At E3 2017, independent UK studio Rebellion highlighted their upcoming Rogue Trooper Redux which releases Oct. 17. Rogue Trooper initially released in 2006 to PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Gameplay is in third-person shooter format and follows the titular hero Rogue as he navigates the world Nu-Earth, the last survivor of his unit of genetic infantrymen. Though his fellow GI’s lose their form as blue troopers, their engineering allows them to live on in Rogue’s gear through implanted biochips.
The redux is a remaster and upgrades the 2006 graphics to HD, remodels assets, updates lighting, enhancing geometry along with other visual aspects. New features have been added as well that include additional difficulty settings, a revamped cover system, and modernized controls.
I got the chance to experience the reboot first hand during a demo at E3. The demo took place during the first part of the game as each of Rogue’s squad members are getting attacked and “die.” After failing to save them, Rogue implants each into various pieces of his equipment. Each implant not only gave Rogue's arsenal multiple personalities but also new abilities. This was an interesting mechanic and it presented a dimension to gameplay.
From the Rogue Trooper Redux website, “Gunnar turns your rifle into a sentry gun and boosts your accuracy under fire. Helm offers tactical advice and distracts enemies. Bagman can manufacture custom ammo, salvage parts, upgrade weapons and even lay minefields.”
Gameplay is straightforward third-person fare with an extraterrestrial backdrop. There are plenty of explosions and over the top events with gameplay mechanics switching up to keep things interesting. What was most compelling to play around with was the aforementioned abilities implanted in the gear.
Staying true to the source material was a priority for the team in 2006 and that remains true today. "We tried our best to take the inspiration of the comic and do it justice, and I think we really did achieve that," said Rich May, one of the original game's programmers.
The reboot will be a chance for players who missed the game the first time around to jump into the Rogue Trooper universe. "It's really cool to see it out there again," said May, who went on to comment about how social media has allowed them to connect to a wide array of fans of the game as well as the comics. May also hopes for the game to reach a new audience. "It's one of my favorite things I've ever worked on," he said.
Rogue Trooper Redux will release to Nintendo Switch (date TBD), PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for $24.99.
Last year, Asymmetric Publications released a teaser for a new RPG set in their Kingdom of Loathing universe. The developers have described West of Loathing as, "basically a stick-figure Skyrim with beans and big hats." Well, now those beans and big hats have a release date, so it is time to dust off those boots and brush out the tumbleweeds.
While Kingdom of Loathing remains an active MMORPG after over a decade, West of Loathing aims to capture the single-player crowd. As one of three starting classes, Cow Puncher, Beanslinger, or Snake Oiler, players explore the rough and tumble wilds of the West that has been heavily sprinkled with humor.
This "single-player slapstick comedy stick-figure wild west adventure role-playing game" releases for PC on August 10th. Get ready for some silliness!
On Miracle Treat Day, we turn our chicken dinners into ice cream dinners For The Kids!
Mark your calendars! Miracle Treat Day is coming up.
U.S. Dairy Queen Locations: Thursday, July 27
Canada Dairy Queen Locations: Thursday, August 10
Join Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and select Dairy Queen locations as we celebrate Miracle Treat Day. For every Blizzard sold, $1 or more will be donated to CMN Hospitals. As with Extra Life, funds stay local to benefit the local member hospital and help kids with healthcare treatments and services, equipment, and charitable care.
Our Extra Life team will be stopping by select locations to pick up our favorite flavor and enjoy the day. Twitch and Extra Life partner, Aureylian will host a meet and greet Thursday, July 27 at the Dairy Queen in Granite City from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Comment below to let us know how you plan to celebrate Miracle Treat Day and Find a participating store near you!
BioWare announced a partnership with the Edmonton Corn Maze yesterday to create a labyrinth themed around the game developer and its upcoming action-RPG Anthem. The maze features the BioWare logo and a figure from the game plowed into a 17-acre field, and it is currently open to the public.
The RPG developer had a bit of fun with the announcement. Anthem's director, Jon Warner, put out a statement that reads, "It’s a world where you can become lost with your friends, sort of like getting lost in this maze. I mean, what better way to celebrate the growth of our new game than through corn, which also grows? [...] This has been an a-MAZE-ing opportunity for us." The company also released a trailer for the maize -erm- maze that's pretty spectacular.
The Edmonton Corn Maze is open from July 24-October 24. Fans of BioWare and/or corn mazes can visit when the maze is open Tuesday-Friday from 10am-8pm and on Sundays from 1pm-5pm.
Ghost Town Games' Overcooked has proven to be a sneaky indie success story on PC and consoles. Developed by the duo of Phil Duncan and Oli De-Vine, Overcooked became a hit in 2016. The co-op cooking game received acclaim for its humor and the fun cooperative challenge. Now that is all coming to Nintendo Switch later this week on July 27.
The Nintendo Switch version of Overcooked, titled Overcooked Special Edition, includes all the DLC released for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One versions as well as featuring the HD rumble features of the Joy-Con controllers. The release will be digital, though a boxed version of Overcooked is planned for the future.
Maybe a good game to keep in your back pocket for Game Day?
There’s something to be said for a well-built role-playing game -- even better if it’s one with a visually pleasing aesthetic that communicates everything it needs to. Too many RPGs these days find themselves buried under menus and woefully implemented combat mechanics, or repetitive dungeon-diving.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar feels like the rare RPG to sidestep all the bluster and bulk for something entertaining and at least mildly fresh. Based on the original Battle Chasers comic by Joe Madureira (also known for his work on Uncanny X-Men) and developed by Airship Syndicate (comprised of former Darksiders developers), RPG fans of any stripe should get a kick out of this action-packed world.
I got a hands-off demo of Battle Chasers at E3 2017, where the developer took time to show off the world and combat systems. Taking place an undetermined amount of time after the original Battle Chasers comic left off on a cliffhanger, players can create a team of three (from a total of six optional characters) to do battle with vicious creatures and loot randomly generated dungeons. There’s Garrison, a swordsman with a tragic past, Gully, a nine-year-old girl who inherited a pair of massive, magical boxing gloves after her father disappeared, Calibretto, the iron giant war golem with a heart of gold, and more.
The first thing players might notice is that despite Battle Chasers decidedly JRPG-esque nature, it’s characters play off of old tropes for inventive combat and character building. Instead of the lumbering, mechanical Calibretto acting as the team’s tank, it’s Gully’s magic gloves that provide the massive damage, and Calibretto’s intrinsic ties to nature that provide healing spells.
Though each dungeon will be randomly generated, players will have to strategize before ever stepping foot into one. Each dungeon has different difficulties to choose from, modifying the number of enemies, traps, and the layout you’ll find, but also affecting the size of its reward. Once inside, players navigate an isometric layout filled with beastmen, animated skeleton warriors, and worse. Players can give themselves an advantage by luring enemies into the dungeon’s ancient traps before battle, shaving off a few key health points. Once in battle, characters take turns dealing damage or casting spells, with a queue on the left hand side telling you who will go during the next several turns, all based on stats like speed and initiative.
Characters share a single “overcharge” gauge that essentially acts as magic fuel for special attacks. This gauge can be accrued over time, and each character has three separate levels of overcharge attacks so you might want to save it for a boss or particularly rough group of enemies. Garrison can unleash a devastating series of sword strikes on a single enemy, for example, while Calibretto is focused on damaging multiple enemies with his massive chaingun arm.
Each character will have unique abilities they can use only a set number of times to solve puzzles or advance deeper into a dungeon, such as Garrison’s dash move or Gully’s punch, which allows her to knock down walls hiding secret areas. Every step taken begins to feel like a measured one, weighed against risk versus reward dilemmas. Players can locate treasure chests with rare loot inside, or opt to teleport it deeper into the dungeon. You’ll have to find it again, and the loot will be twice as beneficial, but you’ll lose it if you die before reaching it. Rare gear can also only be crafted within certain dungeons, giving players another incentive to take a deep dive.
Amidst all of this, Battle Chasers possesses a striking art style, and not just thanks to Madureira’s illustrations. Even as they’re awaiting their turn in battle, characters bob and weave with an animated feel that helps bring them to life in a way few RPGs of either hemisphere achieve. This is especially apparent during attacks, when the weight of each character can be felt in their motion. Calibretto, the hulking mass that he is, barrels down on enemies with a decimating right hook, smoke billowing behind his trail, and enemies bouncing back with appropriate force. Even enemies get in on the action, with monsters similar to Dark Souls’ mimics (beasts that impersonate treasure chests for a sneaky bite attack) lashing out their engorged tongues with wicked style.
It’s unclear how closely Battle Chasers will stick to the original comic series’ lore. Developers at Airship Syndicate say the plot will follow the party’s adventures in a world being sucked dry of its mana. After being shot down from the sky by pirates, the group will have to adventure across a massive island, finding themselves roped into a war against an evil vampire lord bent on conquering the world. Battle Chasers certainly isn’t shying away from the cheese of its inspirations.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is due out October 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and the Nintendo Switch for $29.99. A Steam sale currently has the game listed at $26.99, though it’s unclear how long that will last.
Recognizing the need to have patients challenged and motivated to work day-to-day, Nationwide Children’s Hospital has found the right tool to help measure movement with muscular dystrophy patients – video games.
Patients with muscular dystrophy lose mobility over time, and patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a type that is most common in children, specifically young boys, become weaker over time, slowly unable to feed themselves and other tasks. So, researchers at Nationwide Children’s have worked with a local game developer, Chris Volpe of Mulitvarious Games to develop a way to measure upper extremity movement in patients using interactive game technology.
The game allows the boys to dig and look for hidden gems, as well as squash spiders. It requires the boys to reach with their arms in various directions and push force fields, allowing researchers to measure their movement. Spending hours doing physical movement is hard on the patients, and the game is the perfect solution that allows them to just play and be kids.
Volpe, front middle is the game developer and over the Game Developers Association of Ohio. He leads the Ohio Game Developers Expo each year. The association donates a portion of ticket sales from this event to Extra Life.
Perception forces players to confront two of humanity’s greatest fears: the fear of the dark, and the fear of the unknown: As Cassie, you’re blind. Perpetual blackness shrouds the world. Striking objects with her trusty cane paints an echolocation-produced blueprint of her surroundings to explore an eerie haunted mansion. Unfortunately, a malevolent spirit inhabits the house, honing in on Cassie if she makes too much of a racket. A clever and devious horror premise for sure, but Perception only takes full advantage of it a handful of times.
Perception sits firmly within the subgenre of “run and hide” horror titles popularized by Amnesia: The Dark Descent. However, Cassie’s lack of sight ratchets up the tension. A doll’s laughter or the strained creak of an door opening becomes exponentially more frightening when you can’t see where it's coming from or its source. I highly recommend playing with a good pair of headphones since the finely-tuned sound design not only helps pinpoint a sound’s location, but it routinely sent shivers up my spine. Perception falters when it relies too much on rote jump scares; it shines brightest when the uneasy atmosphere and subtle frights do the heavy lifting.
Cassie explores the mansion in an attempt to piece together disparate elements from her dreams. Along the way, she relives the tragic stories of the house’s former inhabitants over its centuries of existence. My favorite, and perhaps the saddest, tale involved a paranoid wife desperately seeking a means to reunite with her husband, a soldier stationed overseas during one of the world wars. One way or another, the house drove its owners to madness, which effectively sold my surroundings as an omnipresent threat I wanted no part of. Additionally, the house completely morphs its appearance every chapter to reflect the time period of the story being told. Though some of the general layout remains unchanged, you aren’t backtracking through the exact same areas–a neat touch that kept exploration interesting. Interacting with objects unlocks much of Perception’s narrative beats. Seeking these items out, and exploring the house in general, can be both a rewarding and tedious process.
Everything is pitch black unless you make noise, so expect to be banging things fairly often. The limited “sight” only lasts a fleeting couple of seconds before the world fades away again. While that does its job of selling the sensation of being blind (or, at least, how it feels to be Marvel’s Daredevil), this occasionally makes it easy to get lost in the large house. One mission tasked me with finding matches located upstairs. However, I routinely passed the inconspicuous staircase entrance because I kept missing sight of it before my sounds faded, not to mention the limited vibration range. Such situations may frustrate less patient players.
Having to remember previously visited rooms and mentally mapping out corridors and entryways routinely jumps back and forth between feeling novel and tedious. I repeatedly hit the same areas just to confirm that a kitchen was indeed a kitchen. Perception isn’t a game for everyone as it requires a special kind of patience on top of possessing bravery. Though I generally felt proud of myself for competently navigating an area, other times doing so felt like a pain in the butt. If nothing else, I walked away from Perception with a greater appreciation for my vision, and that’s likely part of the point.
Disappointingly, the game doesn’t present enough inventive scenarios that highlight the main premise. Most of the game revolves around the same basic formula: walk around, make noise, listen to memories, fetch an item to solve a light puzzle. Perception had two stand-out sequences. The first was a heart-pounding romp through a bubble-wrapped nursery where Cassie must hide while inevitably making noise. The second was a chapter centered around robotic, evil dolls that roamed the house, some of which even toted guns (I’m terrified of creepy dolls, so I tensed up the whole way through). While moment-to-moment gameplay is solid, nothing else came close to feeling as creative or memorable as those two moments. Considering the concept’s potential, I’m bummed to see the idea be somewhat squandered.
Even though the game presented regular warnings to keep as quiet as reasonably possible, I felt I could make quite a bit of commotion before triggering an appearance by the ghost. It only spawned once (outside of scripted sequences) throughout my entire playthrough, despite not being particularly frugal with my noise-making. Though that made exploration less of a pain, it also eliminated some of the desired anxiety when I realized I could get away with more than I maybe should have. It felt like a tricky balancing act that the developer had trouble nailing. Players need to be able to make enough sound to get around somewhat smoothly, but there also needs to be a constant fear of doing so.
If you’re looking for a novel spin on the helpless horror sub-genre, Perception is worth a look. The game purposely intends to make players feel impaired, so your mileage on fun varies depending on how much you’re willing to put up with bumping around in the (mostly) darkness. But if you’re up to the challenge, Perception can be a genuinely hair-raising experience. Overall, Cassie’s frightening romp through darkness stands as a respectable horror outing that should make for a unique offering for fans of the genre.
Perception was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is also available now for Xbox One and PC. It releases on Nintendo Switch later this year.
BioWare has created some of the most beloved moments in gaming history. The Mass Effect series stands as one of the greatest gaming trilogies of all time. However, many people point toward the conclusion of Mass Effect 3 as something that undid all of the goodwill the series had fostered up until that point. For all of their talent, BioWare also created one of the single most divisive and negatively received moments in gaming history. In Part One of our Mass Effect 3 discussion, we talked about the larger game leading up to the final minutes that threw the Mass Effect fan base into chaos. Part Two covers the ending and touches on some aspects of the DLC.
Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.
Outro music: Myst III: Exile 'American Wheels of Wonder' by Mazedude (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01749)
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it!
If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
E3 is the land of the giants. Every year the titans of the industry gather in the same space to showcase their upcoming big budget releases. While the spotlight might be on the giants, indie games have also built their own community around the event. Areas like IndieCade or the Devolver Indie Picnic give the press and the public a chance to look at the latest games.
Minneapolis developers Space Mace seized their opportunity to showcase their upcoming game Joggernauts as a part of MIX LA.
We spoke with Zach Johnson, Tommy Sunders and Robert Frost about what it was like being an indie game at E3, the indie presence, the crowds and what’s next for Joggernauts.
Can you describe Joggernauts?
Zach Johnson: We say Joggernauts is a cooperative switching game about trying not to kill your friends. It kind of plays like a platformer, but you have to change places with each other as you're a team running through these alien worlds. There are color-coded puzzles, and you and your friends need to work out who needs to be in front for each color as you're running through these levels together. So it's a multiplayer auto runner and it's completely cooperative. We've taken out all of the competitive elements so you're always on the same team fighting against the game together.
What are all of your roles in developing the game?
Rob Frost: I do music, sound design and manage the community building.
Tommy Sunders: I do all the art and graphic stuff and then Zach and I work on the design of the game together.
Johnson: I do programming, and like Tommy said, we do game design together.
Is this your first game as a team?
Johnson: For the three of us together, this is our first (game). Our studio is called Space Mace and it’s the first for our studio, but we've all worked on games before this separately.
In what stage of development is Joggernauts?
Johnson: We're doing limited private early access through Itch.io and our target date for release is Spring 2018. We're in a phase where we need to do more content production like the gameplay, aesthetics, music and other stuff. All the direction for that is really high polish, but we need a bigger game.
What was the process like getting to E3?
Johnson: We applied to MIX LA and got invited to show our game. That was an awesome opportunity. It's a really neat thing that they have going there because they invite a wide range of games, like stuff that's very high profile and stuff that's up and coming and then there are tons of journalists there so you feel like you really get to meet people. Then we got some badges to come out on the expo floor and check out some stuff, so it's been fun.
What was the event like?
Sunders: It wasn't the craziest demo we've ever done. It's like a big party game and sort of draws its own crowd. It's four people playing, they start yelling, and then more people come around because there are people yelling and everyone starts to gather because people are gathering and trying to figure out what's going on.
Johnson: I think we got lucky because the indie dev to the right of us didn't show up and we had a double wide booth - which we really needed because we had a huge crowd.
What type of feedback did you get at MIX LA?
Johnson: We got a lot of people who loved it and wanted to buy it and wanted to know what systems it was going to come out on so they would know if they could have it or not. Some of the other devs had some really cool ideas for small tweaks that we hadn't heard before. I mean we've been showing publicly for like three years and we actually got some new feedback that we've never heard that was really original thinking. It’s always fun to be amongst game developers who are thinking at that high level and can give you good feedback.
Did you get to explore at all and see the other games?
Johnson: I got to play Runner 3 and Joggernauts was actually inspired by me and my best friend drunkenly playing Bit.Trip Runner 1. We were like, "Okay, this is fun, but we have to keep passing the controller back and forth because it's a single player game." So how could you do a game like this, but multiplayer? And that's where the taking turns switching to the front of the group mechanic came from. Runner 3 was there, and I think it was their first public showing. So I got to play that which was awesome and meet one of the devs on that. I got to play Nidhogg 2 with one the creators. We tried to take turns roaming and making sure to eat and drink water and playing games with people and trying to grab journalists and pull them in to talk to us.
What is it like coming from Minneapolis to E3?
Johnson: We've been to IndieCade and GDC. We've been traveling a lot with the game.
Sunders: We've actually even been to Berlin.
Johnson: When everyone comes together from around the world to one place, the networking opportunities and access to resources and press is tremendous and we feel a little bit isolated from the press in particular in the Midwest.
Sunders: The majority of the games industry's on the West Coast, and we're in flyover country.
What do you think of the indie presence at E3?
Frost: [IndieCade,] that's where we felt most at home.
Sunders: We've been hanging out there because we know a number of the devs on those teams. There's the massive lines, or we could go stand and hang out with our friends. It's awesome that they have something like IndieCade in there, but at the end of the day, E3's not about indie games.
Do you think that presence is building?
Sunders: I've heard nothing but great things about indie games at PAX. People are there to see everything else that's not Sony and Xbox and Nintendo. We have yet to go to a PAX, but everybody's like, "No, no, [E3] is for the giant corporations, PAX is everybody else."
Johnson: I like that there's an IndieCade booth and I like that some of the bigger booths have indie games. Devolver's got a presence here, the MIX was here. So there are these kinds of places to go and see indie games and play them and meet people doing indie stuff. I'd love to see more of that obviously as and Indie, those games are my jam.
Why is an indie presence so important at a huge event like E3?
Frost: A lot of the time indies have ideas that the big guys don't really take a chance on. I think a lot of times indies test the bar. More of that would be really nice to see an event like this.
What do you think about E3 being open to the public?
Frost: We've never seen it before to really judge it, but it is packed.
Johnson: So many people.
Frost: It's just uncomfortable really.
Sunders: It seems like the industry people know better and they're just avoiding the floor as much as possible.
Johnson: It’s nice to bump into fans and see people excited. I think the most interesting thing about it being open is that you see a lot of streamers and non-credentialed journalists who are actually doing really cool work and have like pro equipment. Like you see their regular badge like they're just here for fun but then they've got pro video stuff and they're doing like live streaming off of the show floor. That's kind of neat. You're getting voices that maybe hadn't gotten out there before.
Would you come back to E3?
Johnson: I would show a game here just because it's packed so you're going to get a lot of exposure. but it would be exhausting. I would like to set our schedules so we all would have some good breaks. Seeing a crowd this size, I really feel for the people at the IndieCade booth who are a small team of one or two who have three days of standing on the E3 show floor just seems so exhausting. I mean it's clearly a powerful opportunity. Everybody's here. It's like a central meeting time for the industry.
What is next for Joggernauts?
Johnson: We're actively doing a lot of business stuff right now and trying to sort out stuff on the publishing side. We really want to get out Spring 2018 and we could go faster if we could all be full time. We've been a part time like the indie story for like two and a half years. If we could go full time we could focus on the content production stuff and wrap the game up. We're talking to all the major consoles and did make a deal on one of them that we're not ready to announce yet. Things have been going well so we just kind of like want to go faster and get the game out. We're looking to PAX West as the next big opportunity to show the game. We're hoping that by PAX, ideally, we're going to be showing a much more visually polished build with a lot more going on and some new levels. I really want to introduce a new special PAX character, a new Joggernaut.
Joggernauts is set to release in Spring of 2018. Keep track of it and Space Mace on Twitter or Itch.io.
How do you make a story about the construction of a 12th century England cathedral intriguing? I’m sure readers asked themselves the same question when author Ken Follett released the immensely popular historical fiction novel The Pillars of the Earth in 1989. Follett’s tale weaves through half a century and numerous characters living in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, painting a picture of political and social intrigue so well-received that it sold more than 26 million copies, and spawned television, board game, and musical adaptations.
Now, developer Daedalic Entertainment, the publisher behind Shadow Tactics: Blade of the Shogun, as well as the developer of Tales of Monkey Island has jumped to make yet another point-and-click narrative adventure in its adaptation of Pillars.
I had the chance to watch a hands-off demo of Pillars of the Earth, which included a bit of background on how Daedalic is adapting the 1,200-page book into an interactive, choice-driven experience, and what it all looks like in motion.
The demo began near the beginning of the game, and after the novel’s prologue, with a young boy named Jack (who would go on to design the Kingsbridge cathedral) living with his outlaw mother in the woods. Jack comes across a man named Tom and his children searching for the baby he had recently abandoned in the forest. The group soon discovers a monk rescuing the child and bringing it back to the local monastery. Knowing he would be imprisoned for abandonment, the father allows his child to be taken.
From here, players are able to interact with the man and his children in a typical point-and-click adventure style, getting to know them better with a variety of dialogue choices. As is typical for the modern form of the genre, players are able to choose from kind, considerate options to outright rude silence. Though the game will largely follow the same plot as the original novel, Daedalic is quick to assure us that players can in fact influence events and the fates of characters. Whether this means drastic plot shifts or just how certain characters regard others remains to be seen, though. For example, after Jack’s only book is stolen by Tom’s bully son, players can either figure out a way to sneak it from him peacefully, or dump a pile of snow on his head, causing him a ton of discomfort and aggravating him further, leading to unforeseen consequences even years later.
Perhaps the first thing players will notice about Pillars, even if they’ve never read the book or watched the show, is the absolutely gorgeous art style permeating every scene. It’s both painterly and yet entirely alive, with snow falling gently over the hills of a muddy road, or the subtle look of despair and anger forming on a character’s lips as she drags a cart behind her. Daedalic have made one of the most gorgeous point-and-click games I’ve seen in a long, long time. As someone who enjoys lengthy books, but can often find it difficult to keep track of where characters are over 1,000 pages, the striking environments will certainly help keep players like myself on track. According to Daedalic, the game will feature over 200 of these hand-painted backgrounds. The narrative’s tone will also likely strike a chord with fans of series like Game of Thrones. Though the art might resemble something out of Avatar: The Last Airbender, this is Europe during the Anarchy period, a time of wanton murder and savagery. Expect bloodshed and strife, but also those meaningful slivers of humanity that make it all worth it.
Like all episodic narratives, it’s on the developers to ensure that the game’s quality remains high and steady throughout, and that our choices matter, if only at the personal level. At the outset, The Pillars of the Earth looks like it could be one of 2017’s best narrative adventures thanks to its faithful, yet bendable adaptation of its source material and the stunning visuals accompanying it.
The first of three episodes of The Pillars of the Earth is due out on August 15 for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. No price for individual episodes or season passes have been announced yet.
Rime begins with stormy seas, a red scrap of cloth buffeted by the wind whipping through the air, and a young boy washed up on the shores of an island covered in the ruins of a once mighty civilization. Without a word, players assume control of this child and help him to move through this world full of spirits, magic, and ancient technology.
In fact, Rime contains not one line of dialogue – Tequila Works communicate their entire narrative through breathtaking visuals and an absolutely astounding score by David Garcia Diaz. Bright colors swirl across the landscape making everything feel alive and vibrant. The use of these popping colors make it all the more potent when the adventure inevitably descends into darkness and mystery. Majestic soundscapes weave an element of vanished magic into the game, as if the music itself was always grasping to reclaim just a little more of the lost glory the island’s ruined spires.
The world of Rime is one that has been afflicted by something terrible. Something so destructive that it has shattered the very fabric of the world. This loss permeates every facet of the adventure. Weeping statues and grasping, shade-filled halls lay in the world’s forgotten corners. For every bright, shining moment in the sun, there is one in which the shadows envelop the red-caped protagonist. That ever-present conflict between light and dark? That escalating tension and deepening mystery? Those are the building blocks of every great adventure.
The entire presentation readily draws comparisons to the work of Studio Ghibli, a similarity noted in other reviews of Rime. While I think the observation surprisingly apt for the audio-visual elements, Ghibli tends to make their work aimed squarely at children – Rime takes aim at an older crowd. While it can certainly be enjoyed by younger gamers, the themes and payoff will affect more seasoned players on a deeper level. The seemingly overplayed narrative carries an edge that cuts to the bone with loss and love.
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Each step of Rime’s journey presents an obstacle to be overcome, puzzles to be solved, or enemies to defeat. However, Rime isn’t about any one of those aspects on their own. There are some platforming sections, but it isn’t a platformer. Problems beg for solutions, but Rime isn’t a puzzle game. While sometimes enemies do make an appearance, few would ever describe Rime as a game about combat. Instead, Rime places its focus squarely on maintaining a sense of adventure and subtle storytelling.
That emphasis on adventure smooths the gameplay experience. Few will need to grab a strategy guide or watch a walkthrough in order to find the solution to a puzzle. The platforming demands little in the way of reflexes. Combat is about as far from hack and slash as one can get; it’s more of a larger, faster puzzle than anything else.
One might wonder how Rime manages to remain compelling with its gameplay when enjoyment doesn’t come from reflexive skill. The narrative hook of learning what happened to the island and our protagonist pulls the player relentlessly forward. Lacking any dialogue to explain the situation or internal monologue to learn what kind of a person the protagonist might be, all we learn about him is from what we can see during gameplay – how he chooses to interact with the world.
Perhaps most informative interaction comes from the child’s ability to shout, which causes different interactions with objects throughout the world. Sometimes that shout is a call; other times it becomes a humming sing-song of a half remembered song; and as danger mounts it becomes a whimper. That one interaction can show our protagonist cry, laugh, and grieve. But through all those emotions, he continues to move through the world on his journey, leaving much up to the player’s interpretation.
Rime certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome. A relatively focused playthrough can make it from beginning to end in about four hours. Tequila Works doesn’t reuse puzzles – though occasionally similar puzzles reappear as character-building moments. The short length works in Rime’s favor and lends itself to multiple playthroughs. Players who love to scour every inch of their game worlds will find a nice challenge in discovering all the knickknacks hidden away (which all serve a narrative purpose as well).
There are certain tropes that fledgling story writers are taught to avoid at all costs: Never open a scene with an alarm clock going off; do not include a gunshot followed by a cut to black; and never ever end with the dreaded phrase, “it was all a dream.” The overuse of these storytelling devices drill them into the public consciousness and rendering them clichés. However – and this is one of storytelling’s biggest secrets - a story can use a cliché, provided that it works. For example, a house full of alarm clocks fills the opening of Back to the Future and that works because the movie revolves around our human relationship with time. The film makes appropriate use of the device in a refreshing way - it’s played as a joke that reinforces the central premise of the film - turning it from a cliché back into a trope, and tropes are just tools in a storyteller’s toolbox.
In a gaming landscape filled to bursting with indies, many might take a look at Rime and imagine it to be the latest in a long line of Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw dubbed Small Child, Scary World (SCSW) games. Limbo, Ico, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Braid, these games all take similar forms and tackle themes of being alone in an unknowable world that threatens danger at every turn. The storytelling trope of SCSW has certainly proven to be effective, but its overuse threatens to plunge into cliché territory. And while Rime certainly does fit into the same category, it turns the very concept on its head in a way that works beautifully.
Some people might have certain expectations as to what Rime will be – Set those expectations aside and to go into it blind. While Rime certainly might seem to have the trappings of indie gaming tropes that are coming closer to cliché, Tequila Works subverts those expectations in a masterful fashion.
2017 has been a fantastic year for video games – so many quality titles, both big and small, have released. It is a testament to Rime’s quality that it stands as the best thing I have played so far amid the AAA giants that have flexed their gaming muscle over the past several months. It conjures up a mythical adventure that sweeps players up in its majesty. Rime expertly plays with emotion like a master pianist would compose a captivating solo. Rime ends on a haunting final note that doesn’t deliver the empowering resolution many might desire, but it leaves the player with something much better: A powerful artistic statement about how beautiful and terrible and lovely and difficult life can be – and how we can all recover from the worst tragedies and find peace.
Rime is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC - a Switch version is scheduled to release later this year