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5:00 PM on 03.29.2015

Review: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel: Claptastic Voyage

With Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, I like and dislike different parts of it in almost equal measure. The combat is exciting and the characters are likable. On the other hand, the environments are a little dull and it suff...

Darren Nakamura



Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Sword in the Darkness photo
Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Sword in the Darkness
by Darren Nakamura

Telltale seems to be getting into the swing of things with Game of Thrones, in more ways than one. For starters, it only took seven weeks since the last episode for this one to come out. If Telltale can keep up that pace, the season should conclude this August.

More importantly, this is the first episode to really capture the essence of A Song of Ice and Fire. Where Iron From Ice was mostly setup and The Lost Lords felt a little like filler, The Sword in the Darkness finally starts to get the members of House Forrester moving toward something that feels like progress. The situation is still dismal, but faint flickers of light at the end are just now coming into focus.

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Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged photo
Review: Tales from the Borderlands: Atlas Mugged
by Darren Nakamura

[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.]

Tales from the Borderlands: Zer0 Sum released nearly four months ago, and it was fantastic. As an introduction to the intertwined stories of Rhys and Fiona, it did everything it needed to do. It laid out the groundwork for the main narrative arc, it kept me engaged and laughing throughout, and it ended on a note that left me anxious to continue the story as soon as possible.

And then the waiting happened. Months passed with little word on the second episode. Could it live up to the anticipation after all this time?

It turns out that it does. Though perhaps not quite as excellent as the first episode, this one turned out great in its own right, and now I'll be eagerly awaiting the next installment. I just hope it isn't another four months away.

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Review: Cities: Skylines photo
Review: Cities: Skylines
by Jason Faulkner

The connection between the design and implementation of the sidewalks and streets we use on a daily basis requires a huge mental leap for me. Walking down the cobblestone in my city and looking up to see the sky framed with highrises inspires my sense of awe. It’s as if they represent humanity’s dominion over the natural world, and seem to stand as a testament to our species’ tenacity. It’s as if their monolithic forms are a raised fist against all the devastation and hardship we’ve experienced as a whole since we left the fertile crescent over 60,000 years ago.

To make a city of our own, to imitate and create the spaces in which we live our lives is quite alluring. The nurturing and planning that goes into creating your own little virtual metropolis is naturally stimulating to the desire to solve problems that most of us find so innate. For more than a decade, Maxis’ SimCity series was the go-to for a city-building fix. However, the changes in the latest iteration of the series were very unpopular, and begged the question, “Is the city-building simulation genre dead?” Cities: Skylines answers with an emphatic, “No,” and goes beyond what even the venerable SimCity series had to offer.

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Firewatch has topless teens, meaty hands, and mystery photo
Firewatch has topless teens, meaty hands, and mystery
by Steven Hansen

I've been firewatching out for Campo Santo's new 'exploration mystery' since hearing about the talent behind it. Artist Olly Moss, Mark of the Ninja designer Nels Anderson, and season one The Walking Dead writers and designers Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin. It's an exciting crew.

And then I saw the dang thing in its trailer and had to wonder why more games don't make use of a distinct tonal color palette, instead defaulting to an obfuscating attempt at photorealism that just drowns everything out. Compare BioShock to a "realistic" shooter; the Arkham series to Shadow of Mordor. It's just nice to see someone use color, and purposefully.

Because while Firewatch is gorgeous, it is also grounded. It is a story about people -- Henry and his supervisor Delilah -- and I felt that the moment I started controlling Henry. Not a blank player analogue or a camera on wheels. I saw Henry's inelegant, meaty paws stretched out in front of the screen still wearing his wedding ring despite divorce. Telling details are important.

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Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth photo
Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth
by Steven Hansen

Volume is a fitting name for a polygonal, Metal Gear Solid VR Missions-looking stealth game with enough rectangles to feed a geometry class for the entire year. In the case of Mike Bithell's Thomas Was Alone follow-up, however, "volume" is more about sound than shapes.

Lead Locksley can't kill or attack. It's all about being a sneak. Noise, then, becomes an important weapon for luring guards from their posts, and every bit of noise fractures the world so you can nicely see its effect, along with the ever-present enemy fields of vision.

It's about sight, too. Sound, sight, shapes. These things come together to make a readable stealth game with enough abstraction that it feels more puzzler than sneaking romp. Think Hitman GO compared to Hitman.

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The first three rounds of Sid Meier's Starships are not enough photo
The first three rounds of Sid Meier's Starships are not enough
by Darren Nakamura

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth released to mixed reactions. I loved how it took the took the classic gameplay to alien worlds, and I especially appreciated its underlying narrative about the future of the human race. Other long-time fans of the series saw it as derivative of Civ V, with too little added and too much stripped out.

Like it or not, one thing that Beyond Earth has done is to lay the foundation for Sid Meier's Starships. It continues the story of the human settlements on an alien planet, far enough into the future that they are able to travel between stars in less time than the initial exodus from Earth took. The result: a series of skirmishes for control of a very tiny galaxy. Sure, why not?

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PC Port Report: Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty photo
PC Port Report: Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty
by Darren Nakamura

Like Chris, I had my first taste of Oddworld when it was new, back on the PlayStation in 1997. Abe's Oddysee and Abe's Exoddus were two of my favorite titles from that era, so when Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty was announced, I was pretty stoked to revisit the adventure through RuptureFarms and the surrounding areas.

To my chagrin, the PC version would not launch for many months after the PlayStation 4 version. At the very least, the wait is justified; New 'n' Tasty runs beautifully on my aging computer, and it features some of the bells and whistles that come with a Steam release too.

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Review: Blackguards 2 photo
Review: Blackguards 2
by Darren Nakamura

A few weeks ago, I called Blackguards 2 "deep, unfriendly, and buggy." I had put several hours into the tactical role-playing game, but hadn't seen enough of the story to comfortably put out a review.

Fast forward to today, and my original assessment requires a bit of tweaking. Within the first two weeks of its release, Daedalic put out two huge patches, each aiming to fix the stability issues that plagued Blackguards 2 at launch. The patches did introduce their own issues, but for the most part I would describe it now as only deep and unfriendly. Two out of three ain't bad.

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Starr Mazer adds Transformers composer Vince DiCola, high profile crossovers photo
Starr Mazer adds Transformers composer Vince DiCola, high profile crossovers
by Darren Nakamura

Starr Mazer came out of the gate with an impressive roster of artists working on its soundtrack. Despite having a huge list of talent to pull from, developer Imagos Softworks has added another composer sure to pull on some nostalgia strings. Vince DiCola, composer of the 1986 Transformers movie soundtrack, has joined the team of contributors.

Over the past couple weeks, Starr Mazer has also announced crossover projects with other high profile Kickstarter titles. The inclusion of Children of Morta, Hyper Light Drifter, and Shovel Knight has been known, but the video above collects the interactions together, along with the announced voice cast. Paradise Lost: First Contact has also announced a crossover, though it is not featured in the video.

Below, a new trailer has been cut together, and it features the scene that made people interested in the point-and-click/shmup mashup in the first place. Yes, I want to jump off a ledge and have my remote-controlled spaceship catch me on the way down.

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Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords photo
Review: Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords
by Darren Nakamura

I would not last a day in Westeros. My best hope would be to spend some time in Oldtown to train as a maester, and even though it would help to protect me from personally going to war, I would probably be too close to the political intrigue underneath it all.

Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series: The Lost Lords is out, and now some of the seeds sown in Episode One are ready to harvest. As it turns out, I made all of the wrong decisions in Iron From Ice, and I continue to make all of the wrong decisions. With the path it is currently on, my version of House Forrester is doomed.

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Review: Nihilumbra photo
Review: Nihilumbra
by Greg Tito

There's a nugget of a solid game here in Nihilumbra. Unlike many of the PlayStation Vita's offerings, it uses the touchscreen in a novel way that doesn't feel tacked on or forced. And the puzzle-platforming is supported well by an ethereal art style, score, and sound design.

You just have to wade through a jumble of pseudo-philosophy to get to it.

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Review: Grim Fandango photo
Review: Grim Fandango
by Steven Hansen

Grim Fandango didn't need a remaster as much as it needed a re-release. Many, myself included, have found it difficult to track down a copy to play. We've had an entire digital catalog--GOG.com--devoted to getting good, old games up for sale on a digital storefront, but no Grim Fandango?

The touch-ups are appreciated. You can switch between the original and remastered look at the touch of a button. The latter has some nice dynamic lighting and new character models, but I stuck mostly with the former for its more vibrant colors. The in-game commentary is a nice touch. The non-tank controls are welcomed (as is the cheeky trophy for playing with tank controls).

No bones about it, though, Grim Fandango holds up on its original merits as a stylish, humerus adventure.

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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel illustrates the danger of nebulous season passes photo
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel illustrates the danger of nebulous season passes
by Darren Nakamura

Over the weekend, details came out of PAX Australia regarding the first downloadable Vault Hunter for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. At first, it looked to me like a commendable gesture for a series that receives a lot of criticism on its downloadable content policy. To include a new character in addition to the originally promised content for those loyal enough to buy a season pass seemed worthy of applause. However, that image was based on a misinterpretation of the official blog post's line that references "all four of the upcoming add-on content packs," and a few other (incorrect) assumptions.

As it turns out, the Handsome Jack Doppelganger Pack is DLC #1 for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (November 11 is upcoming, after all), and I could only feel more disappointed by that revelation if I had actually purchased this iteration's season pass. My condolences go out to those who did.

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Review: Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth photo
Review: Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth
by Darren Nakamura

"Civilization, but set in the future on an alien planet." That is really all Firaxis and 2K needed to say to get people excited for the next entry in the long-running turn-based strategy series. There is a fair amount of new ideas to be found here: new systems to explore, new technology to research, and new obstacles to overcome.

But even with everything new, Civilization: Beyond Earth is still Civilization, but set in the future on an alien planet. And it is exactly as good as that sounds.

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Review: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel photo
Review: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
by Darren Nakamura

[Disclosure: Anthony Burch, one of the writers for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, was previously employed at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the review.]

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I can imagine that mantra circulating the 2K Australia office as the team worked on Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Gearbox had a huge hit on its hands with Borderlands 2, and there is not much reason to mess with a winning formula.

To be clear, a lot of what matters is new. The story, playable characters, environments, dialogue, and physics are all new. Despite that, it all feels very familiar. Where a number of core systems were significantly upgraded between the first and second games in the series, The Pre-Sequel's additions are much less pronounced.

One odd aspect of some of the new content that this entry brings to the vault hunting universe is that it feels more like Borderlands than Borderlands 2 in some ways, for better and for worse.

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