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Project Darwin: X-Box One Preview

Overlooked Battle Royale contender – or something else entirely?

Project Darwin is a Battle Royale-ish Deathmatch on Steam and Xbox One Game Preview program and free-to-play. The term Battle Royale, in my opinion, is being used solely to attempt at generating buzz for the game. In all honesty, calling it a traditional deathmatch would be far more accurate. There is really only one actual Battle Royale element at play in this title– but we will get to that in a minute.

Project Darwin takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic version of the North Canadian Rockies. In this future, the surviving remnants of humanity pit prison inmates against each other in a high tech death arena for live streaming entertainment and social experimentation.

A match in Project Darwin takes place between 10 players, but with a super fun twist: 9 of the players are gathering materials to craft weapons and upgrades, setting traps, and hunting one another. The 10th player gets to fly around in a drone and control the arena. This feature, in my opinion, is the best part of this game. I feel it really sets it apart from other Battle Royale games. The Director controls almost everything. The materials being placed randomly, they can setup their own hazards, and they control the environment as well. The match takes place in a hex-grid and instead of a closing circle of death– the player controlling The Director gets to shutdown the grids one section at a time. They can also heat them up, or even drop a tactical Nuke on a section as well. Both players and directors fight for the audiences favor, which is how you gain experience and level up, earn loot, etc. If a director bullies one player the entire match, this will displease the crowd and they will get a bad rating. So there is some safeguards to ensure that this director is “fair in their unfairness” as the game puts it.

The Players, are armed with just a bow and an axe. They can gather materials like wood and leather around the play area as well as find chests with various items in them. They can then use these things to craft better armor, increase axe damage, fire arrows, etc. The director will drop electronic components at random places in the map, these locations are broadcast to all the players and are extremely valuable as they can be used to give you special abilities like invisibility, teleportation, and ridiculous high jump. These are game changers and good way for The Director to herd players towards one another.

I’ve played it quite a bit and can honestly say it’s definitely worth checking out. I really don’t feel like it’s getting the attention it deserves. It really stands out to me in a cluster of Fortnite and PUBG clones. The art style is really pretty. Some might say it looks like Fortnite, but the Canadian wilds really give it a dark ambient sense of danger, and the mix of primitive guerilla fighting style with high tech makes it feel fresh and inventive. As someone who has put in thousands of hours on PUBG and played a bit of Fortnite. I can honestly say Project Darwin deserves some attention and I really think it’s only going to get better and more fun as it updates.

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PC Previews Previews

Kingdom Bash – Hands-On Preview – Playcrafting NYC Spring Play 2018

A One Man Kingdom Bash!

The freezing winter weather that seemed to have lasted 6 months here in NYC has finally ceased. Flowers are in bloom and the cars are covered in a green film, a reminder that spring is finally here. With spring’s arrival comes Playcrafting NYC’s Sping Play event at Microsoft in Time Square. This was my first time at an event by Playcrafting, but seeing some hidden gems was worth it.

The room is full of developers right here from New York and New Jersey looking to get people excited about their projects. After speaking to quite a few developers, most of them solo, it was obvious that these projects were more than that to them. These were their babies. One said developers caught my eye and his name was Matthew Alan Estock.

A Crowd Gathers…

A small crowd was gathered around an LCD TV with four excited people with X-Box controllers in hand. On the screen was the frantic action of a game called Kingdom Bash. The laughing, oohs and ahhs, and the playful threats shouted across the half circle of seats were sucking me in like a tractor beam. Once my hands were on the controller it was no surprise why the crowd had gathered. Kingdom Bash is just plain fun.

Inspired by games like Towerfall: Ascension , Kingdom Bash takes the 1v1v1v1 format and sets it on an isometric playing field. You take control of eloquently balanced archetypes; the Warrior, Ranger, Enchantress, and the Javelin throwing Dragoon. Each class has its own benefits and weaknesses. I chose the Enchantress for her homing fireball, even with her dreadfully slow footwork. The Warrior runs circles around her, but he needs to get real close to hit you. The Dragoon has a nice mid ranged attack and the Ranger can take you out from across the map but his arrows fly slower than other projectiles. I took a strategy of using the trees on the left side of the map as cover. I would pop out from one end and shoot a fireball that would seek out anybody close. Luckily for me, this was enough to keep the other players at bay killing each other. This was a good strategy to stay alive, but not very good for getting points. When speed boosts would spawn I was able to grab them and be much more mobile. This allowed me to dart closer to the action and take out a couple players at a time.

A Delicate Balance in the Kingdom.

The cool thing about each match is that everybody is so close together that the action is immediate. Power-ups drop in and out to give you an advantage like a speed boost or a shield and sometimes you get the power of invisibility. I found that the speed boost and homing fireball was a deadly combination as I could shoot and move quite effectively. Another cool feature is the ability to have monsters spawn and chase players around the map as they frantically try to kill each other. While this mode was still being fleshed out, it was really funny to see a stalemate between two players who could not stave off the monsters long enough to actually win the match.

As I mentioned before, Matthew is a solo developer that is taking this project on alone on purpose. This is his baby and it shows. A lot of care is going into the look, feel and balance of this game. Kingdom Bash is simple, yet complex in the way that it has you thinking about the character you choose and how you use the environment to your advantage. Don’t just take my word for it, you can play the alpha build in its current state in a pay what you want model here. Trust me, this game is going to dominate couches in living rooms  around the world hopefully very soon.

Follow the game’s progress here and follow Matthew on twitter here.

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PC Previews

Behaviour Digital Set to Launch CLOSED ALPHA for Deathgarden! May 9th 3pm EST!

Behaviour Digital today announced the kick-off of the DEATHGARDEN™ Closed Alpha on May 9th Beginning 3PM EST where you will be able to join this asymmetrical multiplayer action game where powerful Hunters prey on agile Runners within the Garden.

With this first phase of Closed Alpha, the goal is to test the online infrastructure and gather feedback on the core gameplay. Keys will be sent gradually to people who signed up on Deathgarden’s website.

The creative director, Ashley Pannell, wanted to create a competitive game “where controls are always responsive for both the runner and the hunter. It is about the users’ abilities and the choices they make to master the map.” For each round, on top of choosing a class, players have access to a skill tree where they need to choose which powers to upgrade.

The depth of the gameplay is what matters most for the team. Every map is procedurally generated within the Garden, an arena-like complex where runners willingly enter to compete against the champion hunter. “Mixed with the agility of the runner and hunter, the map elevation helps create memorable moments where players hide, escape and outsmart their opponent using the terrain and buildings,” said Pannell.

To get all the details, players can watch the Kickoff Livestream on May 9th, at 2PM EST on Twitch.tv/deathgardengame. They can also register to the Deathgarden’s PC Closed Alpha program at www.deathgardengame.com.

This first closed Alpha will run from Wednesday May 9th 2PM EST up to Sunday May 13th end of day.

Our Take:

Check out our hands on preview during Pax East 2018: Deathgarden Preview

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Nintendo Switch Nintendo Switch Previews

Storytelling Through Chip Tunes – An Interview with the Monster Crown Composers – EXCLUSIVE TRACK REVEAL!

Monster Crown is a special indie game where you train and breed monsters and go on a deep and dark adventure. While the game may look similar to Pokemon, and there may be monsters to collect, that is about where the similarities end. Once we had these two on Nintendo Duel Screens, I was sold. I had to back this game on Kickstarter. Since then they have smashed goal after goal and have a few days left to keep pushing.

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Shad Shwark to talk about the artistic process behind his monster designs.  This week I got to sit down with GameOnion & Alex Naveira, two composers working on this ambitious title.

Proven Gamer: First I want to thank you for agreeing to sit down for this interview. Monster Crown is shaping up to be something really special. So much so that I just HAD to become a backer! Before we get into the nitty gritty of music composition for this game, tell the Proven Gamer audience who you are , what are your roles, and how you two became involved in the project?

GameOnion:  I’m a member of the music-team as a composer / arranger alongside Alex. It wasn’t always this way though, I actually used to do art for this project, but then I discovered music for myself. It’s just way more fun for me personally. Besides that, I’m also working on sound effects.

Alex Naveira:  I’m also a composer and arranger for Crowns alongside Onion. I believe I started sometime in 2016, after onion had told me that there was a game he was doing art for that needed some music. The concept was pretty cool so I tagged along for it.

PG: So you guys had a previous relationship? How did you guys meet up?

Alex: I had heard of Onion in 2015 through twitter (I saw that he was a really good artist), but met him in 2016 through the comments of my YouTube remixes since he enjoyed a few of them. Him and I had worked together on WwwWario’s “Super Wario Land” in May of 2016 (although he was more focused on art at the time). We were pretty close back then and afterwards, he introduced me to the Monster Crown team. For the past year he’s gotten more into music production and I can safely say he’s one of my closest friends in the scene.

PG: Awesome. Now that all that getting to know you part is over with and I am all misty eyed, lets talk music shall we? Music in video games has started to become one of the most talked about aspects in gaming over the last few years. People are noticing a good soundtrack more and more. Some playlists of gaming soundtracks have tens of thousands of plays on YouTube. It wasn’t always that way, though. What do you think has changed? 

Onion: Not sure, to be quite honest. I’d imagine it’s related to the increasing quality of music in the recent years. The appeal is much bigger these days.

Alex:  I think that with the advent of the internet came the ability to find tons of other people that share your interests, and, I think a culture naturally appeared that celebrates video music – probably because lots of people play them, and because I don’t think you can have memories of your favorite childhood game without some sort of earworm-tune that stayed with you. Most people don’t think of Mario without the classic Level 1-1 theme, if you get what I mean. Nowadays people want to capture that “making of a classic” so a lot of it is based on nostalgia – probably why a lot of projects gain traction, since they want new things with the old coat of paint.

PG: What would you say is the most important aspect of music in games?

Onion: Themes in games are usually bound to specific characters, situations or areas. Usually, my goal is it to capture the atmosphere / personality of a theme or character. That can be done in various ways, instrument selection is an important factor, in my opinion.

Alex: Like onion said, atmosphere is incredibly important in regards to how I want a track to sound, but also, a good soundtrack (in my opinion) needs to trigger certain emotions as well. Certain songs (such as the “Fusion Facility” location track) were made with regards to the location that they play in, but to also have a melancholy vibe or nostalgic tone, as if you’ve heard it before – those kinds of tracks are my favorites in video games.

PG:  So generally speaking, it seems like you are presented with a location or character and compose based on what is presented. With that being said – have you even come up with a track that dictated a location or character?

Onion: Not that I remember, no. If we did that, I wouldn’t be sure if it would fit.

Alex:  Nah, so far it’s been the other way around every time. That would be an interesting way to approach creating a setting, though.

PG: So does coming up with a sound in your head happen right away or is it something you workshop a bunch?

Onion: For me personally, it’s kinda both. Sometimes I just make up stuff as I go along. Once you start working on something, a lot of ideas randomly come up.

Alex: Since the tracks are all chip-tune styled, I mostly think about how I can make a sort of hybrid of modern synth sounds and old GB-style sounds. Usually there’s more synth added on if I feel that the arrangement needs a bit more oomph. Ideas for mixing synth with chiptune usually come pretty fast, though.

PG: Chiptunes. I’m glad you brought that up. I’ve heard musicians say that working with chiptunes is very limiting, which breeds creativity. Have you found that to be the case?

Alex:  I enjoy working with chiptune channels, as I feel like each individual channel (be it the square, saw, triangle, etc.) is sort of it’s own little song. Since there are only 4 base chiptune tracks I work with to start, I enjoy trying to push as much as I can into such a small amount of default channels.

Onion:  I personally find it somewhat limiting, but you need to keep in mind that some of gaming’s greatest tunes were made with those limitations. If they managed to make it work, we can too. Something else to remember is that Monster Crown combines chip-tune and synth / orchestra. That definitely gives us a lot more freedom with instrumentation.

PG: This is a perfect transition into walking us through the process step-by-step. So we are going to debut a brand new track right here on Proven Gamer. Can you guys take us on a journey on how this track was made from conception to completion?

Onion: While I can’t say much about Alex’s workflow on that specific theme, here’s my usual process: I come up with either the melody or a bassline first. That original melody I come up with changes a lot through the creation of a song, usually because it doesn’t fit within a progression I would love to use or something like that. If you’re set on a melody, the next logical step would be to come up with a backing track / chord progression.

Onion (Cont’): As you can tell by Alex’s track right there, he used a piano for chords, which isn’t really a wave table-type sound you would expect in a game like this. That’s usually what I try to do too: Chords are played by more realistic instruments or a synth, it’s a nice contrast. Once I’m set on a progression, the next step would be to come up with something like a countermelody, of course. Striking the right balance between orchestral sounds, synths and wave table-synths is important here. Percussion is usually the last thing I do, but it varies. So that’s the general composition-process, but mixing and mastering is a whole different story. That is a big, complicated mess, which I can’t possibly cover in detail now. It usually takes longer than the composition itself for me.

Alex: For Mill Town, the first half was actually an older composition I did about a year before I arranged it again for Monster Crown. The second bit before the loop that counts as a ‘bridge” back to the beginning would be the second song. Sometimes I have little mini-songs that I match up with other ones I have in my head. I tend to start with a melody – since I prefer it to dictate what the chords are, not the other way around. I started with just the chiptune version and that was considered the final version for a while, but when I decided to try and define just what the “style” for Monster Crown was, I went back and added some of those synth elements – as I did to a lot of the tracks. I think onion’s workflow and my own are very similar when it comes to a composition. I’ve learned that mixing in mono actually helps a lot, so that’s one thing I’ve started doing that I could point out, but a lot of times it’s a whole mess of EQ bands and filters.

PG: Love the complexity in the layers there. Really catchy, but not too repetitive. Feels like I am in a laid back part of town with a sense of adventure. So we have established that music can set the tone for specific scenes. How can music in games tell a story? Do you have any favorite tracks from gaming past that tells a story?

Alex: Music can tell a story through emotions alone – this one really overlooked track from an already overlooked game, Island Life from The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, always gave me a feeling of “this is what life is now for the protagonist”, and sets a tone for the rest of the soundtrack too since it plays early on. It’s also an arrangement of the Fairy Fountain / File Select song that has been in the series since nearly the beginning.

Alex (Cont):When it comes to Pokémon, I love how bittersweet and melancholy New Bark Town from Gold and Silver sounds, because it represents the vibe that your character has been there for his or her entire life.

Onion: That’s a very difficult question for me to answer, considering how many games I’ve played and OSTs I’ve listened to, haha. Though, one soundtrack that has always sticked out to me was Pokémon Mystery Dungeon 2’s selection of music. The progression of the tone of the themes is quite interesting, they get pretty haunting for a Pokémon game near the end of the story. I connect a lot of memories with that game, and the music takes me back instantly. This OST manages to capture the atmosphere of each area incredibly well, the emotional themes still make me feel the same way as they did when I first played the game. Simply incredible.

PG: Thank you guys. This was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Like that I will never be able to do what you two do. Good luck in the final days of the Kickstarter campaign!

Onion: Ha ha. Thank you for the support and thank you for having us!

That is it folks. Monster Crown can be followed on Twitter and you can back them on Kickstarter as well. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Nintendo Duel Screens feed in Apple PodcastGoogle Play Music or RSS to listen to the interview with Shad and Jason where they talk everything Monster Crown.

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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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Nintendo Switch Previews Pax East 2018 Previews

PAX EAST 2018 – Kaet Must Die Switch Version Hands-On

A hidden, dark, and creepy challenge that Switches expectations of what a puzzle game is.

Tucked into a small corner of PAX EAST was a small, non-decorated booth. Standing there was a young man, and a cosplayer dressed in a Gothic themed dress. It was clear the game that I would be demoing would be dark, twisted, and deadly. This is Kaet Must Die from Michigan-based Strength In Numbers. It seemed rather strange that a game such as this would be tucked inside of a corner booth, wedged between the wall, the Indie Megabooth, and Devolver Digital. However, this was a gaming convention, and I came here to play games. With a brief introduction, I sat down and began my demo. 

Kaet Must Die puts you in the role of a young woman named Kaet, who awakens in a filthy sewer, beneath an unknown city. It is apparent that somehow, she has slipped into an alternate reality, filled with evil and darkness. She has no means of self-defense and no navigation tools. To escape, she must secure magical skulls and place them within the shrine, located at the center of the level. The skulls are scattered throughout the sewer. With a multitude of threats lurking in the dimly lit corners, Kaet must be vigilant, observant, and stealthy in order to survive.

The Switch Factor

Kaet Must Die was played on a Nintendo Switch, a surprise considering the nature of the game. Overall, the game ran really well, but smooth gameplay and crisp visuals could not help me stave off death. I played the game with a complete open mind, with no prior knowledge of what I was supposed to do. I only knew that I had to navigate the sewer and locate an exit. Within moments, I turned a corner, a zombie grabbed me, and it was game over. From this point on, I knew that the game would be a trying tale of trial-and-error. I navigated further in the sewer, recovering at least one skull and voiding the zombies.

In Kaet Must Die, the zombies look more like mannequins, but with green eyes. Even getting remotely close to them is similar to setting off a landmine. I managed to secure one skull but realized there were multiple skulls I need to secure. As I attempted to navigate, robed trolls lurked in the shadows, moving around discreetly without a pattern. Eventually, they found me, and electrocuted Kaet, ending my efforts. Something inside still wanted to continue my trials, however.

Try, try again…

On my third try, I maintained more care, and was also given the hint of using glowing mushrooms to send distracting flares to the robed trolls. It worked, and allowed me to stay alive for a little longer. Throughout the sewer, garbage and dim light maintained an atmosphere of constant alert. I looked closely, securing another skull, but alas, I met my demise once again. A troll snuck up behind me and electrocuted me. Being that I died three times, I determined that my time with the demo was over.

Kaet Must Die feels like an acquired taste. I talked to one of the developers at the booth, and the game was touted as a painful practice of trial and error. Should players wish to complete Kaet Must Die, they will have to die a lot. I suppose that is part of the fun, if you like that sort of torture. During my play-through, there was no means of self-defense and no navigation tools. My mental deduction skills were put to the test right from the jump. With that being said,  learning where the skulls are and making it to the end of the level will take repeat game-play. On one hand, this is reminiscent of classic games, most particular the side-scrolling action-platformers of the 1990’s, like Mega Man. Of course, to beat those games, players had to fight, die, and repeat until they figured out how to beat the game. But Kaet must Die touts itself as one of the most hardcore horror puzzle games ever made. In the short time that I played. it was unique and different, and there are those that will probably enjoy the brutal difficulty and lack of guidance. However, for general game players, there may be better, more refined horror experiences elsewhere.

The Bitter End…

Kaet Must Die looks and feels like a game better suited for a twitch streamer. I can imagine an audience closely following a streamer and seeing just how far they’ll go in a competitive format. For video game players, Kaet Must Die is certainly playable but perhaps not very accessible. I would like to see some means of defense, as well as some form of guidance to the different skulls. It doesn’t have to hold your hand , but it doesn’t have to leave you completely naked to danger. The character sounds like an amazing super natural being. Perhaps a limited use of her pwoers will work to make the game more accessible. Kaet Must Die is a work-in-progress, and I am hopeful it can evolve into something better.

Kaet Must Die is currently on Steam and will come to Nintendo Switch in Q2 2018.

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Nintendo Switch Previews Previews

A Ninja’s Scroll: The Messenger Hands-On Impressions

For me (and most fans I imagine), Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos was the gold standard of Ryu Hayabusa’s 8-Bit adventures. It was a sequel that vastly improved over its predecessor and maintained its signature high-level difficulty. It was the best representation of classic Ninja Gaiden. Little did I know that Sabotage Studios was about to set a new benchmark in 2D side-scrolling platforming with The Messenger – the best Ninja Gaiden game I’ve never played.

The PAX East 2018 demo begins with a displeased ninja dwelling on the bothersome chore that is his daily lessons. Apparently there is a prophecy and said prophecy has foretold the end of the world – an apocalyptic scenario that can only be prevented by an ordained savior known as the ‘Western Hero’. The only problem is that doomsday more of a hamper on the ninja’s free time as he considers the stories to be a whole lot of hooey. Well, it doesn’t long for a demon army to start raining fiery meteors upon the ninja’s village both proving wrong and wiping out his entire village in one fell swoop. It’s at this point where that aforementioned hero shows up (fashionably late of course), hands the ninja a scroll, and tasks him with delivering it to East in hopes of ending the curse that has befallen the land. Pretty serious stuff right?  Well yes…and no.

Tonally, The Messenger knows that it’s out to completely obliterate genre tropes. What should play-out as a serious, by-the-numbers platformer, feels more like it borrowed a page from Deadpool’s handbook. From the short time I spent with the game, I was met with video game in-jokes and references, a chatty Shopkeeper that constantly breaks the Fourth Wall, and laugh-out-loud moments during a boss fight of all places. It’s the game’s way of telling you to assume nothing and forget nearly everything you have come to expect from the genre. Even the graphics somehow manage to defy expectations. 

Aesthetically the game could not be anymore Ninja Gaiden; the main character is the spitting image of Ryu Hayabusa and is even sporting his trademark blue garb. The graphics are full of color and pop off the screen. Seriously, I have never seen a retro-style title that looked this good. It captures the simple sprites of the NES-era but also elevates the color palette to bold new places. This is further evidenced by The Messenger’s slick gameplay gimmick: a time warping mechanic which transports the game from an 8-Bit backdrop to an even more vibrant 16-Bit style. While I wasn’t able to gather from the demo what the full implications of this graphic swap would be, each style does impact the level design and the layout of certain obstacles. So even though there might be a blocked path/obstruction in the 8-Bit landscape chances are it won’t be there once you transition of 16-Bit. I was also informed by Sabotage Studio that the graphical transition won’t only be available in the moment-to-moment gamplay – that players can look forward to explore the entirety of the game in both 8-Bit and 16-Bit sprites.

For a game that is clearly inspired by one of gaming’s most important franchises, The Messenger doesn’t mess around with perfecting the Ninja Gaiden control scheme. From the sword slashes to gripping to walls, the controls are insanely tight. I often wondered throughout the demo if Ryu Hayabusa controlled with this much accuracy and precision. The game feels exactly the way it should – until it doesn’t because why quit messing with expectations now?  The silly Shopkeeper I mentioned before dispenses fun upgrades such as a Wingsuit (for gliding purposes – obvi) and a Rope Dart to grapple to surfaces. The Shopkeeper also has access to a Skill Tree – something that completely caught me off guard.

My time with The Messenger while short left me with a childish grin on my face. The demo ended with an over-the-top encounter with what appeared to a tall Lich Mage…which revealed itself to just be wearing a really long cape. For all intents and purposes, The Messenger is a 2D Ninja Gaiden love-letter designed to toy with your expectations with every shift of the screen. What begins as a clear homage to Tecmo’s iconic blue ninja quickly tosses the playbook out the window for a completely fresh experience altogether. It’s really obvious why Nintendo showcased this title in its booth; The Messenger is full of heart and its developers’ love for the genre is uniquely apparent.  I cannot wait to get my hands on the full experience when it is released end of Summer 2018.

The Messenger is also the winner of the DoublePlusGood Award which can be listened to in more detail here. Be sure to follow along with Sabotage Studio and The Messenger’s progress over at their homepage here.

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Pax East 2018 PC Previews

Pax East 2018: Deathgarden Preview

Deathgarden is the newest game from Behaviour Interactive and is the spiritual successor to Death by Daylight. Following the same idea, Deathgarden has you assuming the role of one of five “runners” who’s goal is to try to activate 2 out of 3 totem poles to open the exits, while being actively hunted by a heavy armored “Hunter.” Once you activate a totem, your location is revealed to the Hunter who will come quickly and hard. Don’t worry though, the hunters are without ways to defend themselves.

The Hunted

Each Runner is armed with wrist arrows to stun and knock back the Hunter. Should you be downed by the Hunter, your team can rescue you and revive you, but you will most likely be sent to the blood post to think about what you have done. Once again, your team can rescue you from the “blood post,” but the Hunter can execute you removing you from the game. Once the “Hunter” has removed 3 people from the game, the round ends. Best 2 out of 3 rounds wins. The runners are playing in third person, while the Hunter is playing in first person. This whole experience creates a really fun “cat and mouse” type gameplay that I can see being fun for a long time.

Overall, although in early alpha, the game ran super smooth and without many hiccups. The Hunter did seem to be a little overpowered. Several times, I was downed and was instantly sent to the Blood Post only to have the hunter run straight over to me to execute me without my team having a chance to rescue me. When I explained this to the dev, they stated to me that the Blood Posts don’t become active until at least three people have been downed and even after a blood post is activated, there is a 15 second wait til a runner could be executed. Playing the game, it did not seem to be the case, but I also wasn’t counting the seconds or watching to see how many runners were downed before me. Which speaks well for the game and not me playing. I may have been a bad teammate, but the game was so intense that I was running for my life most of the time, enjoying myself while playing a game that normally would not have appealed to me. Deathgarden has opened my eyes to these types of games, giving me a reason to go back and try Death by Daylight.

Another Proven Gamer, Matt Murray, previewed the game from the Hunters Perspective. Here are his thoughts:

The Hunter

Hey everyone, Matt here. I previewed the Hunter role in Deathgarden opposite to Tricky’s experience with the runner. I’ve played quite a few asymmetrical multiplayer games but none have ever really nailed the formula. Jason was scary in Friday the 13th and the monsters in Evolve all were pretty cool but playing as the bad guy in these types of games often feels slightly limiting, underwhelming, and kind of clunky. I’ve always felt more like I was flailing and failing than some monster of total bad-assery. That is decidedly not the case in Deathgarden. I ended up playing two rounds, I won one and lost the other. The whole time I felt like I was walking imminent Death. I felt like the soldier from Doom that had been accidentally dropped into a bad teen slasher flick. They were a cabin full of kids expecting a machete wielding maniac. Unfortunately, for them, I was a shotgun duct taped to a cheetah.

Though I only pulled out the win in one of my two rounds I spent most of my time smiling like an idiot. Deathgarden, if nothing else, is incredibly fun to play. Bouncing between the three capture points I’d watch the runners scurry off like mice as I’d approach. Most times I would down at least one of them. I liked that I was able to see an outline when one or more of the runners was at a particular capture point. It made it easier to track who was where. I wasn’t entirely clear on how the Blood Posts worked. I know my win condition was to kill three of the runners, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to trigger the stands when I needed too. This was probably more due to how much info I had to take in prior to playing than poor instruction.

In my time with the game, even though I did feel extremely powerful, I never felt overpowered. The round I won was by the skin of my teeth and the round I lost wasn’t particularly close.  I really had a blast playing Deathgarden and can’t wait for it to make it to full release. I think they’ve hit the nerve of the genre that so many have missed.

 

The game is in early alpha with no release date. Platforms unknown at this time though we played on PC for this demo. Price point is also an unknown at this time.  One thing I was assured of, however, was Behaviour Interactive will  be staying far away from loot-boxes stating “We don’t want to go down the same path as EA”.

 

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Playstation 4 Previews

Immortal: Unchained- New Take On a Familiar Genre

The hardcore, action-RPG genre, which was overwhelmingly put on the map by the Dark Souls franchise, is recognizable by a few key mechanics. Cryptic story, open areas filled with secrets, item and weapon upgrades, respawning enemies, and, above all else, brutal and challenging combat have put this style of game on the map. However, the common thread with most of these games is the focus on melee combat. Immortal: Unchained, an upcoming game from Toadman Interactive, is attempting to put a new spin on this genre. They have taken take the tried and true elements of the action-RPG, but have built it around a third-person shooter. Although the visuals weren’t great, and it was a little rough around the edges, I think there may be something special in the works with this new take on a familiar franchise.

The story of Immortal: Unchained is vague, to say the least. It is set in a futuristic, rundown, sci-fi world. I took control of a nameless character who has been woken up and released from an eternal prison. He is given one task: go out and save the nine worlds from destruction. However, the character has no idea who he is, how he woke up, where he came from, or why the nine worlds are in danger. One thing that has always held me back from the stories of Dark Souls and Bloodborne, is that I have never had a huge interest in the aesthetic of the world. However, with Immortal, I was immediately captivated, due to to the sci-fi setting.

Once the demo started, the familiarity to the Dark Souls franchise immediately became apparent. There were three meters to manage, health, stamina, and special weapon energy. My character was equipped with an assault rifle, shotgun, and sword. Along with my weapons, items were also available to me such as explosives, health potions, and stat buffs. These were changed using left and right on the d-pad. Stations, which are the equivalent of campfires, were used to increase my characters stats and upgrade weapons and armor. These stat increases came from collecting the game’s form of currency by taking down enemies. Anytime I died, and died quite a bit, any currency I had collected would be lost, but could be recovered by going back to the same spot in the level.

The design of the level also felt familiar. It was an open area, which branching paths, and different places to go. With no map to reference, learning the connectedness of the area was crucial. As I explored the space, things started to feel more connected. At one point, I was able to kick down a ladder to reach an area that was not attainable without first finding the ladder.

Where Immortal: Unchained separates itself from similar games is when the combat starts. All other hardcore action-RPG’s have primarily focused on managing your stamina and health through melee combat. However, being a third-person shooter, Immortal takes spacing, and enemy management in a whole new direction. The dodge roll is still your best defensive option. However, unlike a melee combat game, rolling is the only thing I was able to find that uses stamina. The roll is still used to avoid incoming attacks, but since you are being shot at with a gun, I found myself rolling behind cover and using it to stay at a distance instead of finding my way behind enemies for melee attacks. Enemies used cover, tried flank me, and used large yellow energy shields to constantly keep me moving and on my toes.

The gun play of Immortal: Unchained felt great. The left trigger was used lock onto enemies. From there, flicking the right stick allowed me to target different body parts. This became important since some enemies would have armor or shields, protecting them from direct fire. The boss fight further enhanced the mechanic. I found myself up against what was essentially a mechanical knight with a shield and a lance. Due to the size of his shield, there was only one part in the front of him that I could target. Hitting this spot didn’t do much damage though. The key to the fight was to find a way behind him to shoot a glowing red power core. However, this proved to be much easier said than done. The knight kept me in front of him using the reach of his lance while mixing in a beam attack that came from his shield.

If there is one critique I have for Immortal: Unchained, the game didn’t look great. There was a blandness to the world, which was even more noticeable due to the amount of snow in the level. The demo did also drop some frames and chug a bit in certain situations. However, it is still very early in development, so, hopefully, the team making the game has time to smooth those things out.

If Immortal: Unchained can successfully take the hardcore action-RPG genre and turn it into a shooter, I think it has the potential to be something special. The game is set to release on PC, PlayStation 4, and PC. At this time, there is no release date other than 2018. For more information on the game click here.

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Conventions Playstation 4 Previews

Just Shapes & Beats: Move to the Rythm

Sometimes, all it takes is one mechanic, done incredibly well to convince gamers that there may be something good is in the works. Just Shapes & Beats, a rhythm game in development by the three-man team at Berzerk Studio may be just that. The simplest of concepts, combined with challenging solo and co-op gameplay made for one of my favorite experiences on the PlayStation Experience floor.

Just Shapes & Beats is about, well shapes and beats. Players control a small shape (triangle, circle, etc.). The goal is to navigate their shape across levels that are set to various, instrumental music tracks. As the music of the level plays, the beat of the song will generate pink obstacles that players must avoid. Early in the level, these obstacles were as simple as rectangles flying across the screen. However, as the beat picked up, things quickly got out of control. A large circle, with smaller circles for arms quickly enveloped much of the screen. While swinging its arms around in a crazy fashion, it also released smaller pink circles in every direction, think an asteroid exploding in Asteroids. As the music and beat changed, so did the barriers that were thrown my way. In the one level I played, the funky electronic music threw all kinds of pink shapes my way that I had to contend with.

Along with basic movement, the only tool at my disposal was a quick dash. While dashing, my shape was invulnerable to the pink shapes. This allowed me to dash through pink objects, creating clever ways to escape difficult situations. However, even with the dash, there is an incredible level of challenge to the game. Early on, I was trying to simply to react to what I saw, and was getting hit early and often. Once I started to pay attention to the music, it allowed me to better anticipate when, and potentially where the pink shapes would come from. After playing solo for a bit, I was joined by another player for a co-op level (the game can be played with up to four players). In co-op, you have the ability to revive your teammates if they take too many hits from the pink shapes.

 

 

 

 

 

Just Shapes & Beats isn’t going to blow anyone away with deep systems or storytelling. However, it was one of the most, if not challenging games that I experienced at PlayStation Experience. At this time, there is no release date for the game. According to the developers, they hope to have it out sometime in 2018. Click here to check out more from the game and check out the trailer below:

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Playstation 4 Previews

Far Cry 5: New Town, Same Far Cry Feel

Going into PlayStation Experience, Far Cry 5 was a game I was very excited to get my hands on. The story and setting of the game stand out from older games, with the playable character, a new deputy Sheriff of Hope County, Montana, setting out to reclaim the region from the fanatical cult Eden’s Gate. Once I got in and played the demo, I came out of it with mixed feelings. Although there were some new mechanics introduced, I couldn’t help shake the feeling, for better or worse, that I had played this game before. 

The feeling of similarity to other Far Cry games started the minute I was handed the controller from the person running my demo station. As I picked up the controller, I was asked right off the bat, “Have you ever played a Far Cry game before?”. When I said that I had, he told me that I should be pretty comfortable with the with both the controls and set of objectives I had to complete. On the control side, things seemed more or less identical to Far Cry 4 and 3. L2 and R2 were used to aim and my fire my weapon, L1 pulled up my weapon wheel, and R1 was used for grenades and other throwable weapons. The face buttons were used to heal, enter/exit vehicles, crouch, reload, and jump. The new Gun for Hire mechanic (more on this shortly), was mapped to the dpad. 

I also felt right at home with the set of tasks that I had to accomplish. First up, was liberating the town of Fall’s End from the cult. In classic Far Cry fashion, stealth, a frontal assault, or a combination of both were all equally viable options. Since I prefer a more up close, stealthy approach (until I get caught of course) I ignored the sniper rifle on the top of a water tower and ventured directly into town. This is also where the Guns for Hire mechanic made its first appearance. At the beginning of the demo, I was given the choice of three characters I could bring into the mission with me. Grace is a sniper that could take out enemies and revive me if I went down, a pilot who could conduct airstrikes (his name slipped through my notes), and Boomer, a dog who can tag enemies, attack targets, and retrieve weapons from dead bodies. I went with Boomer. He went into town and tagged the majority of the cultists. I was able to take a few out before I was spotted. What ensued after that was classic Far Cry gunplay. Weapons felt good and responsive. Additionally, there were plenty of environmental elements that I could use to even the odds. For example, by throwing a stick of dynamite (which was more or less playing the role of a grenade), I was able to blow up a fuel truck in the middle of town which set off a chain reaction of explosions on nearby vehicles.

After clearing out the town, the second part of the mission was to head out to an airfield and help a pilot fight off more cultists. After doing this, he asked me to take his plane and take out three fuel stations controlled by the Eden’s Gate. Armed with a machine gun, rockets, and bombs, I took into the skies and took down the three fueling stations. The flight controls felt good for the first portion of the mission. The left stick controlled the tilt of the plane, with X and O being used to speed up and slow down. For bombing runs, things felt smooth. However, Eden’s Gate sent a plane in after me and air-to-air combat ensued, things got a little troublesome. I have never been a huge fan of the perspective used when controlling vehicles in Far Cry. The way the environment moves around the vehicle in first-person has always been a bit disorienting. Instead of being able to track the cult’s plane by using the indicator on the screen, I found myself going in the wrong direction and flying right into a tree, which brought my demo to a close.

After spending a short period with Far Cry 5, I think it is safe to say that much of this game, especially the mission structure, is going to be more Far Cry. For many, including myself, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Liberating towns, which appears to be 5’s version of bandit camps is always a blast, since the game gives the player so many ways to go about it. This freedom is expanded on even more with the Guns for Hire system. Add on top of that, the entire game will be playable in co-op, and Hope County, Montana is a place I may just want to spend some time in. Far Cry 5 releases on March 27 for PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One.

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Nintendo Switch Previews

Lost Sphear – NYC Comic Con 2017 Preview

Comic Con 2017 brought a few gaming companies out to showcase their up and coming games. I wrote about Monster Hunter World, which you can read here, but that wasn’t the only game i was able to try out.  I also got a chance to demo Lost Sphear on the Nintendo Switch..

Lost Sphear is developed by Tokyo RPG Factor and produced by Square Enix, and stars a protagonist by the name of Kanata who is trying to return memories to the lost. As the player encounters these memories they can interact with it to add objects such as a windmill or a fishing hole to the environment. The demo, however, did not adequately explain how these interactions affect the environment, but that makes me want to buy the game to find out.  

At first, the game play was very similar to I Am Setsuna, and the difference only became apparent when I was introduced to a boss fight against a character named Death Rattler. Death Rattler has three phases, and typical me decided to spam heal to all my characters while the rest of the party pummeled him. Well… these tried and true tactics failed miserably. Each character has a finite amount of times he/she can use an ability and then that ability has a cool down and can not be used again for a certain amount of turns. Gone are the days of spam healing, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With this change comes an added strategy to the game that I actually enjoyed.

Lost Sphear also added a mech suit, which they termed ‘Vumosuit’. I can equip these suits during battle to unleash powerful attacks, however, there is a long cool down period before I can use it again. Again, there is a heavy emphasis on balancing your approach to fights. I have to very carefully decide best when to equip and un-equip the suit to best suit my needs (pun intended).

Many of the complaints that I had regarding I Am Setsuna appear to still be prevalent in my short time with the game. There is still no map for me to look at, and there is no journal for me to reference where my next quest would be.

Overall, I am really looking forward to the game. The new strategy added to the game, coupled with some familiar tropes makes me want to give this one a try.

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PC PC Previews

Cutthroat Gunboat

Cutthroat Gunboat is a fun multiplayer game that I had the opportunity to try out during Play NYC. It is a fun take on local multiplayer games and is currently available on steam for purchase.

Cutthroat Gunboat lets you pick from a wide array of ship each with their own stats and kinds of weaponry. It is 2-4 player local multiplayer with a few different maps to sink each other on. The controls need a bit of time to get accustomed to. The different ships have different degrees of difficulty in their control and use. This makes for very diverse combat with every match.

The different kind of weapons not only does differing amount of damage, but they also fire differently and have different effects. Some fire the traditional cannonball while another fires fireworks. One ship even launches a small AoE draining field which can affect the ship that cast it as well.

I also had the chance to speak with Boris Poletaev, Game Developer with Minor Faction. Be sure to check out Cutthroat Gunboat on Steam!

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Playstation 4 Previews Previews X-Box One Previews

Monster Hunter World – NYC Comic Con 2017 Preview

Monster Hunter really needs no introduction at this point but fans of the franchise have a lot to get excited about when it comes to Monster Hunter World. Don’t let that scare you, though, as there are plenty of franchise staples that make you feel right at home.

Getting down to brass tacks, Monster Hunter has made some tweaks that should make the actual hunting of monsters much more interesting than games past. Our demo was playing on medium difficulty and with 4 player co-op. Our goal was to track and take down a Barroth. We followed footprints, gathered items left behind in the trail, and were eventually lead to the Barroth to do battle. This is a departure from the old “A-B-C” system which had you going to a general area and finding the monster. It felt more like actually hunting and less hide and seek. When it came to the actual battle, our group really had no trouble taking down the beast, and my dual wielding badass played like a well tuned machine.

As a veteran of the series, I really wasn’t sold on digging into another entry to the series. This demo has piqued my interest, and suddenly my wallet is going to look a little thinner.

Monster Hunter World releases on January 26th 2018 on X-Box One and PS4.

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PC Previews Playstation 4 Previews Previews X-Box One Previews

Destiny 2 Beta Impressions

A Lesson Learned

Since its release, Destiny has been one of the most polarizing titles in the industry. Hardcore fans swore that Destiny’s raids were well worth the grind while others damned its RNG heavy loot drops and progression system. While the base game never truly grabbed me, the initial beta back in 2014 had me amped. The gunplay was as tight as I’d expect from Bungie and the promise of a brand new universe to explore and learn about was too much to keep me (a lifelong Halo fanatic) away. What I found out when Destiny was finally released, and I’d made my way through it, was that Bungie may have shown a bit too much of its hand with the initial Beta.

In the months following Destiny’s release, myself and a host of others abandoned the game due to its extremely repetitive nature. The tone and cadence of, “We’ve Woken the Hive!!” is burned into our brains to this day. Trudging through the same areas over and over again became tedious, and the loot grind was a nightmare (RIP The Loot Cave). To Bungie’s credit, regardless of all the bad some of us saw, they hooked in tons of players for thousands of hours and created a fanbase as hardcore as the Halo players they had cultivated in the decade before.

As we come to the end of Destiny’s life cycle it is clear that Bungie learned a thing or two about what makes Destiny different from the gamut of other games on the market. They figured out how exactly to present this growing universe and gained a bit of knowledge about what makes its player base tick.

With all this in mind, I booted up the Destiny 2 beta Friday night and was greeted with an absolute spectacle of an opening mission.

 

Homecoming

Homecoming, Destiny 2’s first mission, bleeds storytelling. The familiar faces of Cayde-6, Zavala, and Ikora Rey pushed me through the destruction of The Tower. What was once a home for all Guardians under the safety of The Traveler, has now been reduced to rubble as the forces of Emporer Ghaul sweep in to capture The Traveler’s Light. Flaming pods crash down from the sky unleashing waves upon waves of Cabal soldiers. Fighting these fearsome foes feels more varied this time around thanks to some new Cabal troops; The Gladiator, The Incedior, and the War Beast, all of which fill a new role in the Cabal roster. It also had me wondering what new troops may show up for The Fallen and Vex factions.

Unable to stop the onslaught of Cabal on The Tower I was taken onboard a Cabal command ship. The command ship is daunting and impressively massive. Upon landing, I saw pods of Cabal being launched off the back toward battle. The fights here and at the Tower are more frantic and engaging than I remember from the original Destiny.  After making my way through the ship and a few of the more beefy Cabal generals I finally come face to face with Ghaul. He laughs at how puny and weak I am as the massive machine that has attached itself to the Traveler seems to suck the light out of it and completely zap my powers. With my power gone, I’m helpless. Ghaul pitifully nudges me from the ledge of the ship with his foot claiming that The Light now belongs to him.

It’s immediately evident that Destiny 2 benefits from being developed for a single generation of console this time around, and maybe Bungie is finally giving us the story we deserve. Everything just looks and feels better; environments feel full and characters are more fleshed out from the get-go. The skybox is flooded ships swarming around the tower, far off battles being fought in the sky, and the sight of The Traveler being “captured” all make this mission as momentous as it should.

 

The Strike….Strikes back

The Inverted Spire strike is the only other playable mission in the beta. I went into it excited to see what new mechanics Destiny 2 would throw at me and it delivered big time. Two other guardians and I are tasked with investigating why the Cabal have sent forces to Nessus, a new Vex controlled planet in Destiny 2. After blasting our way through both Vex and Cabal forces and jumping through some “Vex Milk Waterfalls” we find out the Cabal is trying to dig out The Mind from deep within the planet. Soon we find ourselves at the active dig site. Giant drills swirl around while the Cabal lie in wait protecting whatever it is they find deep in the dirt of Nessus. The gigantic drill arms dangerously swung by as my two cohorts and I fought our way downward. I found out the hard way that navigating through the deadly tornado the drill presents isn’t as easy as it looks.

Finally making our way down we see exactly what the Cabal were digging for, Protheon; a huge Vex Minotaur. We start to chunk him down and fight off the supporting Vex forces when suddenly the floor disappears beneath our feet. We fall helplessly to the floor below and continue the battle. After a few rounds of Protheon throwing some new attacks at us and quelling the constant surge of vex troops, the floor again disappears beneath us and we descend to a third and final arena. A string of new attacks from Protheon begins. Vex milk surrounds the small circular pad we’re now fighting on and we’re being flung into it from all angles. Though the walk-able area of this new arena is quite small, the chamber itself is eerily enormous, and Vex seem to appear out of nowhere coming in from all sides. Protheon is visibly damaged in this last leg of the fight, which surprised me. It went from a hulking mass of electronics and metal to a broken down vessel more reminiscent of a broken terminator.

With a few final rounds of attacks, we take down Protheon, The modular mind, and make our way back to orbit.


As I mentioned before, Destiny didn’t hook me but I did play through it and much later played though some of the DLC. The Inverted Spire and Homecoming felt so much more intense than anything I’ve played in Destiny before. Let’s hope that the rest of the game pans out just as well.

Fatal 4v4

Ah, yes, PvP. The other half of the Destiny experience. Two modes are currently available in the beta. Classic Control makes its return and a new mode called Countdown, which plays similar to Call of Duty’s Seek and Destroy.  The first and most noticeable thing in both PvP modes is that the teams are comprised of 4 players each, scaled down from the 6v6 in the original Destiny. This is both a blessing and a curse. 4v4 feels more like home for Bungie and works well in the two maps for the respective modes: Endless Vale and Midtown. The downside to the downscaled team size is if a teammate drops out at any point, pulling out the win seems almost impossible. In a traditional deathmatch game type, I’m sure the extra player won’t matter as much, but in Control and Countdown every teammate matters. Maybe we’ll see enough outcry to at least get a 6v6 mode added, but for the time being, it seems Bungie is intent on keeping it at 4v4.

The maps mentioned above, Midtown and Endless Vale, are both pretty straightforward. Endless Vale, the Control map, is a relatively symmetrical map with A and C on opposite sides with many paths leading to B on a circular platform a bit set back in the middle of the map. It reminds me of a smaller version of Shores of Time from the original Destiny. The map design is full of great sight lines and lanes between flags, as you’d expect from Bungie. Neither side feels particularly imbalanced. I had a blast playing through it with different weapons figuring out what work best for different lines. It really brought me right back into the fold.

The second map, Midtown, is an asymmetrical map seemingly set in a town center or bazaar of some type. It’s different than any other map I’ve seen in destiny. Midtown is also host to the new mode Countdown. I’m not sure if the map is specific for this game type or not, but it was a blast either way.  Much like Call of Duty’s Seek and Destroy, one team attacks by trying to set off bombs while the other defends. Either side killing off every player on the other team will win the game. I found out pretty harshly that this mode requires quite a lot of strategy and that the run-and-gun lone wolf approach didn’t work so well; coordination and communication is absolutely key. I could easily see this mode being a favorite among the more hardcore PvP fans out there.

Final Thoughts

The Destiny 2 Beta is an odd beast. Comparing it to the beta for the original Destiny, you can see that Bungie doesn’t want to spoil too much of Destiny 2 too early. But does that mean that we’re in for more of the same or have they truly learned their lesson?

Playing through the beta missions a dozen or so times and putting some serious time into the PvP, I can’t help but feel like I want to see more; though there’s not as much to play through here. Bungie has me hooked again and I truly hope this time they deliver. The PvP feels as crisp as ever even though the teams are a bit leaner this time around. If the cinematic tone of the two missions is any indication, we’re in for one hell of a treat. With new worlds to explore, some new enemies to fight, and a new home there’s a lot to look forward too. But what I am most looking forward to is Bungie delivering on their initial promise with Destiny. I know they can build a universe like no other, and hopefully Destiny becomes just that.

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PC PC News PC Previews

Valiance: Online – Building a living City of Heroes – An interview with SilverHelm studios Producer, Aaron Victoria

November 30th, 2012 was the last time I logged into City of Heroes as my first max level hero, Lady Quickdeath. One by one, players logged off, saying goodbye for the last time. City of Heroes was closing down for good.  Some players were moving on to Champions Online, others were leaving the sub-genre forever. Some players, however, decided to take that day as a day to come together and create an online world where the spirit of City of Heroes can live on. One of those games is SilverHelm Studio’s Valiance: Online, which is set to enter a closed Alpha very soon. I recently had the chance to talk to Aaron Victoria, the Producer and Programming Director for Valiance Online:

Proven Gamer: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me. This is quite an exciting project.

Aaron Victoria: Thank you for doing this. This is great.

Proven Gamer: So let’s dive right in – Since the closure of City of Heroes/Villains, there have been a lot of indie projects made by fans to try and capture that magic. It is pretty obvious the same can be said for you and your team. So how did you and your team come together to try and make this incredibly ambitious project?

Aaron Victoria: It originally began with me searching the community for other players which were adequately skilled developers in hopes to find a team of professionals capable of using my existing technology to make a successor. At that time, I had been developing my own MMORPG for about 5 years, and had recently combined my technology with that of my friends whose technology had been in development for 4 years at the time of the merger. Essentially, I had a really powerful architecture that was built by 3 well-versed server and client solutions engineers and was open to lend to anyone interested in helping maintain a home for our community. I was pointed to the executives of City of Titan’s development studio, Missing Worlds Media and the team behind Heroes & Villains.

We had a meeting after which the founders of Missing Worlds Media determined that they weren’t interested in using the technology. I was planning to reach out to the team behind Heroes & Villains, but before that could happen allegations were made by one of their founding members to the validity and intentions of the Valiance Online team. With both of those option ending rather abruptly, I made the decision to form a team of my own.

I knew it’d be quite hard as I was still working on my other MMORPG project as well. However, it was something I felt I needed to do for the community to try to resurrect our home. Quite a few members of the community offered their assistance and joined quite quickly after a post I made on the original Valiance forums. Over the following years we acquired more dedicated members after they showed great dedication and commitment to the project through forum involvement, pre-alpha input, or eagerness to join.

PG: I was a huge fan of City of Heroes. That is what directly lead my to your website. Obviously, you don’t want to be known as another “City of Heroes like” game. So, what sets Valiance apart from CoH?

AV: One of the biggest things we’ve embraced as a team is that Valiance Online is its own product. It has a need to be unique, different, and robust and that’s our focus. We also make no delusions to the fact that our product exists within a completely different economic and market climate than City of Heroes existed within, so to thrive we have to maintain relevance to the current and future game market’s ever changing climate. Most importantly, we recognize our love for City of Heroes, and actively take in everything the game has taught us about where we want to go and how we need to proceed to launch the product successfully. We’re, therefore, taking that powerful inspiration and giving players a feel and atmosphere similar to what they remember, but with all of the great expansion and overall progress they’d expect from their “next” adventure. Our biggest goal is to honor the legacy of City of Heroes while remain obviously recognizable as a unique entity.

In regards to uniqueness, we have a strong focus on role-playing, player choices often affecting the game world, player creativity and some non-linear game-play, the living world aspect of the world, and the most obvious element being the era in which the game is set. Valiance is set in an era in time where the world is bustling with alien lifeforms and intergalactic travel and communication. Technology and space exploration have made the planet rich with minerals, life enhancing drugs, and freedom of humanity to grow exponential as a culture and species. These same elements have led to the introduction of hostile visitors for space or inter-dimensional planes, dangerous biological diseases and deformities, the introduction of the Super gene, and people struggling to feel safe in a world where people are born every day with highly dangerous capabilities; conditions that often lead the average person to disastrous attempts at self-modification just to feel protected.

So, we work hard with our art, content, dialogue, overall aesthetic, and visual effects to give people the proper ambiance of the world they now live in.

PG: Whoa! So what sets it apart from other superhero MMOs out there? Marvel Heroes and DCUO to be exact.

AV: Personally I find Marvel Heroes Online and DC Universe Online to be more casual MOGs (Multi-Player Online Games) rather than actual hardcore MMORPGs. Both, in my opinion, have very arcade-like game structures without a strong focus on grouping and even less on role-playing; it’s a bit hard to truly role-play when you’re forced to be a specific character or have a given history. Valiance offers a deep role-playing experience with a strong focus on group-oriented game-play and professions. There is also a hardcore PvP element within the game and the essential functionality to support solo-centric game-play. Though the game isn’t aimed at the casual market, we aim to provide a reasonable casual experience for those that wish to enjoy the game that way, and I think that sets our product apart from what other current products offer.

PG: Awesome stuff. You don’t get that kind of experience much anymore outside of very niche hardcore markets. So let’s talk about what players will actually be doing when they log in. What is the moment to moment game play planned? You mentioned non-linearity, how can an MMO be every changing with so many players making decisions?

AV:  The game is being designed as an open-world sandbox of sorts, with a primary focus on combat, a secondary focus on professions, and also includes the tertiary option to just start the game and head off in any direction you want; doing whatever you want. This gives role-players the options to do what they want and enjoy the game they way they want without being forced down a linear path.

Regarding non-linearity, it comes from many of our living-world systems, and I’ll try to express this in a way that doesn’t give up any of the events we have programmed and waiting for players. You’ll see either on-screen or in your journal the “Investigative Mission” panel. These mission are often part of the living-world system. An example would be that you are doing a mission, you find a lootable drawer that you wouldn’t have ever seen without actually interacting with objects in the mission instance. You find a book that appears to hold a secret ritual used by the cultist group you just apprehended, and it tells of a dark dimension that is said to be opened after some manner of moon-shift after the ritual is complete.

Further investigation of the building leads you to find a journal, the journal of the cult’s leader suggests that he has summoned the demon from the ritual and the moon-phase is the only event that remains to hold the demon at bay. In this situation the player can further explore, go to a local magician’s store, talk to the clerk and uncover more details on the rituals and find a way to stop it. The player finds that he/she has to enact a counter-ritual requiring a certain amount of players that are skilled in Darkness Manipulation, all must be equipped 10 warp shards, and stand over an alter created by someone of the enchanting profession. Together those individuals can stop this event from happening.

We expressly inform the players as to when they have successfully completed a living-world event and in some cases you find out that the crisis can’t be averted but that you can complete the mission by preparing properly for the start of the event. Investigative missions aren’t the only missions that can do this, but this outlines how the living-world element works. If that demon escapes, there will be a massive world boss destroying major parts of the city in a way that is visible to everyone. Those aware of the events probably will be awoken to the chilling fact that they had the opportunity to prevent the disaster.

We actually have one of these events planned for the public alpha launch. I think it’s going to be great and I look forward to seeing how players do.

PG: Speaking of the players, what can you tell me about character creation? How do you handle character creation in regards to a role playing focus? How do you force the role playing without seeming overbearing for players? 

AV: We aren’t limiting players in regards to character creation, we even over-exaggerate how apparent role-playing is by allow players to tag every region of their body in character creation and describe it for players that like investigating players and reading about details of their characters. If you have a cyber eye and it’s part of a story, in the details panel choose your eye and add a description/story to it. Player that browse your profile will be able to do likewise and will be able to read those fine details.

Our content is built around this level of freedom, even allowing players to straddle the lines between good and bad, tipping the scales either based on actions or due to NPC’s/group’s specific perspectives. There are many situations where the real-life dilemma of “what is wrong/what is right” plays into the experience whereby the player does something that can be viewed as inherently good, but the NPC views it as bad. There is lots of depth to our system.

PG: About that – with players being bad and other being good, will there be a PvP element to the game? Will players be forming their own unique arch nemesis?

AV: This is something our Systems Director is currently working out. He has decided that we will have hero vs villain battlegrounds that are essentially areas of the city that are labelled hazard zones and you can only go in if you’re interested in PvPing. However, he’s still exploring the idea of implementing in-world events where live villains create content for PvE players by just being there and violating the law. However, it’s one of those things that we’re still considering with no definitive idea as to how we’re going to do it in a way that doesn’t ruin things for PvE players that despise PvP.

And yes, you will be able to form nemesis association using our player database system. We’re building it for an incredible amount of usability. Even allowing players to request ancestry connection to characters from other accounts. The character experience is DEEP!!!

PG: You have my excitement levels RISING! Incredible ambition! I love it. Let’s speak on combat, since it is the biggest part of the game. What is the style of combat? Is it like traditional MMORPG? Or is it more action/combo based? How many powers/abilities do characters have? What does leveling up look like?

AV: Yes, it is very much like traditional, classic MMORPGs, whereas your character is rooted during attacks. We did experiment with mobility-supportive motions/animations and found that it made balancing the experience very hard. In one situation we had a ranged characters moving and attacking, maintaining an impossible-to-close gap between melee characters. To counter we experimented with giving melee character lunge attacks to close gaps, but in some cases, especially PvP situations, a melee character that was well-positioned during a combat scenario could dash to a ranged target, floor them, and finish them off rather quickly. Aside from that issue, we also experienced what we refer to as floating melee. Some melee attacks such as sword or staff attacks felt like it had reasonable impact during strafing and running, but it’s really hard to implement a martial arts style standing kick without sliding the character around on one foot. To really give the game proper balance, and to support the types of animations we’re creating for the game, we had to root players

However, we have worked really hard to blend animations and motion to give combat as fluid a feel as can be accomplished in this situation.

We currently have 90 power sets in-game; the majority of the powers do not yet have proper visual effects and/or sound effects. We have animations for nearly all sets, but are currently in the process of financing visual effects.

Leveling up has the player choosing abilities from 4 different power sets in an offset sequence. Those powers are Primary, Secondary, Pool, and Archetype. The primary and secondary power sets are your typical base combat ability sets. Pool powers offer utility powers such as travel powers like flight and surface crawling. Archetype power sets give you a repository of powers specific to your archetype. An example of an archetype power set would be the Titan archetype’s power set feature many taunt and tank abilities that expand beyond his actual primary and secondary powers.

In a similar sequential fashion, when you level up you unlock enhancement slots which allow you to socket enhancements onto your characters, these are similar to gear in other MMORPG. There are Red, Blue, Yellow, and Purple enhancement types with Blue, Red, and Yellow being various degrees of effectiveness across very common types of effects. Purple enhancements are what most would refer to as super enhancements and are very powerful; they often have 3 or more attribute or effects boosts on them.

PG: Honestly this sounds like a truly remarkable feat. I know you are a ways away from releasing this game, but you do have a few videos of the Alpha build , which our readers can find here:

(These Alpha Streams are very raw and are intended to be a peek behind the curtain.)

                                        Goodness starts around the 24:00 minute mark

AV: Yes, and we will also have some other events coming up. You’ll just have to hang tight for that information.

PG: Alright, alright. Thank you for your time! 

AV: No problem! Thank you for the interview!

 

It sounds like Valiance Online is taking a page from many MMO’s while also creating something incredibly unique. I, for one, can’t wait to see more details as they come to the surface.

You can follow Valiance Online on various social media outlets:
Twitch: twitch.tv/valianceonline
YouTube: youtube.com/valianceonline
Facebook: facebook.com/valianceonline
Twitter: twitter.com/valianceonline

If you would like to help fund the game, you can do so by visiting valiance.shogn.net/donate 

Post was edited to correct Silver-Helm to SilverHelm Studios. 

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PC Previews Playstation 4 Previews

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Coming August 8th

Ninja Theory has announced that their upcoming game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice will launch for PlayStation 4 and PC on August 8, 2017. It was also announced that the game would be a digital-only release. Pre-orders are now available on all platforms. Players who pre-order on PS4 will get a  Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Dynamic Theme that depicts the iconic burning tree scene from the game. PC players will receive an exclusive digital comic short, Hellblade: Senua’s Song.

Check out the latest trailer for Hellblade below:

Categories
PC Previews Playstation 4 Previews X-Box One Previews

Syberia 3 Preview and Release Date

Video game studio Microids and creator Benoit Sokal reveal new features in Syberia 3, the latest installment in the cult adventure game saga. Currently in development for Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC and Mac, Syberia 3 is scheduled for release on April 20 in the UK and April 25 in the US.

You may recall, in the latest chapter of Kate Walker’s journey, we find her adrift on a makeshift boat. By good fortune, a caravan of Youkol –who also appeared in Syberia 2–discovers her before she draws her last breath. Determined to escape their common enemies, Kate decides to aid the nomads accomplish their lone ancestral tradition: to accompany their snow ostriches in their seasonal migration to the sacred steppes so they can reproduce. A voyage through enchanting and wasted lands that will see the young woman experience her most dangerous and marvelous adventure yet,with her enemies always on her heels.

Now in true 3D, Syberia 3 has been developed for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac Since its inception. Players will enjoy an all-new freedom to explore the magnificent countrysides and cities, unraveling their mysteries and enigmas in a manner never before seen in the saga. Original score has been performed for the game by Inon Zur (Fallout, Dragon Age…), who also scored Syberia 2.

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Previews

Full Specs Revealed for Project Scorpio

In an exclusive presentation to Digital Foundry, Microsoft has revealed more details about their upcoming console, Project Scorpio. Along with the full specs for the console, there was also a gameplay demo that showed off the power of the new machine.

The specs for Scorpio were confirmed to be in line with what was said at its reveal back at E3. Below are the guts Scorpio, along with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 Pro for comparison.

Project Scorpio                            Xbox One                              PlayStation 4 Pro

CPU Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz Eight custom Jaguar cores clocked at 1.75GHz Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1GHz
GPU 40 customized compute units at 1172MHz 12 GCN compute units at 853MHz (Xbox One S: 914MHz) 36 improved GCN compute units at 911MHz
Memory 12GB GDDR5 8GB DDR3/32MB ESRAM 8GB GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 326GB/s DDR3: 68GB/s, ESRAM at max 204GB/s (Xbox One S: 219GB/s) 218GB/s
Hard Drive 1TB 2.5-inch 500GB/1TB/2TB 2.5-inch 1TB 2.5-inch
Optical Drive 4K UHD Blu-ray Blu-ray (Xbox One S: 4K UHD) Blu-ray

To put everything into perspective, Digital Foundry made a comparison between Scorpio and Xbox One S.

“So the CPU is about 30 percent faster than the Xbox One’s. The GPU is 4.6 times more powerful than Xbox One’s. What matters just as much, though, is the huge amount of very fast memory available. Even with 4GB reserved for the system, games have a whole 8GB to play with, up from 5GB of much slower memory on Xbox One. That means fast streaming of very high-quality art assets, which will really help at the 4K ultra HD resolutions that Microsoft is gunning for.”(Digital Foundry).

Along with the specs, Microsoft also showed off a demo of that was running off the engine used for Forza Motorsport 6. Running at 60 frames per second and in full 4K, the demo used 60-70 percent of its available power. After that, the game was played at ultra PC settings and the machine handled it easily.

For gamers without a 4K TV, Digital Foundry says that Scorpio still may be worth considering. Players will have the choice of a mode to run the games better, or a mode to pump out the best resolution possible.

For games without a Scorpio patch, the full force of the console will still be available.

“Rather than running on an emulated Xbox One, they’ll run with the full power of Scorpio unlocked, which in most cases should mean: more stable frame rates that hit their target more often; no screen tearing; maximum possible resolution at all times; nicer-looking textures; and faster load times, thanks to the improved hard drive and the spare 3GB of fast RAM.”(Digital Foundry).

Microsoft did not reveal any information about the official name, price or release date for Scorpio. For a full breakdown of the specs behind Scorpio, click here. Digital Foundry has also released an article which simplifies things but still gets the key messages across.

 

 

 

Categories
Nintendo Switch Reviews PC Reviews Playstation 4 Reviews X-Box One Previews

Snake Pass Review

Wow, what can I say about Snake Pass. Snake Pass is a retro-inspired platformer, where players slither, curl and climb their way through increasingly challenging worlds filled with intricate obstacles and fiendishly mind-bending challenges.
When a mysterious intruder threatens the tranquillity of their home, it’s up to Noodle the Snake and Doodle the Hummingbird to embark on a daring journey to save the day.  Controlling this dynamic duo, you must ‘think like a snake’ and slither, curl and climb your way through 15 levels across 4 increasingly challenging themed worlds.  Snake Pass is a unique take on the platforming genre that is intuitive and fun to learn, but will gradually test your snake charming skills to the limit.

Yea thats the basics. Well it’s the total package.  With no dedicated jump button (cause snakes don’t jump), you must use R2 to move forward while moving back and left and right with the left stick in a “S” motion to build up speed. It’s easy enough to do, but frustrating while trying to line up your movement towards a bamboo stick that you must climb to acquire three gems to open the final gate, one of the many ethereal wisps placed, or one of the 5 coins hidden in the level.  While finding anything other than the three gems is not required to pass the level, part of the fun of Snake Pass is moving around to find these collectables, and that is where it fell short for me.
Climbing and moving around is not difficult but can be very frustrating as the camera is not always placed in a way to accurately see what you are trying to grab.  You can move the camera around with the right stick, but trying to do that all while trying to climb a stick holding R2 to move forward, holding X to pick your head up, L2 to hold tightly, the left stick to move Noodle’s head in the direction you need to it go, and the right stick to move the camera to just the right angle, only to find out that the right angle is no viewable because something is in the way, is only frustrating.  One good thing I can say about Snake Pass is there is no time limit associated with the levels so you can fail many times, with no fear of losing out on progress other than you having to collect what you picked up after your last save.

Every level is built with Noodle unique style of movement in mind and the enchanting environments, is the only reason to play this 3D platformer, as the story is very much lacking.  As of the writing of this review, I have not beaten the game but have made it through a majority of the levels.

At the price point of $20, it will be available on Steam, X-Box One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch.  While its not a must buy, I would say its a game that is unique enough to at least try.  Sumo Digital, who is the developer behind Little Big Planet 3, hired Seb Liese to make Snake Pass after winning of Sumo Digital’s inaugural Game Jam, Snake Pass was created as a love letter to both the favourite games of his youth and his childhood pet snake.  Sam was also very good at making community levels in LBP3, but sadly it seems he should have spent more time making these 15 levels!

Check out the reveal trailer below

editors note:

a PS4 review code was supplied by developer, Sumo Digital, for the sole purpose of review