March 18th. It's a pretty experimental, and unique take on Resident Evil, and that might be just what the franchise needs.

But just before its debut next month, the folks at Capcom invited me out to get another crack at their experiment. And during my session, I got reacquainted with an old buddy from the series' past, and even got to take the new and improved Raid Mode for a test run.

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My first four hours with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt photo
My first four hours with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
by Alessandro Fillari

It's an exciting time to be into role-playing games. With the release of heavy hitters such as Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dark Souls II, Divinity: Original Sin, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Wasteland 2 in recent years, the genre has had a healthy supply of deep and involving games. But one such series, based on Polish fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, got a major foothold into the hearts of fans.

Originally released in 2007 for PC, The Witcher placed players in the shoes of Geralt, a monster hunter for hire, and became a sleeper hit for Polish developer CD Projekt Red. The studio released its follow-up in 2011 and has since become a juggernaut in the PC gaming community. Now, the company is readying for the conclusion to its wildly popular RPG series. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, its most ambitious title yet, ventures into vast open game gameplay while offering a rousing finish to the central character's story.

Though for the last two years, we've only gotten plenty of trailers and other bits of media on the game. The developers have been shy with allowing anyone hands-on time, but at a recent exclusive event held for retailers and members of the press, the folks at CD Projekt Red invited Destructoid out to play The Witcher 3. During my four-hour session, I dove head first into this open-world action-RPG, and saw just how Geralt of Rivia made the transition. So relax, clear your schedule, and let me tell about my experience with one of 2015's most anticipated titles.

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JumpJet Rex revels in old-school charm, hits Early Access January 14 photo
JumpJet Rex revels in old-school charm, hits Early Access January 14
by Alessandro Fillari

There's just something about the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming. Even after decades, it's still a remarkable and enduring period that's managed to stand the test of time. With a slick focus on charming visuals and deeply refined gameplay, the classics of the time are still played today. And, with a sizable amount of fans clamoring for the return of such titles, it's easy to see why the endearing nature of 2D games holds strong. Honestly, games just felt more pure back then, and it looks as though some devs are looking to emulate the example set by games from the past.

Originally created as a quick title for GameJam 2014, the developers at Tree Fortress found something special about this peculiar T-Rex wearing jet boots, and decided to flesh it out into a fully featured title. Taking inspiration from classic games like Mega Man and Sonic, the talent behind JumpJet Rex wanted to offer players a new 2D platformer that's not only goofy fun, but also tough as nails.

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Evolve is about more than just monster hunting photo
Evolve is about more than just monster hunting
by Kyle MacGregor

"Hopefully, nobody has any questions about Hunt," Turtle Rock co-founder Chris Ashton said, his eyes darting around a cloistered room flush with press. "We've been talking about that forever!"

Over the past several months, the humble, long-bearded design director has ceaselessly detailed this one fragment of the experience, holding his tongue about just about every other facet of the asymmetric game of pursuit. In that moment you could see it on his face, a shy glimmer of excitement to, at long last, reveal something new.

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Narcosis: Hallucinogenic, ocean floor terror photo
Narcosis: Hallucinogenic, ocean floor terror
by Steven Hansen

I said it when I checked out Amnesia developer's SOMA early this year, but we could do with some more games set underwater. It's a scary place. There are goblin sharks down there, damn it. And you don't even have to go deep down to terrorize. Jaws spooked a generation. 

The ocean is like space, but with more horrifying, alien, living organisms to kill you. Opposed to the flashy, bright monsters of SOMA, Narcosis is aiming for a (somewhat) more realistic terror. 

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The Talos Principle makes me feel smart and dumb photo
The Talos Principle makes me feel smart and dumb
by Darren Nakamura

Back at E3 2014, I got a brief chance to get my hands on The Talos Principle while talking to one of its writers Tom Jubert (FTL: Faster Than Light, The Swapper). In the presentation, Jubert explained the intended approach to discussing philosophy with the player, but I was only able to get through a few puzzles.

With its retail release scheduled in less than a month, I have had some more time to spend with Croteam's first-person puzzler. So far, it has made me think hard, both about the solutions to puzzles and its thoughts about sapience.

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If you like spaceships, Fractured Space could be your jam photo
If you like spaceships, Fractured Space could be your jam
by Steven Hansen

The makers of Strike Suit Zero are increasing the scale of their space battles with a new game, Fractured Space, which features 5 vs 5 matches between massive ships.

The newly minted Edge Case Games, comprised of Strike Suit's same Born Ready folks, had this to say: "Above all else we want to transmit a sense of scale to the player - the feeling of participating in a massive space battle inside their own titanic capital ship, blasting apart enemy ships and working together with other players to achieve a common objective."

I talked with Edge Case Games CEO James Brooksby at Game Connection Europe about, "the game that was in [his] head when [he] was 14." 

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Dungeons II takes a humorous approach to being the bad guy photo
Dungeons II takes a humorous approach to being the bad guy
by Alessandro Fillari

Being the bad guy has its perks. With an entire force of orcs, goblins, and other nasty creatures at your bidding, more gold you can count, and a near infinite supply of dark magic at your disposal -- it seems like you've got things pretty much handled in your conquest of the world. But fate seems to have other plans. And with a snarky disembodied voice mocking you and narrating your journey, it certainly looks like your quest for power will be a lot more difficult than you thought.

This is what you can expect in the upcoming sequel to Dungeons. During a private session at a press event by Kalypso Media, I got to spend some hands-on time with their upcoming Dungeon Keeping/RTS hybrid title Dungeons II, that aims to take a light-hearted and comedic approach to being the evilest villain in all the land.

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Crookz brings 1970s style and swagger to heist gameplay photo
Crookz brings 1970s style and swagger to heist gameplay
by Alessandro Fillari

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 seem like over the top spectacles. Due to the success of Grand Theft Auto and Pay Day building entire gameplay scenarios around such high-pressure and intense moments, it's likely that 'heist' is now synonymous with shooting and explosions.

But what about the methodical and low-key approach to pulling off such crazy scores? Well, that's what the developers at Skilltree Studios have in mind for their take on pulling off big scores. With Crookz, they seek to take a different approach to heist gameplay, while doing it in authentic and funky 70's style.

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Majestic Nights should be taken away in an unmarked van for its own good photo
Majestic Nights should be taken away in an unmarked van for its own good
by Nic Rowen

I dig espionage stories. Faceless government agents running amok, corporate interests dominating the nation's politics, scruffy retired spooks pulled in for "one last job"; I eat that stuff up.

So I was excited when I heard about Majestic Nights, a conspiracy driven, episodic adventure game set in a neon-soaked hyper-'80s, a la Hotline Miami. I was hoping for John le Carre meets Scarface. What I got was X-Files fanfiction meets a game I don't want to play.

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Mushroom 11 is the next great puzzle-platformer photo
Mushroom 11 is the next great puzzle-platformer
by Jordan Devore

Everyone I know who's tried Mushroom 11 won't shut up about how good it is. After clearing the first two levels today in a preview build, I'm joining them. 25 minutes well spent.

This is a puzzle-platformer unlike any I've seen before. You guide a green blob through a post-apocalyptic world -- up cliffs, through tunnels, over toxic sludge -- by erasing parts of it. Each time you click on the ooze, you'll trim its cells and fresh replacements will pop up somewhere else; do this enough and it'll start to move (though not always in the exact direction you want).

It's fun to aimlessly "push" the blob forward across the ruined world, but traversing obstacles requires careful planning, quick improvisation, or both. In one puzzle, I anchored the organism to the perimeter of a cave suspended above lava and chipped away at it in such a way that a makeshift limb stretched down and left toward solid ground without falling straight to its fiery doom.

A later section, a boss fight against a giant mutant spider, involved launching the blob off a seesaw and navigating up and around the creature's jabbing arms. Sequences like this are frenetic. You have to rapidly erase cells to maintain momentum but you can't overdo it; the blob won't rematerialize mid-air. Brute-force attempts at puzzle solving proved futile by the second level.

All that said, I'd recommend watching footage or, better yet, playing the game yourself next year on PC/Mac/Linux (pre-orders come with a preview). It's tough to convey what makes Mushroom 11 such a treat in text, but pick it up and you'll understand the appeal in seconds. Tell your friends.

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Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brings the mystery back to survival horror photo
Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brings the mystery back to survival horror
by Alessandro Fillari

There's certainly been intrigue surrounding Resident Evil: Revelations 2. Since its existence was leaked a few months back and several cryptic images of a derelict prison made the rounds, there has been speculation about what to expect from this installment. And, with the return of characters from other titles, there is evidently a larger focus on linking things back to the series' past.

Its predecessor, Resident Evil: Revelations, felt very much like a back-to-basics approach to the series, which earned a lot favor from fans. With the upcoming sequel, more characters from the past are brought back to the forefront and are drawn into a greater conspiracy. Obviously, this isn't entirely new for the franchise. However, with the greater focus on mystery in Revelations 2 and how Capcom plans to release the game in episodes, it could give the series a much needed change of pace. After Brett's hands-on time with the sequel back at Tokyo Game Show, he was left unsure of what to expect from the game. And, judging from my own time with it last month, that might be for the best.

This is one title you might want to go into blind.

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This War of Mine is a harrowing journey of survival photo
This War of Mine is a harrowing journey of survival
by Alessandro Fillari

War, what is it good for? For starters, it makes for easy entertainment in fiction. With the rise of war games over the last two decades, it's common to see these experiences as nothing but an over-the-top spectacle to show off explosions and the might of the military. But in recent years, we've begun to see more games that pay attention to the philosophical and existential conflicts related to war.

One of my favorite last-gen games, Spec Ops: The Line, subverted expectations by reintroducing the horror and dread that war imparts on those it touches. And with last summer's Valiant Hearts, which told the stories of men and women during World War I, I'm glad we're seeing more of the human and emotional side of armed conflict.

Back at PAX Prime 2014, I had the opportunity to experience another such title called This War of Mine. Meeting with the developers at 11 bit studios, I got to chat about the origins and intentions they have with their survivalist take on war.

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Resident Evil was a difficult game to remaster in HD photo
Resident Evil was a difficult game to remaster in HD
by Alessandro Fillari

With the rise of high-definition re-releases, many fans have likely made a wish list of titles they hope will eventually get the HD treatment. Whether they be classics from the '90s or 2000s, we're seeing a variety of games find new life in today's market. Unfortunately, not every title can make that transition to modern consoles, be it for technical or design reasons.

Thankfully, Resident Evil is an exception. During a special hands-on session with the game, I experienced what it was like to return the mansion in full HD, and even got to speak with members of Capcom staff to learn about the challenges they faced with Remastered.

They certainly had their work cut out for them.

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