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Jack Gardner
After a three day tease (and a leak yesterday), Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has been confirmed by Square Enix and Eidos Montreal. The new game will be a direct sequel to 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution and will feature the return of protagonist Adam Jensen. 
Following the events of Human Revolution, the world has been thrown into chaos. The year is 2029 and the golden age of human-machine augmentation has ended. Seen as unnatural, those with augmented bodies are segregated from the rest of society and treated as outcasts. Behind all of this, something moves in the shadows, unseen by the world at large.
No release date has been announced, but it will be heading to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
It also appears that the Mankind Divided will be the first Eidos Montreal title to make use of the Dawn Engine that they teased a while back. In fact, there appear to be some similarities between the still used to tease the engine and several of the assets seen in the trailer.

Jack Gardner
Expanding the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt will be Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, coming later this year and during the beginning of 2016. Here is what you have to look forward to: The two expansions will have a combined gameplay time of over 30 hours, feature never before seen regions, and completely new casts of characters, as well as a few returning friends from previous Witcher titles. 
“With the development of Wild Hunt coming to an end, the team has embarked upon the creation of two new really big adventures set in The Witcher universe,” says Marcin Iwiński, CD Projekt RED co-founder. “We remember the time when add-on disks truly expanded games by delivering meaningful content. As gamers, we’d like to bring that back. We’ve said in the past that if we ever decide to release paid content, it will be vast in size and represent real value for the money. Both our expansions offer more hours of gameplay than quite a few standalone games out there.”
Heart of Stone will see Geralt of Rivia embark on a new adventure over the course of 10+ hours into the wild No Man's Land and the city of Oxenfurt to complete a contract for the enigmatic Man of Glass. When things go badly, Geralt will have to solve the mystery surrounding his employer in order to survive.
The second expansion, Blood and Wine, will encompass over 20 hours of gameplay as Geralt traverses the region of Toussaint. Toussaint, a land untouched by war, obsessed with courtly manners and ritual, and layers and layers of lies covering an old and monstrous secret.
“While we’re offering the Expansion Pass now, we want to make one thing clear: don’t buy it if you have any doubts. Wait for reviews or play The Witcher and see if you like it first. As always, it’s your call,” Iwiński concludes.
Heart of Stone will release this October, while Blood and Wine will be coming early 2016. Both expansions will come to Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4.

Jack Gardner

Review: Bloodborne

By Jack Gardner, in Features,

Since the release of Demon’s Souls in 2009, From Software has made a name for itself creating dense worlds of macabre horror and adventure. Bloodborne follows in the footsteps of Dark Souls and Dark Souls II in tone and difficulty, while the gameplay has evolved considerably along with a slight departure from what has become From Software’s signature medieval aesthetic. It is a hard journey that opposes insane gods, raving demons, and everything in between. 
Bloodborne was reviewed on PlayStation 4.
For those who can properly gird themselves for the difficulties that lie ahead, Bloodborne will prove to be a satisfying gameplay experience. From Software decided to almost entirely remove blocking from their combat formula, retooling encounters to revolve around precise dodging and regenerating health by attacking. This system works very well and encourages a more aggressive attitude toward fighting that many who were shield-reliant in previous From Software titles might find difficult to embrace.
Firearms replace shields as the dominant off-hand piece of equipment. While the implementation of guns might seem like it would break combat, it does just the opposite. A limited quantity of ammo means that players need to use their shots carefully. Timing shots perfectly can stun enemies and open them up to powerful visceral attacks, which both look cool and do immense amounts of damage. Each main weapon can be altered on the fly to become a two-handed tool of destruction. On top of that, players can equip an additional weapon on each hand to switch to in the midst of combat. All of this contributes to a very fluid experience that scales depending on the player’s skill. At its worst fighting feels like ineffectual flailing, but at its best it can feel like a surgical dance, floating just outside of enemy’s reach before going in for the kill at the perfect moment.

Tied in with combat is the leveling system, which uses blood echoes collected from killing enemies to advance a player’s stats. In a major shift for the series, all of these stats are actually understandable and it is easy to see how they affect combat. This avoids problems from previous From Software games where players had to puzzle over what Poise, Attunement, or Resistance actually meant within the context of gameplay.
That isn’t to say that the combat system is perfect. There are times when hit detection can be confusing, why can my two-handed weapon go through some parts of walls, but not others? Why did that attack hit me, despite not visually touching me? I could rarely use my gun effectively, though I’m pretty sure that was due to my lack of skill rather than any problem with Bloodborne. Additionally, most enemies that are appropriate to the player’s level can easily kill in two to four hits, which can make it tricky to navigate through areas with a large number of enemies. The reliance on timing works against players during these long stretches as one poorly timed move can mean death or serious injury.
In Dark Souls and Dark Souls II, players would receive a certain amount of health-regenerating Estus Flasks each time they revived. Bloodborne takes a different approach. As players kill enemies, they obtain blood vials which can be used to heal injuries. Players can only carry twenty at any one time, though excess blood vials will be stored for use when the player next revives. This works rather well during the early stages of Bloodborne, when blood vials are given out by almost every enemy. However, later on, blood vials become scarce, which can be particularly bothersome when attempting to take on a particularly ferocious boss.

I’m a bit torn on blood vials. On the one hand, I like that the design encourages players who have been defeated so many times that they’ve run out of blood vials to grind for more, which also allows players to build up more blood echoes and level up. I think that’s some pretty solid, subtle game design. On the other hand, grinding blood vials seems to be the most efficient in earlier areas. So, if you become stuck on a late-game boss, backtracking to those early areas won’t help you level. It’ll just feel like a chore with the only payoff being another attempt at the ‘roided up monstrosity that has already utterly wrecked you a dozen times. A bit more consistency with the doling out of blood vials might have smoothed the overall gameplay experience. The lack of a decent way to obtain blood vials later on in the game just seems like a way to artificially inflate the difficulty (rest assured, I can already hear the chorus of you all saying “git gud, son”).
Bloodborne is a blast, one of the few truly “next-gen” feeling exclusives on the PlayStation 4. Completing it gave me a genuine sense of accomplishment. That being said, I think it is time to have a discussion about the philosophy behind Bloodborne, something that comes out in both the gameplay and story.
While I thoroughly enjoyed Bloodborne, I developed a growing feeling of unease about my actions and the underlying themes of what I was playing. Bloodborne is, at heart, a game of Darwinian Nihilism. There are no moral questions regarding the inhabitants of Bloodborne’s world, almost everything is out to kill the player and the player fights back in order to survive. This plays into the core gameplay loop of killing and becoming more powerful. Through a cosmic loophole, the player is able to bypass the natural law of “survival of the fittest” in order to accumulate enough power to become the fittest in any given scenario. Ultimately, this escalation of power topples even entities that humans revere as gods. There is no real triumph here, only the momentary relief that comes with the knowledge that you have killed something that posed a considerable threat. The ending, whichever one you get, makes it clear that this has all happened before and it will happen again because that is the way this particular universe functions. The core struggle in Bloodborne is just trying to get by in a world your character is unwillingly thrust into; a world that neither knows who you are nor cares; a world where there is always a bigger fish. Rest is an illusion that lowers your guard, there is only the struggle to continue on for as long as possible.

One might be tricked into thinking that the gods in Bloodborne serve as some kind of metaphor for religion in the real world, but I think it is less a commentary about that than it is an extension of the broader nihilistic concepts at play in the rest of the game. The deities are completely self-interested and their interest seems wholly detrimental to humans, but they are also not truly divine. Though hard to kill, they are wholly mortal creatures that simply exist either entirely or in part on different planes of existence.
Given Hidetaka Miyazaki’s role as the director of Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne (he oversaw the development of Dark Souls II, but did not direct), perhaps Miyazaki has taken on the role of an auteur at the company where he is currently president. Maybe the games he has directed have been his message to the world, a cry that all of our ideologies, morality, and beliefs are all just noise, the ravings of madmen behind closed doors. We’re each the protagonist in our own Bloodborne story, just trying to survive, but constantly encountering new challenges and problems. And those problems, like the enemies in Bloodborne, can sometimes be seen from a long way off, both other times they leap out from the unseen darkness with murderous intent.
Bloodborne is a power fantasy. Lately that term seems to have taken on a not-so-great meaning, but against the background of From Software’s larger point, that fantasy shines. It stands out because Yahrnam operates on that power fantasy. The “power” is simply that of survival and it is the only thing a character trapped in a world such as Bloodborne’s can do, even though everything in Bloodborne implies that survival is ultimately pointless.
While I disagree with its outlook on life and the grand scheme of the universe, Bloodborne still manages to resonate with me. Art imitates life, and the world of Bloodborne imitates our own. Life can be unfair, beautiful, insane. Living means that travesty occurs unexpectedly and misjudged moments can mean the difference between success and failure. Of course, in life there are all kinds of different problems that we all have to deal with: broken bones, taxes, familial squabbles; but Bloodborne simplifies life into a gothic fantasy where those problems can be solved through combat and catastrophe only postpones victory.
Arguably the finest From Software game to date, I like Bloodborne quite a bit. The world it holds is beautiful and ugly and weird. The gameplay is almost flawless in its execution. However, if one looks under the surface, I think the underlying message of Bloodborne is sad and, to me, rings hollow. However, I think the conveyance of that message and the way it is worked into every aspect of design makes Bloodborne a very thematically resonant piece of art. That’s something I can respect, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it.
Bloodborne is now available exclusively for PlayStation 4

Jack Gardner
If you haven't heard of Titan Souls yet, you are missing out. Conceived of as an entry in the Ludum Dare game jam back in 2013, the idea stuck with creators Mark Foster, David Fenn, and Andrew Gleeson. Together, they decided that they would make Titan Souls a full game. And make it, they did! It releases on April 14. Until then, you can try your hand at mastering the demo they've put together that remasters their original game jam prototype. 
The core idea of Titan Souls is that you are armed with a bow and only one arrow. You can slay the bosses in one shot, but they can also kill you instantly if one of their attacks connects. Titan Souls revolves around carefully timing and positioning attacks. It is intense and more than a little nerve-racking in the best possible way. You can download the demo on the Steam Store page for if you're curious.
Titan Souls releases on April 14 for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and PS Vita.

Jack Gardner
Last year, Twitch implemented an automated music system to scan for copyright infringement on livestreams. The system resulted in thousands of flagged streams with half-hour chunks of muted audio when viewed in archived form. Earlier this year, the streaming service launched an attempt to give streamers a non-muted musical alternative with Twitch Music, a library of music that helps users know 100% what music is okay for streaming on Twitch. The initial library launched with less than 500 songs, but now the cleared selection has grown to include over 1,000 tracks. 
While most of the initial selection consisted mostly of EDM, the expanded music list now includes hip hop and metal. The diversification of the sounds is certainly welcome, as is the curation of playlists for streamers who are unsure where to start with a library of unfamiliar artists.
The music in the Twitch Music seems to be hosted primarily on Soundcloud and Spotify, so check it out when you get a chance and create a playlist of your own that won't be muted when you watch your past broadcasts.

Jack Gardner
WFFF:SAS:GOTH, a comedic role-playing street brawler by Pyrodactyl Games, lets players take up the mantle of a wandering luchador-monk and take part in a sprawling, non-linear narrative that mostly revolves around punching anyone and everyone.
Pyrodactyl describes Will Fight for Food's core gameplay experience as, "kill, steal, and tread the tender fields of diplomacy in this RPG brawler with a ridiculously complicated conversation system - or you can just beat up everyone you meet, you psycho." To progress through the world of Will Fight for Food, you can either play the part of an irrational, violent hobo or talk with people and complete side quests and use your fists for justice. 
Will Fight for Food: Super Actual Sellout: Game of the Hour will release on April 22 for PC, Mac, and Linux. 

Jack Gardner
Flying Mollusk's much touted bio-feedback horror title is now available on PC, albeit in an alpha state. Players can use specialized sensors that allow Nevermind to track their level of fear and change accordingly.
In Nevermind, players take on the role of a Neuroprober, a specialized doctor equipped to enter the minds of those who have undergone psychological trauma to help them come to terms with their experiences. The process involves traversing the darkest corners of the patient's subconscious and the effects on the physician can at best be described as... unnerving.
“We’re excited to be able to bring Nevermind’s unique psychological-horror experience to a wider audience through Steam. Early Access allows us to garner feedback from players, in integrate it into the final game, which means a better game for everyone,” said Erin Reynolds, Flying Mollusk's creative director. 
While the sensor idea is a really cool idea, it is ultimately an expensive one. Flying Mollusk has put together a list of the currently compatible bio-sensors that you can read in full here. Unfortunately, prices for these sensors range from $75 to $1,399, which might be a bit pricey if you don't happen to already own a compatible device. More will be added as development continues, so prices could go down as cheaper sensors are made compatible. 

Jack Gardner
The Spatials, the first game set in the 58th century, sets out to be one of the wackiest tycoon-RPG-4X hybrids that you'll ever encounter. Explore randomly generated galaxies and loot entire worlds to construct the most popular space station in the universe. 
The co-founder of developer Weird and Wry, Carlos Carrasco, expressed his excitement:  
The Spatials will retail at $12.99, but from now until April 7 a discount will knock that down to $9.74. Check it out if you're a fan of the classic tycoon games or love comedic twists on classic sci-fi tropes. 
The Spatials is now available on PC and Mac.

Jack Gardner
Spotted earlier today by The Verge, computer science student Erik Roystan Ross released the first level of Super Mario World 64 redone in the new Unity Engine. You can actually play it for free here. 
Ross intended the remake of level one more as an experiment to see what Unity could do than a stab at remaking the entire game itself. So, unfortunately, we're probably not going to be seeing a free version of Super Mario 64 get remade in Unity for browsers, at least not any time soon. Additionally, Ross says he is done with the project entirely, "I currently do not have any plans to develop this any further or to resolve any bugs, unless they're horrendously game-breaking and horrendously simple to fix."

Jack Gardner
No, it isn't an official update to Half-Life 2, but Filip Victor's community developed mod does dramatically improve the lighting effects and fix countless bugs. Expect to see new particles, redone shadows, and fog effects.
The mod comes along with a community commentary mode that delves into Half-Life 2's history. The commentary features familiar voices and fact checking from Did You Know Gaming? as well as the creator of Freeman's Mind. 
The steam page for the free mod lists these features: 
Complete lighting overhaul including enhanced lighting, more detailed world shadows, and full High Dynamic Range Lighting (HDR).  New particle effects and improved fog.  Countless bug fixes, correcting both visual and game-based issues.  An extensive Community Commentary Mode featuring the voices of well-known Youtubers, including Caddicarus, Brutalmoose, Ricepirate, Balrog the Master, ProJared, and Ross Scott from Freeman's Mind .  Retains the iconic Half-Life 2 visual style and gameplay.  
Half-Life 2: Update releases in about 23 hours, so screenshots and comparison videos will have to tide you over until then.

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