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Found 248 results

  1. Harrison Lee

    Review: Flipping Death

    Developer: Zoink Games Publisher: Zoink Games Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One Release Date: August 7, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game Flipping Death is developer Zoink’s newest foray into side-scrolling cartoon adventure games. Those who recall Stick It to the Man! are likely aware of the studio’s penchant for oddball humor and situational comedy. Flipping Death follows in its spiritual predecessor’s footsteps, adopting a similar tone and art-style. Does it do enough to stand out from Zoink’s growing library, or will you be left flipping Death off? Players inhabit the mind of Penny Doewood, a recently-deceased young woman with a love of the macabre and all things Halloween. Death, however, is not the end for our dear protagonist. The scene literally flips to a place called the Otherside, where ghosts, restless souls, and all manner of strange creatures exist. Penny awakens in this alien, yet familiar, parallel world and immediately earns a job from Death himself. It seems the Grim Reaper is tired of constantly taking lives, and craves a quiet vacation to the Moon where there’s nothing but blissful, peaceful solitude. Flipping Death tasks Penny with solving the various crises of restless souls all across the Otherside. From a ship captain who got caught cheating because of his boat’s name to vivisected superhumans craving revenge, the offbeat cast of quirky characters provides much of Flipping Death’s charm. To help the ghosts reach a satisfying rest, Penny must possess the bodies of the living on the other side of her new world. While inhabiting a living host, Penny gains access to whatever abilities that person has. Each of these abilities is crucial to solving Flipping Death’s bevy of environmental puzzles, but can also be used to complete side objectives that reward character art cards. The perspective shift can be a bit jarring at first, but you’ll grow accustomed to it as time goes on. What you may struggle to come to grips with are the platforming mechanics, which feel a bit loose at the best of times. The Switch’s small controller nubs only make the lack of precision all the more noticeable, though it likely won’t impede your progress that much. Using ghost Penny’s scythe to teleport and capture souls in order to possess the living takes some getting used to, but the controls eventually become second-nature. Flipping Death isn’t terribly difficult, but a few of the environmental clues and the sequence of characters needed to complete the puzzles may stump you once or twice. The game encourages a trial-and-error approach, though you may find yourself possessing characters out of order. Unfortunately, I did run into a bug that did not let one of the characters I possessed leave his office-space, forcing me to reload the level. The rest of the experience was largely error-free and enjoyable. Like Stick It to the Man!, Flipping Death’s visual presentation is wholly unique and engrossing. The cartoon-esque world is vibrant and full of teeming, creepy things scuttling in the backgrounds. Character models are well-designed and fully-voiced, lending a good deal of strong production value to the whole experience. The Switch port does seem to suffer some minor input lag and dropped frames every now and then, but it’s to be expected given the hardware. This is, by and large, a well-executed version of the game that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. I missed out on Stick It to the Man!, but Flipping Death is a great introduction to Zoink’s zany brand of humor. The writing is consistently strong, even featuring some genuine warmth amid the gut laughs. A few odd bugs here and there and some occasionally frustrating platforming mechanics mar an otherwise-strong game, but that shouldn’t deter you from wearing Death’s mantle once again. With the Halloween season nearly upon us, there’s no better time to get spooky and take a trip to the Otherside. Pros + Well-written and genuinely funny + Beautiful art style and great audio production + Fun puzzles and a vibrant game-world Cons - A little buggy at points - Platforming on the Switch can be hit or miss Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10) Good Flipping Death is a brief, but very enjoyable journey through the spirit world. Its puzzles, artistic vision, and sense of humor are all on point. You’d do well to give this macabre world a look. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  2. barrel

    Review: Dead Cells

    Developer: Motion Twin Publisher: Motion Twin Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC Release Date: August 7, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game By being clearly inspired by numerous rogue-lite and Metroidvania titles, or to use its own preferred nomenclature of 'RogueVania', it can certainly be tempting to write Dead Cells off as just another one of those. However, Dead Cells is not content with simply paying tribute to iconic titles. There is an impressive sheen to nearly every facet of its gameplay that not only separates itself from its various contemporaries but also makes it so easy to get lost in the experience, even when it was in an Early Access state last year. After being constantly iterated upon, such as adding new levels, weapons, abilities, and plenty more, Dead Cells is now confident enough to consider itself a full product while also finally letting console owners in on the action as well -- and for great reason. The game quickly drops the player right in, quite literally, as an amorphous green sludge falls from the ceiling and reanimates a fallen humanoid vessel. This eerie landscape becomes one of the closest things to a home, especially after a failed run. Players will soon enough find themselves scrounging whatever tools they can to hopefully overcome their fierce enemy and environmental opposition as they uncover the mysterious depths of Dead Cells' world. Regardless of its moody world-building and sparse bits of lore (like a certain From Software series), however, Dead Cells absolutely thrives on its stellar combat-focused 2D gameplay above all else. Whether one is swinging a bulky axe, firing a crossbow, setting up a bear trap, or using hardly subtle nods to other gaming properties (like "Valmont's" whip), the underlying theme is that its huge offensive toolkit has a satisfying power behind it in the right hands. Little details like being able to roll-cancel or shield parry (if it's equipped) out of nearly every animation makes combat feel rather fair too, even though a specific run may not be generous in yielding one's favorite weapons or skills of choice and thus forces them to try out different ones. To help makes its multitude of weaponry and skills more digestible, Dead Cells divides them into the three in-game stat categories of Brutality, Tactics, and Survival, each of which can be strengthened by obtaining scrolls that are scattered across different levels. Despite the categorization simplification, there is a surprising nuance to each style like when picking 'mutation' passive abilities after completing each level. For example, Brutality can take the most advantage of a mutation that increases damage against an enemy suffering from a status ailment while someone specializing in Survival can regain more life per enemy kill. It is very enjoyable to watch once terrifying bosses/enemies quickly melt due to utilizing a smart synergy of mutations/weapons in addition to getting better and better at the game. For as thoroughly entertaining as Dead Cells is with its raw combat, the main reason why its addictive gameplay pull is so strong is because of how it wisely borrows and improves upon Rogue Legacy's overall structure. Rogue Legacy's most welcome contribution to "RogueVanias" was rewarding a player gradually in the form of unlocked blueprints for new abilities or various other conveniences after a failed run. Dead Cells technically does the same thing (while adding many new weapons too), yet the feedback loop is far more consistent by doing so after each completed level. This constant dopamine fix, in spite of the harsh difficulty at many times, also extends to its many branching level paths where thorough exploration can unveil some invaluable permanent upgrades like a quick wall run or a destructive ground pound that opens up the experience that much more. Amidst such incredibly tight gameplay and level design, Dead Cells' greatest blemish actually resides in its technical performance, which still often holds up rather well. Generally speaking, Dead Cells evokes a 2D sprite art feel with chunky pixels (mainly regarding enemy dismemberment) and smooth animations despite technically being rendered with 3D assets. Unfortunately, its key technical slight on PS4 happens mid-level where there is a brief stutter that seems to outright skip frames of animations before going back to the normally buttery smooth gameplay performance and this happens every few minutes. While I never encountered this problem during the mean boss fights, even after a successful hard mode run, I could see the visual hiccups being distracting enough to cause an untimely demise in more chaotic combat moments, so hopefully it can be cleaned up via patch soon. Dead Cells has the uncanny ability of being able to cherry-pick aspects from so many other games and have one be totally fine with it. Because, instead of instilling fatigue, Dead Cells far more often impresses the player by how masterfully realized just about every facet of its core design ends up being. Everything from the skill-based combat that is a total bliss to control, a highly-rewarding structure that accommodates a wealth of different player styles, and plenty of secrets to uncover creates a fiendishly addictive game experience that players will more than struggle to break from the "...just one more run" mentality it so actively encourages. Pros + Fiendishly addictive structure that encapsulates the 'just one more run' mindset + Incredibly tight, responsive combat that accommodates a huge wealth of different playstyles + Branching paths, many unlockables, and the improvisational nature easily makes no one playthrough the same + Stylish aesthetic with moody environmental backdrops Cons - Weird occasional visual stutters mid-level can be distracting Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Dead Cells does not shy away from a familiar "RogueVania" template, but rather chooses to do it so well that players will be hard-pressed to justify dividing their time when Dead Cells is that much more satisfying and rewarding to actually play Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  3. Developer: Sega/Media Vision Publisher: Sega Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC Release Date: July 10, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game The phrase "Shining" holds a very different connotation in the gaming space depending on who you ask. Ask an old school RPG fan what it means to them and they would likely mention its previous, tactical role-playing game form of the beloved Shining Force titles. If you were to ask developer Sega themselves, they would likely phrase it in a way that could be just about anything resembling an RPG, especially given the many games they have churned out under its banner. That said, the Shining series has most often shifted toward a more typical action-RPG template in Japan these past couple decades. Though it may be an enhanced release of a formerly Japanese-exclusive PlayStation 3 title, Shining Resonance Refrain should radiate as a curious new direction for the series after a long absence from English speakers specifically. Above nearly all else, Shining Resonance Refrain takes a keen interest in both dragons and music while very rarely separating either element. Everything from the usage of musical armaments (...called "Armonics") to the main character, Yuma, who bears the latent power of a powerful dragon, play pivotal roles in the overarching narrative. That said, ultimately, the story itself rarely boils down to being more than a handful of good guys fighting against an evil empire despite however much jargon it tries to throw at the player like "Diva Magica" or many phrases straight out of Norse mythology. The main story remains predictable to a fault and can be rather hokey in more than a few instances because of it. Gameplay-wise, Shining Resonance: Refrain takes more than a few notes from its action-RPG contemporaries (such as Namco's Tales of- series) but with a couple of minor twists. You have your real-time combat system in which normal attacks use a stamina gauge and it quickly becomes encouraged to use special MP skills right before one runs out of stamina to maintain a constant offense. To not so subtlety chime a reminder of the musical setup, there is also a BPM gauge that steadily builds up mid-battle which will provide a variety of buffs upon use depending on the song. Admittedly, battles are rather button-mashy, and quickly become routine, but are also easy to get into. The game also does a decent job at making each party member feel unique, such as the ranged grenadier, Marion, who can use support spells, and even the main character, Yuma, who quickly goes from using a standard longsword to transforming into the Shining Dragon mid-battle. There are more than a few battle system foibles than the simplicity of it, however. Some are amusing like the main character becoming overpowered to the point of trivializing most other attackers by literally only needing to mash the circle button from the halfway point and on. Less amusing, however, are the frequent slowdown for flashier spells and, what can be even more annoying, the sleepy ally AI especially in regards to healing/suicidal positioning. Unlike the frequent slowdown hiccups, thankfully some of the AI problems can get straightened out over time if one messes with 'traits' within the Bond Diagram mechanic, which affects AI tendencies like their increased inclination towards using healing or buffs/debuffs mid-fight. In sharp contrast to their unreliable combat usage, one of the surprising strengths of Shining Resonance Refrain's main playable cast is their likability in a story context. One the most obvious ways to see this is within the primary town, which features numerous interpersonal scenes as well as the opportunity to go on dates with party members (yes, guys included). It is clear that these affinity systems were mostly developed with the pretty lady characters in mind but the actual implementation comes across as far more wholesome than one would expect. In addition, there is a pretty earnest friendship that develops between everyone, and not just Yuma despite, well, the story having more than a few over-the-top anime antics moments in-between. Perhaps the biggest problem with the entire game (yes, even more than the very cliched main story) are the huge discrepancies caused by the level-up progression. Main story bosses spike in level at an absurd rate each chapter, and the means of gaining the experience to close the gap in a reasonable amount of time is quite limited. I had to go out of my way to look into items that made it so inactive party members would gain experience, and to increase the rate of seeing the in-game equivalent to Dragon Quest's Metal Slimes (called eggs) in specific, randomly generated Grimoire dungeons, because the experience obtained from normal enemies in regular environments was way too low (... just like in Dragon Quest). In spite of such glaring gameplay flaws, Shining Resonance Refrain still somehow manages to be better than the sum of its parts in charm alone. One of the key ways it does is in the sharp localization which makes an often predictable script somehow still entertaining to read, especially regarding character specific scenes in the central town. The underlying care also transfers to the audio, like how the instrumentation of BPM songs will change based on which character performs it; a nice touch to an already good soundtrack. Heck, even the English dub is solid as well, though I admit I gravitated towards the Japanese voices due to some top-notch talent and it having a more natural transition towards the Japanese-only vocal songs. Shining Resonance Resonance is one of those strange titles that is significantly flawed in both its gameplay progression and main storytelling yet manages to stumble onto the path of being enjoyable regardless. Its key flaws are quite difficult to ignore, especially if one has a low tolerance towards cliche storytelling (which it is dense with), and it requires a willingness to accept the genre stereotypes it so frequently leans on to see a more sincere, lighthearted underside. If one wants an easy to approach action-RPG that is as charming as it is predictable, Shining Resonance Refrain is a solid option. But those expecting anything deeper in their RPG experience would be much better served looking elsewhere than it. Pros + Easy to approach combat system that manages to make each playable character feel distinct + Likable main cast of characters with surprisingly wholesome vibe between them + Pleasant aesthetic from the sharp soundtrack to well-realized character models Cons - Very predictable storytelling that can be quite hokey with its anime tropes - Balancing party experience becomes cumbersome due to huge enemy level spikes between each main story chapter -Occasional slowdown and dumb ally AI unfortunately bog down combat - A bit too much backtracking between zones Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Shining Resonance Refrain does very little to veer from the course of many Japanese RPG stereotypes but for those willing to accept its often predictable nature can still find an earnest hidden charm underneath it all Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  4. After a successful Kickstarter run while supporting the game for nearly 2 years after its release, the long road for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is finally winding down, but not before some final surprises. Today, WayForward revealed that all versions of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (both the base and Ultimate edition) will receive a free content update that will include Jammies Mode and a brand new transformation. Jammies Mode will let you play through the campaign in Shantae's pajamas as well as pillow fight enemies, float on a dream-like cloud, and use sleepy sheep as projectiles. As for the new transformation, Shantae will be able to transform into Sophia III from Blaster Master Zero and blast enemies away. Interestingly enough, this isn't Shantae's first crossover with Blaster Master Zero. Last year, developer Inti Creates added Shantae as a playable DLC character in Blaster Master Zero, so it looks like WayForward is repaying the favor with the appearance of the latter title's Sophie III vehicle in Half-Genie Hero this time around. Check out both new additions in the trailer for the new update below! Source: Press Release Will you be checking out Jammies Mode or the Blaster Master transformation in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero?
  5. The Mega Man X series may be second to classic Mega Man (Mega Man 1-11) when comparing the number of core games in each (8 vs 11), but many fans often prefer the X games due to their increased focus on action gameplay as well as their darker dystopian future setting. But while the first three Mega Man X games had been readily available on the Wii Shop Channel (until its closure) and Wii U eShop, and 4 & 5 have been available on PSN for a number of years, it's been increasingly difficult to play 6 (due to only being available on collections on past consoles like PS2 and Gamecube), let alone 7 and 8 which have only been playable on the PlayStation 2 thus far and are now long out of print. Fortunately, that all changes this week as Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2 dash into retail and digital storefronts on all console platforms. Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 contains the first four Mega Man X games while Legacy Collection 2 houses Mega Man X 5 through 8. However, it's worth pointing out that if you're buying the retail version on Switch, Legacy Collection 2 is included as a download code and is not available through the cartridge like Mega Man X 1-4 are, so be sure you have plenty of space available for the download. In addition to the games, each Legacy Collection has a number of new features, such as... X Challenge Mode - a multi-boss challenge mode with three difficulty options and online leaderboards Rookie Hunter Mode - which makes the game a bit more manageable for newcomers and anyone else who is having a tough time Improved visuals - of which there are three visual filters to choose from: retro CRT, smooth, or original (which scales up the original aspect ratio for modern screens Museum - what Mega Man collection would be complete without one of these? You'll find tons of art, trailers, music, and even a short animated film called The Day of Σ, which chronicles the event leading up to the villainous Sigma's rebellion. Mega Man X Legacy Collection 1 & 2 are available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. You can buy both as a combo pack at retail for $39.99, or you can buy each individually for $19.99 on digital storefronts. Check out the launch trailer below! Source: Press Release Will you be buying either Mega Man X Legacy Collection? Let us know in the comments below!
  6. Harrison Lee

    Review: Vampyr

    Developer: Dontnod Entertainment Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: June 5, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature Note: This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game Playing Vampyr feels a lot like cracking open a three-quarters full piñata. The exterior is attractive and inviting, so you grab the nearest baseball bat and go to town. The candy spills out and you quickly devour it all before realizing something’s amiss. There’s less candy inside than what the tag on the piñata promised. The candy you’ve consumed then begins to turn a bit sour, and you’re left wanting something a bit more satisfying. Vampyr comes really close to being something awesome but falls prey to its own ambition. Vampyr’s anti-hero, Dr. Jonathan Reid, is dead. Or, at least, he was dead before being mysteriously resurrected amidst a pile of corpses. Reid wakes up with one heck of a hangover and a sudden craving for blood, along with some creepy narration from an unknown party. He’s immediately pursued by vampire hunters through the seedy underbelly of London, taking refuge at the local Pembroke Hospital under the auspices of a former medical colleague. Reid’s mission is to locate the person that brought him back from the dead and added his vampiric tastes. Whether he does so by curing or burning London to the ground is your choice. The first thing you’ll notice is how oppressive post-World War I London feels. The city is gripped by the plague of Spanish flu, and people are dying by the bucketfuls. Mass graves are everywhere, and crimson liquid coats the streets. Amidst this carnage, a darker power calls to Reid and his compatriots. Something is turning ordinary people into feral, bloodthirsty beasts. You can feel that fear and tension in the constant darkness and sheets of fog that swirl around London’s dirty back-alleys. The developers at Dontnod certainly nailed the look and feel of an early 20th-century city embroiled in chaos. Reid begins his search through the various districts of London, each with its own cast of characters and issues to deal with. The good (or bad) doctor can choose to pursue side-quests or rescue people in need, working to stabilize the health of the district. Characters with ailments can also be treated with medicinal elixirs created through the game’s simple crafting system. Interacting with and healing patients around each district will improve the overall health of the region. More importantly, Reid’s knowledge and treatment of each patient adds to the experience pool gained from Vampyr’s central gameplay conceit, “embracing”. Almost every named character Reid meets can be drained of blood for valuable experience, which players use to level up Reid’s combat abilities. Special abilities, health buffs, and combat techniques can only be accessed through large quantities of blood, so “embracing” offers a tantalizing path towards rapidly making the game’s combat easier. Unfortunately, killing an NPC badly damages the overall health of a district and will block off any quests related to that character. Your choices may also alter certain plot beats as you go along, in addition to any major decisions you make outside of killing characters. The point of the mechanic is to make you feel like a predator profiling its hapless prey, and the game greatly succeeds at this portrayal of villainy. Vampyr’s structure of choice is fascinating, but once you start digging around, you quickly discover it’s not nearly as developed as it looks. For one thing, I found certain decisions were a bit too vague in description, so I ended up screwing over half a district because the choice text wasn’t explicit. I don’t mind ambiguity or anything, but losing quest or “embracing” options feels a bit punishing. It’s also not clear why killing off someone like a gang member or a hustler would actually harm a district’s health, but such is the case in Vampyr. London is also prone to being a bit lifeless. I know the game’s plot suggests that citizens clear the streets due to the plague, but the game should then find other ways to reward exploration. Instead, I often ran into unproductive dead-ends or hollow building fronts that looked interesting from the outside, but only served as window dressing. The somewhat open-world often struggled with this, lacking ways to fill the play-space with engaging content. The well-acted dialogue with citizens provided some interesting tidbits of lore and hints for other characters, but it didn’t feel deep enough to mask the lack of things to do. Vampyr’s combat system also has a few issues. It’s a simpler version of Bloodborne or Dark Souls, with a lock-on targeting system, punishing damage, a slower, more methodical approach. Unfortunately, the targeting system is a bit wonky and often locks on to guys who aren’t the central threats. Reid’s attacks also require a good deal of close range combat, and the hit detection was occasionally spotty. Fights against tougher enemies and bosses often felt very similar to one another, requiring lots of dodging, healing, and quick strikes before dancing away. The action looks great but feels repetitive in practice. If you choose not to kill anyone like I did, the difficulty of combat noticeably increases, but not enough to lead to more than a few extra deaths here and there. I reviewed Vampyr on the Xbox One X, and despite the console’s added horsepower, the game did not run particularly well. It looked to be locked at 30 frames per second, with significant slowdown and framerate drops at random intervals. Vampyr isn’t exactly a technical marvel, so I was a bit surprised at the lesser optimization. The dialogue, as indicated previously, is generally well-acted. The music also suits the ambiance well and adds to the darkened atmosphere of London. The general feeling I came away with was that Vampyr was a neat experiment that came short of accomplishing its objective. There’s a strong framework for a fantastic action-RPG here, but technical limitations and a lack of content variety hamstrings the game. With further development and polish, the Vampyr franchise could be a cult classic. As it is, however, we’re left with an interesting but deeply flawed title that will probably resonate with a limited audience. Pros Strong, oppressive ambiance A great concept of choice that really emphasizes your predatory nature Lots of engaging dialogue to dig through Cons Combat is relatively lackluster Quite a few technical issues throughout Game world lacks development Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Vampyr is a great concept with middling execution. The skeleton of the game provides hope for a brighter future, but the appeal of this particular title is likely limited to a select few. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  7. This is not a drill. REPEAT, this is not a drill! SEGA's long-awaited Valkyria Chronicles 4 is finally set to release in late September! The first true sequel in the series since 2011, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is set in the same time period as the first game, but features an all-new cast as they brave the realities of war. Once again, the BLiTZ battle system makes its return, offering a mix of turn-based strategy, RPG, and real-time third-person shooter elements. You'll also be introduced to new additions such as the Grenadier class, offensive/defensive battleship support options, the chance for units to take a "Last Stand" action before their death, and much more. And, of course, Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII), makes his grand return here with a sweeping orchestral score for the fourth installment. Valkyria Chronicles is set to launch with two different versions at retail. One is the standard "Launch" version, which contains a Ragnarok (the adorable medic doggo) controller skin for whatever platform you chose, as well as the game itself. The other is the "Memoirs from Battle" Premium Edition ($99), which contains the following: Vinyl statue of the "Hafen" tank "Claude's Travel Journal" 100-paged themed artbook Two DLC adventures featuring Squad 7 characters (offers over 3 hours of content across 4 exclusive story missions and fully-voiced cutscenes) Valkyria Chronicles 4 is slated to release digitally and via retail on September 25 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam. Source: Press Release Will you be getting the game on launch? If so, which version will you get? Let us know in the comments below!
  8. barrel

    Review: Forgotton Anne

    Developer: Throughline Games Publisher: Square Enix Co. Platform: PS4, Xbox One, and PC Release Date: May 15, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen It has been a few years since the launch of the unconventional publishing platform, Square Enix Collective. Though it initially seemed like an excuse to see whether or not someone was crazy enough to make a pitch about resurrecting Gex, it has actually opened the gates for many smaller indie studios to potentially realize their own unique games with the helping hand of Square. The most recent fruition of their efforts is Throughline Games' gorgeous cinematic adventure game, Forgotton Anne [Editor's note: No, that's not a mispelling; it's really spelled that way]. Does this new indie title paint a brilliant landscape for the initiative, or does it distill only emptiness in its unrealized potential? The pretense of Forgotton Anne initially feels like that of some old children's fable. Inanimate objects forgotten in the modern human world, anything from a bookcase to someone's lost left sock, are whisked away to another world and gain both life and a conscious of their own. Yet, the children's story friendly tone quickly dissipates when those same inanimate objects (called Forgotlings) are immediately assigned labor jobs based on their perceived capabilities. Those that do not comply are quickly regarded as rebels that can have their life force forcefully removed and used as the energy source called Anima. To maintain the questionably strict forgotling status quo created by the mysterious human 'Bonku,' the player takes the mantle of his main 'Enforcer,' or rather the lead heroine 'Anne,' who is often dispatched to take care of such rebels with her life-stealing arca bracelet. From its intriguing setup to its much more enchanting anime-inspired art direction, Forgotten Anne does well to quickly draw the players in. Almost just as fast, Forgotton Anne plays with the moral implications of its lead heroine and her ability to 'distill' these now sentient forgotlings into becoming lifeless objects once more. While the choices themselves are often rather binary, like Mass Effect's paragon or renegade choices, the difference between showing empathy towards a forgotling or maintaining her reputation as a strict enforcer gets far more creative with its direct story usage from its halfway point and on through frequent callbacks to your former actions. However, for as much of a focal point is placed upon its cinematic choice-based narrative perhaps an equal amount if not more of its time is used to its puzzle-platformer adventure elements. The most common puzzle mechanic involves transferring anima (energy) from one object to another, usually machinery, and working around the limitations of it to help get to one's next destination. It's a shame that this puzzle mechanic never really hits either a cerebral or an intrinsic gameplay satisfaction. Players should be able to guess what the puzzle situation wants from the player right away and it will just be a matter of having Anne slowing move levers or change the course of electrical panels before reaching the next story beat. The only real exceptions to this anima mechanic usage are more due to their story implications in its latter half than really changing the actual gameplay design itself. Even though the underutilized anima mechanic or its weirdly stiff platforming elements are disappointing from a gameplay standpoint, Forgotton Anne's main appeal lies in seeing how the story will eventually pan it. Despite its vivid art direction and intriguing setup, the early story goings are unfortunately somewhat rather slow because of its larger emphasis on the puzzle adventure elements, which, as stated before, are not as good as they could be. Yet, there is a very clear narrative turning point when a certain forgotling character named "Fig" comes into play who really helps contextualize not only the world itself but even Anne as an actual character. It becomes difficult to empathize with Anne's father figure Bonku because of how much more charismatic Fig is in comparison despite the narrative's attempts at making Anne choose between them. Of course, the most charismatic aspect of all lies within its aesthetic. The environmental backdrops, in particular, are a real treat and it says a lot for its stellar art direction when I can be fresh off of Dragon's Crown Pro, one of the easiest examples of excellent 2D styled animation in gaming, and still be impressed by the visuals of Forgotton Anne. It is genuinely exciting to progress the story, even when it is not hitting on all cylinders with its pacing/shortcomings, because of its imaginatively realized world and eclectic forgotling characters that ooze personality with every animation. The soundtrack itself also has an impressive breadth to its score with some fine orchestral pieces that nicely accompany the visuals as well. However, if there is one strong blight upon Forgotton Anne's presentation, it is the English voice acting itself. While the script is generally fine, despite some really on-the-nose attempts at philosophical contemplation in latter story instances that act deeper than they actually are, a strong majority of the characters have a really stilted voice delivery which can be quite distracting at times. It's not anywhere near Chaos Wars bad or anything, certainly, but for a game with such heavy voice acting usage it takes away the excitement of seeing an interesting new character only to be underwhelmed by them as soon as they start talking, especially when nearly every other facet of the presentation is so alluring. Forgotton Anne is a solid, creative title that is teeming with good intentions. From its memorizing visuals to an intriguing world setup, it goes a long way to pique the player's curiosity throughout its brief story even though it is occasionally obfuscated by its own shortcomings such as so-so gameplay pacing and amateur voice acting performances. Yet, it is hard to hold that much of a grudge against Forgotton Anne's occasional mishaps in character for too long when its heart is clearly in the right place during its imaginatively realized adventure that somehow successfully breaths so much life into what should be listless inanimate objects. Pros + Captivating artstyle with some truly awe-striking environmental backdrops + Intriguing setup and characters that are most strongly illustrated in its later half + Choice mechanics that come back to haunt the player at surprising points Cons - Neither the puzzle nor platforming elements really hit a satisfying gameplay stride - Certain philosophical narrative aspects do get a bit too on the nose at times - Some stilted, amateur voice acting does frequently detract from story scenes when most other aspects of the presentation are so top-notch Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Forgotton Anne does a lot with very little and while it is not entirely successful in its gameplay nor its delivery of it it does manage to craft a gorgeous, intriguing adventure that is certainly worthy of one's attention shortcomings and all Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.
  9. We're just a week out from the release of Choice Provision's Runner3 and the anticipation fans are feeling couldn't be any higher. But if you thought Choice Provisions was done announcing surprises, think again. The developer revealed that two high-profile indie characters will be able to be unlocked as playable characters in-game. First up is Yacht Club's Shovel Knight, who has made cameo appearances in a number of indie games since his self-titled, breakout game in 2014. As for the second character, it's none other than Eddie Riggs, the protagonist of Brutal Legend. Fans may recall that Double Fine recently received the rights back from EA for the game, meaning you could possibly see Eddie Riggs make appearances in other games as well. Finally, a third character that was revealed was none other than Charles Martinet, also known as The Narrator of Runner2 and Runner3. But you would probably know him better as the iconic voice of Nintendo's Mario for the last 22 years. I... probably wouldn't expect to hear him do Mario's voice here, however. You know, all of that copyright stuff and such. You can play as all three cameo characters (well, when you unlock them) when Runner3 hits the Nintendo Switch eShop first on May 22 and then on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC at a later date. Source: Runner3.game Are you looking forward to playing as these characters in Runner3?
  10. After leaking online late yesterday in an online store listing, Activision has revealed today that Spyro the Dragon is indeed returning in late September in a fully remastered collection titled Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Unlike last year's Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, which was remastered by Vicarious Visions, Spyro Reignited Trilogy is being worked on by Toys for Bob, the same developer that created the now-defunct Skylanders series. Insomniac Games, who developed the original Spyro trilogy of games, is not involved with this collection. IGN spoke with Toys for Bob's Paul Yan and Joshua Nadelberg, who revealed that the original score (which was composed by The Police's Stewart Copeland) has been reimagined for this collection. Also, while the original Spyro was split between two different voice actors, the Spyro in Reignited Trilogy will be entirely voiced by Tom Kenny -- the renowned voice actor behind Sponge Bob Squarepants and many other characters, and who originally did the voice for Spyro in Spyro: Ripto's Rage and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Spyro Reignited Trilogy is slated for release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 21. No official release has been announced for Nintendo Switch as of yet, though the game is listed on Nintendo UK's online store; it is unknown if this is simply a mistake or if that version's reveal will come at a later time. Check out some of the gorgeous remastered footage from the remastered collection below. Source: PlayStation Blog Are you excited that Spyro is coming back?
  11. Hailinel

    Review: Attack On Titan 2

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: March 20, 2018 ESRB: M Note: This review is based on the PS4 version of the game Released in 2016, the original Attack on Titan was both a fun action game and a novel title from Omega Force, which for most of its history has been focused almost exclusively on the long-running Musou franchise. With Attack on Titan 2, the studio has returned to the world of high-flying, giant-slaying action, bringing some significant new twists along for the ride. Is a return to the world outside of the walls worth it? Like the original game, Attack on Titan 2 is based on the anime, rather than the original manga. Where the first game covered the scope of the first (and at that point, only) season of the series, the sequel covers both Seasons 1 and 2. The biggest change in terms of the story presentation, however, is in the point of view. New to the game is an original, player-created protagonist who joins the fight against the Titans alongside the established cast, and elements of the story have been rewritten to account for the player-character’s presence. For the most part, the presence of the new character works. The character creation system is robust, allowing for a fair degree of fine custom detail. The plot remains focused on Eren, Armin, Mikasa, and the other cadets of the 104th, giving the player a secondary observational role in most of the proceedings as famous scenes from the series play out. This premise does stretch itself thin in the latter half of the game, however, as the player zips back and forth between different battlefields as the characters are scattered, but that logistical detail is simple enough to forgive. The core gameplay of Attack on Titan 2 is nearly identical to that of the original game. During battle, the player can swing through the air using ODM (omni-directional mobility) gear to approach and latch onto rampaging Titans; giant, monstrous humanoids that can only be killed by striking at the napes of their necks, but who can be weakened or slowed down by severing their arms and legs. The core gameplay loop of approaching and downing Titans one after another is a satisfying one, but it can take practice to learn ideal positioning. And sometimes, what appears to be an ideal strike will result instead in a miss, causing the player to rebound away. Similar issues can arise when a Titan has been sent falling to the ground. Prone Titans can clip through nearby environmental objects such as buildings or supply bases, which can sometimes hamper getting in a clean shot on the nape. This can be mitigated with practice, but it’s still disappointing that Titans don’t react to the surrounding environment when they fall. In the original Attack on Titan, some portions of the story allowed the player to assume direct control of Eren’s Titan form, allowing for direct hand-to-hand combat against other Titans. While Attack on Titan 2 removes such sequences from the Story Mode’s primary scenarios, this feature has been given a new focus in a mini-game that becomes available at the Titan Research Lab. The player can “learn” about Titan behavior by taking on timed challenges while in control of one of the many standard Titans found in the game, though this feature isn’t available until after the player has managed to capture a Titan for the first time, rather than kill it. Getting rewarded for successful human-munching rampages is amusing and a good distraction from the game’s primary action, though the context of its inclusion relative to the story is bizarre. The biggest gameplay change to come with the sequel is a new emphasis on day-to-day life and activity. Between missions, the player has the freedom to wander the Trost District and other locales to speak with their comrades. Similar to mechanics in games like the Fire Emblem series, the player can raise support levels with various characters they meet by both fighting alongside them in battle and during social events responding to their comments appropriately. As these support levels rise, the player will gain access to new skills that boost stats or impart new combat abilities. That in mind, socializing is a must, and fortunately, many of the social event scenes in the game are entertaining. Outside of Story Mode, the other primary game mode is Another Mode. Playable in single-player as well as in online multiplayer, this mode is focused around completing smaller side-missions. These missions can generally be finished in a matter of minutes, making them ideal for quick play. Those that play it on the Switch also have the option of local wireless multiplayer, though I have not had the ability to test this feature out for myself. Online play quality has from my experience been OK, though I have also run into several connection errors while accessing online features in the lobby. The presentation in Attack on Titan 2 is on par with the original game. Its characters, both human and Titan, are rendered in colorful detail, and the story dialogue is fully voiced in Japanese. Performance is mostly smooth, though some battles that become particularly hectic with large numbers of Titans and aerial humans on screen at once can cause spots of momentary chugging. Attack on Titan 2 is what a good sequel should be. It improves on the key features of the original game, and its player-created protagonist adds a fresh take to previously-adapted material. While there are rough patches that could have used more polish, it’s a respectable sequel overall, and fans of the series should find it well worth their time. Pros + Fully adapts two seasons of the Attack on Titan anime from the perspective of an original protagonist + Tweaks to aerial combat provide the player with new options + The character progression system offers a great deal of flexibility + A larger roster of major and minor Attack on Titan characters can be unlocked for use in Another Mode Cons - Camera angles can sometimes make lining up an attack more difficult - Some of the finer elements of combat aren’t as well-explained as they could be, making some aspects of getting good at combat an at-times frustrating act of trial-and-error Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great Attack On Titan 2 is a worthy follow-up that improves on key features of the original game while also adding fresh takes, even if the game could use a bit more polish in some areas. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using a retail copy that was bought by the reviewer
  12. Zen Studios has been incredibly successful over the years with their licensed pinball adaptations, and next week they'll keep their streak going with a new two-pack based on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. One table will be based on the overall plot of the film, featuring the Resistance on the run from the First Order, Finn and Rose's side adventure to the casino world of Canto Bight, and the final showdown on Crait. The second table will focus on the other half of the movie -- namely, Rey's time on Ach-to with Luke Skywalker. You'll get to play through both tables in the Star Wars: The Last Jedi two-pack is released as DLC for Pinball FX3 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam as well as Mac, the App Store, and the Google Play Store on April 17. Check out the trailers for both tables below! Source: Press Release Will you be checking out the latest Star Wars-themed tables for Pinball FX3?
  13. Nearly a year after its initial release, SEGA has announced today that Sonic Mania will be getting an all-new edition of the game called Sonic Mania Plus. This new version will not only be the first real physical version of the game, it also includes a SEGA Genesis reversible cover (for those nostalgic for old Genesis boxart covers), a 32-page art book, and two new characters: Ray the Flying Squirrel and Mighty the Armadillo. The latter might be more familiar to longtime Sonic fans, since Mighty appeared in Knuckles' Chaotix on SEGA's short-lived 32X add-on for the Genesis. But both characters first appeared in a Japanese-only arcade game called SegaSonic the Hedgehog (no, I'm not making this up!). SEGA says there is "more" to the game as well, leading us to believe they'll reveal more info leading up to its release. In the meantime, you can look forward to playing Sonic Mania Plus when it releases this Summer on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Source: SEGA (via Twitter) Are you interested in Sonic Mania Plus and its new additions?
  14. The Shining series is one we haven't seen in the West for nearly 11 years now (with the last game being Shining Force EXA on PS2 in 2007), but that will all change soon as SEGA announced today that it will be bringing Shining Resonance Refrain to North America this summer. Originally called Shining Resonance -- previously a Japanese-only release on PS3 in 2014 -- this remaster collects the original game, all of its DLC, features dual audio with Japanese and English tracks, and includes a new "Refrain Mode," which unlocks two characters (Imperial Princess Excella and Dragonslayer Jinas) for use in your party. Shining Resonance Refrain's story centers on a young man named Yuma whom has the soul of a Shining Dragon in him and can transform into one through use of his sword. However, this makes him the target of the Empire, who want to use his power against the Kingdom of Astoria. After a rescue effort by the latter and its princess, Sonia, Yuma is moved by the plight of their nation and joins the fight to save their land. The game's battle system features two interesting aspects -- one is the Resonance system (hence the game's title), in which characters can deepen their relationship and form a "Resonance" with each other through events and dates, thus providing a new level of support in battle. Another is the B.A.N.D. system, which your party will be able to play rune songs that can provide beneficial effects throughout the battle; certain characters might even perform the song in a different costume as well. Shining Resonance Refrain's launch edition will feature a collectible metal slipcase featuring artwork of Excella, Sonia, and Kirika, and will release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for $49.99 USD/$64.99 CAD this Summer. No specific date has been announced yet, but we'll let you know as soon as they announce it. Check out the game's official announcement trailer below, which shows off a segment with characters jamming to the B.A.N.D. system. Source: Press Release Are you excited that a new Shining title is headed to the West?
  15. Hailinel

    Review: Dynasty Warriors 9

    Developer: Omega Force Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: February 13, 2018 ESRB: T for Teen Note: This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game Change can be an odd thing. Video games, particularly those from long-running series, are often accused of not changing things enough from one game to the next. In the best-case scenarios, making a grand, sweeping change to an old formula can be just the shot in the arm a series needs. But there’s also the risk of a change backfiring, doing more to alienate established fans than expand the audience. Dynasty Warriors 9, Koei Tecmo’s latest entry in their core Musou franchise, is easily the boldest attempt at redefining what a Musou game is, but does that boldness equate success? Like its predecessors, Dynasty Warriors 9 is an action game adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms -- a romanticized retelling of a turbulent period of Chinese history that followed the fall of the Han Dynasty. The core narrative follows the individual factions of Wei, Wu, Shu, and Jin, with a few others from the period before the foundation of the three kingdoms or that exist outside of the tripartite conflict. Against this backdrop, there are over ninety playable characters, each with their own story mode and ending, though only a few characters are available from the start. What sets Dynasty Warriors 9 apart from the previous entries is its new open-world structure. While previous games featured contained maps as individual stages with sets of choreographed objectives, Dynasty Warriors 9 presents the player with the entirety of post-Han China to explore. The landscape is enormous, dotted with cities, fortresses, peasant villages, vast plains, steep mountains, thick forests and lush jungles. Coming to this game from previous entries, it’s astonishing to see just how large the map is. With the new open world and expansive map comes a significant change in the game’s basic flow and structure. In a traditional Musou title, the player begins a stage on an enclosed map and is given a series of objectives to perform, some optional, some not, until the final objective is reached and achieved; generally defeating a stage boss, reaching a specific point on the map, or escorting an ally character to safety. This basic flow is still present, in a sense, but it’s not immediately obvious. Each chapter in Dynasty Warriors 9 is structured such that the player is tasked with a primary objective, along with a series of secondary missions that are scattered around the map. It’s entirely possible to rush in and complete the primary objective, thus immediately leading to the next primary objective or ending the chapter, but in doing so, the player can miss out on story beats and mission rewards. Additionally, the core difficulty of the primary objective gradually lowers as more of the secondary missions are completed, representing the player’s efforts in either aiding their force’s advancement or stymying the enemy’s own plans. A side-effect of this new flow is that there’s more downtime between the larger battles, but this isn’t a negative. The game is open enough that it’s possible to advance from one mission to the next without delving off the beaten path. Even if the focus is kept on the missions, it’s not uncommon to end a chapter with an enemy KO count ranging between three to five thousand. After putting in the efforts to clear all of a major battle’s sub-missions, it’s rewarding to ride up to the final battle as enemy officers express panic over a lack of reinforcements, dwindling supplies, and malfunctioning siege weapons. And when it comes to the combat, Dynasty Warriors 9 isn’t afraid to make some significant, but welcome changes. The charge system of combat that was present in most prior entries has been replaced with a flow system that emphasizes the use of flowing state modifiers to stun an enemy, knock them in the air, or to the ground, as well as moves such as finishers that become available when an enemy officer’s health has been reduced enough. It dramatically alters the feel of combat, but unlike the much-maligned Renbu System that was introduced in Dynasty Warriors 6 and immediately abandoned, this new system feels like a change for the better. Dynasty Warriors 9 is most recognizably like past entries in the series during the larger battles, where the game is at its most frantic. Whether it’s avoiding elemental magic while making the final push to Zhang Jiao or choosing whether to pursue Lu Bu at Hu Lao Gate, the wild moments that have defined the series are still present. The open world structure simply offers more options in either approaching or avoiding them, just as the new combat system offers room to be more freeform in experimenting with attack combos. As for the open world itself, it’s fun to finally see China in a better context. While obviously not a scale representation of the nation, seeing how locations that were the settings or set pieces of enclosed stages in previous games now have a geographic relationship with the rest of the world is enlightening for someone like me that didn’t have that kind of understanding before. It also adds to that sense of progression, particularly for parts like the march from Si Shui Gate to Hu Lao Gate, and finally to the confrontation with Dong Zhuo in Luoyang. Other moments that were represented with fanciful scenarios in past games, such as the Battle of Chibi or the escape through the stone sentinel maze, are given a more realistic touch with their locales being defined parts of the large world. But the open world isn’t perfect. Like many games with such vast worlds to explore, Dynasty Warriors 9 has its share of odd glitches and bugs. The worst I came across prevented harvestable materials from spawning, which impeded the completion of a sidequest. Fortunately, the issue corrected itself when I saved, exited, and then reloaded the game. Some of the battles also simply aren’t as engaging in the open world context. Naval battles, while very few and far between, involve taking a small boat out into a body of water to meet up with other boats, and then jumping from one boat to another to take on a handful of enemies that can easily be knocked into the water, only to respawn on the deck over and over until they’re defeated. Thankfully, these battles aren’t very long, but they just aren’t a good fit for the combat of a Dynasty Warriors game. The basic exploration of the open world is very similar in structure to other games. Points of interest become highlighted on the map on approach, making them viable points for fast travel, waymarks on roadsides point out locations on the map that haven’t been found yet, and watchtowers can be climbed to uncover large swaths of land in addition to new locations and material item spawn points. Many of the villages and cities are home to various facilities such as blacksmiths and shops where new items can be bought or crafted, and some of these facilities have even appeared in previous Musou titles that featured explorable hub zones dating back to Dynasty Warriors 7. Out in the wilderness, the number of activities to engage in is sparse. Wildlife can be stalked and hunted with a bow (Dynasty Warriors 9 is, in fact, the first game in the series to give everyone a secondary bow weapon since the PS2 era), and it’s possible to fish in any body of water so long as you possess bait. Both activities net material resources useful for cooking or crafting. There are also roving bands of bandits with powerful leaders that can be similarly encountered, and both townsfolk and captains in the smaller forts that dot the roadways offer optional sidequests that mostly boil down to defeating a certain enemy at a certain location for a small reward. These activities can be fun in spurts, but unless you’re intent on getting materials for a specific item or weapon, they can be safely ignored. The side activity I’ve found most engaging is the use of the hideaways. Scattered around the map, hideaways are homes that the player can purchase, use as fast travel points, and decorate how they see fit. Certain furniture when acquired also gives the player ready access to cooking and crafting, changing the player’s costume, and the ability to receive gifts from friendly officers. It’s even possible to invite other officers in for a visit to raise the player’s relationship with them. In a way, it’s a little like having a slice of Animal Crossing in Dynasty Warriors. Regarding the game’s story, Dynasty Warriors 9 is one of the best interpretations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms that the series has yet produced, possibly only second to Dynasty Warriors 7. The length of each character’s story differs, with some being significantly longer than others, but the range of characters offer differing perspectives on the same periods of time, and each character has their own unique story ending. If there’s a hindrance to the storytelling, it's in the game’s English voice acting (and all new English voice cast), with many performances that range from bland to poor. However, the game does come with the Japanese language voices, and in a first for the series, full voice acting in Chinese. The general presentation is solid as well, highlighted by the detailed character models of the core roster. However, the game shipped with noticeable performance issues on all platforms, and Koei Tecmo has been working to iron these out. Playing the game on my standard launch PS4 with a performance patch in place, I’ve felt that the game’s performance is more than acceptable, though if you’re the sort that demands anything akin to a consistent 60fps at all times, you won’t find that here. Graphic pop-in is also common, the most extreme cases involving the smaller, destructible wooden roadside forts that dot the landscape. Riding up to them on a high-level horse at full speed, I frequently met soldiers engaging in a small skirmish before the fortifications had time to appear. It should be noted that the game has received additional support since its launch beyond performance adjustments. Quality-of-life touches have been made to rebalance certain aspects, ease exploration of the map, and even unlock characters at a faster rate. These fixes are certainly welcome, and I hope that more are coming, as the game was certainly in need of polish at its release. Dynasty Warriors 9 is a fun game; one that I’ve put dozens of hours into and expect to put in dozens more. Its open world is destined to be divisive, and not everyone that loves Dynasty Warriors games or Musou titles for what they are may be willing or able to adapt to the new format, which even for a series veteran like me required time to understand. The game has both incredible highs and annoying lows, and I could easily go on measuring aspects of both against each other. But with the new combat system, quality storytelling, and willingness to experiment with a new gameplay format, I’d tell any veteran fan of the series to at least give it a shot. It’s not what we’re used to, but it is still Dynasty Warriors, if only through a different lens. Pros + New combat system offers a new an interesting flow to battle + A vast open world based on Three Kingdoms-era China +90+ characters to play as + The soundtrack offers a mix of beautiful orchestral and rocking battle music + An engaging and entertaining retelling of Romance of the Three Kingdoms with Japanese and Chinese language options Cons - Performance issues and glitches - Poor English voice acting quality - A lack of depth to open world activities - Some characters are missing their signature weapons from previous entries - Select missions don’t mesh well with the open world structure Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good Dynasty Warriors 9 is a fun game that has both incredible highs and annoying lows, and with the new combat system, quality storytelling, and willingness to experiment with a new gameplay format, I’d tell any veteran fan of the series to at least give it a shot. Disclosure: This review is based on retail product that was paid for by the reviewer
  16. The Xbox Game Pass got a major boost today as it was announced that Xbox One exclusives will now come to the service day and date with their release. The first three games to get this treatment will be Sea of Thieves (coming March 20), State of Decay 2, and Crackdown 3. Xbox's Phil Spencer also clarified that this applies to every future Xbox One exclusive, making this a pretty big coup for Xbox and Microsoft in general, given that PlayStation and Nintendo don't have any equivalents to this yet. As a reminder, Xbox Game Pass gives players access to 100 games for $9.99 a month as long as you're subscribed. The list of games is rotated regularly as well, making way for new and different games. Given that Xbox's biggest exclusives generally cost $59.99 at release, this could be a game changer for monetizing the way people pay for games if you can access them for only $9.99 a month now. It could also hint at Xbox's strategy for their next generation console as well. Source: Major Nelson What are your thoughts on Xbox Game Pass including future Xbox One exclusives? Does it make you want to subscribe?
  17. Harrison Lee

    Review: Elex

    Developer: Piranha Bytes Publisher: THQ Nordic Platform: PC, PS4 and Xbox One Release Date: October 17, 2017 ESRB: M for Mature Note: This review is based on the PC version of the game Most modern RPGs have favored diverse, emergent storytelling, where traditional gameplay tropes of the genre are eschewed for greater accessibility and player empowerment. The Elder Scrolls series is the most obvious and greatest example of this trend, but there remain bands of holdouts who prefer their RPGs a bit more hardcore. The most old-school fans of the genre have often turned to Piranha Bytes, a German studio with a repertoire of flawed gems. The eccentric developer’s most recent release, ELEX, is much the same as the infamous Gothic and Risen series that have inspired it. You begin as nothing, and after hours of grinding, you’ll be only slightly more than nothing. The sooner you figure out everything can and will kill you, the sooner you’ll be on your way to deciding the fate of ELEX’s expansive, dangerous world. The Earth-like planet of Magalan is in rebuild after an apocalyptic meteor shower has left the landscape desolate. Humans huddle in small communes, from Mad Max-style bandits to nature-worshipping forest guardians. The planet’s surface is now scarred by strange blue crystals called elex. Some of the humans, known as Albs, have taken to ingesting the crystals in order to gain exponentially increased strength at the cost of their humanity. Believing the rest of the world to be a plague of free will, the Albs will stop at nothing to extinguish resistance and bring the world of Magalan under control. Players take on the role of ex-Alb Jax, a former commander who’s left for dead after he fails an important mission. For some reason, Jax has to hunt down his brother who tried to kill him and take his revenge. Not much of this is really explained, save for some loading screen text, but the plot is more or less a pretext to go nuts. Players will come into contact with four different factions, each with their own set of quests to complete, fighting styles, and purchasable gear. After visiting each faction and getting some introductions out of the way, players are free to align with a given faction and pursue the associated main quest lines. Many of the choices you’ll make throughout the various missions will impact later plot outcomes. It leaves a better sense of permanence and impact, even if the consequences aren’t immediately felt. The side quests are equally engaging, focusing on the efforts of various faction members to make a living in a post-apocalyptic society. You’ll be doing as many supply runs and fetch quests as you will combat encounters. Despite the general similarity in quest types, it doesn’t always feel as rote as it sounds. Part of this is due to the strong world design ELEX offers. Environments are generally varied, and there are always fun secrets and side quests hiding off the beaten path. Jax comes prepackaged with a jetpack, which means getting around to higher elevations is a breeze. Just be forewarned….the earlier levels make it difficult to traverse enemy-ridden areas. Your equipment is your only defense against Magalan’s steady stream of non-level scaled threats, so you’ll find avoiding conflict tends to be the best bet until your gear is improved. You’ll be doing a lot more running than fighting. When fighting becomes unavoidable, ELEX fumbles a bit. There’s a combo-based combat system that’s a holdover from previous Piranha Bytes games (unless you’ve played Risen, you wouldn’t know this). Like many of ELEX’s systems, not much is explained. You’re left to deduce the combat mechanics on your own, which can lead to some frustration when you’re regularly getting caved in by mutant dogs. Melee is also the most useful method of combat, with ranged weaponry being mostly ineffective due to ammo/damage constraints. ELEX is also a little rough around the edges on the technical side. You’ll see some funky bugs every now and then, including a bit of clipping or getting stuck on game-world objects. Some of the voice-acting can also come off a bit stilted, though I generally didn’t notice it that much. This is clearly an ambitious game limited by a smaller budget, but you’ll be too busy trying not to die to notice. What may frustrate you more is the hit-or-miss combat and the lack of clarity in how to navigate Magalan. ELEX is very old-school in its approach and pulls no punches in keeping you in your place, occasionally to detrimental effect. If you like your RPGs a bit on the punishing side, ELEX will likely be up your alley. It can be a beautiful, ambitious, and rewarding game. It can also be a maddeningly difficult and obtuse experience for the uninitiated. If you let ELEX unfold itself to you, you’ll find a deep, rich lore around decently-engaging exploration. Jax’s adventures don’t always land with a bang, but there’s probably something you’ll like in ELEX’s toybox approach to world-building and combat. Pros A rich, detailed game-world that is nowhere near as boring as the name Plenty of freedom to decide who you want to align with or destroy Surprisingly ambitious given the budgetary constraints, with plenty of things to see and do Cons Lacking polish on the technical side, and some stilted voice-acting/writing Painfully difficult for beginners, even on the easiest setting Overall Score: 7 (out of 10) Good ELEX won’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does offer is charming, if occasionally maddening. Take the time dig into Pirahna Byte’s weird mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy tropes if you dare, but stay for the atmosphere and freedom.
  18. Let's be honest: things weren't looking good for the Valkyria Chronicles series after the latest entry, Valkyria Chronicles Revolution, came out in June this year and underwhelmed, both critically and sales-wise (Barrel called it a "husk of a spin-off that is unlikely to really satisfy existing Valkyria fans" in his review). Luckily for us, SEGA isn't that quick to give up on the series. In fact, they've just announced a proper fourth game in the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4, and it's coming out sometime in 2018 in North America and Europe. This game will see the top-down, third-person strategy elements mixed with RPG and 3rd-person shooter elements make a return, along with larger scale maps with more units, a new class called the "Grenadier", numerous defensive and offensive battleship support options, units being able to make a "last stand" action before death, and more. Also making his return as composer is Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy Tactics), who is sure to provide more of his sweeping, epic tracks to accompany the World War II-inspired story. Most surprising of all? Not only is Valkyria Chronicles 4 coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One; it's also coming to Nintendo Switch -- a pretty big show of faith for the new console/handheld hybrid on SEGA's part. For now, check out the game's trailer below as we await more info in the coming months and year ahead. Source: Press Release Are you excited that Valkyria Chronicles is making a return with a brand new installment? And how about that Switch release?
  19. ...well, it's decent, I guess. Here's a look at what you'll get throughout November. Let's not mince words here: Tales from the Borderlands is said to be great (I still haven't played it, unfortunately), but how many people don't actually own that yet? Imo, Nights into Dreams doesn't hold up to today's standards; Trackmania Turbo seems alright if you're into racing games; Deadfall Adventures is not something I know anything about, so who knows how that is. Overall, not terrible, but also not one of the better months. What do you guys make of the selection?
  20. It's the end of an era for one Microsoft product this week; namely, the Kinect. This week officially marks the end of production for the motion-tracking device as confirmed by the Redmond tech giant. You might be surprised as I was to find out they were still producing Kinects given that no new major games have used it in the last several years. However, it did have a better run than most might realize. From its release until now, Kinect has sold more than 35 million units around the world. A good portion of that number includes bundles with the Xbox 360, and more notably with the Xbox One when it infamously launched only as a bundle at the console's launch. It was arguably the Kinect that could be blamed for Xbox One's lagging behind PlayStation 4 since the bundling in of the motion-tracking camera set Microsoft's console a cool $100 above its competition. Regardless, the Kinect has had a colorful life, if not an acclaimed one. While it's not known for any big game experiences in particular -- one of its most infamous uses was for a bizarrely off-tone dance minigame in Kinect Star Wars -- its best use for many gamers was its voice recognition, which could be used to open different games, apps, movies, and the like. Farewell Kinect. You may not be missed, but you'll certainly be remembered... in one way or another. Source: Polygon What are your thoughts on Microsoft ending production for the Kinect?
  21. Steven Universe fans, prepare yourselves; Cartoon Network has finally announced a release date for the upcoming game, Steven Universe: Save the Light, and it's coming very soon. Save the Light is a sequel to the mobile-only RPG Steven Universe: Attack the Light, and features a brand new story in partnership with show creator Rebecca Sugar. You'll go on a journey and meet new and familiar characters and enemies while also exploring fan-favorite locations like Beach City, Strawberry Battlefields, the Great North, and more; all to combat a brand new threat. While playing, you'll assemble a party from a crew of eight playable characters -- including newcomers like Connie, Lapis, Peridot, and even Steven's dad, Greg Universe (in addition to the show's primary four protagonists, Steven and the Crystal Gems) -- and level them up with new abilities and craftable gear. Battles are active turn-based, and will feature team attacks as well as the ability to use different Gem/character fusions like Stevonnie, Opal, and Sardonyx. Steven Universe: Save the Light will be releasing on October 31 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Source: Press Release Are you looking forward to this game?
  22. If you thought Star Wars Battlefront II was just more of what the last game did, think again. Chief among the new additions to Battlefront II is an actual, original, singe-player campaign that highlights the story of female protagonist Iden Versio and her Inferno Squad, and what happens to the Empire after the events of Return of the Jedi when the second Death Star is destroyed. Take a look at the story sequence below. Impressive visuals aside, the sequence exhibits EA Motive's impressive efforts to replicate a cinematic feel to the story, and the inclusion of the Emperor's messenger droid is both creepy and a neat addition to the universe at the same time. It's a good indication of what the overall story will be like, so if you're a big Star Wars fan, you might not want to miss this one. Star Wars Battlefront II is slated to release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 17. What are your thoughts on the story scene trailer for Battlefront II?
  23. A new Games With Gold lineup announced on the same day as the October 2017 PS Plus lineup? WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO? Anyhoo, here's the October lineup for Microsoft's Games With Gold: Gone Home (Xbox One, Oct. 1-31) The Turing Test (Xbox One, Oct. 15 to Nov. 15) Rayman 3 HD (Xbox 360, Oct. 1-15) Medal of Honor: Airborne (Xbox 360, Oct. 16-31) Not a bad lineup either. I can't imagine many people haven't played Gone Home at this point, but that's just me. I'm definitely interested in The Turing Test, though. Shame I don't have XBLG right now...
  24. Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata mentioned in the past that a multiplayer update would be coming for the game for everyone who bought the Season Pass, but little else has been said about it since. The good news is we're finally getting that multiplayer update next month on October 31st, and it's titled 'Comrades.' The big question on most peoples' minds about this expansion like is: "How does multiplayer fit into FFXV's story, especially when it's about Noctis and his three friends?" And the answer to that gets a bit spoilery; needless to say, you might want to finish Chapter 13 before reading further if you haven't gotten that far yet and want to avoid any spoilers. In any case, this mode takes place in the world that's engulfed in darkness after Noctis disappears. You'll create your own member of the Kingsglaive (who'd managed to survive the attack on Crown City) and set out to discover what happened to the prince while tapping into different powers and abilities from various Lucian kings. Square Enix mentions that there will also be single player quests in addition to multiplayer ones to play through. You can check out the trailer for Final Fantasy XV's 'Comrades' multiplayer expansion below. Source: Press Release Are you interested in playing FFXV's multiplayer expansion?
  25. Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is underway this week in Japan, and last night Sony held their annual pre-TGS press conference to showcase new games and other announcements. While there were a host of new games announced, one very big piece of news was also revealed: Monster Hunter: World's release date. Capcom mentioned the game would be releasing sooner than most people probably realized: January 26, 2018. This effectively makes it the first big AAA game release of 2018, and is also sure to make Monster Hunter fans pretty happy to boot. Also announced were Digital Deluxe and physical Collector's Edition versions of the game alongside the standard version; pre-orders for all three start today. The Digital Deluxe Edition includes the digital game, plus additional customizable options that can be used in-game: a Samurai Set skin, three gestures, two sticker sets, plus an extra face paint and hair style option for the hunter. As for the North American version of the physical Collector's Edition, it includes a physical copy of the game, voucher for the additional customizable options from the Digital Deluxe Edition (a Samurai Set skin, three gestures, two sticker sets, plus an extra face paint and hair style option for the hunter), a 32 page hardcover art book, high-quality flagship monster statue, and digital soundtrack code, all for $149.99. Capcom also released a new trailer for the game, which can be seen below. Monster Hunter: World kicks off the hunt globally on January 26, 2018 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with a PC version to follow sometime after. Source: Press Release Are you looking forward to Monster Hunter: World?
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