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  1. Today marks the day that Gearbox Software releases the latest entry in their flagship franchise: Borderlands 3. Having missed the opportunity to preview the game at events leading up to its release, I decided to reach out to Allison Kurtz, patient treated at Cincinnati Children’s, gamer and Borderlands fan.. As a life-long Borderlands fan, Allison was kind enough to sit down with me to talk about what makes Borderlands so important to her and others. She also had the chance to play Borderlands 3 back in June and was able to talk about the insights she gleaned from her time with the game. Strap in and get ready to Catch-A-Ride with this fun interview that sheds some light on both the Borderlands series as a whole and the recently released game. - Jack Gardner: Let’s jump into Borderlands 3, a game, I am told, that is created by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. Allison Kurtz: That is true. JG: It’s coming out on September 13th- AK: And my paycheck comes to me on September 15th, so we are going to ride that two day streak like… sadness… JG: Sadness is one of the names of the horses in the back? That’s a reference you kids get right? AK: Oh, if you expect me to relate to the quote un-quote kids – I’m very sorry. I know of Lil Nas X, but all I know is that he’s gay and that I support him on that front. JG: Supposedly he has horses in the back. AK: Well… supposedly. JG: All I know about Borderlands 3 is that it’s a looter-shooter. I finished the first one, a significant amount of the second one. I loved Tales from the Borderlands- AK: Ah, so you have good taste! JG: [laugh] and then there was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel which… I am not really sure what was going on there… AK: It’s sorta like a Super Mario Galaxy 2 thing? Super Mario Galaxy came out. Good game. This was before DLC packs were a thing for Nintendo, so they essentially made more game that was the length of a game. They called it Super Mario Galaxy 2, and they released that. Pre-Sequel uses the engine and mechanics of Borderlands 2 to make a new game out of what was already there. JG: That brings us to Borderlands 3. With that background in mind, can you tell us a bit more about your experience with Borderlands? How did it start? What really gets your attention and gets you excited about Borderlands? AK: That story don’t start off in the happiest place on earth. When I was in 8th grade to freshman year, I was not a happy camper for reasons that are pretty understandable. I was pre-transition. I did not like talking. I did not like being seen. I did not like being heard. So, I would just sink myself into video games. Borderlands 1 was like that for me. Borderlands 1 doesn’t go nearly as wild with the queer content as Borderlands 2. But I played it for hours. I played it for ages and ages. I absolutely loved the mechanics, absolutely loved the gameplay, absolutely loved the design, absolutely loved everything about it. I eventually transitioned and moved on and played Borderlands 2 and it just felt – it’s really hard to explain this – it felt like a world that I had known coming to accept me because Borderlands 2 is when they went buck wild with queer representation. And so that kind of transition that it made along with me resulted in a sort of… I kind of bonded with the game, if that makes any sense? Being in that situation where both things changed it was like, “Hey, same hat. We’re in the same hole here,” and I just felt grateful to have a series that was willing to accept that I exist. Because a lot of the queer representation at that time was new stuff – like people created new properties with queer characters in them. It was really nice to see something I had grown up with embrace queer identities and learn about it as I learned about it. JG: So what in Borderlands 2, you say it had more queer representation, can you talk a bit more about it? What specific parts of Borderlands 2 really spoke to you on that front? AK: The thing is that it’s not front and center. It’s not a big plot point in any sense. It’s just little things like how it is just as common to see a straight couple as a gay couple. Hammerlock has an ex-boyfriend. Some women would talk about their girlfriends, while other characters discussed their different sexualities. It was just… normal. That was really refreshing and honest and helpful to see in a time where I felt like I didn’t have the chance. So that’s how I got into Borderlands and then I just kinda went hog wild on it. I got in because I felt accepted and then the gameplay mechanics – normal shooters bore me which sounds a little harsh, but the customizability of Borderlands along with the humor and very diverse art style and environment really pulled me in. In a way similar to how the fallout games pull me in – at least Fallout 4 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 3 sucked, but that’s a totally different point. JG: Are you just saying that because you saw Hbomberguy’s video? AK: First of all, don’t call me out. Second of all, I had that opinion before he posted that video. JG: You fell in love with Borderlands 2 and then Tales from the Borderlands released. Did you feel differently about the narrative-focused direction or was it more of the same for you? It is quite a departure from the main series. AK: Okay, this is my embarrassment. It took me a very long time to finish Tales from the Borderlands. I just hadn’t gotten around to it because it was right around when shit started getting crazy with vis-à-vis my transition and coming out and everything. So I didn’t have quite as much time for games anymore since I was literally changing everything about myself and my environment. A lot of games from that time kinda slipped by me. Then I never went back to finish them because we got into 2015 and 2016 and got a ton of crazy genre defining games. Things that changed how we looked at games and took up my attention. Tales from the Borderlands just fell by the wayside… until I went to E3 and spoke to one of the writers for Tales from the Borderlands, Extra Life friend The Only Ryann. What he specifically said to me was, “Did you play Tales from the Borderlands?” and I said I never got to finish it, I got too busy. He gave me the most withering look in the world and he said, and I am quoting, “You’re busting my balls here, kid.” JG: Get called out! AK: Yeah, a little bit! I felt like, yeah, I should probably get back around to that game. Before I left he told me, “There is a sad point in Tales from the Borderlands. Please tweet at me angrily once you reach it.” I definitely, definitely went through with that promise. So I played that and I loved it and it was very nice to see Athena, local gay. Also, the soundtrack for that game kicks my ass. That soundtrack jumped out of my computer and put me in a headlock. In a good way. It’s well suited to the style Borderlands 1 and 2 had set up with musical theming. I especially enjoyed how well the ending fit with the beginning song. You would never guess that it was made by a different studio. JG: Thoughts on Pre-Sequel? AK: Pre-Sequel is excellent in my opinion. I enjoy it, but I am biased because it contains one of my favorite couples in video games, Athena and Janey. They’re just very cute. It’s basically Borderlands 2: More. It’s just more content and delves into backstory - I mean it is a prequel - but it delves into backstory and shows off new characters that come back later. It’s a game I very much enjoy even though Claptrap… well, I don’t know how I feel about Claptrap. That’s a thing for another day. That’s a thesis right there. Sometimes you’ll be like, “Aww, poor baby,” and then he’ll say something weird and perverted and you’re like, “Poor baby, stay five feet away from me at all times.” JG: So how are you feeling about Borderlands 3 now that we have talked about all the other Borderlands-y things? AK: I am incredibly excited for Borderlands 3. I love their voice acting choices. They have touched on sexuality a lot in the past but they have never really touched gender, so I am very excited that there is a non-binary protagonist who is voiced by ProZD from YouTube and Vine. He’s an excellent fellow and I enjoy his work quite a bit. It’s very exciting to see him in such a mainstream game. Before, the only game that I know of that he was in was 2064: Read Only Memories. JG: So the non-binary character and the voice acting excite you. Do any of the other aspects seem interesting? AK: The gameplay itself! It’s very excellent from what I’ve played. I played the E3 demo as Moze, and it was excellent. She rides in a big D.Va style mech which I very much enjoyed. It blends the Catch-A-Ride cars from the past games with a summonable ally. You can climb on the back, turret style, like you’ve been able to with every other vehicle. I very much enjoy that you can customize to the max. If you want to be a brawler or do explosives or anything of the sort, you can do it. It’s amazing how customizable it is to me. The visuals are very excellent. I love how varied the character design is now. In previous games when you fought a bunch of psychos, it was the same psycho over and over again. It was cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi fiery psycho, and cha boi psycho. But now all the psychos are a little different. They have different pants, some of them have hair, some of them don’t. Some of them are actually women now, which makes sense in-universe, but they had never done it before. And the colors. Okay, it has been a couple of months and I did not take notes, but I remember being very impressed by the colors. One thing about Borderlands that I have always adored is in a world of shooter games that tend to keep things muddy, Borderlands has moments where it can get really colorful and wild. The demo I played was one of those areas. In addition, the story seems really great, too. You have two villains who are very hateble and very lovable in the same way. They are equal parts… they are that perfect villain where you want to see them succeed and you also want to see them fail. So you love them and you hate them, you love to hate them. They are very well designed, too and they are very excellent. The four main characters are also excellent. I love how they tie into the past of Borderlands. Zane is part of one of the most gosh dang cursed families in Borderlands history because you kill every member of it throughout the series. We know Moze’s past, but I don’t remember if we have seen her in things before. Flak does what I have been wanting for the entire game series and shows us the skags, like, “Here are some nice bois that you can pet and you are expected to pet.” And I’m like yes this is all I have ever wanted! And Amara is a tall, buff GF. That’s all I have to say about her. I said, when I was at the E3 event, “Oh my god, Amara, my lesbian wife!” out loud without thinking about it. The PR person who was showing me the video laughed and then said, “I think they designed her with that in mind.” I honestly can’t imagine any other scenario, but that's because she exudes strong lesbian energy. JG: What’s your take on the story? You said it seemed good – is that impression due entirely to the villains or…? AK: One thing I can speak on is that I love how past characters are returning and they look different. Borderlands 1 to Borderlands 2, there was a time skip there and they look the exact same. Just the same dudes. But Borderlands 3, people look different. Maya, the siren from the second game, she looks different now and you can tell that a number of years have passed. Lilith looks the same, but that’s how it be sometimes. She’s one of the most, if not the most, recognizable characters for Borderlands except for Claptrap. I just enjoy how the world is changing now. We don’t know too much about the plot beyond the basics being that it has the Calypso Twins as the two villains. They run a cult called Children of the Vault, and they exploit their followers to try and unlock a vault for themselves. Lilith leads the army trying to fight back against them. Though she talks a big game, they have shown cutscenes of her being scared and beaten, so you know that it’s not as easy as she makes things seem. It’s interesting that we get to see Lilith, who is a very strong-hearted, strong willed, strong-in-general individual, get pushed to her limits, and I am excited to see that in full on the 15th, two days after it comes out. JG: Anything you hope to see in Borderlands 3? AK: I hope they show me post-marriage Athena and Janey. That’s kind of a separate thought, but there HAS been a time skip, time has passed! OH, and I totally forgot! We saw Rhys from Tales from the Borderlands in the trailer. Where’s Fiona, my dog? Where’s Fiona? Where’s the love of my life, Fiona? Where have you placed her? If they hurt Fiona, I will personally go to Gearbox and cry. Not to anyone in particular, just to the receptionist. Also, I have a soft spot for any robot that ever exists in any story ever, so Loader Bot better show up. If you tell me Loader Bot died, I will personally die, too. - A huge thank you to Allison for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me for this silly and insightful interview! Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  2. Today marks the day that Gearbox Software releases the latest entry in their flagship franchise: Borderlands 3. Having missed the opportunity to preview the game at events leading up to its release, I decided to reach out to Allison Kurtz, patient treated at Cincinnati Children’s, gamer and Borderlands fan.. As a life-long Borderlands fan, Allison was kind enough to sit down with me to talk about what makes Borderlands so important to her and others. She also had the chance to play Borderlands 3 back in June and was able to talk about the insights she gleaned from her time with the game. Strap in and get ready to Catch-A-Ride with this fun interview that sheds some light on both the Borderlands series as a whole and the recently released game. - Jack Gardner: Let’s jump into Borderlands 3, a game, I am told, that is created by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. Allison Kurtz: That is true. JG: It’s coming out on September 13th- AK: And my paycheck comes to me on September 15th, so we are going to ride that two day streak like… sadness… JG: Sadness is one of the names of the horses in the back? That’s a reference you kids get right? AK: Oh, if you expect me to relate to the quote un-quote kids – I’m very sorry. I know of Lil Nas X, but all I know is that he’s gay and that I support him on that front. JG: Supposedly he has horses in the back. AK: Well… supposedly. JG: All I know about Borderlands 3 is that it’s a looter-shooter. I finished the first one, a significant amount of the second one. I loved Tales from the Borderlands- AK: Ah, so you have good taste! JG: [laugh] and then there was Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel which… I am not really sure what was going on there… AK: It’s sorta like a Super Mario Galaxy 2 thing? Super Mario Galaxy came out. Good game. This was before DLC packs were a thing for Nintendo, so they essentially made more game that was the length of a game. They called it Super Mario Galaxy 2, and they released that. Pre-Sequel uses the engine and mechanics of Borderlands 2 to make a new game out of what was already there. JG: That brings us to Borderlands 3. With that background in mind, can you tell us a bit more about your experience with Borderlands? How did it start? What really gets your attention and gets you excited about Borderlands? AK: That story don’t start off in the happiest place on earth. When I was in 8th grade to freshman year, I was not a happy camper for reasons that are pretty understandable. I was pre-transition. I did not like talking. I did not like being seen. I did not like being heard. So, I would just sink myself into video games. Borderlands 1 was like that for me. Borderlands 1 doesn’t go nearly as wild with the queer content as Borderlands 2. But I played it for hours. I played it for ages and ages. I absolutely loved the mechanics, absolutely loved the gameplay, absolutely loved the design, absolutely loved everything about it. I eventually transitioned and moved on and played Borderlands 2 and it just felt – it’s really hard to explain this – it felt like a world that I had known coming to accept me because Borderlands 2 is when they went buck wild with queer representation. And so that kind of transition that it made along with me resulted in a sort of… I kind of bonded with the game, if that makes any sense? Being in that situation where both things changed it was like, “Hey, same hat. We’re in the same hole here,” and I just felt grateful to have a series that was willing to accept that I exist. Because a lot of the queer representation at that time was new stuff – like people created new properties with queer characters in them. It was really nice to see something I had grown up with embrace queer identities and learn about it as I learned about it. JG: So what in Borderlands 2, you say it had more queer representation, can you talk a bit more about it? What specific parts of Borderlands 2 really spoke to you on that front? AK: The thing is that it’s not front and center. It’s not a big plot point in any sense. It’s just little things like how it is just as common to see a straight couple as a gay couple. Hammerlock has an ex-boyfriend. Some women would talk about their girlfriends, while other characters discussed their different sexualities. It was just… normal. That was really refreshing and honest and helpful to see in a time where I felt like I didn’t have the chance. So that’s how I got into Borderlands and then I just kinda went hog wild on it. I got in because I felt accepted and then the gameplay mechanics – normal shooters bore me which sounds a little harsh, but the customizability of Borderlands along with the humor and very diverse art style and environment really pulled me in. In a way similar to how the fallout games pull me in – at least Fallout 4 and Fallout: New Vegas. Fallout 3 sucked, but that’s a totally different point. JG: Are you just saying that because you saw Hbomberguy’s video? AK: First of all, don’t call me out. Second of all, I had that opinion before he posted that video. JG: You fell in love with Borderlands 2 and then Tales from the Borderlands released. Did you feel differently about the narrative-focused direction or was it more of the same for you? It is quite a departure from the main series. AK: Okay, this is my embarrassment. It took me a very long time to finish Tales from the Borderlands. I just hadn’t gotten around to it because it was right around when shit started getting crazy with vis-à-vis my transition and coming out and everything. So I didn’t have quite as much time for games anymore since I was literally changing everything about myself and my environment. A lot of games from that time kinda slipped by me. Then I never went back to finish them because we got into 2015 and 2016 and got a ton of crazy genre defining games. Things that changed how we looked at games and took up my attention. Tales from the Borderlands just fell by the wayside… until I went to E3 and spoke to one of the writers for Tales from the Borderlands, Extra Life friend The Only Ryann. What he specifically said to me was, “Did you play Tales from the Borderlands?” and I said I never got to finish it, I got too busy. He gave me the most withering look in the world and he said, and I am quoting, “You’re busting my balls here, kid.” JG: Get called out! AK: Yeah, a little bit! I felt like, yeah, I should probably get back around to that game. Before I left he told me, “There is a sad point in Tales from the Borderlands. Please tweet at me angrily once you reach it.” I definitely, definitely went through with that promise. So I played that and I loved it and it was very nice to see Athena, local gay. Also, the soundtrack for that game kicks my ass. That soundtrack jumped out of my computer and put me in a headlock. In a good way. It’s well suited to the style Borderlands 1 and 2 had set up with musical theming. I especially enjoyed how well the ending fit with the beginning song. You would never guess that it was made by a different studio. JG: Thoughts on Pre-Sequel? AK: Pre-Sequel is excellent in my opinion. I enjoy it, but I am biased because it contains one of my favorite couples in video games, Athena and Janey. They’re just very cute. It’s basically Borderlands 2: More. It’s just more content and delves into backstory - I mean it is a prequel - but it delves into backstory and shows off new characters that come back later. It’s a game I very much enjoy even though Claptrap… well, I don’t know how I feel about Claptrap. That’s a thing for another day. That’s a thesis right there. Sometimes you’ll be like, “Aww, poor baby,” and then he’ll say something weird and perverted and you’re like, “Poor baby, stay five feet away from me at all times.” JG: So how are you feeling about Borderlands 3 now that we have talked about all the other Borderlands-y things? AK: I am incredibly excited for Borderlands 3. I love their voice acting choices. They have touched on sexuality a lot in the past but they have never really touched gender, so I am very excited that there is a non-binary protagonist who is voiced by ProZD from YouTube and Vine. He’s an excellent fellow and I enjoy his work quite a bit. It’s very exciting to see him in such a mainstream game. Before, the only game that I know of that he was in was 2064: Read Only Memories. JG: So the non-binary character and the voice acting excite you. Do any of the other aspects seem interesting? AK: The gameplay itself! It’s very excellent from what I’ve played. I played the E3 demo as Moze, and it was excellent. She rides in a big D.Va style mech which I very much enjoyed. It blends the Catch-A-Ride cars from the past games with a summonable ally. You can climb on the back, turret style, like you’ve been able to with every other vehicle. I very much enjoy that you can customize to the max. If you want to be a brawler or do explosives or anything of the sort, you can do it. It’s amazing how customizable it is to me. The visuals are very excellent. I love how varied the character design is now. In previous games when you fought a bunch of psychos, it was the same psycho over and over again. It was cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi psycho, cha boi fiery psycho, and cha boi psycho. But now all the psychos are a little different. They have different pants, some of them have hair, some of them don’t. Some of them are actually women now, which makes sense in-universe, but they had never done it before. And the colors. Okay, it has been a couple of months and I did not take notes, but I remember being very impressed by the colors. One thing about Borderlands that I have always adored is in a world of shooter games that tend to keep things muddy, Borderlands has moments where it can get really colorful and wild. The demo I played was one of those areas. In addition, the story seems really great, too. You have two villains who are very hateble and very lovable in the same way. They are equal parts… they are that perfect villain where you want to see them succeed and you also want to see them fail. So you love them and you hate them, you love to hate them. They are very well designed, too and they are very excellent. The four main characters are also excellent. I love how they tie into the past of Borderlands. Zane is part of one of the most gosh dang cursed families in Borderlands history because you kill every member of it throughout the series. We know Moze’s past, but I don’t remember if we have seen her in things before. Flak does what I have been wanting for the entire game series and shows us the skags, like, “Here are some nice bois that you can pet and you are expected to pet.” And I’m like yes this is all I have ever wanted! And Amara is a tall, buff GF. That’s all I have to say about her. I said, when I was at the E3 event, “Oh my god, Amara, my lesbian wife!” out loud without thinking about it. The PR person who was showing me the video laughed and then said, “I think they designed her with that in mind.” I honestly can’t imagine any other scenario, but that's because she exudes strong lesbian energy. JG: What’s your take on the story? You said it seemed good – is that impression due entirely to the villains or…? AK: One thing I can speak on is that I love how past characters are returning and they look different. Borderlands 1 to Borderlands 2, there was a time skip there and they look the exact same. Just the same dudes. But Borderlands 3, people look different. Maya, the siren from the second game, she looks different now and you can tell that a number of years have passed. Lilith looks the same, but that’s how it be sometimes. She’s one of the most, if not the most, recognizable characters for Borderlands except for Claptrap. I just enjoy how the world is changing now. We don’t know too much about the plot beyond the basics being that it has the Calypso Twins as the two villains. They run a cult called Children of the Vault, and they exploit their followers to try and unlock a vault for themselves. Lilith leads the army trying to fight back against them. Though she talks a big game, they have shown cutscenes of her being scared and beaten, so you know that it’s not as easy as she makes things seem. It’s interesting that we get to see Lilith, who is a very strong-hearted, strong willed, strong-in-general individual, get pushed to her limits, and I am excited to see that in full on the 15th, two days after it comes out. JG: Anything you hope to see in Borderlands 3? AK: I hope they show me post-marriage Athena and Janey. That’s kind of a separate thought, but there HAS been a time skip, time has passed! OH, and I totally forgot! We saw Rhys from Tales from the Borderlands in the trailer. Where’s Fiona, my dog? Where’s Fiona? Where’s the love of my life, Fiona? Where have you placed her? If they hurt Fiona, I will personally go to Gearbox and cry. Not to anyone in particular, just to the receptionist. Also, I have a soft spot for any robot that ever exists in any story ever, so Loader Bot better show up. If you tell me Loader Bot died, I will personally die, too. - A huge thank you to Allison for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with me for this silly and insightful interview! Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  3. Supergiant Games' Pyre released in 2017. It presented a bold and exciting new world created by the people behind the brilliant Transistor and indie darling Bastion. The title offered conflict filtered through the lens of sport mixed with religious undertones, the theme of loss, and a fantastical imagining of purgatory, where the unworthy vie for the chance to return to the "real" world, the Commonwealth, as reformed champions. While a fantastic title, we might never get the chance to talk about it on the main show, so here's a shorter (not by much) monologue about how great it is and what might have kept it from achieving the same popularity of the studios' first two titles. 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: Escape from Monkey Island 'Rum Barrel' by Yffisch (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03921) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well! 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 One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  4. Supergiant Games' Pyre released in 2017. It presented a bold and exciting new world created by the people behind the brilliant Transistor and indie darling Bastion. The title offered conflict filtered through the lens of sport mixed with religious undertones, the theme of loss, and a fantastical imagining of purgatory, where the unworthy vie for the chance to return to the "real" world, the Commonwealth, as reformed champions. While a fantastic title, we might never get the chance to talk about it on the main show, so here's a shorter (not by much) monologue about how great it is and what might have kept it from achieving the same popularity of the studios' first two titles. 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: Escape from Monkey Island 'Rum Barrel' by Yffisch (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03921) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well! 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 One of the common misconceptions about Extra Life is that someone can only participate if they play video games. Not true! Extra Life supports and encourages all kinds of play. To that end, we have been supporting Tabletop Appreciation Weekend for the past few years. This year, the event takes place August 24-25th and will be a time for players to gather together and play board games for the kids. Learn more about Extra Life Tabletop Appreciation Weekend and be sure to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  5. Pendulo Studios and YS Interactive just announced an ambitious adaptation of the French graphic novel series Blacksad. The striking multi-volume string of mysteries and adventures from authors Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido follows the exploits of John Blacksad, a dedicated independent investigator who gets wrapped up in something bigger than another easily solved missing persons case. The series relies heavily on the hardboiled and noir genres with unique spins on tropes that should be instantly familiar to anyone who has watched films like John Huston's The Maltese Falcon or Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. It's a rare genre to see in video games, with the only notable examples being LA Noir from Rockstar and another graphic novel adaptation, The Wolf Among Us. Blacksad: Under the Skin takes place in an alternate version of 1950s New York City populated entirely by anthropomorphic animals. A strange series of disappearances and deaths take place around a boxing club in town. Joe Dunn, the owner of the club, is found dead in a possible suicide. The club's premier fighter, Bobby Yale, can't be found. With these two mysteries looming over the gym, Sonia Dunn, Joe's daughter, turns to John Blacksad to get to the bottom of whatever is going on. How players wish to pursue the answers they need will have lasting consequences in this narrative adventure game. Depending on decisions made over the course of the investigation, the outcome could be wildly different. Characters will react differently to Blacksad if he chooses to play hardball instead of by the rules of the ever-shifting underworld he's about to enter. Sometimes to get to the bottom of nasty business, someone might have to get a bit dirty. Honestly, Blacksad: Under the Skin looks really cool and fresh. There aren't a ton of games tackling this sort of subject matter, especially not through an anthropomorphic lens. It's interesting that the game, despite the silly visuals seems to be playing it all straight. The deadly serious tone of the game really makes it come together as an interesting project. Even though I haven't heard of either of the developers behind this adaptation of Blacksad before, it looks really competently made and boldly different. No matter how you cut it, that's exciting. Blacksad: Under the Skin will be releasing for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC later this year on September 26. The game will feature full voice support for English, French and Spanish along with subtitles in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Dutch. A collector's edition of the game will be available at launch that includes the base game along with an artbook and a resin statue of John Blacksad himself. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  6. Pendulo Studios and YS Interactive just announced an ambitious adaptation of the French graphic novel series Blacksad. The striking multi-volume string of mysteries and adventures from authors Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido follows the exploits of John Blacksad, a dedicated independent investigator who gets wrapped up in something bigger than another easily solved missing persons case. The series relies heavily on the hardboiled and noir genres with unique spins on tropes that should be instantly familiar to anyone who has watched films like John Huston's The Maltese Falcon or Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. It's a rare genre to see in video games, with the only notable examples being LA Noir from Rockstar and another graphic novel adaptation, The Wolf Among Us. Blacksad: Under the Skin takes place in an alternate version of 1950s New York City populated entirely by anthropomorphic animals. A strange series of disappearances and deaths take place around a boxing club in town. Joe Dunn, the owner of the club, is found dead in a possible suicide. The club's premier fighter, Bobby Yale, can't be found. With these two mysteries looming over the gym, Sonia Dunn, Joe's daughter, turns to John Blacksad to get to the bottom of whatever is going on. How players wish to pursue the answers they need will have lasting consequences in this narrative adventure game. Depending on decisions made over the course of the investigation, the outcome could be wildly different. Characters will react differently to Blacksad if he chooses to play hardball instead of by the rules of the ever-shifting underworld he's about to enter. Sometimes to get to the bottom of nasty business, someone might have to get a bit dirty. Honestly, Blacksad: Under the Skin looks really cool and fresh. There aren't a ton of games tackling this sort of subject matter, especially not through an anthropomorphic lens. It's interesting that the game, despite the silly visuals seems to be playing it all straight. The deadly serious tone of the game really makes it come together as an interesting project. Even though I haven't heard of either of the developers behind this adaptation of Blacksad before, it looks really competently made and boldly different. No matter how you cut it, that's exciting. Blacksad: Under the Skin will be releasing for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC later this year on September 26. The game will feature full voice support for English, French and Spanish along with subtitles in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Dutch. A collector's edition of the game will be available at launch that includes the base game along with an artbook and a resin statue of John Blacksad himself. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  7. Dario Argento, the writer and director of the 1977 cult classic Suspiria (recently remade in 2018), has decided to turn his talents for visual storytelling to the world of video games with the help of Clod Studio. Argento got his start as a film critic before breaking into screenwriting, helping to pen the script to Sergio Leone's iconic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West. From there, Argento went on to specialize in giallo film, a style and genre of film making that blends pulp thriller with horror and psychological drama. This landed him jobs collaborating with a number of great horror directors like George A. Romero on Dawn of the Dead. Director John Carpenter has frequently cited Argento's work as a major inspiration for the film Halloween. Unfortunately, outside of a few breakout hits, many of the director's films failed to find a large audience and the critics of his time viewed his work as low-class. Luckily, many of them found cult followings and today many of them are held up as the finest examples of horror and giallo film making. However, in more recent years he's become less active due to age, but at 78 years old he still shows a passion for creating new films and has taken a liking to Clod Studio, becoming their artistic director. "Dreadful Bond is a project that's very close to my themes, to my films, to my dreams: it has something deep that struck me immediately. I got carried away on this new journey with Clod Studio," said Argento while explaining how he had fallen in love with what the game could be. Clod Studio itself is relatively new. It formed in Milan, Italy in 2016 and has been refining their idea of what Dreadful Bond might become since then, growing to over fifteen people in the years since. Their vision of a giallo-like game exploring issues both psychological and supernatural culminated in a Kickstarter that has unveiled both a short film created in-game with the direction of Dario Argento and a playable demo that allows players to explore Wharton Manor. Dreadful Bond is an atmospheric, first-person dive into surreal horror. Players take on the role of a mysterious individual whose identity slowly reveals itself as Wharton Manor's estate is explored. The mansion, as one might imagine, is not a happy place. It's glory has long since faded and been replaced with a collection of horrible events that have left their marks strewn through its many rooms. The developers warn that the underlying horror of Dreadful Bond might strike people as an incredibly disturbing and possibly off-putting reveal. Their Kickstarter reiterates this point by saying, "We are serious about this: if you're not willing to face a disturbing truth, do not support this project!" The mansion plays host to a variety of supernatural entities, visions, and memories. The memories play out in a unique style, they are projected onto walls as shadows. At the heart of all of this lies something called "Empuros," something that inspired the horrific acts that afflicted the people who entered Wharton Manor. The team describes the player's journey as an experience of that individual's personal hell, melding science and mysticism to concepts of love and death. One of the interesting stylistic choices for Dreadful Bond is the use of hyper-realistic environments mixed with the decision to make the entire production a black and white affair. It even makes use of a subtle film grain effect to harkens back to the game's roots in giallo cinema which also used black-and-white heavily during the 60s and 70s. The team at Clod Studio has created the game using a technique called photogrammetry in which they scan objects and environments that can then be reproduced in-game almost perfectly. Even the shadows seen in-game were captured from real actors performing the scenes. This lends the game a very grounded feeling and heightens the feeling of disconnect when supernatural events begin to occur. The Kickstarter... might not make its goal. As of this writing, the project has only amassed a little over $24,000 of their $67,000 goal. Less than five days remain for the team to raise the remaining funds. However, the game appears to be far enough along that it seems inconceivable to me that it won't get made. It already has an impressive short film, "For Bridget," that you can watch below and a demo of Dreadful Bond has released that shows off a good chunk of the mansion. At the very least, I hope the world is blessed with the insanity that is a horror game created under the artistic direction of Dario Argento, one of the best horror directors working today. Honestly, if you are a fan of horror games, this should be on your radar. It looks like a lot of time and care has been poured into this project by a team that feels passionate about horror alongside the input of one of the greats of the genre. The presentation feels fresh and eye-catching. The subject matter seems bold and twisted. Even if this eventually comes out and receives some harsh criticism for elements we haven't seen yet, I have no doubt that Dreadful Bond will be incredibly interesting and unique in a genre that has contented itself with ripping off Amnesia: The Dark Descent for the past seven years. This could be a breath of fresh air in a genre that really needs it. The Kickstarter ends on the April 24, so be sure to back it if you find it interesting. Dreadful Bond, if successful (and hopefully even if it fails to succeed on Kickstarter) will release for PC and, possibly, PlayStation 4 in late 2020 or early 2021. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  8. Dario Argento, the writer and director of the 1977 cult classic Suspiria (recently remade in 2018), has decided to turn his talents for visual storytelling to the world of video games with the help of Clod Studio. Argento got his start as a film critic before breaking into screenwriting, helping to pen the script to Sergio Leone's iconic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West. From there, Argento went on to specialize in giallo film, a style and genre of film making that blends pulp thriller with horror and psychological drama. This landed him jobs collaborating with a number of great horror directors like George A. Romero on Dawn of the Dead. Director John Carpenter has frequently cited Argento's work as a major inspiration for the film Halloween. Unfortunately, outside of a few breakout hits, many of the director's films failed to find a large audience and the critics of his time viewed his work as low-class. Luckily, many of them found cult followings and today many of them are held up as the finest examples of horror and giallo film making. However, in more recent years he's become less active due to age, but at 78 years old he still shows a passion for creating new films and has taken a liking to Clod Studio, becoming their artistic director. "Dreadful Bond is a project that's very close to my themes, to my films, to my dreams: it has something deep that struck me immediately. I got carried away on this new journey with Clod Studio," said Argento while explaining how he had fallen in love with what the game could be. Clod Studio itself is relatively new. It formed in Milan, Italy in 2016 and has been refining their idea of what Dreadful Bond might become since then, growing to over fifteen people in the years since. Their vision of a giallo-like game exploring issues both psychological and supernatural culminated in a Kickstarter that has unveiled both a short film created in-game with the direction of Dario Argento and a playable demo that allows players to explore Wharton Manor. Dreadful Bond is an atmospheric, first-person dive into surreal horror. Players take on the role of a mysterious individual whose identity slowly reveals itself as Wharton Manor's estate is explored. The mansion, as one might imagine, is not a happy place. It's glory has long since faded and been replaced with a collection of horrible events that have left their marks strewn through its many rooms. The developers warn that the underlying horror of Dreadful Bond might strike people as an incredibly disturbing and possibly off-putting reveal. Their Kickstarter reiterates this point by saying, "We are serious about this: if you're not willing to face a disturbing truth, do not support this project!" The mansion plays host to a variety of supernatural entities, visions, and memories. The memories play out in a unique style, they are projected onto walls as shadows. At the heart of all of this lies something called "Empuros," something that inspired the horrific acts that afflicted the people who entered Wharton Manor. The team describes the player's journey as an experience of that individual's personal hell, melding science and mysticism to concepts of love and death. One of the interesting stylistic choices for Dreadful Bond is the use of hyper-realistic environments mixed with the decision to make the entire production a black and white affair. It even makes use of a subtle film grain effect to harkens back to the game's roots in giallo cinema which also used black-and-white heavily during the 60s and 70s. The team at Clod Studio has created the game using a technique called photogrammetry in which they scan objects and environments that can then be reproduced in-game almost perfectly. Even the shadows seen in-game were captured from real actors performing the scenes. This lends the game a very grounded feeling and heightens the feeling of disconnect when supernatural events begin to occur. The Kickstarter... might not make its goal. As of this writing, the project has only amassed a little over $24,000 of their $67,000 goal. Less than five days remain for the team to raise the remaining funds. However, the game appears to be far enough along that it seems inconceivable to me that it won't get made. It already has an impressive short film, "For Bridget," that you can watch below and a demo of Dreadful Bond has released that shows off a good chunk of the mansion. At the very least, I hope the world is blessed with the insanity that is a horror game created under the artistic direction of Dario Argento, one of the best horror directors working today. Honestly, if you are a fan of horror games, this should be on your radar. It looks like a lot of time and care has been poured into this project by a team that feels passionate about horror alongside the input of one of the greats of the genre. The presentation feels fresh and eye-catching. The subject matter seems bold and twisted. Even if this eventually comes out and receives some harsh criticism for elements we haven't seen yet, I have no doubt that Dreadful Bond will be incredibly interesting and unique in a genre that has contented itself with ripping off Amnesia: The Dark Descent for the past seven years. This could be a breath of fresh air in a genre that really needs it. The Kickstarter ends on the April 24, so be sure to back it if you find it interesting. Dreadful Bond, if successful (and hopefully even if it fails to succeed on Kickstarter) will release for PC and, possibly, PlayStation 4 in late 2020 or early 2021. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  9. Resident. Evil. Shinji Mikami's debut survival horror game that single-handedly invented the entire genre in 1996. Since then, it has been retooled and rereleased numerous times throughout the years, culminating in the release of the 2002 GameCube remake that overhauled the graphics, added new mechanics and enemies along with a few special secrets. That version has stood the test of time so well that an HD version was ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2015. What makes Resident Evil worthy of decades of rereleases and ports? Is Resident Evil one of the best games of all-time? To help us answer this question, we are joined by the excellent Kazuma Hashimoto (who previously came on to discuss Catherine and Resident Evil 4). Be sure to follow him on twitter: @JusticeKazzy_ 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: Shadow of the Colossus 'For Her Soul' by RoeTaKa (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03791) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well! 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 Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  10. Resident. Evil. Shinji Mikami's debut survival horror game that single-handedly invented the entire genre in 1996. Since then, it has been retooled and rereleased numerous times throughout the years, culminating in the release of the 2002 GameCube remake that overhauled the graphics, added new mechanics and enemies along with a few special secrets. That version has stood the test of time so well that an HD version was ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2015. What makes Resident Evil worthy of decades of rereleases and ports? Is Resident Evil one of the best games of all-time? To help us answer this question, we are joined by the excellent Kazuma Hashimoto (who previously came on to discuss Catherine and Resident Evil 4). Be sure to follow him on twitter: @JusticeKazzy_ 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: Shadow of the Colossus 'For Her Soul' by RoeTaKa (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03791) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well! 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 Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  11. The major mobile developer Shift Up announced today that they would be entering the AAA game market with a project currently going under the code name Project EVE. Shift Up gained traction and found success with their gacha mobile game Destiny Child. One of the major talents that the South Korean company touted for Destiny Child comes in the form of Hyung-Tae Kim, an artist who made waves in the industry for his work designing characters for Magna Carta and, more famously, the MMORPG Blade & Soul. Kim's emphasis on visually appealing design has garnered an extensive following in the gaming industry of both fans and detractors. Not much is currently known about Project EVE itself. The game is being made in Unreal Engine 4 and will release worldwide for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC (currently slated for Steam). It's expected to be a single-player action-RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. There certainly seem to be influences from Nier: Automata with robotic women, a desolated world, and the action-RPG focus. The team working on Project EVE has been made up primarily of developers who worked on Blade & Soul, though the studio continues to seek more developers to expand their workforce. Currently, there's no known release window for Project EVE. However, players can get a first look at the in-engine graphical presentation, one of the character designs, and a small taste of the futuristic end of the world in the trailer above. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  12. The major mobile developer Shift Up announced today that they would be entering the AAA game market with a project currently going under the code name Project EVE. Shift Up gained traction and found success with their gacha mobile game Destiny Child. One of the major talents that the South Korean company touted for Destiny Child comes in the form of Hyung-Tae Kim, an artist who made waves in the industry for his work designing characters for Magna Carta and, more famously, the MMORPG Blade & Soul. Kim's emphasis on visually appealing design has garnered an extensive following in the gaming industry of both fans and detractors. Not much is currently known about Project EVE itself. The game is being made in Unreal Engine 4 and will release worldwide for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC (currently slated for Steam). It's expected to be a single-player action-RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. There certainly seem to be influences from Nier: Automata with robotic women, a desolated world, and the action-RPG focus. The team working on Project EVE has been made up primarily of developers who worked on Blade & Soul, though the studio continues to seek more developers to expand their workforce. Currently, there's no known release window for Project EVE. However, players can get a first look at the in-engine graphical presentation, one of the character designs, and a small taste of the futuristic end of the world in the trailer above. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  13. Slime Rancher is a farming sim/adventure game from indie developer Monomi Park. It released back in 2017 after spending over a year in Steam Early Access. With a colorful and friendly open-world and some subtly intriguing narrative hooks, Slime Rancher thoroughly charmed players. It offers a unique first-person perspective on the farming sim genre with the twist on the genre by making the central commodity the excretions of adorable and voracious slimes. Could Slime Rancher be one of the best games of all-time? 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: Chrono Cross 'If I Could... (Synthwave Mix)' by Jorito and JoyDreamer (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03888) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well! 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 Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  14. Slime Rancher is a farming sim/adventure game from indie developer Monomi Park. It released back in 2017 after spending over a year in Steam Early Access. With a colorful and friendly open-world and some subtly intriguing narrative hooks, Slime Rancher thoroughly charmed players. It offers a unique first-person perspective on the farming sim genre with the twist on the genre by making the central commodity the excretions of adorable and voracious slimes. Could Slime Rancher be one of the best games of all-time? 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: Chrono Cross 'If I Could... (Synthwave Mix)' by Jorito and JoyDreamer (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03888) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available, as well! 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 Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  15. Life Is Strange 2 has been in a bit of a limbo following the release of its first episode. Dontnod Entertainment, the developers of the Life Is Strange series as well as Vampyr, held the projected release dates of its subsequent episodes close to the chest. Episode 2 - Rules released on January 24 before the company returned to being quiet about the episodic game. However, now we know when to expect the remaining episodes of Life Is Strange 2 as well as a tiny glimpse at what Episode 3 has in store for players. Life Is Strange 2 diverges from what players might expect after finishing the first Life Is Strange, following the Diaz brothers as they begin a long and arduous journey from their once safe American hometown to a magical place they have only ever heard of from their father down in Mexico. Their pilgrimage puts them in a great deal of danger and becomes more complicated when its revealed that one of them possesses supernatural abilities. Life Is Strange 2: Episode 3 will be titled Wastelands. It is currently on track to release on May 9 on all platforms. It sees brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz continuing their journey across America. The two find themselves wrapped up in the life of a drifter community and exposed to a variety of new experiences and challenges. They have some things to figure out among the redwood forests of California before they press on toward the safety of Mexico. Episode 4 will follow at the tail end of summer on August 22. Finally, the series will conclude on December 3 with Episode 5. The first episode of the series is available through Xbox Game Pass, making it likely that the rest of the episode will be releasing via the service, too. Life Is Strange 2's episodes release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  16. Life Is Strange 2 has been in a bit of a limbo following the release of its first episode. Dontnod Entertainment, the developers of the Life Is Strange series as well as Vampyr, held the projected release dates of its subsequent episodes close to the chest. Episode 2 - Rules released on January 24 before the company returned to being quiet about the episodic game. However, now we know when to expect the remaining episodes of Life Is Strange 2 as well as a tiny glimpse at what Episode 3 has in store for players. Life Is Strange 2 diverges from what players might expect after finishing the first Life Is Strange, following the Diaz brothers as they begin a long and arduous journey from their once safe American hometown to a magical place they have only ever heard of from their father down in Mexico. Their pilgrimage puts them in a great deal of danger and becomes more complicated when its revealed that one of them possesses supernatural abilities. Life Is Strange 2: Episode 3 will be titled Wastelands. It is currently on track to release on May 9 on all platforms. It sees brothers Sean and Daniel Diaz continuing their journey across America. The two find themselves wrapped up in the life of a drifter community and exposed to a variety of new experiences and challenges. They have some things to figure out among the redwood forests of California before they press on toward the safety of Mexico. Episode 4 will follow at the tail end of summer on August 22. Finally, the series will conclude on December 3 with Episode 5. The first episode of the series is available through Xbox Game Pass, making it likely that the rest of the episode will be releasing via the service, too. Life Is Strange 2's episodes release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  17. Despite the divisive release of No Man's Sky that saw user numbers plummet rapidly, accuse Hello Games of false advertising, and scathing critiques, Sean Murray and his team have been hard at work over the past three years improving the game with free updates for a hopeful base of remaining fans. Recently, Murray revealed the next free expansion to No Man's Sky. Titled Beyond, the new, free expansion will expand the multiplayer options for players among other additions and refinements. Here is a compiled list of some of the biggest changes made to No Man's Sky since its launch: The Foundation Update allowed players to begin building bases, new game modes, mobile saving, and tweaks to vital aspects like inventory, and limited communication abilities with other players. Path Finder brought ground vehicles to No Man's Sky, more robust base-building options, and a graphical overhaul. Atlas Rises brought a new story line to the game, doubling the game's background content, a Stargate-like network of portals for fast travel, overhauled missions, and more. Then No Man's Sky NEXT released, allowing players to band together in-game for the first time, freed base-building in any location, third-person perspective, and character customization. The Abyss update allowed players to explore planets with oceans, build bases underwater, interact with a more vibrant ecosystem of marine life, and discover a new oceanic narrative. Finally, the most recent update, Visions, added archaeology, the ability to salvage ancient technology, and community missions. The past year has seen Hello Games observing how players are interacting in-game and listening to players. While The Abyss and Visions released with a variety of additions and improvements, more are in store for No Man's Sky Beyond. Beyond will be a compilation of three major, interconnected updates to No Man's Sky. Due to concerns about overhyping their game, Hello Games has opted to keep much of the information about Beyond under wraps until it becomes finalized. However, the biggest major component of Beyond will be No Man's Sky Online, an overhaul to the online features offered by No Man's Sky. This will, in some ways, turn the game into a true MMO, though Hello Games shies away from the label. It will not have a subscription or microtransactions, but it will support a vast number of players. both the social and multiplayer components of it's online world will get new features and tweaks. "Beyond will be our most ambitious chapter so far, and something we’ve been working ridiculously hard on. We’ll continue to support No Man’s Sky in this way for the foreseeable future," Sean Murray said in his official announcement. "To some NEXT may have felt like a natural end-point for our journey, but for us it was another step on a longer voyage." No Man's Sky Beyond will release sometime this summer. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  18. Despite the divisive release of No Man's Sky that saw user numbers plummet rapidly, accuse Hello Games of false advertising, and scathing critiques, Sean Murray and his team have been hard at work over the past three years improving the game with free updates for a hopeful base of remaining fans. Recently, Murray revealed the next free expansion to No Man's Sky. Titled Beyond, the new, free expansion will expand the multiplayer options for players among other additions and refinements. Here is a compiled list of some of the biggest changes made to No Man's Sky since its launch: The Foundation Update allowed players to begin building bases, new game modes, mobile saving, and tweaks to vital aspects like inventory, and limited communication abilities with other players. Path Finder brought ground vehicles to No Man's Sky, more robust base-building options, and a graphical overhaul. Atlas Rises brought a new story line to the game, doubling the game's background content, a Stargate-like network of portals for fast travel, overhauled missions, and more. Then No Man's Sky NEXT released, allowing players to band together in-game for the first time, freed base-building in any location, third-person perspective, and character customization. The Abyss update allowed players to explore planets with oceans, build bases underwater, interact with a more vibrant ecosystem of marine life, and discover a new oceanic narrative. Finally, the most recent update, Visions, added archaeology, the ability to salvage ancient technology, and community missions. The past year has seen Hello Games observing how players are interacting in-game and listening to players. While The Abyss and Visions released with a variety of additions and improvements, more are in store for No Man's Sky Beyond. Beyond will be a compilation of three major, interconnected updates to No Man's Sky. Due to concerns about overhyping their game, Hello Games has opted to keep much of the information about Beyond under wraps until it becomes finalized. However, the biggest major component of Beyond will be No Man's Sky Online, an overhaul to the online features offered by No Man's Sky. This will, in some ways, turn the game into a true MMO, though Hello Games shies away from the label. It will not have a subscription or microtransactions, but it will support a vast number of players. both the social and multiplayer components of it's online world will get new features and tweaks. "Beyond will be our most ambitious chapter so far, and something we’ve been working ridiculously hard on. We’ll continue to support No Man’s Sky in this way for the foreseeable future," Sean Murray said in his official announcement. "To some NEXT may have felt like a natural end-point for our journey, but for us it was another step on a longer voyage." No Man's Sky Beyond will release sometime this summer. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  19. Today, Microsoft announced that they would be bringing Xbox Live to Android and iOS devices, officially lending its support to the wider world of mobile game development. This move isn't entirely unprecedented. Xbox Live support has been available on mobile before, however it was only included in apps and games developed by Microsoft itself, like Minecraft. This new move will put Xbox Live within reach of any developer who wants to integrate their app or game into the wider Xbox Live ecosystem. Microsoft initially teased back in February that they might be making an announcement related to mobile soon. The move, revealed today, will allow apps and games across the mobile world to access the suite of services associated with Xbox Live. Developers will be able to use the tools released by Microsoft to connect as many or as few Xbox Life services with their project as needed. Now we know, thanks to The Verge, the full extent of the program and tools. Microsoft's new mobile development kit (SDK) will enable devs to add Gamerscore, open up clubs, friend lists, and include account family settings. On top of that, developers will be able to implement a single sign-in for Xbox Live and grant devs online protection for their apps and games. The new SDK will come together with Microsoft Game Stack, a collection of tool sets designed to get developers up and running with Microsoft's cloud technology, something the tech giant has been pushing across a wide variety of its services outside of gaming. A rumor has been going around the industry that Xbox Live integration will also be coming to the Nintendo Switch, though a rep from Microsoft didn't deny that it's in the works. However, even if Xbox Live comes to Nintendo Switch, it's unlikely to make its way onto Sony's flagship platform, the PlayStation 4. Microsoft, for its part, appears to be very willing to partner with companies many might consider to be rivals, but Sony's reticence makes the possible team up all but impossible. While it might seem like a similar roll out on a rival platform would be impossible, Minecraft on Switch does implement an Xbox Live sign-in. That puts the Switch in a similar position as the mobile market was prior to this announcement. The ability to put Xbox Live on Switch is already out in the wild with Minecraft; all it would take is the okay from Nintendo and some additional fine-tuning of the software for it to work well on Switch. We could very easily see the next battle for gaming supremacy take place not in hardware, but in the realm of software support and service features. If that's the case, Xbox Live just created a huge lead for itself. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  20. Today, Microsoft announced that they would be bringing Xbox Live to Android and iOS devices, officially lending its support to the wider world of mobile game development. This move isn't entirely unprecedented. Xbox Live support has been available on mobile before, however it was only included in apps and games developed by Microsoft itself, like Minecraft. This new move will put Xbox Live within reach of any developer who wants to integrate their app or game into the wider Xbox Live ecosystem. Microsoft initially teased back in February that they might be making an announcement related to mobile soon. The move, revealed today, will allow apps and games across the mobile world to access the suite of services associated with Xbox Live. Developers will be able to use the tools released by Microsoft to connect as many or as few Xbox Life services with their project as needed. Now we know, thanks to The Verge, the full extent of the program and tools. Microsoft's new mobile development kit (SDK) will enable devs to add Gamerscore, open up clubs, friend lists, and include account family settings. On top of that, developers will be able to implement a single sign-in for Xbox Live and grant devs online protection for their apps and games. The new SDK will come together with Microsoft Game Stack, a collection of tool sets designed to get developers up and running with Microsoft's cloud technology, something the tech giant has been pushing across a wide variety of its services outside of gaming. A rumor has been going around the industry that Xbox Live integration will also be coming to the Nintendo Switch, though a rep from Microsoft didn't deny that it's in the works. However, even if Xbox Live comes to Nintendo Switch, it's unlikely to make its way onto Sony's flagship platform, the PlayStation 4. Microsoft, for its part, appears to be very willing to partner with companies many might consider to be rivals, but Sony's reticence makes the possible team up all but impossible. While it might seem like a similar roll out on a rival platform would be impossible, Minecraft on Switch does implement an Xbox Live sign-in. That puts the Switch in a similar position as the mobile market was prior to this announcement. The ability to put Xbox Live on Switch is already out in the wild with Minecraft; all it would take is the okay from Nintendo and some additional fine-tuning of the software for it to work well on Switch. We could very easily see the next battle for gaming supremacy take place not in hardware, but in the realm of software support and service features. If that's the case, Xbox Live just created a huge lead for itself. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  21. You may have noticed a few images floating around the internet that appear to be advertising a game that looks suspiciously like Metal Gear Solid. That game is most likely Left Alive, a new game from Square Enix set in the Front Mission universe. For those unfamiliar with Front Mission, the series deals with a future where the Earth has descended into constant warfare between supranational states, collectives of countries working together to fend off aggression. All of them rely on "wanzers," large, humanoid tanks capable of sustaining massive amounts of damage while dishing it right back out. Though wanzers inevitably play a large role in each of the games, many of the series' main entries are more interested in the human drama unfolding that makes the use of these weapons necessary. Front Mission began in 1995 and many believed it ended with Front Mission Evolved in 2010. Until Left Alive came out, that is. Left Alive tells the story of people trapped in the contested city of Novo Slava and features both on-foot missions that mix stealth and action and explosive mech piloting segments. All of this exists in the grounded reality of a city under siege with defense forces struggling to survive and civilians just doing their best to stay alive. If you're wondering why Left Alive looks like Metal Gear Solid, that would be due to the character design and artistic contributions of Yoji Shinkawa, a prominent artist on the Metal Gear Solid series. On top of that, Armored Core V director Toshifumi Nabeshima has directed the reboot of Front Mission (which might also be a possible spiritual successor of Metal Gear Solid). Metal Gear Solid certainly inspired the game, but in interviews, director Toshifumi Nabeshima has stated that he considers it neither a stealth or an action game, that both are merely ways of reaching the end. However, don't go in expecting Deus Ex levels of solutions. Front Mission initially began as a turn-based strategy RPG. Players would move units around a hex grid in an attempt to outmaneuver the enemy in a war game. Left Alive is not that. Instead, Left Alive focuses on emphasizing how devastating wanzers can be by placing players in a position of weakness, where wanzers can annihilate them without a second thought. It's a tale of survival rather than the large-scale picture of commanding a war or a skirmish. As such, players have limited ammo and a broad range of freedom when it comes to achieving objectives that might require them to think on the fly and improvise. Overall, Left Alive looks really cool. With Hideo Kojima's departure from Konami effectively ending the Metal Gear Solid series, this might just be the thing Metal Gear fans need to fill the void left behind by the series' passing. Left Alive is available now for PlayStation 4 and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  22. You may have noticed a few images floating around the internet that appear to be advertising a game that looks suspiciously like Metal Gear Solid. That game is most likely Left Alive, a new game from Square Enix set in the Front Mission universe. For those unfamiliar with Front Mission, the series deals with a future where the Earth has descended into constant warfare between supranational states, collectives of countries working together to fend off aggression. All of them rely on "wanzers," large, humanoid tanks capable of sustaining massive amounts of damage while dishing it right back out. Though wanzers inevitably play a large role in each of the games, many of the series' main entries are more interested in the human drama unfolding that makes the use of these weapons necessary. Front Mission began in 1995 and many believed it ended with Front Mission Evolved in 2010. Until Left Alive came out, that is. Left Alive tells the story of people trapped in the contested city of Novo Slava and features both on-foot missions that mix stealth and action and explosive mech piloting segments. All of this exists in the grounded reality of a city under siege with defense forces struggling to survive and civilians just doing their best to stay alive. If you're wondering why Left Alive looks like Metal Gear Solid, that would be due to the character design and artistic contributions of Yoji Shinkawa, a prominent artist on the Metal Gear Solid series. On top of that, Armored Core V director Toshifumi Nabeshima has directed the reboot of Front Mission (which might also be a possible spiritual successor of Metal Gear Solid). Metal Gear Solid certainly inspired the game, but in interviews, director Toshifumi Nabeshima has stated that he considers it neither a stealth or an action game, that both are merely ways of reaching the end. However, don't go in expecting Deus Ex levels of solutions. Front Mission initially began as a turn-based strategy RPG. Players would move units around a hex grid in an attempt to outmaneuver the enemy in a war game. Left Alive is not that. Instead, Left Alive focuses on emphasizing how devastating wanzers can be by placing players in a position of weakness, where wanzers can annihilate them without a second thought. It's a tale of survival rather than the large-scale picture of commanding a war or a skirmish. As such, players have limited ammo and a broad range of freedom when it comes to achieving objectives that might require them to think on the fly and improvise. Overall, Left Alive looks really cool. With Hideo Kojima's departure from Konami effectively ending the Metal Gear Solid series, this might just be the thing Metal Gear fans need to fill the void left behind by the series' passing. Left Alive is available now for PlayStation 4 and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  23. The latest arcade flight sim with narrative aspirations from Project Aces, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown exists as a bit of an odd duck. The last couple attempts to bring the series into the modern day after its PlayStation 2 heyday fell flat and failed to gain much traction. This left Ace Combat in something of a limbo, only receiving support for the PSN exclusive and microtransaction-heavy Ace Combat Infinity. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown seeks to bring the series back to its roots by setting itself up as a canonical sequel to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, one of the most successful Ace Combat games to date. Despite that positioning, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown doesn’t require players to be familiar with its predecessor or the history of the fictional world of Strangereal. There are certainly nods to events and characters that veteran fans will recognize, but for the most part, these moments aren’t necessary to enjoy the larger story. That story details a war between the countries of Osea and Erusea stemming from economic and political contention regarding a space elevator constructed using Osean funds on Erusean soil after Osea devastated Erusea in a previous war. Into this situation are thrown all manner of crazy twists and plot threads including: Prisoners forced to pilot aircraft in the war, the assassination of a former head of state, the future of unmanned drone warfare in the skies, and a survival behind enemy lines narrative. If all of that sounds interesting, it should! Unfortunately, it never comes together into one cohesive entity and then just ends. One of the biggest problems is the complete lack of a protagonist. This was somewhat solved in Ace Combat 5 by allowing the player to participate in radio conversations with pilots in their squadron. Allowing for a little bit of character development that wasn’t just, “Golly gee, [player] is really the best pilot!” And that’s a huge problem in Ace Combat 7 because the player is framed for the assassination of the former president of Osea and sent to an island to fly junk planes as a distraction for the enemy. He just happens to be such a good pilot that eventually everyone seems to forget that they all think he assassinated a former president for no apparent reason. Ace Combat 7 squanders the unique opportunity it has with the concept of prisoner pilots by very quickly hand waving away that aspect. A bunch of criminals flying airplanes sounds like it should be a great mix for the series, but it never has a tangible effect on the gameplay outside of one mission where players are denied the ability to repair and reload weapons mid-mission. Limiting the choice of planes, putting players against hopeless odds, heck, maybe having the planes the prisoners are flying literally start falling apart mid-mission – there are so many interesting ways that Ace Combat 7 could have handled the disposable prisoner-soldier aspect. Eventually, the war progresses and leaves Osea overly dependent on the squadron of prisoners – until a late-game twist cuts the squadron off from those higher up in the chain of command. This could have been a great opportunity to put the game into the player’s hands: Will the prisoner-pilots stay loyal to Osea of maybe they join the losing Erusean forces. Ace Combat 5 had several missions that diverged based on player choice and gameplay decisions. Instead, it becomes a story about survival behind enemy lines; admittedly still cool, but it doesn’t do much to revitalize the story. Many of these interesting narrative beats ultimately fail because of the disconnect between them and the main focus of the story: Unmanned drones. Ace Combat 7 really wants to be a story about the dangers of drone warfare. All of its cutscenes and several of its missions deal directly with that theme and threat. It’s the only one that actually feels tangible in the gameplay itself. The threat of coming up against an AI-controlled aircraft that can outmaneuver a human pilot feels more real than anything else the flight sim presents players. It’s unfortunate that the game that the game doesn’t then focus itself entirely on that danger, flooding the player’s airspace with mass produced drones or recurring encounters against a squadron of AI aircraft that learn from the player’s maneuvers. If prisoner-pilots and being lost behind enemy lines weren’t going to help build the story around the threat of drone warfare, they should have been cut or reworked to include them. Instead, we have a bunch of half-baked ideas that lack full function or resonance. Something odd must have been going on behind the scenes of Ace Combat 7’s development to have led to the narrative being a hot mess. The game just ends with everyone realizing that the disagreement over the space elevator was based on a misunderstanding. The campaign stands at 20 missions long, shorter than Ace Combat 5 by 7-12 missions depending on how one counts them. It’s possible that many of these lingering questions or half-formed ideas will be expanded upon in future DLC that will be supporting the title, but not enough is known about the eventual DLC to say for sure. We do know that it will touch on story content, but we can only judge based on what’s there now and it’s not a terribly satisfying narrative package. On top of that, there’s no arcade mode like previous entries in the series possessed, which featured a series of flight scenarios designed to challenge players. The only thing that makes sense is that due to budget or time constraints much of the single-player content had to be axed out of the core game. Or, to be a bit cynical, it’s possible that it was cut out to serve as DLC later down the road. Ace Combat 7’s story might be a mess, but the visual design for the aircraft, skies, and even the detailed models of structures and vehicles on the ground absolutely nail what the series has always been about. For all of the craziness of its Metal Gear-like flying drone carriers, the realism and attention to detail instantly convey that this is Ace Combat. It’s so beautiful, I often wanted to simply fly and look to at the swirling clouds, missile trails, explosions, and gorgeous chaos going on in missions. Each mission has a recap camera that follows the entire mission from a variety of angles centered on the player’s airplane and I’d often watch that for several minutes after concluding a sortie. The replay feature could be improved by the ability to fast forward through the mission at more than just 2X speed. The soundtrack created by longtime game composer Keiki Kobayashi does its best to replicate the music of Ace Combat, succeeding in some respects while falling short in others. Kobayashi has been composing since 2001 and worked in the music departments of all the Ace Combat games since Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies. It makes sense that he would be able to nail the ambient background soundscapes of the Ace Combat series for Ace Combat 7. However, Skies Unknown desperately lacks a central theme to rally around. Even at its best, it manages to convey frantic or dramatic energy, but possesses little memorable thrust of its own. It’s good experiential music to fly to but not so much to remember after the fact. The gameplay remains largely true to the Ace Combat formula of loading up a plane with an impossible number of missiles and sending it out to do battle against a variety of air and ground targets. The mission design feels tight with every mission offering a number of exciting and unique challenges. Whether it’s altitude restrictions, flying through canyons, a time limit to do as much damage as possible, getting close enough to identify a wide field of unknown potential targets, or finding smuggling trucks in a dust storm, players should expect the unexpected when gearing up for the next mission. Dealing with a number of flying quirks on missions adds another unique wrinkle to the gameplay. High winds can make flying close to the ground or staying on target difficult. Flying through clouds can help block missiles while also threatening to ice over the engines. Rain can obscure vision in the cockpit view. The most dangerous weather condition of all stands out as lightning which can fry electronics and send a plane into a deadly tailspin. Instead of a lengthy campaign or an arcade mode, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown boasts an online multiplayer mode with a couple different rule sets, pitting players against one another for intense aerial combat. The mode is… fine. It’s fine. It’s not fantastic due to the lack of gameplay modes and rule sets for players to choose from. This might be some player’s jam and it’s certainly necessary to include in a modern Ace Combat game. However, most people aren’t playing Ace Combat for the multiplayer and there’s not much beyond replaying the campaign for people who value that single-player experience. Conclusion: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown feels like a game that’s not sure about what it wants to be. It wants to be a gritty war story, but lacks the punch necessary to follow-through on that desire. The gameplay frequently feels disconnected from the story itself. It’s incredibly short, clocking in at only 2/3 the size of its PS2 predecessor. However, despite these narrative shortcomings, its ultimately nails the feel of classic Ace Combat. It’s a blast to play and part of the disappointment in the shortness of the game stems from the desire to play more of it. As a starting point for relaunching consistent Ace Combat releases, Skies Unknown feels like solid bedrock on which to build. For those who love multiplayer or want a unique VR experience (yes, the VR is cool, but you probably shouldn’t buy PSVR just to experience Ace Combat 7), Skies Unknown caters directly to those cravings. It certainly isn’t the perfect Ace Combat game that sets a new standard for the franchise, but Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown stands as an enjoyable entry that fans will appreciate. Maybe just wait for it to go on sale and see how the DLC roll out goes before you buy. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  24. The latest arcade flight sim with narrative aspirations from Project Aces, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown exists as a bit of an odd duck. The last couple attempts to bring the series into the modern day after its PlayStation 2 heyday fell flat and failed to gain much traction. This left Ace Combat in something of a limbo, only receiving support for the PSN exclusive and microtransaction-heavy Ace Combat Infinity. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown seeks to bring the series back to its roots by setting itself up as a canonical sequel to Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, one of the most successful Ace Combat games to date. Despite that positioning, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown doesn’t require players to be familiar with its predecessor or the history of the fictional world of Strangereal. There are certainly nods to events and characters that veteran fans will recognize, but for the most part, these moments aren’t necessary to enjoy the larger story. That story details a war between the countries of Osea and Erusea stemming from economic and political contention regarding a space elevator constructed using Osean funds on Erusean soil after Osea devastated Erusea in a previous war. Into this situation are thrown all manner of crazy twists and plot threads including: Prisoners forced to pilot aircraft in the war, the assassination of a former head of state, the future of unmanned drone warfare in the skies, and a survival behind enemy lines narrative. If all of that sounds interesting, it should! Unfortunately, it never comes together into one cohesive entity and then just ends. One of the biggest problems is the complete lack of a protagonist. This was somewhat solved in Ace Combat 5 by allowing the player to participate in radio conversations with pilots in their squadron. Allowing for a little bit of character development that wasn’t just, “Golly gee, [player] is really the best pilot!” And that’s a huge problem in Ace Combat 7 because the player is framed for the assassination of the former president of Osea and sent to an island to fly junk planes as a distraction for the enemy. He just happens to be such a good pilot that eventually everyone seems to forget that they all think he assassinated a former president for no apparent reason. Ace Combat 7 squanders the unique opportunity it has with the concept of prisoner pilots by very quickly hand waving away that aspect. A bunch of criminals flying airplanes sounds like it should be a great mix for the series, but it never has a tangible effect on the gameplay outside of one mission where players are denied the ability to repair and reload weapons mid-mission. Limiting the choice of planes, putting players against hopeless odds, heck, maybe having the planes the prisoners are flying literally start falling apart mid-mission – there are so many interesting ways that Ace Combat 7 could have handled the disposable prisoner-soldier aspect. Eventually, the war progresses and leaves Osea overly dependent on the squadron of prisoners – until a late-game twist cuts the squadron off from those higher up in the chain of command. This could have been a great opportunity to put the game into the player’s hands: Will the prisoner-pilots stay loyal to Osea of maybe they join the losing Erusean forces. Ace Combat 5 had several missions that diverged based on player choice and gameplay decisions. Instead, it becomes a story about survival behind enemy lines; admittedly still cool, but it doesn’t do much to revitalize the story. Many of these interesting narrative beats ultimately fail because of the disconnect between them and the main focus of the story: Unmanned drones. Ace Combat 7 really wants to be a story about the dangers of drone warfare. All of its cutscenes and several of its missions deal directly with that theme and threat. It’s the only one that actually feels tangible in the gameplay itself. The threat of coming up against an AI-controlled aircraft that can outmaneuver a human pilot feels more real than anything else the flight sim presents players. It’s unfortunate that the game that the game doesn’t then focus itself entirely on that danger, flooding the player’s airspace with mass produced drones or recurring encounters against a squadron of AI aircraft that learn from the player’s maneuvers. If prisoner-pilots and being lost behind enemy lines weren’t going to help build the story around the threat of drone warfare, they should have been cut or reworked to include them. Instead, we have a bunch of half-baked ideas that lack full function or resonance. Something odd must have been going on behind the scenes of Ace Combat 7’s development to have led to the narrative being a hot mess. The game just ends with everyone realizing that the disagreement over the space elevator was based on a misunderstanding. The campaign stands at 20 missions long, shorter than Ace Combat 5 by 7-12 missions depending on how one counts them. It’s possible that many of these lingering questions or half-formed ideas will be expanded upon in future DLC that will be supporting the title, but not enough is known about the eventual DLC to say for sure. We do know that it will touch on story content, but we can only judge based on what’s there now and it’s not a terribly satisfying narrative package. On top of that, there’s no arcade mode like previous entries in the series possessed, which featured a series of flight scenarios designed to challenge players. The only thing that makes sense is that due to budget or time constraints much of the single-player content had to be axed out of the core game. Or, to be a bit cynical, it’s possible that it was cut out to serve as DLC later down the road. Ace Combat 7’s story might be a mess, but the visual design for the aircraft, skies, and even the detailed models of structures and vehicles on the ground absolutely nail what the series has always been about. For all of the craziness of its Metal Gear-like flying drone carriers, the realism and attention to detail instantly convey that this is Ace Combat. It’s so beautiful, I often wanted to simply fly and look to at the swirling clouds, missile trails, explosions, and gorgeous chaos going on in missions. Each mission has a recap camera that follows the entire mission from a variety of angles centered on the player’s airplane and I’d often watch that for several minutes after concluding a sortie. The replay feature could be improved by the ability to fast forward through the mission at more than just 2X speed. The soundtrack created by longtime game composer Keiki Kobayashi does its best to replicate the music of Ace Combat, succeeding in some respects while falling short in others. Kobayashi has been composing since 2001 and worked in the music departments of all the Ace Combat games since Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies. It makes sense that he would be able to nail the ambient background soundscapes of the Ace Combat series for Ace Combat 7. However, Skies Unknown desperately lacks a central theme to rally around. Even at its best, it manages to convey frantic or dramatic energy, but possesses little memorable thrust of its own. It’s good experiential music to fly to but not so much to remember after the fact. The gameplay remains largely true to the Ace Combat formula of loading up a plane with an impossible number of missiles and sending it out to do battle against a variety of air and ground targets. The mission design feels tight with every mission offering a number of exciting and unique challenges. Whether it’s altitude restrictions, flying through canyons, a time limit to do as much damage as possible, getting close enough to identify a wide field of unknown potential targets, or finding smuggling trucks in a dust storm, players should expect the unexpected when gearing up for the next mission. Dealing with a number of flying quirks on missions adds another unique wrinkle to the gameplay. High winds can make flying close to the ground or staying on target difficult. Flying through clouds can help block missiles while also threatening to ice over the engines. Rain can obscure vision in the cockpit view. The most dangerous weather condition of all stands out as lightning which can fry electronics and send a plane into a deadly tailspin. Instead of a lengthy campaign or an arcade mode, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown boasts an online multiplayer mode with a couple different rule sets, pitting players against one another for intense aerial combat. The mode is… fine. It’s fine. It’s not fantastic due to the lack of gameplay modes and rule sets for players to choose from. This might be some player’s jam and it’s certainly necessary to include in a modern Ace Combat game. However, most people aren’t playing Ace Combat for the multiplayer and there’s not much beyond replaying the campaign for people who value that single-player experience. Conclusion: Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown feels like a game that’s not sure about what it wants to be. It wants to be a gritty war story, but lacks the punch necessary to follow-through on that desire. The gameplay frequently feels disconnected from the story itself. It’s incredibly short, clocking in at only 2/3 the size of its PS2 predecessor. However, despite these narrative shortcomings, its ultimately nails the feel of classic Ace Combat. It’s a blast to play and part of the disappointment in the shortness of the game stems from the desire to play more of it. As a starting point for relaunching consistent Ace Combat releases, Skies Unknown feels like solid bedrock on which to build. For those who love multiplayer or want a unique VR experience (yes, the VR is cool, but you probably shouldn’t buy PSVR just to experience Ace Combat 7), Skies Unknown caters directly to those cravings. It certainly isn’t the perfect Ace Combat game that sets a new standard for the franchise, but Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown stands as an enjoyable entry that fans will appreciate. Maybe just wait for it to go on sale and see how the DLC roll out goes before you buy. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  25. Take a nostalgia trip back to the heyday of the 8-bit era with Odallus: The Dark Call, an action-platformer coming to Nintendo Switch. Odallus: The Dark Call tells the story of Haggis, an aged hero who embarks on a quest to save his son and avenge the destruction of his village. Battling demons, cultists, and eldritch beings, Haggis presses onward to spare his son from becoming a dark sacrifice. Brazilian developer JoyMasher masterminded both Odallus: The Dark Call and Oniken, which will also be receiving a Switch port. The company specializes in retro game development, with Odallus covering the Metroidvania action subgenre and Oniken representing JoyMasher's take on the old-school Ninja Gaiden. They also have a game currently in development called Blazing Chrome, a 16-bit run-and-gun action-shooter in the vein of Super Contra or Metal Slug. Odallus: The Dark Call initially released in 2015 for PC, receiving mostly positive reviews for its heartfelt send up of the Castlevania of old. It includes classic 8-bit cutscenes, a large world full of secrets, and clever gameplay twists that might trick even the most veteran of players. Now, the adventures of Haggis are coming to Nintendo Switch in February as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One later this spring. Odallus: The Dark Call features eight levels that can be explored for more secrets when players have acquired more abilities. Levels are populated by over fifty different enemy types and offer chances to face off against colossal bosses. Players who stick through to the end will spend, at a minimum, eight hours completing the game, only to find a veteran difficulty awaiting them for added replayability. When it launches, Odallus: The Dark Call will be available digitally. However, Eastasiasoft will be offering a limited run physical edition of the game. These physical copies will work on all systems worldwide, but may have some limitations on their online features. The following will be offered physically: Odallus: The Dark Call (PS4) Oniken + Odallus Collection (PS4/Switch) Oniken + Odallus Collection: Limited Edition (Switch) Odallus: The Dark Call releases for Nintendo Switch on February 8 and will be coming to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime during spring of this year. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
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