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Found 489 results

  1. The premise seems so simple - build your own theme park with dinosaurs and make it as safe as possible - how has it never been done before? Well, it has been done before. Jurassic Park III: Park Builder, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, and Jurassic Park Builder all tackled the same situation. However, those games all seemed to fall somewhat short of the dream players had of running a dino park while making sure life doesn't find a way. What makes Jurassic World Evolution different? Well, without more information, there aren't any specifics that back up the impression that this time we might finally get a game that fully capitalizes on the premise of a dinosaur theme park. However, the ray of hope comes in the form of the developer: Frontier Developments. Frontier has been on a bit of a roll in recent years. They created Elite: Dangerous, the sprawling space-faring sim, and Planet Coaster, a theme park construction simulator. Both titles were very well received, which bodes well for Jurassic World Evolution. Not only that, but Frontier worked on park management sims (RollerCoaster Tycoon and Thrillville franchises) for much of the early to mid 2000s. Their team possesses a wellspring of experience when it comes to creating the ideal Jurassic Park sim. What we do know is that players will be running a more modern version of Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, as seen in the recent soft reboot of the film franchise. Players will be in charge of creating new dinosaurs to show off to the public, creating additional attractions, sealing up the containment areas with the best tech available, researching new improvements to the park, and creating contingency plans in case life finds a way. Jurassic World Evolution releases sometime during summer 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
  2. The premise seems so simple - build your own theme park with dinosaurs and make it as safe as possible - how has it never been done before? Well, it has been done before. Jurassic Park III: Park Builder, Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, and Jurassic Park Builder all tackled the same situation. However, those games all seemed to fall somewhat short of the dream players had of running a dino park while making sure life doesn't find a way. What makes Jurassic World Evolution different? Well, without more information, there aren't any specifics that back up the impression that this time we might finally get a game that fully capitalizes on the premise of a dinosaur theme park. However, the ray of hope comes in the form of the developer: Frontier Developments. Frontier has been on a bit of a roll in recent years. They created Elite: Dangerous, the sprawling space-faring sim, and Planet Coaster, a theme park construction simulator. Both titles were very well received, which bodes well for Jurassic World Evolution. Not only that, but Frontier worked on park management sims (RollerCoaster Tycoon and Thrillville franchises) for much of the early to mid 2000s. Their team possesses a wellspring of experience when it comes to creating the ideal Jurassic Park sim. What we do know is that players will be running a more modern version of Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, as seen in the recent soft reboot of the film franchise. Players will be in charge of creating new dinosaurs to show off to the public, creating additional attractions, sealing up the containment areas with the best tech available, researching new improvements to the park, and creating contingency plans in case life finds a way. Jurassic World Evolution releases sometime during summer 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. View full article
  3. Anyone else having fun playing this? Anyone interested in grouping up for said game?
  4. In a world where robots can control the skies as effectively as pilots, what's the point of human aviators? Ace Combat 7 brings its Strangereal universe (the term given to the grounded, but entirely fictional world portrayed in the majority of Ace Combat titles) into the near future to explore that very scenario. Ace Combat 7: Unknown Skies takes place several years after the events of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation and takes the series back to Osea, the main location from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (with the possibility of characters from 5 reappearing in 7). The Osean Federation has undertaken a massive construction project to create a space elevator. Unfortunately, that construction spilled over into the Kingdom of Erusea, and they don't take too kindly to the project. That leads to a declaration of war from their ruler, Princess Rosa Cossette D'Elise. The writing and story are being handled by Sunao Katabuchi, who also wrote the highly acclaimed Ace Combat 5. I had a chance to play with the PSVR version of Ace Combat 7 recently. The VR setup for the combat flight sim places players directly in the pilot's seat, leading to one of the greatest VR experiences I've personally had to date. The demo constituted one of the early missions from the game, tasking players to launch themselves from an aircraft carrier to engage several incoming waves of adversaries. Being able to look out of the cockpit at various angles to identify bogies as I did barrel rolls and loops through the air was incredibly freeing. While Ace Combat 7 will release on Xbox One and PC as well as PlayStation 4, the PSVR version of the title will release with unique missions. Outside of the VR experience, Ace Combat 7 sticks to the classic Ace Combat gamepad control scheme. While the series might strive for realism in the graphics department, the moment to moment gameplay resembles an arcade flier more than anything else. Players take to the skies in aircraft that are sometimes armed with upwards of 100 missiles. Simple controls make learning the ropes relatively easy for newcomers, while veterans will find enough depth and difficulty to keep themselves hooked for a long, long time. Players can take to the skies in two player local co-op or multiplayer. Ace Combat 7, originally slated for a 2017 release, will now become available sometime in 2018 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.
  5. In a world where robots can control the skies as effectively as pilots, what's the point of human aviators? Ace Combat 7 brings its Strangereal universe (the term given to the grounded, but entirely fictional world portrayed in the majority of Ace Combat titles) into the near future to explore that very scenario. Ace Combat 7: Unknown Skies takes place several years after the events of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation and takes the series back to Osea, the main location from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War (with the possibility of characters from 5 reappearing in 7). The Osean Federation has undertaken a massive construction project to create a space elevator. Unfortunately, that construction spilled over into the Kingdom of Erusea, and they don't take too kindly to the project. That leads to a declaration of war from their ruler, Princess Rosa Cossette D'Elise. The writing and story are being handled by Sunao Katabuchi, who also wrote the highly acclaimed Ace Combat 5. I had a chance to play with the PSVR version of Ace Combat 7 recently. The VR setup for the combat flight sim places players directly in the pilot's seat, leading to one of the greatest VR experiences I've personally had to date. The demo constituted one of the early missions from the game, tasking players to launch themselves from an aircraft carrier to engage several incoming waves of adversaries. Being able to look out of the cockpit at various angles to identify bogies as I did barrel rolls and loops through the air was incredibly freeing. While Ace Combat 7 will release on Xbox One and PC as well as PlayStation 4, the PSVR version of the title will release with unique missions. Outside of the VR experience, Ace Combat 7 sticks to the classic Ace Combat gamepad control scheme. While the series might strive for realism in the graphics department, the moment to moment gameplay resembles an arcade flier more than anything else. Players take to the skies in aircraft that are sometimes armed with upwards of 100 missiles. Simple controls make learning the ropes relatively easy for newcomers, while veterans will find enough depth and difficulty to keep themselves hooked for a long, long time. Players can take to the skies in two player local co-op or multiplayer. Ace Combat 7, originally slated for a 2017 release, will now become available sometime in 2018 on PS4, Xbox One and PC. View full article
  6. EA announced that Fe, one of the upcoming indie titles from their EA Originals program, would be launching early next year. Fe tells the story of a small animal that awakens in a forest full of sounds and music. Over the course of the game, players learn to communicate with the world around them and learn to interpret the wordless story as they encounter friends and foes on their journeys. Fe has been developed by Zoink Games, the Swedish studio behind indie titles like Stick it to the Man and Flipping Death. Klaus Lyngeled, the CEO and creative lead at Zoink released a statement alongside the release window saying, “We wanted to create a game that gives the feeling of exploring something special. We would spend hours in the woods as kids, and while it felt scary at first, eventually the strange sounds became familiar -- you become part of nature and the forest feels like home. Players will realize similar feelings as they play through Fe. Wherever and however the game is played, we ensure it will be a unique experience of discovery, unlike anything played before.” “Through Fe, Zoink has reminded us that everything is connected. They have created a game where the magic and beauty of nature, and all its creatures, come alive,” said Patrick Soderlund, the EVP at EA Worldwide Studios. “This game and this studio embody the spirit of the EA Originals program that we started a little over a year ago – the freedom to create, and to bring uniquely innovative and memorable games to players all over the world." Fe will release worldwide in early 2018 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
  7. EA announced that Fe, one of the upcoming indie titles from their EA Originals program, would be launching early next year. Fe tells the story of a small animal that awakens in a forest full of sounds and music. Over the course of the game, players learn to communicate with the world around them and learn to interpret the wordless story as they encounter friends and foes on their journeys. Fe has been developed by Zoink Games, the Swedish studio behind indie titles like Stick it to the Man and Flipping Death. Klaus Lyngeled, the CEO and creative lead at Zoink released a statement alongside the release window saying, “We wanted to create a game that gives the feeling of exploring something special. We would spend hours in the woods as kids, and while it felt scary at first, eventually the strange sounds became familiar -- you become part of nature and the forest feels like home. Players will realize similar feelings as they play through Fe. Wherever and however the game is played, we ensure it will be a unique experience of discovery, unlike anything played before.” “Through Fe, Zoink has reminded us that everything is connected. They have created a game where the magic and beauty of nature, and all its creatures, come alive,” said Patrick Soderlund, the EVP at EA Worldwide Studios. “This game and this studio embody the spirit of the EA Originals program that we started a little over a year ago – the freedom to create, and to bring uniquely innovative and memorable games to players all over the world." Fe will release worldwide in early 2018 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. View full article
  8. Age of Empires Resurfaces at Gamescom

    Back during E3, Microsoft made a small splash that was easy to overlook in the churning waters of PR madness: the original Age of Empires would be receiving an official, definitive edition. This new edition would bring the game into 4K resolutions and present a variety of improvements in UI and gameplay, as well as expanded content. Given that the Age of Empires franchise had lain dormant for years with only the small releases of digital adaptations of Age of Empires II and its expansion to HD, it was enough to catch the attention of some ardent fans. That announcement seems to have been a mere prelude to Microsoft's Gamescom 2017 announcement yesterday, which revealed that Microsoft has tapped Relic Entertainment, the developers behind the Company of Heroes franchise, to create Age of Empires IV. As a longtime fan of Age of Empires who was sad to see Ensemble Studios disband back in 2009 specifically because it meant no more Age of Empires, Relic might be the only studio out there who has the chops for a proper Age of Empires sequel. We don't know much about what form this next entry in the historical RTS genre will take. The trailer for Age of Empires IV reveals that the game will span multiple historical periods from the time of the Roman Legion to at least the Colonial era. No gameplay was shown, so it might be a radically different take on the genre. There's not much more information available, but Age of Empires fans can sign up to participate in the closed beta of Age of Empires IV on its website. Microsoft has a small series of promotional videos going up on YouTube called Age Up!, which focuses on the various civilizations in Age of Empires IV. The first video is already up; it's about a minute long and gives some quick facts about the Pyramids of Egypt. I like the concept for this series, but I hope they put more time and effort into it. One minute isn't enough history! Finally, along with the announcement of Age of Empires IV, Microsoft announced a release date for the Definitive Edition of the original Age of Empires - and also that we will definitely be seeing definitive editions for Age of Empires II and Age of Empires III. You'll be able to get your hands on Age of Empires: Definitive Edition on October 19, 2017.
  9. Back during E3, Microsoft made a small splash that was easy to overlook in the churning waters of PR madness: the original Age of Empires would be receiving an official, definitive edition. This new edition would bring the game into 4K resolutions and present a variety of improvements in UI and gameplay, as well as expanded content. Given that the Age of Empires franchise had lain dormant for years with only the small releases of digital adaptations of Age of Empires II and its expansion to HD, it was enough to catch the attention of some ardent fans. That announcement seems to have been a mere prelude to Microsoft's Gamescom 2017 announcement yesterday, which revealed that Microsoft has tapped Relic Entertainment, the developers behind the Company of Heroes franchise, to create Age of Empires IV. As a longtime fan of Age of Empires who was sad to see Ensemble Studios disband back in 2009 specifically because it meant no more Age of Empires, Relic might be the only studio out there who has the chops for a proper Age of Empires sequel. We don't know much about what form this next entry in the historical RTS genre will take. The trailer for Age of Empires IV reveals that the game will span multiple historical periods from the time of the Roman Legion to at least the Colonial era. No gameplay was shown, so it might be a radically different take on the genre. There's not much more information available, but Age of Empires fans can sign up to participate in the closed beta of Age of Empires IV on its website. Microsoft has a small series of promotional videos going up on YouTube called Age Up!, which focuses on the various civilizations in Age of Empires IV. The first video is already up; it's about a minute long and gives some quick facts about the Pyramids of Egypt. I like the concept for this series, but I hope they put more time and effort into it. One minute isn't enough history! Finally, along with the announcement of Age of Empires IV, Microsoft announced a release date for the Definitive Edition of the original Age of Empires - and also that we will definitely be seeing definitive editions for Age of Empires II and Age of Empires III. You'll be able to get your hands on Age of Empires: Definitive Edition on October 19, 2017. View full article
  10. Review: Outlast 2

    Horror films hold onto the golden rule: Never show the monster early. You can see it flit about in the shadows; the camera can linger for a while on a pair of glowing eyes as something stalks the protagonist; but never display the monster if you are trying to build the tension and subtle horror that lies beyond jump scares. Outlast 2 revels in shoving players face-first into the most awful things it can think of as if to say, "Isn't that gross and weird? ARE YOU SCARED NOW?" Its lack of nuance represents a step backward for Red Barrels. Red Barrels greeted the world with Outlast back in 2013. The horror title received acclaim for its tense structure and story line that slowly descended into madness. Players were pulled into the world of a seemingly abandoned asylum as seen through the eyes of an intrepid journalist. Combat was nonexistent, meaning players could only run and hide from the various antagonists they encountered. The fact that the asylum housed all manner of inmates led to a very interesting, deliberate grey area when it came to horror. Some inmates would become hostile, others would not. This resulted in tense moments, fueled by a fear of the unknown. Those moments of uncertainty, when constrained within the linear story and structure of Outlast, represented some of its best attempts at horror. Outlast 2 tells the story of Blake Langermann, a journalist and camera man, who works with his journalist partner and wife, Lynn. Together, they decide to pursue a story about the mysterious murder of a pregnant woman in a desolate region of Arizona. As they fly above the region in a helicopter, a mechanical failure causes the chopper to go down, stranding the both of them in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the two of them have fallen into the middle of a conflict between two opposing cults who believe Lynn holds the keys to the end of the world. Blake sets off to rescue Lynn and escape the manic cult members. Outlast 2 moved away from the more interesting, murky elements of horror. Instead, it commits to subjecting the player to gruesome scenes and scenarios – shock horror. These certainly make for an uncomfortable experience, but they lack the subtlety and pacing of its predecessor or the gold standard of modern, defenseless horror, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Several things contribute to making Outlast 2 a grueling slog to play through: world structure, how players progress through the setting, and what makes for good horror. A large portion of Outlast 2 takes place in the outdoors. You would think that this would make for an interesting dynamic; many horror games thrive on a tightly controlled, linear structure, but taking place without physical barriers seems to fly right in the face of that. The situation seems like a great opportunity to reinvent the horror genre with a more open world approach to design. Despite having access to the open air, Outlast 2 keeps to a more traditional structure, a perfectly sound, reasonable decision. Unfortunately, the implementation of this structure hurts more than helps. It ends up creating confusion in Outlast 2’s perpetual darkness. Outlast 2 wants players to run in specific directions to specific areas in the dead of night with only a grainy camcorder to reveal the way. Ideally, the design of the world would usher players in those desired directions, toward those important areas. Too often, Outlast 2 drops the ball and becomes a confusing, frustrating exercise in trial and error in the woods and fields. In pushing stealth and hiding as the main mechanic, Outlast 2’s design leads to players avoid the obvious routes and stick to the outskirts of any given area – until they are forced into those pathways, which triggers enemy aggression. If this is the approach the game wants to take, why bother having open, outdoor segments at all? Players are often given no time to learn an area, no time to strategize – unless they die repeatedly to scout out the proper route. This has the effect of reducing the horror as players become more familiar with any given area, something that should be the exact opposite of what the developers want players to experience. Outlast 2 seems to be strangely aware of this deficiency, however. To counter these more open, frustrating segments, the game puts players through cutscenes and areas of minimal interactivity that deal with highly uncomfortable and twisted scenarios, like living through a crucifixion. Doubtlessly this approach will appeal to some in the horror community, but I personally found it desensitizing after a while. That desensitization, that cheapening of the horror inherent in Outlast 2’s violence might just be the title’s biggest problem. Instead of leaving the player to feel a growing dread or an uncertainty about their surroundings, Outlast 2 opts to try going bigger and more horrible the farther that players progress. This immediately becomes a problem because Outlast 2’s starting point begins at what might in other games be part of the horror highlight reel. Within the first hour players encounter a pit of dead children, tortured people in cages, ritualistic killings, sexual assault, and more. Where else can the game go from there? It turns out that it can go quite a few places, but the staged scenes intended to shock the player become less scary and more of a grueling chore than anything else. And that’s a shame, because the story of Outlast 2 might be one of the best things it has going for it. Repressed memories, working through trauma, how people live and survive after experiencing tragedy, all of those themes present some interesting questions throughout Outlast 2. Unfortunately, experiencing that story might be really difficult for people who are either turned off by the violence – not just because of the graphic content, but also that it eventually becomes so routine and, frankly, boring. Conclusion: Instead of feeling scared or tense, I fell into a rut with Outlast 2 of just trying to make progress, and the intended scares wound up feeling flat. In other words, Outlast 2 reveals its hand too early; it breaks the golden rule and puts its hideous monster on full display in the opening minutes and never lets up until the very end. Some might find that exhilarating in a horror game – others, like myself, might find it dull compared with other titles in the genre. Outlast 2 was reviewed on PC and is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
  11. Feature: Review: Outlast 2

    Horror films hold onto the golden rule: Never show the monster early. You can see it flit about in the shadows; the camera can linger for a while on a pair of glowing eyes as something stalks the protagonist; but never display the monster if you are trying to build the tension and subtle horror that lies beyond jump scares. Outlast 2 revels in shoving players face-first into the most awful things it can think of as if to say, "Isn't that gross and weird? ARE YOU SCARED NOW?" Its lack of nuance represents a step backward for Red Barrels. Red Barrels greeted the world with Outlast back in 2013. The horror title received acclaim for its tense structure and story line that slowly descended into madness. Players were pulled into the world of a seemingly abandoned asylum as seen through the eyes of an intrepid journalist. Combat was nonexistent, meaning players could only run and hide from the various antagonists they encountered. The fact that the asylum housed all manner of inmates led to a very interesting, deliberate grey area when it came to horror. Some inmates would become hostile, others would not. This resulted in tense moments, fueled by a fear of the unknown. Those moments of uncertainty, when constrained within the linear story and structure of Outlast, represented some of its best attempts at horror. Outlast 2 tells the story of Blake Langermann, a journalist and camera man, who works with his journalist partner and wife, Lynn. Together, they decide to pursue a story about the mysterious murder of a pregnant woman in a desolate region of Arizona. As they fly above the region in a helicopter, a mechanical failure causes the chopper to go down, stranding the both of them in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the two of them have fallen into the middle of a conflict between two opposing cults who believe Lynn holds the keys to the end of the world. Blake sets off to rescue Lynn and escape the manic cult members. Outlast 2 moved away from the more interesting, murky elements of horror. Instead, it commits to subjecting the player to gruesome scenes and scenarios – shock horror. These certainly make for an uncomfortable experience, but they lack the subtlety and pacing of its predecessor or the gold standard of modern, defenseless horror, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Several things contribute to making Outlast 2 a grueling slog to play through: world structure, how players progress through the setting, and what makes for good horror. A large portion of Outlast 2 takes place in the outdoors. You would think that this would make for an interesting dynamic; many horror games thrive on a tightly controlled, linear structure, but taking place without physical barriers seems to fly right in the face of that. The situation seems like a great opportunity to reinvent the horror genre with a more open world approach to design. Despite having access to the open air, Outlast 2 keeps to a more traditional structure, a perfectly sound, reasonable decision. Unfortunately, the implementation of this structure hurts more than helps. It ends up creating confusion in Outlast 2’s perpetual darkness. Outlast 2 wants players to run in specific directions to specific areas in the dead of night with only a grainy camcorder to reveal the way. Ideally, the design of the world would usher players in those desired directions, toward those important areas. Too often, Outlast 2 drops the ball and becomes a confusing, frustrating exercise in trial and error in the woods and fields. In pushing stealth and hiding as the main mechanic, Outlast 2’s design leads to players avoid the obvious routes and stick to the outskirts of any given area – until they are forced into those pathways, which triggers enemy aggression. If this is the approach the game wants to take, why bother having open, outdoor segments at all? Players are often given no time to learn an area, no time to strategize – unless they die repeatedly to scout out the proper route. This has the effect of reducing the horror as players become more familiar with any given area, something that should be the exact opposite of what the developers want players to experience. Outlast 2 seems to be strangely aware of this deficiency, however. To counter these more open, frustrating segments, the game puts players through cutscenes and areas of minimal interactivity that deal with highly uncomfortable and twisted scenarios, like living through a crucifixion. Doubtlessly this approach will appeal to some in the horror community, but I personally found it desensitizing after a while. That desensitization, that cheapening of the horror inherent in Outlast 2’s violence might just be the title’s biggest problem. Instead of leaving the player to feel a growing dread or an uncertainty about their surroundings, Outlast 2 opts to try going bigger and more horrible the farther that players progress. This immediately becomes a problem because Outlast 2’s starting point begins at what might in other games be part of the horror highlight reel. Within the first hour players encounter a pit of dead children, tortured people in cages, ritualistic killings, sexual assault, and more. Where else can the game go from there? It turns out that it can go quite a few places, but the staged scenes intended to shock the player become less scary and more of a grueling chore than anything else. And that’s a shame, because the story of Outlast 2 might be one of the best things it has going for it. Repressed memories, working through trauma, how people live and survive after experiencing tragedy, all of those themes present some interesting questions throughout Outlast 2. Unfortunately, experiencing that story might be really difficult for people who are either turned off by the violence – not just because of the graphic content, but also that it eventually becomes so routine and, frankly, boring. Conclusion: Instead of feeling scared or tense, I fell into a rut with Outlast 2 of just trying to make progress, and the intended scares wound up feeling flat. In other words, Outlast 2 reveals its hand too early; it breaks the golden rule and puts its hideous monster on full display in the opening minutes and never lets up until the very end. Some might find that exhilarating in a horror game – others, like myself, might find it dull compared with other titles in the genre. Outlast 2 was reviewed on PC and is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC View full article
  12. There is a game called Fishing Planet. It's been available for free as an Early Access game on Steam for the past two years. However, it's developers, also going by the name Fishing Planet, have decided that 2017 would be a good time to bring Fishing Planet to the PlayStation 4. Of course, that means they need to make a trailer and... well.... I present to you the most intense, gripping trailer for a fishing game - no, scratch that, ANY game - ever made. So what is Fishing Planet? Essentially, players can fish just like they might in real life. Choose from a variety of lures and head out to your preferred body of water to catch that legendary big fish. Fishing Planet features online connectivity, so players can compare their catches and play with their friends. The fish boast extra fishy AI that help them behave like proper fish. Fishing Planet releases on August 29 and if it is anything like the trailer, it will be the most intense fishing experience you will ever have short of hooking a shark or an alligator.
  13. There is a game called Fishing Planet. It's been available for free as an Early Access game on Steam for the past two years. However, it's developers, also going by the name Fishing Planet, have decided that 2017 would be a good time to bring Fishing Planet to the PlayStation 4. Of course, that means they need to make a trailer and... well.... I present to you the most intense, gripping trailer for a fishing game - no, scratch that, ANY game - ever made. So what is Fishing Planet? Essentially, players can fish just like they might in real life. Choose from a variety of lures and head out to your preferred body of water to catch that legendary big fish. Fishing Planet features online connectivity, so players can compare their catches and play with their friends. The fish boast extra fishy AI that help them behave like proper fish. Fishing Planet releases on August 29 and if it is anything like the trailer, it will be the most intense fishing experience you will ever have short of hooking a shark or an alligator. View full article
  14. Earlier this month, Waypoint ran a month long game jam called New Jam City that attracted a number of interesting entries. One of these entries lovingly resurrected the Noid, an advertising mascot for Domino's Pizza in the mid-80s. Strangely, the Noid managed to become somewhat popular, resulting in several video game adaptations of the character over the years. One of these was Capcom's Yo! Noid! for the NES in 1990. It wasn't a particularly great game, which is why the creation of a direct sequel, even as a game jam entry, is turning some heads. Yo! Noid II: Enter the Void ia a reimagining of the Noid as an early PlayStation One/N64 platformer that plays like a strange cross between Mario 64 and Tomb Raider. The game begins with the titular Noid losing his trusty yo-yo and platforming through New York City to get it back. However, that certainly isn't the end of the adventure. After obtaining the yo-yo, the Noid falls into the Noid Void, an interdimensional wasteland populated by strange mushroom creatures and peppered with various pizza-themed levels and collectibles. This is where Yo! Noid II opens up and allows for exploration and a great deal of puzzle solving. I'm going to level with you, this game is actually fun. Not in an ironic, "haha, isn't it dumb that they made a game starring the Noid?" way (though don't get me wrong, it is absolutely dumb that someone made another game that was in any way affiliated with the Noid, a fact that the developers certainly understood and embraced to great effect)- I genuinely enjoyed playing Yo! Noid II. Wall jumping and running work rather well when paired with a ledge grab mechanic that comes in very handy. The Noid can even use his yo-yo to swing between platforms, pull levers, and open pizza portals to other worlds. Oh, the Noid also dabs now, because of course he does. All of this is done in an endearingly janky style that's meant to be a call back to those early 3D platformers that both enthralled and frustrated a generation. It's unclear if the somewhat wonky and temperamental camera was designed to bring out that style or if it's simply a frustrating camera. However, for a short nostalgia experiment with a sense of humor like Yo! Noid II, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Yo! Noid II: Enter the Void is a far, far better game than the Noid has ever deserved, but it's free at the moment and certainly worth your time. You can download it directly from the developers to see what the Noid is up to in this age of HD gaming. There's also an official soundtrack because why not? The Noid is a thing again, so why not?
  15. Earlier this month, Waypoint ran a month long game jam called New Jam City that attracted a number of interesting entries. One of these entries lovingly resurrected the Noid, an advertising mascot for Domino's Pizza in the mid-80s. Strangely, the Noid managed to become somewhat popular, resulting in several video game adaptations of the character over the years. One of these was Capcom's Yo! Noid! for the NES in 1990. It wasn't a particularly great game, which is why the creation of a direct sequel, even as a game jam entry, is turning some heads. Yo! Noid II: Enter the Void ia a reimagining of the Noid as an early PlayStation One/N64 platformer that plays like a strange cross between Mario 64 and Tomb Raider. The game begins with the titular Noid losing his trusty yo-yo and platforming through New York City to get it back. However, that certainly isn't the end of the adventure. After obtaining the yo-yo, the Noid falls into the Noid Void, an interdimensional wasteland populated by strange mushroom creatures and peppered with various pizza-themed levels and collectibles. This is where Yo! Noid II opens up and allows for exploration and a great deal of puzzle solving. I'm going to level with you, this game is actually fun. Not in an ironic, "haha, isn't it dumb that they made a game starring the Noid?" way (though don't get me wrong, it is absolutely dumb that someone made another game that was in any way affiliated with the Noid, a fact that the developers certainly understood and embraced to great effect)- I genuinely enjoyed playing Yo! Noid II. Wall jumping and running work rather well when paired with a ledge grab mechanic that comes in very handy. The Noid can even use his yo-yo to swing between platforms, pull levers, and open pizza portals to other worlds. Oh, the Noid also dabs now, because of course he does. All of this is done in an endearingly janky style that's meant to be a call back to those early 3D platformers that both enthralled and frustrated a generation. It's unclear if the somewhat wonky and temperamental camera was designed to bring out that style or if it's simply a frustrating camera. However, for a short nostalgia experiment with a sense of humor like Yo! Noid II, I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Yo! Noid II: Enter the Void is a far, far better game than the Noid has ever deserved, but it's free at the moment and certainly worth your time. You can download it directly from the developers to see what the Noid is up to in this age of HD gaming. There's also an official soundtrack because why not? The Noid is a thing again, so why not? View full article
  16. Everything is stories. We talk in stories, we learn from stories, we distill our experiences into stories. Our history is the culmination of a million different stories all thrust together, bound in books by people who sifted through those multitudes of stories. And from those histories we gather lessons and ideas; dreams of what might be. But what if some of those stories weren’t exactly true? What if some of them were, in fact, beautiful lies? That’s the idea behind Johnnemann Nordhagen’s Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. Nordhagen helped co-found The Fullbright Company and programmed Gone Home, however he left the company in 2014 to try new and wonderful things after the success of Gone Home. He went on to found Dim Bulb Games, a studio where he felt he could pursue a collaborative dream. That dream has finally manifested in the form of a trek across a Depression-era United States that mixes the countryside mysticism of tall tales with the stark realities of living. I had an opportunity to talk with Nordhagen about the creation and stories of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. Dim Bulb Games’ first title has brought together writers from across the game industry to tell stories; stories that might shed more light on the history of the United States; stories that might just help lift the veil of what Nordhagen refers to as “the shining lie.” So, can you tell me how the idea for Where the Water Tastes Like Wine came about? It seems really collaborative with all the writers you have, [gesturing toward a piece of paper covered in the names of contributors] I saw that list right there. Johnnemann Nordhagen: Yeah, so I got the idea for the game--I was travelling around a lot after finishing my last game, Gone Home. I traveled the world and I was encountering a lot of other travelers. Every time you do that, you swap stories with them. You say, 'Oh, you should definitely go here,' or, 'I got my pocket picked here; watch out!' Thought it would be cool to make a game about that. I also really like American roots; music, blues, bluegrass, jazz, things like that. And so, I wanted to pull it to America, set it during the Great Depression with all these songs. You're in this world of down-on-their-luck gamblers, and people are selling their souls to the devil at the crossroads. It's kind of like a folkloric world, right? But I also wanted to bring in a little bit of American history and the lives of people who have maybe been forgotten by modern history. You've got sharecroppers in the South, or Pullman porters, Navajo women during the Long Walk of the Navajo. I'm obviously not the right person to write all of those stories. So I went out looking for other writers to help me tell these tales and fill out this roster. This game spans the entirety of the United States from the East Coast to West Coast? JN: That's right. You can walk anywhere in the U.S., except for Hawaii and Alaska, of course. But yeah, you can walk anywhere you want. You can also hop trains, or hitch hike to get around faster. Each of the different regions of the game has its own set of stories, its own set of characters, its own music and also its own color palettes. They're all very distinct little regions. How did you manage to get an entire country into your game? That's a pretty big scope! JN: Yeah, well, it is a pretty big scope! It's obviously scaled down, it's not the real size of the U.S. I've done a lot of work to map it out and lay it out. I also tried to put characters that came from different areas of the country so I could tell stories about all these different places. Is there a goal to the game, or is it open exploration; choose a destination, go? JN: Right, it's an open world game, so you've go to choose your own direction. There is a framing story to the game, which is that, in the beginning of the game, you lose a hand of poker to the wrong person. Because of that, you're cursed to wander the U.S. carrying stories around, spreading them. You're kind of the Johnny Appleseed of folktales, basically. And part of your job is to also collect the true stories of these people's live and add those to the Big Story of America. Did you write the overall arching narrative, or did you have one of your-- JN: No, I came up with the overall story. Yeah, yeah. I did a lot of writing that fills the gaps in the story. And then the little adventures, we call vignettes, those are written by other people. Then each of the characters, of course, are written by someone else. You built an entire game based on telling stories to each other. I feel like that's a really outside of the box way of going about game design. How did you come up with the gameplay around that concept? JN: It took a little while and some bouncing around to get there, but…. I really like the idea of telling the stories is the way we share culture and idea among people. That's always been something that I've tried to get in there. Over time when I was working with the game, just various pieces fell in to place where it became the natural way to do it. I want it to be about folktales and the way they change and grow, how [people] spread them around, and how that works. I also, when I first started making the game, I thought it would be really interesting to try to avoid combat mechanics. I was wondering, ‘how would you do a game if you can't do that?’ The last game I worked on was Gone Home and that was a first person shooter without any shooting in it, right? And so when I started coming up with ideas for this game, I was thinking like well, what's another kind of genre of game that I could look at, taking the combat out of it? I actually thought about JRPGs and what you would do if you remove fighting from JRPGs. This has moved so far away from JRPGs it's not really there anymore, but you can see a little bit of where I was going with the overworld map and the interactions with the characters, the kinds of encounters you have. I guess all of those areas is where that came from. How exactly does the storytelling mechanic work? JN: So what happens is that you have these little adventures, these vignettes. They're like little text adventures where you have two choices, and you can feel your way through this adventure that happens to you. You get a story at the end of that. Then you have the story of whatever happened to you during that time. Because you're choosing from two different branches, you can sometimes choose what kind of story it is. ‘Is this a love story? Is this a tragedy? Is this about family? Is this about being trapped?’ And then you gather these stories into an inventory. You take them and you [encounter characters throughout the world], and when you tell these characters a story- You tell them a story about a family, for example, they'll tell you something about their family in return. They'll also ask for different moods of stories. So they might ask for a scary story, and if you tell them a scary story about family, whatever that would be, you'll not only hear what they have to say, but you'll also gain their trust and move forward in their story. So the next time you meet them, you might get the next chapter. When you get to the final chapter of their story, they'll also reveal their true self to you and you'll see an actual visual transformation take place and they'll be a really exciting piece of art you get to look at. And there’s another aspect of the storytelling mechanic, as well. As you tell these stories, they sometimes get told around behind your back and they'll grow and tell in the way that folktales do and "level up" as they do that--and come back to you the same story, but bigger, better, weirder. Part of my attraction to this game is just that there's nothing else like it? There aren't a whole lot of games that completely throw out combat mechanics and are about something other than violence. And maybe some of the stories involve violence to some degree, but that's not the focus of the game. JN: I think one of the interesting thing about the stories in the games there aren't a lot that are directly violent, but there is a lot of systemic violence that you see. We're trying to talk about the more of marginalized people in the United States. So you hear from a lot of people--sharecroppers whose union was busted by cops, by Southerners with guns. You hear about the Long Walk of the Navajo where the U.S. military uprooted an entire people and forced them to walk hundreds of miles across the desert where many of them died. So no, there's not combat in the game, but yeah, you are always immersed in this sort of systemic oppression and violence. It's lurking in the background, always. Often stories that delve into the past have a message about the present. Have the current social or political climates had any effects on this game? Does it have a message for modern times? JN: Aah, it's actually really weird, I didn't actually set out with that in mind, but reality has gotten closer and closer to this game, to be relevant to this game, as time goes on. It's very strange. I started this in 2014 and now it's like, wow, 'What the heck happened?' I think there's a lot that happened [during the Depression-era] of American history and a lot that happened to these characters that's very relevant to what's going on today. There're definitely political messages in this game put there both by me in designing the game and also by the individual writers as they're writing their characters that I think are very relevant to what's going on today. I'm really glad that I feel like I have something relevant to say about our current life, the way it is right now, with my art. At the same time, I wish things weren't the way they are. I wish I didn't feel like we were entering an era similar to the Great Depression. You mentioned traveling around, sharing stories—Where the Water Tastes Like Wine seems like a really good fit for that theme, but why the Depression-era? Was it the blues-y aspect of the time? The ridin' the rails culture of it? JN: It was all of that. I really like this sort of music, the blues, bluegrass. I love the world contained in the stories, as well as the music itself. Those songs are all about this era and this magical way of existing. It's also the heyday of travelling in America in a lot of ways. You know, more than two million people were displaced, or homeless, wandering the streets during the Great Depression. So that hobo era is a really powerful time [to draw upon]. You decided what kinds of characters would be in the game, and then the writers wrote the stories around those characters. So how did you decide which characters you wanted to include? JN: I think there were a lot of interesting stories from around this period. Stories neglected in American history that you don't often hear about, especially in video games. [For example, in doing background research for the game] I did not know the extent of the Mine Wars when the U.S. military was dropping bombs from planes on West Virginian miners. That’s a big deal! And you don't really hear about that at all, so I wanted to capture more of those stories. These characters represent events that you don't hear about as often. Maybe the rougher bits of history that get glossed over in textbooks? JN: Exactly, yeah, yeah. That's what this is supposed to be, exposing the truth of the American dream in some ways. There's a character at the beginning who tells you America is built on stories and all those stories add up to a ‘big, shining lie.’ That's the phrase he uses, a shining lie. And he asks you to go out and find these true story and add them to the Big Story and talks about a tarnished truth being better than a shining lie. That’s part of the idea for the game. I know you had a lot of contributions from other writers, but for the parts that you worked on, did you look back at media like Sullivan's Travels, media from or about the time? JN: Yeah, actually. The way the characters worked is that I did all the research for those characters. I found a bunch about these different people, gathered a bunch of factual information. Then, I would go to these writers and say ‘Hey, can you write a Pullman porter for me? Here's what a Pullman porter is. Here's all my research; here's some cool facts.’ And they took that and they made these into these real, three-dimensional people with wants and needs, and hopes and dreams, and families. All the good parts of writing, right? I did a ton of research. Both for the individual characters, and, of course, the era in general. For the research, if there are people--maybe this is getting a little too niche--who are interested in this time period, what were some really good resources you found? JN: Yeah! There's a great book about the dust book called The Worst Hard Time that is really, really a great read. There's also...I watched the Ken Burns Dust Bowl documentary. I watched, there's a fantastic John Sails movie called Matewan. It's like fictionalized history, but it's about the kind of Mine Wars of West Virginia, the turn of the century--that's really great. There's a book call Sister of the Road, it's supposed to be an autobiography of a woman hobo travelling during the era. There's also a number of books I read about the Great Depression that I'm blanking on names of. I drew a lot from fiction, too. Things like Huck Finn, On the Road, I pulled from all sorts of different places for the characters. They have their own stack of books that I worked from. You basically just took all that information, threw it at writers, and they gave you back gold? JN: Yes. It's amazing, amazing stuff. I'm super lucky to work with all these talented people, and they gave me back just amazing, amazing writing. This game is most spectacular on three fronts, I would say. It's my game, so take this with a grain of salt. The art is really amazing, the music really, really wonderful, and most of all, the writing is our strongest pull. I think that anyone could pick this up and enjoy the writing for its own sake. Did you handle the art style? It's very distinctive. JN: Thanks! No, I didn't. I'm not an artist at all. I'm kind of the programmer and creative director. I have a team, a company that's called Serenity Forge. They're doing the art for me and helping me with the design. How did you wind up linking with them? JN: Actually at IndieCade last year, we were at a party together and we were talking. I had just lost my art team for various reasons and needed a new one! So they were willing to do this co-development thing with me, and it’s worked out really well. I'm super happy to be working with them. The music is also really good. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine draws heavily from blues, bluegrass, folk. That's all original music that's been composed for the game. Each character has their own piece of music in addition to the overworld song that changes character as you go from region to region. There's like an Appalachian-bluegrass in the Northeast and it becomes a folk song in the Midwest, a little bit more blues-y in the South. How did you go about composing that music? To clarify: It's not based on older, pre-existing songs? JN: It's all original, but it is very much in that vein. I'm not the composer. My composer is Ryan Ike. He worked on Frog Factions 2, actually. […] He's fantastic, he's amazing. Everyone who has played the game has said the music is really good, so I'm very happy. Did he also play the music? JN: He performed some of it, but mostly we got live performers to do a lot of the stuff. People that sing and play banjo and guitar and violin. […] He's really, really good at this. So he just took the idea and ran with it? JN: Yeah, yeah. He was super, super excited to do this because this is unlike most game music. It's very different. Where did you get the title for the game? It seems kinda like that old song about the Big Rock Candy Mountain? JN: I'm really glad you asked that question, actually. It's a line from American folk culture. It pops up in a bunch of different folk songs, it shows up in stories. It's a folk saying, ‘the place where the water tastes like wine.’ It's always a place that's somewhere nearby, but inaccessible. It's maybe the next county over, there's a place where the water tastes like wine. And all of the stories in the game feed into this theme of people looking for something. They’re looking for… for their promised land, their Big Rock Candy Mountain, their place where the water tastes like wine. And of course, the sad truth at the heart of that is that there is nowhere where the water tastes like wine. The whole game is about the failure of the American dream to live up to what it has promised us. […] One thing I wanted to add, the whole game will be voice acted eventually. It's not in the demo now, but we're adding voice acting for all the characters. Have you run into any problems with the voice acting strike? Has that made casting any harder? JN: One of the things I--I don't know how much I can say about this--this game, a lot of the characters in this game are union members. There's a coal worker in the United Mine Workers; there's a farm worker from the United Farm Workers; we've got the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Sharecroppers’ Union and a bunch of other characters in there. I am personally a big fan of unions, and union labor, and I would really, really like to support SAG-AFTRA and get union actors to act this game. I don't want to make any promises, but that's what I'm trying to do. How has public reaction been to Where the Water Tastes Like Wine so far? JN: It's been really nice to have people check it out and play it [at events]. This is not the type of game I expect to resonate with everyone, right? This is very much a niche game. But, the people who have come by and have heard about it, and been interested in it have been really interested and really enthusiastic. I've gotten a lot of rave reactions from people. And it will be on PC, and then eventually PS4 and Xbox One, right? JN: Later this year or early next year. We're gonna try to figure out if we can avoid the horrible rush window of all the big stuff popping in the fall and Christmas season. We're also talking about a tablet version for iPad. Any plans to bring Where the Water Tastes Like Wine over to the Nintendo Switch at some point? JN: I would really love that, but I have not talked to Nintendo at all. I have development agreements with Sony and Microsoft so I'm going to say those have worn me out. I'd love to bring it to Switch, but I don't have any news on that front. So, Nintendo, call me! ~~~ A big thank you to Johnnemann Nordhagen for taking the time to answer questions! Look for Where the Water Tastes Like Wine to become available in early 2018 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. View full article
  17. Everything is stories. We talk in stories, we learn from stories, we distill our experiences into stories. Our history is the culmination of a million different stories all thrust together, bound in books by people who sifted through those multitudes of stories. And from those histories we gather lessons and ideas; dreams of what might be. But what if some of those stories weren’t exactly true? What if some of them were, in fact, beautiful lies? That’s the idea behind Johnnemann Nordhagen’s Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. Nordhagen helped co-found The Fullbright Company and programmed Gone Home, however he left the company in 2014 to try new and wonderful things after the success of Gone Home. He went on to found Dim Bulb Games, a studio where he felt he could pursue a collaborative dream. That dream has finally manifested in the form of a trek across a Depression-era United States that mixes the countryside mysticism of tall tales with the stark realities of living. I had an opportunity to talk with Nordhagen about the creation and stories of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. Dim Bulb Games’ first title has brought together writers from across the game industry to tell stories; stories that might shed more light on the history of the United States; stories that might just help lift the veil of what Nordhagen refers to as “the shining lie.” So, can you tell me how the idea for Where the Water Tastes Like Wine came about? It seems really collaborative with all the writers you have, [gesturing toward a piece of paper covered in the names of contributors] I saw that list right there. Johnnemann Nordhagen: Yeah, so I got the idea for the game--I was travelling around a lot after finishing my last game, Gone Home. I traveled the world and I was encountering a lot of other travelers. Every time you do that, you swap stories with them. You say, 'Oh, you should definitely go here,' or, 'I got my pocket picked here; watch out!' Thought it would be cool to make a game about that. I also really like American roots; music, blues, bluegrass, jazz, things like that. And so, I wanted to pull it to America, set it during the Great Depression with all these songs. You're in this world of down-on-their-luck gamblers, and people are selling their souls to the devil at the crossroads. It's kind of like a folkloric world, right? But I also wanted to bring in a little bit of American history and the lives of people who have maybe been forgotten by modern history. You've got sharecroppers in the South, or Pullman porters, Navajo women during the Long Walk of the Navajo. I'm obviously not the right person to write all of those stories. So I went out looking for other writers to help me tell these tales and fill out this roster. This game spans the entirety of the United States from the East Coast to West Coast? JN: That's right. You can walk anywhere in the U.S., except for Hawaii and Alaska, of course. But yeah, you can walk anywhere you want. You can also hop trains, or hitch hike to get around faster. Each of the different regions of the game has its own set of stories, its own set of characters, its own music and also its own color palettes. They're all very distinct little regions. How did you manage to get an entire country into your game? That's a pretty big scope! JN: Yeah, well, it is a pretty big scope! It's obviously scaled down, it's not the real size of the U.S. I've done a lot of work to map it out and lay it out. I also tried to put characters that came from different areas of the country so I could tell stories about all these different places. Is there a goal to the game, or is it open exploration; choose a destination, go? JN: Right, it's an open world game, so you've go to choose your own direction. There is a framing story to the game, which is that, in the beginning of the game, you lose a hand of poker to the wrong person. Because of that, you're cursed to wander the U.S. carrying stories around, spreading them. You're kind of the Johnny Appleseed of folktales, basically. And part of your job is to also collect the true stories of these people's live and add those to the Big Story of America. Did you write the overall arching narrative, or did you have one of your-- JN: No, I came up with the overall story. Yeah, yeah. I did a lot of writing that fills the gaps in the story. And then the little adventures, we call vignettes, those are written by other people. Then each of the characters, of course, are written by someone else. You built an entire game based on telling stories to each other. I feel like that's a really outside of the box way of going about game design. How did you come up with the gameplay around that concept? JN: It took a little while and some bouncing around to get there, but…. I really like the idea of telling the stories is the way we share culture and idea among people. That's always been something that I've tried to get in there. Over time when I was working with the game, just various pieces fell in to place where it became the natural way to do it. I want it to be about folktales and the way they change and grow, how [people] spread them around, and how that works. I also, when I first started making the game, I thought it would be really interesting to try to avoid combat mechanics. I was wondering, ‘how would you do a game if you can't do that?’ The last game I worked on was Gone Home and that was a first person shooter without any shooting in it, right? And so when I started coming up with ideas for this game, I was thinking like well, what's another kind of genre of game that I could look at, taking the combat out of it? I actually thought about JRPGs and what you would do if you remove fighting from JRPGs. This has moved so far away from JRPGs it's not really there anymore, but you can see a little bit of where I was going with the overworld map and the interactions with the characters, the kinds of encounters you have. I guess all of those areas is where that came from. How exactly does the storytelling mechanic work? JN: So what happens is that you have these little adventures, these vignettes. They're like little text adventures where you have two choices, and you can feel your way through this adventure that happens to you. You get a story at the end of that. Then you have the story of whatever happened to you during that time. Because you're choosing from two different branches, you can sometimes choose what kind of story it is. ‘Is this a love story? Is this a tragedy? Is this about family? Is this about being trapped?’ And then you gather these stories into an inventory. You take them and you [encounter characters throughout the world], and when you tell these characters a story- You tell them a story about a family, for example, they'll tell you something about their family in return. They'll also ask for different moods of stories. So they might ask for a scary story, and if you tell them a scary story about family, whatever that would be, you'll not only hear what they have to say, but you'll also gain their trust and move forward in their story. So the next time you meet them, you might get the next chapter. When you get to the final chapter of their story, they'll also reveal their true self to you and you'll see an actual visual transformation take place and they'll be a really exciting piece of art you get to look at. And there’s another aspect of the storytelling mechanic, as well. As you tell these stories, they sometimes get told around behind your back and they'll grow and tell in the way that folktales do and "level up" as they do that--and come back to you the same story, but bigger, better, weirder. Part of my attraction to this game is just that there's nothing else like it? There aren't a whole lot of games that completely throw out combat mechanics and are about something other than violence. And maybe some of the stories involve violence to some degree, but that's not the focus of the game. JN: I think one of the interesting thing about the stories in the games there aren't a lot that are directly violent, but there is a lot of systemic violence that you see. We're trying to talk about the more of marginalized people in the United States. So you hear from a lot of people--sharecroppers whose union was busted by cops, by Southerners with guns. You hear about the Long Walk of the Navajo where the U.S. military uprooted an entire people and forced them to walk hundreds of miles across the desert where many of them died. So no, there's not combat in the game, but yeah, you are always immersed in this sort of systemic oppression and violence. It's lurking in the background, always. Often stories that delve into the past have a message about the present. Have the current social or political climates had any effects on this game? Does it have a message for modern times? JN: Aah, it's actually really weird, I didn't actually set out with that in mind, but reality has gotten closer and closer to this game, to be relevant to this game, as time goes on. It's very strange. I started this in 2014 and now it's like, wow, 'What the heck happened?' I think there's a lot that happened [during the Depression-era] of American history and a lot that happened to these characters that's very relevant to what's going on today. There're definitely political messages in this game put there both by me in designing the game and also by the individual writers as they're writing their characters that I think are very relevant to what's going on today. I'm really glad that I feel like I have something relevant to say about our current life, the way it is right now, with my art. At the same time, I wish things weren't the way they are. I wish I didn't feel like we were entering an era similar to the Great Depression. You mentioned traveling around, sharing stories—Where the Water Tastes Like Wine seems like a really good fit for that theme, but why the Depression-era? Was it the blues-y aspect of the time? The ridin' the rails culture of it? JN: It was all of that. I really like this sort of music, the blues, bluegrass. I love the world contained in the stories, as well as the music itself. Those songs are all about this era and this magical way of existing. It's also the heyday of travelling in America in a lot of ways. You know, more than two million people were displaced, or homeless, wandering the streets during the Great Depression. So that hobo era is a really powerful time [to draw upon]. You decided what kinds of characters would be in the game, and then the writers wrote the stories around those characters. So how did you decide which characters you wanted to include? JN: I think there were a lot of interesting stories from around this period. Stories neglected in American history that you don't often hear about, especially in video games. [For example, in doing background research for the game] I did not know the extent of the Mine Wars when the U.S. military was dropping bombs from planes on West Virginian miners. That’s a big deal! And you don't really hear about that at all, so I wanted to capture more of those stories. These characters represent events that you don't hear about as often. Maybe the rougher bits of history that get glossed over in textbooks? JN: Exactly, yeah, yeah. That's what this is supposed to be, exposing the truth of the American dream in some ways. There's a character at the beginning who tells you America is built on stories and all those stories add up to a ‘big, shining lie.’ That's the phrase he uses, a shining lie. And he asks you to go out and find these true story and add them to the Big Story and talks about a tarnished truth being better than a shining lie. That’s part of the idea for the game. I know you had a lot of contributions from other writers, but for the parts that you worked on, did you look back at media like Sullivan's Travels, media from or about the time? JN: Yeah, actually. The way the characters worked is that I did all the research for those characters. I found a bunch about these different people, gathered a bunch of factual information. Then, I would go to these writers and say ‘Hey, can you write a Pullman porter for me? Here's what a Pullman porter is. Here's all my research; here's some cool facts.’ And they took that and they made these into these real, three-dimensional people with wants and needs, and hopes and dreams, and families. All the good parts of writing, right? I did a ton of research. Both for the individual characters, and, of course, the era in general. For the research, if there are people--maybe this is getting a little too niche--who are interested in this time period, what were some really good resources you found? JN: Yeah! There's a great book about the dust book called The Worst Hard Time that is really, really a great read. There's also...I watched the Ken Burns Dust Bowl documentary. I watched, there's a fantastic John Sails movie called Matewan. It's like fictionalized history, but it's about the kind of Mine Wars of West Virginia, the turn of the century--that's really great. There's a book call Sister of the Road, it's supposed to be an autobiography of a woman hobo travelling during the era. There's also a number of books I read about the Great Depression that I'm blanking on names of. I drew a lot from fiction, too. Things like Huck Finn, On the Road, I pulled from all sorts of different places for the characters. They have their own stack of books that I worked from. You basically just took all that information, threw it at writers, and they gave you back gold? JN: Yes. It's amazing, amazing stuff. I'm super lucky to work with all these talented people, and they gave me back just amazing, amazing writing. This game is most spectacular on three fronts, I would say. It's my game, so take this with a grain of salt. The art is really amazing, the music really, really wonderful, and most of all, the writing is our strongest pull. I think that anyone could pick this up and enjoy the writing for its own sake. Did you handle the art style? It's very distinctive. JN: Thanks! No, I didn't. I'm not an artist at all. I'm kind of the programmer and creative director. I have a team, a company that's called Serenity Forge. They're doing the art for me and helping me with the design. How did you wind up linking with them? JN: Actually at IndieCade last year, we were at a party together and we were talking. I had just lost my art team for various reasons and needed a new one! So they were willing to do this co-development thing with me, and it’s worked out really well. I'm super happy to be working with them. The music is also really good. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine draws heavily from blues, bluegrass, folk. That's all original music that's been composed for the game. Each character has their own piece of music in addition to the overworld song that changes character as you go from region to region. There's like an Appalachian-bluegrass in the Northeast and it becomes a folk song in the Midwest, a little bit more blues-y in the South. How did you go about composing that music? To clarify: It's not based on older, pre-existing songs? JN: It's all original, but it is very much in that vein. I'm not the composer. My composer is Ryan Ike. He worked on Frog Factions 2, actually. […] He's fantastic, he's amazing. Everyone who has played the game has said the music is really good, so I'm very happy. Did he also play the music? JN: He performed some of it, but mostly we got live performers to do a lot of the stuff. People that sing and play banjo and guitar and violin. […] He's really, really good at this. So he just took the idea and ran with it? JN: Yeah, yeah. He was super, super excited to do this because this is unlike most game music. It's very different. Where did you get the title for the game? It seems kinda like that old song about the Big Rock Candy Mountain? JN: I'm really glad you asked that question, actually. It's a line from American folk culture. It pops up in a bunch of different folk songs, it shows up in stories. It's a folk saying, ‘the place where the water tastes like wine.’ It's always a place that's somewhere nearby, but inaccessible. It's maybe the next county over, there's a place where the water tastes like wine. And all of the stories in the game feed into this theme of people looking for something. They’re looking for… for their promised land, their Big Rock Candy Mountain, their place where the water tastes like wine. And of course, the sad truth at the heart of that is that there is nowhere where the water tastes like wine. The whole game is about the failure of the American dream to live up to what it has promised us. […] One thing I wanted to add, the whole game will be voice acted eventually. It's not in the demo now, but we're adding voice acting for all the characters. Have you run into any problems with the voice acting strike? Has that made casting any harder? JN: One of the things I--I don't know how much I can say about this--this game, a lot of the characters in this game are union members. There's a coal worker in the United Mine Workers; there's a farm worker from the United Farm Workers; we've got the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Sharecroppers’ Union and a bunch of other characters in there. I am personally a big fan of unions, and union labor, and I would really, really like to support SAG-AFTRA and get union actors to act this game. I don't want to make any promises, but that's what I'm trying to do. How has public reaction been to Where the Water Tastes Like Wine so far? JN: It's been really nice to have people check it out and play it [at events]. This is not the type of game I expect to resonate with everyone, right? This is very much a niche game. But, the people who have come by and have heard about it, and been interested in it have been really interested and really enthusiastic. I've gotten a lot of rave reactions from people. And it will be on PC, and then eventually PS4 and Xbox One, right? JN: Later this year or early next year. We're gonna try to figure out if we can avoid the horrible rush window of all the big stuff popping in the fall and Christmas season. We're also talking about a tablet version for iPad. Any plans to bring Where the Water Tastes Like Wine over to the Nintendo Switch at some point? JN: I would really love that, but I have not talked to Nintendo at all. I have development agreements with Sony and Microsoft so I'm going to say those have worn me out. I'd love to bring it to Switch, but I don't have any news on that front. So, Nintendo, call me! ~~~ A big thank you to Johnnemann Nordhagen for taking the time to answer questions! Look for Where the Water Tastes Like Wine to become available in early 2018 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  18. For as long as combat games have been around, there have been plenty that put players in the driver’s seat of all kinds of vehicles, from apocalyptic race cars, military fighter jets, and space ships galore. For players wanting a more nautical experience, pickings have traditionally been slim, especially if they wanted to go beneath the ocean’s surface and face the depths below. The team behind Aquanox: Deep Descent are on the case with an expansive prequel to the original Aquanox games of 2001 and 2003. Quick refresher for those of you, like myself, who might have missed the original deep sea shooters. Aquanox takes place in a world besieged by nuclear war and resource scarcity. After humans leech everything possible from the surface, the few remaining survivors fled to the depths of the sea, scavenging and fighting for as many supplies as each faction can grab. Their strength comes in the form of submersible combat ships, complete with a small army’s worth of firepower and technology to aid in the fight against the hazards of the deep. Extra Life got the chance to preview a hands-off demo for Aquanox: Deep Descent from developer Digital Arrow and publisher THQ Nordic. In Aquanox: Deep Descent’s single-player mode (10-12 hours long, according to the developer), players will build up a home base full of upgrades for their ships and the community. Ships are fully customizable, with players spending credits earned completing missions and scavenging resources on upgrades for engines, armor, weapon loadouts, electrical systems, and more. Ships are already divided into classes, though, like the light scouting class, the fighter, or the siege ship. For example, siege ships are primarily the tanks of Aquanox, built to take and deal massive damage while sacrificing ease of movement. Aquanox: Deep Descent’s single-player mode also acts as a drop-in-drop-out co-op mode. When a friend joins, they can choose one of the four available main characters to play as, along with their ship’s traits. Combat in Deep Descent moves much like a space flight simulator (think Eve: Valkyrie or Elite: Dangerous), but with the added twist of water impacting movement. Natural momentum carries a ship further and in a less direct way than an airplane might, meaning every dodging maneuver against enemy ships must be calculated for maximum advantage and minimal damage. The last thing you want is to crack open the hull of your ship on a rock or a poorly dodged torpedo. You’ll also be able to maneuver in any direction, opening up possibilities for offensive or defensive strategies. To hear it from the developer, Aquanox: Deep Descent may, to some players, feel like a more tactical round of Unreal Tournament, flitting around the environment to land a carefully aimed shot at a distant target. From a hands-off perspective, the comparison certainly carries some weight, as victory often goes to the player who can not only maneuver more strategically around their opponent, but also who can react faster and with more precision, balancing combat in a way that, while perhaps not perfect, fits within its own world just fine. Like those quirky combat games, Aquanox will also feature a variety of weapons that will have players adopting unique strategies. There’s the Shrapnel cannon, which launches a close-range burst of debris at opponents for devastating damage. There’s the the Hazard, or “Gooey,” which launches canisters of explosive bio-chemical liquids that stick to enemies and can later be detonated. Then there’s the high-powered Shard rail guns that let players snipe from afar, making the vast expanses of empty water a threat to all. Secondary weapons include mines, as well as mortar fire that can strike from above. Other secondary weapons perform specific actions like automatically firing at enemies within range or from any side, giving you the chance to slip away. All these abilities will be available in Aquanox: Deep Descent’s multiplayer mode as well, which includes solo deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture-the-flag, and a domination mode. To Digital Arrow’s credit, what we’ve seen thus far of Aquanox’s updated world looks impressive. For fans of “aerial” style combat games, the amount of customization and the frenetic pacing of these seadog fights are impressive. For those wanting a more exploratory adventure, the game’s visuals certainly hold up, and obviously look more impressive than its predecessors. While a game like Subnautica is incredibly expansive, Aquanox’s style seems decidedly more pronounced, with the darkness of the ocean depths shimmering against plant life and wreckage. Aquanox: Deep Descent is scheduled for a 2017 release date on PC. View full article
  19. For as long as combat games have been around, there have been plenty that put players in the driver’s seat of all kinds of vehicles, from apocalyptic race cars, military fighter jets, and space ships galore. For players wanting a more nautical experience, pickings have traditionally been slim, especially if they wanted to go beneath the ocean’s surface and face the depths below. The team behind Aquanox: Deep Descent are on the case with an expansive prequel to the original Aquanox games of 2001 and 2003. Quick refresher for those of you, like myself, who might have missed the original deep sea shooters. Aquanox takes place in a world besieged by nuclear war and resource scarcity. After humans leech everything possible from the surface, the few remaining survivors fled to the depths of the sea, scavenging and fighting for as many supplies as each faction can grab. Their strength comes in the form of submersible combat ships, complete with a small army’s worth of firepower and technology to aid in the fight against the hazards of the deep. Extra Life got the chance to preview a hands-off demo for Aquanox: Deep Descent from developer Digital Arrow and publisher THQ Nordic. In Aquanox: Deep Descent’s single-player mode (10-12 hours long, according to the developer), players will build up a home base full of upgrades for their ships and the community. Ships are fully customizable, with players spending credits earned completing missions and scavenging resources on upgrades for engines, armor, weapon loadouts, electrical systems, and more. Ships are already divided into classes, though, like the light scouting class, the fighter, or the siege ship. For example, siege ships are primarily the tanks of Aquanox, built to take and deal massive damage while sacrificing ease of movement. Aquanox: Deep Descent’s single-player mode also acts as a drop-in-drop-out co-op mode. When a friend joins, they can choose one of the four available main characters to play as, along with their ship’s traits. Combat in Deep Descent moves much like a space flight simulator (think Eve: Valkyrie or Elite: Dangerous), but with the added twist of water impacting movement. Natural momentum carries a ship further and in a less direct way than an airplane might, meaning every dodging maneuver against enemy ships must be calculated for maximum advantage and minimal damage. The last thing you want is to crack open the hull of your ship on a rock or a poorly dodged torpedo. You’ll also be able to maneuver in any direction, opening up possibilities for offensive or defensive strategies. To hear it from the developer, Aquanox: Deep Descent may, to some players, feel like a more tactical round of Unreal Tournament, flitting around the environment to land a carefully aimed shot at a distant target. From a hands-off perspective, the comparison certainly carries some weight, as victory often goes to the player who can not only maneuver more strategically around their opponent, but also who can react faster and with more precision, balancing combat in a way that, while perhaps not perfect, fits within its own world just fine. Like those quirky combat games, Aquanox will also feature a variety of weapons that will have players adopting unique strategies. There’s the Shrapnel cannon, which launches a close-range burst of debris at opponents for devastating damage. There’s the the Hazard, or “Gooey,” which launches canisters of explosive bio-chemical liquids that stick to enemies and can later be detonated. Then there’s the high-powered Shard rail guns that let players snipe from afar, making the vast expanses of empty water a threat to all. Secondary weapons include mines, as well as mortar fire that can strike from above. Other secondary weapons perform specific actions like automatically firing at enemies within range or from any side, giving you the chance to slip away. All these abilities will be available in Aquanox: Deep Descent’s multiplayer mode as well, which includes solo deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture-the-flag, and a domination mode. To Digital Arrow’s credit, what we’ve seen thus far of Aquanox’s updated world looks impressive. For fans of “aerial” style combat games, the amount of customization and the frenetic pacing of these seadog fights are impressive. For those wanting a more exploratory adventure, the game’s visuals certainly hold up, and obviously look more impressive than its predecessors. While a game like Subnautica is incredibly expansive, Aquanox’s style seems decidedly more pronounced, with the darkness of the ocean depths shimmering against plant life and wreckage. Aquanox: Deep Descent is scheduled for a 2017 release date on PC.
  20. 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 View full article
  21. 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
  22. Tomasz Wacławek, the creator of the stylish, turn-based Ronin, has released a new game that draws heavily on Dark Souls while using an open, inviting aesthetic. Immortal Planet places players in the shoes of an ancient warrior who emerges from cryosleep with no memories only to find an entire planet full of immortal sentinels. In order to escape this tomb world, players will have to make use of spells, special items, and carefully timed attacks. Survival depends on unearthing as many mysteries and secrets as possible. Wacławek describes Immortal Planet as “a love letter to Dark Souls” in that players will live, die, and repeat, but in a manner that's enjoyable. The main hook of this action RPG is the ability to see an enemy's stamina. Timing attacks when enemies lack stamina and are vulnerable is the key to succeeding in the frozen halls of Wacławek's world. Levels are designed with shortcuts and progression in mind, much like the Souls-Borne series, so players won't have to memorize entire areas by rote in order to make it through. Oh, and each area will feature a challenging boss that go through multiple transformations to truly test every player's mettle. Immortal Planet is available now on PC.
  23. Tomasz Wacławek, the creator of the stylish, turn-based Ronin, has released a new game that draws heavily on Dark Souls while using an open, inviting aesthetic. Immortal Planet places players in the shoes of an ancient warrior who emerges from cryosleep with no memories only to find an entire planet full of immortal sentinels. In order to escape this tomb world, players will have to make use of spells, special items, and carefully timed attacks. Survival depends on unearthing as many mysteries and secrets as possible. Wacławek describes Immortal Planet as “a love letter to Dark Souls” in that players will live, die, and repeat, but in a manner that's enjoyable. The main hook of this action RPG is the ability to see an enemy's stamina. Timing attacks when enemies lack stamina and are vulnerable is the key to succeeding in the frozen halls of Wacławek's world. Levels are designed with shortcuts and progression in mind, much like the Souls-Borne series, so players won't have to memorize entire areas by rote in order to make it through. Oh, and each area will feature a challenging boss that go through multiple transformations to truly test every player's mettle. Immortal Planet is available now on PC. View full article
  24. Feature: Review: Rime

    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. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack" href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack">RiME (Deluxe Soundtrack) by David García Díaz</a> 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. Conclusion: 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 View full article
  25. Review: Rime

    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. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack" href="http://music.greybox.com/album/rime-deluxe-soundtrack">RiME (Deluxe Soundtrack) by David García Díaz</a> 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. Conclusion: 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