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Dead Cells – Multiplatform Review

Scaling Rougelite mountain, one cell at a time

Ed Mcmillen has been a hero to me since the release of Super Meat Boy. His follow-up, The Binding of Issac, is easily in my top ten most played games over the past decade and I greatly admire his cutesy-gore aesthetic. It’s is such a well crafted game and has layers upon layers of content that slowly reveal themselves at an almost perfect pace. I poured hundreds, if not, thousands of hours into it through it’s various incarnations. Hell, bought it on every system I owned that it was available on. It was hands down my favorite rougelite for years. “Was” being the key word in that sentence. Dead Cells, in all it’s parts, is expertly executed. From the combat to the ever growing number of weapons and skill unlocks it strikes the perfect balance of the grind for knowledge and forward progression.

Isaac has been king of the roguelite castle for years, and in no way is this meant as a slight to the game. I think Ed is ready for the world to move on and the gaming community is hungry for the next big thing. There have been an absolute avalanche of games that have tried to recreate the craze that Isaac started but most have fallen just short in one way or another. Games like Nuclear Throne and Enter the Gungeon seemed like the next logical step, but on May 10th of last year Motion Twin’s Dead Cells hit Steam Early access and started its road to full release. More importantly, it started it’s climb to the top of rougelite mountain. Between then and now the game has changed drastically: Mechanics from early builds have been completely altered. More than a fair share at the request of the community. The weapon and perk selections have grown dramatically and, thanks to Motion Twin’s dedication to making Dead Cells truly great, a fantastic community has built itself around the game. 

Combat Savvy

The core of the Dead Cells experience lives in it’s combat and weapons systems. Combat is Fast, Fluid, and surprisingly tactical. As you play through the game you’ll pick up blueprints for a bevy of weapons, items, and perks that you can unlock using cells dropped from all the enemies you will inevitably slaughter. The combination of swords, shields, bows, skills, perks and other gadgets feels almost endless. You have four slots to fill, two of which can be filled with either a melee weapon, ranged weapon, or shield. The other two are where your skills go. Each run will have you balancing new strategies depending on what weapons and skills drop and what perks you choose. These weapons, items, and perks are broken down into three, conveniently color-coded, combat styles: Brutality, Tactical, and Survival. The three styles tie into perks by giving you passive buffs like  “Killing an enemy gives you X health” or “Shortens the cooldown on your skills by X%.” Building up any of these three styles with whatever power-ups you get is just one part of a larger synergistic combat system.

Every item you pick up has a chance to have an “Affix.”  This system helps keeping runs from feeling too similar. In a single run you could pick up two Ice Grenades and depending on the Affixed they have they could handle completely differently. These range from just additional damage to things like “Does 125% damage against a bleeding target” or “Enemies killed with this weapon explode into a cloud of poison gas.”  Using these affixes to build synergies is not only key in succeeding in Dead Cells but maliciously fun. Curating a build well can lead to some absolutely vicious combinations.

Once you’re savvy enough to what the game has to offer, and if RNGsus is on your side, you could end up in a situation like the following: A group of enemies are in front of you. In your main weapon slot you have a sword that does 100% damage against a burning target. In your secondary slot you have Firebrands. In your first skill slot you have Oil grenades and in your second Skill slot you have a Deployable turret that causes its victims to drop a swarm of bitters. You open the salvo by throwing your Oil Grenade, this douses anybody unlucky enough to be in the blast radius with a Flammable oil that enhances the effects of any fire weapon. After they’re drenched in oil you throw the fire brand and it lights up the ground and any enemy in the immediate area. The enemies covered in oil take extra damage from the fire. They are roasting up real good. You deploy your turret and then move in to attack with your sword. Every swing is eviscerating any foe that happens to be covered in flames, as they die a swarm of bitters crawls out of their corpse thanks to the turret you put down. The bitters help with taking on the rest of the hoard. Before long, everything is dead and you’re left standing. A scenario like this is the norm in Dead Cells and this is just one example of the synergistic possibilities. The minute-to-minute gameplay is non-stop action.

Nothing Rogue… Like it.

Dead Cells, much like the aforementioned Binding of Isaac, is a game that reveals its layers to the player over time. Though this is a quality of almost all rougelites, not many pull it off as gracefully as Motion Twin did here. While It can be absolutely devastating losing a good run, your knowledge of new enemies, areas, and paths constantly lead to new possibilities. You learn and move on.  Dead Cells never feels unfair in that quest for knowledge. Death is seldom a symptom of the game working against you. It gives you all the tools to succeed and looks at you to execute to the best of your abilities.

As you progress through the game you’ll find Runes scattered about the world. These runes open up new, sometimes, faster paths through the game. What’s more interesting is that opportunities to use runes that you’ve yet to unlock present themselves in almost every area of the game. So in addition to unlocking whole new areas, the runes also allow players to access even more parts of existing areas. These offshoots usually contain extra weapons or power-ups that would have been otherwise inaccessible and can sometimes help a ton at the beginning of a run.

You sure do have a pretty…. Background.

If I had any friends that thought pixel art couldn’t be gorgeous, I would very likely show them Dead Cells as an example. Multi-Layered backgrounds haven’t looked this good since parallax scrolling was invented.

Alright, maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but seriously, Dead Cells is easy on the eyes. For the amount of carnage that can be happening on screen at any minute, everything is easily defined and readable. Every weapon or enemy attack animation is fluid and incredibly well designed. You can really see and feel the weightless slash of the Balanced Blade vs the slow brutal smash of The Nutcracker.  Despite it being randomly generated, Dead Cells’ levels can often feel hand crafted. You’d be hard pressed to find something in the genre that even comes close to handling level design this well. No two areas feel the same. The Toxic sewers feel oddly claustrophobic. They’re a maze of pipes and paths. The Clock Tower feels daunting and insurmountably lofty. It’s really remarkable that Motion twin was able to pump this much character into each section of the game and you can clearly see the care they took in building Dead Cells. 

 

The Verdict

Dead Cells is a metroidvania at heart but even a single playthrough will reveal that it is so much more than that. Motion Twin took such care in crafting every aspect of the game that the end product is truly something special. The combat is brutally beautiful, the art and level design in each area can at times be awe inspiring, the sheer number of combat possibilities seems infinite, and the soundtrack fills the game with an energy that few fail to capture. If you haven’t checked out Dead Cells yet, I highly suggest you do. It is a unique experience in more ways than one and will keep you coming back for more after every run. I can’t wait to see what Motion Twin does next.

Dead Cells was purchased by the reviewer and 100% promises that he didn’t plagiarize this from anywhere.

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PC Previews Previews

Pixel Noir – Beta Hands-On Impressions

The Dick Tracey Game We Deserve

I didn’t know a thing about Pixel Noir or developer SWDTech Games before hopping into this preview beta. I wasn’t particularly sure what to expect, I’m not a huge fan of JRPGs. I’ve never had the patience for them really.  But, I came away from my short time with the game thinking that Pixel Noir might be a must-buy when it finally does release. It does so much right with its aesthetic and presentation that it’s hard to put down. There’s always something to do, a case to crack, or some dumpster coffee to find that keep things interesting. I always wanted to see what was around the corner. SWDTech Games has put together a really cool, slick, and surprisingly dark world that I think will strike the nerve of quite a few gamers.

Pixel Noir is a kickstarted game that doubled its initial goal. After listening to the developers Kunal Majmudar and Len Stuart as guests on Nintendo Duel Screens, I knew I just had to give this game a shot and see what it was all about. Now…I’m not gonna walk through the beta from open to close or give you detailed descriptions of every interaction I had in the world of Pixel Noir; I’d rather you experience it for yourself at some point. Instead, I’m going to give you a few of my negative and positive takeaways from my short time with the game.

Get Sucked Into a World Noir

The first thing that stood out to me about Pixel Noir was the artstyle. That gritty, smokey noir feel isn’t something I would normally associate with pixel art but SWDTech Games has really knocked it out of the park. They did a great job encapsulating the grime of a crime ridden city being illuminated by neon lights; The subtle constant fear that comes along with dimly lit city docks and back alleys. The character portraits and dialog are full of character. I felt this mixture of Frank Miller’s Sin City with some deranged demonic pulses of the first few Max Payne titles. Between the comic throwbacks and other-worldly manifestations are some more lighthearted comedic nods  that had me chuckle out loud a few more times that I’d have expected from such a dark title.

The first time I went into the game’s “detective” mode to search my surroundings was a particular highlight. There’s this fuzzy graying effect that’s coupled with a booming silence and it really nails the insane ticks of a detective’s attention to detail. It makes you feel like you’re on the cusp of a mental breakdown while you’re searching for clues. This level of dedication to art seems to permeate through out the entirety of Pixel Noir. 

New Dog, Old UI

One thing that’s always bugged me about traditional style JRPGs were how endless and unorganized all the menus seem. Unfortunately Pixel Noir could use some tweaking in this respect. Items are kind of just all shoved together in a list that eventually went far past what was visible on screen. Searching through this kind of a list for a specific Item can be a chore. There’s zero organization. Your main and side quests suffer a similar fate. They’re shoved into your “Cases” menu in the order that you pick them up. This sub-menu can fill up rather quickly and get a bit overwhelming.

I feel like this information overload is more a symptom of the genre as a whole than of Pixel Noir itself. Luckily, Pixel Noir is in early access and has more than enough time to make changes.  I’d love to see some kid of “Sort By” Feature added or some kid of sub menu for different item types and a way to sort quests.    

Jammin’ out in Crime Alley

The music in the game is a total standout. If you like bit chip  or the sweet nostalgic tones of the NES and SNES  in general this soundtrack will be right up your….Alley. Composer Kunal Majmudar nails the feel of the era Pixel Noir takes inspiration from and wedges it perfectly into a noir frame. I was bobbing my head along to all the battle music and the other area specific tracks; So much that I ended up listening to the, hopefully unfinished, soundtrack on a pretty regular basis the weeks after I played Pixel Noir. It can’t be understated how much this adds to the overall feel of the game. It cashes the check the visuals signed.  Hell, it even won an award for audio at MAGfest 2017.

The Cannery Theme and The Ballad of Vance Royale are particular favorites. I’m looking forward to listening to whatever other music comes out of the final product. If it’s anywhere near as good as what I’ve already heard I’ll be rocking it pretty regularly.

Final Thoughts

As I stated at the outset of this preview, I’m not huge into JRPGs. Call me a blasphemer but they’ve never really been my thing. Pixel Noir does a great job of giving me a reason to play a genre I’ve often found to be boring and not very engaging. Don’t get me wrong, Pixel Noir does retain some of the turn-based tropes of JRPGs. It’s just that the rest of the game is so well put together that I’m willing to deal with the tedium of traditional turn-based gameplay.  The balance that it finds between investigation, exploration, and combat make for impressive for a first outing for SWDtech. The more I play the more positive I am that almost anyone will find something to love about Pixel Noir.  I’m amped to see what more they add to the game by the time it hits full release later this year.

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PC PC News PC Reviews Reviews

Into the Breach – Review

Human civilization is at its breaking point. Gigantic insectoid creatures known only as the Vek are on the verge of global domination. The only defence that humanity has left is a squad of powerful time-traveling mechs who’ve set out to eradicate the Vek and save the world. Sounds like a bad B-movie right? That’s because it totally could be the back-of-the-box description for any number of terrible Straight to VHS Sci-Fi movies you used to find at your local video store(YEAH I SAID VHS, I’M OLD!)

That’s all part of the charm of Subset Games’ Into the Breach. It’s equal parts Mystery Science Theater, X-com, and Chess. It blends these all together into a one of a kind silly, deceptively brutal, ingeniously tactical game. This Sci-fi rougelike had more than enough tricks up its sleeves to pull me in and keep me hooked.

At the outset of each run you’ll choose a squad of three mechs, one pilot, and one of four islands to start on. After completing at least two islands you’ll be able to access a 5th, final island. You can either try to tackle the final island at that point, beating the game, or continue your path clearing the remaining two islands. Completing more islands allows you to become more powerful but comes with the caveat that enemies will scale with you. While playing you’ll acquire coins by satisfying certain conditions specific to each squad that will be used to eventually unlock new pre-built squads of mechs.  After unlocking your second squad you’re also given the option to roll a randomized team selected from all the current mechs you have unlocked or put together a custom squad.

Each mech fits into one of five categories: Prime, Brute, Ranged, Science, and Cyborg which all have different specialties. On top of the mechs you’ll unlock Pilots in various ways as you play. Each pilot comes with a special perk like Extra XP per kill or extra grid defense. They gain experience  and level up over the course of a run, gaining extra perks until they reach a max level. At the end of a run whether you succeed or not you’re allowed to take one pilot with you, perks and all, to the next timeline.

All these things, the teams, the mechs themselves, and the pilots all play incredibly differently. Mixing and matching all these things can produce some wildly varied results.

A lot of what i’ve just described really embodies the brilliance of what Into the Breach is all about. It’s about making choices like what mechs to bring or if it’s worth the effort to tackle a third or fourth island and the consequences of those choices.

The turn-based battles play out on an isometric eight by eight grid; the same size as a chess board. Subset has even included the option to turn on a coordinate system that labels the rows and columns just like chess. I found they helped quite a bit in visualizing moves. Some streamers I’ve watched play Into the Breach, like LethalFrag, have used the coordinates as a way for viewers to suggest moves. I don’t know if Subset had intended on this but it’s a pretty cool consequence of the underlying system.  The eight by eight grid is not the only similarity Into the Breach shares with chess. Each battle is about thinking ahead and moving the pieces of the puzzle you’ve been given. It’s a weird hump to get over because As gamers we’re often told to try to kill everything.

Into the Breach presents itself like that type of game on the surface, but digging deeper you find it’s much more about mitigating damage and moving the pieces of the puzzle. How Subest manages to get this across is kind of brilliant and also a little dastardly. You are able to see the next action each Vek will take and how many Vek will be spawning in on the next enemy turn. This presents the odd dilema of “kill the things” vs “Move all the pieces….then maybe kill them.” A lot of the mechs in the game don’t deal much, if any, direct damage; however, most can shift enemies a tile or two in a given direction. Some have other ways of ensuring enemies can’t do damage, like being able to deploy shields or dropping smoke that completely interrupts a Vek’s attack.

It makes you feel both like a genius and an idiot as things either go your way or unravel entirely. Should you have killed that one Vek instead of shifting it? Could you have positioned your squad differently at the beginning of a mission? These are all questions you will ask yourself in your playtime with Into the Breach.

Let me explain a little with an incredibly simplified scenario. Let’s say you have a Vek with two health about to launch a long range attack at a building four tiles directly in front of it. To the right of that building is nothing, it’s completely empty. The tile to the right of the Vek shows a new enemy will spawn on the next enemy turn as well. You have an artillery unit that can do two damage with a direct hit but will shift anything adjacent to the target tile over one to the right. In this scenario you can either choose to kill the existing enemy or shift it over to block the spawn. You chose to kill the existing Vek and let the new enemy spawn. Turns out that new spawn is a powerful unit that heals all Vek by one every turn. Now you have to deal with it.

Choice and Consequence.

You’re main task on each stage is simple, to stop the Vek from destroying small civilian towers that dot the playfield.This task is key to the overarching objective of Into the Breach; Keeping the power grid in your current timeline alive. The more buildings that are destroyed the more the power grid drops. Once it drops to zero it’s game over. For most games in the genre death more or less just means starting another run; there’s not much of a story tie-in. Into the Breach tackles the “Why?” of rouge-likes in a way I can’t recall seeing before. It  makes me care a bit more about a run. Watching the Vek pop up out of the ground and swarm a stage when you’ve failed feels worse here than most losses in games. The game really hammers this home by letting you know that your team now has to abandon the current timeline and try again. That word, “Abandon” it evokes a different kind of emotion than “You died” or a game over screen. It lets you know that you’ve not only lost but you’ve also failed humanity to the point that they’re not worth saving. You have to leave them to die and try again.

Little details like that, or the little speech bubbles that pop out of the civilian buildings as you drop your mechs on the play field help, pull the narrative together.  They make the times you do succeed in a mission, or end up beating a game, feel every bit as victorious as the losses feel demeaning.



You’ll juggle the overall objective with missions within each stage. These range from “Kill x amount of Vek” to “Don’t let the Vek kill that one building” or “ Make sure this one Vek doesn’t die.”  Completing these objective will yield rewards that can restore power to your power grid or give you reputation to spend once you’ve cleared an island. Reputation can buy you new weapons or extra reactor cores to spend powering up a mech.

These reactor cores act as a modular level up system, you can activate them as needed to fill in power nodes on a mech and move them around if needed. If you’re familiar with Subset’s last game, Faster Than Light, it works much like the power system there.  Each mech comes with certain powers activated right out of the gate that can usually be enhanced by cores. Most weapons you’ll buy throughout a run will require at least one core to activate. On top of all that the reactor cores can also be spent to increase the area of movement or health for any given mech.

Again, this is a game all about choices.

Something that lives entirely outside of the bubble of choice and consequence is the overall aesthetic of Into the Breach. It’s got some really slick menus. When choosing a stage on a given Island you’ll see a fully laid out preview of the stage, the missions for the stage, and any additional hazards or special threats that may exist.  Loading into a stage from that preview is instantaneous and it feels damn cool. The Camera Just zooms in and the mission starts immediately. It’s oddly satisfying and speeds the game up in a place where I would normally expect a loading screen. The pixel art isn’t anything particularly mind blowing but does more than enough to get the ideas being conveyed across.

Subset Games’ follow up to FTL proves they’re not just a flash in the pan. The minute to minute gameplay of Into the Breach is so much it’s own brand that if you were uninitiated to the world of indie games you’d have no reason to think the same developer made both. Aside from the start menus looking similar they are almost altogether different experiences. Into the Breach is intelligently deceptive. It makes you think at the outset that it’s the kind of game where you need to “Kill all the things!” when in reality you’re just trying to “Move all the pieces.” Each randomly generated stage is it’s own puzzle with it’s own pieces. The only constant is the tools you’ve chosen to get the job done and how you use them.

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Nintendo Switch Playstation 4 X-Box One

Why you should be playing Dead Cells

Developer Motion Twin has been making video games since about 2001 but if you’re not part of their self-described “Anti-social Network” Twinoid You may have absolutely no idea they even exist. Almost all of their games, aside from Dead Cells, can be played for free after signing up. I tried out a few of the games including MUSH, Die2Nite, and DinoRPG. Some are homages to beloved franchises. Others are wholly unique. While none of them really sank their hooks into me, almost all of them are indicative of one thing: The name Motion Twin will eventually be synonymous with greatness in the world of indie games.

All this history brings us to Dead Cells. Motion Twin’s Steam Debut is one hell of a “Hello” to the indie games scene and I’m gonna give you a few reasons I think you should give it a go.

Combat Savvy

 

Let’s start off with the combat. It is by far the #1 reason you should be playing Dead Cells. It’s frantic, tactical, and fluid all at once. As you play through the game you’ll pick up blueprints for a bevy of weapons and items that you can unlock using cells dropped from all the enemies you will inevitably slaughter. The combination of swords, shields, bows, skills and other gadgets is almost endless. You have four slots to fill, two of which can be filled with either a melee, ranged weapon, or shield. The other two are where your skills go. Each run (trust me there will be many) will have you balancing new strategies depending on what drops, power-ups, and skills you encounter. Weapons and Items are broken down into three, conveniently color-coded, combat styles: Brutality, Tactical, and survivability. These three styles eventually are tied into a series of perks like “Killing an enemy gives you X health” or “Shortens the cooldown on your skills by X%.” Building up one of these three styles with whatever power-ups you get is just one part of a larger synergistic combat system.

Every item you pick up has a chance to have an “Affix.” These range from just additional damage to things like “Does 125% damage against a bleeding target” or “Enemies killed with this weapon explode into a cloud of poison gas.” Using these affixes to build synergistic builds is not only key in succeeding in Dead Cells but maliciously fun. Curating a build well can lead to some absolutely vicious combinations.

Once you’re savvy enough, and if RNGsus is on your side, you could end up in a situation like the following: A group of enemies are in front of you. In your main weapon slot you have a sword that does 100% damage against a burning target. In your secondary slot you have Firebrands. In your first skill slot you have Oil grenades and in your second Skill slot you have a Deploy-able turret that causes it’s victims to drop a swarm of bitters. You open the salvo by throwing your Oil Grenade, this douses anybody unlucky enough to be in the blast radius with a Flammable oil that enhances the effects of any fire weapon. After they’re drenched in oil you throw the fire brand and it lights up the ground and any enemy in the immediate area. The enemies covered in oil take extra damage from the fire. They are roasting up real good. You deploy your turret and then move in to attack with your sword. Every swing is eviscerating any foe that happens to be covered in flames, as they die a swarm of bitters crawls out of their corpse thanks to the turret you put down. The bitters help with taking on the rest of the hoard. Before long, everything is dead and you’re left standing

.

Situations like this are the norm in Dead Cells. It is full of these frenetic bursts of action that have kept me coming back time after time.

Developers with ears and sensible progression

 

There are a ton of rouge-lite/likes out there all with their own take on how progression should work. Games like The Binding of Isaac are notorious for peeling back new layers of the game as you progress through. New floors and unlocks tied to them; new bosses and enemies. Dead Cells presents a similar path. As you progress through several runs (if you’re like me this will be in the hundreds before you unlock everything) you’ll unlock runes that allow you to access new areas. Each new area contains its own brand of new fearsome foes to fight and generally contain a higher tier of blueprints than areas you’ve already been in.

What’s more interesting is that opportunities to use runes that you’ve yet to unlock present themselves in almost every area of the game. So in addition to unlocking whole new areas, the runes also allow players to access even more parts of existing areas. These offshoots usually contain extra weapons or power-ups that would have been otherwise inaccessible and can sometimes help a ton at the beginning of a run.

Currently there are 5 runes in Dead Cells, but since the games debut on Steam, Motion Twin have added more than a few runes, areas, weapons, and enemies. I would be surprised if this didn’t continue till release and after. Especially considering how much Dead Cells has changed since its debut. Motion Twin has regularly posted developer logs and communicated with the community. The base three-colored system I mentioned above was entirely different on first release and has been changed with some further development by listening to the community. A look at their developer blog is proof of that. They even list changes as “Community suggestion.”

I think it’s important to support developers who support the community around their games. In a time where sometimes it feels like the developers never listen (looking at Bungie), it’s nice to know that some devs do have ears.

Intricate Pixel Art and Level Design

 

This last one will be short but man, this is one good looking game. If I had any friends that thought pixel art couldn’t be gorgeous, I would very likely show them Dead Cells. Multi-Layered backgrounds haven’t looked this good since parallax scrolling was invented.

Alright, maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but seriously, Dead Cells is easy on the eyes. For the amount of carnage that can be happening on screen at any minute, everything is easily defined and readable. Every weapon or enemy attack animation is fluid and incredibly well designed. You can really see and feel the weightless slash of the Balanced Blade vs the slow brutal smash of The Nutcracker. The level of detail really brings out the character in every new monster you meet.

Every new area looks and feels completely different.

The Toxic Sewers are claustrophobic and soaked in whatever unspeakable sludge ends up there, the Ramparts are far reaching lofty towers, and the Ossuary feels darkly demonic. Every single area in the game has its own unique and well defined character. I would go as far to say that the style and flair in this game is almost unparalleled currently. It is really beautiful to see in motion and shows how much Motion Twin care.

Play this game!

 

I can’t stress enough how much fun I’ve had with Dead Cells. It can be brutal and frustrating, but every run is different and exciting. The seemingly limitless combination of weapons and skills and the deliciously vicious synergies of everything coming together is truly remarkable. Motion Twin seems dedicated to the community that’s surrounded the game and is breathing life into it. If you’re a fan of metroidvanias, this is a no brainer. If you’re a fan of Rogue-likes, this is a no brainer. If you enjoy hacking and/or slashing on any level, this is a no brainer. Luckily for you non-PC savvy folks Motion Twin said they’re bringing Dead Cells to all major consoles this year! I can’t wait to rock it on my Switch!

PLAY THIS GAME! GO PLAY DEAD CELLS! WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?!

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Podcasts

Death Stranding at PSX

Sony showed the same trailer seen last night at the Game Awards for Death Stranding. We’re all still very confused but incredibly excited. Hideo Kojima showed up to confirm that the trailer was indeed in-engine and running on a Ps4 pro and that part of the end of the trailer is actually a playable piece of the game.

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Conventions

Soul Calibur Shown off at PSX.

Announced yesterday at the Game Awards we get another look at Soul Calibur 6 with some new gameplay.

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Conventions

Detroit: Become Human stage demo

Guillaume De Fondaumiere showed up to show off some of Detroit: Become Human. The crowd was used to help Guillaume make decisions in the game. Over the course of the demo we’re show just how many choices we can make in any given situation and just how those decisions can effect the outcome. Starting with Connor, the main character, walking into a hostage negotiation in an apartment. This is an extended demo of the trailer we’ve seen before.  Connor pokes around the apartment searching for evidence that will ultimately help him negotiate with the criminal outside. After sometime searching the apartment we’re greeted with the scene we’ve all come to know with the hostage taker on the roof and the demo ends with Connor calming the perp down using different responses. Some of the responses were unlocked because of how much evidence had been found in the apartment. Ultimately, when the time is right the crowd decides the time is right to shoot the criminal and save the girl and the demo ends.  No official release date was given but Detroit: Become Human is still expected in 2018.

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Conventions

Delving deeper into Dreams

Siobhan Reddy of Media Molecule gave us a bit of a better idea what to expect from Dreams. “You can create anything. You can create games you can create movies…..and the you can share it with the world.” The story mode of Dreams will span over there distinct settings all woven together by a single narrative. Siobhan continues”For us we’re so excited because the sky’s the limit” speaking about the depth of creativity in Dreams.

no specific date was given and Dreams is still slated to release sometime in 2018.

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Playstation 4 News

New God of War to be longest in the franchise.

God of war is in the “Play testing phase” and we now have a pretty good idea of the playtime we should expect. Cory Barlog says the new God of War will be the longest entry in the series boasting a 25 to 30 hour playtime.

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Playstation VR News

Wipeout VR announced at PSX

Wipeout VR was announced as a free update to the Wipeout Omega Collection. The update will be available in 2018.

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Playstation VR News

Last Guardian VR Experience announced at PSX

The Last Guardian is getting a VR experience that promises a 15-20 minute playtime. It will release next week.

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Playstation 4 Playstation 4 News

Firewall announced with teaser at PSX

Sony announced competitive VR game Firewall at the beginning of the PSX conference. A tactical VR shooter exclusive to Playstation. Firewall will support the PSVR Aim controller.

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News PC News Playstation 4 Playstation 4 News X-Box One X-Box One News

Spelunky 2 Announced

The cave diving, Rope Climbing, Jet-pack Flying Rouge like is coming back with a sequel. Spelunky 2 was announced today for PS4 and confirmed to also be releasing on PC. If the original is any indication it’ll make its way to every platform under the sun eventually. Not many details were dropped about the sequel but it looks like you’ll be playing the daughter of the protagonist in the original Spelunky.

Follow a game that helped bring Rouge-likes to into the spotlight, Spelunky 2 has some big shoes to fill. Here’s hoping it delivers. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this in the near future. Check out the teaser trailer below.

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Playstation 4 News X-Box One News

Gamestop Announces Power Pass: 60 dollar 6 Month Rental Program

Though not formally announced, the Power Pass will allow those who buy in to go into Gamestop and swap out used games an unlimited amount of times over the course of six months. At the end of the 6 month period you’ll get to keep one game. How that last bit works is up in the air at the moment. What if I get a game I don’t like? Am I forced to keep it unless I re-up my subscription? What if I wanted “Popular new release X” But end up with two year old garbage.

Hopefully the formal announcement is a bit more detailed. At the moment this seems like a pretty underwhelming deal unless you’re lucky enough to get the newest of the new releases at the end of your six month sub.

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PC

Pylon: Rogue Review

I consider myself a relatively hardcore rogue-like fan. I follow the genre closely and have played most of the more high-profile titles in the time since the genre took off a few years back. I might not be very good at them, but I love the challenge most of them present; that old school “Higher Score” mentality that brings me back to arguing with friends about how to best defeat a Megaman boss or who could beat Mario 3 the fastest. Games like The Binding of Isaac and Spelunky led the surge in the rouge-revival in recent years, and it’s a genre that doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. With what seems like a new Rogue-like dropping every day, it’s really hard for most games in the genre to stand out. It requires something either truly unique or just an overall great package to win over the rouge-like community.

On the surface Pylon seems like it could have been a contender in the flooded rogue-like market. Attempting to mix the rouge-like formula with Diablo and a little pinch of The Binding of Isaac sounds like a dream. What we get instead of this dream is a game that can’t quite figure out what it wants to be. Almost every facet of the game is so thinly spread that I had a hard time taking the game seriously.

Pylon’s minute to minute gameplay is nigh impossible to break through as two of the three characters available at the start of the game, Both melee fighters. The third of the opening classes, a ranger, fairs a bit better but is incredibly boring to play compared to the other two. When you start a new game, you choose one of the three characters and a fighting style which slightly alters that particular fighter. Only the first fighter, the ridiculously named Moneydin who has some weird version of Midas’ touch, had more than one style available. Once selected you’re dropped onto a randomly generated over world map that’s reminiscent of Mario 3. Different nodes represent different levels, but in reality they all just boil down to a randomly generated mishmash of procedurally generated arenas that are appropriately themed to whatever over world you’re initially plopped into.

This is where the game really starts to fall apart. Up until this point, we’ve just seen some poorly designed menu screens that look like they could have been ripped from bad Xbox 360 Arcade game, but nothing indicating the actual quality of the gameplay.

Spoiler alert. It’s really bad.

Combat for all three of the characters feels terrible. It’s not that the controls are sluggish or the animation is bad, it’s that the general gameplay loop of Pylon is tedious and insanely boring. Halo became famous for its 30 second loop that drew players in. In pylon any time frame of fun is entirely non-existent. Each stage is a series of gated in arenas that range from too small with too many enemies to so big that you may have to run around for a minute or two finding the last enemy to proceed to the next arena. When you enter an arena you’ll find yourself fighting such notable enemies as generic Zombie, Giant Scarab, Another Other Scarab, Maybe a Raptor! You’ll endlessly kite all these foes until you clear out the arena. As the Ranger this is pretty easy, but boring. You just cartwheel dodge away from everything and the game becomes a third-rate twinstick shooter. As the two initial melee characters it’s much harder simply because you have to get close to attack an enemy and will inevitably be hit. This essentially makes using these two useless for making any kind of meaningful progress.

Once you clear out one of these arenas a chest appears that always has gems and sometimes has a power-up. The power-ups work kind of like The Binding of Isaac where they are suppose to be synergistic, minimal upgrades that form some wacky run once you get enough, but none of them are interesting enough to care about. Sometimes there are slightly larger chests hanging around that require a key to open. These are literally just larger versions of the smaller chest and have a higher chance to have an item. There’s no visual change. If you clear out all the arenas in a certain level you’ll get an even bigger chest which, again, is just a larger version of the original chest. These chests are highly indicative of the lack of polish in Pylon.

As you move through the arenas in a given level you’ll notice that health drops are few and far between. As is normal with most rouge-likes, your total health persists through levels. So damage you take on one level carries over to another and once you croak the run is over. You can hop into a shop in the over world and use the gems you’ve accumulated to buy health, power-ups, and new gear that improves your overall character. Like the rest of Pylon these shops present nothing interesting or new.

That’s really my lasting impression of this game. There’s nothing that it brings to the table that it does even remotely well even down to it’s menus and basic UI elements. Nothing it does is interesting or new. It is a bad collage of ideas from other games that you should play instead of playing Pylon: Rogue. I’m sure the game will find a small audience, but for the most part, I would just suggest not wasting your time.

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Rockstar releases new trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2.

Rockstar just released the second trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2. Looks like we’ll be riding off into the sunset this spring, though there was no specific date set.

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Assassin’s Creed: Origins to Double as an Interactive Museum

This is not an onion article. This is not a joke.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins will receive a free update post-release adding a mode dubbed “Discovery Tour”. Releasing sometime in 2018, Discovery Tour will take assets from the game and place them throughout the open world. Players can visit places like Alexandria, Memphis, the Nile delta, the Giza plateau, the Faiyum Oasis, and the Great Sand Seas to see NPCs going about their daily routine. In place of combat is a series of guided tours meant to teach players about the games setting and historical significance all arranged by actual historians.

When asked about how this mode came about Creative Director Jean Guesdon had this to say:

“From the beginning, the Assassin’s Creed franchise has always explored pivotal moments in history, from the Third Crusade to the Italian Renaissance, and this year Ancient Egypt. It’s a dream come true for us to offer Discovery Tour by Assassin’s Creed: Ancient Egypt, an educational mode built specifically for people to learn more about the incredible history of Ancient Egypt through the interactive experience made possible via a video game.”

Assassin’s Creed has always been a bright spot in games that teeter toward educational without being too in your face about it. Now those of us that may have wanted a bit more context with all our bloody, brutal combat can have just that.

Assassin’s Creed: Origins is set to release on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on October 27th.

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PC Reviews Playstation 4 Reviews X-Box One Reviews

Absolver Review

SloClap’s Absolver is and isn’t one of the best games I’ve played this year. It comes under the genre of MMO games. If you’re playing MMO games it is worth buying a decent mouse, we recommend you check out the iControlPad review of the best MMO mice for an overview. It’s unique take on hand to hand combat is by far the game’s bread and butter and I can’t recall a game where I’ve felt more like I was actually doing martial arts. Unfortunately, in between the intense moments of reading opponents moves and firing my own back I found myself wandering around a largely- lifeless, mildly-claustrophobic open world wondering what the game could have been if it had been a bit more fleshed out. There are no side quests, no real distractions at all to be found in the world of Adal. It’s empty. It’s maddening at times. But, it’s completely deliberate.

Absolver’s barely-there story is your character’s rise from a lowly Prospect to Absolver and is as ambiguous as the rest of the game. You’ll wander the world, fight all the dudes that need to be fought and rise to the position of Absolver. I wish the game’s namesake title held more weight. By the time I finished the game I felt like I had learned a lot but barely accomplished anything meaningful.

For how short it is, the “Boss” encounters are all relatively challenging, especially if you’re going at them solo. I lost at least once to each of the bosses I went up against before finally figuring it out what I needed to do to best them.  All told the campaign took me roughly 5-6 hours to complete. The meat of the game is really in the PvP and “Combat deck building” aspects.

How the combat in Absolver comes together and feels is absolutely brilliant and full of choices. Right from the get go you’re asked to chose from one of three styles: Forsaken, Khalt, or Windfall. Once you choose a style you are unable to switch. Luckily there are multiple character slots so you can try out all of them and figure out which is best for you. Each style has it’s own unique defensive ability. Forsaken can Parry attacks, Khalt can straight up absorb attacks, and Windfall(my personal favorite) is all about dodging attacks at close range. All three of the starter styles are rated by “difficulty” but I found the rating of the three styles to be pretty arbitrary. I had more trouble timing the Parry and Absorbs with Khalt and Forsaken but was perfectly adept at timing my dodges with Windfall. A final fourth class, Stagger, is unlockable in game after encountering a particular enemy. This Drunken Master type style mixes Offense and Defense Simultaneously and is meant to be the most difficult style to master in Absolver.

Each of these styles also ties into one of the attributes you can increase by leveling up. Paying attention to which style is effected by which attribute is key to success in PvP. While they don’t explicitly tell you what style is anchored to which attribute it is pretty clear before committing any points what effect it will have on your current build. You also gain a few special moves via leveling up: Being able to quickly drain an opponent of stamina or push back some encircling enemies and a few others.


The rest of a player’s moves are tied to their Combat Deck. Here players can equip loads of different moves to eight different slots. Each of these slots corresponds to one of four “Stances”. Players can create  huge flowing combos and pick powerful transitional moves.

The selection screens for combat and gear aren’t explained upfront and can be very confusing at first. You really have to dig in to understand each of the systems.

While combat choices are pretty slim when you first start out, you’ll fill in much of your Combat deck quickly within the first few hours. By dodging and blocking enemy attacks you gain knowledge of moves you don’t currently have. Do this enough and you’ll eventually unlock new moves to throw into your deck. Each move in your deck has certain starting and ending stances that will determine what you can and can’t combo into or out of. I tried my best to create a deck that if executed properly could loop infinitely. I’m not sure if this was the best strategy or not but it seemed to work well and it gave me a better understanding as to what was coming next in a combo chain and what attacks came from what stances.

You can also manually adjust your stance by holding right trigger and pointing your control stick toward whatever stance you’d like to better suit your current predicament. At first I didn’t use this much, but, after a few hours went by, I was doing it constantly because it was imperative to use certain strikes in certain situations. Hitting block immediately after throwing out an attack will feint the attack. Again this was something I didn’t understand how to use till much later. I started using it to bait out certain attacks and counter accordingly. This is how Absolver makes you thing about fighting differently than any other fighting game I’ve ever played.  It doesn’t handle it’s complexity in the same way as a Tekken or Soul Calibur. It isn’t about memorizing overly complicated inputs. It’s not about chaining special moves together that are Down Right Fierce(puns are fun).  Absolver derives its complexity in understanding the tempo and timing of fighting; The management of space and stamina and it does it damn well.

Often, by accident, fights would end up looking choreographed. This was especially the case when fighting another player as opposed to A.I. I can’t even explain how cool I felt the first time I ducked a high shot, jumped over a low shot, and counter attacked an opponent. That’s one of the really interesting facets of Absolver. Not only is the combat weighty and balanced, but it also has the tendency to just feel and look like it’s straight out of an old king-fu flick.  

Though Adal is small, it’s all intricately designed and pretty easy on the eyes. Soft Pastels and a minimalistic art style make Adal look stunning without being to visually busy. This tonal shift away from high-definition sprites and character models isn’t foreign to the world of indie game development. Polygonal and Voxel models are all the rage at the moment. But here, Sloclap did such a good job of making Absolver’s package so ambiguous that any other stylistic choice would have been a disservice to the rest of the game. There were a ton of times where I stopped dead in my tracks just to take in my surroundings. Whether it was looking over a vast forest or staring up at a massive tower, I was continually surprised at how gorgeous this compact open world was.


Many people at a glance have compared Absolver to Dark Souls. While I understand the comparison at a base level I don’t think it’s apt in describing the core experience of what  Absolver is.  It’s very much in it’s own category. It’s kind of a simulator in a sense. It’s more about the feel of the combat than the look of it(though it does look great). Absolver, altogether, in everything it presents and how it presents them seemingly has a singular purpose: It is laser beam straight from martial arts to a controller and in that pursuit it absolutely succeeds.

7/10








 

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Bungie Releases Trailer Detailing Destiny 2’s EDZ

Today Bungie dropped a trailer for the European Dead Zone, Earth’s new playable area in Destiny 2.  According to Bungie, the new EDZ is also boasted as the “biggest playable area ever created by Bungie.”

The trailer gives the first look at Adventures and Lost Sectors, which look to take the place of those repetitive, boring patrol missions (of the original).  Adventures are fully voiced side quests that dig into the lore of the Destiny universe and Lost Sectors look to be small dungeons with some kind of mini-boss at the end. With the additions of Adventures and Lost Sectors, as well as new Public events and new sub-classes to try out, it sure looks like Bungie understand what players want from the sequel.  Thankfully, with it’s release right around the corner, we won’t have to wait long to find out.

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Handhelds Playstation 4 Playstation 4 News Playstation VIta Playstation Vita News

Sony Reveals Secret of Mana Remake for PS4 and Vita

Today Sony revealed a ground-up, 3D remake of Secret of Mana — something that I don’t think any of us expected.

To quote the Official PlayStation Blog:

One of the greatest RPGs of all time, Secret of Mana, is coming back to life in 3D! Secret of Mana will come to PS4 and PS Vita digitally, on February 15, 2018 worldwide.

Secret of Mana holds a special place in many hearts here in the office, so we could not be more excited for new fans to experience the time-honored classic for the first time, and for existing fans to dive back into the fun fantasy adventure that they know and love.

The remake boasts local multiplayer and a newly arranged soundtrack, as well as fully voiced characters.  If you pre-order Secret of Mana, then you get three exclusive suits when the game launches on February 15th, 2018.

I loved this game growing up but never had the patience to finish it.  I’m excited to dive back into Secret of Mana early next year!

You can watch the trailer below and head over to the PlayStation Blog to check out all the details.