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Found 38 results

  1. With Divinity: Original Sin 2 having been out for over a year, many fans of Larian Studios' work have been wondering what to expect from the RPG studio next. Today, Larian revealed Divinity: Fallen Heroes, an upcoming turn-based tactics game in the vein of Divinity: Dragon Commander mixed with the mechanics established in the Divinity: Original Sin games. The idea for Divinity: Fallen Heroes has been kicking around the Larian offices since before 2013 when Divinity: Dragon Commander released. A branching narrative that leads to different missions and narrative outcomes takes a lot of resources to make and would represent a risk for the developer. Ultimately, the studio decided they couldn't do it due to a lack of resources opting to focus on the development of the Original Sin franchise. However, following the massive success of Divinity: Original Sin 2, Larian Studios found that they had more money to take an expensive risk. Enter, Divinity: Fallen Heroes. Larian gave their engine for Divinity: Original Sin 2 to Logic Artists, a Danish developer, to see how they would interpret the vision Larian had been idling on for the past several years. Their directive was to create a game that was able to reflect the choices players made over the course of play and how well players perform would affect the narrative choices in turn. The product of Logic Artists pleased Larian so much that later this year Divinity: Fallen Heroes will release fully tied into the Divinity universe with returning characters from Original Sin 2. True to the co-op focus of the Original Sin games, Fallen Heroes will also allow co-operative play with friends. Divinity: Fallen Heroes has been made with an eye for pushing players to make hard choices while offering new combo abilities and refinements in Divinity: Original Sin 2's combat systems. The story follows the adventures of the Divine Order who have been charged to arrest a half-demon who stole magical weapons of mass destruction. Via a series of events, the pursuit of the half-demon puts players on a collision course with the Lord of Chaos in a fight for the future of the world itself across over 60 missions. If you're going to be at PAX East, you can get a hands-on first look at Divinity: Fallen Heroes at Larian Studios' booth. Feedback on this demo will be used to shape the game itself as its elements get finalized in the lead up to release. At the moment, there's no release date or platforms announced, though it's almost certainly coming to 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!
  2. With Divinity: Original Sin 2 having been out for over a year, many fans of Larian Studios' work have been wondering what to expect from the RPG studio next. Today, Larian revealed Divinity: Fallen Heroes, an upcoming turn-based tactics game in the vein of Divinity: Dragon Commander mixed with the mechanics established in the Divinity: Original Sin games. The idea for Divinity: Fallen Heroes has been kicking around the Larian offices since before 2013 when Divinity: Dragon Commander released. A branching narrative that leads to different missions and narrative outcomes takes a lot of resources to make and would represent a risk for the developer. Ultimately, the studio decided they couldn't do it due to a lack of resources opting to focus on the development of the Original Sin franchise. However, following the massive success of Divinity: Original Sin 2, Larian Studios found that they had more money to take an expensive risk. Enter, Divinity: Fallen Heroes. Larian gave their engine for Divinity: Original Sin 2 to Logic Artists, a Danish developer, to see how they would interpret the vision Larian had been idling on for the past several years. Their directive was to create a game that was able to reflect the choices players made over the course of play and how well players perform would affect the narrative choices in turn. The product of Logic Artists pleased Larian so much that later this year Divinity: Fallen Heroes will release fully tied into the Divinity universe with returning characters from Original Sin 2. True to the co-op focus of the Original Sin games, Fallen Heroes will also allow co-operative play with friends. Divinity: Fallen Heroes has been made with an eye for pushing players to make hard choices while offering new combo abilities and refinements in Divinity: Original Sin 2's combat systems. The story follows the adventures of the Divine Order who have been charged to arrest a half-demon who stole magical weapons of mass destruction. Via a series of events, the pursuit of the half-demon puts players on a collision course with the Lord of Chaos in a fight for the future of the world itself across over 60 missions. If you're going to be at PAX East, you can get a hands-on first look at Divinity: Fallen Heroes at Larian Studios' booth. Feedback on this demo will be used to shape the game itself as its elements get finalized in the lead up to release. At the moment, there's no release date or platforms announced, though it's almost certainly coming to 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
  3. If you're interested in turn-based 4X strategy titles, Praxis Games wants you to know about Interstellar Space: Genesis entering into alpha. The devs have touted the title as "virtually feature complete" and noted that they worked with Neon Dolphin and Grant Kirkhope, composer of such classics as GoldenEye 007, Banjo Kazooie, and Civilization: After Earth, on their space-faring soundtrack. Interstellar Space: Genesis follows much the same premise of other space 4X strategy games (the four Xs stand for Explore, Exploit, Expand, and Exterminate) - players take on the role of a leader on a galactic scale and spread out into an unknown galaxy. There are tons of unknown dangers, both from alien empires and random events left by past or present civilizations across the sea of stars. Players will have to decide to pursue either peace or war when dealing with rivals. Will you rule the galaxy through bloodshed or with a gentle, guiding hand? The title features turn-based tactical combat augmented by the ability to go in and customize ships to fine-tune them to suit different needs. Players will be treated to a Grant Kirkhope musical score; something that's always a treat. Interestingly, each civilization will be given a random tech tree to spice up the different playthroughs, just one part of the many ways Interstellar Space seeks to differentiate itself. Players will be able to create custom alien races with their own unique needs and leaders. Colony management takes up a large part of the game, as does terraforming and diplomacy. Corner the market in asteroid mining or space tourism and use those funds to push even further into the unknowns of space. Praxis Games was founded by the duo who run Space Sector, a website dedicated to sci-fi strategy games, Adam Solo and Hugo Rosado. Mr. Rosado even worked for the European Space Agency as well as the private space sector. He commented on reaching the alpha stage of Interstellar Space: Genesis saying, "Space has been my passion since childhood. I was lucky to have a professional career in the space industry – at both the European Space Agency and private aerospace space company Elecnor Deimos. Now, I’m still in the space industry – but the venue is quite different: We are developing our first 4X title, and our launch is just within reach. Hopefully, everyone who gets to play this Alpha build will love it as much as we’ve been enjoying the development process itself!” People who pre-order will gain immediate access to the latest build and help shape its future with their feedback. However, pre-orders will only be available through the Humble Store through December 16. Praxis hopes to release Interstellar Space: Genesis for PC during the second quarter of 2019. 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
  4. If you're interested in turn-based 4X strategy titles, Praxis Games wants you to know about Interstellar Space: Genesis entering into alpha. The devs have touted the title as "virtually feature complete" and noted that they worked with Neon Dolphin and Grant Kirkhope, composer of such classics as GoldenEye 007, Banjo Kazooie, and Civilization: After Earth, on their space-faring soundtrack. Interstellar Space: Genesis follows much the same premise of other space 4X strategy games (the four Xs stand for Explore, Exploit, Expand, and Exterminate) - players take on the role of a leader on a galactic scale and spread out into an unknown galaxy. There are tons of unknown dangers, both from alien empires and random events left by past or present civilizations across the sea of stars. Players will have to decide to pursue either peace or war when dealing with rivals. Will you rule the galaxy through bloodshed or with a gentle, guiding hand? The title features turn-based tactical combat augmented by the ability to go in and customize ships to fine-tune them to suit different needs. Players will be treated to a Grant Kirkhope musical score; something that's always a treat. Interestingly, each civilization will be given a random tech tree to spice up the different playthroughs, just one part of the many ways Interstellar Space seeks to differentiate itself. Players will be able to create custom alien races with their own unique needs and leaders. Colony management takes up a large part of the game, as does terraforming and diplomacy. Corner the market in asteroid mining or space tourism and use those funds to push even further into the unknowns of space. Praxis Games was founded by the duo who run Space Sector, a website dedicated to sci-fi strategy games, Adam Solo and Hugo Rosado. Mr. Rosado even worked for the European Space Agency as well as the private space sector. He commented on reaching the alpha stage of Interstellar Space: Genesis saying, "Space has been my passion since childhood. I was lucky to have a professional career in the space industry – at both the European Space Agency and private aerospace space company Elecnor Deimos. Now, I’m still in the space industry – but the venue is quite different: We are developing our first 4X title, and our launch is just within reach. Hopefully, everyone who gets to play this Alpha build will love it as much as we’ve been enjoying the development process itself!” People who pre-order will gain immediate access to the latest build and help shape its future with their feedback. However, pre-orders will only be available through the Humble Store through December 16. Praxis hopes to release Interstellar Space: Genesis for PC during the second quarter of 2019. 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!
  5. HOF Studios, a small, four-person team based in Atlanta, has been working on Depth of Extinction for the past few years. Fueled by a nostalgia for classic '90s tactics titles like XCOM: UFO Defense and drawing from more modern strategy titles like XCOM 2 and FTL: Faster Than Light, HOF Studios has created a game that makes use of those familiar mechanics to tell a new, challenging tale that delves deep into the unknown depths of Earth's oceans. Depth of Extinction takes place thousands of years in the future. An apocalyptic event shrouded in mystery caused the sea level to rise drastically, plunging most of humanity into its freezing bottom. The remnants, known as the Creators, rebuilt society as best they could, before quietly fading from history. Their advanced technology still litters the planet, leaving great power open to plundering and abuse. The most stable civilization formed out of the ashes of the apocalypse is The Republic. Denizens of The Republic have long relied on Creator machines to live in the new world. However, those machines have begun to fail, leaving it vulnerable to high sea marauders and a rumored army of killer robots. To survive, The Republic needs to send out its bravest warriors to explore the unknown and discover solutions to its mounting problems. Of course, solving the issues facing The Republic will put players into violent conflict in the outside world. To that end, players can customize their soldiers from eight classes and outfit them with over a hundred different pieces of armor, weapons, and special items. Players will have to contend with random encounters with the ever present threat of permadeath looming over each and every action while they move through the . Mike Stumhofer, the founder and lead developer at HOF Studios, released a statement reflecting on the release of Depths of Extinction: I started playing tactics games in the ‘90s with the X-COM franchise. It’s funny to think that I’ve had a long-running love for the genre for a couple of decades now. My favorite game at that time was Terror from the Deep. Depth of Extinction is essentially a spiritual remake of that game with a fresh take on the modern XCOM gameplay mechanics – including random encounters. Most games focus on creating threats to humanity like aliens, zombies, vampires or other monsters. Our game is grounded in something more realistic. The greatest threat to humanity is humanity itself. Our characters don't know what caused the fall or how we got to where we are, but we know that the root of the evil was humanity itself. Depth of Extinction is now available on 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
  6. HOF Studios, a small, four-person team based in Atlanta, has been working on Depth of Extinction for the past few years. Fueled by a nostalgia for classic '90s tactics titles like XCOM: UFO Defense and drawing from more modern strategy titles like XCOM 2 and FTL: Faster Than Light, HOF Studios has created a game that makes use of those familiar mechanics to tell a new, challenging tale that delves deep into the unknown depths of Earth's oceans. Depth of Extinction takes place thousands of years in the future. An apocalyptic event shrouded in mystery caused the sea level to rise drastically, plunging most of humanity into its freezing bottom. The remnants, known as the Creators, rebuilt society as best they could, before quietly fading from history. Their advanced technology still litters the planet, leaving great power open to plundering and abuse. The most stable civilization formed out of the ashes of the apocalypse is The Republic. Denizens of The Republic have long relied on Creator machines to live in the new world. However, those machines have begun to fail, leaving it vulnerable to high sea marauders and a rumored army of killer robots. To survive, The Republic needs to send out its bravest warriors to explore the unknown and discover solutions to its mounting problems. Of course, solving the issues facing The Republic will put players into violent conflict in the outside world. To that end, players can customize their soldiers from eight classes and outfit them with over a hundred different pieces of armor, weapons, and special items. Players will have to contend with random encounters with the ever present threat of permadeath looming over each and every action while they move through the . Mike Stumhofer, the founder and lead developer at HOF Studios, released a statement reflecting on the release of Depths of Extinction: I started playing tactics games in the ‘90s with the X-COM franchise. It’s funny to think that I’ve had a long-running love for the genre for a couple of decades now. My favorite game at that time was Terror from the Deep. Depth of Extinction is essentially a spiritual remake of that game with a fresh take on the modern XCOM gameplay mechanics – including random encounters. Most games focus on creating threats to humanity like aliens, zombies, vampires or other monsters. Our game is grounded in something more realistic. The greatest threat to humanity is humanity itself. Our characters don't know what caused the fall or how we got to where we are, but we know that the root of the evil was humanity itself. Depth of Extinction is now available on 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!
  7. 3Mind Games might not be a developer many have heard of before now, but that could change in the near future. The studio has just announced their first game titled The Protagonist, a narrative-oriented RPG that offers turn-based tactics and divergent story paths in an original sci-fi universe. The team at 3Mind describes the gameplay as a mix between XCOM and Divinity: Original Sin. If that's not enough to get your attention, I don't know what will. The Protagonist stars a galactic special agent who operates under the codename ANGEL. The military force of Terra has come into conflict with the KL-T, a mysterious fleet of robotic ships and soldiers. On a mission to infiltrate and destroy a major space station claimed by the invading KL-T, ANGEL finds herself knocked unconscious and awakens in the space station's infirmary at the heart of the space station with no memory of what has happened. With the station in full lockdown and hostiles around every corner, players have to decide how to escape from the heart of this imposing enemy stronghold while piecing together what happened. Along the way, players can recruit allies who may or may not be loyal to ANGEL's mission. How you treat party members and other NPCs can either benefit you in the long run or hinder your progress or unlock new routes and opportunities. Those who aren't attentive during conversations could be in for some nasty surprises. The Protagonist uses a combat system called Martial Arts Combat System (MACS). This system allows players to customize their hand-to-hand combat abilities. The customization is intended to be so deep that players will be able to create new combos and then share them online with other players. 3Mind Games formed out of development veterans from major studios in the industry like EA and Ubisoft. They're hoping to capture the spirit of Mass Effect inside an indie game package that could roll over into a long-running series. The first trailer for The Protagonist shows ANGEL in action alongside her companion RADICAL, an explosives specialist. The Protagonist will release for PC sometime in 2019. View full article
  8. 3Mind Games might not be a developer many have heard of before now, but that could change in the near future. The studio has just announced their first game titled The Protagonist, a narrative-oriented RPG that offers turn-based tactics and divergent story paths in an original sci-fi universe. The team at 3Mind describes the gameplay as a mix between XCOM and Divinity: Original Sin. If that's not enough to get your attention, I don't know what will. The Protagonist stars a galactic special agent who operates under the codename ANGEL. The military force of Terra has come into conflict with the KL-T, a mysterious fleet of robotic ships and soldiers. On a mission to infiltrate and destroy a major space station claimed by the invading KL-T, ANGEL finds herself knocked unconscious and awakens in the space station's infirmary at the heart of the space station with no memory of what has happened. With the station in full lockdown and hostiles around every corner, players have to decide how to escape from the heart of this imposing enemy stronghold while piecing together what happened. Along the way, players can recruit allies who may or may not be loyal to ANGEL's mission. How you treat party members and other NPCs can either benefit you in the long run or hinder your progress or unlock new routes and opportunities. Those who aren't attentive during conversations could be in for some nasty surprises. The Protagonist uses a combat system called Martial Arts Combat System (MACS). This system allows players to customize their hand-to-hand combat abilities. The customization is intended to be so deep that players will be able to create new combos and then share them online with other players. 3Mind Games formed out of development veterans from major studios in the industry like EA and Ubisoft. They're hoping to capture the spirit of Mass Effect inside an indie game package that could roll over into a long-running series. The first trailer for The Protagonist shows ANGEL in action alongside her companion RADICAL, an explosives specialist. The Protagonist will release for PC sometime in 2019.
  9. Harebrained Schemes, the studio behind the digital revival of Shadowrun as a turn-based strategy RPG, has returned, and this time they aim to revitalize mechanized turn-based strategy with Battletech. The company touts the project as "the first turn-based tactical mech combat PC game in over 20 years" which seems like a bit of a stretch, but Harebrained Schemes' track record with turn-based strategy is reason alone to get excited. Battletech casts players as the leader of a mercenary company that uses mechs to wage battles for whoever has money. Out on the edges of civilization, players will have to negotiate contracts for their crew, keep everyone alive, and also put a dethroned monarch back onto her galactic throne. Harebrained Schemes began working on Battletech after a successful Kickstarter raised well over its $250,000 goal to raise almost $2.8 million. The studio has a history of vastly successful crowdfunding campaigns, with each of the last four games finding additional funding on Kickstarter. The fact that backers have continued to support them over several releases indicates that they're incredibly good at pitching interesting game concepts and ultimately delivering satisfying experiences. Battletech will release on April 24 for PC. View full article
  10. Harebrained Schemes, the studio behind the digital revival of Shadowrun as a turn-based strategy RPG, has returned, and this time they aim to revitalize mechanized turn-based strategy with Battletech. The company touts the project as "the first turn-based tactical mech combat PC game in over 20 years" which seems like a bit of a stretch, but Harebrained Schemes' track record with turn-based strategy is reason alone to get excited. Battletech casts players as the leader of a mercenary company that uses mechs to wage battles for whoever has money. Out on the edges of civilization, players will have to negotiate contracts for their crew, keep everyone alive, and also put a dethroned monarch back onto her galactic throne. Harebrained Schemes began working on Battletech after a successful Kickstarter raised well over its $250,000 goal to raise almost $2.8 million. The studio has a history of vastly successful crowdfunding campaigns, with each of the last four games finding additional funding on Kickstarter. The fact that backers have continued to support them over several releases indicates that they're incredibly good at pitching interesting game concepts and ultimately delivering satisfying experiences. Battletech will release on April 24 for PC.
  11. Subset Games really knows how to design a solid game. FTL: Faster Than Light demonstrated that the team possesses the chops to create a game capable of sucking people in for dozens of hours with engaging strategy that often asks players to make tough decisions. Those tough decisions, the kind upon which hang life or death, form the central thesis of Into the Breach. Into the Breach takes place in a far flung future where Earth has flooded, reducing its landmass down to a handful of islands and unleashing the Vek, a collection of horrific kaiju from deep underground. Humanity created fleets of giant robots capable of fighting the Vek to defend the last cities on the planet, but it doesn't seem to be enough. Overwhelmed and on the brink of total annihilation, one last, desperate plan was conceived: Send one experienced mech pilot back through time armed with the knowledge to prevent humanity's doom and win the war against the Vek. The scenario, penned by Chris Avellone, the creative mind behind Baldur's Gate and Fallout: New Vegas, sets the stage for the roguelike elements of Into the Breach. When players manage to defeat the Vek, they are able to send a pilot of their choice to another timeline to continue the fight. Death, on the other hand, results in the last pilot to die engaging an emergency jump to a different timeline. That pilot brings all of the skills and experience they have acquired to the new timeline, giving future playthroughs an edge over the previous ones. It's a helpful feature, as players will need every tactical advantage they can get to make it through Into the Breach. While the decision making in FTL largely centered around preparing for battle, Into the Breach puts almost every decision into the turn-based tactics battles themselves. Each conflict with the kaiju takes five rounds. After those five rounds, the towering monstrosities retreat back into the dark depths from which they came. Players have two basic things to do during those precious few turns: Keep their mechs alive and prevent the kaiju from damaging cities. If a mech's health drops to zero, the pilot dies permanently. If a building takes damage, the power grid takes damage, too. Players lose the entire timeline if the power grid drops to zero hit points. These simple goals quickly become complicated by bonus objectives and map conditions. Each mission can grant reputation, which can be spent on various upgrades after completing an island, or power to replenish and reinforce the power grid's health and defenses. This leads to the player approaching each mission as potentially game-ending. Sure, perhaps using a rocket punch to kill that kaiju might accomplish an objective for reputation or save a friendly mech, but it will likely also damage the power grid bringing the timeline that much closer to failure. However, maybe that loss is worth it if you can get enough reputation to later purchase more power for the grid or maybe complete a bonus objective that provides more power. Each mech in the three machine team possesses different abilities that often do more than just straight damage. These abilities can push enemies, pull them, create a defensive shield, launch barriers, distribute damage in unique patterns, and much, much more. This leads to a delicate balancing act in battle, where every tool at the player's disposal must be employed to move enemies into positions where their attacks miss or hit one another in an effort to minimize damage to the power grid. One aspect unique to Into the Breach is that enemies move and prepare attacks before the player's turn. The game presents all information to players upfront. All attacks hit and do full damage. This allows players to sit back and plan their moves carefully while knowing what the outcome of their actions will be. Of course, that can lead players to make mistakes; something that can lead to absolute disaster in the space of a single turn. Subset included the option to reset a turn once per battle to give players some degree of leniency. While the tactical elements of Into the Breach outshine the competition, it stumbles when it comes to narrative. FTL: Faster Than Light allowed players to name their crews and contained numerous side stories and scenarios that tickled the imagination. Those decisions invested like a much larger game. Subset Games' sophomore outing ditches much of that. This leads Into the Breach to feel more sterile and empty with a world where the stakes aren't terribly dramatic. The cast of characters is composed of a handful of pilots and the four administrators of the remaining pockets of humanity. The pilots mostly speak in reaction to what's happening in battle with one-liners, remarking about how the battle went, or to give a final word to the player as they die. The administrators give comments at the close of every mission. None of that feels intimate; by the time the credits roll, the player does not know any of the characters beyond what stats they can give a mech. That's a shame, because one could imagine a version of Into the Breach where pilots have downtime together between battles to interact with one another and the administrators to show character development outside of their statistics. Chris Avellone is a great writer, one that I think excels at that kind of interaction, so the dearth of narrative outside of the overall scenario baffles me. Perhaps miscellaneous content wound up being cut to reduce development time or it created too much of a barrier between the player and the pitch-perfect strategy of the battles. Whatever the reason, the loss of that storytelling aspect hurts. Returning composer Ben Prunty hits a high note with his work in Into the Breach. The music manages to convey mood and tone quite effectively, adding an ever escalating sense of urgency without becoming too overbearing. Prunty strikes a balance that allows players to focus and plan while also encouraging decision-making with an encouraging forward momentum. It's great stuff to listen to if you want to make progress on a task and avoid distractions. Conclusion: Into the Breach combines the colossal conflicts of Godzilla and Pacific Rim with the turn-based tactics of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. However, the unique spin on the formula that sets it apart from its gaming brethren put it in a class all its own. Instead of killing, the systems in the game have players employing tactics that create Rube Goldberg-like chain reactions to save the civilians of a doomed world. The satisfaction at achieving a flawless victory or pulling through to the end and successfully defeating the Vek cannot really be overstated. Into the Breach stands as a high point in strategy gaming that should be pulled out in game design classrooms for years to come. That being said, it's hard not to see the possibility for it to have been more. The lack of a compelling narrative beyond the minute-to-minute gameplay experience feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps a future update or sequel could add something along those lines to bolster the perfect mechanics. If you have any regard for turn-based tactical games, Into the Breach is absolutely a must play game for you. Into the Breach is available now on PC. View full article
  12. Subset Games really knows how to design a solid game. FTL: Faster Than Light demonstrated that the team possesses the chops to create a game capable of sucking people in for dozens of hours with engaging strategy that often asks players to make tough decisions. Those tough decisions, the kind upon which hang life or death, form the central thesis of Into the Breach. Into the Breach takes place in a far flung future where Earth has flooded, reducing its landmass down to a handful of islands and unleashing the Vek, a collection of horrific kaiju from deep underground. Humanity created fleets of giant robots capable of fighting the Vek to defend the last cities on the planet, but it doesn't seem to be enough. Overwhelmed and on the brink of total annihilation, one last, desperate plan was conceived: Send one experienced mech pilot back through time armed with the knowledge to prevent humanity's doom and win the war against the Vek. The scenario, penned by Chris Avellone, the creative mind behind Baldur's Gate and Fallout: New Vegas, sets the stage for the roguelike elements of Into the Breach. When players manage to defeat the Vek, they are able to send a pilot of their choice to another timeline to continue the fight. Death, on the other hand, results in the last pilot to die engaging an emergency jump to a different timeline. That pilot brings all of the skills and experience they have acquired to the new timeline, giving future playthroughs an edge over the previous ones. It's a helpful feature, as players will need every tactical advantage they can get to make it through Into the Breach. While the decision making in FTL largely centered around preparing for battle, Into the Breach puts almost every decision into the turn-based tactics battles themselves. Each conflict with the kaiju takes five rounds. After those five rounds, the towering monstrosities retreat back into the dark depths from which they came. Players have two basic things to do during those precious few turns: Keep their mechs alive and prevent the kaiju from damaging cities. If a mech's health drops to zero, the pilot dies permanently. If a building takes damage, the power grid takes damage, too. Players lose the entire timeline if the power grid drops to zero hit points. These simple goals quickly become complicated by bonus objectives and map conditions. Each mission can grant reputation, which can be spent on various upgrades after completing an island, or power to replenish and reinforce the power grid's health and defenses. This leads to the player approaching each mission as potentially game-ending. Sure, perhaps using a rocket punch to kill that kaiju might accomplish an objective for reputation or save a friendly mech, but it will likely also damage the power grid bringing the timeline that much closer to failure. However, maybe that loss is worth it if you can get enough reputation to later purchase more power for the grid or maybe complete a bonus objective that provides more power. Each mech in the three machine team possesses different abilities that often do more than just straight damage. These abilities can push enemies, pull them, create a defensive shield, launch barriers, distribute damage in unique patterns, and much, much more. This leads to a delicate balancing act in battle, where every tool at the player's disposal must be employed to move enemies into positions where their attacks miss or hit one another in an effort to minimize damage to the power grid. One aspect unique to Into the Breach is that enemies move and prepare attacks before the player's turn. The game presents all information to players upfront. All attacks hit and do full damage. This allows players to sit back and plan their moves carefully while knowing what the outcome of their actions will be. Of course, that can lead players to make mistakes; something that can lead to absolute disaster in the space of a single turn. Subset included the option to reset a turn once per battle to give players some degree of leniency. While the tactical elements of Into the Breach outshine the competition, it stumbles when it comes to narrative. FTL: Faster Than Light allowed players to name their crews and contained numerous side stories and scenarios that tickled the imagination. Those decisions invested like a much larger game. Subset Games' sophomore outing ditches much of that. This leads Into the Breach to feel more sterile and empty with a world where the stakes aren't terribly dramatic. The cast of characters is composed of a handful of pilots and the four administrators of the remaining pockets of humanity. The pilots mostly speak in reaction to what's happening in battle with one-liners, remarking about how the battle went, or to give a final word to the player as they die. The administrators give comments at the close of every mission. None of that feels intimate; by the time the credits roll, the player does not know any of the characters beyond what stats they can give a mech. That's a shame, because one could imagine a version of Into the Breach where pilots have downtime together between battles to interact with one another and the administrators to show character development outside of their statistics. Chris Avellone is a great writer, one that I think excels at that kind of interaction, so the dearth of narrative outside of the overall scenario baffles me. Perhaps miscellaneous content wound up being cut to reduce development time or it created too much of a barrier between the player and the pitch-perfect strategy of the battles. Whatever the reason, the loss of that storytelling aspect hurts. Returning composer Ben Prunty hits a high note with his work in Into the Breach. The music manages to convey mood and tone quite effectively, adding an ever escalating sense of urgency without becoming too overbearing. Prunty strikes a balance that allows players to focus and plan while also encouraging decision-making with an encouraging forward momentum. It's great stuff to listen to if you want to make progress on a task and avoid distractions. Conclusion: Into the Breach combines the colossal conflicts of Godzilla and Pacific Rim with the turn-based tactics of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. However, the unique spin on the formula that sets it apart from its gaming brethren put it in a class all its own. Instead of killing, the systems in the game have players employing tactics that create Rube Goldberg-like chain reactions to save the civilians of a doomed world. The satisfaction at achieving a flawless victory or pulling through to the end and successfully defeating the Vek cannot really be overstated. Into the Breach stands as a high point in strategy gaming that should be pulled out in game design classrooms for years to come. That being said, it's hard not to see the possibility for it to have been more. The lack of a compelling narrative beyond the minute-to-minute gameplay experience feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps a future update or sequel could add something along those lines to bolster the perfect mechanics. If you have any regard for turn-based tactical games, Into the Breach is absolutely a must play game for you. Into the Breach is available now on PC.
  13. In 2014, Stoic Games released their Kickstarter indie darling The Banner Saga to massive success. Hailed as "The Oregon Trail, but with fighting and a Norse apocalypse," The Banner Saga went on to generate a sequel as well as a third installment that recently found success on Kickstarter. The high-stakes, turn-based RPG took players on a journey through a hand-painted world full of mystery and intrigue, where it felt like one wrong move could unravel tenuous alliances or get people killed. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Paladin's Quest 'Sleep, Beloved Child' by Archangel (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03557) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  14. In 2014, Stoic Games released their Kickstarter indie darling The Banner Saga to massive success. Hailed as "The Oregon Trail, but with fighting and a Norse apocalypse," The Banner Saga went on to generate a sequel as well as a third installment that recently found success on Kickstarter. The high-stakes, turn-based RPG took players on a journey through a hand-painted world full of mystery and intrigue, where it felt like one wrong move could unravel tenuous alliances or get people killed. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Paladin's Quest 'Sleep, Beloved Child' by Archangel (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03557) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  15. Most people know Dream Theater as a progressive metal band from the mid 80s that has released albums on and off for the past thirty years. While that would generally lead to a band fading into obscurity, Dream Theater does not go quietly into that good night. The band has partnered with Norwegian indie developer Turbo Tape Games to create a game based on their 2016 album The Astonishing. The game, titled The Astonishing Game, allows players to take part in the album's rock opera storyline, which delves into a conflict between artists and a totalitarian government. It features digital likenesses of the band members and various other musicians as they do battle with the machines of an empire to win over the general population. The turn-based strategy game allows players to choose to side with the musicians or the authoritarians. The game comes with a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode to challenge other Dream Theater fans (or those curious about what a Dream Theater game would be like). On top of that, players can be eligible to win prizes by playing The Astonishing Game. Those who play can win tickets to upcoming shows, backstage passes, signed merch, and more. The rules for winning prizes can be found on Turbo Tape Games' website. You can grab The Astonishing Game on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices. View full article
  16. Most people know Dream Theater as a progressive metal band from the mid 80s that has released albums on and off for the past thirty years. While that would generally lead to a band fading into obscurity, Dream Theater does not go quietly into that good night. The band has partnered with Norwegian indie developer Turbo Tape Games to create a game based on their 2016 album The Astonishing. The game, titled The Astonishing Game, allows players to take part in the album's rock opera storyline, which delves into a conflict between artists and a totalitarian government. It features digital likenesses of the band members and various other musicians as they do battle with the machines of an empire to win over the general population. The turn-based strategy game allows players to choose to side with the musicians or the authoritarians. The game comes with a single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode to challenge other Dream Theater fans (or those curious about what a Dream Theater game would be like). On top of that, players can be eligible to win prizes by playing The Astonishing Game. Those who play can win tickets to upcoming shows, backstage passes, signed merch, and more. The rules for winning prizes can be found on Turbo Tape Games' website. You can grab The Astonishing Game on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.
  17. Logic Artists' Expeditions: Viking finally has a release date. Announced early last year and expected to release before the end of 2016, Logic Artists pushed their tale of warring Viking clans back into 2017. The delay added almost 50% more content to the game, but also prolonged the time the game would need to spend in localization. The additional time also allowed the team to finely tune the gameplay and get the balance just right. “Expeditions: Viking features a branching dialogue system that allows the game to manage and react to player choices. We initially estimated a word count of 200,000, but we’ve decided to increase it by an additional 80,000 words to provide players with more content and give them more options and choices on how they progress through the story,” explained Expeditions: Viking producer Ali Emek, “with that amount of content, managing localization takes more time. We think it’s worth it to make the game accessible to an international audience. That’s why we’ve arranged a number of language localizations, so from day one players will be able to enjoy Expeditions: Viking in English, French, German, Polish, and Russian.” Viking follows up the Danish indie developer's debut title Expeditions: Conquistador. After creating a character, players take on the role of a new chieftain who must lead a small Norse village to glory. Players will need to balance dealing with the threats of neighboring clans plot with raiding or trading with a fractured England full of riches. A branching story allows for players to forge their own place in the history of Viking leaders. Combat takes place on a tactical grid where players command their troops, each of whom has access to special abilities. Positioning and creative use of abilities will be crucial for players to progress through Expeditions: Viking. The adversaries players will be facing on the battlefield also have their own special abilities, so players will need to be cautious and on their toes when facing down someone new. “We received great feedback from the testers after our last closed beta session, and rescheduling the release a bit is allowing us to spend our final weeks of development on improving usability and addressing the bugs reported during the beta test,” Emek added. Expeditions: Viking releases on April 27 for PC.
  18. Logic Artists' Expeditions: Viking finally has a release date. Announced early last year and expected to release before the end of 2016, Logic Artists pushed their tale of warring Viking clans back into 2017. The delay added almost 50% more content to the game, but also prolonged the time the game would need to spend in localization. The additional time also allowed the team to finely tune the gameplay and get the balance just right. “Expeditions: Viking features a branching dialogue system that allows the game to manage and react to player choices. We initially estimated a word count of 200,000, but we’ve decided to increase it by an additional 80,000 words to provide players with more content and give them more options and choices on how they progress through the story,” explained Expeditions: Viking producer Ali Emek, “with that amount of content, managing localization takes more time. We think it’s worth it to make the game accessible to an international audience. That’s why we’ve arranged a number of language localizations, so from day one players will be able to enjoy Expeditions: Viking in English, French, German, Polish, and Russian.” Viking follows up the Danish indie developer's debut title Expeditions: Conquistador. After creating a character, players take on the role of a new chieftain who must lead a small Norse village to glory. Players will need to balance dealing with the threats of neighboring clans plot with raiding or trading with a fractured England full of riches. A branching story allows for players to forge their own place in the history of Viking leaders. Combat takes place on a tactical grid where players command their troops, each of whom has access to special abilities. Positioning and creative use of abilities will be crucial for players to progress through Expeditions: Viking. The adversaries players will be facing on the battlefield also have their own special abilities, so players will need to be cautious and on their toes when facing down someone new. “We received great feedback from the testers after our last closed beta session, and rescheduling the release a bit is allowing us to spend our final weeks of development on improving usability and addressing the bugs reported during the beta test,” Emek added. Expeditions: Viking releases on April 27 for PC. View full article
  19. A small, independent game released on Windows PC back in 2012. It was the indiest of indies, a title developed largely by one person using RPG Maker software. Many people outside the RPG Maker development community would never hear of Star Stealing Prince, but the community itself showered it with praise and awards. Years later, Ronove's independent game stands tall among larger turn-based RPGs with gorgeous art, an engaging combat system, and a captivating, unique story. Buckle in and listen to why you should check out a largely unknown, free, indie RPG. You can download Star Stealing Prince for free from its Wordpress site. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Wild Arms 'Godspeed' by audio fidelity and Theophany (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02351) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes (consider leaving a review!). A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  20. A small, independent game released on Windows PC back in 2012. It was the indiest of indies, a title developed largely by one person using RPG Maker software. Many people outside the RPG Maker development community would never hear of Star Stealing Prince, but the community itself showered it with praise and awards. Years later, Ronove's independent game stands tall among larger turn-based RPGs with gorgeous art, an engaging combat system, and a captivating, unique story. Buckle in and listen to why you should check out a largely unknown, free, indie RPG. You can download Star Stealing Prince for free from its Wordpress site. With schedules being what they are, sometimes coordinating a full episode of The Best Games Period can be difficult. When we can't have a proper discussion, we will be breaking off to do these shorter mini-casts, Honorable Mentions, to talk about fringe games that we might not otherwise be able to talk about on a full episode. Outro music: Wild Arms 'Godspeed' by audio fidelity and Theophany (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02351) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes (consider leaving a review!). A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  21. Edmund McMillen has revealed his next project to follow his smash indie hit, The Binding of Isaac. The next game will be called The Legend of Bum-Bo and McMillan describes it as a "turn-based puzzle RPG type thingy that's randomly generated." McMillen teased the new project on The Binding of Isaac blog and hinted that the two games might be connected. "But why is this on the Isaac blog!?" McMillan writes, "What does this have to do with Isaac!? When Isaac!? Isaac? Isaac! Why!? Well, I'm sure those questions will be answered in the coming months once we tease a bit more." McMillen will be working on The Legend of Bum-Bo along with programmer James Id and the two person audio team at Ridiculon. McMillen himself will be handling the writing, design, 2D art, and character design. It seems that this announcement comes with the sad news that Team Meat's previously announced game, Mew-Genics, a game about genetically altering cats, is now on hold indefinitely. The fate of McMillen's mobile game Super Meat Boy Forever and the possibility of a Super Meat Boy 2 are also up in the air, though not definitely on hold or cancelled. View full article
  22. Edmund McMillen has revealed his next project to follow his smash indie hit, The Binding of Isaac. The next game will be called The Legend of Bum-Bo and McMillan describes it as a "turn-based puzzle RPG type thingy that's randomly generated." McMillen teased the new project on The Binding of Isaac blog and hinted that the two games might be connected. "But why is this on the Isaac blog!?" McMillan writes, "What does this have to do with Isaac!? When Isaac!? Isaac? Isaac! Why!? Well, I'm sure those questions will be answered in the coming months once we tease a bit more." McMillen will be working on The Legend of Bum-Bo along with programmer James Id and the two person audio team at Ridiculon. McMillen himself will be handling the writing, design, 2D art, and character design. It seems that this announcement comes with the sad news that Team Meat's previously announced game, Mew-Genics, a game about genetically altering cats, is now on hold indefinitely. The fate of McMillen's mobile game Super Meat Boy Forever and the possibility of a Super Meat Boy 2 are also up in the air, though not definitely on hold or cancelled.
  23. All sequels dream of improving and expanding on the success of their predecessor. XCOM 2 manages to accomplish that goal by upping its production quality across the board. The drastically improved visuals stun with a frankly impressive level of detail. Locations, items, skill progression, everything has been either created entirely new or reworked into a slightly different, though recognizable, form. A relatively engaging narrative with some depth and pathos I simply wasn't expecting goes beyond “fight the bad aliens." Simply put, XCOM 2 feels like a big step in an exciting direction, setting the bar of excellence for all future additions to the series while also stumbling slightly on technical glitches. XCOM 2 begins with the assumption that the player failed to stop the alien invasion in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Twenty years after the fall of Earth, the alien forces have coalesced into a worldwide government known as ADVENT, an organization that goes to great lengths to appear benign, but something sinister stirs beneath the smiles they broadcast to the world. A scattered resistance movement has been agitating around the globe, chaffing under the alien’s rule. Spearheading that resistance, remnants of the XCOM project undertake a desperate mission to seize a critical alien asset…. It’s a good hook and a compelling scenario. Most interestingly, XCOM 2 eventually draws the player into the game world as an additional character. The cast of characters in XCOM 2 feels much more alive this time around. As players go about tasks like deciding what to research, optimizing squad equipment, or building new facilities within the alien ship that serves as a central base, characters like Central Officer Bradford, head engineer An-Yi Shen, and Dr. Tygan will share stories or gossip with both the player and each other in the base. It gives off a vibe reminiscent of the interactions from StarCraft II. XCOM 2 goes a long ways toward improving on Enemy Unknowns imperfections. A small change like introducing a trimmed down version of base-building that makes new expansions to your hideout feel more meaningful goes a long ways toward cultivating an enjoyable experience. Gone are the days when an allied nation panicked due to a lack of satellite coverage only to back out of the XCOM project permanently. Instead, a new system for maintaining a monthly income rears its head, requiring the player to merely contact resistance forces in a given area and complete any random missions that might arise in that area. Ignoring missions could lead to those areas being lost and having to spend precious time and resources to regain them again. Instead of satellites, players can build radio towers to lower the cost of contacting additional nearby pockets of the resistance. This eliminates a lot of the frustration the metagame caused in Enemy Unknown, while maintaining the element of choice that makes each attempt to complete an XCOM campaign unique. Firaxis really outdid themselves upping the all around visual presentation of XCOM 2. The level of detail really impresses. Small objects litter combat areas, adding to the sense that these are lived in space. In a shootout with ADVENT forces in a junk yard, small knickknacks and debris would go flying in reaction to gunfire or explosions. A guitar was clearly visible on the ground at one point. During one of the combat animations, the camera actually zoomed in so far to a cafe table that I was able to see a recently abandoned cup of coffee and an accompanying doughnut covered in sprinkles. Little touches like that are instrumental in giving an air of quality to XCOM 2; people clearly spent a lot of love and effort crafting it. No one puts doughnuts that few people will ever likely see into a game without caring about their work. New skill trees for class progressions really work to make classes that feel distinct and fun. Do you want a stealthy ranger or a ranger that can become a death-dealing hurricane? Would you prefer a grenadier who can make anything and everything explode or one that can shred through armor and enemies alike? The specialists all have drones that can be fitted for healing or combat tasks. Perhaps you want a sharpshooter to snipe enemies from afar or be a pistol-wielding nightmare. Maybe you throw all of those classes out the window and heavily invest in training psi operatives to unleash powerful psychic abilities on unwitting alien forces. All of these approaches can be experimented with heavily; mixing and matching abilities to fine tune soldiers so that they can overcome any challenge feels incredibly satisfying. Even more so, perhaps, because those ranks are earned in combat which always carries risk of permadeath. One of the larger gripes that people had about XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it launched in 2012 was its small pool of maps for random encounters. Firaxis clearly went out of their way to address this problem bringing a larger number of maps to XCOM 2. After 50 hours, I am sure I repeated a couple of the battlefields, but the randomized start locations mesh really nicely with the finely crafted combat spaces. I never had the thought of, “oh great, this place again,” while playing XCOM 2, which is surely an improvement over the 2012 franchise reboot. Firaxis also introduces never-before-seen enemies alongside revamped foes from Enemy Unknown, new items, and a commitment to destructible environments. Few things are more distressing than being caught in an ambush when one of the overhauled sectopods simply walks through a building and begins decimating your squad’s fresh recruits. Building more systems to facilitate environmental destruction really expands the tactical choices available to players. Don’t want to deal with an ADVENT officer who has taken up a defensive position on the second floor of an office building? Throw a grenade/shoot a rocket/use a special cover destroying ability and blow the floor out from under it, which causes it to take additional damage from the fall and potentially deprives it of cover. Of course, the aliens are equally capable of taking advantage of environment destruction, so players need to stay on their toes to avoid a total party wipe. All of these changes really help to give XCOM 2 an identity that feels distinct from its predecessor while maintaining the core gameplay that makes XCOM one of the staples of modern turn-based strategy. Perhaps its biggest accomplishment, XCOM 2 embraces the character personalization that arguably made 2012’s Enemy Unknown such an explosive hit. The randomizer that generates soldiers does a fantastic job of creating unique soldiers, each with their own backstories that brought them to be a part of the human resistance movement. You can spend hours agonizing over creating the coolest soldiers or inserting loved ones into the game. However, even without recreating friends and family to bring personal connections into the game, players will slowly develop a sense of who each of these characters are. The near suicidal Kellen “Smokey” Moore who stubbornly refused to die while pinned down by a colossal sectopod and three plasma-toting mutons; the whirlwind of destruction that was Jane “Cobra” Kelly who singlehandedly took down an entire defensive position of alien troops with only her machete; Jaqueline “Buzzsaw” Simon who truly earned her name in the final mission by taking down two charging berserkers to protect a gravely wounded comrade; or Kiriko “Priestess” Hasegawa who consistently beat the odds and hacked robotic defenses and soldiers to give her squad the winning edge they needed – I’ll remember these characters for more than the mere mechanical advantages they provided. We made memories together. I spent over 50 hours playing through one campaign of XCOM 2 and some of those soldiers were with me from the very beginning. Some potent bonding goes on when those characters live or die based on the quality of your tactical choices. Despite the triumph of XCOM 2, technical issues mar the otherwise amazing experience. The framerate can sometimes dip unexpectedly for seemingly no reason. Certain enemies can at times become invisible on the battlefield. Once or twice I had a character fall multiple from a higher elevation and become stuck in a piece of the environment. However, the biggest issue of all was the time many of my saves became corrupted and unplayable; crashing to the desktop every time they were loaded. No one wants to be forced to start a new game after investing nearly 40 hours into an experience. Randomly corrupting saves are a huge deal for a game that spans 50 hours for one campaign. Luckily, I was able to find an functional save file and continue with only a several hours of lost time. I’m sure Firaxis has been scrambling to fix these issues, but it might have been better to delay the game a bit further in order to fix some of these glaring technical hiccups before releasing it to the public. Conclusion: XCOM 2 is a strategic dream come true, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for waiting on it for a few weeks to give Firaxis time to sort out a patch or two for the most grievous glitches. Despite the struggles of modern development schedules cutting down on QA testing time, XCOM 2 delivers a really rich and rewarding experience that improves on Enemy Unknown in pretty nearly all respects. The emergent narratives crafted through commanding a resistance movement stand alongside set piece missions that shake up the standard objectives with really challenging scenarios. The standout for me involves the entirety of the XCOM barracks taking to the battlefield to fight for survival. I haven’t even mentioned the three mods crafted by Long War Studios, the team behind Enemy Unknown’s Long War mod, that were available at XCOM 2’s launch. They add SMGs, a new alien type, and an entire skill tree that allows soldiers to train as leaders, conferring squad bonuses and abilities. They are all excellent and bettered my core experience. Play XCOM 2 right now if you are a strategy fiend and you are jonesing for your next strategy fix, but for those with more self-control hold off for a few more weeks until the technical stuff finishes being ironed out. XCOM 2 is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. View full article
  24. Jack Gardner

    Review: XCOM 2

    All sequels dream of improving and expanding on the success of their predecessor. XCOM 2 manages to accomplish that goal by upping its production quality across the board. The drastically improved visuals stun with a frankly impressive level of detail. Locations, items, skill progression, everything has been either created entirely new or reworked into a slightly different, though recognizable, form. A relatively engaging narrative with some depth and pathos I simply wasn't expecting goes beyond “fight the bad aliens." Simply put, XCOM 2 feels like a big step in an exciting direction, setting the bar of excellence for all future additions to the series while also stumbling slightly on technical glitches. XCOM 2 begins with the assumption that the player failed to stop the alien invasion in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Twenty years after the fall of Earth, the alien forces have coalesced into a worldwide government known as ADVENT, an organization that goes to great lengths to appear benign, but something sinister stirs beneath the smiles they broadcast to the world. A scattered resistance movement has been agitating around the globe, chaffing under the alien’s rule. Spearheading that resistance, remnants of the XCOM project undertake a desperate mission to seize a critical alien asset…. It’s a good hook and a compelling scenario. Most interestingly, XCOM 2 eventually draws the player into the game world as an additional character. The cast of characters in XCOM 2 feels much more alive this time around. As players go about tasks like deciding what to research, optimizing squad equipment, or building new facilities within the alien ship that serves as a central base, characters like Central Officer Bradford, head engineer An-Yi Shen, and Dr. Tygan will share stories or gossip with both the player and each other in the base. It gives off a vibe reminiscent of the interactions from StarCraft II. XCOM 2 goes a long ways toward improving on Enemy Unknowns imperfections. A small change like introducing a trimmed down version of base-building that makes new expansions to your hideout feel more meaningful goes a long ways toward cultivating an enjoyable experience. Gone are the days when an allied nation panicked due to a lack of satellite coverage only to back out of the XCOM project permanently. Instead, a new system for maintaining a monthly income rears its head, requiring the player to merely contact resistance forces in a given area and complete any random missions that might arise in that area. Ignoring missions could lead to those areas being lost and having to spend precious time and resources to regain them again. Instead of satellites, players can build radio towers to lower the cost of contacting additional nearby pockets of the resistance. This eliminates a lot of the frustration the metagame caused in Enemy Unknown, while maintaining the element of choice that makes each attempt to complete an XCOM campaign unique. Firaxis really outdid themselves upping the all around visual presentation of XCOM 2. The level of detail really impresses. Small objects litter combat areas, adding to the sense that these are lived in space. In a shootout with ADVENT forces in a junk yard, small knickknacks and debris would go flying in reaction to gunfire or explosions. A guitar was clearly visible on the ground at one point. During one of the combat animations, the camera actually zoomed in so far to a cafe table that I was able to see a recently abandoned cup of coffee and an accompanying doughnut covered in sprinkles. Little touches like that are instrumental in giving an air of quality to XCOM 2; people clearly spent a lot of love and effort crafting it. No one puts doughnuts that few people will ever likely see into a game without caring about their work. New skill trees for class progressions really work to make classes that feel distinct and fun. Do you want a stealthy ranger or a ranger that can become a death-dealing hurricane? Would you prefer a grenadier who can make anything and everything explode or one that can shred through armor and enemies alike? The specialists all have drones that can be fitted for healing or combat tasks. Perhaps you want a sharpshooter to snipe enemies from afar or be a pistol-wielding nightmare. Maybe you throw all of those classes out the window and heavily invest in training psi operatives to unleash powerful psychic abilities on unwitting alien forces. All of these approaches can be experimented with heavily; mixing and matching abilities to fine tune soldiers so that they can overcome any challenge feels incredibly satisfying. Even more so, perhaps, because those ranks are earned in combat which always carries risk of permadeath. One of the larger gripes that people had about XCOM: Enemy Unknown when it launched in 2012 was its small pool of maps for random encounters. Firaxis clearly went out of their way to address this problem bringing a larger number of maps to XCOM 2. After 50 hours, I am sure I repeated a couple of the battlefields, but the randomized start locations mesh really nicely with the finely crafted combat spaces. I never had the thought of, “oh great, this place again,” while playing XCOM 2, which is surely an improvement over the 2012 franchise reboot. Firaxis also introduces never-before-seen enemies alongside revamped foes from Enemy Unknown, new items, and a commitment to destructible environments. Few things are more distressing than being caught in an ambush when one of the overhauled sectopods simply walks through a building and begins decimating your squad’s fresh recruits. Building more systems to facilitate environmental destruction really expands the tactical choices available to players. Don’t want to deal with an ADVENT officer who has taken up a defensive position on the second floor of an office building? Throw a grenade/shoot a rocket/use a special cover destroying ability and blow the floor out from under it, which causes it to take additional damage from the fall and potentially deprives it of cover. Of course, the aliens are equally capable of taking advantage of environment destruction, so players need to stay on their toes to avoid a total party wipe. All of these changes really help to give XCOM 2 an identity that feels distinct from its predecessor while maintaining the core gameplay that makes XCOM one of the staples of modern turn-based strategy. Perhaps its biggest accomplishment, XCOM 2 embraces the character personalization that arguably made 2012’s Enemy Unknown such an explosive hit. The randomizer that generates soldiers does a fantastic job of creating unique soldiers, each with their own backstories that brought them to be a part of the human resistance movement. You can spend hours agonizing over creating the coolest soldiers or inserting loved ones into the game. However, even without recreating friends and family to bring personal connections into the game, players will slowly develop a sense of who each of these characters are. The near suicidal Kellen “Smokey” Moore who stubbornly refused to die while pinned down by a colossal sectopod and three plasma-toting mutons; the whirlwind of destruction that was Jane “Cobra” Kelly who singlehandedly took down an entire defensive position of alien troops with only her machete; Jaqueline “Buzzsaw” Simon who truly earned her name in the final mission by taking down two charging berserkers to protect a gravely wounded comrade; or Kiriko “Priestess” Hasegawa who consistently beat the odds and hacked robotic defenses and soldiers to give her squad the winning edge they needed – I’ll remember these characters for more than the mere mechanical advantages they provided. We made memories together. I spent over 50 hours playing through one campaign of XCOM 2 and some of those soldiers were with me from the very beginning. Some potent bonding goes on when those characters live or die based on the quality of your tactical choices. Despite the triumph of XCOM 2, technical issues mar the otherwise amazing experience. The framerate can sometimes dip unexpectedly for seemingly no reason. Certain enemies can at times become invisible on the battlefield. Once or twice I had a character fall multiple from a higher elevation and become stuck in a piece of the environment. However, the biggest issue of all was the time many of my saves became corrupted and unplayable; crashing to the desktop every time they were loaded. No one wants to be forced to start a new game after investing nearly 40 hours into an experience. Randomly corrupting saves are a huge deal for a game that spans 50 hours for one campaign. Luckily, I was able to find an functional save file and continue with only a several hours of lost time. I’m sure Firaxis has been scrambling to fix these issues, but it might have been better to delay the game a bit further in order to fix some of these glaring technical hiccups before releasing it to the public. Conclusion: XCOM 2 is a strategic dream come true, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for waiting on it for a few weeks to give Firaxis time to sort out a patch or two for the most grievous glitches. Despite the struggles of modern development schedules cutting down on QA testing time, XCOM 2 delivers a really rich and rewarding experience that improves on Enemy Unknown in pretty nearly all respects. The emergent narratives crafted through commanding a resistance movement stand alongside set piece missions that shake up the standard objectives with really challenging scenarios. The standout for me involves the entirety of the XCOM barracks taking to the battlefield to fight for survival. I haven’t even mentioned the three mods crafted by Long War Studios, the team behind Enemy Unknown’s Long War mod, that were available at XCOM 2’s launch. They add SMGs, a new alien type, and an entire skill tree that allows soldiers to train as leaders, conferring squad bonuses and abilities. They are all excellent and bettered my core experience. Play XCOM 2 right now if you are a strategy fiend and you are jonesing for your next strategy fix, but for those with more self-control hold off for a few more weeks until the technical stuff finishes being ironed out. XCOM 2 is available now for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  25. Developer Harebrained Schemes walked away from their completed Kickstarter today with the support of over 30,000 people and $1,204,726. With that kind of cash on hand, here's hoping they don't attract any less than scrupulous runners! Toward the beginning of this year, the minds behind Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall launched their Kickstarter campaign for Shadowrun: Hong Kong, a turn-based tactical RPG in the same vein as its predecessors. Set in a setting where cyberpunk meets high fantasy, Shadowrun: Hong Kong will focus on the the criminal undercurrents of a dystopian Hong Kong full of neon lights, scheming corporations, and the runners who risk their lives to make a living. Not only did Harebrained Schemes reach their initial Kickstarter goal, they raised a little over welve times what they originally asked for from backers, allowing for a greatly extended list of features. These features include: Enhanced player controls Animatic scene transitions An additional character: Racter, a robotics expert who manipulates an advanced combat drone. More animatic endings A side mission for Gobbet, an Ork shaman who adheres to the path of Rat. Better sound Another additional character: Gaichu, a former red samurai and master swordsman. Enhanced cyber abilities A side mission for your dwarf hacker companion, Is0bel. Expanded magic system A side mission for Gaichu A revamp of the virtual world with which hackers interface. An additional 4-5 hour long mini-campaign as a follow-up to the core campaign. Even with all of these additional features, Shadowrun: Hong Kong is reportedly on track for a mid-2015 release, with an expected release date sometime in August. Congratulations to the team at Harebrained Schemes. I thoroughly enjoyed both Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Dragonfall. Here's hoping that they can keep the magic alive for the third time around!
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