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Found 30 results

  1. Telltale Games has revealed the release date and trailer for the upcoming part two of Batman: The Enemy Within. Titled 'The Pact,' the second episode of the five episode series focuses on the aftermath of a mysterious assassin's latest handiwork. Explosions across Gotham shake the city to its very core. Batman attempts to track down the culprits behind these misdeeds, but finds himself up against a foe that might even stump the Dark Knight himself. Meanwhile, John Doe traps Bruce Wayne in a complicated scheme - and the only way out is to follow it through. Beginning with episode two, Telltale will be launching all episodes on all platforms simultaneously. We reached out to Telltale for clarification on whether that simultaneous release schedule will extend to other Telltale game series or if it is limited to The Enemy Within. We will update with an answer. Episode Two 'The Pact' launches October 3 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac. In addition, the first two episodes of the series will become available on iOS and Android-based devices that same day. The boxed version, which Telltale has taken to calling the 'Season Pass Disc,' will also release in stores on October 3. The disc unlocks all previous episodes as well as all future episodes as they release.
  2. Telltale Games has revealed the release date and trailer for the upcoming part two of Batman: The Enemy Within. Titled 'The Pact,' the second episode of the five episode series focuses on the aftermath of a mysterious assassin's latest handiwork. Explosions across Gotham shake the city to its very core. Batman attempts to track down the culprits behind these misdeeds, but finds himself up against a foe that might even stump the Dark Knight himself. Meanwhile, John Doe traps Bruce Wayne in a complicated scheme - and the only way out is to follow it through. Beginning with episode two, Telltale will be launching all episodes on all platforms simultaneously. We reached out to Telltale for clarification on whether that simultaneous release schedule will extend to other Telltale game series or if it is limited to The Enemy Within. We will update with an answer. Episode Two 'The Pact' launches October 3 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Mac. In addition, the first two episodes of the series will become available on iOS and Android-based devices that same day. The boxed version, which Telltale has taken to calling the 'Season Pass Disc,' will also release in stores on October 3. The disc unlocks all previous episodes as well as all future episodes as they release. View full article
  3. Far to the north lies a mysterious school for the magically gifted. Children go there to learn how to harness their magic and make the world a more enchanting place. Of course, as with most magic schools, Ikenfell has had its share of near disasters from various magical mishaps. Luckily for the school, one of the most popular students attending Ikenfell has always managed to save it from destruction before going home for the summer. What happens when that student disappears, leaving friends and family behind? Mysteries both magical and mundane beckon in Ikenfell. Players venture there to track down the erstwhile hero of the school, but in the process, they'll make friends, rivals, and maybe even find some romance. Oh, and they'll have to fight some monsters in classic RPG fashion. While the story, retro visuals, and RPG mechanics might be some of the biggest draws in Ikenfell, it's certainly worth mentioning that the music is being handled by aivi & surasshu, a duo best known for their work crafting the songs from Steven Universe. Their heartfelt, grounded-yet magical work seems to be a perfect fit with where creator/writer/designer/artist Chevy Ray Johnston wants to take the world of Ikenfell. We had the opportunity to talk with Chevy Ray Johnston and ask some burning questions to learn more about Ikenfell's delightful magic. Could you tell me a little about your background/history in game development? Chevy Ray Johnston: I've been developing games for around 18-20 years now, starting way back on Hypercard on the Macintosh. I used to make adventure and story games using the software's built-in drawing tools, hand-drawing every single room in the games. I would distribute the games to my friends on floppy disks, hand-drawing the labels for each one. I moved onto Game Maker for several years, making weird experimental games, before moving onto Flash around 2009, where I continued to make weird experimental games. Eventually I started getting work doing games, animation, advertising, and gallery exhibitions doing Flash work. You can see more info about some of the games I've made on my website. This is a small selection, I think in total I've probably created ~20 or so games on my own, and worked on over 30. I now know a dozen or so programming languages proficiently and am running my own game company that is working on Ikenfell. How long has Ikenfell been in development? Chevy: Ikenfell has been in active development since January 2016, so just over a year and a half. I can find old mockups and prototypes that look... suspiciously similar... dating back to 2006 though. Where did the initial idea for Ikenfell come from and how has it changed over the course of development? What games/movies/books/*insert media* did you look to for inspiration? I definitely get some Earthbound vibes from what little I've seen. Chevy: I've had various ideas for a witch/wizard game in my head for a long time that has seen many different prototypes. It wasn't until I read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell that I finally got a huge spark of inspiration, deciding to place the game at a magic school setting. A small location, completely doable content-wise, but a way for me to fill it chock full of detail, history, personality, and hidden secrets everywhere. It started out as an open-ended action RPG actually. You could get different magic spells in any order that would help you explore the school and access different areas. That actually still sounds really fun, but it didn't fit my vision for the story and aesthetic of the game. I wanted you to be able to play a group of friends and rivals, magic students! So I decided to make it a turn-based RPG, and initially it was more inspired by Fire Emblem and Shining Force, battling in the game's regular perspective with a party of magic school friends. What I didn't like about this was that suddenly every room, all the maps, had to be designed for battles, and they hogged all the space. The rooms didn't feel like real rooms anymore, just big open spaces, weirdly laid out for battles, and it lost a lot of its potential personality. Moving battles into a second screen allowed me to keep the school looking and feeling like I wanted, and I decided to spice up the battles by giving them bigger sprites and more animated graphics so they'd feel really big and exciting. I kept the strategy-RPG elements, but mixed it in with some inspiration from a few of my favorite games of all time: Chrono Trigger, Mario RPG, Paper Mario 1/2, and Final Fantasy Tactics. You describe it on Twitter as a game about hugging and kissing, magic, monsters, and there seems to be combat, so how does that all come together mechanically? Can you hug the monsters? Chevy: At its core Ikenfell is a game about relationships. Relationships between friends, lovers, ex-lovers, rivals, students, teachers, apprentices, and yes: monsters. Unfortunately you don't get to hug the monsters (maybe my next game???), but they act as the catalyst that causes the hugging and kissing -- the thing that pushes these relationships to their breaking point, that prods at them and tests their limits. Without giving too much away, what's the general story of Ikenfell? Chevy: Maritte is an Ordinary, a person without magic, but she's OK with that fact. Her sister Safina, on the other hand, is a witch... and a very popular one. Safina goes to a magic school called Ikenfell, and comes home every summer to tell Maritte about her adventures. She's saved the school many times, and also put it in grave danger many times. She's made friends, enemies, and has a tenuous relationship with the headmistress of the school for all the trouble she causes... But one summer, Safina doesn't come back, and no matter how much Maritte asks around, she can't find out why. So she packs her bags and travels to Ikenfell to find her sister. When she arrives, strange things start happening, and she begins to suspect that her sister is at the center of something secret, something dangerous. Maritte must explore the school, find Safina's friends, allies, rivals, and the teachers of the school, to solve the mystery of what happened to her... and also what is causing even magic itself to behave so erratically. What do you think the main draw of Ikenfell will be for your audience? Chevy: It's a hard fight between the exciting story full of a big variety of colorful characters and the original turn based party-oriented battle system that seems to have people's attention. The battle system is nothing you've played before, full of strange mechanics and monsters with a lot of personality, but familiar enough to draw you in if you've played any of the games that inspired it. I get constant messages from people saying they are excited to learn more about the characters, and they often already tell me who their favorites are. How long do you intend Ikenfell to be? Chevy: Ha-ha-haaaa. It was originally supposed to be a 6-8 hour game. I am finishing the 4th (of 8) chapters, and the game is already about that long. Soooo it'll actually end up being around ~20 hours at this rate. No matter how long I make games for, it will forever be impossible to predict this kind of thing. What are some things (story moment, character, mechanic, etc.) that you hope will stand out to your players? Chevy: Each of the 6 party members you get learns 8 spells, and each spell in the entire game is unique. There is no mana or MP, each spell is designed for contextual and strategic use. I think the challenging battles and boss fights will really put these to the test, and players will get excited when they discover new strategies and combine spells that I have worked hard to facilitate. Story-wise, I think people will really like the progression of the game's story. It sets a lot of different plot threads in motion, and builds a big exciting mystery over several chapters. Then, the final 3 chapters of the game are about dissecting and solving the mystery, and I'm working hard to make sure each plot thread has a satisfying and impactful payoff. I might not succeed, but I'm trying the best I possibly can to make it so. What message do you hope Ikenfell will convey to the people who play it? Chevy: I hope the game will help people reflect on the different relationships they have, maybe see them in a fresh light, and find a way to strengthen them. But most importantly, I hope people who know someone who is in pain, or suffering, are inspired to finally step forward and help them. To sympathize with them and give them the support they need to flourish. Several people I love dearly have done this for me, selflessly, and thanks to them I am no longer ill and the happiest I have ever been. If I can inspire others to do the same, hopefully others will be able to make wonderful art and tell their stories as well. I also hope they have a whole lot of raw fun playing it! If you're hoping to get your hands on Ikenfell soon, you'll have to be a bit patient. After a little over a year and a half of concentrated development, the title has a tentative release window for summer 2018 for PC and Mac.
  4. Far to the north lies a mysterious school for the magically gifted. Children go there to learn how to harness their magic and make the world a more enchanting place. Of course, as with most magic schools, Ikenfell has had its share of near disasters from various magical mishaps. Luckily for the school, one of the most popular students attending Ikenfell has always managed to save it from destruction before going home for the summer. What happens when that student disappears, leaving friends and family behind? Mysteries both magical and mundane beckon in Ikenfell. Players venture there to track down the erstwhile hero of the school, but in the process, they'll make friends, rivals, and maybe even find some romance. Oh, and they'll have to fight some monsters in classic RPG fashion. While the story, retro visuals, and RPG mechanics might be some of the biggest draws in Ikenfell, it's certainly worth mentioning that the music is being handled by aivi & surasshu, a duo best known for their work crafting the songs from Steven Universe. Their heartfelt, grounded-yet magical work seems to be a perfect fit with where creator/writer/designer/artist Chevy Ray Johnston wants to take the world of Ikenfell. We had the opportunity to talk with Chevy Ray Johnston and ask some burning questions to learn more about Ikenfell's delightful magic. Could you tell me a little about your background/history in game development? Chevy Ray Johnston: I've been developing games for around 18-20 years now, starting way back on Hypercard on the Macintosh. I used to make adventure and story games using the software's built-in drawing tools, hand-drawing every single room in the games. I would distribute the games to my friends on floppy disks, hand-drawing the labels for each one. I moved onto Game Maker for several years, making weird experimental games, before moving onto Flash around 2009, where I continued to make weird experimental games. Eventually I started getting work doing games, animation, advertising, and gallery exhibitions doing Flash work. You can see more info about some of the games I've made on my website. This is a small selection, I think in total I've probably created ~20 or so games on my own, and worked on over 30. I now know a dozen or so programming languages proficiently and am running my own game company that is working on Ikenfell. How long has Ikenfell been in development? Chevy: Ikenfell has been in active development since January 2016, so just over a year and a half. I can find old mockups and prototypes that look... suspiciously similar... dating back to 2006 though. Where did the initial idea for Ikenfell come from and how has it changed over the course of development? What games/movies/books/*insert media* did you look to for inspiration? I definitely get some Earthbound vibes from what little I've seen. Chevy: I've had various ideas for a witch/wizard game in my head for a long time that has seen many different prototypes. It wasn't until I read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell that I finally got a huge spark of inspiration, deciding to place the game at a magic school setting. A small location, completely doable content-wise, but a way for me to fill it chock full of detail, history, personality, and hidden secrets everywhere. It started out as an open-ended action RPG actually. You could get different magic spells in any order that would help you explore the school and access different areas. That actually still sounds really fun, but it didn't fit my vision for the story and aesthetic of the game. I wanted you to be able to play a group of friends and rivals, magic students! So I decided to make it a turn-based RPG, and initially it was more inspired by Fire Emblem and Shining Force, battling in the game's regular perspective with a party of magic school friends. What I didn't like about this was that suddenly every room, all the maps, had to be designed for battles, and they hogged all the space. The rooms didn't feel like real rooms anymore, just big open spaces, weirdly laid out for battles, and it lost a lot of its potential personality. Moving battles into a second screen allowed me to keep the school looking and feeling like I wanted, and I decided to spice up the battles by giving them bigger sprites and more animated graphics so they'd feel really big and exciting. I kept the strategy-RPG elements, but mixed it in with some inspiration from a few of my favorite games of all time: Chrono Trigger, Mario RPG, Paper Mario 1/2, and Final Fantasy Tactics. You describe it on Twitter as a game about hugging and kissing, magic, monsters, and there seems to be combat, so how does that all come together mechanically? Can you hug the monsters? Chevy: At its core Ikenfell is a game about relationships. Relationships between friends, lovers, ex-lovers, rivals, students, teachers, apprentices, and yes: monsters. Unfortunately you don't get to hug the monsters (maybe my next game???), but they act as the catalyst that causes the hugging and kissing -- the thing that pushes these relationships to their breaking point, that prods at them and tests their limits. Without giving too much away, what's the general story of Ikenfell? Chevy: Maritte is an Ordinary, a person without magic, but she's OK with that fact. Her sister Safina, on the other hand, is a witch... and a very popular one. Safina goes to a magic school called Ikenfell, and comes home every summer to tell Maritte about her adventures. She's saved the school many times, and also put it in grave danger many times. She's made friends, enemies, and has a tenuous relationship with the headmistress of the school for all the trouble she causes... But one summer, Safina doesn't come back, and no matter how much Maritte asks around, she can't find out why. So she packs her bags and travels to Ikenfell to find her sister. When she arrives, strange things start happening, and she begins to suspect that her sister is at the center of something secret, something dangerous. Maritte must explore the school, find Safina's friends, allies, rivals, and the teachers of the school, to solve the mystery of what happened to her... and also what is causing even magic itself to behave so erratically. What do you think the main draw of Ikenfell will be for your audience? Chevy: It's a hard fight between the exciting story full of a big variety of colorful characters and the original turn based party-oriented battle system that seems to have people's attention. The battle system is nothing you've played before, full of strange mechanics and monsters with a lot of personality, but familiar enough to draw you in if you've played any of the games that inspired it. I get constant messages from people saying they are excited to learn more about the characters, and they often already tell me who their favorites are. How long do you intend Ikenfell to be? Chevy: Ha-ha-haaaa. It was originally supposed to be a 6-8 hour game. I am finishing the 4th (of 8) chapters, and the game is already about that long. Soooo it'll actually end up being around ~20 hours at this rate. No matter how long I make games for, it will forever be impossible to predict this kind of thing. What are some things (story moment, character, mechanic, etc.) that you hope will stand out to your players? Chevy: Each of the 6 party members you get learns 8 spells, and each spell in the entire game is unique. There is no mana or MP, each spell is designed for contextual and strategic use. I think the challenging battles and boss fights will really put these to the test, and players will get excited when they discover new strategies and combine spells that I have worked hard to facilitate. Story-wise, I think people will really like the progression of the game's story. It sets a lot of different plot threads in motion, and builds a big exciting mystery over several chapters. Then, the final 3 chapters of the game are about dissecting and solving the mystery, and I'm working hard to make sure each plot thread has a satisfying and impactful payoff. I might not succeed, but I'm trying the best I possibly can to make it so. What message do you hope Ikenfell will convey to the people who play it? Chevy: I hope the game will help people reflect on the different relationships they have, maybe see them in a fresh light, and find a way to strengthen them. But most importantly, I hope people who know someone who is in pain, or suffering, are inspired to finally step forward and help them. To sympathize with them and give them the support they need to flourish. Several people I love dearly have done this for me, selflessly, and thanks to them I am no longer ill and the happiest I have ever been. If I can inspire others to do the same, hopefully others will be able to make wonderful art and tell their stories as well. I also hope they have a whole lot of raw fun playing it! If you're hoping to get your hands on Ikenfell soon, you'll have to be a bit patient. After a little over a year and a half of concentrated development, the title has a tentative release window for summer 2018 for PC and Mac. View full article
  5. Outreach takes the narrative-focused space exploration of titles like Adr1ft and injects a hefty does of historical accuracy and an unshakable eeriness. Pixel Spill’s four-man team has been cranking away at the project for about two years, and during E3 last week I got to play the game's unnerving first 20 minutes. “I love sci-fi. I watch Star Trek on my lunch breaks,” James Booth, producer and writer, said. “But something I wanted to do differently with Outreach, I wanted it to be steeped in the history of space travel rather than being alternate history or future.” Outreach draws inspiration from the space race between the then-Soviet Union and the United States and how the Soviets beat the Americans by sending the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space. Chiefly, Outreach explores the “lost cosmonaut” conspiracy theory that alleges that prior to Gagarin, the Soviets secretly launched cosmonauts into space. However, all of them perished and the government covered up the mission. Additionally, espionage films such as The Hunt for Red October provided further influence. Set in 1986, players control a lone Soviet cosmonaut (voiced by The Wolf Among Us’ Adam Harrington) sent in orbit to investigate a space station and determine the fate of its crew. Booth says that while Outreach plays off events from the 1960's, the game takes place a few decades later to allow for the existence of a full space station. Pixel Spill values historical accuracy above all else. Archival footage and historical designs were referenced during development. The composition was made using actual Soviet-era synthesizers, creating a soundtrack that captures the authentic sound of the period. There are no jetpacks – Soviet cosmonauts didn’t have them at the time – so players must push themselves off objects to move around. “It’s literally set in 1986. All of the technology is era-specific.,” Booth explained. “The space station is based on pictures of the real thing. You can look at the two side by side and you probably couldn’t tell the difference apart from the fact that one’s a game.” While Outreach can be classified as walking simulator sub-genre, Booth refers to it as a “floating simulator” due to the zero gravity exploration. The unique control scheme took a fair bit of trial and error for me to adapt to. One shoulder trigger pushes forward while the other halts movement. Moving the left analog stick spins your view. I bounced against the station like a pinball before I got comfortable enough to navigate the station somewhat competently. Although movement felt strange and mildly nauseating, it did a decent job of selling the sensation of being suspended in zero gravity. You might think Outreach would be a perfect fit for VR. However, Booth cites the occasionally stomach-turning traversal as the primary reason Outreach won’t be coming to headsets. “It works [in VR], but don’t do it. We’d have to ship it with a branded sick bag.” After receiving my orders from my commander, I set out on the search for the crew. I soar from room to room, inspecting floating objects including letters and audio tapes, which can be played on a recorder. Booth promises that although the game is story-focused, Outreach will feature more gameplay than the average walking simulator thanks to richer mechanics, puzzles, and mini-games. At one point, I interacted with a terminal that featured a working game of Pong. After exploring the pods and finding no trace of the crew, only one area remains for inspection. Unfortunately, I break the latch off the door trying to open it, leaving me locked out. The only way around is to exit the station and reach the area from the outside. This is where Outreach’s intensity took really off. Since jetpacks aren’t a thing, the only way to make my way across the outside of the station was by a series of rungs on the station’s hull. The process involved kicking myself off a platform and carefully steering myself close enough to a rung to grab. It was an extremely nerve-racking segment thanks to how little control you have in maneuverability and the intimidating ambiance of space. Unlike many walking simulators, players can die in Outreach. In order to allow this, Pixel Spill needed to tweak the facts a bit. “Historically, you would have a tether that would connect you to the station,” Booth said. But we took that out. It’s kind of one of the only things we don’t do realistically because we wanted that fear of death.” Missing a rung and veering into orbit led to a very intense scene of the character quickly panicking as he realized he’d be helplessly hovering for the rest of his life. That emotional performance completely sold the terror of being stranded in space and only raised my anxiety about screwing up. I held my breath with every leap to a new handhold. After a few more trips to the scary death scene, I finally reached my destination, where the demo concluded. I welcomed the chance to calm my nerves, but I felt I’d just gotten the hang of the controls enough to inspire me to play more. On top of being an effective thriller, Outreach feels like it could be a great period piece of 1980's space travel thanks to its painstaking attention to detail. Most importantly, I left my play session wanting answers to the game's primary questions. What exactly happened on this ship? Are any members of the crew alive, and if so, where are they? These answers will have to wait until later this fall when Outreach launches for PC and Mac. View full article
  6. Outreach takes the narrative-focused space exploration of titles like Adr1ft and injects a hefty does of historical accuracy and an unshakable eeriness. Pixel Spill’s four-man team has been cranking away at the project for about two years, and during E3 last week I got to play the game's unnerving first 20 minutes. “I love sci-fi. I watch Star Trek on my lunch breaks,” James Booth, producer and writer, said. “But something I wanted to do differently with Outreach, I wanted it to be steeped in the history of space travel rather than being alternate history or future.” Outreach draws inspiration from the space race between the then-Soviet Union and the United States and how the Soviets beat the Americans by sending the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space. Chiefly, Outreach explores the “lost cosmonaut” conspiracy theory that alleges that prior to Gagarin, the Soviets secretly launched cosmonauts into space. However, all of them perished and the government covered up the mission. Additionally, espionage films such as The Hunt for Red October provided further influence. Set in 1986, players control a lone Soviet cosmonaut (voiced by The Wolf Among Us’ Adam Harrington) sent in orbit to investigate a space station and determine the fate of its crew. Booth says that while Outreach plays off events from the 1960's, the game takes place a few decades later to allow for the existence of a full space station. Pixel Spill values historical accuracy above all else. Archival footage and historical designs were referenced during development. The composition was made using actual Soviet-era synthesizers, creating a soundtrack that captures the authentic sound of the period. There are no jetpacks – Soviet cosmonauts didn’t have them at the time – so players must push themselves off objects to move around. “It’s literally set in 1986. All of the technology is era-specific.,” Booth explained. “The space station is based on pictures of the real thing. You can look at the two side by side and you probably couldn’t tell the difference apart from the fact that one’s a game.” While Outreach can be classified as walking simulator sub-genre, Booth refers to it as a “floating simulator” due to the zero gravity exploration. The unique control scheme took a fair bit of trial and error for me to adapt to. One shoulder trigger pushes forward while the other halts movement. Moving the left analog stick spins your view. I bounced against the station like a pinball before I got comfortable enough to navigate the station somewhat competently. Although movement felt strange and mildly nauseating, it did a decent job of selling the sensation of being suspended in zero gravity. You might think Outreach would be a perfect fit for VR. However, Booth cites the occasionally stomach-turning traversal as the primary reason Outreach won’t be coming to headsets. “It works [in VR], but don’t do it. We’d have to ship it with a branded sick bag.” After receiving my orders from my commander, I set out on the search for the crew. I soar from room to room, inspecting floating objects including letters and audio tapes, which can be played on a recorder. Booth promises that although the game is story-focused, Outreach will feature more gameplay than the average walking simulator thanks to richer mechanics, puzzles, and mini-games. At one point, I interacted with a terminal that featured a working game of Pong. After exploring the pods and finding no trace of the crew, only one area remains for inspection. Unfortunately, I break the latch off the door trying to open it, leaving me locked out. The only way around is to exit the station and reach the area from the outside. This is where Outreach’s intensity took really off. Since jetpacks aren’t a thing, the only way to make my way across the outside of the station was by a series of rungs on the station’s hull. The process involved kicking myself off a platform and carefully steering myself close enough to a rung to grab. It was an extremely nerve-racking segment thanks to how little control you have in maneuverability and the intimidating ambiance of space. Unlike many walking simulators, players can die in Outreach. In order to allow this, Pixel Spill needed to tweak the facts a bit. “Historically, you would have a tether that would connect you to the station,” Booth said. But we took that out. It’s kind of one of the only things we don’t do realistically because we wanted that fear of death.” Missing a rung and veering into orbit led to a very intense scene of the character quickly panicking as he realized he’d be helplessly hovering for the rest of his life. That emotional performance completely sold the terror of being stranded in space and only raised my anxiety about screwing up. I held my breath with every leap to a new handhold. After a few more trips to the scary death scene, I finally reached my destination, where the demo concluded. I welcomed the chance to calm my nerves, but I felt I’d just gotten the hang of the controls enough to inspire me to play more. On top of being an effective thriller, Outreach feels like it could be a great period piece of 1980's space travel thanks to its painstaking attention to detail. Most importantly, I left my play session wanting answers to the game's primary questions. What exactly happened on this ship? Are any members of the crew alive, and if so, where are they? These answers will have to wait until later this fall when Outreach launches for PC and Mac.
  7. The future of humanity is bleak. Or rather, the future seems so in Subset Games' dark vision of it in their upcoming title Into The Breach. Far into the future, humanity struggles to survive in the wake of an apocalypse only to find themselves beset on all sides by gigantic creatures that seem to have bred beneath the earth. In an effort to save what little of humanity remains, players must pilot giant mechs and battle these monsters. Subset Games have gone a much different direction with the gameplay of Into The Breach, deviating from the successful design they implemented for ship-to-ship combat and randomly generated role-playing in FTL: Faster Than Light. Into The Breach is actually a turn-based strategy game, taking cues from franchises like Advanced Wars and Fire Emblem. Maps are randomly generated and terrain features like buildings, mountains, and forests take damage as players wage their battles against the bug forces. Units will gain experience as they fight, becoming more powerful the longer they stay alive. Some stages will hold bonus objectives that grant additional rewards as players progress through their frantic final war for survival. Of course, there are still some elements of FTL in there - Subset Games wouldn't want to make things too easy, right? Should a player fail to successfully defend the last of humanity, they have been outfitted with a time travel device to allow them to try again. Each time a player travels back in time, the world will be altered and randomly generate, which will in turn change the war against the kaiju. That means the Into The Breech is more than willing to cut players down for poor strategic decisions. Into The Breach is currently planned as a single-player game that will release for Windows, Mac, and Linux. No release date has been given and likely won't be revealed any time soon. Each platform will likely launch sequentially rather than all at once.
  8. The future of humanity is bleak. Or rather, the future seems so in Subset Games' dark vision of it in their upcoming title Into The Breach. Far into the future, humanity struggles to survive in the wake of an apocalypse only to find themselves beset on all sides by gigantic creatures that seem to have bred beneath the earth. In an effort to save what little of humanity remains, players must pilot giant mechs and battle these monsters. Subset Games have gone a much different direction with the gameplay of Into The Breach, deviating from the successful design they implemented for ship-to-ship combat and randomly generated role-playing in FTL: Faster Than Light. Into The Breach is actually a turn-based strategy game, taking cues from franchises like Advanced Wars and Fire Emblem. Maps are randomly generated and terrain features like buildings, mountains, and forests take damage as players wage their battles against the bug forces. Units will gain experience as they fight, becoming more powerful the longer they stay alive. Some stages will hold bonus objectives that grant additional rewards as players progress through their frantic final war for survival. Of course, there are still some elements of FTL in there - Subset Games wouldn't want to make things too easy, right? Should a player fail to successfully defend the last of humanity, they have been outfitted with a time travel device to allow them to try again. Each time a player travels back in time, the world will be altered and randomly generate, which will in turn change the war against the kaiju. That means the Into The Breech is more than willing to cut players down for poor strategic decisions. Into The Breach is currently planned as a single-player game that will release for Windows, Mac, and Linux. No release date has been given and likely won't be revealed any time soon. Each platform will likely launch sequentially rather than all at once. View full article
  9. Most people know Dream Theater as a progressive metal band from the mid 80s that has released albums on and off for the past thirty years. While that would generally lead to a band fading into obscurity, Dream Theater does not go quietly into that good night. The band has partnered with Norwegian indie developer Turbo Tape Games to create a game based on their 2016 album The Astonishing. The game, titled The Astonishing Game, allows players to take part in the album's rock opera storyline, which delves into a conflict between artists and a totalitarian government. It features digital likenesses of the band members and various other musicians as they do battle with the machines of an empire to win over the general population. The turn-based strategy game allows players to choose to side with the musicians or the authoritarians. The game comes with a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode to challenge other Dream Theater fans (or those curious about what a Dream Theater game would be like). On top of that, players can be eligible to win prizes by playing The Astonishing Game. Those who play can win tickets to upcoming shows, backstage passes, signed merch, and more. The rules for winning prizes can be found on Turbo Tape Games' website. You can grab The Astonishing Game on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. View full article
  10. Most people know Dream Theater as a progressive metal band from the mid 80s that has released albums on and off for the past thirty years. While that would generally lead to a band fading into obscurity, Dream Theater does not go quietly into that good night. The band has partnered with Norwegian indie developer Turbo Tape Games to create a game based on their 2016 album The Astonishing. The game, titled The Astonishing Game, allows players to take part in the album's rock opera storyline, which delves into a conflict between artists and a totalitarian government. It features digital likenesses of the band members and various other musicians as they do battle with the machines of an empire to win over the general population. The turn-based strategy game allows players to choose to side with the musicians or the authoritarians. The game comes with a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode to challenge other Dream Theater fans (or those curious about what a Dream Theater game would be like). On top of that, players can be eligible to win prizes by playing The Astonishing Game. Those who play can win tickets to upcoming shows, backstage passes, signed merch, and more. The rules for winning prizes can be found on Turbo Tape Games' website. You can grab The Astonishing Game on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
  11. Minecraft Realms Goes Live

    Mojang's long awaited private server hosting service for Minecraft is finally available for PC and Mac users. Starting at $13 a month, Realms is a paid for service that allows people who are interested in hosting a Minecraft server to do so both conveniently and safely. The servers will run 24/7 whether the host is online or not, meaning everyone can participate on the server at any time. Servers are limited to 20 players with only 10 allowed onto the server at once. Data will be backed up often so if some disaster strikes your Minecraft server, loading an earlier world state should be a simple matter. If $13 seems to be a steep price, there are options for longer subscriptions or recurring payments that bring the cost down a bit. Though Minecraft recently launched on PS3, Minecraft Realms is currently only available for PC and Mac. Mojang plans to eventually make the service available to players on other systems.
  12. FTL: Advanced Edition Coming Soon

    The award-winning game Faster Than Light is receiving a free expansion that includes a slew of new features and it will now see an iOS release on the iPad. FTL, a beautiful, brutally difficult Rogue-like game, is one of my favorite indie games or the last few years. You take command of a spaceship tasked with warning the Federation of an impending attack by rebel forces. Every playthrough is drastically different and exhilarating, and players find them selves compelled to play again and again even though beating the game is a near herculean feat of micromanagement and luck. The expansion includes new tools, systems, and weapon abilities including: mind control, hacking, area of effect targeting, weapon overcharging, and basically more of everything. A new sector as well as new events have been added to the game, written by returning writer Tom Jubert and special guest Chris Avellone, who has worked on Planescape, Wasteland 2, and Project Eternity. Additionally, developer Subset games has listened to community feedback and added a few oft requested features like saving crew positions on the ship, the ability to save and quit during combat, and finding more items to purchase in stores. As someone who loves FTL, this is pretty much a dream come true. The PC and iPad versions will launch at the same time in early 2014. Subset will also be working to get FTL on Android tablets, but will not be bringing the title to phones due to the limited amount of interface space.
  13. SimCity Coming to Mac This June

    Electronic Arts announced today that it is bringing its popular city-building game to Mac on June 11. It will be available exclusively as a digital download through the company’s Origin service and other digital distribution sites. As an added bonus, future purchases of SimCity will work for both Mac and PC, with cities created in one version being available in the other as well. People who have already bought SimCity on PC will receive a free Mac version via Origin. Despite selling 1.3 million copies since launch, many enthusiastic customers encountered numerous server issues due to the always-online component of Maxis’ city simulation. Server instability became so bad that Maxis disabled part of the time-speeding feature (called Cheetah Speed) and players were frequently required to endure ridiculously long login queues. To try and earn consumer loyalty back, EA offered free games to affected customers. Even with the free game giveaways, many people still cried that EA hadn’t done enough to repair the damage. Maybe offering free Mac versions to existing customers is another attempt from EA to make reparations to jilted consumers?
  14. The resurgence of point-and-click adventures in mainstream gaming has been one of the more welcome surprises of the last few years. Daedalic Entertainment, a longtime champion of the genre, have released their most recent adventure, a beautifully realized journey that takes players through a dreamworld between life and death. During an air raid on their hometown, 16-year-old Noah and his young sister Renie take refuge within a bunker. However, they quickly find that the bunker isn't what it appears to be. It contains a portal to the world of Silence, a fantastic world full of its own set of dangers. The two siblings learn this the hard way when Noah loses Renie in Silence and embarks on a journey to find her once more. The journey of the Noah and Renie represents only a small fraction of Silence. Separate from the war raging outside the bunker, another war threatens to rip Silence asunder. The brother and sister soon find themselves wrapped up with the various warring factions in events that could doom the newfound world. Silence releases today for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac.
  15. The resurgence of point-and-click adventures in mainstream gaming has been one of the more welcome surprises of the last few years. Daedalic Entertainment, a longtime champion of the genre, have released their most recent adventure, a beautifully realized journey that takes players through a dreamworld between life and death. During an air raid on their hometown, 16-year-old Noah and his young sister Renie take refuge within a bunker. However, they quickly find that the bunker isn't what it appears to be. It contains a portal to the world of Silence, a fantastic world full of its own set of dangers. The two siblings learn this the hard way when Noah loses Renie in Silence and embarks on a journey to find her once more. The journey of the Noah and Renie represents only a small fraction of Silence. Separate from the war raging outside the bunker, another war threatens to rip Silence asunder. The brother and sister soon find themselves wrapped up with the various warring factions in events that could doom the newfound world. Silence releases today for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac. View full article
  16. Minecraft just received its eleventh update today. Dubbed 'The Exploration Update,' the world of Minecraft now has a host of new things to do and explore for those either currently or formerly enthralled to the world's foremost infinite block-world builder. The Minecraft community has been clamoring for more... well, everything, for quite some time now. Version 1.11 aims to deliver in a number of ways. First and foremost, Minecraft now has llamas. These alpacas can be ridden and carry supplies by equipping them with a carpet and chest, respectively. They can be leashed to create caravans that follow the play through the world. The ability to caravan a number of storage inventories together will surely be very handy for players on extended expeditions or working on large building projects. Another big addition to 1.11, woodland mansions now have a chance of spawning within the Roofed Forest biome. These large, foreboding structures hold two new enemy types intended to be end-game challenges for players. They hold many different traps and challenges for players to overcome and those who manage to prevail over the hostile home will face new adversaries - the Illagers. These tricky and dangerous Illagers come in two varieties. First, the vindicator mob wields an iron axe and attacks villagers and players on sight, acting as brute muscle to defend the mansion from intruders. They have a slight chance of dropping an emerald when slain. The second type, evokers, are much more dangerous. Mojang views them as something of a mini-boss in the world of Minecraft and has given the evokers otherworldly powers. Evokers can summon ghostly creatures known as vex to provide a distraction while they attack with snapping jaws they can summon from the ground. Vex are summoned in packs of two to four, can fly, and are capable of passing through any block without any resistance. Players who manage to slay an evoker are rewarded with a Totem of Undying - an item that, when held in hand, can resurrect a player instantly at the moment of their death. Mojang has also added the Shulker Box, a chest made with the shell of a shulker mob. This special chest retains its inventory when broken down, rendering a wide variety of inventory highly portable. These can only be made with materials gathered from the End, which now holds return portals to transport the player back to the main End portal. Another welcome addition to Minecraft: Cartographers! A new type of NPC, cartographers can be traded with to provide maps to various locations in the game world. Want to start a quest for a woodland mansion, ocean temple, or other interesting world location? The cartographer might just be able to point you in the right direction with a treasure map. Overall, The Exploration update seems to be a really solid expansion of Minecraft in all the ways players want. Head out there and get crafting!
  17. Minecraft just received its eleventh update today. Dubbed 'The Exploration Update,' the world of Minecraft now has a host of new things to do and explore for those either currently or formerly enthralled to the world's foremost infinite block-world builder. The Minecraft community has been clamoring for more... well, everything, for quite some time now. Version 1.11 aims to deliver in a number of ways. First and foremost, Minecraft now has llamas. These alpacas can be ridden and carry supplies by equipping them with a carpet and chest, respectively. They can be leashed to create caravans that follow the play through the world. The ability to caravan a number of storage inventories together will surely be very handy for players on extended expeditions or working on large building projects. Another big addition to 1.11, woodland mansions now have a chance of spawning within the Roofed Forest biome. These large, foreboding structures hold two new enemy types intended to be end-game challenges for players. They hold many different traps and challenges for players to overcome and those who manage to prevail over the hostile home will face new adversaries - the Illagers. These tricky and dangerous Illagers come in two varieties. First, the vindicator mob wields an iron axe and attacks villagers and players on sight, acting as brute muscle to defend the mansion from intruders. They have a slight chance of dropping an emerald when slain. The second type, evokers, are much more dangerous. Mojang views them as something of a mini-boss in the world of Minecraft and has given the evokers otherworldly powers. Evokers can summon ghostly creatures known as vex to provide a distraction while they attack with snapping jaws they can summon from the ground. Vex are summoned in packs of two to four, can fly, and are capable of passing through any block without any resistance. Players who manage to slay an evoker are rewarded with a Totem of Undying - an item that, when held in hand, can resurrect a player instantly at the moment of their death. Mojang has also added the Shulker Box, a chest made with the shell of a shulker mob. This special chest retains its inventory when broken down, rendering a wide variety of inventory highly portable. These can only be made with materials gathered from the End, which now holds return portals to transport the player back to the main End portal. Another welcome addition to Minecraft: Cartographers! A new type of NPC, cartographers can be traded with to provide maps to various locations in the game world. Want to start a quest for a woodland mansion, ocean temple, or other interesting world location? The cartographer might just be able to point you in the right direction with a treasure map. Overall, The Exploration update seems to be a really solid expansion of Minecraft in all the ways players want. Head out there and get crafting! View full article
  18. Review: XCOM 2

    All sequels dream of improving and expanding on the success of their predecessor. XCOM 2 manages to accomplish that goal by upping its production quality across the board. The drastically improved visuals stun with a frankly impressive level of detail. Locations, items, skill progression, everything has been either created entirely new or reworked into a slightly different, though recognizable, form. A relatively engaging narrative with some depth and pathos I simply wasn't expecting goes beyond “fight the bad aliens." Simply put, XCOM 2 feels like a big step in an exciting direction, setting the bar of excellence for all future additions to the series while also stumbling slightly on technical glitches. XCOM 2 begins with the assumption that the player failed to stop the alien invasion in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Twenty years after the fall of Earth, the alien forces have coalesced into a worldwide government known as ADVENT, an organization that goes to great lengths to appear benign, but something sinister stirs beneath the smiles they broadcast to the world. A scattered resistance movement has been agitating around the globe, chaffing under the alien’s rule. Spearheading that resistance, remnants of the XCOM project undertake a desperate mission to seize a critical alien asset…. It’s a good hook and a compelling scenario. Most interestingly, XCOM 2 eventually draws the player into the game world as an additional character. The cast of characters in XCOM 2 feels much more alive this time around. As players go about tasks like deciding what to research, optimizing squad equipment, or building new facilities within the alien ship that serves as a central base, characters like Central Officer Bradford, head engineer An-Yi Shen, and Dr. Tygan will share stories or gossip with both the player and each other in the base. It gives off a vibe reminiscent of the interactions from StarCraft II. XCOM 2 goes a long ways toward improving on Enemy Unknowns imperfections. A small change like introducing a trimmed down version of base-building that makes new expansions to your hideout feel more meaningful goes a long ways toward cultivating an enjoyable experience. Gone are the days when an allied nation panicked due to a lack of satellite coverage only to back out of the XCOM project permanently. Instead, a new system for maintaining a monthly income rears its head, requiring the player to merely contact resistance forces in a given area and complete any random missions that might arise in that area. Ignoring missions could lead to those areas being lost and having to spend precious time and resources to regain them again. Instead of satellites, players can build radio towers to lower the cost of contacting additional nearby pockets of the resistance. This eliminates a lot of the frustration the metagame caused in Enemy Unknown, while maintaining the element of choice that makes each attempt to complete an XCOM campaign unique. Firaxis really outdid themselves upping the all around visual presentation of XCOM 2. The level of detail really impresses. Small objects litter combat areas, adding to the sense that these are lived in space. In a shootout with ADVENT forces in a junk yard, small knickknacks and debris would go flying in reaction to gunfire or explosions. A guitar was clearly visible on the ground at one point. During one of the combat animations, the camera actually zoomed in so far to a cafe table that I was able to see a recently abandoned cup of coffee and an accompanying doughnut covered in sprinkles. Little touches like that are instrumental in giving an air of quality to XCOM 2; people clearly spent a lot of love and effort crafting it. No one puts doughnuts that few people will ever likely see into a game without caring about their work. New skill trees for class progressions really work to make classes that feel distinct and fun. Do you want a stealthy ranger or a ranger that can become a death-dealing hurricane? Would you prefer a grenadier who can make anything and everything explode or one that can shred through armor and enemies alike? The specialists all have drones that can be fitted for healing or combat tasks. Perhaps you want a sharpshooter to snipe enemies from afar or be a pistol-wielding nightmare. Maybe you throw all of those classes out the window and heavily invest in training psi operatives to unleash powerful psychic abilities on unwitting alien forces. All of these approaches can be experimented with heavily; mixing and matching abilities to fine tune soldiers so that they can overcome any challenge feels incredibly satisfying. Even more so, perhaps, because those ranks are earned in combat which always carries risk of permadeath. One of the larger gripes that people had about XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it launched in 2012 was its small pool of maps for random encounters. Firaxis clearly went out of their way to address this problem bringing a larger number of maps to XCOM 2. After 50 hours, I am sure I repeated a couple of the battlefields, but the randomized start locations mesh really nicely with the finely crafted combat spaces. I never had the thought of, “oh great, this place again,” while playing XCOM 2, which is surely an improvement over the 2012 franchise reboot. Firaxis also introduces never-before-seen enemies alongside revamped foes from Enemy Unknown, new items, and a commitment to destructible environments. Few things are more distressing than being caught in an ambush when one of the overhauled sectopods simply walks through a building and begins decimating your squad’s fresh recruits. Building more systems to facilitate environmental destruction really expands the tactical choices available to players. Don’t want to deal with an ADVENT officer who has taken up a defensive position on the second floor of an office building? Throw a grenade/shoot a rocket/use a special cover destroying ability and blow the floor out from under it, which causes it to take additional damage from the fall and potentially deprives it of cover. Of course, the aliens are equally capable of taking advantage of environment destruction, so players need to stay on their toes to avoid a total party wipe. All of these changes really help to give XCOM 2 an identity that feels distinct from its predecessor while maintaining the core gameplay that makes XCOM one of the staples of modern turn-based strategy. Perhaps its biggest accomplishment, XCOM 2 embraces the character personalization that arguably made 2012’s Enemy Unknown such an explosive hit. The randomizer that generates soldiers does a fantastic job of creating unique soldiers, each with their own backstories that brought them to be a part of the human resistance movement. You can spend hours agonizing over creating the coolest soldiers or inserting loved ones into the game. However, even without recreating friends and family to bring personal connections into the game, players will slowly develop a sense of who each of these characters are. The near suicidal Kellen “Smokey” Moore who stubbornly refused to die while pinned down by a colossal sectopod and three plasma-toting mutons; the whirlwind of destruction that was Jane “Cobra” Kelly who singlehandedly took down an entire defensive position of alien troops with only her machete; Jaqueline “Buzzsaw” Simon who truly earned her name in the final mission by taking down two charging berserkers to protect a gravely wounded comrade; or Kiriko “Priestess” Hasegawa who consistently beat the odds and hacked robotic defenses and soldiers to give her squad the winning edge they needed – I’ll remember these characters for more than the mere mechanical advantages they provided. We made memories together. I spent over 50 hours playing through one campaign of XCOM 2 and some of those soldiers were with me from the very beginning. Some potent bonding goes on when those characters live or die based on the quality of your tactical choices. Despite the triumph of XCOM 2, technical issues mar the otherwise amazing experience. The framerate can sometimes dip unexpectedly for seemingly no reason. Certain enemies can at times become invisible on the battlefield. Once or twice I had a character fall multiple from a higher elevation and become stuck in a piece of the environment. However, the biggest issue of all was the time many of my saves became corrupted and unplayable; crashing to the desktop every time they were loaded. No one wants to be forced to start a new game after investing nearly 40 hours into an experience. Randomly corrupting saves are a huge deal for a game that spans 50 hours for one campaign. Luckily, I was able to find an functional save file and continue with only a several hours of lost time. I’m sure Firaxis has been scrambling to fix these issues, but it might have been better to delay the game a bit further in order to fix some of these glaring technical hiccups before releasing it to the public. Conclusion: XCOM 2 is a strategic dream come true, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for waiting on it for a few weeks to give Firaxis time to sort out a patch or two for the most grievous glitches. Despite the struggles of modern development schedules cutting down on QA testing time, XCOM 2 delivers a really rich and rewarding experience that improves on Enemy Unknown in pretty nearly all respects. The emergent narratives crafted through commanding a resistance movement stand alongside set piece missions that shake up the standard objectives with really challenging scenarios. The standout for me involves the entirety of the XCOM barracks taking to the battlefield to fight for survival. I haven’t even mentioned the three mods crafted by Long War Studios, the team behind Enemy Unknown’s Long War mod, that were available at XCOM 2’s launch. They add SMGs, a new alien type, and an entire skill tree that allows soldiers to train as leaders, conferring squad bonuses and abilities. They are all excellent and bettered my core experience. Play XCOM 2 right now if you are a strategy fiend and you are jonesing for your next strategy fix, but for those with more self-control hold off for a few more weeks until the technical stuff finishes being ironed out. XCOM 2 is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  19. Feature: Review: XCOM 2

    All sequels dream of improving and expanding on the success of their predecessor. XCOM 2 manages to accomplish that goal by upping its production quality across the board. The drastically improved visuals stun with a frankly impressive level of detail. Locations, items, skill progression, everything has been either created entirely new or reworked into a slightly different, though recognizable, form. A relatively engaging narrative with some depth and pathos I simply wasn't expecting goes beyond “fight the bad aliens." Simply put, XCOM 2 feels like a big step in an exciting direction, setting the bar of excellence for all future additions to the series while also stumbling slightly on technical glitches. XCOM 2 begins with the assumption that the player failed to stop the alien invasion in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Twenty years after the fall of Earth, the alien forces have coalesced into a worldwide government known as ADVENT, an organization that goes to great lengths to appear benign, but something sinister stirs beneath the smiles they broadcast to the world. A scattered resistance movement has been agitating around the globe, chaffing under the alien’s rule. Spearheading that resistance, remnants of the XCOM project undertake a desperate mission to seize a critical alien asset…. It’s a good hook and a compelling scenario. Most interestingly, XCOM 2 eventually draws the player into the game world as an additional character. The cast of characters in XCOM 2 feels much more alive this time around. As players go about tasks like deciding what to research, optimizing squad equipment, or building new facilities within the alien ship that serves as a central base, characters like Central Officer Bradford, head engineer An-Yi Shen, and Dr. Tygan will share stories or gossip with both the player and each other in the base. It gives off a vibe reminiscent of the interactions from StarCraft II. XCOM 2 goes a long ways toward improving on Enemy Unknowns imperfections. A small change like introducing a trimmed down version of base-building that makes new expansions to your hideout feel more meaningful goes a long ways toward cultivating an enjoyable experience. Gone are the days when an allied nation panicked due to a lack of satellite coverage only to back out of the XCOM project permanently. Instead, a new system for maintaining a monthly income rears its head, requiring the player to merely contact resistance forces in a given area and complete any random missions that might arise in that area. Ignoring missions could lead to those areas being lost and having to spend precious time and resources to regain them again. Instead of satellites, players can build radio towers to lower the cost of contacting additional nearby pockets of the resistance. This eliminates a lot of the frustration the metagame caused in Enemy Unknown, while maintaining the element of choice that makes each attempt to complete an XCOM campaign unique. Firaxis really outdid themselves upping the all around visual presentation of XCOM 2. The level of detail really impresses. Small objects litter combat areas, adding to the sense that these are lived in space. In a shootout with ADVENT forces in a junk yard, small knickknacks and debris would go flying in reaction to gunfire or explosions. A guitar was clearly visible on the ground at one point. During one of the combat animations, the camera actually zoomed in so far to a cafe table that I was able to see a recently abandoned cup of coffee and an accompanying doughnut covered in sprinkles. Little touches like that are instrumental in giving an air of quality to XCOM 2; people clearly spent a lot of love and effort crafting it. No one puts doughnuts that few people will ever likely see into a game without caring about their work. New skill trees for class progressions really work to make classes that feel distinct and fun. Do you want a stealthy ranger or a ranger that can become a death-dealing hurricane? Would you prefer a grenadier who can make anything and everything explode or one that can shred through armor and enemies alike? The specialists all have drones that can be fitted for healing or combat tasks. Perhaps you want a sharpshooter to snipe enemies from afar or be a pistol-wielding nightmare. Maybe you throw all of those classes out the window and heavily invest in training psi operatives to unleash powerful psychic abilities on unwitting alien forces. All of these approaches can be experimented with heavily; mixing and matching abilities to fine tune soldiers so that they can overcome any challenge feels incredibly satisfying. Even more so, perhaps, because those ranks are earned in combat which always carries risk of permadeath. One of the larger gripes that people had about XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it launched in 2012 was its small pool of maps for random encounters. Firaxis clearly went out of their way to address this problem bringing a larger number of maps to XCOM 2. After 50 hours, I am sure I repeated a couple of the battlefields, but the randomized start locations mesh really nicely with the finely crafted combat spaces. I never had the thought of, “oh great, this place again,” while playing XCOM 2, which is surely an improvement over the 2012 franchise reboot. Firaxis also introduces never-before-seen enemies alongside revamped foes from Enemy Unknown, new items, and a commitment to destructible environments. Few things are more distressing than being caught in an ambush when one of the overhauled sectopods simply walks through a building and begins decimating your squad’s fresh recruits. Building more systems to facilitate environmental destruction really expands the tactical choices available to players. Don’t want to deal with an ADVENT officer who has taken up a defensive position on the second floor of an office building? Throw a grenade/shoot a rocket/use a special cover destroying ability and blow the floor out from under it, which causes it to take additional damage from the fall and potentially deprives it of cover. Of course, the aliens are equally capable of taking advantage of environment destruction, so players need to stay on their toes to avoid a total party wipe. All of these changes really help to give XCOM 2 an identity that feels distinct from its predecessor while maintaining the core gameplay that makes XCOM one of the staples of modern turn-based strategy. Perhaps its biggest accomplishment, XCOM 2 embraces the character personalization that arguably made 2012’s Enemy Unknown such an explosive hit. The randomizer that generates soldiers does a fantastic job of creating unique soldiers, each with their own backstories that brought them to be a part of the human resistance movement. You can spend hours agonizing over creating the coolest soldiers or inserting loved ones into the game. However, even without recreating friends and family to bring personal connections into the game, players will slowly develop a sense of who each of these characters are. The near suicidal Kellen “Smokey” Moore who stubbornly refused to die while pinned down by a colossal sectopod and three plasma-toting mutons; the whirlwind of destruction that was Jane “Cobra” Kelly who singlehandedly took down an entire defensive position of alien troops with only her machete; Jaqueline “Buzzsaw” Simon who truly earned her name in the final mission by taking down two charging berserkers to protect a gravely wounded comrade; or Kiriko “Priestess” Hasegawa who consistently beat the odds and hacked robotic defenses and soldiers to give her squad the winning edge they needed – I’ll remember these characters for more than the mere mechanical advantages they provided. We made memories together. I spent over 50 hours playing through one campaign of XCOM 2 and some of those soldiers were with me from the very beginning. Some potent bonding goes on when those characters live or die based on the quality of your tactical choices. Despite the triumph of XCOM 2, technical issues mar the otherwise amazing experience. The framerate can sometimes dip unexpectedly for seemingly no reason. Certain enemies can at times become invisible on the battlefield. Once or twice I had a character fall multiple from a higher elevation and become stuck in a piece of the environment. However, the biggest issue of all was the time many of my saves became corrupted and unplayable; crashing to the desktop every time they were loaded. No one wants to be forced to start a new game after investing nearly 40 hours into an experience. Randomly corrupting saves are a huge deal for a game that spans 50 hours for one campaign. Luckily, I was able to find an functional save file and continue with only a several hours of lost time. I’m sure Firaxis has been scrambling to fix these issues, but it might have been better to delay the game a bit further in order to fix some of these glaring technical hiccups before releasing it to the public. Conclusion: XCOM 2 is a strategic dream come true, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for waiting on it for a few weeks to give Firaxis time to sort out a patch or two for the most grievous glitches. Despite the struggles of modern development schedules cutting down on QA testing time, XCOM 2 delivers a really rich and rewarding experience that improves on Enemy Unknown in pretty nearly all respects. The emergent narratives crafted through commanding a resistance movement stand alongside set piece missions that shake up the standard objectives with really challenging scenarios. The standout for me involves the entirety of the XCOM barracks taking to the battlefield to fight for survival. I haven’t even mentioned the three mods crafted by Long War Studios, the team behind Enemy Unknown’s Long War mod, that were available at XCOM 2’s launch. They add SMGs, a new alien type, and an entire skill tree that allows soldiers to train as leaders, conferring squad bonuses and abilities. They are all excellent and bettered my core experience. Play XCOM 2 right now if you are a strategy fiend and you are jonesing for your next strategy fix, but for those with more self-control hold off for a few more weeks until the technical stuff finishes being ironed out. XCOM 2 is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. View full article
  20. Review: That Dragon, Cancer

    Well, here I am. The experience of Numinous Games’ debut title remains fresh in my mind, but it has left me without words. I completed the autobiographical game made by Ryan and Amy Green in about two hours, but less than five minutes into their indie game I began crying. The Greens made That Dragon, Cancer to memorialize their son, Joel, who passed away in March of 2014. It places the player in the role of an observer, both externally and internally, of the big and small moments in the life of Joel and his parents. That Dragon, Cancer will eviscerate the heart of anyone who has even a shred of empathy in their body. Shirking the weight of heavy-handed allegory, the Greens relate their experiences through a series of vignettes that capture specific moments throughout the final months of their son’s valiant struggle. In those moments we are given incredibly frank glimpses into the minds of Amy and Ryan as they struggle with their son’s impending fate. We see their faith in a God-given miracle that’s also contrasted with their human doubt. We see the couple arguing as the pressure of Joel’s situation causes each of them to cope differently, but also come together to find strength in one another. These are people with all the virtues and flaws inherent to the human race trying to get by while facing down tragedy that no one would wish upon another person. There are moments in That Dragon, Cancer where I literally became blinded by tears. How else can one respond to such an intimate and powerful work of truth? Playing with Joel in the park while listening to him laugh, knowing where this game is eventually headed - it breaks your heart. That was when I began to weep. I was going to say that was the first time I cried, but I pretty much continued to leak tears for the rest of my time with the Green family. Whenever I thought I had expended my supply of salt water, there was another scenario to bring back the rain. That Dragon, Cancer takes players on a journey through the valley of the shadow of death and shows that moments of joy, hope, and miracles can still be found even in the face of overwhelming anguish. The simple pleasure of hearing Joel laugh when you know the nature of the dragon he’s facing takes on a new light. We hear Amy’s desolate realization that Joel will never have an Off Treatment Day celebration, but we also see Ryan arrive at a crushing level of despair as he finds himself unable to get his son to stop crying only to experience a minor, comforting miracle. We live through short, powerful snippets of Joel’s story: Late nights at the hospital; feeding ducks at the park; the final, hopeless prognosis. However, we are never given more than we can absolutely bear. The structure includes enough time between these gut punches to allow players to recover just enough to be able to continue through the razor-sharp moments of heartbreak. However, even the breathing period between these moments resounds with the knowledge that though the Green family is telling their story, Joel’s path has been walked before and will be walked again. Art work from cancer patients, survivors, and those who have fallen adorn the walls of the in-game hospital and we are able to look at each piece and the names attached to them. The names. There are so many names. And that’s not all. The most moving of these quiet moments for me was walking around the hospital after it had been decorated with cards and realizing that I could read them. This was quickly followed by the realization that they were from the backers of That Dragon, Cancer. Those are real cards from real people whose loved ones have beaten cancer, are undergoing treatment, or have been brought low by that dragon. I felt an obligation to those people, to honor those messages. I read every single one of them and they ripped me apart in the process. But, as always, not more than I could bear. While the term “faith-based game” usually presents a red flag to the majority of the gaming community, That Dragon, Cancer might be the first game to earn that label while also being an incredibly compelling, worthwhile experience. Largely this is due to the most human attribute that many faith-oriented games gloss over: Doubt. Throughout That Dragon, Cancer, Amy Green voices her faith that her son will be healed. Again and again while Joel’s condition worsens she professes her sincere belief that her son will be healed. Meanwhile, Ryan Green despairs at the reality of Joel’s situation. This contrast makes Amy Green seem almost delusional. However, as players near the end of their time with the Green family, Amy gives insight into her faith that gets to the human heart of what she is going through. In a distraught voice she reveals that she has long acknowledged Joel’s condition, but why must everyone continue to chant about his death? “Death is a given,” she says, “but this miracle we are hoping for is worth pursuing.” The possibility of his life is worth believing in, and you know what? Amy is right. As long as hope exists, as long as the barest sliver of a chance remains, who are we to try to drag her down into grief before its time? These are obviously some very heavy questions, the kind that make you introspective and quiet. The subject matter is uncomfortable and difficult. So it comes down to the gorgeous visual presentation of That Dragon, Cancer to help the bitter pill of the experience become more digestible. Every scene appears as a lush geometric painting that allows for a certain surreal disconnect that oddly brings the ideas at play into clearer focus. Sitting through the final prognosis and seeing the room slowly fill with stormy waters perfectly illustrates the despair of the situation. The faceless character model of Joel becomes both Joel and the countless other children who have gone through similar experiences. That Dragon, Cancer works as both a story about a specific family and a story about all families afflicted with cancer. It helps that the mechanics of That Dragon, Cancer remain fairly simple, practically point-and-click for long stretches. However, that control scheme works by allowing players to take their time and tackle whatever comes next at their own pace. That isn’t to say That Dragon, Cancer sticks with slow contemplation. The point-and-click segments are broken up by moments that range from cart racing to a side-scrolling arcade game. While these might normally be a bit jarring, they ultimately connect back to the core narrative and work in the wider context of what That Dragon, Cancer tries to communicate to the player. Conclusion: That Dragon, Cancer is not fun, nor is it supposed to be. Some people might find fault with that, but there are moments of triumph and joy mixed in with this breathlessly human work. A powerful love woven through the fabric of That Dragon, Cancer propels the Green family’s achievement. It comes through in the visuals, the narrations, the gentleness and sincerity that permeates it all. I would be very surprised if That Dragon, Cancer didn’t go on to become one of the most influential works of game design for years to come. If you would feel anguish and heartache; if you would feel joy and hope; if you would be moved down to your foundation; play That Dragon, Cancer. That Dragon, Cancer is available now on PC, Mac, and Ouya
  21. Well, here I am. The experience of Numinous Games’ debut title remains fresh in my mind, but it has left me without words. I completed the autobiographical game made by Ryan and Amy Green in about two hours, but less than five minutes into their indie game I began crying. The Greens made That Dragon, Cancer to memorialize their son, Joel, who passed away in March of 2014. It places the player in the role of an observer, both externally and internally, of the big and small moments in the life of Joel and his parents. That Dragon, Cancer will eviscerate the heart of anyone who has even a shred of empathy in their body. Shirking the weight of heavy-handed allegory, the Greens relate their experiences through a series of vignettes that capture specific moments throughout the final months of their son’s valiant struggle. In those moments we are given incredibly frank glimpses into the minds of Amy and Ryan as they struggle with their son’s impending fate. We see their faith in a God-given miracle that’s also contrasted with their human doubt. We see the couple arguing as the pressure of Joel’s situation causes each of them to cope differently, but also come together to find strength in one another. These are people with all the virtues and flaws inherent to the human race trying to get by while facing down tragedy that no one would wish upon another person. There are moments in That Dragon, Cancer where I literally became blinded by tears. How else can one respond to such an intimate and powerful work of truth? Playing with Joel in the park while listening to him laugh, knowing where this game is eventually headed - it breaks your heart. That was when I began to weep. I was going to say that was the first time I cried, but I pretty much continued to leak tears for the rest of my time with the Green family. Whenever I thought I had expended my supply of salt water, there was another scenario to bring back the rain. That Dragon, Cancer takes players on a journey through the valley of the shadow of death and shows that moments of joy, hope, and miracles can still be found even in the face of overwhelming anguish. The simple pleasure of hearing Joel laugh when you know the nature of the dragon he’s facing takes on a new light. We hear Amy’s desolate realization that Joel will never have an Off Treatment Day celebration, but we also see Ryan arrive at a crushing level of despair as he finds himself unable to get his son to stop crying only to experience a minor, comforting miracle. We live through short, powerful snippets of Joel’s story: Late nights at the hospital; feeding ducks at the park; the final, hopeless prognosis. However, we are never given more than we can absolutely bear. The structure includes enough time between these gut punches to allow players to recover just enough to be able to continue through the razor-sharp moments of heartbreak. However, even the breathing period between these moments resounds with the knowledge that though the Green family is telling their story, Joel’s path has been walked before and will be walked again. Art work from cancer patients, survivors, and those who have fallen adorn the walls of the in-game hospital and we are able to look at each piece and the names attached to them. The names. There are so many names. And that’s not all. The most moving of these quiet moments for me was walking around the hospital after it had been decorated with cards and realizing that I could read them. This was quickly followed by the realization that they were from the backers of That Dragon, Cancer. Those are real cards from real people whose loved ones have beaten cancer, are undergoing treatment, or have been brought low by that dragon. I felt an obligation to those people, to honor those messages. I read every single one of them and they ripped me apart in the process. But, as always, not more than I could bear. While the term “faith-based game” usually presents a red flag to the majority of the gaming community, That Dragon, Cancer might be the first game to earn that label while also being an incredibly compelling, worthwhile experience. Largely this is due to the most human attribute that many faith-oriented games gloss over: Doubt. Throughout That Dragon, Cancer, Amy Green voices her faith that her son will be healed. Again and again while Joel’s condition worsens she professes her sincere belief that her son will be healed. Meanwhile, Ryan Green despairs at the reality of Joel’s situation. This contrast makes Amy Green seem almost delusional. However, as players near the end of their time with the Green family, Amy gives insight into her faith that gets to the human heart of what she is going through. In a distraught voice she reveals that she has long acknowledged Joel’s condition, but why must everyone continue to chant about his death? “Death is a given,” she says, “but this miracle we are hoping for is worth pursuing.” The possibility of his life is worth believing in, and you know what? Amy is right. As long as hope exists, as long as the barest sliver of a chance remains, who are we to try to drag her down into grief before its time? These are obviously some very heavy questions, the kind that make you introspective and quiet. The subject matter is uncomfortable and difficult. So it comes down to the gorgeous visual presentation of That Dragon, Cancer to help the bitter pill of the experience become more digestible. Every scene appears as a lush geometric painting that allows for a certain surreal disconnect that oddly brings the ideas at play into clearer focus. Sitting through the final prognosis and seeing the room slowly fill with stormy waters perfectly illustrates the despair of the situation. The faceless character model of Joel becomes both Joel and the countless other children who have gone through similar experiences. That Dragon, Cancer works as both a story about a specific family and a story about all families afflicted with cancer. It helps that the mechanics of That Dragon, Cancer remain fairly simple, practically point-and-click for long stretches. However, that control scheme works by allowing players to take their time and tackle whatever comes next at their own pace. That isn’t to say That Dragon, Cancer sticks with slow contemplation. The point-and-click segments are broken up by moments that range from cart racing to a side-scrolling arcade game. While these might normally be a bit jarring, they ultimately connect back to the core narrative and work in the wider context of what That Dragon, Cancer tries to communicate to the player. Conclusion: That Dragon, Cancer is not fun, nor is it supposed to be. Some people might find fault with that, but there are moments of triumph and joy mixed in with this breathlessly human work. A powerful love woven through the fabric of That Dragon, Cancer propels the Green family’s achievement. It comes through in the visuals, the narrations, the gentleness and sincerity that permeates it all. I would be very surprised if That Dragon, Cancer didn’t go on to become one of the most influential works of game design for years to come. If you would feel anguish and heartache; if you would feel joy and hope; if you would be moved down to your foundation; play That Dragon, Cancer. That Dragon, Cancer is available now on PC, Mac, and Ouya View full article
  22. Sublevel Zero is a roguelike, first-person shooter that casts players as the pilot of a lone gunship attempting to sift through the ruins of the human empire in a desperate bid to find a key that will prevent the unraveling of the universe. Each attempt to reach Sublevel Zero features proceedurally-generated environments, dangerous enemies, and permadeath. Killing enemies and finding loot will allow you to craft better weapons and armor from the remnants of humanity. Because Sublevel Zero takes place in space, players will be able to rotate in whatever direction they wish to best encounter the enemy. The indie title places a heavy emphasis on survival, with brutal enemies and limited ammo. Can you survive to reach the final floor? Sublevel Zero releases on October 8 for PC and Mac. A console version will be coming sometime in 2016. View full article
  23. Sublevel Zero is a roguelike, first-person shooter that casts players as the pilot of a lone gunship attempting to sift through the ruins of the human empire in a desperate bid to find a key that will prevent the unraveling of the universe. Each attempt to reach Sublevel Zero features proceedurally-generated environments, dangerous enemies, and permadeath. Killing enemies and finding loot will allow you to craft better weapons and armor from the remnants of humanity. Because Sublevel Zero takes place in space, players will be able to rotate in whatever direction they wish to best encounter the enemy. The indie title places a heavy emphasis on survival, with brutal enemies and limited ammo. Can you survive to reach the final floor? Sublevel Zero releases on October 8 for PC and Mac. A console version will be coming sometime in 2016.
  24. Developer Squishy Games has released a new trailer for their rogue-like, isometric sidescroller Rogue Invader. Based on a game made for fun nearly 20 years ago, Rogue Invader places players in the role of an invading force of soldiers trying to conquer the homeworld of the aliens who have brought unimaginable war and devastation upon the human race. To do this, soldiers with various different types of customizable weapons and armor will have to make their way across the planet's surface, through the alien defenses, and defeat the vile King Zenos. Each playthrough is randomized and many secrets lurk for those who explore enough to find them. While the title is currently running a Kickstarter campaign, it has been green lit on Steam and will be released whether or not the Kickstarter succeeds (which currently looks doubtful). The Kickstarter, as stated up front by Squishy Games, is mostly for bumping up the quality of the soundtrack and the art assets. However, the game itself has been largely finished, though additional areas and items will be added in patches. Rogue Invader will be coming to PC, Mac, and Linux later this fall. View full article
  25. Developer Squishy Games has released a new trailer for their rogue-like, isometric sidescroller Rogue Invader. Based on a game made for fun nearly 20 years ago, Rogue Invader places players in the role of an invading force of soldiers trying to conquer the homeworld of the aliens who have brought unimaginable war and devastation upon the human race. To do this, soldiers with various different types of customizable weapons and armor will have to make their way across the planet's surface, through the alien defenses, and defeat the vile King Zenos. Each playthrough is randomized and many secrets lurk for those who explore enough to find them. While the title is currently running a Kickstarter campaign, it has been green lit on Steam and will be released whether or not the Kickstarter succeeds (which currently looks doubtful). The Kickstarter, as stated up front by Squishy Games, is mostly for bumping up the quality of the soundtrack and the art assets. However, the game itself has been largely finished, though additional areas and items will be added in patches. Rogue Invader will be coming to PC, Mac, and Linux later this fall.