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Jack Gardner
QuakeCon is underway and new details have emerged regarding Arkane's reboot of Prey. Arkane's Prey takes place on a space station, called Talos One, that has become infected with a mysterious alien presence. These shadowy creatures can take on numerous forms, from humanoid to tiny, spider-like beings. Not only are these creatures so dangerous that the protagonist, Morgan Yu, warns that even one breaching the station's containment could spell doom for humanity, they also possess the ability to disguise themselves as small objects in the environment - an ability that players will also be able to use at some point in their time with Prey. If that doesn't seem like something that will lead to some pretty amazing Let's Plays, I don't know what would.
Talos One operated as a hub of human testing and players will be able to obtain new powers and upgrade via eyeball injection "Neuromods." In-depth crafting will play a large part in the game, as well as creative weapons like a gun that shoots hardening resin, which can be used to freeze enemies or create new paths through the environment.
There are a lot of things in this trailer and the details coming out of QuakeCon that scream System Shock with a hint of Dead Space to me. The atmosphere feels thick and authentic, while the action and problem-solving looks like it could be some of the most creative the triple A mainstream has seen in a while. 
Prey releases in 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Daniel Jones

Review: Abzû

By Daniel Jones, in Features,

With 2012’s Journey, thatgamecompany succeeded in creating a type of interactive tome, replete with all the self-reflective ambiguity of an abstract painting. Debates over video games as art notwithstanding, Journey could hardly be described as anything but. While it wove an astoundingly rich visual tapestry, the surprisingly effusive weight of its anonymous multiplayer carried the brunt of its artistic meaning.
So it’s impressive that developer Giant Squid—founded by Journey’s Art Director, Matt Nava—has created a game in Abzû that not only sparkles with aesthetic brilliance, but also finds its own voice as an emotionally driven work of artistic expression. The fact that it occasionally feels slight in the shadow of Journey’s monolithic legacy is something I struggle to hold against it, especially when the overall experience feels so singularly divine.
Abzû’s wordless story begins in a serene corner of its ocean setting, as your avatar, a wet-suit-clad scuba diver awakes on the surface. Subtle visual cues and camera tricks help to guide you along your trek through underwater caverns, dense kelp forests, and even some less organic structures that I dare not detail further. Along the way, you’ll interact with all manner of sea life from the smallest clownfish to blue whales the size of a naval submarine.

It’s in the interaction with these creatures that Abzû sets itself apart from any game I’ve played before. Each of the game’s environments is its own mini ecosystem, teeming with aquatic inhabitants that interact with each other and the player in fascinating and believable ways. Sharks will chomp on smaller fish, dolphins flip and twirl in their pods, and giant squid spray ink when you come near. These interactions are rarely scripted, often relying on your input to trigger, such as enticing a massive humpback whale to breach the surface or hitching a ride with a turtle. Finding new ways to play around with Abzû’s wildlife proves fun and engaging, while nicely complimenting the game’s naturalistic themes.
Just as playful is the game’s soundtrack from Austin Wintory, whose work composing Journey earned him a Grammy nomination. The lively strings, twinkling harps, and celestial choir simply sound exactly like Abzû looks. Wintory’s scores have an exquisite knack for capturing the essence of a game’s visuals and themes, and his work on Abzû is no exception. This inimitable, ever-present music ties into the gameplay and adapts appropriately to your actions, making it as vital a part of the experience as the vibrant visuals and the smooth controls.
As you might expect from the art director behind Journey, Abzû’s visuals inspire awe, a true sight to behold. Each area exhibits a distinct color palette with what can almost be described as a bouquet of marine wildlife. Seeing thousands of fish all animated on screen at once is jaw dropping more so for its audacious beauty than its technological achievement. Abzû has much in common with thatgamecompany’s earlier title, Flower, as you spread life through the world, making each new area more vibrant and lively than it was when you first waded into its waters. This is more than just pretty visuals at thirty frames per second; it’s emotion through gameplay and gameplay through art.
Abzû’s ocean is not all smooth sailing, however, as a few questionable design decisions muddy the otherwise clear waters. Each area has a few hidden shells that you can collect, much like the scarf pieces from Journey. But whereas those pieces granted your avatar with a longer jump and eventually—if you were able to find them all—a white robe with an infinitely regenerating scarf, Abzû grants the player no such rewards, besides a gold trophy. A sense of progression would have served Abzû well, and would’ve made the already enjoyable movement even more gratifying.
Though it may seem unfair to hold Abzû to the standards set by its predecessor, the corollary couldn’t be more apt. Make no mistake about it, this game—though not designed by Journey mastermind Jenova Chen—is a clear successor to that modern classic. Though the visual stylings and game design present a unique twist on the sub-genre, the level structure and pacing are lifted almost wholesale from Journey. As someone who has played through that game more times than I can count, I often found myself predicting what would happen next. Though the beats are familiar, each new area still kept me engaged as the game floated towards its conclusion. It’s just disappointing that Giant Squid chose to stick so vehemently to a previously established formula for a game that otherwise presents wonders I had never experienced before.

That statement’s not completely true actually; I do have some experience with the grandeur of our planet’s oceans. I have been snorkeling on a few occasions, off the coast of Maui and Hawaii, and though it was over a decade ago, the adventure has hardly faded from my memory. Never have I been so humbled by nature as when I found myself surrounded by all manner of sea creatures, from turtles to barracudas to massive manta rays that dwarfed my six foot frame. This is the type of feeling Abzû so deftly replicates; that of a stranger in a strange land, discovering wonders your eyes weren’t meant to see. I never expected a game to make me want to don the flippers and goggles again, but that’s exactly what Abzû has accomplished.
Despite that, Abzû isn’t a scuba simulator, and it never attempts to be. You don’t need to manage oxygen levels, or worry about depth pressure, or fear any of the predators that lurk in the deep. While the fish are all modeled after real species in both design and behavior, this is a stylized version of underwater ecosystems, not a perfect replication. So in place of realism, Abzû fosters a wondrous sense of respect for the species that exist in our oceans, and it’s all the better for it.
After my second playthrough, I still haven’t uncovered all of Abzû’s marvels, and I can’t stop thinking about my next dive in its magical world of color and life. I want to unlock all of the fish species, collect all of the mollusk shells scattered in the hidden corners of the world, and I want to find every last meditation statue. Mainly, though, I look forward to revisiting Abzû anytime I just need a break from the noise and bustle of human life on the surface of this Earth. The flaws that keep Abzû from being an unequivocal masterpiece are of little import when fully submerged in the adventure’s calming beauty and spectral wonder.
Abzû was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is now available on PS4 and PC

Jack Gardner
If you are looking for your isometric action-RPG fix after running Diablo 3 for the 100th time, Vikings: Wolves of Midgard might be the upcoming game for you. Thrust into the middle of Midgard while Ragnarok, the end of all things, rages around players must fight to survive against giants, the undead, and the very gods themselves.  
Players take on the role of a warrior or shieldmaiden chief of the Ulfung clan, the Wolves of Midgard, facing the oncoming storm of Ragnarok. The Jotan have returned to the world for the final battle with the gods of Asgard and in their wake the dead rise. The Fire and Frost giants have forged an alliance and merged their armies. With a the only home the Ulfung have ever called home destroyed, players will lead their people to safety and put an end to Ragnarok to save Midgard.
Wolves of Midgard seems to take a lot of cues from Diablo. Players can take up sword and shield, two-handed hammers, dual axes, and bows in defense of their clan. As progress is made, players can also learn and unleash devastating spells granted by the very gods.
Vikings: Wolves of Midgard releases in early 2017 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Jack Gardner
The demise of Nintendo Power in 2012 was the end of an era for gaming. The magazine had been in circulation since 1988 and brought out an ocean of nostalgia from those who had cherished their time with the games detailed on its helpful pages. Many thought that the magazine was gone for good and would be relegated to the boxes in the back of closets and traded by gaming collectors for the rest of time. Nintendo, however, had different plans. They have detailed plans to release a miniature NES this holiday season and now they have also released the entire run of Nintendo Power from 1988 - 2001.
The 13 year run of Nintendo Power has been made available via the Internet Archive. Each issue has been lovingly preserved by RetroMags, a website dedicated to keeping old gaming magazines around for future researchers and enthusiasts to enjoy.

The 143 issues of Nintendo Power available on the Internet Archive include strategy guides for the original Final Fantasy, comic book storylines for The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, and Metroid, and are generally fascinating to sift through. The amazing artwork alone is worth the time, even if the written contents of the magazine don't interest you. Give the legacy of Nintendo Power a look if you have the time!

Jack Gardner
A lot of interesting things are happening with Telltale’s new Batman title. Though the first episode is now available, I had the opportunity to see it a bit early and hear about where Telltale plans to take the series in the future.

“The biggest thing that you can take away from Telltale's take on Batman is that we believe that Bruce Wayne is as important as the Batman,” said Telltale’s rep as we began to dig into the differences between how Telltale was approaching the Bat compared to film or comic adaptations. “Being Bruce Wayne is political. It's personal. It's working directly with people and seeing how you influence them and actually how they influence you maybe, and how you influence the story of course. It's a Telltale series where choice matters,” the rep explained as the PC demonstration began.

It is almost immediately apparent that Telltale put their M rating to good use. Their Batman series features some brutal violence; the camera lingers on a security guard with a fatal head shot wound as a mercenary team executes a night raid on city hall. “Actually, having an M-rating is really, really good for us. It opens up the ability to tell a fantastic, hard-edged Batman story, a mature Batman story,” Telltale’s rep later explains.

As the mercenaries slowly check their corners and walk through the nearly deserted building (after delaying the inevitable police response, of course), they worry aloud about interference from a certain vigilante. The camera pans out to show a shadow observing them from in front of a “Harvey Dent for Mayor” billboard.

“You're going to see some new combat mechanics you haven't seen before in a Telltale series,” the rep states as that shadow leaps into motion, crashing through a window into the panicked killers. To be honest, the new combat mechanics aren’t exactly a huge departure from the quick time events that have been the primary form of action in past Telltale adventures. However, there is one prominent new addition: A finishing meter. As combat progresses, a meter will fill up with each successful QTE move. Once it is full, Batman will be able to use a finishing move to take down his opponent. Interestingly, players can fail a large number of QTE without getting a game over screen as long as Batman isn’t in a situation that would obviously kill him. Fights can also be finished without performing a takedown maneuver. Sometimes failing a prompt during a fight can affect the outcome of the story, too. “It is all part of that Telltale magic.”

This sequence flashes back and forth between Batman’s conflict with the thugs and the contemplative conversation between Alfred and Bruce in the aftermath. “A myth can't be killed. You, however, are flesh and blood,” states Alfred as he helps Bruce clean his injuries. The game flashes back to Batman’s first encounter with Catwoman, who has beaten the mercenaries to a their prize: A hard drive. “[The hard drive] contains some very, very sensitive data. Catwoman [is] being sent to get it, obviously these guys know what's going on. The mercenaries upstairs are being sent to get. Batman's aware of what's going on. You'll find out how this story came to be as we move forward into the actual game episode itself.”

As the combat and conversation between Batman and Catwoman comes to a close and the segment of the demo focusing on Bruce Wayne begins, the demo crashes. I’m told this is due to the game’s QA testing not being complete yet. Someone asks if Batman is running on a new engine, suspecting that the performance issues and improved visuals might be attributed to new technology. Telltale’s rep explains:

Due to the nature of the build they are using, they can’t skip back to where things went wrong. I’m shown the same sequence over again. The presenter adds additional context for events, saying, “This is relatively early in Batman's career. James Gordon is still a lieutenant. This is the first time as you saw earlier that he met Catwoman. And there's some other characters that we're going to meet as well early in Batman's career. So I'm a bit beyond that kind of Year One stage if you like, he's obviously quite capable right now as Batman.”

The demo crashes again. We’re shown another attempt at making it to the second section of gameplay. What was a half hour demo slowly stretches toward an hour.
Finally, we make it through the glitchy section. Visibly relieved, the presenter continues, “So now as Alfred said we go from wearing one mask to another. We go from the Bat to the billionaire. This is where things get political and personal. […] The next part is a gala in support of the election of Harvey Dent as mayor, so obviously this is before Harvey becomes Two-Face.”

Telltale’s focus on Bruce Wayne places additional importance on the schmoozing Bruce does during these parties. How players have Wayne act can determine how much support Harvey enjoys in his bid for the mayor’s office. Players can even choose which slogan Dent uses for his campaign. However, there’s clear conflict between Bruce Wayne’s two identities as he tries to help his friend Harvey make a good impression with the elite of Gotham. The attempts make him feel disingenuous, but the stakes escalate when Carmine Falcone arrives.

Falcone, a known, but legally untouchable, criminal, knows the right people and could help rig the election for Harvey Dent, but he has little to no respect for either Harvey or Bruce.  “You listen to me, kid,” Falcone explains in a tense one-on-one conversation with Bruce, “I know somewhere inside that tuxedo you understand the situation. Money gets money. The risks, the alliances, the hidden costs. Your father knew which hands to shake. And which to break.” The demo ends with threats and Carmine Falcone leaving Wayne Manor with his thugs in tow.

I asked if the series would be drawing on previous Batman storylines from comics, movies, cartoons, etc. and received a pretty intriguing answer:

The demo concluded and I was left with a generally positive view of the series’ future, though with some deep misgivings about the stability of the tech. Telltale’s games have always been a bit wobbly right out of the gate, but I had never seen a build crash in an early showing, let alone crash multiple times.

An interesting feature that will be included in Telltale games beginning with the Batman series onward is the ability to initiate Crowd Play. Essentially, Crowd Play makes a Telltale game into a multiplayer experience. There are two different types of Crowd Play with which players can experiment. The first is a rule of the majority, with the most popular audience vote taking priority. The second gives the player with the controller the voting information, but allows them to make the ultimate choice.

Choosing crowd play when beginning a new game generates a URL that an audience can use to participate, similar to the mobile participation in party games like the Jackbox series. This could make for some really fun, unique events or game nights.

The first episode of Telltale’s Batman, titled Realm of Shadows, is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It will be releasing on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and mobile in the coming weeks.

Jack Gardner
In the wake of Duncan Jones' financially successful Warcraft film, Ubisoft's film division is set to go into overdrive. Their Assassin's Creed starring Michael Fassbender releases on December 21, followed by their mysterious Splinter Cell project with Tom Hardy sometime in 2017. Now Jessica Chastain and Jake Gyllenhaal are attached to a now confirmed project based on The Division, which launched earlier this year.
Many will remember Jake Gyllenhaal starred as Dastan in the Disney film based off of and titled Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, another Ubisoft property. That particular film didn't fare well critically and underperformed at the box office in 2010. This time around, things might be a bit different. Beginning with Assassin's Creed, Ubisoft will be the ones producing and distributing the film through Ubisoft Motion Pictures. This move will give them more creative control over the content and style of their films. Additionally, both Fassbender and Gyllenhaal will be producing as well as acting in their respective films. Ostensibly, this will give the actors some say in how they are portrayed and lead to greater collaboration on Ubisoft's films.
No word yet on a release date or window for The Division film.
Could more Ubisoft properties be on the way to the big screen? What would you like to see?

Jack Gardner
Blizzard kicks off the Olympics a bit early by introducing seasonal events with their own Summer Games. For the next three weeks, loot boxes will be sporting a new look and the chance to unlock special, limited edition gear for characters. These sprays, emotes, skins, and more can't be unlocked through in-game purchases, but each loot box obtained over the duration of the games is guaranteed to contain at least one of the Summer Games items. The event concludes on August 22 and Blizzard says they won't be coming back out. 
To create a compelling seasonal event, Blizzard turned to musical sensation Lúcio and mixed in a heaping helping of soccer and a dash of Rocket League to make a frantic 3v3 mode. Wall running with speed boosts, jump pads, and a redefined moveset place Lúcioball apart from traditional game modes. Lúcio's primary attack has been replaced with a melee attack that can dribble and pass the ball across the pitch. His alternate fire can pelt the ball across the map at a terrifying speed. His ultimate now pulls the ball toward him from wherever it is on the map. 
Players have from now until August 22 to enjoy Lúcioball and earn the 100 new cosmetic items. Get to work!

Emily Palmieri
In 2012, Oxybot, the producer of Appleseed and Vexille, released Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, a CGI movie based on BioWare’s Dragon Age. The film follows Cassandra, a fierce and loyal member of the Seekers and a talented dragon hunter. The loss of her brother, who was killed by mages when she was a child, has made her bitter, angry, and prone to violence and recklessness. Her mentor, Byron, believes that her fury blinds her and will get her or someone else killed. Her behavior frequently endangers her and her companions. Contrary to his warnings, Cassandra demonstrates inhuman strength and an imperviousness to damage, leading one to wonder what she or her companions have to fear by her thoughtlessness. Indeed, her need for revenge for what happened to her as a child seems to fuel her uncanny strength more than it hinders her. The only attack in the movie that seriously damages Cassandra reveals her true weakness. Blind fury doesn’t make Cassandra vulnerable. Her unfortunate choice to not wear pants leaves her true vulnerability fully exposed: Her “Achilles heel,” her left thigh.
Cassandra, born into a family of talented dragon hunters, serves the Chantry as a Seeker to avenge her older brother’s murder. As a member of the Seekers, the most loyal of the Templar knights, Cassandra maintains balance and order between knights and mages. When she catches her fellow Seeker Byron kidnapping Avexis, an elf girl with the power to control beasts, however, she begins to question her loyalties. Byron believes that the High Seeker is conspiring with mages and holding Avexis hostage as part of their plans. When Byron dies protecting her and Avexis, Cassandra continues his mission to discover the truth. To do this, she must disobey the Chantry and trust an allied mage named Galyan.
Cassandra’s anger frequently puts herself and others into dangerous situations, which makes it easy to assume that she must learn to control it to achieve victory. Her uncontrolled temper shows from the first fight scene of the movie when Byron finds Cassandra hacking angrily away at the corpse of a mage in a fit of rage, leaving her unaware of her surroundings and open to attack. Byron demonstrates Cassandra’s weakness again when he defeats her in a sparring match by using his shield as a weapon. He explains that she has blinded herself with vengeance and can’t see all the possibilities available to her.
The consequences of Cassandra’s behavior escalate when her recklessness kills Byron. During their escape from the Chantry with Avexis, a large group of mages ambush Cassandra and Byron. Byron recommends that they retreat, but Cassandra takes the opportunity to kill more mages. Fearing that they will kill her, Byron stays and fights, too. He dies while protecting her, and the mages recapture Avexis. Cassandra laments that this wouldn’t have happened if she had retreated.

In the scope of the entire movie, however, Cassandra’s mindless rage never really puts her in danger, causes her grief, or proves to be an obstacle. She demonstrates superhuman strength and damage resistance, which suggests that nothing poses a threat to her even when rage consumes her. In the course of a few days, she murders dozens of people and monsters. She can kill dragons with a knife, fist fight armed and armored knights into unconsciousness, and swing a sword hard enough to cut through armor and chains. Among other damage she receives, she survives a massacre as a little girl, jumps off three cliffs, stands on top of a flaming monster and doesn’t burn, and smashes into walls and the ground multiple times. The characters around Cassandra also recognize her abilities as exceptional. The Clerics express amazement when they hear that she killed a dragon by herself. Byron says that he knows no man better with a sword than her. Galyan sees her as the bravest person he’s ever met. The leader of the enemy mages retreats only when he recognizes Cassandra among the knights surrounding him at the end of the first fight scene. Cassandra and others refer to her as a member of a legendary dragon hunting family.
Byron’s death, the most devastating consequence of Cassandra’s blind fury and the most likely to convince her to change, ultimately doesn’t affect her. She even stops believing that she caused it. Less than thirty seconds after Byron passes away, Cassandra attempts to kill his friend Galyan, and her thoughtlessness continues for the rest of the movie. As soon as she discovers the person truly behind the conspiracy within the Chantry, she blames him for killing Byron instead of herself. After she defeats the conspirator, she briefly takes Byron’s last words to heart: “Hate can only breed more hate.” In Byron’s memory, she shows the traitor mercy by allowing him to live… but then beheads him anyway.
Despite Byron’s and Galyan’s insistence that Cassandra’s anger impedes her, Cassandra uses her pent up rage and impulsiveness to their advantage at every opportunity. She kills dragons and monsters at least fifty times her size and dozens of mages who would have killed her or members of the Chantry if she hadn’t. She intimidates an elf to gain valuable information. She saves herself and Galyan when she decides to jump off a cliff to escape the Templar knights. Despite everyone except Cassandra thinking that her rash decision would kill them, she and Galyan survive the fall. Instead of learning to control herself throughout the story, she instead convinces Galyan that her fury helps rather than hinders her. Originally a pacifist who dislikes Cassandra’s foolishness and need for revenge, Galyan tosses Cassandra the sword that she uses to execute the conspirator and admits that he should have let her kill him sooner. He also seems to reinterpret her recklessness as bravery. Perhaps if Byron had more trust that she could protect herself while he escaped with Avexis, he would have survived.
Cassandra does have a weakness, however. This can be observed when Cassandra receives an attack that damages her left thigh. During a fight with 100 giant monsters, one of the beasts backhands Cassandra, which knocks her unconscious and cuts open her leg. This deep but small cut leaves her debilitated and vulnerable for two days. She can’t even defeat a single person when before she could cut down fifteen in minutes. Her reaction to this injury can’t be explained by the fact that a monster brutally smashed her out of the air. A similar attack later in the movie, where a large creature swats Cassandra into a brick wall, doesn’t damage Cassandra’s leg or incapacitate her.

If Cassandra has a character flaw, her apparent preference for running around without pants on would be a better candidate. This choice leaves her thighs, and thus her weak point, fully exposed. Byron and Cassandra escape the Chantry with Avexis late at night when both of them wear light armor as opposed to full armored suits. Cassandra happens to not be wearing pants and must continue without them for the rest of the film. Sure, she and Byron had to make a quick escape, but why would she casually wear light armor with no pants in the first place?
While Cassandra stubbornly refuses to change her personality, she does more than put clothes on to conceal her Achilles heel at the end of the movie. In the first fight scene, Cassandra wears a suit of armor that defends Cassandra so well that even magic bounces off of it throughout the battle. When she returns to the Chantry as a hero for exposing the conspiracy, she wears that miraculous suit of armor once again. Perhaps if she wore it through the whole adventure, she would be invincible and have nothing to worry about regardless of who or what she decided to swing a sword at.
Dawn of the Seeker leads the audience to believe that in order to fulfill her goals, Cassandra must learn to solve problems with means other than recklessness and violence. The hopes that Byron and Galyan had for her becoming a more tactful and forgiving person, however, go mostly unfulfilled. Aside from befriending a mage, Galyan, Cassandra shamelessly chooses the path of rage and revenge from the beginning of the movie to the end. She not only survives, but also shows that her personality doesn’t make her weak. Her childhood trauma haunts her, but it has also made her strong. She doesn’t need to change her temperament to protect herself. When an attack to her left thigh can nearly kill her while everything else has no effect, putting on pants appears to be the more reasonable course of action.
Any other Extra Lifers out there with some writing skills and a good idea? Read about how to become a community contributor and start submitting today!

Jack Gardner
Kickstarted games have been under fire recently after several high-profile Kickstarters disappeared or halted before making it to market and the somewhat anticlimactic release of the crowdfunded Mighty No. 9. Despite the bad press that these disappointments have garnered Kickstarter, Nightdive Studios has managed to attract almost 22,000 backers and $1.35 million in funds to remake the original System Shock title using the latest version of Unity. And you know what? Their vision for a reborn System Shock looks pretty fantastic.
Nightdive is relatively well-known for the way it has revived and updated classic franchises to be compatible for modern technology. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, System Shock 1 & 2, and Turok 1 & 2 are all available in their original condition (with some compatibility updates) on modern PCs thanks to their work. Not only that, but the studio has contributed to several high-profile releases like Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and BioShock Infinite. 
As part of generating interest in their campaign, Nightdive released a pre-alpha demo that captures the look and feel of the game they want to make, though it comes with a stipulation that pretty much every aspect of it is subject to change. you can download the demo for free on Steam, Good Old Games, and the Humble Store.  

It's actually happening, and it seems to be in the hands of people who know how to treat old, well-loved properties right. The System Shock remake will be available initially for PC and Xbox One, but will also be coming to Mac and Linux. Nightdive has left open the possibility of bringing the title to PlayStation 4 and VR devices.  
For those who still want to get in on the fundraising, Nightdive is opening up the campaign to PayPal donations (though the page on which people can donate is still under construction). Certain stretch goals from the Kickstarter will carry over into ongoing fundraising efforts, too, like VR support, a full orchestral score, and more. Those who donate during the post-Kickstarter fundraising will likely get different backer rewards that have yet to be revealed. 

Jack Gardner
The wonderful Emily Reese, from the lovely Level with Emily Reese podcast, joins the show this week to discuss the only Grand Theft Auto title that captures the spirit of the 1980s complete with neon lights, drugs, and crazy fashion. Equal parts homage and satirical jab, Vice City spurred a flurry of lawsuits, accusations of inciting genocide, and might be the best Grand Theft Auto game to date. 
You can find Emily Reese on Twitter, @LevelwithEmily, or on her weekly podcast Level with Emily Reese.
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: Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers 'An Enjoyable Face Remodeling' by shaboogen (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03387)
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! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday

Jack Gardner
The alpha demo for the demon slaying Nioh back in April met with smashing success, garnering more than 850,000 downloads over 10 days. Those who played filled out a survey to help Team Ninja fine tune the gameplay and weapons. A beta demo slated for a late August release now includes many of those changes.
Players will be able to download the beta through the PlayStation Store from August 23 to September 6.
The Dark Souls/Akira Kurosawa-inspired Nioh thrusts players into the role of a 16th century Japanese warrior who clashes with various demons and monsters on his quest to fulfill his destiny. The beta will include a broader range of weapons; more axes, hammers, spears, and katana. Some of the beta will have players retreading  the same ground as the alpha, but with revamped gameplay. However, there will be a new dojo area, training mode, and a mysterious stage that Team Ninja has not yet revealed.  
Nioh releases later this year exclusively for PlayStation 4.

I can honestly say that I’ve grown up alongside the video game industry. My best friend down the street had an Atari 2600, so we began there with Centipede, Frogger, and the gang, before my family got a Nintendo (the original Nintendo Entertainment System). Spending countless hours with the likes of Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, Q*bert, and friends was the best thing I could do with my day. Then Contra appeared. The limitation of three lives made for a series of insane levels. This was our first exploration into the concept of “I don’t care how ridiculous this is, I will get past this!” Today, I could challenge any gamer from my generation what the code was and be met with that look of, "Really? You have to ask?"  Say it with me: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start.

As the years passed, the procession of systems continued: Sega Genesis, Game Boy, PlayStation, Dreamcast, and Xbox, to name a few. I am proud to say I experienced many of these, playing a variety of games, from the good to the horrible and many in between. The extensive achievement lists of today’s games are a far cry from the simplicity that Pong or Dig-Dug offered. Sometimes a good card game or tabletop RPG can be as exciting as the latest release. 

While some will scoff at the notion of playing Dungeons & Dragons, I have enjoyed adventuring into the random imagination of several dungeon masters over the years. My first exploration was in high school with a group of buddies, where literally anything could happen. If our dungeon master thought we were getting even slightly too bold, he had no issues with bringing out an epic level creature to wipe our characters completely. Few things are more humbling than having to start from scratch, with additional limitations because of your own behavior. My second party was in college, and had an interesting array of characters, both in game and out. It is awesome to see the varying degrees of how different people will play their characters. The meekest person you know may command a ferocious barbarian in game; or the local quarterback may skulk around as a pocket-picking rogue. 

Almost a year ago now, I was thinking to myself, “I have played enough games of varying styles, I should find an outlet to share my opinion of games with others. I should be a game reviewer. Surely I have a valid opinion.” Let's be honest; who hasn't had that thought once or twice (a day) when they're in the middle of one campaign or another? Well, I found my outlet in a growing website by the name of BrutalGamer. They were kind enough to let me join, and now I can say that I write news and reviews for video games and comic books. Yay. We have seen everything; from a brotherly duo working in their basement for years to produce an exciting story all the way up to the AAA studio’s annual record-breakers. You never know what style of game will come across your desk next.

Shortly after I joined BrutalGamer, one of my new teammates was asking who signed up for the Extra Life marathon in November. I had no clue this marathon was even a thing. So I did what we do best these days; I googled Extra Life.

Lo and behold, I found that there are charitable organizations in the gaming community. Child’s Play, AbleGamers Charity, and Extra Life are only a few. Groups of gamers that will continue doing what they love to do while also lending their collective power to help those less fortunate. Extra Life in particular, has a push to host a 24-hour gaming marathon, and the money each participant raises goes to a Children's Miracle Network Hospital of their choosing. I figured something had to be amiss here. There is always a loophole, or some catch. 

I tell you, there is no loophole, nor any catch.

Last year I raised $115 of my $150 goal, and helped support my niece and nephew's hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. I have met other Extra Lifers and gained some additional thoughts on raising money. Did you know you could have your own marathons, any time of year? Beyond that, some belong to Guilds and have regularly scheduled events! These angels raise money year-round! I had a friend dye his black hair a vibrant shade of orange for reaching his Extra Life fundraising goal. 

Now, to be honest, this can easily sound overwhelming: Guilds, marathons, and fundraisers. If you break it down, it sounds that much more exciting. Guild is a lofty name for a bunch of like-minded gamers in your area that want to get together and play games. How bad can that be? Marathons, well who would dislike the thought of playing their favorite game(s) for hours on end? As for the fundraisers, take a few moments to get on your favorite social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) to let your friends and family that you want to raise money for children. That’s right, raising money for children in hospitals. In addition, you want to do it by playing games with friends. That doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? You can choose any game or games you want, and you can decide what date works best for you. What’s not to like about that?

Last year was my wife and my first time participating in the 24-hour Extra Life marathon, and we are planning to do so again this coming November. In fact, my wife just asked me last week when the sign-ups began, so we would not miss out. We have learned that several of our friends are board game and card game fans, so we may have to see if we can recruit them to our team this year. 

If you are like me and you think this seems like a great way to raise money for a good cause while also having a good time, then you should check out Extra Life. They can be found in-person at almost any comic or gaming convention around the country. More than that though, you probably know more people that either participate or fund the group than you realize. When I go to Chicago’s Comic Convention next month, I look forward to stopping by the Extra Life booth and meeting new friends.

So what are you waiting for? Check out Extra Life today!

I'm Patrick Mackey and I play for Kosair Children's Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky. 
If you don’t have a team, you are welcome to join or donate to ours!
Any other Extra Lifers out there with some writing skills and a good idea? Read about how to become a community contributor and start submitting today!