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Jack Gardner
Horizons is the new season of content updates for the space-faring combat/exploration/trading sim. Frontier has announced that players will soon be able to explore planets and moons up close. This is part of their desire to bring the galaxy they've created down to a more human, relatable scale. To a similar end, they will soon be introducing character creation, something that the original release lacked (as the were precious few instances of getting that close to another player and it was impossible to leave ships). Frontier has teased that they have long-term plans for these avatars, but hasn't said exactly what those plans entail. 
A new addition to gameplay mechanics will allow players to cooperatively pilot ships, alternating control of weapons systems or even piloting ship-based starfighters using the new feature that allows for that. Ship-launched fighters can also be piloted by AI for players who tackle the universe solo. 
As a fun, little addition, players can now incorporate bobbleheads into their cockpits.
Recently, Frontier took to the stage at EGX to talk in greater detail about the upcoming expansions to their game and it all sound really interesting and cool. Though the game has been only available on PC up until now, Elite Dangerous is making the leap to Xbox One next week. 

Jack Gardner
A little over a week ago, Good Old Games backed the Divinity: Original Sin 2 Kickstarter at the $10,000 level (there are only 17 hours left until the campaign concludes). As a result, developer Larian Games is allowing them to design an original character with a backstory and motivations that crosses paths with the protagonists. Not wanting to keep this power of creation for themselves, GOG has decided to involve the gaming community in a massive brainstorming session to flesh out their new hero. People can pitch their ideas in the comments section of the announcement or by using #GOGHero. When the time comes for the character to be created, Larian will design three characters that combine a number of the best ideas, all with concept art and backstories. Then the community will be able to vote for their favorite champion to become a fully fleshed out NPC in the final game.
Some of the ideas being kicked around so far are a lizard paladin with a fear of chocolate, a claustrophobic dwarf who tries to pass himself off as a human wizard, and a vain 310-year-old undead with a fear of fire. Got better ideas? Then get submitting!

Jack Gardner
Every day from now until October 5, the Frictional Games Youtube channel will be releasing a mini-series set in the world of their horror title SOMA. The series sets out to show the events that unfolded at the PATHOS-II research station. SOMA delves into issues of humanity, consciousness, and plays with them to horrific effect. Parts of the live-action episodes were seen in small bits and pieces throughout the viral marketing campaign that Frictional ran prior to SOMA's release.
The mini-series was created by Imagos Films, a company that has a long history of crafting video games into trailers and short films. Some of their past work includes: Potatoman Seeks the Troof, The Legend of Dungeon, Super Motherload, Jazzpunk!, Sportsball, Starr Mazer, and Dad by the Sword. 
You can watch the first episode below (contains harsh language):

Jack Gardner
There are a lot of things to love about the Tales from the Borderlands series from Telltale Games. It’s often laugh-out-loud funny, equal parts charming and violent, and can even muster up the capacity to be heartfelt from time to time. There is this underlying sincerity to it all that makes the series work better than one might expect from a story-driven adventure set in the insane universe of Borderlands.

While an enjoyable segment of adventure, Episode Three was essentially the set up for the craziness that makes up the meat of Escape Plan Bravo. Our heroes, backed into a corner and left with no other option, must undertake the biggest con of their lives to secure the final piece of the puzzle that will lead them to a legendary vault. Failure to secure the piece will mean death for everyone involved. It’s a classic set up that slowly becomes more and more convoluted as parts of the plan fail or run into snags. By the end of the episode, just when things couldn’t possibly become worse, the stage is set for the finale with an improbably catastrophic turn of events.

In the middle of all the enjoyable con artistry, the game pauses for an unexpected character death. It serves as a reminder that Pandora is a harsh and violent place where death is never far away, even during hijinks and heists. More importantly, this scene again shows that Tales from the Borderlands can achieve more emotional high-notes than laughter and visceral excitement. The death hits home as genuinely sad. It is an effective send off for a character who has become a staple of the series, though I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if that character turned out to have survived through a series of improbable events.

Picking the highlight of Escape Plan Bravo is easily done. Towards the end of the episode, an imaginary gun battle breaks out with a bunch of accountants who are upset about discrepancies with the books. The amazingly creative and hilarious scene features dozens of accountants getting finger-gunned down and imaginary grenade explosions. It injects some levity into an otherwise tense con.

Those two aforementioned scenes demonstrate the solid construction of the individual episodes of Tales from the Borderlands. It all feels balanced. Events are funny, but never wander into outright farce territory. An element of danger always underlies the humor. However, that danger is managed in such a way that it never feels suffocating, allowing the humor to speak for itself while making the tragedies encountered over the course of four episodes feel earned or at least understandable. It’s a precarious path for the series to walk, but it manages to toe the lines with apparent ease.

From a technical perspective, Escape Plan Bravo ran the smoothest out of any of the Tales from the Borderlands episodes to date. I encountered no graphical hiccups or bugs during my two hour playthrough, which led to a very pleasant experience. Not much else to say on this other than it works without a hitch.

Visually, Escape Plan Bravo is probably the most diverse and eye-candy filled episode in the series to date. We get to see more than the blasted surface of Pandora, which makes for a nice diversion from crazy psychos, monsters, and eccentric locals. There is an air of novelty to the visuals that is hard to pin down on any one part of the visual design.

Perhaps a part of what makes thing so interesting to look at is that they come with a lot of meaning. People who have played through Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Borderlands 2 will get a lot more out of Episode Four as it deals rather heavily with Handsome Jack. It manages to humanize the character to such a degree that it is perilously easy to forget that a cold-hearted villain lurks beneath Handsom Jack's outward charms.

The one complaint that I can possibly level against Escape Plan Bravo is that the overarching plot is very predictable. If you have ever seen a heist or con movie, you’ll understand where Episode Four is going. Even if you haven’t, the set up leads to a large chunk of the episode feeling like formulaic moving from Point A to Point B in the most over-the-top ways imaginable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but part of the fun of previous episodes was the blindsiding unexpectedness of encountering Pandorans living their hyperbolic lives.


It is a Telltale Game. Expect great writing, game-changing choices, and some really interesting scenarios. Escape Plan Bravo comes close to being a new high for the series between its dramatic and comedic turns. With the overarching mystery laid out in the framed narrative still unsolved, Episode Five is sure to hold a lot of bombshells and insanity. As it stands, if you played the first three episodes of Tales from the Borderlands, you will be doing yourself a favor by playing Episode Four.

Tales from the Borderlands Episode Four – Escape Plan Bravo is now available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android devices.

Jack Gardner
The digital art dealer Cook & Becker is back again with a freshly released batch of prints for their Sega Collection. The newest prints for Sonic the Hedgehog and Virtua Fighter join assorted artwork available includes pieces based on Streets of Rage, Shenmue, Shinobi, Phantasy Star, Golden Axe, and Jet Set Radio.
The new Sonic the Hedgehog print is by Paul Veer, best known for his pixel art for the indie studio Vlambeer (Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing, and Nuclear Throne). Veer worked on the print with Team Sonic to come up with something representative of the blue blur. Talking about his design he said, "The Sonic franchise as a whole has always had a huge influence on my personal art style, so getting to do an official print with Sega was an honor and a dream come true. With that in mind, I wanted to do the entire series justice by including lots of characters from past and present Sonic games."
Gerald Peral worked on the prints for Virtua Fighter, which come in red and blue variants. He also created the print for Golden Axe that depicts the characters in a classic, pulp style.
John Sweeny's print for Shenmue 3 has been so commercially successful, with all of the revenue going toward creating the third installment in the game series, that he's being made into an in-game character. A few of those prints are still available, but will likely be sold out shortly.
On top of all that, Cook & Becker have announced that they will be receiving a collection of Bloodborne and The Order: 1888 artwork in time for Halloween. No word on exactly when we might expect to see these prints, but it is possible to get early access or reserve prints by contacting the dealer via their site.

Jack Gardner
Back in June, Quantic Dream announced that it would be remastering both Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls for PlayStation 4. Since 2013's Dark Sorcerer E3 demo the studio has largely been keeping to itself, and the break in radio silence excited a lot of people. Part of the hype was the prospect of playing Heavy Rain again and also playing through Beyond: Two Souls chronologically, a game mode that is being added to the PS4 remaster of the title. The French studio touted the improved fidelity of their graphics, though there haven't been screenshots or video shared with the public as of yet.
After months of returning to silence, Quantic Dream reminded everyone that a release date for the remasters is coming sometime in the near future:
So, we'll be getting the release dates soon, but sooner than what Quantic Dream meant three moths ago when they said the release date would be coming soon. We'll let you know as soon as we know. 

Jack Gardner
SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents actors and voice actors, is in the middle of a media blackout and considering a strike to try to come to an agreement with video game publishers. The union is looking to put forward a new agreement with publishers to modernize their contracts from the standards that were agreed to in the mid 90s as voice actors are required to do a lot more than they were twenty years ago. However, game publishers aren't super keen on the idea.
The union is asking for several things as part of their negotiations. Primarily, they are looking for royalties based on the performance of the games members work on. The royalty system they propose would only go into effect after two million copies sold, protecting smaller indie devs from additional costs, with a bonus for every additional two million copies sold that caps out at eight million copies. The reasoning behind this is that royalties are a standard industry practice for every type of physical actor, but not voice actors. While union members work on only 20% of all games across all platforms, the union claims that of the top 100 best-selling games from the last two years, they've worked on almost all of them. 
SAG-AFTRA is also looking to limit vocally stressful recording sessions to two hours apiece to limit the possibility of long-term vocal damage. That makes sense for people who make their living off of their ability to use their voices. Additionally, with the rise of motion capture as a part of vocal work on video games, the union wants stunt coordinators to be present for any stunt work that has to be done. They cite past incidents of voice actors being injured on the job while doing motion capture as enough justification for this stipulation. 
Finally, the union wants to have more open dialogue between publishers and members. While this doesn't sound like a lot, it has become common practice in the game industry not to reveal the name of projects for which voice actors are applying or what role they are going to play. Members want to know the following: "How many sessions are [publishers] expecting to book? What rating [is the game expected to receive]? Why? Is there offensive content? Will the sessions be vocally stressful?"
The game publishers, of which SAG-AFTRA names EA Games, Activision, Disney, Warner Bros. Studios, Blindlight, and Formosa, have also put forward their own version of the agreement which has its own goals. The publisher's offer ignores all of SAG-AFTRA's requests while including a $2,500 fine for actors who show up late or are thought of as being too inattentive, which could loosely be interpreted to mean pretty much anything. Publishers also proposed a $50,000-$100,000 fine for agents who don't sent their actors to certain auditions. On top of that fine, if an agent chooses not to submit their voice actors for those certain auditions, publishers want SAG-AFTRA to revoke that agency's union franchise, meaning they wouldn't be able to send actors to audition for union jobs in animation, TV, film, or commercials.
Publishers also don't want to cover motion capture in the agreement, proposing instead to hire their own employees for motion and performance capture work with little to no oversight by stunt coordinators. This is essentially proposing to cut the union out of motion capture acting, which is not really something that they can let fly. You can read their full contract proposal here.
After two meetings earlier this year that ended in a deadlock, SAG-AFTRA is now marshaling members to vote yes or no on a potential strike. 75% of its members must vote yes in order for the strike to be authorized. We will know if that happens after the ballots have been counted on October 5th. If the strike is authorized, one last round of negotiations will be held between publishers and the union before the strike goes into full effect. If that happens, the union will not send voice actors to work on game projects until a new agreement can be reached. SAG-AFTRA has also encouraged even non-members not to work during that time as it claims such an agreement will also benefit non-members. 
So far, many prominent voice actors have publicly declared their support of the strike with the hashtags #PerformanceMatters and #IAmOnBoard2015 including: Ashley Burch, Jennifer Hale, Wil Wheaton, Steve Blumm, Gideon Emery, David Hayter, and Tara Strong. 

Jack Gardner
Titled The Royal Gadget Pack, the new downloadable content for Frima Studios' Chariot adds a new playable character, five new items, and ten new achievements. Players who picked up Chariot last year will recognize the new character as the shop skeleton who gleefully supplies the two coffin-lugging heroes with items to help them on their way. He appears to posses advantageous adventuring abilities himself like throwing bones and his ever present upbeat attitude. The new items that come in the DLC add some particularly useful functions, like the ability to teleport the chariot or an upgrade for the attacks that keep thieving monsters away or even a device that can stop time.   
“The Royal Gadget Pack brings a whole new level of Chariot shenanigans to both solo and co-op players,” said Martin Brouard, Executive Producer at Frima Studios. “Some of these gadgets will delight the speedrunning community, while others will make some of the harder levels somewhat easier for less experienced players. We’ve also added the option to play as the Skeleton Merchant, which is something that many fans have been asking for since our 2014 launch.”
Unfortunately, this DLC appears to only be only for Xbox One and there are no plans to bring it to PS4, PS3, Wii U, or PC in the near future. For our thoughts on Chariot, check out our review!

Jack Gardner
The original System Shock was mind-blowing when it released in 1994. Never before had storytelling, RPG elements, and open-ended gameplay. Now, over two decades later, Night Dive Studios has remastered the classic and brought it to modern hardware via Good Old Games. 
"With System Shock: Enhanced Edition, we're implementing game-changing improvements, including mouselook, widescreen, and a high resolution display mode," says Stephen Kick, CEO of Night Dive Studios. "The classic game has never been more accessible to a modern audience."
Night Dive Studios has upped the resolution of the original (640x480) to 1024x768 as well as a native 854x480 widescreen mode. A toggleable mouselook mode has been added along with a streamlined inventory system. Long overdue bug fixes and the ability to remap controls make this remaster something worth looking into even for players who still have the original version.
However, even those without the original version can experience it as it was with System Shock: Classic, a completely unaltered version of System Shock that runs on modern PCs. Both Classic and Enhanced versions are bundled together and those who have bought System Shock 2 on get a 40% discount.  

Jack Gardner
Sublevel Zero is a roguelike, first-person shooter that casts players as the pilot of a lone gunship attempting to sift through the ruins of the human empire in a desperate bid to find a key that will prevent the unraveling of the universe. Each attempt to reach Sublevel Zero features proceedurally-generated environments, dangerous enemies, and permadeath. Killing enemies and finding loot will allow you to craft better weapons and armor from the remnants of humanity. Because Sublevel Zero takes place in space, players will be able to rotate in whatever direction they wish to best encounter the enemy. The indie title places a heavy emphasis on survival, with brutal enemies and limited ammo. Can you survive to reach the final floor? 
Sublevel Zero releases on October 8 for PC and Mac. A console version will be coming sometime in 2016.

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