GameLuster http://gameluster.com You Know You Do Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:11:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.8 Frisky Impressions http://gameluster.com/frisky-impressions/ http://gameluster.com/frisky-impressions/#respond Sun, 17 Dec 2017 05:11:25 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21717 Browsing the PSN Holiday sale deals I fell prey to the “boobs-in-the-thumbnail” clickbait game cover. PlayStation’s game library is prominently clean so it was surprising to see this kind of game offered. For under five dollars, I decided to try it out.

Frisky Business is an interactive “romance” visual novel. You play as Falco Frisk of Frisk Investigative Solutions. He’s a private detective who spends more time getting  frisky with women than solving crimes.

The plot follows Frisk, who looks like a Nathan Drake rip off, as he attempts to uncover the identity of a clown that is stalking three college girls. Those involved in the making of the game clearly had a nonexistent education on forensic procedures. It is hilariously inaccurate; a simple Google search could’ve prevented these inaccuracies.

The game isn’t all bad. They added some good puns in there and I found myself laughing throughout. I decided to play the game with my significant other. We would voice the characters which made the experience all the more funny.

The game needs a better save system. It allows for one play through at a time and only saves at the beginning of each chapter. Every time I would choose a dialogue option that caused a negative reaction in one of the characters, I would have to exit out and redo the whole chapter. It was a nuisance to say the least, but one hour into the game, I was admittedly a tad bit invested.

If you aren’t just in it for the physical aspect of the girls, there is an option for a strictly romantic relationship with one of the characters. I chose to go this route, and the relationship between Frisk and Lucy, the romantic choice character, was quite adorable. However, I doubt most of the game’s player bases opted to go that route.

Should you play Frisky Business? For the cheap price of $4.99, I’d answer that with a solid probably not.

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“The Dawning,” Destiny 2’s Winter Event, Returns December 19 http://gameluster.com/the-dawning-destiny-2s-winter-event-returns-december-19/ http://gameluster.com/the-dawning-destiny-2s-winter-event-returns-december-19/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 23:59:40 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21693

“With warmth in her voice, she said, ‘…Now more than ever, we must gather together in the Tower, at the Farm, and all across the system to give thanks. Our Light has returned — and it illuminates everything around us.'” – Ikora Rey

A new year approaches, and with this new year comes great change for the Guardians of the Tower. The famous Dawning winter event will make its return to Destiny 2 on December 19, running from then until January 9. The Dawning is a special time of celebration for all who revel in The Traveler’s Light, bringing much exciting change along with it.

In the spirit of holiday tradition, The Tower will see an all new wintery decor, one fit with large mountains of snow for snowball fights (yes, real snowball fights with your friends at the tower or farm), beautiful, bright lights, and plenty of festive cheer. The exciting bit about the addition of “snowballs” is that they will serve as a social space and maybe even more importantly you may use snowballs in Strikes to stun enemies or deal massive damage. This is a pretty neat change, one that really ties the winter atmosphere in with an actual, effective game mechanic. (I’d love to see a raid team drop Calus only using snowballs…)

New Milestones will be available, rewarding players with “Dawning Engrams.” These will be decrypted by Tess and yield holiday, winter, or Dawning themed armor, gear, shaders, and more. After a certain point during the event, Tess will offer all of these items (including Exotic rarity) on the front of her shelves, so to speak. All will be available, again, in the spirit of the holiday season.

For the first time ever, you’ll be able to “gift” (and receive) items to other Guardians. The original post describes the process of doing this.

“Pick up a Dawning Gift Schematic from the Bazaar. Venture to other worlds and craft a unique gift for the vendors and agents you find in the Tower and beyond. Then, give the lucky recipient their gift and receive a gift in return,” the post states. Seems simple enough, head to X planet, perform Y task, and get Z item to use in the gift exchange process. Neat. I hope it doesn’t go awry. It could get… dicey.

However, these are just some of the many changes that we’ll see during The Dawning winter event. Bungie always manages to surprise us, and this seasonal event seems to be motivated strongly by generosity, which is good for us players. I look forward to these giant mounds of snow lying all around the galaxy and pegging my friends with virtual snowballs, and I can not wait to blast a Vandal in the head with one, too. New armor and weaponry excites me, for the same reasons it always does. But perhaps the change I look forward to most is that of the atmosphere. For what it’s worth, Destiny is a home to me. And this season, Bungie’s decorating.

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Pokemon Crystal Headed to 3DS Virtual Console http://gameluster.com/pokemon-crystal-headed-to-3ds-virtual-console/ http://gameluster.com/pokemon-crystal-headed-to-3ds-virtual-console/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 23:31:39 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21690 Nintendo continued the stream of classic Pokémon releases for the Virtual Console earlier this year with Pokémon Gold and Silver. However, it was surprising that Crystal was not among the releases. The game started many of the modern series’ trends and improved upon the core games. For this reason, Nintendo probably wanted to make those interested wait.

Pokémon Crystal is now finally preparing for its Nintendo 3DS debut. Through Twitter, Nintendo confirmed that Crystal will be released on January 26.

Crystal will come with many of the perks of the Virtual Console releases, including the ability to trade and battle wirelessly. You will also be able to use the time capsule feature to trade back to Virtual Console versions of Red, Blue, and Yellow.

Pokémon Bank support has also been confirmed. This subscription service will allow players to transfer their Pokémon from their Crystal journey up to Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon so you can continue traveling with all your friends.

As part of the announcement, Nintendo has released a new trailer for the game. It doesn’t show much, but it does confirm that players will be able to encounter the legendary Pokémon Celebi, who was previously unavailable to the general public.

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Top 5 PSN Store Holiday Deals, Week One http://gameluster.com/top-5-psn-store-holiday-deals-week-one/ http://gameluster.com/top-5-psn-store-holiday-deals-week-one/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:24:20 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21677 If your wallet isn’t still empty from the onslaught of Black Friday video games sales, then you’re in luck! The PlayStation Network has begun its first week of holiday sales. Through December 19, PS Plus members can get incredible discounts on select titles.

The following list contains a few of the best deals for PS4 users.

Alien: Isolation ($8.99)

Immersive and all-around a fun play, Alien: Isolation has received an abundance of positive reviews. It is a survival-horror game that takes place in the science-fiction universe of the iconic Alien franchise.

Character Amanda Ripley ventures into the depths of her missing mother’s ship. There she finds hostile androids and humans that can be defeated in the traditional first-person shooter way, but there is one foe that cannot be killed. An alien hunts her and stalks her based on sounds and disturbances. This is where the game deploys its excellent stealth system that left me paranoid with every step.

LEGO The Hobbit ($4.99)

LEGO games were a staple in my childhood gaming life. When I saw a five dollar LEGO game that was also a crossover with The Hobbit, I pulled my wallet out, purchase effective immediately. It’s simply a fun couch co-op play for all ages.

The Wolf Among Us ($6.24)

I’ve played every Telltale choice-based story game available and this one is my favorite. Imagine all your favorite fairy tale characters and Disney princesses living in a modern-day city; that’s the setting of TWAU.

Bigby is the game’s playable character, a werewolf sheriff for Fabletown, the area of Manhattan where the fairy-tale characters reside. It’s his job to solve the crimes of the town and keep the fables out of trouble. This might sound cute and silly, but cute and silly couldn’t be further from it in actuality. (It’s rated M for a reason.)

Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 ($12.49)

If you’re a fan of fighting games, this is a solid pick. It’s sold at $39.99 regularly, making this an excellent deal. (It’s such an excellent deal, in fact, you might pick it up even if you’re not a fan of fighting games.)

Never Alone ($2.99)

Inspired and created by indigenous people of Alaska, Never Alone offers insight into the culture of the Iñupiaq group. Its art style and atmosphere are both stunning, and the game utilizes its atmosphere in its puzzles and platforming.

You play as Nuna, a young Iñupiaq girl.  You can switch between controlling her and her arctic fox; this mechanic is also utilized in solving puzzles.

There have been mixed reviews on the platforming and puzzle mechanics of the game, but its story has been almost unanimously praised.

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The Best Moment in Super Mario Odyssey (SPOILERS) http://gameluster.com/the-best-moment-in-super-mario-odyssey-spoilers/ http://gameluster.com/the-best-moment-in-super-mario-odyssey-spoilers/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 05:48:23 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21597 *SPOILER WARNING*

Super Mario Odyssey has become my obsession, and I don’t even own a Nintendo Switch. Every part is captivating and amazing, along with the great graphics. But, there is just one moment, one aspect of this game that screams nostalgia: The references to Super Mario 64.

Once you’ve beaten the game, more moons are added. One of the additions is Toad standing at a locked gate in Mushroom Kingdom. Toad states something along the lines of, “I want to see polygonal Mario.” So, I make my way to the shop and buy his hat which warps his face and then his outfit. Mario comes out looking exactly as he looked in Super Mario 64. And with this outfit, you can feel the nostalgia of the Nintendo 64. Once you dress as this, you go into the door and are taken to a scene that looks similar to the original game, a Super Mario 64 area with chests you have to hit in order to receive a moon.

This callback is definitely something to congratulate, and the nostalgia makes you want to go find all 999 moons in the game.

Along with this moment, the fact that even the tune Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64 plays when you’re about to warp into a painting is magical.

I think this one aspect of the game makes people look back on all Mario games and reminisce. This made me smile at this point in the game as well. And even now, while writing this article, I’m listening to Peach’s Castle from Super Mario 64. Well done Nintendo.

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Battalion 1944 Pre-Announcement Trailer http://gameluster.com/battalion-1944-pre-announcement-trailer/ http://gameluster.com/battalion-1944-pre-announcement-trailer/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 05:39:48 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21669 There’s a new developer in town, and they’re out to make a name for themselves in the world of competitive first-person shooters.

Bulkhead Interactive has released a pre-announcement trailer for its upcoming FPS, Battalion 1944. The trailer details its goals as a developer, which revolve around “recapturing those days that’ve gone by, the fun we’ve had, playing until 3 a.m., [and] practicing until really late [in] the night.” Strongly motivated by nostalgia, Bulkhead has created something special, remembering the late nights we all had playing the early Call of Duty games.

Members of the Bulkhead team have traveled to France and scouted the locations for Battalion 1944, aiming to accurately capture the visceral nature, bravery, and fear that the soldiers of World War II experienced, and to create a beautiful, accurate environment.

“Combining the beautiful backdrop of World War II France and Unreal Engine with classic shooters that we grew up playing as kids… I think it’s a winning combination,” said Joe Brammer, studio lead and charismatic spokesperson of the Bulkhead Interactive team.

Battalion 1944 has been designed with contemporary, competitive shooters and all the changes they brought to the table strongly in mind.

“It’s not about re-inventing the wheel… It’s about going back to what was great about games that has been lost…” said David Jones, the lead gameplay designer.

It feels to me that Battalion 1944 will fill a gap in my gamer heart that has been an empty cavern for years. Recent Call of Duty games, among other FPS series, have become so complicated and clustered with information, power-ups, aesthetic items, and excessive noise that they’ve become distant from what they once were. Battalion 1944 might just be the breath of fresh air that FPS fans like myself really need.

The goal to recapture lost memories that have been discarded by major game companies and AAA titles makes this a game for the community. With that being said, Bulkhead has a surprise for us: the game will cost $14.99. This low price could be inspired by PlayerUnknown’s Battelgrounds’ famously low $29.99. It could also be a reaction to $59.99 price tags on AAA titles, in which players aren’t satisfied for very long, or are forced to pay for additional DLC.

Bulkhead Interactive is a new name on my radar and one that I will keep a close watch on after seeing this trailer. I’m impressed by the amount of dedication the team has put in through their scouting trips and their desire to bring back lost feelings and experiences to a widely loved game genre.

Check out the pre-announcement trailer for Battalion 1944. The gameplay trailer will realease on January 9.


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Payday 2 Coming to Switch in February http://gameluster.com/payday-2-coming-to-switch-in-february/ http://gameluster.com/payday-2-coming-to-switch-in-february/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:10:34 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21666 Back during the April Nintendo Direct, one of the surprise announcements was that Starbreeze Studios was bringing Payday 2 to the Nintendo Switch. Months have passed with complete radio silence, leading many to speculate that this might not come.

However, the developers have officially confirmed that not only is Payday 2 still coming to Switch, but will hit the Switch in February, specifically February 23 in Europe and the 27 for the Americas and Australia.

The game will retain the same fun of the original release but with the added benefit of portable play. If you are unfamiliar with the game, you and your team plan and execute heists, starting by scouting out your target — such as a jewelry store — and then heading in and taking action.

If you are interested in Payday 2, you will have the opportunity to either pick it up digitally or physically. Starbreeze Studios is handling the digital release, while 505 Games will produce the physical product, in case any fellow collectors were worried they would not be able to add a shiny Switch box to their collection.

 

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Five Worthwhile Switch Games http://gameluster.com/five-worthwhile-switch-games/ http://gameluster.com/five-worthwhile-switch-games/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 01:54:30 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21646 With Christmas fast approaching, there is no doubt that the Nintendo Switch is going to be a popular item going under people’s trees. Not even nine months in, Nintendo has shown us why we need to own this system.

For those who have yet to own it, you will need to know what games to get. Sure, you can get plenty of games on the eShop, which we will discuss in another article, but let’s look at the quality games brought to retail that will appeal to an assortment of family members.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I picked this game up at launch with the simple interest of having a prospective collector’s item; little did I know that this game would be worth my time. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a lengthy RPG that will keep players busy for a long time.

What makes it so appealing is its story and world. Whether playing in handheld or on the TV, the world of Alrest is breathtaking, and the sense of scale makes you want to explore every corner.

As for its story, you play as Rex, a young salvager who takes on a big job that accidentally brings him into contact with a powerful being known as the Aegis. Working with the Aegis, you seek to find a place known as Elysium in the hopes of bringing peace to the world. Sadly, a simple description cannot do this story justice, but trust me, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has you laughing and, at times, crying. With every story beat I was entertained and driven forward.

The gameplay, however, is just okay. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has an audience for its combat systems, and the combat is decisive for whether you’ll like the game. Once it gets going, there is plenty in the combat to make most fights interesting but it may be a bumpy road for you.

This is still a great game that provides hours of entertainment for patient players, and if the original is any indication this one could be a future collector’s item. You might want a copy now.

Fire Emblem Warriors

If you are coming into Fire Emblem Warriors with standard Fire Emblem knowledge, you need to leave that at the door. Warriors is nothing like a traditional strategy game, with the twist removing the typical turn-based strategy in favor of fast-paced action. Where this shift wasn’t as huge a shock for Zelda in Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors is a massive change for the series’ standard, and one for the best.

No franchise under Nintendo’s belt fits the Warriors branding better. The battles that take place in this game feel like they could have been enacted on a traditional scale. The Warriors twist allows a new perspective, focusing more on a traditional war system as opposed to timing and patience. Each battle is expertly crafted, challenging, and satisfying as you fight through waves of enemies to clear an objective.

Fire Emblem Warriors still won’t appeal to everyone, but it is worth a playthrough. It is surprising how much fun this game can be, how the story, however silly, may affect you. This stands as one of the Switch’s finest games and one that should be played by anyone capable.

Splatoon 2

If you look back at the Wii U’s library, you might remember Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Pikmin 3, Super Mario Maker, and othersUndoubtedly one of the strongest offerings was Splatoon. This game was a different act from Nintendo as it had a dedicated focus to online play with traditional, though family friendly, gunplay. It was a shooter, Nintendo-fied.

With the Switch’s announcement, it was exciting just to imagine Nintendo putting the original game on the system, making the announcement of Splatoon 2 even better. You could argue that it does not feel like a sequel, but that doesn’t matter. For general consumers, the game is new and exciting.

Splatoon 2 is a competitive shooter that focuses less on kill counts and more on objectives. The key mode is Turf War, where you fight for territory by painting the ground with your color, but there are other option, each with a different twist on a classic game mode.

Splatoon 2 is a blast of a game that offers hours of fun whether you immerse yourself in the plethora of online content or go for the more subdued single-player campaign.

Snipperclips Plus

The Switch had a solid launch line-up whether you were heading to retail or buying digitally. Among the digital offerings was Snipperclips, a clever and cutesy puzzle game that had two players work together to complete objectives by snipping each other. At launch this was a great game, but as the year has drawn to a close the developers decided to add even more content and provide a retail release.

The latest version of Snipperclips, otherwise known as Snipperclips Plus, offers a series of new challenges. You have to complete seemingly simple objectives that prove to be nefarious.

A word of caution: choose your partner carefully, because some puzzles get infuriating, and a lack of communication can frustrate players. Even still, every level oozes with creativity, charm, and imagination.

Definitely pick up Snipperclips Plus – it’s one of the Switch’s best multiplayer experiences.

1-2 Switch

In the grand scheme of the Switch’s library, this final pick is likely unpopular, but 1-2 Switch is worth your time. In a console ripe with multiplayer experiences, there is no game I have played more with my family than 1-2 Switch. For what this game lacks in visual flare, it more than makes up for it with charm and the laughter it inspires.

Whether playing an elimination game of Soda, waiting to hear a loud “Fire,” or playing a love-struck Gorilla, there are laughs and good times. Sure, 1-2 Switch may be a simple minigame compilation without the flare of Wii-era collections, but if given a chance, 1-2 Switch can make you smile and will happily entertain the entire family in short but fun bursts.

If you are after a Switch, these five games will offer enjoyment for you and the different people in your life. From lengthy RPGs to zany party games, the system has no shortage of software to offer that will keep players happy.

 

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Behind the Sounds: Bringing Science Fiction to Life http://gameluster.com/behind-the-sounds-bringing-science-fiction-to-life/ http://gameluster.com/behind-the-sounds-bringing-science-fiction-to-life/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 23:50:47 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21514 In the previous article for this series, I wrote about the evolution of sound design. An important part of this is the sounds foley artists like Alyson Dee Moore, who worked on Batman: Arkham City, have created. She worked on films like Transformers, Inception, Jupiter Ascending, Big Hero 6, and Underworld, and her experience in video games includes Halo 5, Tekken 6, and the God of War series. Many artists will work on various projects since the field is more exclusive. When working with film, foley artists are able to match sounds to what they see or are given a list of what they need to make. In games and animation, there are no guidelines for the right sound. The amount of ingenuity necessary for many types of projects is what makes foley artists specialists. This is especially true when they work on a science-fiction project, where sound designers must make something we have never seen before sound authentic.

Halo

Replicating sounds that exist is a far cry from creating sounds for things that don’t exist. Sounds used for sci-fi films and games are often made up of several layers sampled from an extensive library. In Halo, the sound of the armor was made by editing and layering things like staple guns and wrenches to make the perfect metallic clanging. For the Prometheans, 343 mixed together human voices and their recordings of Tasmanian devils to make them sound vicious, yet still slightly humanoid.

The sound team for Halo 4 used digital processors with motion sensors that changed output when held in various positions. Using this method they were able to distort the sounds and match the setting of the game.

Mass Effect

The first audio you probably think of with Mass Effect is the voice acting, especially since the Andromeda fiasco, but every sound in the game required a high attention to detail. Every part of the final boss in Mass Effect 2 needed to sound massive and dramatic. In order to make each aspect of the Human-Reaper sound cohesive, Bioware melded together layers with special filters and used a fog horn as a base sound for its weapons and voice.

(Sounds of the final boss in Mass Effect 2.)

This worked well for a massive boss, but the creation of other robotic or synthetic characters was much different. The voice of Legion took much more work and processing to get right. After taking the Geth noises from their sound library, sound designers then tried mixing it with different voices until they found the one that fit. Maintaining the intonations and character of someone speaking is difficult when adding such mechanical sounds, but after trying several different filters and processing the sound Bioware was able to make the voice we now know.

(The process of making the voice of Legion. Starting with the Geth sample, then the voice acting, then the final result after processing.)

Mass Effect 2 took the sounds from the first game and replaced them with a new audio engine that demanded a lot of time. In Mass Effect 3, Bioware used this same engine, giving the audio crew more time to focus on enhancing the individual sound quality of previous files. By focusing more on the quality of existing samples, Bioware was able to make sounds react based on the environment to enhance the player’s experience. Many of the sounds have a soft distortion to match the visual effects in the game.

(Comparison of the weapon sounds in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.)

Firearms, explosions, and voiceovers are the most noticeable sounds that come to mind, but more is needed to create a character. The sound of armor is more understated because you hear it so often; it shouldn’t be too grating. These noises were made with sports equipment like hockey pads and ski boots to give a slightly softer effect than metal plates.

Star Wars & Lucas Arts

(The above screenshot is from the game’s Steam community page, found here.)

The sound design we have today, including that of Mass Effect and Halo, would not be possible without the work of Skywalker Sound. Some of the most recognizable sounds for sci-fi are from Star Wars. Lucas Arts, now dissolved, took foley seriously for decades, believing that it makes the sound more authentic when it’s performed. Lightsabers were made from a static TV and an old projector mixed together, and the sounds of blasters and saber duels is a hammer banging on a wire. To make the steps seem more like that of a Jedi, leather is attached to the soles of shoes, and the armor of bounty hunters is actually metal scraps attached to regular clothes.

(The iconic sound of a lightsaber.)

(Running and jumping in Bounty Hunter has a very slight metallic sound for the armor mixed with footsteps.)

Sometimes what is used for recording the sounds of aliens is even more surprising. For instance, Star Wars Republic Commando used more fruits and vegetables than you would think. The reptilian Trandoshans footsteps were made from pineapples sliced in half, adding a wet and heavy sound. The home planet of the Geonosians is full of bugs and insect-like creatures, which made finding the perfect squishy yet crunchy sounds difficult. Eventually, foley artists settled on using oyster shells crunching into cabbage to replicate their footsteps. These sounds are barely audible in the final product, but without them, it would feel like something is missing.

Not all studios follow the same rules or process. This is what makes sound design such an interesting field because the most important thing is the outcome; there’s no one way to do it. From iconic space operas to modern space shooters, sound design has made an impact on the way we enjoy science fiction.


(Sound clip sources for Mass Effect section: https://tinyurl.com/ya9nta4z , https://tinyurl.com/ybhn6gff, https://tinyurl.com/y7qhp89b )

(Sound clip sources for Star Wars section: https://tinyurl.com/y97n3a3g , https://tinyurl.com/grs5tec )

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Rage Quest Review: or Trying Really Hard Not to Reference Rage Quitting http://gameluster.com/rage-quest-review-or-trying-really-hard-not-to-reference-rage-quitting/ http://gameluster.com/rage-quest-review-or-trying-really-hard-not-to-reference-rage-quitting/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 11:42:36 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21577 Reviewing a strategy game is always as uncertain as playing a strategy game. When playing a game that requires thoughtful input and planning, one can hope to discern between right and wrong actions. So when one consistently chooses the wrong course of action and subsequently fails to enjoy the game, it’s hard to blame the game for not being enjoyable. Cynical minds may even call the reviewer’s poor decision making to attention, and if done rightfully the review loses the sure footing it seemed to have before it was published.

No such care is warranted for Rage Quest, however. Rage Quest is a recent release and developer Nicholas Fisher’s debut, his baby. This we ought to keep in mind as we determine why exactly it fails as a strategy game. In Rage Quest, you play as Zye who awakens to find himself trapped in the Internet. With the help of your trusty expository-dialogue-spewing sidekicks, you must find your way out of the Internet and back into the real world. The plot we will discuss after the most relevant aspect: the gameplay.

Allegedly a real-time strategy according to its description on Steam, Rage Quest combines the various elements of not being able to pause the game, being able to pause the game, and waiting for timers to go off in order to beat the scum and villainy of the Internet. Most strategy games do fall on the side of either real-time or turn-based combat, but Rage Quest attempts to defy this distinction by simply being both. The majority of the time, you will be fighting your foes in real time, but the option to pause the fight is always there, albeit as an option limited to five uses. In any fight, you begin by dealing the first strike or making the first move, after which the foes will react and attempt to murder you as you them. Every move and ability takes time to charge and recharge, making the first action perhaps the most important one in any fight, something the game readily acknowledges by not allowing even boss enemies to act before you do.

With the option to buy items, abilities, and new equipment, you’ll find yourself very short on money as you try to explore all the options. Why, you can even do side quests to get items, money, or new abilities to help you in future fights! The unfortunate reality, however, as alluded to earlier, is that the complexity the game aspires to is wasted on its own combat and customization systems. More often than not, the fight boils down to the simple fact of hitting harder. This was made especially apparent in the first fight of the second overworld where the enemies’ attacks would lower my own attack stat, even when blocked, leading to me being unable to do the damage required to kill the last enemy and win the fight. It was only then I realized I could upgrade my unmodified stats by using a special kind of money only used for this purpose. So with a new weapon and a +10 in POW, I curb stomped the entirety of the second overworld without much thought or planning.

 

The whole point of being a strategy game is to offer branching paths to victory. The game is even described as being an RPG, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Though it is true that you can buy and use items and abilities, I never found myself needing to bother at all. I only ever bought the strongest spell in the game just to eliminate one enemy so I could have an easier time punching other enemies very hard, a tactic I have since not abandoned for even one fight. The one reason not a single element in what could maybe be considered an RPG system works to any effect is the fact that the combat is neither turn-based nor real-time strategy. Moreover, the game’s combat system is hardly a combat system; it’s a puzzle system.

In any fight, the arena in which you enter is seemingly unique. The layout of the specific tiles will be different, though the tiles themselves could be any iteration of a hazard that depletes health in either direction (or boosts stats to make this happen). The placement of the combatants will also vary depending on the fight, though Zye will mostly find himself alone on the left with enemies surrounding him near the edges of the map. The number of enemies will also be different depending on the fight. As stated above, the first act may just be the most important one, and this simple fact reduces every single fight to one that is won or lost in the first few “rounds,” or “charges and recharges of actions.” All of this to say that the only way to win a fight is to make the right few choices in the beginning to eliminate any possible threat and then take care of the loose ends.

 

 

An example would serve better here than to talk abstractly. You enter an arena with a wolf, a penguin, and a vote sign from Reddit (more on this later). In this scenario, you want to take out the wolf, run from the penguin, and keep the vote sign for last. The wolf has to die first because he boosts his attack stat (his POW) and rips through your defense if left unchecked. The penguin is only a pain if you get hit as this is the enemy that lowers your POW. You’ll want to attack preemptively (charge your attack) and then move into range of the penguin or he’ll run away and you’ll miss. The vote sign dies last because of its inconsequential role as a healer. And since it cannot heal itself, it’s best to take out the more annoying enemies first.

The problem with this fight isn’t so much that the path of victory is clear; indeed, it is clear to me where it might not be to others. What’s troublesome is that you win or lose the fight on the first one, two, or three rounds of the fight. If the wolf gets a stat boost or two off and you miss an attack, the fight is over. If the penguin lowers your attack stat once or twice and you still haven’t killed the wolf, the fight is over. If either of the former are true, or both at the same time, while the vote sign from Reddit gets a heal off on the wolf or penguin, the fight is over. Click the exit-to-map button and start again.

The game is hereby reduced to a simple puzzle game where you lay the pieces correctly or screw the order up and lose any and all reason to attempt to solve the puzzle. It’s not only harder to put the puzzle pieces in order now that they’re all screwed up, but it’ll take more time and be less rewarding. In the end, you might even choke on one of the final puzzle pieces and have to restart the puzzle from the original order anyway. This would be my major gripe with the game. It introduces complex systems of charging abilities that need to be carefully planned out ahead of time and then undoes all of its previous work by becoming farcical. The complexity of the stats and the boosts undoes itself as a stronger POW will kill enemies quicker, making the fights easier. The breadth of items and abilities in the shops undoes their individual uses as the one item or ability that does the most damage will inevitably be the most useful for reasons stated above. The equipment section even acknowledges this flaw by only offering flat POW or DEF upgrades, never a ranged weapon or magic staff, and is thereby one of the simpler sections in the shop alongside the stat upgrade section.

But any RPG needs a good story, as my perfectly executed transition from swords, bows, and magic would clearly introduce. Not at all bothered to induce sarcastic snickering and eye rolling, Rage Quest offers a very on-the-nose plot that’s self-aware as a video game released in 2017. Self-awareness online tends to induce these two reactions, I find, though that would probably be best served in a separate article I do not intend to write. Zye is, of course, trapped in the horrible, dark Internet and must travel through overworlds poetically titled “the Hive” and “the Pit.” The Hive might not be such an obvious pick until you remember one of Obi Wan’s quotable lines from the first Star Wars movie, one I even referenced earlier in the review.

Naturally all the enemies Zye encounters are horribly annoying digital and Internet-y elements such as viruses and malware, dreaded racist sexist gross and disgusting YouTube comments (ewwwww), and even effing memes. What horror! How could our hero ever escape this wretched torment? Ah, by gathering hate! Hate, of course, is an abundant resource on the Internet.

Here I break paragraphs before we both find ourselves in hospital. The trite nature of the plot really isn’t so much yawn-inducing as much as it ultimately becomes ironic and self-defeating. In safe areas on the map, you can stop to speak to those you would otherwise violently murder without question or remorseful sentiments. One of the recurring NPCs is the Wiki Entry that will expand on some element you have encountered in any of the fights before. These Wiki Entries are far from official and appear at first and every glance to have been written by an author on Encyclopedia Dramatica. Later on, one even says that “Internet trolls heavily edit wiki entries” or something to that effect, but the game lacks the necessary self-awareness to turn it on itself in a humorous fashion and instead makes an “I had sexual intercourse with your mother” joke.

The meme enemies are always the worst versions of themselves, and their interactions with you and others is nothing short of embarrassing. The wolf enemy I mentioned earlier is the violent wolf meme, complete with the original head that is always shouting and barks when he boosts his own POW. The penguin is the awkward penguin meme who, at one point, says goodbye instead of hello to you on first contact. Awkward, geez! The vote sign from Reddit attacks by down-voting and heals by up-voting. And one of the boss enemies is simply Twitch chat, which Zye never understands as it’s simply moving too fast. After all these references, I expected Zye to wink at me through his cartoony helmet and for there to be a festive jingle playing like the ending to Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. Imagine my horror at the thought of this not being the case. It’s staggering to think about.

Finally, the only funny parts about the game are the parts that try to be serious and end up being complete failures. Similar to a very bad movie that tries hard to be good, there’s a certain transferal of goofiness from the screen to your eyeballs that tickles your brain and raises the question, “Was that a serious attempt to do XYZ?” The more glaring episode of this comes to us in the form of very late, very dry, and very belabored artistic and political commentary performed by the game via one of the NPCs. In one certain fight, you enter the arena to find a female NPC just one or two tiles away from you with two angry rage comic memes that shoot explosive blasts at her continuously until either she dies or you do. Once you rescue this veritable damsel in distress incapable even of running away, you are greeted to the hamfisted explanation of the GamerGate drama that happened years ago. The words sexist, sexism, and hatred return quite often in this speech as video gamers are written off as childish losers who hate women, especially those who expose the sexist plots in gaming and pop culture as being sexist. And this from a damsel in distress whom you just rescued with unrelenting violence! The irony is too thick to cut, ladies and gentlemen.

So what really remains to be said about Rage Quest? Aside from the overly simplistic gameplay elements and the hacky and worn-out narrative, the overall presentation seems lacking in every respect but the soundtrack. Though monotonous and hardly expansive, the music was never insufferable, instead blending into the beige background quite nicely. The art style is too reminiscent of 2005-era Newgrounds flash games to be excusable twelve years after losing its charm, however, and the entire game comes off as sloppy; a sad fate for a debut title that is doomed to live forever on the hellhole of the Internet. But for those who can look past all of the flaws—or disagree that they are flaws—and the $8 (€8) asking price, you can certainly do worse than pick up this game. I ask only that you be forewarned that, as you can do worse, so, too, can you do better.

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Buying Barbie and Her Sisters: Puppy Rescue http://gameluster.com/buying-barbie-and-her-sisters-puppy-rescue/ http://gameluster.com/buying-barbie-and-her-sisters-puppy-rescue/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 01:35:29 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21593 This weekend, I had a friend’s little sister beg and plead for Barbie and Her Sisters: Puppy Rescue for Wii. And I’m talking about a full-blown meltdown right in GameStop. So my friend caved and bought this $20 game as an early Christmas present (she claimed). Her little sister left GameStop all smiles.

Once we arrived home, she immediately wanted to play the game. Take into account that she is 5 years old and can barely read. The three of us sit on the couch, watching her play. Barbie’s mode of transportation is a bike, and the objective in the game is to go find puppies in town and take them back to the vet and train or groom them. That is actually the whole game. We saved three puppies that night.

There is usually an arrow guiding you to where the dog is. You earn its trust by pressing certain buttons on the nunchuck or Wii remote, and then you put it in your bike basket and go back to the vet. And I’m pretty sure that is all you do.

We have yet to beat the game, and although it’s cool to ride your bike around town, it is nothing like Grand Theft Auto. You can’t beat people up or steal their cars.

The game does get a bit hard once you find the third dog because there are no arrows, so you’re forced to run around town and look for little hints. It’s basically like being a pet detective, groomer, trainer, and vet; this only some of what Barbie is known for. So, actually, this game is probably too difficult for kids, because even I had some trouble navigating the town.

Realize that this game is only $20 because it is Barbie, and should’ve been lower in price like DJ Hero.

Do not get this game. Only get it if you want to make fun of it, but even then you’ll get unnecessarily angry for not being able to find the puppies.

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Lord of the Rings Living Card Game Announced http://gameluster.com/lord-of-the-rings-living-card-game-announced/ http://gameluster.com/lord-of-the-rings-living-card-game-announced/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:23:51 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21624 Fantasy Flight Games has announced an upcoming living card game for The Lord of the Rings to be made by its new studio, Fantasy Flight Interactive. The game company has previously released physical board games, roleplaying and card games set in Game of Thrones, Star Wars and more.

The LOTR Living Card Game features a story-based campaign for single players and a co-op mode that allows you to journey with others. Instead of pitting players against one another, as in traditional card games, you work together in the fight against the forces of Sauron.

Deck building and resource management will play huge roles, and each round contains planning and adventure phases.

The single-player-only early access version of the game will be available in the coming months for those who purchase at least one Founders Pack, which contain cards, in-game currency, avatars, and more. The full game, including co-op mode, will release during the first quarter of 2018 and be free to play.

Check out the Steam store page here and watch the trailer below to learn more.

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Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Review http://gameluster.com/animal-crossing-pocket-camp-review/ http://gameluster.com/animal-crossing-pocket-camp-review/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 05:06:04 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21457 I have become a rockstar — a legend within my community. I am known as “The Bearer of Gifts,” “The Campground King,” “The Guy With The Cool Stuff,” but most importantly I have been wearing the all-important title of … “Camp Manager.”

With more friends than I’ve ever had in my real life, I am currently crushing it in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Man, these folks just can’t get enough of me. They’re easy to please, too. All I have to do is shake a couple trees, catch a couple fish, hand it over to a friendly animal, and BAM! Instant validation of friendship. I’ve never felt better. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp turned out to be the dose of serenity and positivity that I never knew I needed in my life.

The game is just as simple and well done as the previous installments of the Animal Crossing series. You travel about the campground making friends, doing chores and various favors for the other residents, and earning Bells, the game’s currency, to renovate your camper and plot of land. You can further use these Bells to craft special pieces of furniture and other items to decorate your campground, offering motivation to the other camper animals to come and visit and potentially to stay at your campsite permanently.

In Pocket Camp, you travel across eight unique playable areas, collecting the available resources, which you then hand over to a fellow camper (NPC) who wants or needs it. Doing this increases your friendship meter with said camper, which contributes to your overall player level. As player level increases, you gain access to more craft-able items, campers, and other customization options. Pocket Camp lets you design and grow your own little world, one filled with positivity, friendship, cute animals, and stress-free gaming.

The visuals of Pocket Camp remain true to the series. The cutesy, soft-world design is just as charming as in the other games, despite having to experience the game on a smaller screen, which, for reference, was only distracting for the first two minutes of playing. I adjusted to the screen size shortly after getting used to the game. Trees are shaped the same, with the even-cut leaves bearing bright, round fruits that beg to be picked.

Neighboring animals, with their round heads, cute faces, big, exaggerated eyes, and unique personalities, are adorable and endearing. You want to get to know these creatures based on looks alone, and then, after speaking with them, you fall in friend-love with their idiosyncrasies. The running bodies of water, which hide shadowy fish underneath the surface, are lively and colorful. With an ample amount of ambient scenery, such as benches, camping chairs, rocks, logs, and trees, the space of playable areas in Pocket Camp feel homey, comforting, even alive. The game oozes charm from every pleasant orifice and shines strongest in visuals and sound design.

Light, airy flutes paired with the slightest tick of maracas create a melody, complimented by tiny electric piano pings, only sounding when the moment calls. Pocket Camp‘s background music is fitting: charming and light, it makes you smile. The music can feel like a conversation, a gentle, rocking lull between two friends sitting beside a campfire and sharing thoughts and feelings under a starry sky. The game has a tender sound, demonstrated most obviously in the lovely music but is strengthened further by the sound effects.

Your footsteps “tap tap” as you walk. The tree leaves crunch as you shake the trunk. The bug net “swishes” as you swing for a Green Beetle. Fruit drops from the tops of trees with a whistle of gravity, and then a thud as three coconuts hit the grass in unison. All the while, the beautiful blue waters whoosh back and forth, a calming ebb and flow echoing like the sound of the world breathing. Every time you touch anything, you’ll make a sound, and all the sounds are nice. Pocket Camp‘s developers paid special attention to the sights and sounds of the campground, which culminate in genuine serenity.

Playing the game, and being a fan of the AC series, you may feel an immediate sense of limitation. There are eight locations you may travel to, which aren’t very large when you explore them. This is a major deviation from the series’ typical style, in which you may freely roam about an entire town, but it’s understandable why this format has been chosen. It’s a mobile game, and that grants certain limitations and restrictions, and in Pocket Camp‘s case the world must be divided into neat, loadable areas.

Each of these locations offers special items and resources that you must collect to trade with neighboring campers. You travel from island to island shaking trees for fruit and tossing lines out, hoping for a fish to bite. Acquiring resources is not difficult, nor time consuming. One could run around to all eight islands and collect a batch of everything they need in just about five minutes, or take their time, collect more than the minimum, and explore a bit. The game allows you to set your own pace.

Collecting resources and trading them increases your friendship level with any given animal and also contributes to your overall player level. With each increase in level, you gain access to more items and more animals. The idea is to collect, trade, craft, and customize the campsite to your fullest extent and decorating desire. It’s fetch-questing at its finest, but it’s more relaxed, as you can play at your own pace and design your space at the speed you’re most comfortable with.

Personally, I went with the “Natural” style of campground. The “Cute” and “Sporty” were too gaudy, and “Cool” was overbearing. Natural felt just right. I added some furniture for the sake of making my campground a place where every animal could find something they liked, encouraging them to stay for a while. Apollo really likes my bookshelf, surprisingly, so I’ve kept that in my campground since day one. Tex, of course, loves the drum kit, but I don’t, so I keep it outside in the yard. I made my space how I wanted, running around between islands, trading this to that guy, and that to this guy, earning one Bell at a time. I pitched furniture orders to Cyrus the Handyman, and woke up the next morning with new pieces to place in my camp.

Pocket Camp is a genuine delight. It’s a calming experience, without any sense of rush or impending doom that most games have. There are no time limits, per say, and there is no reason to feel anxious while playing. The game itself is relaxing enough, with its soothing music and charming visuals. Oh, and, as an added plus, everyone at the campground is nice to you 100% of the time. So that’s pretty nice.

The game does feature a multiplayer system, but it is limited. You may visit other camp managers, just dropping in and saying “Hello” or buying things from their inventories. You can also give some “Kudos” to your friends, if you think their campsite is looking cool. But unfortunately that’s about it. There isn’t any player-to-player interaction and no real-time events, and both these would be interesting to see.

Often, you’ll see another player’s character standing idle on a particular island. This does not mean that the other player is currently playing the game at the same time you are, but you will have the option to talk to their character, limited to the same options that have been mentioned above.

Multiplayer is minimal, a feature I desire a bit more from. I’d like to see my friends walking around if we’re both online.

The replay rate is extremely high. You can keep coming back to your campground, doing as few or as many favors as you wish, any time. That’s the beauty of the mobile platform. There’s always something to do if you have just a few minutes to play, but there’s also the opportunity for longer periods of play. The game supports all types of play, all kinds of players, from short to long range, casual to power.

Already additions have been made to the game in the form of Holiday-themed special items. I’m currently wearing a Santa Hat and Christmas Sweater, while awaiting an order from Cyrus for a snowman to plop in my side yard. Holiday items and events are strategic methods of keeping players invested. I know I played quite a bit of Pocket Camp after Thanksgiving dinner and plan on playing more on those late, snowy nights waiting for Christmas to come, decorating my campground with all things “Holiday Spirit.”

All is not gold, though. Since release, and with each fresh start-up of the app, I’ve received the following message:

I’m not sure if it’s downloading new information with each app restart, but I really hope it isn’t, because I’m running out of storage space as it is. It appears that I must install this tiny update each time before I play, and some days it requires multiple instances of the download. This is frustrating, to say the least. Despite updates to the app (on the iOS store) I still receive this message, and am still potentially gunking up my phone with 200 megabytes each time I want to play. I’d love to see a fix for this or at least some sort of confirmation or announcement about it from the developers.

Another downside to Pocket Camp is, well, maybe, just maybe… you don’t want to be somebody’s gofer. Maybe you’d rather play a game where people get their own darn fruits and vegetables, and catch their own slippery, scaly fish. Maybe you’re the type of person who believes that if an animal wants something, they should get off their rear ends and get it themselves. This is all fine and good and fair, but also means that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp isn’t the game for you. If you have a severe hatred for fetch-questing and cute animals, you should avoid this title.

We have the good, the bad, and now it’s time for the ugly. Microtransactions are present but thankfully don’t seem to be game breaking or overly distracting. Leaf Tickets can be purchased to speed up many of the games’s processes, such as collecting resources and reducing the time required for an item build. Instead of one fish at a time, you will catch a whole bunch in a large net, getting upwards of 10 to 12 fish, and instead of taking 14 hours to craft a Green Table, it will only take 10 seconds, all with the help of a few Leaf Tickets.

 

You shouldn’t have to rely on Leaf Tickets for success. I didn’t. I was able to amass up to 300 of them within the first few days of playing, simply because I didn’t see any need to use them. I didn’t need or want to speed up my grind, so I hoarded the Tickets and eventually used them to buy K.K. Slider’s stool.

I like these games. I’ve loved Animal Crossing since the original in 2002. I’ve watched the series expand and change in subtle ways, but always appreciated the fact that they’ve stuck to their roots — keeping the formula the same and reveling in the charm they’ve perfected over the years.

Animal Crossing has always been peaceful for me, making it special. Many games like Destiny, Overwatch, and Call of Duty are stressful. There’s always someone shooting at you, or you have to be running, or looking for something, or what have you. Their pacing is outrageous compared to Pocket Camp. Sometimes I need a nice, chill game, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is just that for me. I just wish it had a bit more story to it.

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Return to Winter Wonderland, and Other Overwatch News http://gameluster.com/return-to-winter-wonderland-and-other-overwatch-news/ http://gameluster.com/return-to-winter-wonderland-and-other-overwatch-news/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 03:36:24 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21557 The Winter Wonderland Christmas event was a personal favorite of many Overwatch fans. It’s back again starting December 12.

The event, titled “Return to Winter Wonderland”, will bring legendary skins to Hanzo, Junkrat, and Roadhog. There will be others, but the names of the other heroes receiving skins has yet to be revealed. Hanamura, Kings Row, and the Black Forest arena map will be decorated in the holiday spirit.

Mei’s Global Offensive, the arcade Winter Wonderland special of last year, can now be played in the Black Forest arena map as well as Antarctica. Mei is still the star of this year’s new arcade special: Mei’s Yeti Hunt. A team of five Meis will fight a boss yeti. The yeti will be none other than our favorite primate, Winston. The yeti will not be an AI, meaning you can choose to take control of the yeti and fight off the Meis. But, there’s more to it than that. The game spawns the Meis in a separate location from the yeti. The yeti must search for power ups to reach Primal Rage. Once he reaches this point, the Meis must use their abilities to escape and survive. Their main objective is to find and take down Winston before he reaches his rage form. I’m definitely looking forward to this one.

2018 is right around the corner, and Overwatch will be bringing some major changes. Two of the major changes will be happening to the competitive system.

First, there will be a decrease in the maximum allowed SR difference between the highest and lowest ranked players of a team. Second, those in the upper tiers (diamond and above) will no longer have personal performance adjustments. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of personal performance adjustments, it’s fairly simple. After a competitive match, you will gain additional SR for a win based on high personal performance, but slightly less if you perform poorly. The opposite goes for a loss; you will receive a higher SR penalty for poor personal performance and a lower SR penalty for high personal performance. Scott Mercer, Principal Designer for Overwatch, discusses these changes here.

In early 2018, official Overwatch League skins will be available. They will be for all heroes of Overwatch and include home team uniforms from the twelve competing teams. By purchasing these skins you will be supporting your team of choice. However, they aren’t obtained through the traditional loot box. League Tokens will be used to purchase the desired team uniform. Your first League Tokens will be provided to you for no cost but will only be enough for one uniform.

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PUBG Desert Map and 1.0 Update Available Now http://gameluster.com/pubg-desert-map-and-1-0-update-available-now/ http://gameluster.com/pubg-desert-map-and-1-0-update-available-now/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 01:49:17 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21529 Just less than a few weeks ago, PlayerUnknown’s: Battlegrounds teased their upcoming major patch in preparation for the Xbox One release on December 12. Bluehole announced a new movement mechanic, vaulting, a new Desert-themed map, a slew of new, powerful weapons, and a boat-load of performance changes to smooth things out for the big, 1.0 release.

PUBG has been in the “Early Access” phase since its release back in March. The new map, Miramar, and all of the changes coming with the 1.0 update are available now on the PUBG play-test server.

To get a taste of what’s coming to PUBG, download the hefty 11.2 gigabyte update to the PTR from Steam and get playing. When you start up, you’ll immediately notice an all-new interface that is much cleaner and more well-designed than what was previously available. Menus have been organized and the screen feels less cluttered, with more information readily seen.

After finding a match, you’ll spawn on Miramar’s new starting island, which lets you know right off the bat that things are different in the desert. The scenery is bright, the sky is blue, and you can almost feel the scorching sun beating down on your bare back. Sheds, warehouses, buildings, and all of the basic environmental scenery is distinctly different from what we’ve seen in Erangel. The desert feels more alive and more lived-in than the previous map.

The different environment means a different way to fight. Your tactics must change in this new arena as buildings, open-spaces, cliffs, hills and the like are present and have been designed in such a way to force you to fight differently than in Erangel.

New weapons and vehicles have also been added to the mix. There are three new, Miramar-exclusive guns. A Winchester Model 1894 shoots powerful .45 rounds, but has a slow rate-of-fire, and you cannot equip attachments to it. An R45 Revolver, shooting .45 rounds as well, was added, and feels like a hand cannon. Most interestingly, a sawed-off shotgun has been included and spices things up a bit as it equips to the pistol slot in your inventory. A four-seater pickup truck and van have also made the cut, along with an Aquarail jetski. These new weapons and vehicles will change up the tactics required for success on the battlefield.

Miramar and all these new changes prove that PUBG Corp. is serious about their game. PUBG is in it for the long haul, and with the 1.0 patch, we’re able to see the potential that the game has in an all new way. Miramar legitimizes PUBG. It feels more real and gives PUBG a much needed second map.

I don’t feel like a 1 or a 0 fighting for <alert prompt: Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!>.  I feel the excitement once again, the surge of adrenaline as I sprint across a wide-open sand-dune, praying that a sniper bullet doesn’t find its way to me. PUBG is fresh again.

For a full list of changes, check out PUBG’s official announcement for the patch. Experience it for yourself by downloading the free play-test server.

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Patapon 2 Remaster Announced for PS4 http://gameluster.com/patapon-2-remaster-announced-for-ps4/ http://gameluster.com/patapon-2-remaster-announced-for-ps4/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:04:13 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21572 Following hot on the heels of the recent Loco Roco and Patapon remasters comes Patapon 2, set to arrive on the Playstation 4 in 2018.

One of the must-have games of the PSP era, both new and old fans can experience this sequel in HD and 4K.

Patapon is acclaimed for its innovative, rhythm-based action with a distinct gameplay twist that has players utilizing drumbeats to march, defend, and attack to lead the Patapon tribe to victory. The remaster comes with a slew of new features including new Patapon types, eight drum rhythms, brand new mini-games, and the ability to create your own Patapon Hero.

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News and Trailers from the 2017 Game Awards http://gameluster.com/news-and-trailers-from-the-2017-game-awards/ http://gameluster.com/news-and-trailers-from-the-2017-game-awards/#respond Sun, 10 Dec 2017 05:49:48 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21550 The 2017 Game Awards brought many new announcements and trailers for us to get hyped about. While some announcements were only release dates, there were new trailers that came as a surprise. Below are the announcements and their trailers.

From Software has unveiled a shadowy teaser titled “Shadows Die Twice”. It offers a glimpse at what might be a sequel to Bloodborne.

 

Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 3 is in development exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. The first two Bayonetta games will be debuting on the Switch February next year.

 

Campo Santo, developer of Firewatch, premiered a trailer for their first-person adventure In the Valley of Gods. Set in Egypt, the game will be released in 2019 for PC.

 

Finally leaving early access, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will launch version 1.0 on December 20. The new desert map is playable on test servers and will be available on Xbox One in early 2018.

 

The player creation sandbox Dreams, from Media Molecule, will release in 2018 for PS4.

 

The debut trailer for The Astronauts’ FPS Witchfire was shown.

 

4A Games announced the next entry in the Metro franchise. Titled Metro Exodus, the trailer shows a man trekking against a frozen, destroyed city. The game will release fall 2018.

 

Coming to PSVR, Accounting+ will be available on December 19. This version is an update from the HTC Vive VR version and will feature new characters, music, levels and be double the size.

 

Built by the community, Warframe spotlighted a trailer from the fans. The trailer features a glimpse into an update for the world of Warframe.

 

The new 50 vs. 50 mode for Fortnite Battle Royale was announced from Epic Games. Available for a limited time, the mode will be playable until December 17.

 

Cute VR simulator title Vacation Simulator comes from Owlchemy Labs. Available in 2018, the game will be playable on PSVR, Oculus and Vive.

 

From a book, to a movie, and now to a video game, World War Z from Saber Interactive brings a third-person, four player co-op shooter in a world of zombies and will release in 2018 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

 

Oddly titled GTFO comes from the game designer of Payday and Payday 2. It will be four-player co-op.

 

Completely co-op A Way Out has been given a release date of March 23, 2018. You will be able to play it with a friend even if the friend doesn’t own the game.

 

Colorful and full of pirate songs, Rare’s Sea of Thieves will be arriving to Xbox One and PC on March 20, 2018.

 

Post-apocalyptic survival game Fade to Silence will launch on Steam Early Access December 14. Fight monsters and brave weather elements.

 

Soulcalibur VI had a debut trailer and will come to PS4, Xbox One and PC in 2018.

 

New story DLC has come to Breath of the Wild. The Champions’ Ballad has been released with a trailer showing Link on a motorcycle and other new content.

 

A Death Stranding teaser showed more of Norman Reedus’ character and other vague narrative.

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The Game Awards: Some Expected Outcomes, Some Surprises http://gameluster.com/the-game-awards-some-expected-outcomes-some-surprises/ http://gameluster.com/the-game-awards-some-expected-outcomes-some-surprises/#respond Sat, 09 Dec 2017 00:26:12 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21470 Last night, the fourth iteration of The Game Awards took place. Geoff Keighley hosted an energized celebration of gaming that featured awards, trailers, and a live orchestra.

The orchestra and premier trailers brought in viewers who wouldn’t have watched otherwise, but the awards are the core of the show. While gaming as a medium lacks a true Oscar or Grammy equivalent, The Game Awards have come close in recent years. Yesterday’s show featured a wide range of categories, with a few particularly cool ones, like “Best Student Game.” Below are the categories and their winners.

Trending Gamer – Dr. Disrespect (Guy Beahm)
Best eSports Game – Overwatch
Best eSports Player – “Faker” (Lee Sang-hyeok)
Best eSports Team – Cloud 9
Student Game Award – Level Squared
Best Debut Indie Game – Cuphead
Best Narrative – What Remains of Edith Finch

Best Score / Music – Nier: Automata
Best Audio Design – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Best Performance – Melina Juregens (Hellblade)
Best Ongoing Game – Overwatch
Best Independent Game – Cuphead
Best Mobile Game – Monument Valley 2
Best Handheld Game – Metroid: Samus Returns
Best VR/AR Game – Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Best Action Game – Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Best Adventure Game – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Best Role-Playing Game – Persona 5
Best Fighting Game – Injustice 2
Best Family Game – Super Mario Odyssey
Best Strategy Game – Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Best Sports/Racing Game – Forza Motorsports 7
Best Multiplayer – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Most Anticipated Game – The Last of Us Part II
Chinese Fan Game Award – jx3 HD
Game of the Year – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 

I was a fan of last night’s show. Keighley is doing an increasingly better job hosting it, and, despite the criticisms he has faced in the past, his genuine care and passion for games always shine through. Some of the categories were rushed, like best soundtrack as a pre-show award. I think this took away from the spotlight Nier deserved (it was also robbed the best narrative award and of a nomination for GOTY; I’ll attribute that opinion to my adoration of the game).

Breath of the Wild’s victory was no surprise, but I am happy to see that it wasn’t the victim of recency bias due to its earlier release date.

Ultimately, The Game Awards were a marked achievement over last year, and this trend will, hopefully, continue.

 

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Current State: Black Desert Online http://gameluster.com/current-state-black-desert-online/ http://gameluster.com/current-state-black-desert-online/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 23:50:13 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21419 Black Desert Online, or BDO, is a game that I love, and have played for years now, but can’t conscientiously recommend. I could list any number of reasons why it’s a good game. Consider the recent Kamasylvia 2 update, which added another massive area (the Kamasylvia forest) and improved the visibility of hidden stats in response to player feedback. But then, to be fair, I’d have to turn around, and present the reasons to avoid BDO. Unfortunately these are also numerous, such as the existence of a cash-shop item which grants a permanent bonus to max stats.

In this series, Current State, I will look at ongoing games that are maintained by their developers and evolve over time. My goal will essentially be to review the current state of the game.

Let’s start this review with a look at Black Desert’s positives. BDO is a Korean fantasy MMORPG, with Pearl Abyss as the developer of our Western localization. Whether its character models, skill effects, or the environment, Black Desert’s graphics are just hands-down gorgeous, and yet the game has been so well optimized that it will run on low-spec computers. Honestly, an MMORPG this massive has no businesses looking so good. Black Desert doesn’t just look good, either. I’ve played many fantasy MMORPGs (Guild Wars 2, TERA, Vindictus, Elder Scrolls Online) and in terms of combat, I’ve enjoyed BDO more than all the rest. Black Desert may be billed as an MMORPG, but it’s got the combat of an action title, and a good one at that.

Combat is responsive, sound and visual effects make landing a skill feel satisfying, most classes have skill-based combos, you can dodge or block actions and abilities, and there is a wide variety of enemies to keep things interesting. The PvP which makes up much of Black Desert’s endgame is a blast. There’s small-scale and large-scale PvP options. I’m a huge fan of node wars where multiple guilds fight each other for a particular territory. The victorious guild is given control of the disputed area for a period of time, gaining tax income and possibly additional benefits, depending on the territory. I’ve also fought players and guilds over silly things, like grinding spots, and these sorts of impromptu fights are pretty great. One minute you’re grinding XP, the next you’re in war, probably with friends on the way.

On the topic of production values, Black Desert’s sound is, aside from voice acting, very solid. You’ll still probably mute the music after a few hundred hours, but there’s enough quality tracks to add a sense of variety to the world’s various locales. Some of these instrumental scores are quite impressive, a small few I’d even listen to out of game. There’s enough voice customization options to make sure your character isn’t entirely annoying. Plot and the voice acting of NPCs are another matter entirely. It’s possible that Black Desert’s original plot was horribly written, or that the localization was poorly handled; I’d guess both. I’m not typically one to go after an MMO for plot, but Black Desert’s is remarkably bad. I try to avoid skipping text in my favorite MMOs, but BDO is an exception to this rule.

If combat isn’t your interest, there are a ton of other activities to perform in Black Desert. There are ten life skills: cooking, farming, gathering, processing, training, fishing, hunting, trading, sailing, and alchemy. These life skills offer a wide breadth of content. Consider the training skill for a moment. This involves finding and taming or buying horses, leveling them via riding, and then breeding them to produce better ones. You can sell horses to the game itself or to other players. There is a sizable skill pool that horses will randomly acquire skills from when leveling. These influence their overall value. There are multiple tiers of horses, and the newest tier, tier 9, or dream horses, includes the Pegasus, a difficult to acquire and incredibly rare mount.

Many of these life skills can be performed while you’re away from the keyboard, which gives the game a management aspect. If you’ve got a busy life, this allows you to keep progressing within the game regardless of commitments (unfortunately, these systems require you to leave your computer on). If you want to live life on the sea, you can build the massive Epheria ships. Through a combination of gathering, processing, alchemy, mission completion, and node exploitation, you would gather the materials to build these and outfit them with gear, like cannons or sails. Finally, after up to a month of construction, you can take your vessel out into the oceans, for exploring, trading, gathering, monster hunting, or PvP naval combat.

Black Desert has a restrictive marketplace and trading policy which, for most items, forces players to trade with the community at large, and charge amounts which fall inside a fixed window. This reduces the prevalence of “boosting” and gold sellers. Most frequently, if you have something in BDO, you earned it, as it’s impossible for someone to give you a handout unless they earned it using your account. While I’m largely content with this policy, many I’ve played with are not, and would like to be able to trade something other than basic consumables with their friends.

Although I’ve tried to focus on the positives prior to now, Black Desert has quite a few downsides that can keep away potential players. This is a grindy game: to get to the point where you’re competitive in PvP, which many view as the goal, takes at least several hundred hours. Even when you’ve put that much time in, there’ll be others who have put several thousand hours in, are more geared, and can pretty much wreck you regardless of what you do. In group PvP this isn’t horrible, as ideally you have a few such players on your side, but in one-on-one it can be incredibly frustrating. Players should keep in mind that they essentially have a weight class in BDO, determined by things like gear, level, and active buffs. If there’s too much of a difference between you and an opponent, there will be some fights you simply can’t win or, the reverse, can’t lose.

Black Desert also has network issues and some people’s ISPs work poorly for the game. This results in lag, a major problem for action combat, and disconnects, which can ruin idle life skill-ing. I myself have had few such issues, and I’ve found that after one occurs, Pearl Abyss tends to compensate the community quite generously.

Now we get to the business model, and this is a mixed bag, if ever I’ve seen one. First off, at $10, the cost of entry is incredibly low, and the game goes on sale frequently. The game’s developers have implemented a system where players get rewarded for bringing in new people, so it isn’t difficult to acquire a free copy of the game. Unfortunately, Black Desert has quite an intrusive cash shop. Items in BDO, like the $34 costumes, are expensive and some give noticeable benefits. Most of these items can be purchased with in-game silver, but doing so is an absolute pain, as demand is quite high. Some players sell rare in-game items on the conditions of being gifted cash-shop items, but this method seems unreliable, and many frown upon it. It’s important to mention that these micro transactions are entirely optional, and I have friends who have played BDO extensively without ever spending a dollar. Conversely, I’ve friends who have spent hundreds on the game, and they seem the larger group.

Then there’s housing, another feature with ups and downs. Housing is instanced, so you can have any house you want, without having to outbid or fight other players. There’s a wide variety of picturesque locations with houses: the mystical Grana city located in Kamasylvia forest, the medieval Heidel city, the Epheria port, various farms and villages, and so on. Unfortunately, most of the game’s best housing decorations are sold through the cash shop, and some of these have gameplay benefits. Some players don’t care much about decorating their houses, and it’s certainly not essential, but for others this feature quickly becomes a money pit.

There really is an incredible amount of diverse gameplay in Black Desert Online, and I’ve found it quite easy to lose myself in the game. If you’re looking for a game that you can fully enjoy without an intrusive microtransaction system, I’d have to recommend avoiding it. If, on the other hand, you’re open to spending a bit on the game beyond the price of entry, you may find a lot to enjoy here. If you choose to play it, I would recommend viewing BDO not as a one-time purchase, but more like a subscription title. Enjoy the game, spend on it slowly and opportunistically during sales and only if you can comfortably spare the money.

I’m treating this piece like a review, and as such I feel it necessary to give Black Desert a rating. Considering how stellar the game’s core content is, while also taking in invasive microtransactions and some light, arguably pay-to-win elements, I feel that 8/10 is a fair score. Black Desert Online has its flaws, most notably its business model, but if you can look past these, it’s a top-notch MMORPG, with immersive gameplay, solid production values, and a staggering amount of content.

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Wuppo Review (PS4) http://gameluster.com/wuppo-review-ps4/ http://gameluster.com/wuppo-review-ps4/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 08:28:00 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21381 Wuppo, from its title all the way to its gameplay, is a peculiar game. It is a 2D RPG with a design that can be described as a child’s coloring book. The world of Wuppo is an endearing and colorful sight full of adventures and new “wums” to meet. Wums are the most intelligent creatures of the game who have successfully built a tall tower known as the Wum House. This is where the game begins.

You take control of a particularly chubby and lazy wum. After spilling ice cream all over the floors of the Wum House, you get evicted from the room. But it isn’t a normal eviction; you get thrown off the balcony of one of the top levels and fall all the way into what seems like an entirely different world. Your goal is to find your way back home. This is no easy task, as you must fight bosses, solve puzzles, and make new friends in order to return.

Wuppo offers the traditional easy to hard game modes to fit your play style. Health is presented as “happiness.” Defeat enemies, make friends, or eat certain types of food to gain happiness points. If your happiness falls to zero you die, but, don’t worry, weird paint-filled watering cans will save a copy of yourself. You will resurrect in the cans and continue on your way.

After all your hard work to return home, you won’t be received with open arms, and not just because wums don’t have them. Within two days you must find a way to obtain a ticket to Popocity, the biggest city in the wums’ world. You will have to explore all of the Wum House and visit many residents to obtain it. Once obtained, you can head to the train station, which feels a little too much like the real thing. If you miss the train, you have to wait three or four minutes real time for the next one. It’s a realistic but obnoxious addition to the game. Don’t worry, the other means of transportation includes trams with a 3o-second wait, or instant tube travel.

Popocity has new bosses, side quests, and characters to see. Here, the game’s open format becomes more prominent. It doesn’t  outright give you an objective; it lets you explore and talk to a variety of wums to discover your purpose.  The main goal is to earn enough credit for the city to expand. Credit can be earned through a multitude of ways. Completing jobs is the honest way to go, but the lil’ wums work on their own and can technically earn the credit themselves if you leave the game on long enough.

After the credits are earned, the last step in the city is eradicating the rat problem; or as the game calls the rats, knefts. Prepare for a big boss fight in order to do so! Boss battles are each pretty straightforward. You’ll use your weapon, some form of paint glob gun or launcher, to shoot at the bosses while avoiding their attacks. They tend to follow a pattern, and once you adapt to that pattern you should be good to go. The bosses aren’t at the level of Dark Souls, but they can be tough and increase in difficulty as the game progresses. They all have unique designs and you’ll be forced to change your combat style for each one. Boss battles are a core part of Wuppo and something to look forward to.

Wuppo emphasizes combat more than puzzles and platforming, but it does include portions of each. Often to get to the next part of the map or sequence of the game, you must complete environmental puzzles that are not very challenging. The harder part is figuring out where you are and where you need to go. This can be frustrating as the game does not offer a legitimate navigation  system. You might just have to memorize the different locations. As for the platforming, it’s a lot of jumping from branch to branch or building to building. Luckily, falling doesn’t usually mean death. It just means you have to make your way back to the top.

Customization in the game is present but fairly limited. There are a variety of color choices and a couple funky hats to choose from. Certain foods will also change your wum’s weight. Making my wum a fat, pink ball was definitely a plus. However, its storybook graphics restrict the degree to which customization can be offered.

As in the traditional RPG fashion, the player can choose to complete tasks in an unethical way or righteous way. The dialogue, which is all in speech bubbles, progresses the story in a humorous and entertaining way. Some of the wum’s dialogue choices can be hilariously mean, but ultimately play little in how the game progresses. The game could’ve utilized your choices to shape the direction more.

Wuppo progresses in the same format of explore, meet wums, and defeat bosses. It is fairly repetitive but is not so long that it becomes tiring. I took thirteen hours to complete the main story along with a couple side missions. The length of play depends on how much exploration and side quests one engages. The side quests were all fairly basic and lacked enticing rewards which lead me to stick to the main story line, which was far more entertaining. There is extensive lore available through in-game filmstrips, which is a nice touch.

Wuppo has much to offer. Its visuals, humor, and fun boss battles make for a solid experience. It is a lighthearted and fun game to play, through and through.

This review is of the PS4 version of Wuppo. The game is also available on PC and Xbox One.

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Ultimate Chicken Horse Comes to PS4 http://gameluster.com/ultimate-chicken-horse-comes-to-ps4/ http://gameluster.com/ultimate-chicken-horse-comes-to-ps4/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 17:30:23 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21435 Christmas may, in fact, come just in time for those who own or recently purchased a PlayStation 4. Rejoice and console yourself in the knowledge that Ultimate Chicken Horse is coming to your platform next week, on December 12.

Ultimate Chicken Horse is a party game with a simple concept: reach the end of the level before anyone else at any cost, even your sanity or friendship. The game, itself, is a simple platformer with unlockable character assets and levels. The fun derives not from winning, but from engineering the level in such a way as to make winning almost impossible. Test not only your friendship as you contrive death traps, place obstacles, and remove the additions of your friends, but also your platforming skills and ability to function under pressure.

But releasing for PlayStation isn’t all that’s in store for Ultimate Chicken Horse. The release coincides with the “Elephantastic Update”, a content patch that will add an elephant character as well as new levels and traps. PC players may want to dust off their Skype or Discord list and reconcile their previous differences if they wish to relive the past in a volcano or jungle while playing as the elephant character; and then never speak to their friends again afterwards, of course.

Previously, Ultimate Chicken Horse sold about half a million copies on PC and holds a ninety-seven percent newest review rating, for whatever that’s worth. So if you own a PS4 and would like to end all your friendships in hilarious and enjoyable fashion, you can do no worse than omit Ultimate Chicken Horse from your Christmas list.

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Attack on Titan 2 Gets Western Release Date http://gameluster.com/attack-on-titan-2-gets-western-release-date/ http://gameluster.com/attack-on-titan-2-gets-western-release-date/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 05:25:40 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21393 The naked, towering titans of Attack on Titan 2 are ready to be unleashed onto the west March 20 for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.

Koei Tecmo, the game’s publisher, announced the release date along with a new story trailer, giving the West a more specific release window than previously mentioned.

Attack on Titan 2 picks up where the first game left off as it follows the second season of the anime series. The trailer shows some of the iconic characters, and new ones have been added to the roster. A list of all playable characters is available on the Attack on Titan 2 site.

There is an option to create a custom character called a Scout. Scouts will have new abilities, all assisted by the monocular, a tool that allows for evasive and long-range stealth attacks. Players can see the Titans from afar and scope them out when planning offensives.

Players will be able to build relationships with characters through the Town Life feature, which will provide players with more insight into the characters and world around them.

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Mega Man Legacy Collections, 11 Heading to Switch http://gameluster.com/mega-man-legacy-collections-11-heading-to-switch/ http://gameluster.com/mega-man-legacy-collections-11-heading-to-switch/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2017 11:45:12 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21364 Capcom is working hard to provide a variety of quality ports of older games for the Switch. In May, we got Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers, and Capcom recently released the Resident Evil Revelations Collection.

For their next release on the Switch, Capcom’s going a little more retro with collections that were previously released on all major platforms (except the Wii U) in August 2015 and August 2017. They’re bringing both Mega Man Legacy Collections to the Switch in spring 2018 to join Mega Man 11, also announced for Switch.

For those unfamiliar with these collections, Capcom packaged together the entire Mega Man series into two games, the first through Mega Man 10.

The big addition to this version will be a rewind feature, like in Rare Replay. Players will be able to rewind the game, like to save themselves from death. An update will add this to all other versions.

If you want to play Mega Man on the go and the 3DS versions aren’t quite cutting it, then be sure to keep an eye out for the Switch release of the Mega Man Legacy Collections. It’d be good prep for Mega Man 11.

Featured image from Nintendo Wire.

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Tales of Switchisia: What Bandai Namco Might Bring to the Hybrid Console http://gameluster.com/tales-of-switchisia-what-bandai-namco-might-bring-to-the-hybrid-console/ http://gameluster.com/tales-of-switchisia-what-bandai-namco-might-bring-to-the-hybrid-console/#comments Tue, 05 Dec 2017 11:30:44 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21358 The distinctly Japanese Tales of series has been an RPG staple since the SNES, and developer Bandai Namco has taken the trope-reliant, action-RPG series across a number of platforms throughout its history. Most recently, the franchise came to the PS4 and PC with Tales of Zestiria and Tales of Berseria. The most popular entry, Tales of Symphonia, was originally a GameCube exclusive before being ported years later, but development of mainline titles has recently trended away from Nintendo consoles.

However, back in May, Bandai Namco announced that Tales would return to Nintendo and that a title was being created for the Switch. Surprisingly, no information was given during June’s “Tales Festival” in Japan, and otherwise news has been quiet. The only exception is an investors’ meeting where a goal of releasing a Tales for Switch during 2017’s fiscal year (by April 2018) was stated. Despite knowing little about what direction the developers will take Tales’ debut on the Switch, narrowing the likely options is a possibility due to the relatively low number of titles that would make sense for Bandai Namco and the series.

Before too long, the speculation will likely be over. On December 16, Namdai will host a Tales of stream, one probably featuring information about the Switch title considering the small amount of time left between now and the end of the game’s supposed release window.

As an enormous fan of the Tales series I have looked at some of the possibilities for the Switch title.

Tales of Vesperia

I won’t pretend I’m not biased in this assessment: Tales of Vesperia is one of my all-time favorite games and certainly in the top-tier of my personal Tales’ rankings. Vesperia’s visual style is a cut above even the newer entries, and the series’ classic reliance on humorous, engaging character interactions is at its peak. From a practical standpoint, Vesperia also makes sense because a significant portion of the American audience never got to play it due to its bizarre Xbox 360 exclusivity. This is a result of Microsoft’s push to acquire a larger Japanese audience during the early days of the 360.

A PS3 version exists but was never localized, which means that many Tales fans still don’t have the means to play this title in English. Saying that a game is “perfect for the Switch” is a meme now, but I genuinely think Vesperia would be an ideal fit.

Tales of Symphonia

The series’ most popular entry was one of the only RPGs actually released for the GameCube, so the title holds significance for Nintendo already. The later HD remaster on PS3 and PC lessens the intimacy of this connection to Nintendo, but Tales of Symphonia, due to its popularity, remains a likely candidate for what the Switch Tales title will be.

Much like Vesperia, this title’s visual style is timeless due to its beautiful cel-shading. While I love Symphonia and I wouldn’t be disappointed by a Switch port, I do feel slightly fatigued by this title’s widespread availability.

Tales of Berseria

Berseria is considered a return-to-form by many Tales fans, and its recent release makes it a legitimate candidate for a Switch port. Despite its newness, Berseria is not a graphical powerhouse on the PS4 or PC and is therefore viably portable to the Switch, with some tweaks and adjustments.

Those who have already played through this title may be disappointed by this port, but more people getting to experience Berseria, along with being able to take it on the go, would make it a valuable entry in the Switch’s blossoming library.

New Title

Out of the options listed here, this is the least likely because of the lack of news up to this point. As mentioned earlier, the Tales Switch title is supposed to release before April of next year; a new mothership title not yet being announced would be strange, although not impossible. If it is a new title, I hope the series returns to Team Symphonia roots, with stylized graphics and a refined world. To me, the series’ recent attempts at a pseudo-open world have hurt more than helped, and Tales excels when it guides the player down a narrow path through a beautifully crafted adventure.


Do you have any thoughts on what Tales Switch might look like? Let us know in the comments below. Namdai’s plans will become clear before long, and Tales’ fans will eagerly await the decision they will soon share.

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Taking a Taste of DOOM VFR http://gameluster.com/taking-a-taste-of-doom-vfr/ http://gameluster.com/taking-a-taste-of-doom-vfr/#comments Mon, 04 Dec 2017 05:02:56 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21346 Four years ago, I thought about getting the Oculus Rift developer’s kit.

I said to myself, nah, it may not work with my PC, and it’s too expensive.

Months passed, then years. As 2017 progressed, I still had bought no VR headset for fear of technical requirements and expense.

Then I performed a Steam VR test on my newer PC, and passed. Then I spent a few weeks thinking. I thought about DOOM VFR and Fallout 4 VR. I discovered the Doom 3 BFG Edition VR mod. I realized that life is too short and any day it could end, right?

So I pulled the trigger and bought the HTC Vive.

After a fairly smooth setup and dismay at realizing I can in no way have room-scale VR anytime soon, I had the surprisingly light and comfy monstrosity on my head and was overcome with an awe I hadn’t felt for some time.

It was crossing a Rubicon – I had stepped into the new frontier that for so long I had only heard others talk about. Even with the initial awe worn off some, I am now convicted that VR is a significant part of gaming’s future.

The first experience I had, SteamVR Home, had a room with balcony overlooking scenic mountains, and it was breathtaking. Walking around some, looking up and down, and all around, and picking up and throwing objects with Vive’s two controller wands, was a game-changer. Possibilities rushed to my head; Thief aficionada that I am, I couldn’t help but fantasize about crouching and sneaking through manor houses and crypts, guards and monsters catching sight of me as I cautiously leaned around corners.

But that’s an experience I will only be able to dream about right now.

DOOM VFR, on the other hand, is an experience anyone can get right now. I bought it, making it the first game I purchased within a VR interface, installed it, and began.

It’s not smooth as butter, but it’s a great taste of VR.

First, even if you’re cramped, you can play. When launching, SteamVR warned me that the game required room-scale VR, but I have been able to play with standing-room VR. You move by walking, as much as you have space, but mostly by using the touchpad on the left-hand Vive wand. You also use the Vive’s teleport feature whereby you click down the left touch pad, aim the warp point, and release to be taken to that spot. This is used as VFR’s method for glory kills, too. When a demon is hurt and flashing, warp into them for a classic telefrag. Works every time!

So far I have just used the pistol, shotgun, machine gun, and plasma gun. The guns are moved with the wands and you only see Doom-guy’s hands holding them, no arms (as expected). You can throw grenades with the left wand and left hand. It’s thrilling to aim and shoot the weapon or to throw a grenade and see it have effect in the virtual environment. And even though I thought it wouldn’t bug me, because I know it’s not real and I’m a seasoned gamer, I nonetheless jumped in fear whenever a monster neared me. Clicking the grip buttons on the left wand pushes up-close enemies back.

You get into the action soon with a test run in a stereotypical, plain-looking VR training environment. This comes after you ride an elevator, hear hell break loose, and then see the doors open to a Pinky demon running at you. That was the first moment I cowered in fright. The way VR tricks your mind is a wonder.

I only played around half an hour. I had been messing with the headset and the initial demo for a while and my eyes were getting a little bit tired. Taking off the headset, I had a slight soreness on the top of my head for a moment. It was surprising because I hadn’t felt discomfort there while playing. Any physical discomfort is minor and is a boundary only for playing hours at a time. (I can’t speak for your case, though.)

For now, know that DOOM VFR is some fun if you want to do stuff like hold and use a shotgun and toss grenades against DOOM‘s enemies face-to-face. If you don’t own a Vive, or any VR headset, consider the price of entry. If you really want to check out VR, know that it’s worth it, but if you’re the least bit skeptical, think about it. It takes a high-end rig and does cause some physical discomfort. Then you have to choose between the Vive or the Rift, or consider the hefty price of PlayStation VR. Reading up on game experiences for each platform will help. DOOM VFR is available for PSVR but on PC only supports the Vive.

Remember, it took me over four years to finally pull the trigger on a VR headset. Looking out over a balcony at scenic mountains and aiming and firing at imps, I’m glad I finally did.

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Super Mario Cereal is Making Breakfast Interactive http://gameluster.com/super-mario-cereal/ http://gameluster.com/super-mario-cereal/#respond Sun, 03 Dec 2017 18:07:27 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21331 Super Mario Cereal will be on shelves December 11.

This sugary treat has colorful box art and familiar looking marshmallows, but that’s not all. The box doubles as an amiibo that you can connect to Super Mario Odyssey. Tap the box just like you would any other amiibo to receive rewards in-game, including coins and hearts. While it’s common to see contests printed on boxes around the grocery store, this Kellogg’s cereal collaboration takes it to a new level – the most important meal of the day can be an interactive experience

There are other cereal promotions for the Switch and Super Mario Odyssey. Post has cereal boxes that contain codes for coins for your My Nintendo account and the chance to win a Nintendo Switch.

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Understanding Bungie’s “State of Destiny 2” Blog Post http://gameluster.com/understanding-bungies-state-of-destiny-2-blog-post/ http://gameluster.com/understanding-bungies-state-of-destiny-2-blog-post/#respond Sun, 03 Dec 2017 16:39:35 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21260 When Bungie delivers, boy, do they deliver.

In light of the upcoming Curse of Osiris DLC release, Bungie has given players an in-depth look at the expansion in the form of Twitch live streams and commentaries with the developers. The first stream, “New Stories to Tell,” introduced us to Osiris, and the new places, faces, and adventures we’d be going on. The second stream, “New Ways to Play,” demonstrated the new game modes, playlists, additions, and modifications to existing activities that would be integrated into the existing game with the DLC. However, a third stream was planned — aimed at highlighting the new types of gear and equipment the DLC would offer — but this was scrapped last minute. Instead, Bungie wanted to take a more compassionate approach, using this platform as an opportunity to address the community’s concerns.

A blog post titled “The State of Destiny 2” was posted on Bungie’s website. The post begins by addressing Bungie’s own lack of communication, taking an important, humbling step before making the ambitious leap of telling the community all that they have planned for Season 2.

In the post, Bungie discussed an overview of the upcoming updates and planned to address concerns and some of the less-engaging or fun elements of the game. A summary of these updates follows.

There will be new systems and rewards for players, including an all new weapon “Masterworks” system, improved vendor rewards, and armor ornaments. Better incentives will be rewarded to players who complete Prestige activities, as well as strikes, adventures, and lost sectors. PvP Crucible will be tuned to offer better incentives and penalties for completion and abandonment of matches. Improvements will be made to Iron Banner and Faction Rallies, as well. Along with these features, mods, exotics, and duplicates will see notable improvements. New ways to spend currency and materials will be made available, as well as the ability to bind four emotes at once. Exciting stuff.

With these upcoming updates, Bungie hopes to quell some of the community concerns related to the endgame, economy, uniformity of gear, and, most importantly, replayability. The exciting updates are coming in early December. Some will be available December 5, and others by December 12.

Let’s take a look at some of these game changers, which have been divided into four main points: “Deepen rewards for advanced players, Provide more player control over obtaining rewards, Make shards useful by adding things to use them for, and provide general quality fixes wherever possible.”

Let’s start with weapons. Bungie is introducing a new system for weapons called Masterworks, coming December 12.

Legendary Weapons will now have the Masterwork feature, which offers players advantages over the lower-tiered weapons. Masterworked weapons can track and display the number of kills one has with the weapon (similar to the Kill-Tracker Ghost), bringing about a bit of competitive spirit to your favorite gun. Some Masterworked weapons will include an all-new perk, which will generate orbs for your allies on multi-kills. Up to this point, the only way that a guardian could generate orbs was by using a Super, so introducing this will surely shake things up. Along with this perk comes the (long-awaited) ability to add weapon stat bonuses and perks. (And to re-roll them!) This will be familiar to D1 players, which allowed them to customize their favorite weapons with their favorite mods and perks. For comparison’s sake, currently in D2, a certain weapon has a certain set amount of perks. There is no way for these to change, so, if you want a weapon with the armor-piercing rounds perk, you’re limited to 3-4 choices. Not anymore.

Fear not, for the Masterwork economy has been well-crafted. Masterworks will drop from any source of Legendary weapons (250 Power and above), and unwanted Masterworks can be dismantled into materials that are then used to upgrade standard Legendary weapons into Masterworks or upgrading Masterworks. More challenging activities, like Raids and Trials of the Nine, will have a “very high chance” of dropping Masterworks.

With the introduction of this new Masterwork system, guardians will have a greater amount control over their loadout, customization of said loadout, and develop a stronger connection to the weapons and armor they’ve worked so hard to earn in the first place, making the feeling that much sweeter.

In the vein of improving character customization, Armor Ornaments will be introduced on December 5th. These may be familiar to D1 players, as well, as towards the end of Year 3, there were many interesting cosmetic armor effects, masks, hats, and the like. But as the light was stripped from the guardians for the purposes of Destiny 2’s story, so were the armor ornaments. Now they’re back.

Armor Ornaments will be added to Armor sets, which will be unlocked by completing specific objectives tailored to that set. For example, a Shaxx-based ornament will require you to play some crucible matches, and maybe even achieve a certain medal during the game. These ornaments will be similar to Exotic weapon ornaments, as they are unlocked once and are account-wide, able to be used by all three of your character slots. The following factions will have ornaments for Season 2: Vanguard, Crucible, Trials of the Nine, Iron Banner, Dead Orbit, Future War Cult, New Monarchy, and the Eater of Worlds Raid.

These Armor Ornaments are a very welcomed and exciting addition. Customizing my guardian has always been a key part of Destiny for me, and these ornaments will allow me to show off my hard work in a new way. It’s not just about having all the raid gear anymore. Now it’s time to make that raid gear shine with the all-new Eater of Worlds ornaments.

Legendary Shards. What are they, where do they come from, why are we getting them, and why is Xur the only one who knows anything about them? Truthfully, I don’t have a single answer to any of these questions. However, big changes are coming to Legendary Shards on December 12 — changes that some might say makes them useful for the first time ever.

Faction armor and weapons will be available for purchase using legendary shards and faction tokens, now. Additionally, vendors will always have the five relevant armor slots available for purchase, and you can buy them with shards. In the image above, a Hunter Cloak appears to require three things: At least 2 Reward Engrams, 15 Legendary Shards, and 10 Crucible Tokens. Again, it’s another system that D1 players would recognize.

These changes incentivize completing tasks for vendors in a way that D2 needed desperately. I’ve watched my friends slowly fall off the face of The Tower because they see no need to talk to anyone, or complete any tasks, or hand in any tokens. Thankfully, things are changing for the better.

The man (?), the myth, the legend: Xur. Our old friend was lost for a while, but it seems that he has been found. Re-acquiring the consumable “Three of Coins,” and offering an all-new “Isochronal Engram,” Xur is coming on December 12 with some exciting new stock.

Each week, you’ll be able to purchase a new “Fated Engram” (using Legendary Shards), which will decrypt into an Exotic weapon or armor piece that is not already in your collection. (I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief, because I’m tired of Sunbracers and Hard Light dropping over and over and over again.)

Three of Coins are back and better than ever. These will boost exotic drop rates from any source for four hours. This system is different from D1, as previously, you were required to re-apply your “Tre Coins” before each and every boss fight, strike, raid, etc. Simplified, streamlined, and easy to understand — Three of Coins are back.

That’s it for the “big news.” However, it’s not always about the glitz and glamour of new features. Sometimes what’s important and crucial to the survivability of a game are the changes to the smaller things. Bungie has heard our cries, and the following changes are, what I believe to be, the developers’ reactions to our criticisms.

For December 5

Banshee will have updated weapon and armor mods. For players hunting down a specific modification (say a Helmet mod), Banshee will now offer it to you, free of random chance. Simply choose which type of mod you want and acquire it for Gunsmith Materials. These will rotate daily.

Master Rahool, our crazy Cryptarch friend, will offer a small stock of Legendary Engrams and weapons for Guardians searching for specific weaponry or Masterworks.

Reputation Tokens will be affected, increasing their drop rates and altering the amount of reputation required to receive engrams from Vendors. Daily Challenges, Cayde’s Treasure Chests, and Strikes will drop a higher number of tokens. Destination-specific Tokens will increase their drop rate, and the value per token will increase, as well.

For December 12

Commander Zavala and Lord Shaxx (our favorite Titans) will now sell “gift consumables” that can be used during their respective activities (Strikes and Crucible) to increase the rewards dropped for each player in the match. These awards can be “anything from Faction Tokens to a round of Exotics for everyone.”

Exploits regarding Chests and Resource Nodes are being observed, but it doesn’t appear that much is being changed, which is troubling. Their comment: “We want to associate a visual indicator with this in a future update, but we weren’t able to pull that off in this update (but we hear you!)”

The following is a simple quality-of-life change, but a much-desired one, at that. Vendors will no longer notify you to hand in tokens unless the amount of tokens you are carrying is enough to earn an engram or piece of loot. Tired of walking all the way to Devrim, just to find out you need one more token? I know I sure am.

In closing, Bungie regards the future:

“Going forward, we plan to continue this dialog as openly and frequently as possible. This will be an ongoing process, but one that we are committed to.

This week we’ll be publishing a new episode of the Bungie Podcast where we will sound off on the current state of Destiny 2, how we think about our communication challenges, and what it takes to update the game in the wild. You’ll be able to listen on both Apple and Android devices.

Thank you for playing, for being passionate about the Destiny 2 experience, and for working with us as we look to continuously improve our game and studio communication.”

When Destiny 2 released, fans of the series were delighted by many of the changes. It felt as if some of the more annoying bits of the grind from the first game had been streamlined and the stress factor had been purposefully reduced. But, the changes brought about new features, some successful, some complete failures. The fans let Bungie know, and here we are. A massive list of changes, some all-new features that we’d never thought possible. Adjustments to the little things, as well as major improvements to character customization, are just some of the exciting additions coming to Destiny 2 free of charge. All of these changes are modifications or additions to the base, vanilla edition of Destiny 2, able to be enjoyed by all.

As just one member of the Destiny community, I write this post with admiration and appreciation. It took a few months for them to get their heads together and wrap their hands around the most important issues, but Bungie did it. The developers addressed many of our concerns and made great strides to improve the quality of their game — in many of the same ways that they did with the transition from Destiny 1 to Destiny 2. I see this blog post as a crowning achievement for Bungie and a bright beacon of a promising future for years, and years, and years to come.


Each image and piece of information is gleaned from Bungie’s original blog post, found here 

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Shin Megami Tensei V is Releasing in the West http://gameluster.com/shin-megami-tensei-v-is-releasing-in-the-west/ http://gameluster.com/shin-megami-tensei-v-is-releasing-in-the-west/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 07:12:07 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21293 First revealed back in January at the Switch’s announcement event, Shin Megami Tensei V has been officially confirmed for western localization.

Originally announced in October for Japan on the Switch, the latest mainline entry will be coming to the West as well. An English language trailer was released with the announcement. No details, like release date or price, have been announced. The only known details are that the setting is modern day Tokyo and that new demons will appear.

Shin Megami Tensei V marks the latest entry in the JRPG series. The last entries were Shin Megami Tensei IV, in 2013, and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse, in 2016. Both are set within the same world and were released on the 3DS.

Below is the English announcement trailer.

The Switch is starting to attract big name JRPGs since its launch back in March. Published by Nintendo, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 will release on December 1, while Square Enix’s Octopath Traveler is in the works.

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Kickstarter Games Worth Backing This Week http://gameluster.com/kickstarter-games-this-week/ http://gameluster.com/kickstarter-games-this-week/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 04:29:29 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21229 Nothing embodies the Holiday spirit more than helping someone achieve their dreams. Crowdfunding has allowed game developers to bring new ideas to life with the support of everyday people instead of investors. While not all projects are a success, a community will form around a good game and see it out until the end. We have seen this many times with previous Kickstarter games such as Undertale, PinstripeShovel Knight, and Superhot.

This list will take a look at some Kickstarter games that rose to the top this month so you have a chance to consider them before time runs out.

Hell Eluja – the Social VR Horror Game

While games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes encourage cooperation to save your friend, Hell Eluja is the polar opposite. One player navigates through the dungeon as the hero, while other players are dungeon masters who place monsters in the hero’s path.

The hero uses the VR headset and dungeon masters use the tablet. There are several monsters to choose from to prevent your friend from collecting all the keys and escaping.

The concept is interesting – this game will be a great way to test the strength of your friendship. It also makes VR more accessible as it is built for the affordable Samsung Gear VR headset. With further funding, the developers will expand to Oculus Go, Google Daydream, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR.

Expected delivery is November 2018. Open funding will end at 12:00 PM CST tomorrow, December 1.

Nimbatus – The Space Drone Constructor

As the name suggests, Nimbatus – The Space Drone Constructor allows you to build and fly your own drones. You can use various parts to make your drone any way you want, and then complete missions in a procedurally generated universe. There are also drone races, drone vs. drone combat, and other extras waiting to be unlocked. You can download the demo to test it out yourself and see if you want to back the project.

It will be playable on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems, and should arrive on Steam early access soon.

The minimum donation to receive the game is 14 USD, and the estimated delivery is March 2019. Currently, they have more than doubled their Kickstarter goal.

Open funding for this game will end on December 4.

Raji: An Ancient Epic

Raji is a beautiful action-adventure game, set in ancient India, that follows the journey of a young woman chosen by the gods.

Every part of the game is hand painted. There are different weapons and patron gods to choose from that allow you to customize your play style. The mythology is present in every aspect of the game, and the artwork alone makes it no surprise that this game was chosen as a “Kickstarter Project We Love.” You can download a demo on Steam to see it for yourself.

The developers hope to eventually release the game on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The minimum donation to receive the game on PC is 21 USD, and the estimated delivery is February 2019. If the stretch goals are met, a donation of 37 USD will get you a copy of the game on the console of your choice.

Open funding for this game will end on December 11.

1st Degree: Murder-Mystery BL/Yaoi Visual Novel

This game’s genre, mature visual novel, may be more niche than the others on this list.

1st Degree follows a dark storyline of a forensics graduate chasing a serial killer. The twist? You choose who you want to date and who dies.

This project, started with a small group of friends, may soon triple its funding goal, and has around 200 backers currently. You can download the demo from their website to try it yourself.

The game is being developed for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and over half their stretch goals have been met. The minimum donation to receive the game is 15 USD, and the estimated delivery is December 2018.

Open funding for this game will end on December 8.

Deiland – RPG, adventure and sandbox game in a little planet

This RPG adventure has elements of a sandbox game with farming, crafting, and building mechanics. The developers have had experience with mobile sandbox games in the past. There are twelve characters, 100 quests, and your very own sandbox planet, the titular Deiland, that looks like something from Super Mario Galaxy.

You play as Arco, the smallest of his family, who must awaken the magic crystal dwelling inside Deiland. The graphics look stellar for an indie title.

Deiland is unique because it was supported by the Square Enix Collective and has already nearly doubled its funding goal. The final game is being created for PC and PlayStation 4.

It will be released in English, German, Spanish, and Valencià (a dialect of Catalan), and there’s a chance for a French version as well.

The minimum donation to receive the game is 15 USD, and the estimated delivery is June 2018.

Open funding for this game will end on December 7.

Blue Omen Operation – A Stylish and Hot-Blooded RPG

Out of all the Kickstarters on this list, Blue Omen Operation is my favorite. After finishing Undertale I have been looking for something with a similar vibe; Blue Omen‘s sample art made me pull out my wallet.

The game is a 2D RPG with an action-command battle system that focuses on timing. There’s a colorful cast of characters, including Jiro, a man with supernatural powers gained from a parasite, and Yagiko, his partner-in-crime specializing in the dark arts. You play as these two characters as they uncover the secrets of an ancient sarcophagus from space that has a strange aura.

The final game will be available for Windows and Mac, but the current demo is only for Windows. BananaSoft has received more than triple their initial funding goal and have only a few stretch goals left.

The minimum donation to receive the game is 15 USD, and the estimated delivery is September 2019.

Open funding for this game will end on December 6.


The best part of Kickstarter is being along for the journey and being one of the first to play a game. There’s also the exclusive perks of art and soundtracks, and sometimes even figures and posters.

If you missed the opportunity to donate to these games, that’s alright. You can still visit their Kickstarter pages to find other ways to follow the development and release dates.

Keep an eye on crowdfunded games – there’s usually at least one that will strike your fancy.

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Stardew Valley Update Fixes Switch Version Problems http://gameluster.com/stardew-valley-update-fixes-save-times-in-switch-version/ http://gameluster.com/stardew-valley-update-fixes-save-times-in-switch-version/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 01:08:45 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21253 Stardew Valley arrived on the Nintendo Switch in October, and came with a few glaring issues that made playing it more annoying than on other systems. Among the issues were lengthy load times, as well as times where the game would crash just before it could save, but this patch should provide players with as smooth an experience as on other systems.

Also included in the update is the ability to capture a few seconds of footage for record. Looping music problems have been fixed, and the issue of characters not appearing in cutscenes has been corrected.

With the latest update, the Switch version of Stardew Valley has become more viable. We can expect more updates for the acclaimed farming simulator in the future, with the Switch version being the first console to receive multiplayer.

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Details on Destiny 2’s Curse of Osiris http://gameluster.com/details-on-destiny-2s-curse-of-osiris/ http://gameluster.com/details-on-destiny-2s-curse-of-osiris/#respond Fri, 01 Dec 2017 00:47:01 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21194 Destiny 2 should follow in the footsteps of its predecessor by establishing a system of consistent DLC releases every few months to keep the game fresh and fun, all while Bungie allows themselves opportunities to develop and integrate exciting new changes to the game.

Some folks believe Destiny’s DLC model is deceitful because it only makes major quality-of-life updates and changes to the game when a paid DLC is released, while others find the content to be refreshing and appreciate the lack of a pay-per-month subscription that many MMORPGs require. Regardless, Bungie is excited for its upcoming Curse of Osiris DLC, and so am I.

Over the past few weeks, Bungie has live-streamed its DLC, first showcasing the “New Stories to Tell”, and second showing off the “New Ways to Play.” These streams were about an hour long each, and the developers were open and excited to share the information.

Curse of Osiris is inspired by nostalgia, and guardians from the first Destiny will recognize the gravity of Bungie’s decision to lay their cards on the table in the way that they have, to finally show off one of the most fabled, legendary Guardians of the Destiny universe: the Warlock, Osiris.

Up to this point, not much has been known about Osiris. He was, at one time, a Vanguard of the Tower, until he was exiled (the reasons for which are muddy, hopefully Curse will fill in those story-gaps). It is known that Ikora Rey was a student of his, but they lost touch long ago. I am eager to see the possible interaction between student and teacher, and hope to see a softer, more compassionate side of Ikora in the presence of her old friend.

The other hazy detail we have about Osiris is his strange power to distort, manipulate, and control time. This ability is demonstrated in the DLC announcement trailer (and was elongated in the reveal stream), where Osiris is seen walking through a room of still Vex, as if they are frozen in time.

Curse will introduce a few new playable areas, of most importance the planet Mercury. The aesthetic of this planet is sublime: a hot sun beats down on endless sands, which are only disrupted by massive, unnatural Vex architecture that juts out from the ground, making one curious just how far those structures are lodged into the planet’s core and what they could be used for. Mystery is at the forefront of the Osiris DLC, both in level design and story.

Aside from Mercury, Guardians will be welcomed back to the Lighthouse, known by the flawless guardians of Destiny as a safe haven for sweaty players and a symbol of capability, competence, and power. Previously, the Lighthouse had been closed to the public, a decision made by the devout followers of Osiris who were dedicated to finding and returning their lost prophet, wishing for no distractions from outsiders. But it has recently been reopened, in light of the whispers regarding Osiris’ return to civilization. This time, the Lighthouse is a much darker place. Celebration and dominance are themes of the past. The candles don’t flicker as bright, and many areas are closed off to wandering guardians. One can feel a tension in the social space, something in the air — an inescapable feeling of anticipation and apprehension for the return of the mysterious and lost legend of Osiris.

What we will do to find Osiris has not been revealed. However, Bungie showed off many of the new in-game features and activities that will be available across the galaxy, and most have been inspired by exploration into new territories and by community feedback. We will see additions and changes to the already existing planets – Earth, Titan, Nessus, etc. – as well as existing playlists, like Strikes, Raids, and PvP.

This has been described as the biggest and most rewarding Public Event to be included in the game. It will be a multi-phase public event, consisting of various mechanics, like jumping through man cannons, interacting with objects and levers, killing yellow-bars, and dunking orbs. Guardians will travel across Mercury working together to kill gate lords, who will drop orbs and keys that need to be returned to the central area. After doing this multiple times, a massive Vex boss spawns, only to be defeated by the worthy. This reminds me of the Castellum portion of the Leviathan raid, but it differs in that it requires everyone to run and acquire banners.

I’ve been a fan of the new Public Events since the release of Destiny 2, and seeing a change like this, where an event has been scaled to twice or thrice the size of normal public events (in terms of mechanics and objectives required to complete), is satisfying and promising. It is as if Bungie has taken the most fun aspects of both raid mechanics and public events and melded the two together into a lower-stakes group activity, meant for literally the whole planet of Mercury to enjoy in unison.

New strikes will be added to the game and interesting changes have been made here, too. For the first time, there will be solo strikes, meant to be completed as a one-man fireteam. These will be lore-loaded variations of strikes that focus on the campaign and story-telling. These same strikes will be available in the regular strike playlist (meant for three Guardians) but will be less story-oriented.

Another familiar feature that’s been modified is the orange Adventure missions. In the current vanilla state of Destiny 2, the incentive to complete these Adventures is extremely low. In terms of reward, they offer two tokens and a Blue Engram, and only provide a rich experience if you care about lore, side-mission stories, and character interaction. In what I assume to be an effort to raise the stakes on these missions, Bungie has added challenge modifiers (similar to those seen in the strike playlist) as well as the ability to increase the difficulty to heroic. Hopefully, these changes will inspire Guardians to do more of these missions, or at least consider adding them to their daily Guardian to-do list.

One of the most interesting new features coming with Curse is the Infinite Forest. I am unsure of its precise location, but my guess is that it will be accessible through or in the public space of Mercury, similar to the Dark Forest on the EDZ. It could also be its own playlist for your fireteam to complete privately. The Infinite Forest will feature pre-made sections that will change as you progress. In terms of play, they appear to be longer than an adventure but shorter than a strike.

The meaning behind “infinite” in the title is replayability. The area and the encounters are supposed to be different each time you come back to the location, depending on your previous interaction with the area. If you cleared out a Fallen boss the last time you were in the Forest, there may be a new sheriff in town when you return.

The story behind the Infinite Forest is grim. The “Dark Future” is a simulation created by the Vex, showing what it may be like if they won the war and took over the galaxy. It’s an alternate-reality schtick, in which the Vex stick their noses into other possibilities of time and space, but to the Guardians, it’s nothing but another foe to tackle.

These what-if scenarios are played over and over in an infinite loop, and Guardians hurl themselves time and again into the Infinite Forest to quell the evils in potential realities, earning a little loot along the way. Bungie greatly emphasizes that these Infinite Forest missions are not procedurally generated.

Outside of the forest, outside of strikes, adventures, and public events, will be The Lighthouse, where Brother Vance (a familiar face from the Vestian Outpost) can be found, and he is more than eager to talk to you. Brother Vance knows of Osiris’ return — he’s the head honcho of those matters  — and he’s called upon you, in various ways, to assist him in finding and calling Osiris home. Vance will be the main NPC you will interact with at The Lighthouse, providing story missions, side missions, and access to the new Forge.

Vance offers “Lost Prophecies” in exchange for Forge access. The Forge is a machine at The Lighthouse that churns out unique, Vex-flavored weapons in exchange for completing Lost Prophecy missions and objectives. Lost Prophecies first need to be acquired, but once this is done, the “quest” will begin. There are specific objectives (which appear to be in riddle form, similar to the Rat King’s Crew riddles) that are to be completed, and, once done, you return to Vance. After, you’ll have access to The Forge, and depending on the activity (or prior activities you have or have not completed), you’ll get a Legendary piece of gear. From what I’ve seen, the Forge guns look awesome, almost like a salvager ripped chunks of machine parts and weaponry off Vex corpses and soldered them onto post-apocalyptic Destiny guns.

The Forge is connected to a large wheel with Vex language written upon it. This wheel will act as some kind of progression tracker for these Forge, Lost Prophecy, and Osiris weapons. Some activities, like the completion of the Leviathan raid, story mode, or certain adventures, may yield rewards from the Forge or Wheel. I think of the Age of Triumph record book from the first Destiny, where rewards would be given to players who have completed worthy, cumulative activities, across the time they’ve spent playing.

This feature excites me, because it offers a bit more goal for the grind and reward for my time spent. The completionist in me is ready to tear into that wheel and light up every circle on there. December 5 can’t come soon enough.

The next piece of information is troublesome. Raids are my favorite aspect of Destiny. I find them challenging, well-made, and fascinating to think about. I’ll often find myself driving along in my car, daydreaming about raid strategies, silly times, or triumphant moments across my raiding career. Yet I’ve not heard, nor seen, nor discovered any hints on a new raid. There has been mention of a “Raid Lair” feature being added, but there has been no mention of a new raid.

Could this be a strategic decision? Bungie likes to keep a tight lip, especially when it comes to one of the most highly anticipated features in their game. My fear is that they will simply add to the existing Leviathan raid instead of offering a brand new space to play. I’d like to uncover the raid-related mysteries underneath the surface of Mercury, because I know the Vex are up to something. My fingers are crossed that Bungie is keeping a second raid hidden from the public eye in order to stir up a bit of tension and excitement, all for that big reveal moment when we log into Destiny 2 on December 5 and see the surprise.

But I’m being optimistic. The reality is, Raid Lairs will be added, and a second raid may come later down the line, but, as of now, there’s no promise of that. It can’t be ignored, though, that Expansion 1 for Destiny included the Crota’s End raid, and, as we’ve seen thus far, Destiny 2 is following in the footsteps of its predecessor.

Let’s hope for a surprise, huh?

Raid Lairs will be alternative puzzles or encounters for the existing Leviathan raid. As we’ve come to know, the Leviathan ship is a massive entity, with much hidden away and much to be discovered. I suspect that the Raid Lairs will be in new areas of the ship that may have been hidden in plain sight this whole time. Maybe they’ll be inaccessible from the existing Leviathan, only able to be launched from a private playlist or from orbit. Either way, I do look forward to these new rooms. I was impressed by the complexity of the Leviathan’s existing mechanics, and I am excited to see what other challenges Calus has in store for his chosen ones.

All in all, the Curse of Osiris is an exciting addition to Destiny 2, which will uncover the dust of old secrets and fabled legends, as well as introduce players to new worlds, new faces, and new mysteries to solve. Where and why has Osiris gone? What are the Vex doing on Mercury, and why are they so concerned with alternate realities? What rewards will the Forge bestow upon us? Will we be worthy of the light that Osiris carries? Will he ally himself with our causes, or was he exiled for good reason?

Curse of Osiris will be available December 5 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

The Destiny 2 Expansion Pass, which includes a bundled DLC 1 and 2 for 34.99 USD, has been available for purchase since release on the Xbox Marketplace, PlayStation Store, and Battle.net.

 


Note:

Bungie had intended to host a third stream, detailing the new kinds of gear players would encounter in The Curse of Osiris, but the stream was cancelled to be replaced with a blog post intended to “deliver some higher priority information about Destiny 2.” Some believe Bungie will address community dissatisfaction, or recent hotfixes made to the game. Either way, stay tuned to GameLuster for updates on this cancellation and blog-post development.

Still images taken from Bungie’s streams, save the last one, as noted.

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The Evil Within 2 Review http://gameluster.com/the-evil-within-2-review/ http://gameluster.com/the-evil-within-2-review/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 05:16:10 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21158 Producing a sequel to a hit game can be challenging. Developers will always annoy fans in some way by ignoring a mechanic that made the original game a masterpiece or by adding something that doesn’t fit. However, it is safe to say that if developers choose to continue their established ideas, then they should please the fans. But there has to be a reason to make a sequel. Are there more stories to tell in that universe? Is there a way to close out a protagonist’s story? With some of these points in mind, The Evil Within 2 manages to present a reason for its existence, building a game that is worth exploring for the story alone.

The Evil Within 2 continues the story of Sebastian Castellanos after the events at Beacon Medical Hospital. The events of the original game have left him scarred as he agonizes over his greatest regret: losing his daughter Lily. It is soon revealed that her death was actually fabricated by the organization Mobius in a plot to build one giant hive mind in a virtual world known as Union. Lily has gone missing inside of Union, destabilizing the world and creating chaos. This leads Mobius to approach Sebastian with a demand to recover his daughter.

There is always charm to games like this where the developers choose to emphasize a parental relationship as a means of pushing the player forward. The main motivation for finding Sebastian’s ostensibly dead daughter provides an excellent reason to continue through the game. In rare moments, the story drags as you handle the threat of the moment, but the narrative twists and turns keep you invested up to the closing minutes. You want to see Sebastian succeed, and you want to help him navigate the dangers within Union to complete his mission and find closure.

The Evil Within 2 attempts to change things from the original as there is a focus on pseudo open-world environments. Union acts as a hub world for the game’s key events, providing a full world to explore filled with resources and smaller objectives. These areas are filled with enemies ready to kill you on sight, although these do little for a survival-horror game.

The biggest issue that stems from The Evil Within 2 is a matter of world design. The first hour of the game builds tension through the scripted exploration of a mansion. There is fear in every moment as you see bodies dragged or suspended in time, and you are even chased by a freaky monstrosity. After this, you enter the open sections.

As a genre, survival horror feels best when you are closed in and feel exposed, knowing anything could happen. The use of pseudo-open world environments in a suburban neighborhood didn’t mesh well with the general idea of the game. When you encounter enemies you can often run away, gaining enough distance that they give up. This makes enemies feel like obstacles instead of genuinely frightening opposition.

While these areas may not mesh well with the genre, they do offer bonuses for those willing to explore. Choosing to stray off the main path offers players an assortment of side stories leading to some great moments. In one instance, you can wander into a diner where you will find the dead owner and a note detailing the reason behind his death, and before you leave, a ghostly monster will appear and drag you into another world. These side moments play into the original game’s strengths of close-quarter tension as you are hunted and find a way to escape the danger, often only having a few seconds of reprieve before you are quickly thrown into danger once more.

The open world handles the story well. When the world tangibly plays into the story, it demands greater respect. During the early search for Lily, you will spend a decent amount of time following signals to find out what happened to her. This search takes you all across the map, making use of random front yards or derelict buildings. It helps that Tango Gameworks at least provided a reason for its decision in creating a grander scale for its story to play out on, such as a later quest that sees you “respect” art as you seek buildings out for pictures placed in the area. The lack of linearity in these moments is effective in building the living world, providing a greater scale for key story beats to play on.

The strongest moments do come from the classic close-quarters approach. There is always tension in moments where you are dragged to an interior setting; you are left feeling exposed and anything could potentially happen. You have one path forward, and a multitude of dangers are in the way for you to approach either weapons drawn or quietly. In classic horror fashion, though, things aren’t as cut and dry.

These sections will often attempt to mess with your head through the use of a clever puzzle mechanic or a perceptual twist. In one optional section, you need to use a mirror to find the room’s exit, then the next area will use the same mechanic but with the added danger of an enemy that will kill you on sight, forcing you to think fast.

Similarly the game’s early story arc surrounds an artist who finds art in death, and during his section you encounter several instances of Layers of Fear style mechanics. The game chooses to mess with your head by changing the perception of the environment in certain moments, which was handled well to make the area uncomfortable and disorienting. One moment you could be looking at a wall with a picture, then you could be walking down some stairs which could lead you to your original position with a door present. The Evil Within 2 uses similar mechanics across its run time that keeps you on your toes.

Combat in this game is surprisingly enjoyable. There is a decent amount of depth that goes into taking down any foes in your way, especially as you are forced to scour to survive. It is rare that you feel safe in The Evil Within 2; you will often feel like you are a few bullets short. There will be times where you will desperately scavenge through the environment in hope of finding a couple of herbs or some gun powder to provide some quick health recovery or a couple of bullets.

Every bullet counts, so you don’t want to mess up a shot or it could be problematic. The game does make this easy, even playing with aim assist that aims your weapon at the enemies’ weak spot, but you will still regularly miss the shot. Enemies move fast, and even when lined up in your sights, enemies can quickly move out of the way as they draw closer to you, making them harder to hit. You have a very small window, which adds tension to every encounter, especially as you waste bullets on shots that barely miss. You will spend a lot of time attempting to back away from foes to get off a desperate shot that may not even meet its target.

There is a stealth option, which is given a low priority. You will often find yourself in situations you can’t sneak through, but some moments do handle the mechanic well for a suspenseful situation. Since it is such a major mechanic, it would have been nice if the developers had chosen to make better use of it in the main story. It almost feels pointless focusing on this upgrade path when other skills seem more prevalent in hindsight. Yes, it helped once or twice, but a focus on stealth was ineffective in a multitude of dangerous combat situations.

Speaking of upgrades, there are many. Enemies will often drop green gel when killed, which is used to upgrade your skills like stealth, combat, health, athletics, and recovery. You can provide boosts to your weapon handling, your crouch speed or noise as you move, your health bar, your stamina meter, and, of course, how much health healing items will recover. This is all in addition to a series of other improvements that will alter how you play.

You can also upgrade your weapons by finding parts as you explore Union. Weapon parts can be used to improve the varying weapons you have available. You are able to increase damage or hold more ammunition before you need to reload. You will need to spend a decent amount of time finding weapon parts. Upgrading weapons is as instrumental to survival as upgrading yourself.

The Evil Within 2 has some questionable decisions regarding its pseudo open-world environments that will likely annoy some players as it is counter intuitive to its genre. However, Tango Gameworks still succeeds in creating an interesting world that keeps you engaged until its closing moments. In classic linear sections, The Evil Within 2 is a masterpiece filled with exciting moments and heart-pounding sequences. You will remain invested throughout as you fight to find Lily, who is the heart and soul of this game.

~

The first screenshot is from Game Crate and can be found here.

The second screenshot is from PCGamesN and can be found here.

The third screenshot is from Trusted Reviews and can be found here.

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December PlayStation Plus Free Games Lineup http://gameluster.com/december-playstation-plus-free-games-lineup/ http://gameluster.com/december-playstation-plus-free-games-lineup/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 04:15:07 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21182 Sony has officially announced the upcoming free games for PSN plus members.

Starting December 5, the following games will be free:

  • Darksiders II Deathinitive Edition (PS4)
  • Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends (PS4)
  • Syberia Collection (PS3)
  • Xblaze Lost: Memories (PS3)
  • Forma.8 (PS Vita/Cross Buy with PS4)
  • Wanted Corp (PS Vita)

Darksiders II is a hack-and-slash RPG with puzzles at every level. If you like a challenge, this is an excellent pick with tough puzzles and bosses.

Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, takes on the tedious quest of resurrecting all of humanity. However, he doesn’t have to go about it alone. His horse companion, Despair, makes traveling easier and faster. Dust, a crow, shows the way to the next objective.

Death gains a variety of abilities as the game progresses that are intertwined with the puzzles. These make the puzzles more challenging and change up the combat. The weapon choice variety is impressive along with armor options and perks. Darksiders II is fun to play with a lot to offer. For the low price of free, it is worth the download.

Kung Fu Panda: Showdown of Legendary Legends is a game that, prior to writing this article, I had no idea existed. Priced regularly at 9.99 USD, this is not the best PSN plus deal we’ve gotten.

Showdown of Legendary Legends has brawler-style combat and has been labeled as a decent clone of  Smash Bros. It takes place in various locations from the movie series and includes most of its characters.

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Yooka-Laylee Coming to Nintendo Switch in December http://gameluster.com/yooka-laylee-coming-to-nintendo-switch-in-december/ http://gameluster.com/yooka-laylee-coming-to-nintendo-switch-in-december/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2017 03:32:36 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21153 After months of silence Playtonic has finally revealed when Nintendo Switch owners will be able to play Yooka-Laylee.

The game heavily inspired by the Nintendo 64 classic Banjo-Kazooie will arrive to the Nintendo eShop on December 14, just in time for the holiday season. It can be pre-purchased December 7, and will only be available digitally.

Upon its original release the game generated a lot of buzz for its nostalgic style, but fell short due to a plethora of issues.

For those who have been waiting for the Switch version, now should be the best time to play Yooka-Laylee. Playtonic has spent months improving the quality of the game, which should show on Switch.

Yooka-Laylee features the titular duo attempting to stop villain Capital B from stealing every book. To complete this goal the pair will need to explore an assortment of vast worlds that grow bigger as you explore and in which everything not nailed down can be collected.

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Going Your Own Way: Exploration in Breath of the Wild and The Witcher 3, Part Two http://gameluster.com/going-your-own-way-exploration-in-breath-of-the-wild-and-the-witcher-3-part-two/ http://gameluster.com/going-your-own-way-exploration-in-breath-of-the-wild-and-the-witcher-3-part-two/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2017 03:03:00 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21123 Last time we looked at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in comparison to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, we talked about how player movement in the overworld is more organic in the former game. We called this element of gameplay “exploration.” This time, we’ll continue comparing these two games in the context of the same gameplay element. Having dealt with the overworld, we’ll instead turn our attention to the combat system. By the end of this second part, the reasons for comparing the two in this way will hopefully become crystal clear.

Beyond the similarly different overworlds, both games offer a comparable combat experience. In listing a few similarities between the two games last time, we mentioned the enemy hierarchy: The player can fight anything from the small, trivial, and weak enemies to the large, singular, and fearsome foes. In dealing with these enemies, it behooves one to look at every aspect in the equation, namely the player, the protagonist, the overworld, and the enemy. When dealing with the player’s input in isolation, the options do seem limited to only fighting the enemy head-on or sneaking around in order to flank the enemy. Once the player is connected to any or all the other elements, the options become essentially limitless.

When the player combines with the protagonist (i.e. the tools at Link’s disposal) the player’s range of inputs expands beyond the direction of approach. The player can now choose to wield a melee weapon and slash, smash, or throw it; wield a magic weapon to burn or freeze an enemy (or instantly cook a walking meal); wield a bow and shoot regular, fire, or ice arrows; use one or combine multiple of the abilities to harm or incapacitate an enemy; glide down from higher ground and perform a plunging attack or maneouver to a better position; or consume food or potions to boost defensive or offensive capabilities. In combination with the overworld, the range of possibilities expands even more. The player can use conveniently placed explosive barrels, bodies of water, horses, ridges, huts and scaffolding, towers, spikes, other enemies, and even lightning bolts to his or her advantage (or a combination of all of these elements if one were so inclined).

Already we can compare Link’s options to Geralt’s and conclude simply that Geralt is always limited in his options. The player in isolation is, in both cases, limited to a frontal or sideways approach, though Geralt is not nearly as stealthy, leaving him to barge in unannounced at every turn. But looking at Geralt’s options, we also have to come to the same conclusion. Though the often restated criticism of Link’s breaking weaponry persists, Geralt is instead limited to only three weapons: a steel sword, a silver sword, and a crossbow. The two swords immediately give one the illusion of variety; both are one and the same type of melee weapon, only of different mineral quality. This rather insidious illusion relates to a simple gameplay mechanic and foreshadows a greater lack of exploration in the enemy aspect of combat. The difference is very simple: you use steel swords to kill humans and animals while using silver only on monsters and freaks of nature.

This simple prescription is a compounding of the same issue, namely the game’s intent to limit the player’s options in combat. Not only are you given the same weapon, a sword, you’re given another one and told it’s a special sword for special enemies. Throughout the story, Geralt and Ciri even casually mention needing a silver weapon to really hurt a monster, and the player is left to infer the reasons why. Similarly, when the player meets a human or monster enemy, Geralt will draw the respectively useful sword in response, and the player gets to see the same moves inflict comparative or equal damage to different enemies. In this way, the player is never open to making the mistake of killing the enemy with the wrong sword, and, in this case, it would absolutely be a case of using the wrong sword. When going against the grain and fighting a monster with the steel sword, the player will notice that hardly any damage is being inflicted. In strongly discouraging the player from using a superficially different weapon, first by drawing the right one and second by rendering the other useless, the player is told to play by the game’s stringent rules.

Now, this in itself is hardly a cause for any form of lamentation. A steel sword, a silver sword, and so on; so what? But it doesn’t stop right there as the criminal scum that it is. This prescribing of the player’s right and wrong actions (as the two cannot exist separately) goes beyond the weapons used straight into the spells and potions used. The game provides the player with the option to craft and drink potions before fighting an enemy. Unlike Zelda, however, the game has very specific potions for very specific enemies. In other words, don’t drink a potion that raises your attack against ghouls if you’re fighting a gryphon. In short, instead of crafting ten potions that do the same thing, the player has to meander around the overworld and craft ten potions that do the same thing against different enemies if one wants to achieve similar results.

The spells (or signs as they’re called) are equally as big offenders as the potions. Geralt is given control over five seemingly unique signs: the fire sign (Igni), the shield sign (Quen), the stun sign (Axii), the slow sign (Yrden), and the shockwave sign (Aard). Barring the poetic sounding names, these signs supposedly confer variety in terms of engagement. Yet many if not most monsters have a predetermined weakness to just one of these signs. When opening up the dreaded bestiary, the player can read up on lore concerning the various monsters in game, and also quickly discover a weakness to a specific sign. Wraiths, for instance, are shown as being weak to the slow sign, while drowners are weak to the fire sign. Immediately, Geralt’s great signs are reduced to a singular means of weakening a foe. It’s no longer the point to slow an enemy or set it on fire. Instead, it is a tool to help the player mash the enemy with a sword. The bestiary tells you what to do and your job is now to do it; don’t try to light a wraith on fire because it will not work; don’t try to slow drowners because there is no point. The only use of what could have been five distinct tools is instead reduced to right and wrong answers, smart and dumb decisions, all because the game says so.

Here we have to make a note on engaging different enemies. In fairness, the enemy variety will invariably lead to different approaches because different enemies have different weaknesses. Just like you wouldn’t use a crossbow on ghouls, so, too, would you not wish to jump high up in the air only to headshot a mere bokoblin in Zelda. In all cases, there will be a path of least resistance, a most effective way to deal with enemy type X that is different from dealing with enemy type Y. So in the same way, the game tells you what to do and what not to do, yes? No, bad thought. The difference lies not just in the wider range of options when playing Zelda, but also in the absolute lack of a clear-cut rule set. Though it can be argued that both games naturally include an easiest method to kill enemy X, this method is going to be different in Zelda based on the type of player because no one player is going to be the same.

This aspect remains the sole agent of variety even after many reductionist potshots from a comfy desk chair in an attempt to disprove this fact. Thus in offering the same options in the same situations, Zelda manages to keep variety alive, deliberately or not, because a player who went west first will have X first, and a player who prefers ranged weapons and potions will choose differently. The Witcher, in contrast, kills variety outright when it limits the player’s options to predetermined inputs in every situation. This is how to kill a gryphon, don’t try anything else. You wait for it to swoop in and then ground it with the shockwave sign. This is how to kill a group of ghouls, and don’t try anything else because it will not work. You wait for them to attack, then light them on fire, then finish them off. Don’t try anything else.

The same path in the overworld, the same way to kill different enemies; this is how the player’s input, and vicariously the player, is killed. The Witcher 3 does its best to reduce the player’s input to absolutes, to rights and wrongs, leaving no room for player exploration. But in doing so, it kills itself. In reducing the player to spectator, the game reduces itself to an interactive movie, a visual novel with a third-person camera and controls. There cannot be a game without a player, and there cannot be a movie without a spectator. Zelda, I’m glad to say, knows itself to be a game and is more than happy to act as one.

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Behind the Sounds: From Pong to Batman http://gameluster.com/behind-the-sounds-pong-to-batman/ http://gameluster.com/behind-the-sounds-pong-to-batman/#respond Tue, 28 Nov 2017 06:20:14 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21125 When choosing a new game to play, we often consider the graphics and story first. However, there is something that goes into every great game that often goes unnoticed: sound design. This series will explore the importance of sound and how it’s made for different games.

Sound design isn’t the music, but every sound — from explosions to ambient wind — that can make or break a game. When there is no sound, it feels unnatural, but we often don’t notice the layers of sound within a game. Sounds are almost camouflaged, always present but seemingly inaudible to make the experience feel natural. If you don’t notice it, that means it was done well, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

Sounds of the Classics

(The recognizable and simple sounds of Pong.)

There are several types of sound design, and the craft has evolved a lot since Pong and Donkey Kong. Originally, programmers were in charge of sound, and it was both limited in ability and importance. Adding too much sound in early video games took up the space needed to run the game itself, so even the pitch was limited. Though changing pitch and some modulation was the most possible at the time, this alone was able to make the iconic sounds of games like Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Space Invaders.

(The warp pipe and jumping sounds from Super Mario Bros. are examples of memorable sounds.)

(Space Invaders sped up the rhythm to create more tension when you ran out of time.)

As more bytes became available, developers dedicated resources to sound, including dedicated sound chips, and more sounds were available to play with. Eventually, the compelling sounds in Myst, Resident Evil, and Final Fantasy were made possible. Looping, layering, and variations turned more intricate over time, and sound designers were able to create more complex noises using foley artists.

(The iconic linking sound from Myst brings back memories for any fan.)

(Resident Evil wouldn’t be the same without moaning zombies.)

Named after filmmaker Jack Foley, who performed and recorded sounds that enhanced the quality of films tremendously, foley has been an integral part of film for decades. Almost every sound you hear in films is reproduced in a studio, not recorded on set. This allows for better quality and more control over what the audience hears.

As game quality progressed, this performance art eventually made its way into the gaming industry. In digital media, all sound effects start from recording sessions and audio libraries. These sounds are then edited and processed to bring the project to life. This process is used to replicate known sounds, like footsteps or clothing, or to synthesize sounds that never existed, like aliens and plasma weapons. 

Batman: Arkham City

Recording studios are often filled with old boots, metal scraps, toys, vegetables and more. Sound designers will go out into the world to record as well, to places such as zoos, pools, and hardware stores. The sound designers and foley artists responsible for Batman: Arkham City used several unexpected items in their recording sessions. The bone-breaking sounds in Arkham City were made by snapping celery, and Batman’s cape is actually a leather jacket and a bridesmaid dress being swished around. The guns were recorded outside by firing different models and recording on several audio channels to allow designers to adjust the sound for distance and angles of the firearms later. Raw sounds alone aren’t enough and are often edited for hours to get the right feeling.

(The first sound is celery being snapped. The sounds afterward are the same recording but edited.)

(The sound of Batman’s cape, made from a leather jacket and a bridesmaid dress.)

Sound design has evolved from blips in Pong to the complicated sounds in BioShock, Call of Duty, and Minecraft. Every sound studio and foley artist has their own way of creating sounds to make their project shine. What was once squeezed in as an afterthought by programmers now takes months of time, equipment, and whole studios to finish. Check back as I explore the various techniques and objects behind the sounds in your favorite games.

Reference:

Classic Video Game Sounds Explained by Experts, Parts 1 and 2, by WIRED.

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Trevor’s Holiday (read: Christmas) List of (Somewhat Silly) Games http://gameluster.com/trevors-holiday-read-christmas-list-of-somewhat-silly-games/ http://gameluster.com/trevors-holiday-read-christmas-list-of-somewhat-silly-games/#respond Sun, 26 Nov 2017 16:27:54 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21096 It’s the Holidays again; for me, Christmas.

I’ll say Christmas because I’d feel a little silly saying I celebrate “Holidays.” Here’s my tree, here’s my wreath, here’s a Nativity scene, it’s December 25, but Happy Holidays! Doesn’t really work.

So GameLuster wishes you a Happy Holidays, but I tip my hat with a “Merry Christmas.” It’s what I celebrate this time of year, though not to the full, original intentions of the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t see St. Nicholas popping in Mario Kart 64 for the traditional Frappe Snowland race.

Each year at this time I catch up on all the titles I missed for the calendar year, cramming in as much as possible while on break from work. My work as a gamer and a writer never ends, but when I’m off the clock I can game and write without passing out, getting distracted, or hearing the alarm go off. Nothing says warm Christmastime spirits more than sinking deep into wonderful gaming binges, killing Nazis and such. (Yes, I’m currently playing Wolfenstein II.)

I’m a seasonal guy, so I don’t only play catch-up with big releases, but also replay my traditional Christmas library specifically to get me in the mood for the season.

My library includes a few specific game stages, a Thief II fan mission, and some games that are only Christmas by association.

Freezeezy Peak, from Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie is a wonderful storybook adventure, and this level is a wonderful storybook Winter Wonderland. It’s unabashedly Christmas-y. Those British developers!

Bells jingle in the music, there’s a big Christmas tree, present boxes are part of the stage, there’s a huge snowman, there are several evil snowmen, there are cute little Christmas lights you protect from being eaten, and ants. (Nothing says Christmas and wintertime like ants, right? That, and Christmas lights being eaten alive – ho, ho, ho.)

You’ll feel the cold whenever Banjo loses health in the water. You’ll feel the Walrus when Mumbo Jumbo transforms you into one. You’ll frolic and play the polar bear way as you race a fat papa polar bear on a sled (and you’re the Walrus when you do this).

As soon as the bear-and-bird duo warp into this world, trust me, you’ll understand why it’s Holiday magic.

Chilly Waters, from Mario Party 3

When the family’s over, play Mario Party, because there’s nothing better to do.

In truth, the exact opposite applies – at any given time, everything is better than playing Mario Party.

If you decide to play Mario Party during Christmas, or the Holidays, or whenever it’s cold and there’s snow, play Chilly Waters in Mario Party 3. The stage is cleverly named just like the other Mario Party 3 boards, like Woody Woods and Creepy Cavern. There are slippery slopes that may screw up your progress and friends who may cause snowballs to roll you off to a different side of the board, so it’s standard Mario Party misery.

If you have no friends, play with bots. Time can never be spent better than by playing Mario Party with bots. Trust me.

Frappe Snowland, from Mario Kart 64

Nothing says Holiday cheer like cursing — cursing, slamming, and screaming as you pummel time and again into every single snowman on this race course.

The controls and character models in MK64 lead you toward barely touching the outline of each little snowman every single time. They must be built out of bombs, because when you barely graze a snowman pixel there’s an explosion sound and you fly upwards, wailing. You’ll go from first to eighth quicker than you can say holy frappe.

The cheery music belies the evil nature of this course; if you play this for tradition, do so cautiously.

Doom 3

How the hell did this game get on the list? Because I got it for Christmas and played it during Christmas.

The shadowy UAC could use some Christmas cheer, but I don’t think the UAC personnel are so Holiday-inclined. Perhaps if they had accidentally opened up a gateway to heaven…

It is timely to purchase Doom on the Switch for someone’s stocking, so Doom holiday magic is more appropriate than you think.

Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Murdering demons, and now murdering Nazis (again!)? What kind of a list is this?

Well, it’s one, as forewarned, partly built from my own associative memories.

I remember playing this during Christmas back in 2002, and it fit because of how cold it felt.

You begin in Castle Wolfenstein with large, stone corridors and the freezing mountains outside. You continue to the surrounding village with snow on the ground and on soldiers’ uniforms. You hear a Nazi talking about not having bathed in over two weeks due to the lack of hot water, and his friend snickering and saying, “Ja, ja, I know!” It makes you feel cold; and thankful for modern conveniences.

Playing Wolfenstein II now, I’m keeping up my Nazi-killing Christmas tradition. Before I know it, whenever Christmas decorations go up and the music starts playing, I’ll have a compelling urge to murder Nazis.

Wait – I already do.

A Thief’s Holiday

Here’s an entry with no ambiguity. This Thief II fan mission by TTLG user Yandros is as Christmas a game experience as you can have.

In it, you are Garrett, the series’ Master Thief, and have retired to your country home for the holidays. You have friends coming over and must prepare the house for their arrival. This includes cleaning, decorating, and setting the table.

On Normal difficulty, every item – be it the cookies to place on the table, the broom to sweep the porches, or the record to put on the viktrola – is placed logically. But on Hard and Expert, you’ll have to look in the rafters, on the roof, in the shed, and in every nook and cranny to find the necessary items.

Being the Thief veteran I am, when I first played this FM I instantly selected Expert. Imagine my surprise when, after a couple hours, all I had found were one or two cookies!

It ended up being fun but really, really hard, and each year since I have revisited this FM on Christmas Eve. I play on Normal first then, for the real memories, go to Expert again.

Nothing says video game Merry Christmas for me more than A Thief’s Holiday, and I mean that.


There you go. If you celebrate Christmas – or Holidays, or Solstice, or anything else – the Trevor way, you’ll be wasting time with Mario Party and Kart, murdering Nazis, using a flashlight in a Mars research facility, and looking for cookies on your roof. You’ll also be playing Banjo-Kazooie.

Gaming or not, I wish you a Merry Holidays.

Back to killing Nazis.

~

The Banjo-Kazooie screenshot is from microsoft.com and can be found here.

The playthrough from which the Mario Party 3 screenshot was taken can be found at YouTube here. It was uploaded by Jobexi.

The Mario Kart 64 screenshot is from Nintendo.com and can be found here.

The other screenshots are from my personal collection.

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Rainbow Six Siege Year 3 Outlined http://gameluster.com/rainbow-six-siege-year-3-outlined/ http://gameluster.com/rainbow-six-siege-year-3-outlined/#respond Sun, 26 Nov 2017 02:39:40 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21059 As Year 2 comes to a close and the trap meta formally known as Operation White Noise makes its departure, Ubisoft Montreal gears up for the future, preparing for another year of fresh, game-changing content for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.

Year 3 will bring eight new operators, three new maps, and one new game mode, along with consistent patches and quality-of-life improvements.

Season 1, also known as Operation Chimera, will introduce two new operators and quarantine and biohazard specialists hailing from France and Russia. It is rumored that these new operators will be exceptionally useful during the early drone phase, and many hope they will help deal with the heavy emphasis on traps that Operation White Noise brought about.

In conjunction with these biohazard-themed operators, a new co-operative game mode will be released called Outbreak. This will be the first major co-op event introduced to the game, aside from the very limited PvE Terrorist Hunt.

Outbreak will offer players exotic cosmetic items, only available during the event, which will run for 4 weeks, and be free-of-charge for those who already own Siege.

Season 2 will be less exciting, and more of a traditional Siege update. Two new Italian operators will be added to the mix, along with a new map, appropriately located in Italy.

Season 3 stirs the pot again with two new operators, from the UK and the US, and a complete map rework. Though they are keeping a tight lip about which map will be altered, Ubisoft Montreal made the following comment in regard to the upcoming rework:

“Additionally, there will be a complete rework of an existing map … The essence of the map will remain the same, but the gameplay and tactics will be completely different.”

Closing out the year with Season 4, fans can expect another traditional update. Two new operators from Moroccan GIGR will join the fight and a new map, located in Morocco, will be introduced.

As these changes won’t come for some time (expect early 2018) and Operation Chimera is nothing but veiled rumors, Ubisoft gave fans something solid to look forward to: a mysterious ARG.

On November 24, Rainbow Six Siege‘s official Twitter page posted the following:

“Congrats to all players who solved the first Mission Outbreak teaser puzzle hidden in the test server. Your efforts have unlocked the classified intel for all players. Stay alert for phase 2, but for now, delve into the revealed secrets:

http://rainbowleaks.org [.]”

I’ll leave that for you to explore on your own.

Until Operation Chimera drops in 2018, I’ll be finishing out the year with White Noise, having fun with Dokkaebi’s Logic Bomb, and hoping that someday ranked will finally come out of beta.

Stay psyched for another year of Siege, because Ubisoft isn’t giving up the fight. They’re giving more and more to their game, and their community, with each passing day.

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Game Music to Study By http://gameluster.com/game-music-to-study-by/ http://gameluster.com/game-music-to-study-by/#respond Sat, 25 Nov 2017 09:11:38 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21036 Studying is a tedious but necessary activity. Accompanied by music, studying can be drastically less painful to complete. Music in video games cues many emotions, like when it foreshadows an approaching enemy, and immerses the player into a fictional world. When I study, I always listen to my favorite gaming soundtracks, but you don’t have to be studying to enjoy them.

Whether you loved or hated The Elder Scrolls Online, “Moons of Evening Star” is still a beautiful song. It brings a fantastical sound that reminds me more of the elves in The Lord of The Rings than those in Elder Scrolls. There’s no sudden changes in its dynamic, which makes it a peaceful listen and perfect for distraction-free studying.

Dragon Age Inquisition was beautiful in visual, gameplay, plot, and soundtrack. The whole album is stunning and brings me back to my favorite in-game locations and scenes every time I listen to it. “Thedas Love Theme” is an especially elegant pick and another great song to alleviate the pain of studying.

The Last of Us’ theme has a much different pace and sound in comparison to the previously listed songs. It depicts more of an adventurous feeling, much less on the fantasy side. This iconic theme simply could not be omitted from my list.

“Jodie’s Suite” is an emotional track to go along with the very emotional game Beyond Two Souls. It captures the heartache of the game. It is lyric free, but does include some vocals.

“To Zanarkand” is an excellent piano piece that maintains a peaceful quality throughout its duration. You don’t need to play Final Fantasy X to enjoy this one.

 

Here’s a Spotify playlist with the songs listed above and more of my personal favorites. I plan to update it periodically.

 

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A Sky Full of Stars Arrives on Steam this December http://gameluster.com/a-sky-full-of-stars-arrives-on-steam-this-december/ http://gameluster.com/a-sky-full-of-stars-arrives-on-steam-this-december/#respond Sat, 25 Nov 2017 03:56:45 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=21013 From the team who made the highly acclaimed visual novel If My Heart Had Wings comes a coming-of-age astronomy tale full of love, comedy and excitement. A Sky Full of Stars will arrive on Steam this December, fully dubbed in Japanese with English subtitles.

A Sky Full of Stars follows the stories of young people from different schools who come together to gaze at the stars. Childhood friendships, passed-down traditions, deep bonds forged over time, and even deeper feelings will intersect. Old relationships and moments left in the past will be drawn out under the stars.

Fans of the previous game can expect the same quality in MoeNovel’s latest visual novel. It features HD images and a twinkling night sky promised to be as accurate as possible, presented using planetarium engine software. It also has some scenes recorded using a “binaural recording method”, supposedly lending a “natural-feeling closeness” to the characters’ audio.

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Low-key PS4 Games for the Holiday Season http://gameluster.com/low-key-ps4-games-for-the-holiday-season/ http://gameluster.com/low-key-ps4-games-for-the-holiday-season/#respond Sat, 25 Nov 2017 03:31:09 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20991 The holiday season is here, and if you’re not finding any of the latest releases interesting, or don’t want to get stuck in overcrowded retail stores, you could shop from home on the PlayStation Store. Below is a list of PS4 games, broken down by genre, that aren’t over-hyped or overpriced.

Role-playing: Dark Rose Valkyrie

Dark Rose Valkyrie is a classic JRPG with visual novel scenes. It takes place in an alternate 1920s Japan that is ravaged by a deadly disease. To battle the disease, teenagers with superpowers are enlisted by the government.

In between monster battles that use a simultaneous turn-based style, the player is tasked with uncovering a traitor in the military ranks. Using mechanics similar to Ace Attorney and Danganronpa, interviews and statement reviews take place to solve the mystery of the disease and the traitor.

Psychological Horror: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Beautiful, dark and tense are just some words to describe Ninja Theory’s newest game. Probably the most well-known game on the list, the psychological horror title follows Senua, a Celtic warrior, on her journey through Nordic hell, Helheim. The historical mythology and hallucinations weave together to create visuals that trick the eye. Random voices and an immersive soundtrack add to the player’s dread and confusion.

Hellblade is more an emotional experience than a standard jump-scare horror game.

Action-Adventure: Hidden Agenda

After the success with Until Dawn, game studio Supermassive has released their next choice-driven game. Played in the third-person perspective, Hidden Agenda follows homicide detective Becky Marney and district attorney Felicity Graves while they hunt down a serial killer.

With gameplay similar to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, quick-time events determine the outcome of the story. Featured in the game is Sony’s PlayLink, a feature that allows other players to hunt for clues and vote on decisions that will impact the game using their smart phones, while the main player hunts down the killer.

First-Person Survival: The Long Dark

Taking place in the Canadian wilderness, The Long Dark puts players in the role of a pilot who has crash landed. Struggling to survive, players battle the elements, basic bodily needs and animals. The temperature, weather, hunger and thirst can all cause death or an uncomfortable experience. With a full day and night cycle, multiple game modes and a permadeath system, The Long Dark is a test to see if one is strong and smart enough to survive.

Side Scroller: Matterfall

Matterfall is a side-scrolling shooter that follows Avalon Darrow on a quest to clean up dangerous alien technology and save civilians in a futuristic, science-fiction world.

Enemies come in thick waves and boss fights are multi-tiered. While the main story might be short, the hunt to achieve the highest score adds replay value. A techno-thumping soundtrack and vibrant colors make Matterfall as fun to watch as it is to play.

MOBA: Paragon

Free-to-play from Epic Games, Paragon has players battling for supremacy in the arena through teamwork, skill and brute force. Featuring a third-person camera, skill-based combat, and stunning graphics, players can spend the down time of the holidays pushing through lanes with teammates.

Collect and equip cards to give heroes special abilities to turn the tide of battle. Many maps and game modes are available, and the roster for characters continues to be added to.

While real-world money can be spent in the game, it can only buy cosmetic items or convenience boosts that have no major effect on gameplay. Every hero is equal in war when it comes to Paragon.

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Holiday Gift Guide: E to E10+ Games http://gameluster.com/holiday-gift-guide-e-to-e10-games/ http://gameluster.com/holiday-gift-guide-e-to-e10-games/#comments Sat, 25 Nov 2017 01:03:06 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20993 Video games have appeared on Christmas wish lists since their beginning because they offer hands-on, enjoyable entertainment for all, but it’s difficult to choose what game to give. Whether for a younger sibling, a friend, or even for yourself, the following video games are appropriate and engaging for all ages. They are all newer releases or remasters, most from earlier this year.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix

Platform: PS4 | ESRB Rating: E10+

Kingdom Hearts is a very complicated game to follow in chronological order. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix contains six of the core Kingdom Hearts games, making it much easier to follow the plot. It also alleviates the pain of being forced to jump from platform to platform like previous Kingdom Hearts fans had to suffer through. It’s the perfect starter bundle for first comers or those looking to revisit the game on a current-generation console.

Japan pumps out some of the greatest games, and Kingdom Hearts is definitely one of them. The powers of Square Enix and Disney unite to produce this crossover RPG. Characters from Disney, Pixar, Final Fantasy, and The World Ends With You appear in the series. It’s a hack-and-slash game, similar to Final Fantasy XV. The fighting and general gameplay are enjoyable, as are the fantastical lands they take place in. The playable hero, Sora, is accompanied by Donald Duck and Goofy, making the combat much more lighthearted.

Kingdom Hearts has amassed a large fanbase of all ages.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

Platform: PS4 | ESRB Rating: E10+

It’s the classic Crash Bandicoot experience remastered into a trilogy for PlayStation 4 gamers.

Jump and spin your way through obstacles and enemies in this classic platformer.

Crash translated beautifully onto the PS4, with the bright colors of every level made even more prominent than before. The trilogy offers a new playable character, Crash’s sister, Coco, and the addition of time trials.

Kirby Planet Robobot

Platform: 3DS | ESRB Rating: E

It’s the same pink bundle of destructive joy, but this time, he’s inside a mecha suit. Kirby Planet Robobot is the only game included in this list that was not released or remastered in 2017. However, I couldn’t resist including at least one Kirby game, and it hasn’t aged even two years.

Kirby Planet Robobot offers two unique minigames, one of which is multiplayer. Team Kirby Clash allows up to four friends to choose a class and battle through challenging enemies together.

The second minigame, Kirby 3D Rumble, is a battle against time and enemies. The game is simple: collect coins and defeat enemies in the normal Kirby fashion — inhaling and spitting. The faster the completion time, the higher the score.

The main storyline doesn’t require any previous knowledge of Kirby games to follow. Its story, graphics, and soundtrack are all adorable, making it a perfect addition to the cuteness overload that is the Kirby series. The combat style is easy to pick up. It’s a fairly traditional platformer, and it also includes environmental puzzles that makes it all the more engaging. The bosses in Kirby games are always something to look forward to, and Kirby Planet Robobot is no exception.

Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns

Platform: 3DS | ESRB Rating: E10+

The Story of Seasons series is a collection of farming RPGs. It offers marriage options, a highly customizable house and farm, and an all-around pleasant experience. The game’s atmosphere is incredibly calming.

There are three unique towns available for exploration that offer a variety of crops and products, depending on what town you visit. The NPCs are each lively and you can get to know all the townspeople to make the game feel more personal. If you love animals, this game has all of the cutest pets that’ll accompany you as you progress through the game. Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is simple in concept, but it has a lot to offer and is a very addictive game.

World of Goo

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC | ESRB Rating: E

World of Goo is a puzzle game that uses living goo and other materials to build a path to the end of the level, marked as a pipe. Each level offers a distinct atmosphere with a variety of soundtracks and scenery. There are also special goos with abilities that can be utilized to complete the levels.

World of Goo Corporation is a mini game within World of Goo that allows players to compete for the tallest goo tower.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Platform: Nintendo Switch | ESRB Rating: E

Mario Kart is one of the most well-known multiplayer cart-racing games. You can play as all your favorite Nintendo characters on unique and often challenging race courses.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has all the great features of Mario Kart 8, but also includes the DLC characters, new vehicles, new characters, and new tracks. You can now hold two special items instead of one, and they may each be utilized to deter other racers or to boost yourself.

De Blob

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC | ESRB Rating: E10+

De Blob was a fun puzzle-platformer game from 2008. This last year it has been remastered for current generation consoles. 

Color has been declared a crime in Choma City, and now de Blob, the playable character, must splatter the city in color while watching out for the Inky soldiers who are trying to destroy color. De Blob rolls around the city to collect color and spread it. His color changes based on the color he collects. It’s this fun yet simple concept that makes de Blob so enjoyable.

Splatoon 2

Platform: Nintendo Switch | ESRB: E10+

Imagine a bunch of neon squid people shooting paint at each other. That’s Splatoon in a nutshell. However bizarre it may seem, the game is incredibly enjoyable. It is a third-person shooter offering a multiplayer and single-player campaign. The single-player option is called Hero Mode. In Hero Mode the player must battle Octarians, evil octopus creatures, to progress in the game. Splatoon 2 now offers new weapons to earn in the single-player campaign.

One multiplayer mode is Turf War, a 4v4 with the objective of covering as much ground as possible in your team’s color. There is also Salmon Run, a new addition to the Splatoon games. Salmon Run is a four-person co-op with waves of enemy Salmonoids to defeat. Multiplayer modes can be played online, but the game does not have split-screen capabilities.

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Games with Gold for December Announced http://gameluster.com/games-with-gold-for-december-announced/ http://gameluster.com/games-with-gold-for-december-announced/#respond Thu, 23 Nov 2017 18:03:44 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20984 As November draws to a close, Microsoft has prepared its newest list of Games With Gold. December will bring nostalgic time travel from Telltale, an artistic gem, some Warhammer, and a lesser-known hack-and-slash adventure.

Starting December 1, Microsoft will offer Xbox One owners Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide, a multiplayer experience set in the world of Warhammer. The game plays similarly to Left 4 Dead as players team up with three others to fight against the Skaven, a race of rodent-like creatures. It will be available until December 31.

Also running from December 1 is Child of Eden, which will be available for Xbox 360 as well as Xbox One. Child of Eden is an artistic musical experience where sound is created by shooting the various objects that float onto the screen. The game will be available until December 15.

In the latter half of the month, Microsoft will offer players the chance to delve into Telltale’s early years with Back to the Future: The Game – 30th Anniversary Edition. This is an episodic adventure set in the Back to the Future universe that has players assume the role of Marty in a series of time-travel escapades involving many fan-favorite characters. Back to the Future will run from December 16 to January 15.

Finally, Xbox 360 owners will be getting Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death. This is a hack-and-slash adventure that plays similarly to God of War or Devil May Cry set to a revenge-story plot. This game will run from December 16 until December 31.

If you haven’t yet, don’t forget to pick up November’s offerings before it’s too late.

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Video Game Spotlight: Amy http://gameluster.com/video-game-spotlight-amy/ http://gameluster.com/video-game-spotlight-amy/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 23:12:25 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20713 You often get what you pay for, and when a game’s base price is less than five dollars, you start playing dubiously. But you don’t always get a bad game; sometimes navigating these cheap minefields you are able to find a rare gem.

In Video Game Spotlight I attempt to spread some light onto independent games I stumble across. This time I spotlight Amy, a game developed by VectorCell, a shut down studio, that released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 back in 2012. Dust off those now primitive consoles – it is time to step back for Amy.

I have been told by multiple sources to avoid Amy, following complaints of terrible controls and tedious design, and yet most of these complaints are reasons why I implore you to play the game.

The story follows Lana, a woman charged with caring for the autistic Amy, a young girl with unique skills. At the start they are on a train headed to a hospital to find a means of helping Amy, when suddenly the world falls into chaos. A sudden explosion derails the train as a wave of a mysterious infection contaminates Silver City, transforming people into zombies. With dangers all around, Lana needs to help Amy escape and get to the hospital. It is soon revealed that Amy has some unique talents which can help her and Lana survive their desperate struggle against the undead and militant forces ready to kill on sight.

Many gamers agree that escort quests are annoying. While certain games had proven to be terrible examples of escort quests, Amy was more akin to The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite in your ally’s usefulness. I’d even argue that in Amy escorting is better implemented. One of the game’s strongest elements is the motivation to protect Amy as you escort her. This game awakens a parental bond as you fight to keep Amy safe.

This is further enhanced by the game’s movement mechanics. Amy is prone to wander off, an issue when, unlike in The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite with Ellie or Elizabeth, Amy alerts enemies to your presence. That you may hold Amy’s hand and guide her to safety or to key points of interest really builds on the parental element of the game. Not only is this mechanic well implemented in keeping her close and preventing random wandering, but it also helps you feel more connected to Amy. You feel like she matters, and isn’t just some invisible partner, but a desperate survivor whom needs to be protected.

Amy holds further significance with the gameplay. She acts as a shield from infection when she is close to the player. As the game continues, the dangers get progressively worse with the infection taking over humans and turning them into monsters, some people transformed into hulking giants. However, Amy is immune and can keep Lana safe. This makes it all the more interesting in the moments when you and Amy are separated. There is a desperation in these situations as you quickly navigate through enemies to get to Amy’s location to help her and save yourself from the infection. These moments, wherein tension is built as you utilize the two characters, become quite intense and kept me invested in the game. You end up separated a lot as you drop Amy into separate rooms to grab key items by guiding her with a prompt. The desperation never stops.

Things get even more interesting as you discover Amy’s powers, which offer an assortment of bonuses to help you progress through the game. Take, for instance, her silence powers, allowing her to set up a ball of energy that blocks all noise, giving Lana cover through noisy paths without alerting nearby threats. Amy is the cornerstone of this game and the hand that ties all elements of the gameplay together, especially as you get further in and explore her full skill set.

At times I can understand some of the complaints levied against the game, such as the annoying dark visuals, poor checkpoint system, and some clunky combat mechanics, but Amy has many great moments that get you involved in its growing conflict. More importantly it does escort quests right, building on the parental bond between characters and how they can work in tandem to survive against all odds. I would argue that Amy works better than The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite; it adds danger if you do not pay attention and let Amy wander into harm’s way.

So please do yourself a favor and play Amy. This game will grab your attention within the first twenty minutes and will make it hard for you to put it down. Don’t stay away from Amy.

If you were someone who played Amy when it was originally released and quickly gave up due to its issues, I beseech you, please give Amy a second chance. A couple of updates have made it more playable.

 

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What Is in a Name? The WoW Classic Server Article http://gameluster.com/what-is-in-a-name-the-wow-classic-server-article/ http://gameluster.com/what-is-in-a-name-the-wow-classic-server-article/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 22:34:36 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20890 When one perceives the words “video game”, immediately one imagines one or several examples. These examples are invariably determined based on one’s experience with video games. People who play mostly JRPGs may, for instance, think of Final Fantasy 7 or Dragon Quest 3. Meanwhile, those who play mostly Nintendo games may think of Mario, Zelda, or Pokémon. This conceptualisation of a word’s meaning or the imagining of prime examples on the basis of experience is the basis for the idea of conceptual metaphors and cognitive linguistics. It doesn’t matter that Final Fantasy 7 wasn’t the first JRPG; what matters is that one believes it to be the best representation of a video game. We won’t go into the specific mechanism of how this comes into being, but we will take a closer look at one specific video game in the context of one such a metaphor.

Saying “video game” will, of course, evoke different representations in the minds of the recipients based on their status as gamer or non-gamer. This, in itself, goes without saying. But when I utter different words than “video game” to the reception of gaming ears, I can evoke representations that may, in fact, relate to video games. When I say “controller”, “platform”, and “direction”, a gamer may think of an Xbox controller, the PC platform, and walking forwards, three concepts you won’t soon find in the mind of an active politician for example. So, when I say “nostalgia” in this context of gaming, one can be forgiven for thinking of Super Mario 64, arcades, or even the base game of World of Warcraft, colloquially known as vanilla WoW.

Warcraft has certainly seen its fair share of nostalgia trips. Ever since its first expansion, The Burning Crusade, players have in some manner of means complained about changes made, and may have wished to return to the time before the changes in doing so. It’s only in the years and expansions following the first expansion that this behaviour can rightly be attributed to nostalgia insofar as one can be nostalgic for yesterday, but never to the degree as for years ago. Another reason to consider this belated behaviour nostalgia is the fact that, over the expansions, different strands of gamers have expressed similar desires to return to different expansions. The one that truly stuck in the backs of the minds of the players, however, is the desire to return to the base game, to vanilla WoW.

Recently, Blizzard announced to make these wishes come true when they stated they were working on a so called Classic server where only vanilla WoW can be played, much to the excitement of hordes of players, of course. This in itself interesting anecdote is a development in this 10-year behavioural pattern of wanting things to stay the same. More interesting, however, is the part that the Nostalrius debacle played in this process. Thus, with what space remains, we will direct our attention to its role in the accomplishment of goading Blizzard into developing a Classic server.

The Nostalrius debacle, as I referred to it, pertains to the development and popularity of a “Blizzlike” World of Warcraft vanilla “private server” called “Nostalrius Begins”. Its nature as a Blizzlike server simply refers to the execution of the server itself, namely that the server was developed and hosted as though it were Blizzard at the helm. This means that the server is devoid of specially made items, donation incentives, teleportation prompts, drastically altered game mechanics such as faster levelling and increased gold drop rate, and a host of other factors that many private servers have tampered with over the years of their phenomenal existence. The label of the server as a “private” server denotes, in contradiction to the Blizzlike label, that the server is privately operated; in short, that Blizzard has nothing to do with its development or maintenance.

My use of the word “debacle” here pertains to the rise, fall, and media coverage surrounding the Nostalrius Begins server. Launching in early 2015, Nostalrius Begins quickly gained an enormous playerbase of 130k active players with a little under three-fourths one million accounts made. Just as quickly, however, Blizzard sent a cease and desist asking them to shut down all activity surrounding the operation of a private server, something that is, of course, completely in their right to do. What followed should not be completely unexpected; the gaming media lapped it up from head to toe. Indeed, if one would be so inclined to visit the Nostalrius Begins website today, one could be forgiven for confusing the website for a small social media platform. The webpage opens with a logo and some general news bulletins and is followed by a laundry list of references to news outlets, all of which covered the by now infamous cease and desist episode.

The impact and importance of the Nostalrius Begins debacle, in itself, can be seen as imperative to Blizzard’s decision to develop a Classic server; fundamental, even. The Nostalrius community certainly seems to think so. The laundry list of media coverage is headed simply by the line “they talk about us” and if one were so inclined to visit the official Twitter page, one is immediately prompted with a “YOU did it!” referring to the WoW playerbase and to the official announcement at Blizzcon 2017. I should have mentioned, perhaps, that earlier on in the drama as it was unfolding, the Nostalrius community bundled their efforts and signed a petition to Blizzard to hear them out, which, crazily enough, they actually did. But to claim wholesale responsibility for this development is perhaps more naïve than justifiable.

The astute reader by now has noticed the striking similarities between the name of this private server and the word used in the introduction of this article. It should come to no surprise to anyone that the words “nostalgia” and the name “Nostalrius” share the exact same syllables except for the last ones, the justifications and excuses for which I have yet to encounter. If one were to argue that the name derives simply from an old realm on the official servers, one would have to be disappointed to find out that no such realm ever existed, as a quick scan of the official English realm lists in the US and Europe will reveal. Moreover, if it did, this, too, would prove the eerie connection to this volatile quality in that it would be an even more blatant act of indulgence.

In much the same way, it should surprise no one that this server, specifically, would appear to play such a big and apparently direct part in the ten year-long crusade backwards. Blizzard is no stranger to cease and desist notices, handing them out as they see fit to anyone whom they deem to be encroaching on their copyrights. Additionally, it’s a mystery to no one that Blizzard has never approved of or even liked private servers in any respect. Players who actively discuss private servers are discouraged from doing so by the heavy banhammer that mostly looms and occasionally strikes down hard, unforgivingly so on those whom Blizzard knows has visited these servers. Yet it is this specific case that people remember and this specific case that has effectively become a marker of change. Even before the petition to Blizzard, the visit to their headquarters, and finally the announcement of official Classic servers, the media seemed to be completely enthralled by the goings on. One can hardly find a news article that elides any reference to Nostalrius Begins whenever vanilla WoW, Blizzard, and private servers are the topics of non-singular discussion.

Its insipid legacy as a reference in WoW history is more than merely the size of its servers. Or rather, its size is not the alpha and omega of its relevance, I should say. What should matter more is the non-discreet way in which millions of people were played like damn fiddles. I already mentioned the suspicious naming of the servers, but it goes beyond the number of the beast. Nostalgia trips for WoW players are as inevitable as the disappointment that follows when one realises that the private server does not satisfy the needs. Imagine their glee when they finally find a fully operational, yet uncorrupted Blizzlike server with a great name!

The cynical irony here is thicker than I could knowingly lay on. The obvious fact is that there has never been such a well-run server, and Nostalrius was no exception. Scripting is often the first thing to go wrong in base copycats, the most damning examples of which are raids and quests which are either completely broken or just barely operational. One can safely conclude that the corruption, evident in the donation incentives and fake weaponry, is born from this faulty scripting in an attempt to make good on the promise of being operational at all. The promise of a dedicated team working day and night to get raids and battlegrounds working seemed to be good enough. At least it meant not leveling to lvl255 and teleporting to GM island again.

The sheer veneer, the proverbial wool that was pulled over the eyes of the players, doesn’t so much start at the superficial however. Recall for a moment the fact that both nostalgia and Nostalrius share two syllables—two phonemes, moreover. Calling to mind the second word in the name allows us to pull back the wool entirely, however. In calling itself the beginning of itself, the server does more than pick a cool-sounding name for marketing purposes. The beginning of something has to be in opposition with the end; there is simply no other way to define both terms. Already starting in 2015, however, Nostalrius is quite late to the party for which I received no invitation, and one has to wonder what exactly it’s beginning. It’s not the first private server; it’s not the first Blizzlike server; and it’s certainly not the first server, that achievement being owned by Blizzard Entertainment, themselves. Yet the name sticks and naming the monster shows to be more important than anyone cared to remember.

Whenever referenced, the server was simply called Nostalrius, the second word in the name hardly or never being mentioned outside of the home webpage. If one is indeed to bank on the collective sensation to return to genesis, as Freud never put it, one would be remiss to insist on showing one’s hand, especially when the enviable volume of media coverage remained entirely free of charge. The only sensation that remains now is the fear that one day the words nostalgia and Nostalrius would become more than homophonous, instead becoming synonymous; a fear that might as easily be a hope depending on one’s perspective.

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World of Final Fantasy Releases Day One Edition Its First Week on PC http://gameluster.com/world-of-final-fantasy-releases-day-one-edition-its-first-week-on-pc/ http://gameluster.com/world-of-final-fantasy-releases-day-one-edition-its-first-week-on-pc/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 20:10:46 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20957 World of Final Fantasy is finally available on PC.

To celebrate its first week, anyone who buys the game from November 21-28 will receive the Day One edition of the game. The PC version bonuses include a digital soundtrack and a special HD wallpaper. It also includes the same in-game content as the PS4 Day One edition, like legendary bonus summons and creatures, such as Sephiroth and Boko the Chicobo (meaning a young Chocobo).

World of Final Fantasy is a great way to introduce new players to the vast world of Final Fantasy and its lore. Players can explore Grymoire as twins Reynn and Lann while meeting a familiar cast of characters. You can capture creatures to use for traveling and ability boosts, or evolve them for new specializations.

The PC version is for Windows 7 or higher, and will set you back 40 USD. You can purchase it on Steam or the Square Enix Website.

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Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Now Available http://gameluster.com/animal-crossing-pocket-camp-now-available/ http://gameluster.com/animal-crossing-pocket-camp-now-available/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 06:03:48 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20915 Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, the newest, and first mobile addition to the Animal Crossing series, is available for download on iOS and Android supported devices. Pocket Camp is free to download and play, but will have in-app purchases.

In Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, you take on the responsibilities of Camp Manager, which includes fulfilling day-to-day tasks for your fellow campers, decorating and exploring the campground, building and buying furniture, and making friends and keeping them.

With a wide array of character-customization options, you make your Camper your own, and afterward head out and customize your campground. You can do chores to earn money that can be used to purchase expensive items and furniture from the Handyman, Cyrus. You may place these items in your personal Camper or around the campground for all to enjoy.

If you like exploring, you can spend some time chasing butterflies and lightning bugs, knocking apples off trees, fishing by the sea, or falling into holes (left behind by some trickster). There’s much to do, much to explore, and many faces to meet.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp stays true to the fun and familiar Animal Crossing formula. If you want to return to the world of Tom Nook and Kapp’n, get your stay-away-bags packed and wipe the dust off your mobile phone chargers.

It’s time to earn some Bells.

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Valkyria Chronicles 4 Will Head Overseas in 2018 http://gameluster.com/valkyria-chronicles-4-will-head-overseas-in-2018/ http://gameluster.com/valkyria-chronicles-4-will-head-overseas-in-2018/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 06:40:23 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20900 Valkyria Chronicles is a niche gem in Sega’s catalogue that’s become more appreciated, so much so that news of a new entry in the franchise heading across the seas is very exciting.

Sega has announced that they will be bringing the newest chapter in the series, Valkyria Chronicles 4, to the Americas and Europe in 2018. The game will arrive for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. It will feature the series’ tactical RPG battle system, hand-drawn art style, and World-War inspired story, in this case WWII.

Check out the trailer below:

Valkyria Chronicles 4 focuses on the fight between the Atlantic Federation and the Autocratic Imperial Alliance. In order to attain victory in a losing battle, the federation deploys a small team in an attempt to capture the Imperial capital and end the war.

The story will focus on Claude Wallace and his childhood friends in Squad E in their attempt to fight for the desperate operation’s success. To succeed they will need to endure harsh elements and waves of enemies, as well as the Valkyria, and all the while will be stepping closer to a dark truth.

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Emmaline Rambles: Video Games and Depression http://gameluster.com/emmaline-rambles-video-games-and-depression/ http://gameluster.com/emmaline-rambles-video-games-and-depression/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 06:27:09 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20894 Are video games and depression correlated? Does video game addiction cause depression? The first thing someone sees when they search for “video games and depression” are games relating to this.

Sparx, a game for New Zealand residents only, helps to “moderate stress, depression, and anxiety.” Along with this, there was a game invented in 2013 called Depression Quest that dealt with, as the title suggests, depression.

Personally, I think video games help with depression. This is due to in-game rewards, the distraction and storytelling of the game, and the anger or stress that is relieved as a result of playing the game.

The rewards in games vary from the moons collected in Super Mario Odyssey to the currency received from selling ash on Runescape. With these rewards, we feel obligated to keep playing and ultimately feel better about ourselves. For instance, when I beat a specific boss, I honestly feel like a bad-ass. The adrenaline rush of winning something and completing a goal is a feeling that can not be replaced. The rewards in game may seem small, but when you are put into a fictional world, and feel like you are the character, you are the one earning those rewards.

On the point of being in a fictional world, escapism also helps with depression. The fact that you do not have to deal with the real world is surreal. You can sit in a chair in front of a console and feel like you are a superhero, even though you are not. Anytime you’ve had a bad day, going right to video games is healthy and a steam-blower.

The distraction of video games is also helpful – your thoughts are settled and your brain is focused on accomplishing goals in game. I’ve had days where I overthink and let my sad thoughts consume me: “What’s the point?” “What if I don’t make it anywhere?” “I’m falling so far behind.” There is no need for these negative thoughts because, in reality, I am not falling behind, I’m just judging myself too hard and truly am bored.

The storytelling of the game is productive through its artwork and similarity to reading a book. Any good game is going to tell a story and force you to think. Whether you have to spam buttons or decide where to go next in the game, you are making decisions and being productive. You may be thinking that you are not bettering the world or that you are wasting your time, but sometimes making yourself happy is the best and most important thing you can do.

I am not that fond of reading, which I know is bad, but I feel that playing video games can be as equally educational, especially if it is historical or otherwise non-fictional. Even if the game is not, you can still learn things such as how to take care of family, certain recipes for cooking, and weapon names. Your knowledge will always be expanded with video games. The artwork can also allow you to think more critically and creatively. If the artwork is abstract, it causes you to think about what the image actually is, and it’s always nice to have the color wheel memorized.

The most personal way that video games help me is dampening my stress and anger. If I’ve had a bad day, I know that I can go home and whip out Soul Calibur. It’s good to get the anger out on artificial intelligence, rather than on real people.

Playing League of Legends has helped me with my anger throughout the years because I can take my anger out by spamming buttons and killing people in game. Killing something artificial is totally okay and healthy, a reason why violent games can be helpful. Sports are good for anger as well, but you could physically hurt someone for real through them, and, for me, video games are more convenient.

The only case one could make that video games cause depression is to highlight the dangers of an extreme obsession with video games to the point where one can’t function in the real world. Video games must be used and enjoyed wisely, for short intervals everyday, so that players may then feel happier and distract themselves from any negative thoughts, without going too far.

Featured image by Luke Ellis-Craven, from unsplash.com.

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Vaulting, Climbing, and Deserts in PUBG http://gameluster.com/vaulting-climbing-and-deserts-in-pubg/ http://gameluster.com/vaulting-climbing-and-deserts-in-pubg/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 05:10:03 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20815 PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) has swept the gaming world like a tidal wave, sailing to Steam’s most purchased game of all time, while currently extending over 13 million copies sold as console gamers watch from the sidelines.

PUBG is an iconic game, known for its realistic weapon design, gun-fighting mechanics, massive battlefield, ear-shattering explosions, stressful shootouts, and all around high-intensity moments. For months since its early-access release in March, soldiers have been duking it out on the hazy fields of the vaguely eastern European setting, known as “Erangel.”

Erangel is fully-loaded with cities, structures, buildings, underground shafts, and sights to see, with precious loot hiding in every corner of the map. The name of the game is to loot, shoot, survive, and dominate.

The setting can be distracting and beautiful, though. With the salty sea breeze floating in from the west and the trees blowing gently in the wind, you take a moment to admire your new weapon and level two armor and you look out over the rolling green hills, taking note of buildings in the distance. Suddenly, a gunshot rings out, and the bullet responsible for the sound is coming from 900 meters away right at you, the soldier who stopped to sniff the flowers.

PUBG is one of the most intense gaming experiences out there, leaving players with sweaty palms, racing hearts, and surges of adrenaline that often result in a grunt or victory scream. I’ve felt the thrill of horror games, war games, and fast-paced competitive gaming, but none of these experiences compare to crawling around on your bare belly across a hay field surrounded by enemy snipers — who are already engaged in a shootout with each other — equipped with nothing but a backpack and frying pan. 

The game remains fresh every round, thanks to the “blue circle” mechanic (inspired by games like H1Z1), which gradually closes down on a different final area each game, forcing players to fight for that location. But running around Erangel since March has grown stale. I’m far too familiar with the area, and the sense of wonder that hit me when the map was unfamiliar simply isn’t there anymore. Thankfully, the folks at Bluehole are one step ahead, and for months have been developing a Desert map, and with each passing day, the PUBG community gets one step closer to this game-changing experience.

From this snapshot alone, it’s clear that plenty of time, effort, and attention to community feedback has gone into the creation of this new map. Without the strong surge in population and devoted community, perhaps we would never see another map for PUBG.

The Desert looks more congested than Erangel. The layout of buildings indicate this, as there are both more buildings and more clusters of buildings closer together than there were in Erangel. This could lead to some interesting city shoot outs and ambushes. High rocky cliffs to the west will act as a natural border for the game’s playable area, which will probably wrap around the northern part of the map, as well. The large body of water is intriguing, possibly offering players an alternate route from the opposite sides of the map. It feels like uncharted territory, and I can’t wait to see what places like “Rage” have in store for me.

Early on, there were rumors that the map would be 4km by 4km, (a fraction of Erangel, which is 8km by 8km,) but this was clearly scrapped. The map is 8×8, and from what I’ve seen of it thus far (mostly from PlayerUnknown’s personal Twitter page), it looks as desolate, open, frightening, and gritty as its predecessor. The desert will be a fantastic addition to the game, allowing for more variety while spicing up the game with new buildings, locations, vehicles, and sights to adjust to, in hopes of eventually mastering and dominating the new battleground.

On November 15, PUBG’s Public Test Region (PTR) server updated with a major patch. This update has been highly-anticipated, and many hoped for the arrival of the desert, but the most exciting announcement was: “Two major changes were made this time. We added vaulting & climbing and overhauled the ballistics system.”

This vaulting system has been hinted at for months, and in theory would greatly increase player maneuverability within the game. But, supposedly, the process involved a ton of work to get right. Thankfully, they’ve taken their time and have figured it out. Vaulting and climbing is now featured and playable in the PUBG PTR server. Maintenance to ballistics is just another healthy patch to the game’s consistent efforts to keep gameplay fun and fair.

For the bit that I played, I was impressed by the vaulting mechanic. Maneuvering was easier, as I could get in and out of buildings and complexes a bit more naturally. I told a friend, “It feels natural, like it could have been there from the beginning.”  

The wait for vaulting is over, but there’s more on the horizon for PUBG. Xbox gamers can finally play the game, because on December 12, PUBG is coming to Xbox One.

Will the Desert map come with a console release? Will PS4 players be able to join in? We won’t know until Bluehole is ready for us to or another redditor datamines something and Bluehole is obligated to make a public statement. (You know how it goes.)

This isn’t to say that PUBG has suffered a decrease in population. The sales records for the game climb higher each day, and the upcoming console release will do nothing but bring that number higher. The addition of vaulting and climbing, as well as the upcoming Desert map, is already enough to re-spark my interest in PUBG and pull me away from Destiny 2 for a couple of days.

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Star Citizen Alpha Impressions http://gameluster.com/star-citizen-alpha-impressions/ Sat, 18 Nov 2017 01:44:47 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20800 Depending on whom you ask, Star Citizen could be one of the most promising titles in development, or it could live up to a title I’ve heard it referred to as: “Scam Citizen.”

Cloud Imperium Games, or CIG, promise a space MMO unlike anything we’ve seen before, and it has dedicated a ridiculous amount of time and money to make this happen. I’ve taken an interest in the title and tend to view it positively; that said, there have been some red flags.

Star Citizen is actually two entirely different games. There is Squadron 42, a single-player experience that features more than forty missions and an impressive professional cast, including the likes of Gary Oldman and Mark Hamill, and Star Citizen Persistent Universe, a MMORPG much like EVE Online but with a first-person perspective and greater focus on an immersive world.

First, I’ll give my impressions on Squadron 42 or, rather, what little of it I’ve experienced.

While the game is unfinished, many of the underlying gameplay systems can be sampled. Frankly, it’s pretty impressive; combat feels great, graphics are beautiful, and the setting — a Rome-inspired space empire — are all interesting.

CIG promises 1,255 pages of dialogue and twenty hours of performance capture. That said, to date only a demo mission has been released. The game’s release is more than three years behind schedule, and there is currently no release window. As a matter of fact, Squadron 42 isn’t actually going to launch all at once and is broken into three chunks of content. This means even after the first piece of the game comes out, players will have to wait for the others.

The Star Citizen Persistent Universe, or PU, is also being released in chunks. CIG has been building the game from the ground up, adding in locations and content as it comes out, and are committed to continuing this. They point out that many MMOs, such as EVE Online, follow a similar model of constant evolution and turn out better because of it.

This is the truly ambitious Star Citizen “game.” CIG promises exploration, salvaging, base building, no loading screens, seamless transitions between dog-fighting and fighting on foot, massive capital ship battles, agriculture, science, racing, trading, alien ecosystems, procedural generation, dynamic weather on planets, mining, piracy, smuggling, conflict between player-led organizations, and much more.

However, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will space-Rome be; it is largely due to the PU’s level of ambition that Star Citizen is years behind schedule and currently without release date.

CEO of CIG Chris Roberts said in a recent interview with Eurogamer that he is “fed up” with giving release date estimates. It makes sense that bringing his vision of a great game to life isn’t an exact science, and being pressured by deadlines likely makes his job difficult. However, these delays have been like nothing I’ve ever seen, especially in a crowdfunded game of this scale.

In my opinion, when you accept crowdfunding, you make a commitment to those who give you the money. Deadlines should count for something. Maybe there was a fine-print disclaimer next to the anticipated release date, but even if it’s not exact, the release dates should be some indication of what will be released when.

If you have no patience for delays, then absolutely stay away from this game. At this point I would be more surprised by it meeting a deadline than missing one.

Delays aside, it is quite clear that CIG is actively developing Star Citizen. The development process is remarkably transparent, so much so that you’d have to have a lot more free time than I do to follow it fully. More days than not, there are several news items posted to their website, and the developers listen to player feedback and actively engage with the community.

There’s more controversy to Star Citizen than just the release date; the way the developers seek funding has been questioned.

Through microtransactions, CIG has sold ships to their audience. I own the $100 Cutlass Black package. This gives me access to the game in its current state, Squadron 42 whenever it releases, and the Cutlass Black ship to own in-game. This is obviously expensive, but nothing beyond founders packs that have been offered by other MMOs.

That by itself isn’t too controversial. However, Star Citizen doesn’t stop there.

Some ships sell for hundreds of dollars, a few break $1,000, and there’s even one game package that sells for $15,000. CIG justifies this by saying all this content is optional, that only those who can afford it should buy it, and everything will be obtainable in-game. Perhaps that’s true, but they’ve used a number of what psychologists call “social influence strategies” to persuade players into buying these ships.

As a psych major, I’ve been interested in CIG’s use of social influence to sell ships. They’ve created scarcity of ships through setting deadlines, as many ships only sell for a limited time in limited quantities, and many of the more expensive ships only sell a predetermined number.

They’ve also used the technique of labeling, specifically with several of the Origin Jumpworks ships, like the 890 Jump. The 890 Jump is a luxury ship that sells for $890.

Why does it sell for so much? Well, because it’s luxury. There are actually a good number of lower-value ships that offer more utility.

This is classic labeling; people want to appear classy and stylish, so they buy a car they see as classy and stylish (or, in this case, a starship). CIG even explained the price point for one of the Origin ships being due to its luxurious appeal.

Pricing some ships so highly makes the other, less expensive ships appear more reasonable by comparison. This is referred to as the door-in-the-face technique.

Another technique used is the that’s-not-all technique, as some ship prices are incentivized with bonuses, including temporarily discounted prices, in-game insurance, in-game hangars, statues, and posters. As CIG points out, you don’t have to actually buy any of this stuff as it will be obtainable in-game, but from a psychological perspective all these factors work together to increase a player’s perception of value, making you more likely to buy it. I don’t think it’s unethical or unheard of, but I’ve never seen something quite like this: a pre-release game making over $164 million to date by selling virtual ships.

An optimist might say Star Citizen has passionate fans looking to support its development, while a cynic might say CIG has a skilled marketing team; a realist would say it’s a bit of both. CIG has given out refunds to some who sought them, though very few have.

I think that these methods are controversial, but if they’re what CIG needs to finish their game then, by all means, market away.

The bottom line is that Star Citizen shows great promise, but is also a great risk. The developers promise us a game of unprecedented scale, depth, and interactivity. I don’t believe that Star Citizen is a scam, but I’m also not convinced that CIG will be able deliver on this vision; the game is very ambitious, and ambition doesn’t always pay off.

Despite any concerns or disapproval I’ve expressed, I really do wish CIG the best and hope for its success, which is why I purchased a ship. I’ve backed Star Citizen and am content to wait.

That said, I haven’t put hundreds of dollars into the title, as many others have, so I’m not as much invested. If I were to make a recommendation to potential backers, it would be to consider, with caution, if Star Citizen is something you would like to support, and pledge no more than you would be comfortable losing entirely. View anything spent on this game as a both a donation and a gamble, and try not to focus too much on what you think you’re getting for it.

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Iro Hero Coming to Switch and PC in 2018 http://gameluster.com/iro-hero-coming-to-switch-and-pc-2018/ Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:08:52 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20746 Artex Games announced their upcoming shoot’em up will be available on PC and the Nintendo Switch simultaneously next year.

It isn’t a surprise Nintendo saw Iro Hero as a perfect match for their system – the contrasting red and blue spaceships resemble the iconic Joy-Con colors.

Iro Hero is a throwback to classic vertical shoot-’em-ups of days past. It pays tribute to Ikaruga, originally released for arcades in 2001, with its own twist on the color polarity system. Players must think fast as they change the color of their ship to absorb enemy attacks and interact with puzzles. The game will feature nine worlds, three final bosses, and enemies with hundreds of unique behaviors.

Artex Games stated the game should arrive during the first quarter of 2018, so you won’t have to wait long to try it out. In the meantime, you can watch the teaser from their alpha below.

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Good on EA, DICE: Battlefront II Microtransactions Removed (for Now) http://gameluster.com/good-on-ea-dice-battlefront-ii-microtransactions-removed-for-now/ Fri, 17 Nov 2017 23:41:48 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20850 In-game purchases have been temporarily disabled in Star Wars Battlefront II.

For months, Battlefront II had been under attack for “Star-Cards” and other premium content that would grant paid-for advantages to players.

Late on November 16, Oskar Gabrielson, GM of DICE, made a blog post addressing this. Here is an excerpt:

Our goal has always been to create the best possible game for all of you – devoted Star Wars fans and game players alike. We’ve also had an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows…

But as we approach the worldwide launch, it’s clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right…

We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay…

This last-minute decision is a great step for the world of gaming. It shows that the developer and publisher respected their customers and devoted Battlefront fans.

However, Gabrielson leaves us with an eerie sign-off:

“The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.”

We can only hope that in the future, DICE & EA will stay in tune with the light side of the force, listen to their customers, and make changes when needed.

Oskar Gabrielson’s Blog Post can be found here.

My recent post on microtransactions can be found here.

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Video Game Black Friday Guide For In-Store Purchases http://gameluster.com/video-game-black-friday-guide-for-in-store-purchases/ Fri, 17 Nov 2017 23:19:23 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20745 Black Friday is coming soon in all its glory and horror. Those who have participated in the past know the struggle of swimming through a crowd of hungry consumers to get that special item. Black Friday is especially an exciting time for buying video games because newly released games get incredible price drops. However, without some sort of Black Friday battle plan, it’s near impossible to get all the best prices. This guide will help you plan your shopping trip and get the cheapest prices for all your favorite games and consoles without the hassle of searching through ads.

Note that the stores included are limited to Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, FredMeyer, and GameStop. GameStop’s prices are from a leaked ad scan, whereas the other stores’ deals are official ad-released prices. In bold are the best prices for each item type, including the location this price is offered. For details on specific store openings and online availability, refer to the ad links at the bottom.

PlayStation 4 Console Deals:

$199.99 PS4 1TB Console w/ $50 GameStop gift card (GameStop)

$349.99 PS4 Pro 1TB (GameStop)

$199 PS4 1TB Console (Walmart, Toys “R” Us, Target)

$199.99 PS4 1TB Console (FredMeyer)

Xbox One Console Deals:

$189 Xbox One S 500GB Console w/ $25 Target gift card (Target)

$189 Xbox One S 500GB Console (Walmart, Toys “R” Us, FredMeyer)

$189.99 Xbox One S 500GB console (GameStop)

 

Nintendo Handheld/Console Deals:

$79 Nintendo 2DS Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Bundle (Walmart, Target, GameStop)

$299.99 Nintendo Switch Console (FredMeyer, GameStop)

$139.99 Nintendo New 3DS XL (GameStop)

 

Memberships:

$12.50 Xbox Live Gold three months (Walmart)

$49.99 Xbox Live Gold 12 months (Target)

$49.99 PlayStation Plus 12 months (Target)

 

Controllers:

$39 Xbox One Controllers Wireless (Walmart)

$38 PS4 Controllers Wireless (GameStop)

$17 Nintendo Switch Wired Controller (Walmart)

$49.99 Xbox One Wireless Controllers (FredMeyer)

$39 PS4 Controllers Wireless (Walmart)

$39.99 PS4 and Xbox One Controllers Wireless (Target)

$44.99 PS4 Wireless Controllers (FredMeyer)

 

Accessories:

$25 Turtle Beach Recon 50p Universal Headset for PS4 and Xbox One (Walmart)

$44.99 Turtle Beach Ear Force XO One or Stealth (Target)

$29.99 PS4 Recon 60P Amplified Headset (GameStop)

$299 PS4 GranTurismo Sport VR Bundle (Walmart)

$299.99 PS4 GranTurismo Sport VR Bundle (GameStop)

$24.99 Nintendo Switch Complete charger Mario or Breath of the Wild (GameStop)

 

Best of  Console Game Deals (only the best prices for each are listed):

$10 each or three for $20 preowned games; No Man’s Sky, Uncharted 4, The Division (GameStop)

$27 Destiny 2 w/ Cayde-6 Figure (GameStop)

$29.99 Sims 4  (GameStop)

$12 Dishonored 2, Deadpool, Mafia 3, Mass Effect: Andromeda, Watch Dogs 2 (Walmart)

$19 Tekken 7, Horizon Zero Dawn (Walmart)

$29 South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Walmart)

$29 Pokémon Sun and Moon (Walmart)

$30 Persona 5 (GameStop)

$25 Evil Within 2 (GameStop)

$19.99 Rayman Legends for Switch (GameStop)

$25 Nier: Automata (GameStop)

$20 Kingdom Hearts Remastered (GameStop)

$43 Call of Duty: WWII (Walmart)

 

Walmart and GameStop are the cheapest as compared to most stores for console game deals. However, keep an eye out for those Black Friday PSN and Xbox Live e-store deals.

 

 

Ad Links:

Walmart

Target 

Toys R Us

FredMeyer

GameStop Ad Leak

Featured image courtesy corporate.target.com.

 

 

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Dynasty Warriors 9 Release Date Confirmed http://gameluster.com/dynasty-warriors-9-release-date-confirmed/ Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:38:13 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20735 Koei Tecmo America has announced a release date for Omega Force’s next Dynasty Warriors game, Dynasty Warriors 9. The game will be released on February 13 for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam.

Deviating from the usual formula, the latest title sells itself as an open-world epic that unifies the classic, time-tested action the series is known for with a variety of new features. The game will introduce exhilarating new combat mechanics and allow players to perform three different attack styles, culminating in the creation of a thrilling and fluid experience unlike any previous entry in the franchise.

Closely following real historical events and figures, Dynasty Warriors 9 will have players experience the story of the Three Kingdoms across ten riveting chapters, through a vast roster of characters that includes all eighty-three officers from the Dynasty Warriors series with new costumes.

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The 2017 Game Award Nominees Are Here http://gameluster.com/the-2017-game-award-nominees-are-here/ Fri, 17 Nov 2017 01:14:05 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20723 As a great year of games comes to an end, The 2017 Game Awards begins.

On December 7, the video game world will come together to celebrate game creators, the community and the year’s best video games. This year, 102 games and individuals have been nominated across a range of categories, from Best Mobile Game to Developer of the Year, with the biggest award being Game of the Year.

Nominees for Game of the Year are the crème de la crème of 2017 releases. These titles are Horizon Zero Dawn, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Persona 5, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. All of the nominees for GOTY have also been nominated in other categories, three of them in as many as six.

In addition to the awards show, there will be game announcements, trailers and musical performances. This year, The Game Awards Orchestra will debut to celebrate video game music through the years. The group is comprised of orchestra talent and rock musicians. Another first is the Student Game Award for high school and college-level developers and their creations.

The 2017 Game Awards will be held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, hosted by Geoff Keighley. For those at home, the award show can be streamed via Twitch, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Below is a list of categories and their nominees. Voting is open to the public for the categories below and can be voted on at The Video Game Awards website.

Game of the Year

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Super Mario Odyssey

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Persona 5

Horizon Zero Dawn

Best Game Direction

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Super Mario Odyssey

Horizon Zero Dawn

Best Narrative

What Remains of Edith Finch

NieR: Automata

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Horizon Zero Dawn

Best Art Direction

Destiny 2

Cuphead

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Persona 5

Horizon Zero Dawn

Best Score/Music

Destiny 2

Cuphead

NieR: Automata

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Super Mario Odyssey

Persona 5

Best Audio Design

Destiny 2

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Super Mario Odyssey

Best Performance

Melina Juergens as Senua, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Laura Bailey as Nadine Ross, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Claudia Black as Chloe Frazer, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Brian Bloom as BJ Blazkowicz, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Ashly Burch as Aloy, Horizon Zero Dawn

Games for Impact

Please Knock on My Door

Night in the Woods

Life is Strange: Before the Storm

Bury Me, My Love

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

What Remains of Edith Finch

Best Ongoing Game

Warframe

Rainbow Six: Siege

Overwatch

Grand Theft Auto Online

Destiny 2

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Best Mobile Game

Fire Emblem Heroes

Super Mario Run

Old Man’s Journey

Monument Valley 2

Hidden Folks

Best Handheld Game

Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World

Monster Hunter Stories

Metroid: Samus Returns

Ever Oasis

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia

Best VR/AR Game

Superhot VR

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

Lone Echo/Echo Arena

Farpoint

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Best Action Game

Prey

Nioh

Destiny 2

Cuphead

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Best Action/Adventure Game

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Assassin’s Creed: Origins

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Super Mario Odyssey

Horizon Zero Dawn

Best Role Playing Game

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Final Fantasy XV

Divinity: Original Sin 2

NieR: Automata

Persona 5

Best Fighting Game

Tekken 7

Nidhogg 2

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite

Injustice 2

Arms

Best Family Game

Splatoon 2

Sonic Mania

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Super Mario Odyssey

Best Strategy Game

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Tooth and Tail

Total War: Warhammer II

Halo Wars 2

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Best Sports/Racing Game

Project Cars 2

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018

NBA 2K18

GT Sport

Forza Motorsport 7

FIFA 18

Best Multiplayer

Fortnite

Call of Duty: World War II

Splatoon 2

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Destiny 2

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Most Anticipated Game

The Last of Us Part II

Red Dead Redemption II

Monster Hunter: World

Marvel’s Spider-Man

God of War

Best Independent Game

Pyre

Night in the Woods

Cuphead

What Remains of Edith Finch

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Best Student Game

Meaning

Level Squared

Impulsion

Falling Sky

Hollowed

From Light

Trending Gamer

Steven Spohn, AbleGamers

Mike Grzesiek, Shroud

Guy Beahm, Dr. Disrepect

Clint Lexa, “Halfcoordinated”

Andrea Rene, What’s Good Games

Best Esports Game

Rocket League

League of Legends

DOTA 2

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Overwatch

Best Esports Player

Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi, Team Liquid, DOTA 2

Je-hong “ryujehong” Ryu, Seoul Dynasty, Overwatch

Nikola “NiKo” Kovac, FaZe Clan, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Marcelo “coldzera” David, SK Gaming, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Lee Sang-hyeok “Faker,” SK Telecom 1, League of Legends

Best Esports Team

Team Liquid

SK Telecom 1

Lunatic-Hai

FaZe Clan

Cloud9

Best Debut Indie Game

Slime Rancher

Mr. Shifty

Hollow Knight

Golf Story

Cuphead

Best Chinese Game

Monument Valley 2

jx3 HD

Gumballs

ICEY

King of Glory

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Microtransactions, Controlling Your Destiny http://gameluster.com/microtransactions-controlling-your-destiny/ Fri, 17 Nov 2017 00:41:09 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20667 Update: Since the original posting of this article, EA has announced that currently all in-game purchases will be removed from Star Wars Battlefront II at launch.

Despite sixty dollar price tags, games are still asking for more from their players after purchase. These post-purchase purchases are known as “microtransactions” and have hit the gaming world like a plague. They are offered to players in-game but are purchased using real-world funds. Today, you’ll see microtransactions everywhere, from Call of Duty to PlayerUnknown’s BattlegroundsOverwatch to Destiny 2, even reaching as far as Candy Crush Saga and Pokémon Go. Some microtransactions help players progress in their games, while others are for cosmetic or novelty items, effecting gameplay none.

Some microtransactions are more complex, based off an “RNG” system, an acronym that stands for random number generation. However, RNG, in terms of microtransactions, functions like a grab bag. You pay ninety-nine cents for a loot box and are given a random prize for opening it. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get what you want or that you’ll avoid getting something you already have. RNG-based systems are a gamble. In some countries, it is mandatory for companies to publicly release information that pertains to their game’s microtransaction and RNG rates.

Gamers feel offended by microtransactions on the basis that games should come with the content pre-loaded, not at additional cost. An uproar stormed the community when information was leaked about the new Lord of The Rings Middle-Earth: Shadow of War by Monolith Productions, in which RNG-based microtransactions would be available in this purely single-player game. This means paying money for boosts, like a beefy orc army, so you can easily sail through the campaign on cruise control. That’s pay-to-win.

Despite this controversy, we’re still seeing it, and in some cases, it’s getting worse. EA’s newest title,  Star Wars: Battlefront II, is the highly anticipated reboot of a classic Star Wars game, and even before its release, it has been smashed by the community for its pay-to-win privileges. Players can buy “Star Cards,” which give boosts and buffs in multiplayer games (such as additional damage, health, speed, and respawn modifiers) to make them more powerful. This is outright pay-to-win. Players aren’t happy, especially those who have waited since 2005.

Despite this being the status quo of the gaming industry in 2017, with microtransactions running rampant everywhere from iPhone games to PC MOBAs, I can see one beam of light flickering in the darkness. Destiny 2‘s Bright Engram & Silver system is a player-friendly, non-voracious breed of microtransaction, of which other developers should look to for future inspiration if microtransactions must exist in their games at all.

First, a brief explanation of how Destiny 2 works. In game, you control a “Guardian” across the galaxy, shooting and looting; you defeat enemies and bosses, complete quests, and much more, all the while acquiring in-game tokens and experience points for your services. You take these tokens to vendors across the galaxy and cash them in, Chuck-E.-Cheese style, for a prize, which is usually a fancy weapon or armor piece. If you’re a seasoned Guardian, you know how this works.

The Eververse, the place for all of your Destiny microtransaction needs, is run by a well-known Awoken woman named Tess Everis, “an accomplished broker of stylish and highly coveted items procured from the City and beyond.” She does just that: provides players with the rarest of rare loot, randomly selecting from her inventory of well over 100 items. Items from Tess can only be acquired by two means: through earned Bright Engrams or purchased Silver.

Bright Engrams are received as a gift for leveling up after players have already reached the level cap of 20, and they are granted one per level-up. Silver can be purchased using real funds to directly acquire these Bright Engrams from her. You can grind them or buy them.

Duplicates from Tess are extremely rare. I have played on both PS4 and PC since their respective releases and have never gotten a duplicate item from a Bright Engram, earned or purchased.

The items you acquire from Tess are purely cosmetic items; they have no effect on gameplay and give no player an advantage over another. They are novelty items, only offering “flavor” and fashion for Guardians. Examples include rare weapon and Sparrow skins, emotes, armor sets, and shaders. 

There’s one caveat: Fireteam Medallions. These items have the following effect on gameplay: “Increased XP gains and loot for you and members of your fireteam or match from strikes, Public Events, and the Crucible.” Despite what it seems, these don’t make Destiny 2 pay-to-win. They are not available for purchase and can only be acquired through an in-game currency, known as “Bright Dust.”

You can get Dust from Bright Engrams or by dismantling cosmetic items, though. Bright Dust cannot be purchased through microtransactions directly. 

In Destiny 2, you’re given a Bright Engram for each level-up you do past level 20. XP is offered by the boatload, and if you’re playing Destiny correctly, you’re squeezing every bit of XP, loot, and glimmer out of every encounter you face. Even for casual Guardians, XP isn’t hard to come by, you get it for everything. Simply put, the more you play, the more you earn. The more XP, the more level-ups, and the more Bright Engrams you’ll be gifted. It’s play-to-earn. You’ll be getting a lot of Bright Engrams, more than you’d expect. A fresh level 20 Guardian can expect up to 3-4 Bright Engrams per day, feeling almost like Bungie is just giving the things out like candy.

Though, with all things, there does come a price. The number of XP points required for each level-up increases exponentially over time. At first, things won’t seem so bad; you’ll be popping Bright Engrams left and right. But after playing that character for a few days, you’ll start to notice less Brights appearing. It takes longer to level up, and you grow hungry waiting for that next Bright-Bright. Well, Guardian, there is a solution. An easy one.

Making multiple characters.

When I told my friends who were new to Destiny that they would have to make a second character (doing everything they had just done over again, upwards of 100 hours of playing), they were hesitant, to say the least. They thought I was joking. Having multiple characters is “The Destiny Way,” as I told them, and this concept isn’t an unfamiliar one in MMORPGs. Luckily, Destiny makes things easy for players, allowing the transfer of items from character to character to make the number-crunching grind a touch easier.

Making a fresh character resets your level and your chances to acquire Bright Engrams. If you’re on your Warlock and it’s taking days to level-up, switch over to your Titan and play for 15 minutes. You’ll get an easy level-up, earn another Bright Engram, and don’t even have to pay for it. Look at that.

When everything is said and done, Bright Engrams and everything purchasable from the Eververse are cosmetic items, having no effect on gameplay other than aesthetics. I believe Bungie devised a decent system, and I’m thankful the game isn’t reliant on microtransactions. But the grass isn’t always so green, and not all games deserve this kind of appreciation.

Overwatch features a microtransaction system that is more than unforgiving. It’s brutal.

Overwatch has loot boxes, and just like Bright Engrams, they can be earned through play, which is OK in my book. After roughly 20,000 earned XP, you level up and will be given a free loot box. On the other hand, you can purchases these loot boxes. These items don’t affect gameplay. They are all cosmetic items, such as skins, emotes, or sprays. (Still OK.) The RNG system is where my issue lies. Duplicate items are almost a guarantee in each loot box you drop. Despite alleged changes made to the loot-box system, I don’t notice a difference. I still get dupes all the time, but maybe I’m just unlucky. The point is, I take issue with my ability to be unlucky here. If I paid for these loot boxes and got duplicates, I’d be furious. It’s like burning the money, then flushing it down the toilet. What do you mean I paid $5 and only got one new skin?

But things get worse. Playerunknown’s: Battlegrounds has cosmetic items, too, despite its drastically bare and desolate appearance. However, the drop rates are miles worse than any game I’ve ever encountered. When I tell you I’ve gotten the “Dirty Tank-top (Grey)” twelve times, I’m not lying. Working to earn a loot crate in PUBG takes quite a while, and the XP required increases with each crate you get. Players also have the option to purchase loot crates from other players thanks to Steam’s Community Marketplace. The RNG is bad and it takes too long to earn the crates, anyway.

Think for a moment: What if you could choose the items you were going to buy through microtransactions, instead of having to deal with the unpredictability (and unfairness) of RNG?

Well, Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege is the game for you. For varying amounts of money, you can purchase exactly what you want from the in-game store, customizing your experience to your liking. This can be as dramatic as only purchasing one operator and one skin, or every operator and every skin.

I paid fifteen dollars for Siege and had access to the full game. I was limited in character selection, only offered a small number of operators to start with, and had no cosmetic items, but was able to play the whole game as it was. This incentivized me to spend a few extra dollars to customize my Siege experience. I bought a few characters, a couple weapon skins, and altogether spent less than thirty dollars on this top-shelf game. I didn’t have to spend additional cash, but I did, and I appreciated the freedom and honesty that came with purchasing in-game items through Siege’s marketplace. It didn’t feel like a gamble, it felt like I was purchasing the content I wanted for a fair price.

To close, I don’t blame anyone for disliking microtransactions. I’m clearly not a fan myself. If it costs me sixty dollars, and the game wants me to pay more on Day 1 for additional content, I feel cheated. Some gamers don’t want to shell out their hard-earned cash for a random loot box, with no guarantee of unique items dropping. Some gamers have ethical issues with microtransactions, avoiding them entirely, and I applaud you. And, of course, there are some gamers who are far too enticed by the sheen and shine, and every so often, they bust out their credit cards to grab a few extra Bright Engrams, Loot Boxes, or cool shoes for a PUBG soldier.

I appreciate Destiny 2 (and Destiny) for the lack of reliance these games have on microtransactions.

What do you think? How do you feel about the ability to control your destiny for a few extra dollars – are microtranscations good or bad for gamers?

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Six Must-Try Oculus Rift Experiences http://gameluster.com/six-must-try-oculus-rift-experiences/ Thu, 16 Nov 2017 06:52:55 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20628 When the Oculus Rift arrived in early 2016, there weren’t many great experiences to choose from. Now more developers are contributing to the system and there are more games you may try.

This list is a list of my favorite experiences for the Oculus Rift, from various categories, giving you a head start when choosing which ones are worth the potential motion sickness and sweaty headgear.

Lost

When starting out with VR or introducing it to someone new, you may want to take things slow. Narratives are interactive videos that you watch unfold around you, and you can look around without movement or controls, so they are the most accessible. Out of the ones that I tried, Lost made the biggest impact.

This story comes from a previous Pixar short-film director and is currently free to view. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy the story, although I do recommend standing to get the most out of it. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I’ll just say that the story may be short but the characters are not.

Genre: Narrative 
ESRB Rating:
E
Price:
Free (Currently)

Mission:ISS

Sadly, not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up, but with this game you can at least pretend. This Emmy-nominated simulation is a collaborative effort from NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. Float around and complete tasks within a replica of the International Space Station, and don’t forget to look down at Earth.

This is a wonderful experience for science buffs and anyone who wishes they could go to space or defy gravity.

Genre: Educational
ESRB Rating:
E
Price:
Free

Job Simulator: the 2050 Archives

Many people have heard of this game because of its online popularity, and that popularity is warranted. The graphics may not seem impressive, but that doesn’t mean the game can’t pull you in. You go through a series of jobs that are simulated from the perspective of your robot overlords to experience past human life. Each task gets more ridiculous as you play, and there are hidden gems, such as robot NPR stations and CDs that you can turn on for a laugh, and additional challenge modes you can unlock after completing every simulation. Set up an extra screen and play with others in the room to let hilarity ensue as you inevitably botch up your given tasks.

Genre: Casual
ESRB Rating:
E 10+
Price:
$19.99

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

While it may be difficult to find friends with both a matching system and game, there are still plenty of online multiplayer experiences available for the Oculus Rift. Star Trek: Bridge Crew is one of the more expensive games, but, even if you aren’t a diehard fan, you are sure to enjoy being captain of a starship.

In single-player mode, you take on the role of Captain on the U.S.S. Aegis, and you can take over the other positions such as Helm, Tactical, or Engineer, as needed. In co-op mode, you and your friends can each take a different role and boldly go on missions together. There are a lot of missions to choose from, so you really can get your money’s worth out of this game.

Genre: Multiplayer Co-op
ESRB Rating:
E 10+
Price:
$49.99

The Mage’s Tale

If space isn’t your forte, or you prefer magic to sci-fi, there are several spell-casting games for the Rift. The Mage’s Tale takes you on a journey to rescue your master as you create and master spells, solve puzzles, and fight monsters. Adjusting to the interface takes some time in the beginning, but after a rocky start I found myself spending over an hour exploring a dungeon without realizing it. My favorite part of the game is collecting items to customize each spell – tweaking the formula each time to find the best fit. If you like a bit of a challenge or want to throw fireballs and lightning at things, this game is for you.

Genre: RPG 
ESRB Rating:
Teen
Price:
$29.99

Robo Recall

Robo Recall is not only my favorite shooter for the Oculus Rift, it’s my favorite game, period. After playing dozens, this one stood out the most in terms of immersion, interface, and replayability.

Robots from around the city are going haywire, and it’s your job as a recently promoted employee of RoboReady to “recall” them — meaning you need to destroy every last one. The controls are easy and intuitive as you hoist shotguns over your shoulders, override giant robots, rip out parts, and deflect bullets. There is just the right amount of humor to balance out the amount of times I shrieked when robots jumped down on me from the sky. Even after completing the story you can go back with your upgraded weapons to climb up the leaderboards and try the different challenges set for each stage.

Genre: Shooter
ESRB Rating:
Teen
Price:
$29.99 (Free with Oculus Touch)

A new system can be intimidating, especially when finding the right games for your play style without wasting time or money. Hopefully, this list gave you an idea of where to start to get the most out of your Oculus Rift. I’m sure there are more games out there worth trying, so please leave your favorites in the comments.

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Top 5 Video Gay-mes http://gameluster.com/top-5-video-gay-mes/ http://gameluster.com/top-5-video-gay-mes/#comments Thu, 16 Nov 2017 01:29:55 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20603 Video games and the culture surrounding them have been consistently unfriendly toward the LGBT+ community. However, there has been a recent and dramatic improvement of LGBT+ inclusion in games. The following list includes LGBT characters who are represented fairly and are not the butt of a homophobic joke. They are also portrayed as more than just side characters and are not included in the game simply to give it a progressive reputation.

Note that I will be using the term “gay” as an umbrella term at various points in this article.

Gone Home

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Gone Home is an emotional story-driven game that is played through the eyes of Katie Greenbriar. She returns to her childhood home only to find it utterly abandoned. Letters and clues are left scattered around the house by her younger sister, Sam. You’ll follow the letters and interact with various objects to gather clues that’ll lead to an explanation of why the house was abandoned. The plot is driven by Sam’s interest in another girl, and does an excellent job depicting the conflict of coming out to homophobic parents.

Life is Strange

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

This episodic, choice-based story game has a major twist: you can go back in time and reverse your decisions. The main playable character, Max Caulfield, discovers her powers and uses them to help her and those around her. Every decision chosen has a butterfly effect, meaning it will affect the plot later on. The story is fascinating and includes darker themes.

Max may pursue a romance with childhood best friend Chloe. Their romantic interactions are charming and Chloe’s romance route is a cute, though heartbreaking, one.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Inquisition is my favorite of the Dragon Age games. If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend hours perfecting your character during the initial character creation process. Once you’re done with that, you’ll jump into the beautiful world of Dragon Age. The graphics and variety of landscapes are stunning.

Throughout the game, different characters are introduced along with entertaining recruitment missions wherein you meet each character. Once a character has been recruited, you are given the opportunity to learn more about them through dialogue. The characterization of each member of your party feels deeply personal because they each possess unique backstories and personal struggles.

Inquisition offers a diverse selection of characters available to romance. Instead of setting each character to only straight as default, they are given a variety of sexualities, allowing the player to choose a gay relationship. 

The Last of Us: Left Behind

Platform: PS4

The Last of Us was a stunning experience in story, graphics, and game mechanics. In the DLC, Left Behind, you get all of that, plus a backstory for Ellie. Instead of focusing on Joel’s and Ellie’s relationship, the DLC explores the relationship between Ellie and her best friend, Riley.

Left Behind is unique because it includes LGBT youth. In video games and media in general, gay people are portrayed primarily as adults and are highly sexualized. Left Behind does an excellent job avoiding this. The characters’ sexuality does not feel forced or fetishized. If you play this, prepare for some very serious feels.

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

Platforms: PC, Mac

Filled to the brim with lame dad jokes and puns, this game is hilarious from start to finish. If that isn’t reason enough to play, then the diverse dating choices, lovable characters, and your own customizable “dadsona” should be. A multitude of choices will shape the story as you go and provide a personalized experience, more so than most other dating simulators provide.

Dream Daddy is all about being a dad and dating other dads, but you don’t have to be a gay dad in real life to enjoy this. It’s a fun dating simulator with a lot to offer anyone. Dream Daddy includes not only gay characters but also a transgender male.

The Featured Image is from the official Overwatch comic series, found here under the Comics heading.

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Super Mario Odyssey is a Magical Journey and Reminder for Why We Love Games http://gameluster.com/super-mario-odyssey-is-a-magical-journey-and-reminder-for-why-we-love-games/ Wed, 15 Nov 2017 05:18:27 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20633 After finishing Super Mario Galaxy about 10 years ago, I wondered how the series would ever evolve past space. Mario’s intergalactic adventure was inspirational and jaw-dropping, and the sheer scope of Galaxy and its sequel seemed un-matchable. When Super Mario 3D World was announced as the next console Mario, I felt as if my fear of a Mario stagnation was confirmed, and that the series would never again hit the height of the plumber’s foray into the starry abyss. While 3D World was a tightly-made, enjoyable game, it never quite scratched the itch the same way as its predecessors. The emphasis on platforming certainly made it a compelling entry in the series, but the lack of pure, unadulterated adventure failed to evoke the same emotional response that past 3D Mario games had done. Despite the quality of the entries between Galaxy 2 and Odyssey, it was hard not to wonder if Nintendo had finally exhausted the magic from gaming’s most popular mascot.

Thankfully, I was dead wrong. With the release of Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo has reaffirmed Mario’s place at the top of gaming’s ever-changing hierarchy. Mario’s latest journey comes close to flawless, and Nintendo continues to dominate an incredible 2017. In a year as claustrophobic as this one, the fact that two Nintendo titles will likely be the main competitors for game of the year is a testament to the level Nintendo is currently operating. Only briefly removed from the Wii U’s colossal failure, Link and everyone’s favorite plumber have catapulted the Nintendo Switch into legitimate competition with both Microsoft and Sony — a feat that the Wii U miserably failed at throughout its entire cycle.

I am not treading any new ground by mentioning that Odyssey brought me to tears on several occasions. Within moments of moving around the Cascade Kingdom, I was overwhelmed with joy. I anticipated sheer happiness throughout my entire time with Odyssey, but I didn’t realize the cathartic experience that exploring its world would bring. I, for better or worse, didn’t shy away from pre-release coverage of the game. Because of this, I didn’t expect that my first moments with the game would carry the magic they ultimately did. Yet, every single kingdom within Mario Odyssey impacted me in a unique, profound way. While some were inevitably stronger than others, each one felt like a powerful effort. Even the kingdoms which have seemingly been the target of more criticism, like the Luncheon and Lake Kingdoms, shine with the polish that only Nintendo is capable of producing.

Each locale is filled to the brim with discoverable content. The amount to find in each nook and cranny is hard to comprehend, and this density is part of what makes exploration in Odyssey so appealing. Despite having already finished the game and completed my main objective, simply frolicking through the kingdoms and searching for the remaining moons is enough to keep me enthralled and engaged.

Most of the kingdoms lean strongly into the game’s “capture mechanic,” and, for the most part, it always pays off. The variety that the capture mechanic brings to platforming around the beautiful worlds is what keeps the adventure fresh throughout. Players spend a majority of the time as Mario, but with just the right frequency, they are tasked with transforming in order to platform in ways that standard Mario cannot. Again, these brief moments of transforming are some of Odyssey’s brightest — just about everything Mario may capture controls excellently.

Despite the fact that each kingdom is intensely packed with discoverables, progressing through the main story of Odyssey only takes around 10 hours. Just a fraction of the game’s total moons are required to finish the story. This journey on its own is remarkable and kept me on my toes the entire time. I spent some time doing extra exploration on each kingdom, but I tried to keep a brisk pace in order to make my later revisits more significant. The game’s climax is as good as everyone says, and the game’s post-game content similarly lives up to the hype. Actually, I’d say some of this game’s most memorable moments come after the original credits role. Mario games almost always excel at making post-game play rewarding, and Odyssey continues this trend in a powerful way.


While we already saw Mario in HD in 3D World, the truly 3D nature of Odyssey is next-level. Each kingdom possesses a beautiful and unique aesthetic, and the game’s seamless transitions to 2D represent the celebration of the franchise that Odyssey was clearly created to serve as. The 3D-to-2D transition didn’t just wow me visually, though. The immediate shift from orchestral music to 16-bit shocked me the first time I noticed it in the Cascade Kingdom, and the jarring impact of it stuck with me the entire time. The game’s entire score is masterfully crafted, and beating the game allows you to play any track at any time – a great way to freshen things up after spending long amounts of time in one kingdom.

If Odyssey has one fault, it’s an over-reliance on motion controls. For whatever reason, Nintendo is having a hard time moving past this. While the motion controls are not necessarily bad, requiring them is a poor design choice. These motion commands are rarely necessary, which is solid consolation, but again, there is no need to require them. Odyssey does not use every button on the Switch, and there is no reason a motion-less alternative could not have been given to the players.

Of course, this small gripe does nothing to smear the already clear legacy carved out by Odyssey. Nintendo is on an absolute roll, and there’s no reason to think they’ll stop anytime soon. I’d say there is no way for them to follow up a game like Odyssey, but then I remember I thought the same about Galaxy.

Odyssey is a crowning achievement that will stand out in the hearts of gamers for years to come, and I envy the children who will grow up with Odyssey as one of their cornerstone gaming experiences. Nothing is more magical than Mario, and Odyssey is jam-packed with the wonder that drew many of us into this hobby in the first place.

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Why Are Games Marketed toward Boys? http://gameluster.com/why-are-games-marketed-toward-boys/ http://gameluster.com/why-are-games-marketed-toward-boys/#comments Wed, 15 Nov 2017 01:06:23 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20591 Why is it that video games are “for boys?” This is an issue I’ve touched upon many times in other articles I’ve written and one that I think needs serious discussion in gaming circles.

Growing up as a gamer, I’ve been disturbed by the lack of female representation in video games, women often playing no part except as the princess-in-distress or the love interest. The skimpy outfits female characters have been given in MMORPGs are particularly disturbing, as if the goblins and trolls were only ever going to aim for their nipples! But, at the same time, I have known plenty of girls who played video games and now, as an adult, know just as many women gamers as men.

Things certainly aren’t as bad now as they were ten years ago, but I think there is still a long way to go to repair the damage that has been done. The issue of women being left out of video games isn’t necessarily the biggest feminist issue out there, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be touched upon. I’m sure some male gamers think the explanation is simply that women have little to no interest in games, just as women are supposedly less interested in sports, engineering or sex. While I would like to take the time to debunk all those as well, I’ll focus now on where the fallacy comes from that “games are for boys.”

Where does the concept come from in the first place?

When the gaming industry first kicked off in the 1970s, they weren’t marketed toward a specific gender but as family entertainment. Early games such as Pong and Computer Space were considered unisex and never marketed toward boys. Atari’s first female games developer, Carol Shaw, began her work in the late ’70s, becoming well known for games such as 3D Tic-Tac-Toe and River Raid with Activision.

“We never really discussed who our target demographic was,” Shaw said. “We didn’t discuss gender or age. We just did games we thought would be fun.”

Although the industry was male-dominated, as it still is today, women were active in early game development, such as Sierra Entertainment co-founder Roberta Williams or designer Lori Cole. Sierra particularly acknowledged its audience of adult women based on their feedback.

“I remember when Sierra released a King’s Quest game where the lead character was Rosella, a female character. We received the silliest letter ever from this guy who was calling Roberta a feminist for wanting to have a female as a main character,” Cole said. “We passed it around the company and everybody at Sierra was laughing at this guy for being upset because we had a female main character. We didn’t see this as a problem. In fact, we had several games that had female leads. Nobody thought it was an issue.”

If the gaming industry had continued in this fashion, then it could well have been one of the first truly equal professions, and we could have grown up with many iconic female leads in the artform. So what changed? When did video games start being marketing toward boys?

Most gamers have heard of the gaming crash of 1983, when several low-quality games caused a great decline in profit and consumer interest. Many companies went bankrupt, and between 1983 and 1985, video-game revenue in North America fell from $3.2 billion to $100 million.

In order to build some faith in the industry, Nintendo introduced its own “Official Nintendo Seal of Quality,” a promise to players that its games would be of high quality and well made. This was used to help sell its first console, the Nintendo Entertainment System.

But to get everyone buying video games again, gaming had to be re-marketed, as developers could no longer afford to appeal to a wide demographic, but had to focus on a specific group. This lead to video games being re-branded, going from electronic entertainment to toys. Thus, the age-old perception that there are “girl” and “boy” toys affected Nintendo’s marketing team, which had to make a choice between pink and blue. Therefore, video games were to be marketed toward boys, with Nintendo literally naming their first handheld console the “Game Boy.”

Despite the old ’70s and ’80s adverts that were marketed toward the whole family, the adverts of the ’90s took a much more sinister turn. Not only did they feature only boys engaging in stereotypical male interests, they began to objectify and sexualise women in order to sell games. Even the Tomb Raider games, the first in a long time to feature a female protagonist, were marketed exclusively toward men and boys, particularly in an infamous 1998 PlayStation advert wherein Crash Bandicoot refers to a young man as “whipped” and Lara Croft then tempts the man away from his girlfriend. (Ending with the tagline: “Live in your world. Play in ours.”)

The female gaming audience of the ’70s and early ’80s seemed to disappear in the eyes of developers, cementing the misconception. There were a few attempts made to resurrect gaming for a female audience, notably by designer Brenda Laurel, who in 1999 launched Purple Moon, a studio aimed at creating games for girls.

“Generally speaking, it did not occur to any of the companies I worked for that they should be looking at female audiences for games,” Laurel said. “It was always, ‘Oh, of course girls don’t play games.’ I got that so many times. ‘Of course, girls don’t play games, why are we going to waste money on this audience that doesn’t exist?’ Where in fact, the nonexistence of the audience was a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we did Purple Moon, one of the criticisms we got was, ‘Why do you need special games for girls?’ I was like, ‘Dude, everything else is for boys and you don’t even know it. You’re taking it for granted all this time.'”

As it is, women never stopped playing video games. Various data implies that approximately half of gamers are women, with numbers ranging from 41% to 52%. About 69% of family or farming simulator gamers are women, along with 36% of MMORPG players, 25% of platform gamers and 18% of sandbox gamers. While the numbers fall significantly on first-person shooter and sports games (7% and 2%, respectively), I believe that all these numbers could easily increase if better female characters were introduced into the game genres or if they were marketed toward a larger audience.

I won’t pretend that we haven’t moved on since 1999, because we absolutely have. Games often offer the option of playing as a male or female character, better female characters have been introduced to games, and occasionally they are allowed to wear clothes. But I think it would be very naive to say that there isn’t still work to be done. I Googled female characters in video games and the first result was Lara Croft, who as we have already established was created to appeal to the budding sexuality of young boys.

I had hoped that since I grew up the attitudes of the younger generation had changed, but upon asking a group of young and teenage boys, I found that the general idea is still that gaming is “for boys.” If that isn’t shocking enough, then perhaps we may look back to Gamergate, when female gamers revealed the sexual harassment and sexism they experienced in online gaming.

Since the video games enthusiasts of the ’90s continued to grow up, games have thankfully gone back into the electronic section, so I can only hope that this misconception is also on the way out.

References:

  • Lien, Tracey. (2013). No Girls Allowed. Available: https://www.polygon.com/features/2013/12/2/5143856/no-girls-allowed. Last accessed 13th Nov 2017.
  • Jayanth, Meg. (2014). 52% of gamers are women – but the industry doesn’t know it. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/18/52-percent-people-playing-games-women-industry-doesnt-know. Last accessed 13th Oct 2017.
  • Yee, Nick. (2017). Beyond 50/50: Breaking Down The Percentage of Female Gamers by Genre. Available: https://quanticfoundry.com/2017/01/19/female-gamers-by-genre/. Last accessed 13th Oct 2017.
  • D’Anastasio, Cecilia . (2017). Study Shows Which Video Game Genres Women Play Most. Available: https://kotaku.com/study-shows-which-video-game-genres-women-play-most-1791435415. Last accessed 13th Oct 2017.
  • Rosen, Christopher. (2015). The Awful Truth Behind Sexual Harassment Of Women Gamers. Available: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/13/gtfo-sexism-in-gaming_n_6804106.html. Last accessed 13th Oct 2017.
  • 1998 PlayStation commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KW4gu7L6uE
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The 35th Golden Joystick Awards Take Place Friday http://gameluster.com/the-35th-golden-joystick-awards-take-place-friday/ Tue, 14 Nov 2017 05:24:31 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20599 Voting for the 35th annual Golden Joystick Awards has now closed. Millions of gamers cast their votes for their favourite games of the year and will be able to find out the winners this Friday at 15:15 / 3:15 PM GMT via Twitch.

The pre-show will be hosted by UK editor Keza MacDonald and comedian and journalist Ellie Gilson, who each will be discussing the nominations and categories for the event. They will also be giving away an HP OMEN Gaming Laptop and a bundle with an Intel® Core™ i7 processor and a MSI motherboard.

The main awards show will be hosted by comedian Danny Wallace and will include categories Indie Game of the Year, Best Multiplayer and Most Wanted Game.

Along with the twenty-one categories, four critics’ choice awards will be revealed, including Critics’ Game of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, Hall of Fame and Outstanding Contribution to UK Industry.

 

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Flaming Teammates: League Edition http://gameluster.com/flaming-teammates-league-edition/ Mon, 13 Nov 2017 02:22:41 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20527 We all know that people who flame in games suck. But we also know that everybody who has ever played a video game, more so League of Legends, has likely been tilted and flamed. How do we stop the flaming, how does it arise, and how do we deal with it if we can’t stop it?

The flaming most likely arises out of jealousy and anger. For instance, the anger could be from a prior day of bull crap, and the game only makes it worse. The jealousy could be from not being able to carry the team or having sucky teammates. It may also arise from being close to doing something or close to winning and feeling like you’ve wasted your time. And we all know those teammates who are shown to be in Gold III – but are they really?

Sometimes we just have bad games, and the flaming is pure anger from not winning or frustration that we just can’t seem to win no matter the champion or passive we possess.

Flaming is hard to stop. You can’t be like, “Shut up,” because that would only make the flamer worse. The best way to handle it is to reason with them. Say: “You know you are not achieving anything by flaming. All you’re doing is wasting energy and using more keys to hurt your fingers. Team fight and let’s get going.”

But, if the flamer is too far gone, you kinda just forget about them and try to win a 4v5 or 2v3, whatever it may be. Muting them is the other step, but if they’re tilted and feeding the other team so it’s hard not to notice, you just have to get your whole team and the opposing team to report them and have them banned – the ultimate price for flaming too far.

The most important note of all: we need to keep ourselves from flaming. We usually can’t stop another teammate from flaming unless they’re a little bit smart, but we can stop ourselves.

If you’ve had a bad day and want to lash out at teammates, turn the Skype call, Teamspeak call , or whatever you’re using off so you may flame, but not loud enough so others hear you and get offended and tilted. Most of the time, teammates end up getting mad at each other and lose the game, so be above arguments and work together. If you need to, just mute the team and try to win your lane, get your kills, and better yourself and carry and conquer. Always be the bigger person.

If you’ve had a bad day, it’d probably be better to play a single-player game in the first case, particularly The Sims or Pokémon, something light, although I can imagine somebody yelling at that level 100 Rayquaza slaying your Pokémon.

Flaming sucks, but I’ve found myself doing it to others before, whether they lock in somebody before me, steal my farm, or steal my kills. We all do it and, if we realize this, maybe we can find the heart in ourselves and just mute each other or tell each other that it’s just for one game that you have to deal with it. No one likes a grouchy flamer. And remember: don’t be a flamer, be an obtainer.

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Good Games Under $5: The Flesh God and Superflight http://gameluster.com/good-games-under-5-the-flesh-god-and-superflight/ Sun, 12 Nov 2017 22:46:17 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20557 Gaming is an expensive hobby, a point every gamer can unanimously agree on. Expensive games aren’t necessarily good, and a bad purchase means weeks or months without something fun to tide you over. Cheaper games might seem more appealing, but the price tag is a double-edged sword. We’ve all bought something that costed next to nothing, only to realize we overpaid even at that meagre price. However, despite our misgivings, there are games out there that can be both cheap and good. Here are two titles you may enjoy without breaking the bank.

Both games are available on Steam.

The Flesh God

The Flesh God is a tough-as-nails platformer where you shoot a massive gun to fly through levels populated by mutant flesh. I chanced upon the game and decided to pick it up after seeing it was less than five dollars. By god, it was the best and worst mistake I’ve ever made.

For the price I paid, I expected a “meh” platformer which could keep me entertained for two hours at most. What I got instead was a positively polished game with a great aesthetic and equally great level design. I’ve eaten meals which cost more and gave me less enjoyment than The Flesh God.

In the summary, the game describes itself as a “hardcore action platformer.” After playing it, I can attest to this statement 100%. Everything in the game is actively trying to kill you, from the sickly green bubbles to the rivers full of roiling acid, and, to make matters worse, you’re expected to platform without jumping. Your only way of getting to higher ground is by catapulting upwards with bullets.

Sounds easy, you say? Wrong. Turns out your gun has an abysmally small chamber, housing only one bullet, and the only way to reload is when you’re on solid ground. Your gun will upgrade with more shots the more you progress, but until then, you’re stuck with figuring out how to launch yourself over a lake of death.

The first few levels are deceptively easy. I was lulled into a false sense of security, chuckling at how fast I completed each level. I continued with an increasingly puffed ego until the half-hour mark. By the time I reached the 10th level, I was ready to fling my controller into oblivion as I watched my character get pulverised by a sentient, moving wall slathered in sticky, green goo.

One thing I feel the need to point out is the level design. It’s honestly staggering. Whoever made The Flesh God is either an evil mastermind or a misguided genius. Some levels feel absurdly unfair until you take a step back to gather your bearings. The solution to overcoming obstacles may not be plainly obvious, blinded by your rage as you are, but they certainly exist. The more I played, the more I realized how well-crafted this game was, and with more than forty levels, great art, and a good soundtrack, I highly recommend getting it.

Superflight

Superflight is a game made by a small but passionate team of three students where you take control of a blocky man in a wingsuit and explore the large, colourful terrain. Maps are procedurally generated, and no single one is alike, resulting in near infinite replayability. You take flight and try to score as many points as possible without crashing into blocky bits.

The goal of the game is to fly through as many maps as possible to get the highest score. Risky manoeuvres net you more points, an incentive for exploring maps to find nooks and crannies, and the closer you fly to an object’s surface, the more points you’ll rack up. There’s an online leaderboard, where you may see how high you rank, and a seed system, which allows you to share your unique maps with other players. I think Superflight would’ve been great even without this online aspect, but it’s a nice bonus for those who are competitive.

It’s a simple premise, but I haven’t seen it executed this well before. The game supports both controller and keyboard, and gives players equal amounts of enjoyment either way they choose to play it. It’s an absolute feast for the senses. I highly recommend that you use headphones while playing. The sound of wind whipping against your character as you bank left to skirt around a tall mountain will be more pronounced and leave you breathless. Costing less than a cuppa at your local Starbucks, you can’t go wrong with Superflight.

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Going Your Own Way: Exploration in Breath of the Wild and The Witcher 3 http://gameluster.com/going-your-own-way-exploration-in-breath-of-the-wild-and-the-witcher-3/ Sun, 12 Nov 2017 22:22:39 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20476 In playing recent releases, it often becomes inevitable one sees striking structural similarities between otherwise seemingly completely different games. After recently picking up The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015), I began to see structural similarities between it and the newest Zelda game, Breath of the Wild (2017). Due to the length of my observations, it behooves me to split the entire text up into smaller chunks for your reading pleasure. What follows is a preliminary comparison between these two games from a specific perspective.

The similarities in structure mostly pertain to the core gameplay of both games. It’s trivial to point to the similarities of the map screen with specific map markers, the distinction between story missions and side quests, an ant trail GPS to guide the player on the minimap, the ability to add custom map markers, the third-person viewpoint with a clear view of the main character, the inventory system, a large overworld divided into smaller chunks, a varied array of enemies with the smaller, useless filler enemies contrasted with the larger, relatively unique boss-type enemies, and a host of other similarities between the two games. Instead, I’m more interested in the way the player deals with all of this, and the overworld that comprises all of these elements. The act of dealing with all of this I’ll simply refer to as “exploration.”

In donning the perspective of exploration, it quickly becomes apparent that these similarities are only present on the face of it (or prima facie, if you know Latin). The process of playing both games is completely different, to the point where one could easily be forgiven for never noticing how similar the two games are. Yet if we return to our reductionist view of comparing the gameplay elements in both games and apply this logic to the traveling mechanics in both games, we again start to see similarities.

In Breath of the Wild, Link can traverse post-apocalyptic Hyrule in various ways. On land, he can ride around on horseback, run around and sprint, jump off taller locations and glide down (stamina permitting), and fast travel to previously explored towers on the map. Link can also traverse watery surfaces by swimming, boating, or fast traveling, and theoretically climb any surface. The more inclined players have also found ways to travel that forego the conventional means of transportation, such as launching boulders or logs into the air by hitting them while in stasis and then grabbing onto them before they fly off, with mixed success. Geralt in The Witcher 3 has very similar traveling capabilities. He can walk, run, ride around, fast travel, swim, and sail. Despite Geralt being unable to fly on boulders, our two protagonists enjoy very similar modes of transportation. Yet these modes of transportation are in themselves uninteresting. More interesting, rather, is the choice of destination.

Both games, despite being similar in a very concrete fashion as I have just shown, are completely separate when it comes to choice of destination. We’ll ignore the tutorial level for obvious reasons and instead focus on the first level following it, which we may argue is the point where both games actually begin. At this point, the player is given control over the main character and is left to pick his every input. Both games give the player the suggestion of how to progress the story by way of marking very important places on the map. In Zelda, this is the four corners of Hyrule where Link can look for Princess Zelda. In The Witcher 3, this is the keep of the Bloody Baron and Triss in Novigrad. In both games, the player is free to explore the entirety of the map, foregoing the suggestions and instead loafing around indefinitely.

But this isn’t as true for The Witcher 3 as it is for Zelda. In Zelda, the player’s inputs are recognised to be valuable to some degree depending on what they are. The player may choose to go to one of these four corners to directly engage in the main story or choose against it, instead exploring any of the other large maps, venturing into villages, shrines, or other points of interest. In doing the former, he embarks on a more direct route to obvious spoils, whereas in doing the latter, he may find himself sorely disappointed. These optional routes of exploration are presented to the player in the very indirect manner of simply existing. The mountainsides, the villages marked on the map or visible in the distance, the lakes with swords in their centres, and the bridges spanning a tremendous length are all in some direct way visible to the player, and this presence alone is what invites the player to explore.

In The Witcher 3, by comparison, the player is guided by any leads offered to him directly. That is to say, someone in-game will have confronted the player and told him where he can go. The innkeeper at the Crossroads is an obvious example. Not only is the player told to engage with the locals, the main quest may not advance before he has done so. And the notice board, with yellow marker signifying its importance to you, is just outside the inn. In either scenario, taking the main road to further your quest of finding the Emperor’s daughter or going your own way – as Fleetwood Mac would put it – , the player is guided by the nose on one path. There are no inviting landmarks; there is only the ant trail. This singular path effectively boils down the diverging paths the player can take, ultimately rendering the distinction between main quest and side attractions as one without a real difference. In effect, the player is always present by the will of the game, and never by his own.

Contrast this, then, with the indirect approach that Zelda takes. In staying with the side attractions for now, one could protest and say, “Well, the very idea of having these side attractions is one the game also exhibits. Therefore the player in Zelda is also always present by the will of the game, making you a big stinking doodoohead.” But this line of reasoning is only true if we forget for a moment that the player never has to be anywhere but Hyrule Castle. In effect, once the tutorial is over, the player can decide to make his way to the final boss, kill him, and end the game in less than an hour. Experienced speedrunners have done exactly that, beating the game in a mere forty minutes. Furthermore, the invitation of the various landmarks is an indirect one precisely because the player is never prompted to go anywhere but these four corners and Hyrule Castle. The player is as eligible to take it or leave it, all depending on the personal whims of the player instead of the game.

Sadly, the direct effects of this disparity in execution are slightly more insidious on the side of The Witcher 3. When deciding to go anywhere, the player, of course, expects a reward to go with traversing a great distance and overcoming an inherent difficulty. In Zelda, because of how indirect the invitation to explore is, the standards can naturally be lowered. If complaining about no reward were to ensue, one could easily counter with, “Well, no one told you to go there and the trip is half of the reward.” While true, I’d also argue that climbing any mountain carries with it the reward of experiencing the beauty of post-Ganon Hyrule from a glorious vantage point. The world is the obstacle to overcome, if you’d pardon my saying so, and the reward need not be material to be worth the time spent climbing in the rain.

But in The Witcher 3, again due to the nature of the invitation (this time direct, as mentioned), one is left sadly disappointed when the loot one fought very hard to collect ends up being downgrades at best or useless at worst. After overcoming the challenge of fighting a wyvern six levels my senior and almost breaking my sword twice, I can’t help but feel cheated when I loot materials I already possess in abundance, weaponry with worse stats than my current equipment, and plans for gear that I won’t be able to use in time for the upgrade to be relevant. My reward for beating the stupid bird is selling junk items and seeing my gold counter jump from 3,000 to 3,200. Worse yet, sometimes the question markers of interest lead to a ghost town or a guarded treasure with several monsters that all outrank you in the damage and health departments, and failing to run away on instinct will lead to a Geraltless Roach roaming Velen until its premature death by Ghouls. In moments like these, the player is effectively punished for deciding to venture off the proverbially beaten path and seeking out his own adventure, an act that Zelda only occasionally warns against with the promise of certain death long in view before enacting on said promise.

This is one of the first ways in which exploration becomes counterintuitive to the player of both games. This simple comparison of traveling with the perspective of exploration should suffice on its own in my equally simple point that “Zelda does it better.” But if it should prove insufficient, I am more than happy to oblige.

In the future, then, I will look at two more areas in which Zelda really does it better, namely combat and the main quest, after which I will investigate the relationship between all of these elements in my Return of the King article for the series. For now, I wish only to forego the suggestion of your next click and hope you return next time for more Geralt spanking, an image you may not be able to remove from your mind and some deviant artist has undoubtedly already drawn to life. Talk about direction!

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Not Quite Sonic, or Good: Sonic Forces Review http://gameluster.com/not-quite-sonic-or-good-sonic-forces-review/ Sun, 12 Nov 2017 21:30:06 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20524 2017 has already seen the beginning of Sonic’s resurgence with Sonic Mania. This fan-inspired game was able to create a fun throwback to Sonic’s origins, providing many fans with the game they wanted. Sega has now brought out Sonic Forces, a game that aspired toward a slightly darker and more desperate side of the franchise. The question is: did this game succeed? Well, no, but it does have some okay moments.

The biggest gripe that may be levied against Sonic Forces is its narrative. While not everyone cares about the Sonic storylines, this one did have some promise. With the help of his latest creation, Infinite, Eggman has been able to take over the entire world, and a small band of resistance fighters work tirelessly to stop him. This resistance group includes many iconic faces from across the series (with the regrettable absences of Cream and Big), featuring two forms of Sonic – Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic – and a custom character of your creation.

While the story at its core does not sound bad, it ultimately feels pointless until the last couple of stages. There was potential with a war-driven Sonic adventure where you aim to take down a victorious Eggman, but the entire plot is pushed into the territory of simply being background noise and an excuse to send Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and your custom character into various levels. While running through most levels, you could even forget that there is a war going on unless other characters are speaking about it. You are just running through standard levels that feel detached from the story. You want to be playing the story you hear in the background as opposed to the generic Sonic fare of Forces’ main gameplay.

The big element of Sonic Forces is the three different playable characters. Forces operates in the vein of Generations by bringing together Modern and Classic Sonic, but it also focuses heavily on a brand new character that the player creates. Your custom avatar takes center stage in the game and holds greater importance than the title character. This is one of Forces’ most annoying features; while there isn’t anything wrong with having a custom character, it does get annoying that the character you want to play as takes a backseat for a good percentage of the game.

It feels like Sonic Team had an idea for an original game focusing on a player-created character in a war situation then realized they needed something to make it sell. As a way to sell the game they decided to throw in Sonic characters and traditional Sonic gameplay, so this feels like a game that just happens to have Sonic in it.

Furthermore, Classic Sonic is just forced into the game. While his stages are some of the best, there never seems to be a point for him being there, and they could have used any of the Sonic cast to play his levels. If they made more effective use of the character it would have been fine, but his presence does little to benefit the plot and is simply an excuse for different level types to be available.

As previously stated, the meat of the game is played through your custom character, and it is clear the developers worked hard to give players plenty of options. The base creation is limited to generic body traits and the like, but you may choose from many different types in the long run.

The start of the creation process has you determine what kind of character you use — a hedgehog, bird, rabbit, dog, or cat — and each of these comes with specific traits that will help you in the main gameplay. Rabbit offers longer invincibility after being hit, and the bird can double jump. There is enough variety here that you will find a way to play with the different character types and choose one that works best for you.

Outside of this there is also the huge range of costumes for you to customize your character with. By completing often simple missions you unlock a plethora of costumes. This does little for the actual gameplay outside of simple aesthetics.

You play across thirty levels, which can be beaten in about six hours, with a variety of smaller challenge levels made available after certain intervals. During this time you play under three different styles that attempt to add variety to the proceedings, although certain design choices hold back some of the thrill.

Modern Sonic levels play as you expect. These switch between 2D and 3D at random intervals, featuring varying layers of platforming challenge. In the 3D sections you are often going as fast as possible with limited platforming breaks in the flow of momentum, and even when platforming moments appear they are just as quick, keeping you engaged. The 2D segments often require a little more precision in your approach, forcing a slower, more careful pace.

As your custom character you play in a similar vein to Modern Sonic. You race through levels switching between 2D and 3D, except there is a slightly greater focus on combat and powers. Your custom character comes armed with a Wispon weapon (essentially a gun with the power of Sonic Color’s Wisps), which you can use to slice through enemies with a chosen weapon type. It also offers a bonus when you encounter the correct Wisp; for example, a yellow Wisp allows you to temporarily ring dash for different paths. Outside of this, these levels play no different than Modern Sonic’s, with a similar sense of momentum and platforming.

The greatest problem is that no level really stands out. Much like the core story, the varying levels are simply white noise in the background. While they do have some cool set-piece moments, unlike many of Sonic’s past games, there is nothing that makes you remember the levels. For as cool as some moments are, they quickly blend in with the rest of the level, becoming repetitive as the game progresses.

Similarly, most levels are tedious. In Sonic Forces you play through the same levels on multiple occasions, and while they are technically different, they don’t aesthetically feel different considering how often you run through Green Hill or the Chemical Plant. They change to a minor degree, but not enough to make them feel any different. It’s good they are short, otherwise Forces‘ levels could have been an even greater disaster.

Classic Sonic offers an exception to the tedious level design. Because his levels are so few and far between, you rarely feel like you are going through the same stages. Every Classic Sonic stage is different to some degree, offering a nice change to the otherwise tedious levels of the other characters. The fact each level is on a different location keeps Classic Sonic levels fun and refreshing, especially since they capture the fun of the classic design.

One final problem with Sonic Forces is that it is too easy. Even on a harder difficulty setting most players will breeze through the game in a few short hours, only being held up by occasional bosses that requires a clever solution to beat. The bosses themselves aren’t bad; many of them are rinse-and-repeat, but once you find the solution you will just push through the game in no time.

Sonic Forces fails to be a good Sonic game in every way. It is too easy and its tedious design holds the game back from reaching the heights it could have achieved. Its biggest crime, however, is that it isn’t a Sonic game. While it maintains the signature speeds, Sega forced the characters in to sell the game as opposed to building a great Sonic adventure. In the end, this game could have been worse and there are some okay moments, but this is something you want to avoid unless you find it really cheap.

Screenshots courtesy Gemsuta, The Sonic Stadium, and Game Reactor.

 

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Cats and Dogs Invade Sims 4 in Latest Expansion http://gameluster.com/cats-and-dogs-invade-sims-4-in-latest-expansion/ Sun, 12 Nov 2017 01:39:48 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20518 The Sims 4 expansion pack Cats & Dogs has arrived, three years since the release of The Sims 4 on PC.

As the expansion name implies, only cats and dogs will be available, but there are still plenty of options. 123 dog breeds and forty-nine cat breeds are accessible. Players may also create custom breeds and crossbreeds in Create-A-Pet, and adopt stray pets.

All pets have unique personalities and need daily interaction, so players must keep up with their pets consistently.

The veterinarian career is available to take care of any weird illnesses pets come across, from occasional fleas to things more bizarre like red nose. The expansion pack also includes pet clothing and accessories like pet beds and toys. New items for Sims like clothing, hairstyles, and build-and-buy items are available to make their homes pet-friendly.

The expansion’s new town of Brindleton Bay offers activities for Sims with their pets, like parks and obstacle courses. Sims may also meet other pet owners and organize a pet play-date, take a walk to a lighthouse, or visit a vet for a checkup.

The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs is available now on PC and Mac.

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Should I Buy?: Miitopia http://gameluster.com/should-i-buy-miitopia/ http://gameluster.com/should-i-buy-miitopia/#comments Fri, 10 Nov 2017 03:44:12 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20485 Gaming is not the cheapest hobby, so much goes into consideration when investing in a new game. My Should I Buy series will help you make final purchasing decisions.

I’m starting with Miitopia.

Game: Miitopia

Platform: 3DS 

Price: $39.99

Miitopia is a game where you get to choose who plays the heroes, the allies, and even the villains using Miis.

The time of peace and prosperity in the land of Miitopia is swiftly ended when a dark lord begins stealing the faces of innocent civilians. It’s your and your team of Miis’ job to reclaim the faces and purge Miitopia of the evil.

There are unique and quirky classes to choose from, and within each you’ll earn new battle attire and weapons, which are as important as the classes themselves.

It’s a lighthearted game with plenty of laughable Mii interactions and interesting landscapes to fight through. If you enjoy games like Pokémon or Tomodachi Life, you’ll likely love Miitopia.

I recommend this game if you enjoy:

  •  Turn-based RPGs
  • Character creation and customization 
  • An easy play
  • Class choice variety
  • Lighthearted games

 

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Assassin’s Creed Origins Tops Triple A Heavy Release Date http://gameluster.com/assassins-creed-origins-tops-triple-a-heavy-release-date/ Thu, 09 Nov 2017 00:28:52 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20460 Oct. 27 was an important day on the video game calendar as Assassin’s Creed Origins, Super Mario Odyssey and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus all released.

Between the three, Assassin’s Creed: Origins took the top spot for physical sales within the UK. Not far behind was Super Mario Odyssey, with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus in fourth, carrying sales figures, surprisingly, below Wolfenstein: The New Order.

The latest installment in the Assassin’s franchise is paying off for Ubisoft. Origins is selling as well as Assassin’s Creed Syndicate did within its first 10 days. Turns out, it has double the sales to that of its predecessor. Ubisoft released this news in their financial sales and earnings figures for the first half of the 2017-2018 fiscal year. While comparing numbers to Syndicate might not be impressive, being able to overcome Super Mario Odyssey is a win for Ubisoft and the AC series.

In review scores Assassin’s Creed Origins is also performing better than its predecessors. With an 82 on Metacritic for the PS4 version, the series hasn’t seen a score this high since Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, which released in late 2013. With a new loot system, eagle companion, and rich open world, Ancient Egypt has been a hit with new fans and has expanded on what old fans loved.

Assassin’s Creed Origins has sales and reviews going for it along with new open-world design. It also allows you to ride camels, which explains its success more than anything.

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Farm on the Switch http://gameluster.com/farm-on-the-switch/ Wed, 08 Nov 2017 23:50:28 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20410 Giants Software’s Farming Simulator is available now on the Nintendo Switch.

The Farming Simulator series provides gamers opportunity to farm with real-world vehicles, but none of the real-world blisters and long days. The games have a massive open world, and players may run their farm however they wish, serious or silly.

The Switch edition comes with over 250 vehicles, tools, and farming equipment from more than seventy-five agricultural manufacturers. Several tools will also be available for the more dedicated gamer-farmer to utilize.

The game also has a sandbox mode, so instead of spending hours planting and tending to crops you could just drive a Lamborghini Mach VRT tractor off a cliff at 40 mph, or see what happens when a 16-wheeler sits on train tracks for too long.   

If you’ve ever wanted to take your Switch with you on the train and sow a couple seeds before work, now you totally can.

Check out the trailer below. You may also let us know if farming is an activity you would want to do in a game.

 

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Detective Vision: An Unwanted Crutch http://gameluster.com/detective-vision-an-unwanted-crutch/ Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:07:26 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20404 Chances are, if you’ve played video games in the past five to ten years, you’ve most likely encountered a mechanic that was, at one time, undoubtedly unique. But, due to its persistent presence in games and developers’ reliance and overuse of the mechanic, it’s probably grown stale for you, as it has for me. The mechanic in question here has many names, many faces, and varies slightly from game to game. It’s known as Detective Mode, Eagle Vision, Witcher Senses, Predator Vision, Instinct, Wraith Vision, Focus, so on and so forth. We’ve seen it time and time again. What once felt fresh, like an all-new way for players to interact with their in-game environments, has now grown tired, just as my eyes have, of looking through blue, purple, and grey filters in my games over and over again.

But let’s start with the good times.

I remember my first introduction to this mechanic, playing Rocksteady Studios’ Batman: Arkham Asylum, in 2009. (Granted, similar features have already existed in titles such as Konami’s Metal Gear series, Monolith Production’s Condemned: Criminal Origins, and many others, but this was my first go at it, and the most memorable.) The first time was the best time: After fighting off a band of Joker’s lunatics, I was trapped in a room by electric barriers as the clown laughed maniacally in the distance. From what I could tell, there was nowhere to go. I was trapped like a rat. However, the game informed me of the “Detective Mode” feature, which granted Batman supernatural eyesight, allowing him to see all interactable and hidden objects in the environment, and my understanding of how things were going to work on Arkham Island shifted. I felt like a detective with super-bat-like senses. I used my abilities to solve the puzzle, escape the trap, and over the course of the game, relied on this powerful X-ray-like sight to decode riddles, defeat bosses, and detect crime all over the island.

However, after hours of exploring, grinding, and bashing baddies’ heads in, the detective mode grew less exciting and felt more like a burden than anything else. In a way, the player was always required to view the world through the detective-mode lens, simply because if you were to not use the vision, then important in-game elements wouldn’t be obvious to the player’s eyes. Their playthrough of the game would either be slowed or stopped entirely. It became necessary, due to the sheer amount of hidden objectives or “go-and-find-it” type of quests (that gave the player no direct indication of where to go, but, instead, caused them to scan the entire playable island of Arkham Asylum with a blurry, blue filter overtop of everything, hoping to find that one, glowing, orange thing that may or may not be the objective). It wasn’t as it was in the beginning, and, unfortunately, this mechanic didn’t disappear in 2009. Not only did the rest of the Arkham series utilize the feature, but many other record-breaking, highly anticipated and highly rewarded games have used it as well. Some games even as recent as 2017.

For me, the mechanic boils down to this: a system that tells me, as the player, to “look at this,” and “not to worry about looking at anything else,” and that, to me, is unsatisfying. It’s on-the-rails to the point where I am quite literally following a set of red footprints across the map until I stumble upon the NPC that left them there, while everything else in my line of sight is colored grey, becoming unimportant to my eye and mind. Where’s the appreciation for world design? Where are the consequences? Where’s the player choice? Where’s the adventure? It feels so silly, and it baffles me as to why we are still seeing it done. The continual use of this mechanic is nothing but a red flag, with bold letters printed on it, screaming, “Sorry guys, we’re fresh out of ideas.”

Horizon Zero Dawn, Guerrilla Games’ 2017 incredible RPG adventure featuring the brave, crafty, and determined protagonist, Aloy, was well-received, earning overwhelmingly positive reviews and taking home the Nederlands Film Festival’s Golden Calf for Best Interactive. The game blew my mind in terms of world design, story, mechanics, and, overall, how fun it was to play and exist in the world. Aloy, the complicated heroine, never ceased to impress the player.

However, this title fell victim to the detective mode trend, too. The “Focus” highlighted different paths that enemy dinosaurs would frequently take so you could plan a stealthy route across the jungles. It also displayed the monsters’ weak points and vital organs, allowing you to plan and execute a perfect kill, or a string of kills, without succumbing to danger. These were fun uses, even well into the game, but, during my near-hundred hour playthrough, there were times I found myself bored, mindlessly following the bright-purple footprints outlined by my Focus, knowing that I was going somewhere but not really knowing where or why I was going there. It was a follow-the-line situation, and it wasn’t a one-time thing, either. This appeared plenty of times over, as it did in The Witcher 3, as Geralt sniffed out red footprints with his cat-like Witcher senses.

I mentioned earlier that players are nigh required to play through the game using detective mode, but there are ways to play without it. For example, in Ubisoft’s Far Cry: Primal, you have the option to turn off the special vision, “Instinct”, for a more hardcore experience. Animals hit harder, you’re completely reliant on your memory and knowledge of the area, and, best of all, there’s no magical, glowing line indicating where to go and what to do. It feels a bit more immersive, maybe even a bit more fun. You may completely get rid of it in Far Cry: Primal, but this isn’t true for all games. You may always turn the vision on, get a look around, and turn it off again, but in doing this players are often hit with jarring animations and drastic color changes, disorienting them. On-off-on-off-on-off…. It’s more convenient for me, the player, to leave it on. It’s less hassle and less strain on my eyes, but far less visually appealing. 

It’s worth mentioning Bungie’s Destiny 1 & 2 here because I’ve noticed that through environment, level design, and subtle hinting they do a fantastic job of guiding players through an area without providing direct guidance. Their highly calculated, specific placement of things like rocks, walls, slopes, doors, decorations, enemies, lights, shadows, and other elements help guide players through locations in a way that feels natural, almost as if one already knew the way. This is all accomplished without the use of detective mode, guardian vision, or any other overt objective markers.

All in all, I don’t have the answers. This is merely an admittance of frustration or an airing of grievances. I’ve been playing these games, and I’ve seen this same thing over and over. I want to feel the uniqueness of that first time, or the vivid memory of scanning bullet holes in a church window in Batman: Arkham City. I don’t want a glowing line to follow, and I don’t want the whole world to be grayed out. I want something new, and I believe that I am not the only player hoping for this kind of change.

There’s a chance we may be seeing this change already. Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are new, transformative titles in their respective series, and both games are designed in a manner that cater to the explorer type of gamer. BOTW and SMO are massive, open games, in which the scope of the playable area is unfathomable for the first few hours of playing, and the amount of activities and interactivity within the world seems endless. Players are encouraged to go anywhere, do anything, and to simply have fun exploring. True, each game has a main quest, but this quest doesn’t interfere with the player’s choice to explore, roam, slide down escarpments on a shield, or ride Jaxis through Tostarena. In these games, there is no detective mode, and there are no red footprints on the ground. My vision is not forced grey or blue, and everything in my environment is as is, presented to me in a manner that I will explore and interact with it as I find it. I appreciate these open worlds that encourage freedom, exploration, and fun, prioritizing these things over tedious mechanics and blurry vision.

Game devs, take a note from Mario.

Detective mode isn’t fun anymore.

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Dauntless Closed Beta Impressions http://gameluster.com/dauntless-closed-beta-impressions/ Wed, 08 Nov 2017 02:04:47 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20357 Fighting behemoths in Dauntless can be quite the daunting task, if you’ll pardon the pun. These encounters take around fifteen minutes, give or take. That’s fifteen minutes of slashing, dodging, and healing. If you make a mistake, there’s a good chance you end up dead, lose all the materials you may have gathered, and have to start over.

Dauntless is a third-person action MMO developed by Phoenix Labs, similar in premise to the Monster Hunter series. From Ramsgate, the game’s central hub, you journey out into the Shattered Isles, a collection of floating islands, to gather resources and slay behemoths threatening your civilization. You then bring your rewards back to Ramsgate and use them to construct and upgrade your gear.

Let’s start off with a look at Dauntless’s strongest feature: combat. I was impressed by this right out of the gate. There’s almost a sense of weight to the fights, and you know that your weapon swings take time and imbalance you, which opens you up to attacks. Further, running around and swinging a heavy weapon isn’t easy, and if you don’t keep an eye on that stamina bar, you may find yourself unable to roll away from a behemoth’s claws. Using recovery potions and other items also opens you up to attacks, so if you make a mistake in timing, there’s a good chance you’ll end up dead. You have to plan out every swing of your weapon and every combo that you chain, all while watching the behemoth you’re fighting for indications of its next move and making sure you have stamina to respond. All of this gives Dauntless’s combat a tactical yet action-oriented feel, which I found myself getting hooked on. Some have compared the combat to what Dark Souls offers, and I think that’s fair.

There’s a wide variety of materials and equipment in Dauntless, and I was becoming addicted to the hunt. Some materials, like aether flux, you might get just from fighting behemoths, of which you’ll fight plenty. Others, like iron ore or dartweed, you need to search around the level for and mine or harvest. Then there are horns and tails, which you actually have to break off of a behemoth during a fight, a task which can be both difficult and satisfying. There’s something fulfilling about ripping the tail off of an exceptionally vicious monster, then using it to craft a powerful piece of equipment.

Currently, Dauntless is PVE only, although developers have expressed openness towards exploring PVP features somewhere down the road. In such games, the community tends to be relatively friendly, and Dauntless is no exception. I didn’t encounter a toxic player once in my twenty-plus hours with the game, and there are games where you can’t go twenty minutes without finding someone toxic (looking at you, Rust and League of Legends). I was also impressed by Phoenix Lab’s level of engagement with the community. At one point, I asked a question about a policy on the Dauntless forums, and within a few hours, a developer replied with a well-reasoned post. I’ve also seen developers reply to community members’ YouTube videos about Dauntless, without a response having been solicited. I’m of the opinion that having developers who care about community opinion is absolutely critical for an MMO to be a long-term success, and I’m convinced that Dauntless has this.

However, there are several features in Dauntless which feel substantially underdeveloped, even taking into account that this is a closed beta. Firstly, there is no character development or plot whatsoever. After reading lore excerpts from Dauntless’s website, I was really hoping to see some sort of plot in the game itself. I’m further hoping the voice acting from quest givers is placeholder, as there has been little attention given to it.

Although admittedly not an essential feature for an MMO, I was unimpressed by Dauntless’s soundtrack and found myself muting it in favor of my own music within hours. The interface feels cluttered, the UI seems rushed, and inventory management is a bit of a mess. Hopefully Phoenix Labs will fine-tune these features before release.

Matchmaking was quite annoying, which isn’t shocking during a closed beta, but I wonder if game design might contribute to this. When I was searching for a hunt, there was a good number of players online, but none appeared to be doing the early-game activities which I was, forcing me to solo content likely not meant to be soloed by beginners. I was given the choice of waiting a long time to find assistance, or just soloing a hunt, and having a hard time of it. I ended up failing one of my hunts and losing about thirty minutes of effort. I can’t help but wonder if other players find themselves turned off from Dauntless’s early game due to this. In my opinion, Dauntless should add the ability for players to join a mission in progress, perhaps so long as the behemoth is above a certain health threshold. Warframe has a similar feature, and it cuts down on waiting times substantially.

Given the roughness of the previously described features, I feel that Dauntless should really be at an alpha stage, not closed beta. Perhaps part of the reason they rushed beta was to give Founder’s access to the title, as most Founder’s Packs included beta access, but not alpha. In any case it seems that Phoenix Labs are aware of this and intend to spend more time developing their game before release, considering that Dauntless‘s open beta date has been delayed.

Honestly, I’m cautious to make a recommendation on Dauntless, one way or the other. In the twenty-five hours I spent on it, there was a lot that impressed me and a bit that worried me. I am convinced that Phoenix Labs genuinely wants to make this a fun, immersive game, but that doesn’t mean they will succeed. What I think everything will come down to is what state Dauntless is in at release, how many players this version attracts, and if Phoenix Labs are able to effectively monetize their game. If they manage all this, I see Dauntless turning out similar to Warframe, becoming a favorite of many gamers for years to come, with regular expansions and fine-tuning. The fact that they already had a Halloween event indicates to me they are serious about this. On the other hand, it is also possible that Dauntless fails to attract players and flops at release. Phoenix Labs might not make a profit and become forced to give up on the title (we might call this the Battleborn scenario). Phoenix Labs plans to turn a profit by selling cosmetics and boosters, and while this is a solid plan, the game will need a certain level of popularity for it to succeed.

If Dauntless sounds interesting to you, you can currently buy a Founder’s Pack and take part in the closed beta. The lowest-tier package is $40 and comes with closed beta access and a few goodies.

I bought a Founder’s Pack and haven’t regretted it for a minute. I’ve found Dauntless to be a refreshing experience, and as far as founder’s packs go, it’s comparatively affordable. That said, if you’re patient, Dauntless will be free-to-play in open beta, and considering that there will be at least one closed beta wipe, there’s good reason to wait.

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Five Best Party Games http://gameluster.com/five-best-party-games/ Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:59:13 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20394 I’ve never been the best at parties, which I’m sure will surprise no one. I didn’t attend many as a student and have attended less since I stopped caring if anyone judges me for drinking alone. But sometimes, if you wish to pose as a normal human being, you might choose to hold a party of your own. On these occasions, in order to avoid the awkward conversations, weird hook-ups and peer pressure, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with injecting some of our collective passion into a social gathering. From my experience, gaming can be a good icebreaker at a party, particularly if you have several groups of friends around you and people are finding it hard to mingle.

The list I have concocted is a collection of suggestions for your party, pulled from research, but mostly my own personal opinion.

5.) Left 4 Dead 2 (2009)

Left 4 Dead 2 is a multiplayer first-person shooter set in a dystopian version of the world where the population has been infected by “Green Flu,” turning regular humans into zombies and mutants. There are four different colourful characters to choose from, and your main, if indeed only, goal is to shoot, smash, or chop up the surrounding zombies. What’s not to love!

What convinced me to put this on the list, rather than other shooter games, is because it was the only shooter where my friends and I would end up arguing over who got the melee weapons. There is something worryingly satisfying about running around an expansive game world smashing the heads off zombies while your friends scream for blood.

The gameplay relies on teamwork, making it the perfect shooter game for a party. The characters are very interesting with their own individual backstories, and all the people I game with have their own favourite.

Left 4 Dead 2 is available on Xbox 360 and Steam.

4.) Castle Crashers (2008)

If you’re looking for something a little cheekier than a zombie slasher game, then Castle Crashers is for you! Castle Crashers is a sidescrolling, arcade-style beat-‘em-up game by The Behemoth. The game features four lovable, little colourful knights in a mock-medieval universe who are sent by their king to rescue his daughters and retrieve a magical gem after they are stolen by a dark wizard. Along the journey, the knights encounter many strange and fun enemies ranging from cyclops to ninja pirates and alien invaders!

The artwork throughout the game increasingly becomes beautiful. Despite the violence and silly jokes, I can’t help but be charmed by the game, finding it oddly cute! Like Left 4 Dead 2, a lot of the game relies on teamwork, but also includes “fights to the death,” where the players must battle each other in order to win a kiss from a Princess, giving it a slightly more evil edge that one has come to expect from The Behemoth.

Castle Crashers is available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Steam.

3.) Guitar Hero (2005-2015)

I’m not proud of including this on the list, but I can’t deny that I’ve had a great deal of fun playing this at parties; although I also can’t deny that this is one for after the vodka has come out!

The premise of the franchise is ridiculously stupid, but there is something undeniably fun about it, making it an odd bonding experience with some of my friends. Just in case you’ve been living in Gollum’s Cave for the last decade and managed to miss the franchise, the only way I can sum it up is that you are given a plastic children’s guitar with five buttons on it so you can pretend to play along with professional musicians.

It’s a silly concept but a fun one and a chance to drunkenly sing along to old rock songs and cheer on your friends. I can’t really recommend a specific version of the game as they’re all the exact same concept, and it comes down to which track listing you prefer. I had more fun with the earlier versions than the later ones.

Guitar Hero games are available on PlayStation 2 and 3, Xbox 360 and Wii. The latest installment, Guitar Hero Live, is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Wii U.

2.) Super Monkey Ball (2001-2012)

Super Monkey Ball is one of those bizarre concepts which has you wondering what was happening in the Ideas room down at Sega. You play as a small monkey who has been trapped inside a small ball and forced to fight, race and be thrown across the water for the amusement of the almighty humans. But it’s okay because the painted smiles and annoying giggles prove that the monkeys are having so much fun!

The colours are blinding, the animation has gotten worse as the games have evolved, the concept is stupid, and the annoying music makes me want to drill a hole in my skull. But at a party, damn is this game fun! Super Monkey Ball is one of the first games I ever bought and that same game is still a favourite when people come to visit.

What makes it so popular is something akin to the “Cracker Joke Theory.” This theory is that the reason why cracker jokes are bad is because when someone tells a joke, the room becomes divided: there are those who get the joke and find it funny and those who don’t get the joke, don’t find it funny or are offended. By making cracker jokes stupid and cheesy, a situation with them changes from each person as themselves to everyone against the joke. Monkey Ball is so naff, silly and annoying that it brings everyone in the room together as everyone is against the game and having fun playing it together.

Another aspect of brilliance in Monkey Ball is that the variety of games is amazing. I’ve never been good at racing games and repeatedly placed last when playing “Monkey Race.” We would always get pummeled by one particular friend of mine in “Monkey Fight” (you know who you are!). But at “Monkey Target,” I always managed to get scores twice as much as everyone else! Other games are introduced in sequels, and these mini-games can be unlocked by playing the game. Even the main game is multiplayer, leaving much variety of fun to be introduced into your party.

Like Guitar Hero, I can’t recommend a specific version of Monkey Ball over the other, but I’ve enjoyed the original GameCube version as much as any of the sequels I’ve played. You should just play whichever one you have the console for. Various versions of the game are available on GameCube, PlayStation 2 and 3, and Wii.

Before I get to number one, I want to slip in a few honourable mentions:

Grand Theft Auto:

Maybe an unconventional choice and not traditionally a multiplayer game, (I’ve never actually played the San Andreas Multiplayer Game, so maybe that would be one for this list). I remember fondly several sleepovers, particularly as a teenager, playing “who can outrun the police the longest.”

Super Smash Bros.:

I left this out of the list because – and I’m really sorry (except not really) – I’ve never gotten into these games. Since they came up so much in my research, I felt it right to give it a mention. The games have been around for a very long time and I suppose could be an essential attribute to a gamer party. If nothing else, it gives the opportunity to beat the crap out of your least favourite characters!

Wii Sports:

I guess I have to hand it to this game for being a fairly obvious choice to bring out when the music gets boring, since literally everyone I know who owns a Wii owns this game. There is a variety of different games you can play and, for at least the first few rounds, it can convince people to get up and move around.

And now my number one game to bring out at a party:

1.) BattleBlock Theatre (2013)

Another amazing arcade-style platformer gem from those creepy geniuses down at The Behemoth, BattleBlock Theatre was always the obvious choice for me for this list. The game has a story of a group of friends who get lost at sea and become trapped in the clutches of some evil cats, who make your best friend Hatty Hattington their leader. The cats then force the players to go through a series of deadly challenges in a theatre for their amusement. At the same time, Hatty becomes possessed by a hat, which slowly drains his life force, leaving the player to save him.

The game comes with a wonderful story, beautiful artwork, and fantastic gameplay. The controls are fairly simple and easy to handle, making it easy for non-gamer party guests to get into. Although the game may be played single player, I don’t really know why you would! Each level was more fun when engaged with teamwork, and it was a real bonding experience collecting gems and defeating the bosses with that other person.

The only thing I think people would protest about this choice is that traditional adventure mode can only be pursued by two players (apparently you need more than one guest to clarify something as a party. Who knew). However, if you’re lucky enough to have three friends willing to spend time at your house then you can have a go at the competitive Arena Mode where two teams of two battle each other.

BattleBlock Theatre has received a 10/10 rating on Steam, an 85 score on Metacritic and 9 out of 10 on Destructoid, all scores being well earned. It’s a ridiculous fun piece of art to bring out at a party. The songs are so catchy I still listen to them at my leisure, and despite being cute and silly throughout, the ending still makes me cry. Well bloody done The Behemoth!

BattleBlock Theatre is available on Xbox 360 and Steam.

So, to any of you out there planning a party, consider bringing some of these out for a super, fun and chilled-out evening! And, if not, there is absolutely no shame in playing them by yourself in the dark and telling people you went to a party. There are plenty of good multiplayer party games that I was close to including on this list, and I’m sure there are many that I’ve missed, so please do leave your favourite party games in the comments.

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Dishonored 2 Review http://gameluster.com/dishonored-2-review/ Mon, 06 Nov 2017 05:41:24 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20316 When Dishonored was first announced in 2012, I never imagined it would join the ranks of my favourite games. The gameplay, characters, and setting captured my heart and never let go. The city of Dunwall became one of the most memorable video-game settings I’d ever come across. Dishonored’s tale of revenge might be predictable or lacking to some, but the enjoyment I gained from its distinct art style and masterful gameplay is undeniable.

I occasionally revisit the game for the fluid stealth action only Arkane Studios has been able to provide, but replaying the same game multiple times only goes so far. When the sequel was announced, it wouldn’t be an understatement to say I was excited beyond belief.

Dishonored 2 attempts to build on its predecessor’s success. The game is bigger in scope and has voiced protagonists, expanding its roster by allowing players to choose between Empress Emily Kaldwin and Royal Protector Corvo Attano as the player-character.

Unfortunately, having a larger game leads to more opportunities where something may go wrong, and that’s exactly what happens in Dishonored 2. Questionable design choices, immersion-breaking bugs, and changes to enemy AI resulted in a game with wasted potential.

Set fifteen years after the events in the first game, the story begins with Emily attending her mother Jessamine’s death anniversary. Gone is the baby-faced girl who barely reached Corvo’s waist and needed rescuing from the Golden Cat; she is now the Empress, ruling over Dunwall like her mother before her. The somber affair turns ugly when a coup is mounted against Emily. Chaos is given a form in Delilah Copperspoon – a familiar name to those who played the Brigmore Witches DLC – as the woman proclaims herself to be Jessamine’s long-lost sibling and the rightful ruler of Dunwall.

There is a definite focus on story compared to the “go to this location and take out the target” formula of the previous game, a change I enjoyed immensely. We’re also given more insight to the characters through cleverly placed notes, journal entries, and real-time events which unfold as you traverse the levels in search of runes and bone charms.

Another welcome improvement is the characterization of the game’s antagonists. They are people who’ve been given a bad hand and make the best of it, by-products of misfortune rather than two-bit villains being bad for the sake of it. Though I disliked them, I empathized with them more than expected.

Dishonored 2 is aided by beautiful cutscenes and brilliant voice acting, both of which do wonders for world building and the overall atmosphere of the game. I’d chosen to play as Emily for my first playthrough, since I was eager to test out her new powers, and her voice actress, Erica Luttrell, does a stellar job of conveying her personality through sarcastic quips and general observations of what’s happening around her.

Environments retain their unique art style, making good on the developer’s intentions to create a moving painting. Karnaca’s streets reflect the current state of affairs caused by corruption, infighting, and the widespread infestation of blood flies. The first time Emily stepped onto the streets of Karnaca, I was enraptured by the sheer amount of detail provided to me: stone pavements slick with blood, corpses of whales and sea creatures being butchered, and fishermen and citizens milling about, conversing among themselves and occasionally glancing my way. I paused to admire the sights several times throughout the game.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with Dishonored 2’s level design. Levels are sprawling pieces of work where players are free to roam and search for black market shops, Outsider shrines or loose change which has been carefully tucked away. But there are several setbacks. I loved the first game for the sheer amount of choice I had in breaking and entering. There was the thrill of discovering ledges or secret entrances leading into highly secured areas. But here, most levels feel oddly cramped. Too often there was only one way into areas, requiring me to either sneak or force my way through. The distinct lack of opportunities is something that stands out sharply. The size, atmosphere, and content of each level is good, but it falls short in the aspect which matters the most to me.

There’s also a matter of enemy AI. If anything, I’d expect enemies to be twice as smart and harder to trick compared to the first Dishonored, but it’s the complete opposite. Guards climb onto tables, walk into walls, or into each other. It completely breaks the immersion when I see guards standing on a dining table while talking about the happenings in Karnaca.

Another thing I intensely dislike is how enemies react to sleep darts. Instead of falling over upon getting a dart to the face, they freeze for several seconds before crumpling like rag dolls, limbs flopping like wet spaghetti strands. It takes away the satisfaction from a successful sneak attack to see your target bend over backwards as if they were doing yoga.

In terms of quantity, however, Dishonored 2 wins my vote by a mile. Not only does having two playable characters give it more replay value, but the addition of a no-powers option gives players the chance to challenge themselves.

There’s also a New Game Plus mode where all runes, bone charm traits, and upgrades from a finished playthrough will be imported to a new one, with the possibility for Corvo and Emily to access each other’s powers. For those who liked the first game and love the idea of nigh endless replayability, I’d say you’re getting your money’s worth. Dishonored 2 is certainly not what I expected, and I feel like Arkane Studios missed the chance to make it great instead of merely good. There were too many aspects I couldn’t bring myself to like, but it’s far from a bad experience.

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Doom 3: BFG Edition, New to GOG, is an Underwhelming Re-Release http://gameluster.com/doom-3-bfg-edition-new-to-gog-is-an-underwhelming-re-release/ Mon, 06 Nov 2017 03:42:40 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20298 Doom 3 is one of my guilty pleasures. When I first played the game back in the early days of ’05 – I had received it as a Christmas gift the year prior – I could discern it was not a great game. The story setup lacked the impact of Half-Life’s start, the attempts at horror were generic, and the atmospheric-narrative-driven flavor was compromised by the nonsensical corridor-shooter gameplay.

But, I had fun. Sometimes that’s all that matters with a game. For me, Doom 3 was a blast of a throwback shooter, with shadowy-creepy stuff as a nice little sideshow. It helped that it looked phenomenal. To this day I still think Doom 3 is one of the most impressive graphical showcases in the history of games.

So it’s stuck with me over the years as much as the original Doom titles have. I’ve played the heck out of it, especially the Hell section, which I’ve revisited on several Friday nights when I’ve needed a quick fix. Doom 3 also has worthwhile maps and mods for it, like “Perfected Doom 3,” that add several graphical improvements and tweak the gameplay.

I’ve resisted the BFG Edition of the game since its launch in late 2012. The negative reviews I read of it on Steam echoed what I was certain would be my response. I loved vanilla Doom 3 and its mods too much to waste time and money on this console-ized, ostensibly enhanced re-release.

But then it premiered on Good Old Games during the recent Halloween sale at a discounted price. Having eyed it occasionally since its release, the Doom 3 aficionado in me thought, “Why not?” You only live once, after all, and here was a new way for me to experience my ultimate gaming guilty pleasure. Maybe it could be some fun.

Soon after starting, the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the truth so many Steam reviewers had relayed. The menu UI was straight console – not near the clean, smooth, unquestionably PC interface of standard Doom 3. I even had to use my up and down arrow keys to navigate one of the menus because it wasn’t responding sufficiently to my mouse – the horror! Less options were present for tweaking, though there are added options for field of view and frames per second. You may bump the latter up to 120, one of the selling points of the game. Field of view you’ll crank up to 100 anyway, making you miss ye olde days of 2004 when field of view was fine as is in PC originals like Doom 3.

Starting the game deepened my disgust. One of my favorite moments of the original Doom 3 was the suspenseful intro, during which ominous ambiance played while a computerized voice briefly described the Union Aerospace Corporation. The latter remains, but the former is gone, leaving an empty silence behind the narration. Then after this intro there’s a loading screen. It’s quick, but abrupt, and I ask why something unneeded in 2004 was needed in 2012.

The game started, and with each moment the negative reviews rang true. It looked worse. The character models especially were ugly. Every texture looked downgraded, and the lights and shadows were not as rich as in the original.

I was pleased to see an autosave feature in the options menu, but I was not pleased when the first autosave occurred and the game froze with a little save screen popping up at the bottom. This same interruption happened when I performed a quick save. The original lacked autosaves beyond one at the start of each map — standard practice in those days — but when you did save it, there was a slight, hardly noticeable pause, and the text “Game Saved” appeared on screen. BFG Edition breaks the immersion with each save, especially jarring when it comes from an autosave.

In light of my dismay, I continued, curious how the gunplay would feel. It felt the same, no improvements. The machinegun has a slightly different sound, no better or worse, though I prefer the original. I did not progress enough to pick up anything beyond that weapon and the shotgun and pistol, so I do not offer a conclusion on this edition’s handling of Doom 3’s weapons, but so far it has made no real changes. For comparison, the “Absolute HD” mod revamps the arsenal.

Before I wrapped up my brief play session of around a couple hours, I continued to be disappointed by the look of the game. The term that finally came to my mind was canned. The game looked canned, like subpar PC ports do. I realized then the major problem with Doom 3: BFG Edition: it was an Xbox 360 and PS3 game. It was made for consoles and ported to PC. What a radical opposite to the original release BFG is, then, for Doom 3 had been made exclusively for the PC and later ported to the Xbox. It was the Xbox version of that game which was canned and downgraded. But circa 2012, it’s the PC version of this id FPS that’s canned. How things have changed.

I quit Doom 3: BFG Edition and launched the original Doom 3. Playing it again, I felt as if I was being healed by the sweetest nectar. Yes, this was Doom 3; I felt I had returned home.

Whether you care about Doom 3 or not, you may be interested in playing it as a chapter in id’s classic shooter franchise. So if you plan on going back, don’t get the BFG Edition, off Good Old Games or anywhere else. An exception is if you have a 360 or PS3, and no gaming PC, and purchase the console version of the game, but even this I discourage. Find a way to play the original Doom 3. Discover for yourself what that super-hyped, oddball little title, that looked so much like the future back in the day, was all about. Incidentally, you’ll also be experiencing part of the end of an era, one of the final major titles developed exclusively for PC and later ported to consoles, and the last id game to have been developed that way.

If you then want enhancements, you’d check out the mods for the game, which offer much more satisfying tweaks than the canned BFG Edition.

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm Episode Two Review http://gameluster.com/life-is-strange-before-the-storm-episode-two-review/ Sun, 05 Nov 2017 05:36:25 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20235 It was surprising that Deck Nine made a solid start to their Life is Strange prequel series. All things considered, the series should have started bad considering prior character problems with the original series, yet, lo and behold, it was the opposite. The design decision to spotlight the budding relationship between Chloe and Rachel made for a great adventure filled with genuinely funny moments and some spectacular character drama. If Episode One was anything to go by, Episode Two would be excellent, and, outside a rocky start, Before the Storm continues strong into the middle of its story.

Note that this review has spoilers for the end of the first episode, so look no further if you haven’t played episode one. There will also be references to the main series, which you should play prior to Before the Storm.

Brave New World takes a different path than the prior episode. While there is still emphasis placed on Chloe and Rachel’s relationship, in this episode it took a backseat for the majority of the time. In doing this, episode two was able to tell a different story focused more on Chloe and her newest struggle, which allows players to dive into her mindset.

The beginning of the episode sees part of the fallout from Chloe and Rachel’s actions in the first episode. For skipping school, Chloe is kicked out and Rachel loses her role in a play. These points are a backdrop to the events of the episode, with Chloe feeling guilty over Rachel’s play and overjoyed at freedom from school. This manages to push the leaving-Arcadia-Bay plotline forward as Chloe finds her iconic vehicle and gets it working.

A greater point of the episode is Chloe having to return to Blackwell so soon after being removed. Her drug dealer requests that Chloe obtain money from one of the students, putting Chloe into some tough predicaments.

Brave New World thrives in its newest choices, and Deck Nine does well building off the absence of Max’s rewind abilities. The choices in this episode, whether major or minor, are challenging.

Take, for instance, one major choice: a character is getting beaten by a bad person while Chloe is asked to look after his brother. You are given the opportunity to help by giving the guy the money he is owed, which Chloe previously acquired, or keep looking after his brother. This is followed by another tough choice, so the developers really make you juggle your options and try to find the best path.

Every choice in this episode had the same appeal. The challenge in making the right choice this time around is hard, and you never know if you have made the right decision on most occasions. The episode gets you invested through its heavy-handed choices that rival any from the greater Life is Strange series, except one particular moment. That we are unsure how our actions here will affect Chloe in the near future makes each choice exciting.

In saying that, Brave New World highlights one of this prequel series’ biggest problems: parts of the story played around with the idea of debts and making plans, and the problem with these and many of the greater story beats related to the future is that we know what happens. Those of us who played Dontnod’s series know exactly how the story ends. We may feel sorry for Chloe, Rachel and some of the supporting characters, but we know how their story ends, and it isn’t sunshine and rainbows.

Deck Nine handles older characters quite well. Even knowing the fates of major characters in the original series, it is interesting to see how they progressed to a certain point.

The biggest character to receive this treatment is Nathan Prescott, an antagonistic, messed up, drug-abusing character from the original series who is portrayed here much weaker. You actually feel sorry for him as it shows his eventual downward spiral. In the final episode it will be interesting to see if Deck Nine chooses to spotlight old characters further.

Another issue is a lack of payoff with the closing event of the first episode. In her frustration over her father, Rachel accidentally started a massive fire, and while it is constantly visible and referenced, it’s played out like a minor inconvenience that is used only to pit Chloe into some interesting moments. Hopefully the fire subplot has greater importance in the final episode, but it seems like it was ultimately meaningless outside of conversation and a particularly entertaining story beat.

On a lighter note, this episode’s cliffhanger ending is sure to translate strongly into the final episode. A great truth has been revealed to Rachel that will affect her going forward, and hopefully the developers can close out this story; given the importance of this cliffhanger it seems unlikely it will be pushed aside.

Outside of all this there are some really sweet moments which made Brave New World a wonderful episode to go through. The cornerstone of this series is Chloe and Rachel’s relationship, and while there was a lot of strength placed in the Rachel-free moments, it’s hard not to be entranced when the two are together. The moments they have together are some of the most beautiful parts of the story, from therapy sessions with Rachel where Chloe talks about everything bothering her, to a sweet and captivating moment between the two on a stage filled with promises. The relationship between these two characters makes every second they are together worth playing.

Deck Nine took a different approach with Brave New World. Giving Chloe more time alone created some great moments for the character, but the cornerstone relationship of Chloe and Rachel continues to be endearing and one of the greatest draws of the series. The choices in this episode are powerful and make you wonder whether you are making the right decisions, but, if you’ve played the main series, you already know that this story won’t end in happiness. Thankfully, it should be a great ride to the story’s conclusion, with a potential twist that will cause problems in the series’ closure.

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A Video Game Winter Wonderland http://gameluster.com/a-video-game-winter-wonderland/ http://gameluster.com/a-video-game-winter-wonderland/#comments Sun, 05 Nov 2017 03:57:10 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20271 A snow-filled holiday season is impossible for many of you warm-location dwellers. Here is a list to let you live out your coldest of dreams.

Batman: Arkham City

Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3

Gotham and Arkham City are decked out for the winter and have as much holiday cheer as physically possible for places like these. What’s better than kicking villain butt, living out your hero fantasies, and snow? Not much. You can get the original on last generation consoles or PC. Even better, Batman: Return to Arkham gives you remastered versions of Arkham City and Arkham Asylum for current-gen consoles.

Overwatch

Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4

On December 13 last year, Overwatch players were blessed with the “Winter Wonderland” event. There were unique holiday-themed skins for many of the heroes and holiday-themed sprays, emotes, and more. The game maps were also decked out for the season. Blizzard gave us Mei’s Snowball Offensive, an arcade game where you shoot snowballs at your opponents!

Keep an eye out for Overwatch’s next winter event coming this December.

Until Dawn

Platform: PS4

It’s November, the month squished between spooky October and festive December. What better way to get the best of both in Until Dawn, a horror game that takes place in beautiful ski mountains? You’ll play as each of eight friends who have reunited at the Blackwood Pines Lodge. There, just a year before, two of their friends had mysteriously disappeared. What should have been a time of emotional healing and friendship quickly turns horrifying as the friends are hunted down by something sinister. The goal is simply to survive and, along the way, solve the mystery of who or what is the murderer.

Steep

Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4

It’s all your favorite winter sports in an open world with the option of a multiplayer experience. The crisp graphics of Steep will bring you that immersive winter experience you want at this time of year.

Keep an eye out Nintendo gamers, Steep may be coming soon to the Nintendo Switch!

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4

An expertly made sequel to the critically acclaimed Tomb Raider, you’ll follow Lara Croft as she explores the snow-filled mountains of Siberia to find answers to the mysteries of the previous game. I suggest playing through the prequel, which also has a variety of winter-esque scenery, before picking this one up. However, it isn’t that difficult to pick up on the story. Overall, Rise of the Tomb Raider is an excellent game with beautiful graphics, a solid plot, and an excellent crafting system. It’s a good play, regardless of the season.

Metro 2033

Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4

Metro 2033 is a post-apocalyptic horror game set in Moscow. The game follows Artyom, who has been born and raised in an underground metro station following a nuclear war. You’ll fight your way through the dark metro tunnels, but, don’t worry, it isn’t all tunnel-based. You’ll get a breath of fresh nuclear air out in the streets of a ruined Moscow. 

Although it can be played like a traditional first-person shooter, stealth is also a valid play style. Metro 2033 has been remastered in the Metro Redux Bundle, but the original game is also available on last generation consoles.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

It’s a lovable Nintendo classic that follows real time and the seasons. Come December, you might be the proud mayor of a snow-covered town that you may decorate festively to your heart’s content.

Want a free Snowman model? Find character Tortimer on December 1! Animal Crossing also has its own version of Christmas, Toy Day, on December 24.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games

Platform: Wii, Wii U, Nintendo DS

Sure, this was for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and is a little outdated, but it’s very fun to play. I love all the Mario and Sonic Olympic Games – you get to play as your favorite Mario and Sonic characters.

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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review http://gameluster.com/wolfenstein-ii-the-new-colossus-review/ Fri, 03 Nov 2017 14:53:04 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20129 Within fifteen minutes of booting up Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, I had to walk away from my computer for a couple seconds to emotionally process what was in front of me. This new chapter in B.J. Blazkowicz’s journey isn’t meant for the faint of heart, and developer MachineGames wants you to know it right off the top. But if you stick with this game, you’ll find an unforgettable journey with powerful set pieces that will leave you hating Nazis as much as Blazkowicz.

Above all, the strongest point of this first-person shooter is its phenomenal story. Wolfenstein II picks up right where The New Order left off and chronicles Blazkowicz’s gruesome recovery after the first game’s final battle. He reminisces about his childhood memories, introducing the player to his parents. The well-delivered dialogue instantly characterizes his caring, Jewish mother and harsh, racist, masculine, Texan father.

The first real moment you get to play the game, you’re stuck in a wheelchair. You can’t climb stairs, but hey, your hands are free to hold a gun and shoot some Nazis. The rest of the game follows the Kreisau Circle, the rebel group that Blazkowicz joined in the first game, as they fight to ignite a revolution all across the American Territories.

Since the events of the first game, Blazkowicz has been given the name “Terror-Billy” by the Germans because in their eyes, he’s the world’s greatest terrorist. Responsible for the massacre of thousands of loyal soldiers, Terror-Billy needs to be caught before more lives are lost. At least, that’s the Nazi narrative, which is presented astonishingly well through the many small moments of Germans grieving for lost family members. It almost leaves you sympathizing with one of modern history’s most vile regimes, reminding you that behind the politics and ideologies, these are still human beings with families. But at the end of the day, it takes more than sympathy to keep America free. Wolfenstein II leaves you with a powerful mix of emotions, and it tackles questions about the true values of freedom and happiness as hard as Blazkowicz tackles Nazis.

Toward the end of the journey, however, the game stumbles a bit. The credits rolled rather abruptly, and it didn’t really feel like the story had finished satisfactorily. At first, I was expecting a lot more. Various loose ends weren’t tied up by the conclusion of the story, but it ends in a way that leaves the door wide open for a Wolfenstein III to walk through in a couple years. It’s not necessarily that the last few moments of the game were unsatisfying; rather, it’s just that the credits could have rolled after another mission or two.

Even if the ending is a bit too soon, it doesn’t diminish what MachineGames has accomplished with Wolfenstein II. There are so many developments to the story that make it truly exciting to watch. When things come together and go in Blazkowicz’s favor, even when things seem bleak, it can give you a rush and have you jumping for joy. It’s the kind of game that has so many noteworthy moments that will stick with you after you’re done killing Nazis.

Despite the big picture involving nationwide political and territorial liberation, the story shines incredibly well in its personal moments. More often than not, I found myself rooting for Blazkowicz not because he was the main character nor because I wanted to see the Nazis lose; I wanted him to succeed so he could be happy with his pregnant girlfriend, Anya. I hoped for his safety whenever he was around his abusive father. I looked forward to the next time he could see his friends back on Evas Hammer, the Nazi U-boat turned resistance base. Every interaction he had with all the crew members cemented the idea that Blazkowicz is the Kreisau Circle’s true beacon of hope in this dark world, and it really contributes to the power fantasy of shredding every last Nazi to pieces.

So let’s talk about what it’s like to shred Nazis in Wolfenstein II. Overall, the gunplay is extremely over-the-top in the best way. If you enjoyed it in the first game, the second game only improves upon it. Being able to mix and match what weapons you’re dual wielding makes every moment feel more strategic, but the game doesn’t give you too much time to think about it. Every fight is an adrenaline rush, and just a few mistakes will get you killed, especially because Blazkowicz feels more fragile in this game than in the previous ones. The combat can feel chaotic, but it’s rewarding when you’re able to control a situation and take out all the Nazis surrounding you. The stealth aspect of combat returns as well, rewarding you with less Nazis to fight if you can pick off the commanders without being noticed. Although the close-and-personal hatchet kills are gruesome yet satisfying to watch, they can at times feel too risky to even bother trying. Sometimes it seems more effective to pull out two automatic shotguns that shoot three shells at once and rush every enemy.

The wonderful combat does unfortunately come with its share of bugs, some of which hindered what would be a smooth gameplay experience. At times, switching weapons in the off hand is just impossible. Instead of switching from submachine gun to assault rifle, Blazkowicz would just put the first gun down to retrieve the first gun again. Sometimes when activating dual wielding, if you reload you will cause a glitch in the off-hand gun, causing it not to fire at all. At other times, the gun in Blazkowicz’s right hand would float above his hand. Luckily, none of these bugs break the game in any way, and the combat is an absolute blast.

After spending a couple hours killing some Nazis, the gameplay stays fresh with the addition of contraptions. About halfway through the game, Terror-Billy gets access to one of three devices that change the way you play the game. For example, one allows you to crawl through small spaces and walk silently. Another gives you the ability to break through thin walls and tackle Nazis to the ground. You can eventually get all of these devices, and they keep the game fresh as you near the end.

Wolfenstein II has replay value on offer. At the beginning, you make a decision to save one of two friends, the same choice that was presented in the first game. Whichever friend you save changes small parts of the story. The major story beats stay the same, so whether it warrants a second playthrough is up to you.

Killing the previously mentioned commanders gives you enigma codes, which can be used to find oberkommandos—essentially extremely important Nazi personnel. They’re located in maps you’ll already run through in the main story, which acts somewhat as a detriment to the game. Although it’s satisfying to mow down droves of Nazis, hunting these oberkommandos becomes a tedious task without any real sense of reward. After killing every target, I didn’t feel compelled to tackle the few other side quests that various Eva’s Hammer crew members throw at Blazkowicz.

This issue is a shame, because these different maps are out of this world in terms of design and flavor. You’ll travel to New Orleans, which has turned into a walled-off ghetto district. New York, or I should say what’s left of New York, is an irradiated husk of a city after it was nuked to end this game’s alternate version of World War II. Probably one of the most interesting places to visit is the old Blazkowicz home in Mesquite, Texas. That level is chock full of cutscenes and ambient storytelling that helps you understand how Blazkowicz turned into the Nazi killing machine known as Terror-Billy.

At the end of the day, if you enjoy being engrossed in an alternate history Nazi America with powerful, personal stories weaved into a larger, revolutionary narrative, this game checks all the boxes. The game also shines as a shooter, although if you’re just looking for mindless gunning, you’ll find yourself skipping through a lot of cutscenes.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is as much a story as it is a shooter, and although the end leaves something to be desired, experiencing the story is more than satisfying. It’s a journey that makes you think about the meaning of freedom and happiness, all while tackling some social issues that are a little too relevant today.

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New Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon Trailer Shows Rainbow Rocket http://gameluster.com/new-pokemon-ultra-sun-and-ultra-moon-trailer-shows-rainbow-rocket/ Fri, 03 Nov 2017 01:16:45 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20255 The Pokémon Company has released a new trailer for Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, showing a couple more details on the games. There is much in these games that will keep players enthralled, particularly with the rise of Rainbow Rocket. This team is built from leaders of all previous evil teams: Giovanni, Archie, Maxie, Ghetsis, and Lysandre. All these characters have come together to fulfill some master plan. It may be assumed that this will be a post-game quest akin to Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire‘s Delta Episode, although the trailer does not make that clear.

The new trailer also showed off the Battle Agency, a location akin to the Battle Factory in Pokémon Emerald where you rent Pokémon and battle with them in one-on-one battles. This facility will allow you to battle powerful trainers and earn rare items.

The newest feature is the Totem Stickers, which can be found all over Alola. The trailer suggests that you can get totem-sized Pokémon, but it is unclear exactly how this will work.

Finally, you will able to catch every non-event legendary in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon. They will be available by traveling through Ultra Wormholes, allowing you to acquire everything from the Regis to Xerneus.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon will be a definitive Pokémon game experience. We will see for certain when the game arrives November 17. For now you can check out all the cool new things in the trailer below:

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Sony Reveals PlayStation Plus Games for November http://gameluster.com/sony-reveals-playstation-plus-games-for-november/ Fri, 03 Nov 2017 00:53:29 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20249 Sony has unveiled the games that will come to PlayStation Plus in November. Past months have been active, with major games such as Until Dawn, Infamous: Second Son, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but November is a quieter month from Sony.

On the PS4, you will be getting Worms Battlegrounds. For those who don’t know the franchise, the games are set on a 2D plane and use a turn-based style where you try to eliminate another team with a variety of weaponry. PS4 owners will also get Bound, a rhythmic platformer where all your movements occur in the form of dance. Though a dance game, it has a deep narrative if you choose to explore it.

PS3 owners will be getting R-Type Dimensions, a classic side-scrolling shoot-em-up from 1998 (released in arcades and on the original PlayStation) repacked with updated graphics and both installments in the R-Type franchise. The other game is Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fist of the Plastic. In this game you play as a string puppet and control its arms, legs and the like as you fight enemies; the game has been related to playing with action figures.

Finally Vita owners will get Dungeon Punks (also available through cross-buy with PS4). This game is an old-school arcade beat-em-up that features tag-team fighting and a full RPG-style adventure. Vita owners also get Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse, a throwback to the series’ origins focusing on 2D graphics. The game has a point-and-click interface to guide your protagonists on their journey to solve the mystery of a cursed painting.

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Editor’s Corner: My Kind of Haunted House http://gameluster.com/editors-corner-my-kind-of-haunted-house/ Tue, 31 Oct 2017 21:24:46 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20186 I love haunted houses.

As a kid, seeing haunted house movies or the haunted house episodes of television series was a treat, and still is. Favorites include the original version of The Haunting and The Dick Van Dyke Show’s “The Ghost of A. Chantz.”

I love the setups: a psychologist gathers a group together to spend the night in a haunted house; someone has placed money on a bet that they could not stay in one; the audio or video tape of someone who had spent the night in a haunted house, and is now dead, has been found; and so on. The suspense in these is delicious.

In real life, I am fascinated by old houses with layers of history embedded within. When I toured Hearst Castle as a child, I thought of being alone in the house, and of all the secret passages and hidden rooms that must be tucked away. My brother told me about an abandoned, haunted seminary at the college we attended. I walked the campus at night, tempted to walk to it and to see if I could find a way in.

Haunted houses spook me and all of us because we don’t know what lurks around the corner. We never see anything – we only hear things and imagine what they might be. It’s akin to fear of the dark. What scares us about an old, empty house is our imagination.

I don’t like haunted houses filled with jump scares, monsters, and blood and gore. These elements have their place, and if done measuredly can be effective, as in Amnesia: The Dark Descent. But more often than not the effective haunted house for me is the one where you hardly if ever see anything scary or gross; the one that plays with your mind by suggesting things, never showing them, relying on atmosphere, noise, and sudden movements or changes in objects.

Games provide matchless haunted house experiences. I don’t think movies or television shows come close. Games make you explore creepy places. In film, you may sympathize with the victims trapped in a haunted place for a night, but you only watch – they take the actions. In games, the player must act. A horror game experience may stop indefinitely on the pause screen if the player so wishes. If you’re a scaredy-cat, you can’t experience the game.

Gamers have their favorites: Resident Evil and Silent Hill are obvious ones, though they may not qualify as straight haunted house experiences, especially the latter. But I want to write about my personal favorites: missions from the Thief series.

The Thief games put the player in the role of Garrett, an independent thief. You crouch in shadows and hide from enemies. You’re a fly on the wall and want to avoid confrontation. The games use immersive environments very well, with excellent audio in both ambient noise and creature and object sound effects. The Thief formula is a very effective foundation for horror.

Fans of the Thief franchise remember the original’s Return to the Cathedral mission, set in a long-abandoned haunted cathedral in a walled-off section of the game’s city setting. The suspense leading up to the level, the sense of dread when starting it, and the frightening undead enemies within, who laugh maniacally if they see you, make it a classic.

Rose Cottage is a fan-made mission by Through the Looking Glass member Saturnine for Thief II. It was uploaded to the Through the Looking Glass “Thief Fan Missions” board in Halloween of 2009, and is a classic haunted house experience.

It’s my kind of haunted house because the emphasis is on atmosphere. There are jump scares, but none are cheap, and each is interwoven into the experience.

You play as a paranormal investigator who must determine the cause of a haunting at the Hollow Lane Mortuary. The atmosphere is heavy as soon as you start. Journal entries, pictures, objects, and sounds do most of the storytelling, though NPCs play a small part halfway through. Clever, sudden movements of objects – such as mannequins that “follow” you, or a reappearing doll – are some of the highlights.

Rose Cottage must be played to be understood. It’s the game experience closest to the classic, suspense and atmosphere driven haunted house experience. Check out the video below to get a taste, but if you ever plan on playing it, you may not want to watch all of it, to leave it unspoiled.

The only Thief mission close to Rose Cottage is Thief: Deadly Shadows’ “Robbing the Cradle.” Set in an abandoned health institution that housed an orphanage and an insane asylum during its life, the Cradle is a building filled with tortured memories. Like Rose Cottage, this mission relies on atmosphere and suspense.

Thief series’ audio genius Eric Brosius composed a brilliant soundscape for this mission, and the designers gave it a chilling, decayed look. You begin the mission looking up towards the charred edifice – a great fire is what rendered the Cradle inactive – as several noises fill the air: a hollow wind, a subtle growl, the buzz of flies, a crow’s shriek, and an indistinct trumpet playing a pitiful tune.

After entering the building through a cellar door, a new cacophony of disturbing noises fills the air. You hear a mix of children’s laughter, cries for help, pained screams, and ghostly voices. Meanwhile, you’re taking in a desolate interior with consistent décor in the form of angel faces that now don’t seem anything pleasant, if they ever did in the first place. There are additionally specific noises that jump out and, in turn, make you jump: the opening of a door behind you or the pounding on another door as you approach it.

The Cradle continues with several disturbed stories involving the asylum’s inmates and the Cradle staff’s unethical practices. It’s one of the best first-person horror experiences and one of the Thief series’ most memorable. You may see some of it below, but, as with the above Rose Cottage video, if you ever plan on playing it, you may want to save it.

The Thief games operate on a design that sets the ideal foundation for horror experiences. Rose Cottage and “Robbing the Cradle” are perfect haunted house experiences that demonstrate this and that video games offer more effective horror experiences than other media. They let you explore and interact with places, a crucial feature of a great haunted house.

The videos used are from my project “Evangelizing Thief”, found at thiefdesign.blogspot.com and morethiefdesign.blogspot.com.

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Erica Announced for Playstation 4 http://gameluster.com/erica-announced-for-playstation-4/ Tue, 31 Oct 2017 18:22:16 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20172 Full motion video is re-surging in the video game market. These types of games may have gone away for a while, but it seems you can’t keep a potentially interesting game style down.

The latest in this line of games is Erica, a game that blends live-action set pieces and storytelling with player input. What sets this game apart is how the developers at Flavourworks are working to change the way we play these types of games.

This game will use the PlayStation 4’s PlayLink feature, wherein you use the touchscreen from a mobile device to interact  with the game world, from brushing steam off a mirror to how heavily you open a door. According to the developers, Erica will even react if you open a door too fast or she thinks it may have been too loud.

Ultimately, Erica is built for the player to feel like they are watching a film but with control in places, something that is perfect for bigger groups who can discuss the correct course of action. The full extent of how we interact with the gameworld is unknown.

Erica tells the story of its namesake protagonist, who is contacted by an old family friend to help solve a murder case that may tie back to a traumatic event in her childhood. But the killer is also contacting Erica for reasons unknown; in the end the voice you choose to follow will alter the story.

Erica seems to follow Quantic Dream’s style of game with a live-action twist and some ideas that might change the way we approach games in the future.

You can check out the announcement trailer for Erica and a developer interview below:

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The Red Strings Club Reveal Trailer http://gameluster.com/the-red-strings-club-reveal-trailer/ Tue, 31 Oct 2017 18:12:11 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20181 Devolver Digital will be bringing a point-and-click thriller, The Red Strings Club, to PC in January.

Boasting some truly gorgeous pixel art, the game is a cyberpunk narrative experience about fate and happiness, with a side order of corporate conspiracy.

Developer Deconstructeam first swept the indie scene in 2014 with their debut hit Gods Will Be Watching, gaining critical acclaim for its gritty narrative and unorthodox approach to the point-and-click genre. Since then, the team has continued their work with notable entries in game jam competitions, several of these ideas coming together to assemble The Red Strings Club.

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Shadow of the Colossus Coming to PlayStation 4 in February http://gameluster.com/shadow-of-the-colossus-coming-to-playstation-4-in-february/ Tue, 31 Oct 2017 18:02:37 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20141 E3 brought many surprises to the PlayStation community and among the biggest was the out-of-left-field reveal of Shadow of the Colossus for the PlayStation 4. The PS2 classic, originally developed by Team Ico, was one of the best games of its generation, and dealt with moral conflicts before that was a common trend.

During its Paris Games Week presentation, Sony showed off the remaster running in 4K resolution through the PS4 Pro. While the initial reveal only pointed to a 2018 release, Sony has now confirmed that Shadow of the Colossus will head to the PS4 on February 6.

The remaster is being handled by Japan Studio (Gravity Rush 2, The Last Guardian) and Bluepoint Games (Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Gravity Rush Remastered) in a collaborative effort.

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New Detroit: Become Human Trailer Features Kara’s Gameplay http://gameluster.com/new-detroit-become-human-trailer-features-karas-gameplay/ Tue, 31 Oct 2017 00:17:04 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20146 Back in 2015 during Paris Games Week, Sony and Quantic Dream revealed what the Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls studio had been working on. This was Detroit: Become Human, a game that casts players in the role of an android in a world where androids are merely tools for people. Among the most interesting parts in this trailer was Kara, an instantly likable character who just wants to live equally in a world where her beliefs are deemed wrong.

After two years and the reveal of two other playable characters, Connor, Marcus, and Kara returned to the screen, this time in a trailer focused on one of the difficult choices Kara will face.

The trailer took place in the home of Todd Williams, a single father to a daughter, Alice. Here Kara acts as a housekeeper who was previously reprogrammed by Todd. Part of the reason for this was to hide the seedy side of Todd’s unstable relationship with Alice, but after an argument with Alice, the trailer showed one way the story could play out, with Todd committing an horrific act. However, actions could have proceeded differently, and the game will have you make a slew of choices affecting the story and the fates of Kara and Alice.

Much like Heavy Rain, your character can die through a series of bad choices, and the story will progress without them.

Sony has not yet confirmed a release date for Detroit: Become Human, but it is slated for 2018.

Check out the new trailer below:

Image: Games On Lock

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Perception Comes to Switch this Halloween http://gameluster.com/perception-comes-to-switch-this-halloween/ Mon, 30 Oct 2017 23:39:28 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20101 Perception arrived on most major platforms in May, bringing a unique horror experience to fans of the genre.

The game is now coming to the Switch, and Deep End Games chose the perfect time for its release: Halloween. The release date is the same in both Europe and North America, and it will sell for 14.99 USD.

For those yet to play it, in Perception you are a blind woman and the gameworld is only visible in outlines and minuscule details. You are forced to use sound as your guide to survive the adversary hunting you.

This version is the enhanced one. Those who own the game on other platforms will get this version in a free update. The original game will still be available, under the “spooky” mode, but there will now also be a harder “scary” mode that sets players back to the beginning of the game with each death. There will be a story mode where death will not occur at all, allowing players to explore without concern for game over.

In a discussion with Eurogamer, the developers talked about addressing feedback. They shared details on how they worked to offer balance changes, such as new checkpoints and an overhauled warning system, among other adjustments. You can read the full developer’s discussion here.

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New The Last of Us Part II Trailer Shown at Paris Games Week http://gameluster.com/new-the-last-of-us-part-ii-trailer-shown-at-paris-games-week/ Mon, 30 Oct 2017 22:52:50 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20122 Paris Games Week is on and Sony’s presentation was filled with big reveals, trailers and announcements. The game that continues to catch the most attention is The Last of Us Part II.

The newest trailer is a departure from what fans expected to see. Unlike last year’s focus on Joel and Ellie in the aftermath of some event that led Ellie down a dark path, this trailer chose to focus on new characters. The trailer begins with a woman being dragged along by a small group of raiders and quickly put on the hanging block.

During this time, another girl is captured for information on an Apostate and promptly has her arm broken by a hammer.

The trailer ends with the two defeating their captors before being swarmed by a bunch of clickers.

First thing to note is that the trailer is pretty brutal and will make you feel uncomfortable. Next is that these people’s identities are a mystery. The focus seems to be on the older woman, who is speculated to be a much older Ellie, or her mother, though that is unlikely considering the original game implies she is dead. Could this be what sets Ellie off in The Last of Us Part II? It’s hard to say, but this trailer raises interesting questions as we try to connect the dots between both trailers shown for the game.

Check out the trailer below, but you may not want to if you are a little squeamish – it does get tough to watch in places.

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Five Games for Halloween http://gameluster.com/five-games-for-halloween/ Mon, 30 Oct 2017 22:40:13 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20116 Halloween is about fear and the essence of dressing in creepy costumes and going door-to-door in an attempt to receive sugary treats. But if you are too old for that, then the best thing to do is settle in for a night of television specials, horror films, or spooky video games.

For my night, I would choose video games. Exploring a horror game builds a greater amount of tension than viewing a movie. Here are five games I recommend you play this Halloween, though I don’t recommend trying to play all of them in one night.

Project Zero/Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
Platform: Wii U

Hands up, who remembers that the Wii U got a horror game? No one’s hand went up? I can’t blame you. Maiden of Black Water isn’t widely known. Even among the limited number of Wii U owners, this was merely a blip on the radar thanks to a poor release (America only got the game digitally, Europe and Australia got retail), and yet this was a fantastic game. I remember rushing to my closest EB Games on October 31 back in 2015 (yes, this game came out on Halloween), and I was excited to see what new adventure the Wii U would bring me. Little did I know how interesting I would find this game.

This is the fifth instalment in the Project Zero/Fatal Frame franchise, focusing on Mt. Hikami, a well-known suicide spot in fictional Japan. You can already tell this mountain isn’t exactly a happy place, but we end up coming here a lot. For various reasons we explore many parts of the mountain, often facing the malevolent spirits that stand in our path. The greatest threat of them all is a Shrine Maiden who wants one of the main characters; they say once you go there you are constantly lured back. The story was well executed, and the gamepad acting as the Camera Obscurus—which was your only means of defense against ghosts—was a brilliant mechanic.

This game needs more light shone on it and I highly recommend checking it out. It is quite unsettling and a great way to spend Halloween night.

Among the Sleep
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

There are many ways you can make a horror game creepy, and one of the most popular methods is making the player weak, as in Among the Sleep. What makes Among the Sleep more effective as a horror game is the weakness paired with the player’s own emotional state; playing as a toddler is an unsettling idea. How often do you play as a young child in a horror game? I don’t find many instances and this makes Among the Sleep such a challenge.

You want to protect a child and don’t think that a child would end up in the situation you are in during this game. As this kid, you have no protection against that which hunts you. Your teddy bear can be used as a light source and comfort mechanism, but it rarely helps fend off threats. Your only advantage is your size, which can help you avoid danger by ducking under objects, but you still feel weak against the constant threats of the monster that follows you.

Among the Sleep is a powerful horror game that builds tension through its character and dark undertone as you piece together the greater narrative that might involve death or abuse. It’s worth playing this as it makes even a playground feel uncomfortable.

Emily Wants to Play
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One, Mobile

Among the PlayStation 4’s game library, Emily Wants to Play is a very obscure but also very enjoyable horror game. This game casts you in the role of a pizza delivery man doing his job as he ends up in the mad house of Emily and is forced to play a game that determines whether he lives or dies. What makes this game enjoyable is the anticipation of the night; you are given one note to the events of the game. At midnight the game begins, and before then you are free to wander the house, learning its layout and attempting to find the flashlight you will need for later hours.

This particular time is unsettling; here you meet all that will antagonize you during the night. Emily and her dolls appear around the house and quickly disappear already leaving you unsettled before the clock chimes for midnight. Then the games begin and you quickly have to learn how the dolls play or die. These mini games get harder as times goes on, and juggling several games at once can be difficult, especially if you haven’t found the flashlight.

Emily Wants to Play is a very deep horror game that requires plenty of thought and is great for a couple hours of nervous scares.

Home: A Unique Horror Adventure
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC, Mobile

Home will be the most obscure game in this list because of the nature of the game itself. This is a budget title. It didn’t cost much and utilizes a 2D art style to tell an interesting mystery narrative.

Guess what? You have amnesia. Ignoring the fact that this stands as one of gaming’s most overplayed tropes, it is effective in telling the story of Home as you set out to find your way home. You will slowly find your things as you explore, but you’ll also start to unravel a greater mystery that draws into question what you did on this night that you can’t remember.

Technically this is not a horror game, despite what the game’s full title suggests, but is an interesting story. The horror comes from the fear of what you did and trying to unravel that mystery; the game keeps you guessing. It even ultimately allows you to understand how much you want to know. Haven’t picked up a lot of the items you come across to piece together the story? That is fine – sometimes the horror of your own actions can be the worst nightmare.

Neverending Nightmares

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PC, OUYA

There are multiple ways you can make a horror game, but I think the smartest way to create one is by relating the game to real-world problems and personal struggles. That is Neverending Nightmares in a nutshell. This game took the developer’s battles with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder and reflected that in the world and the character crafted within. The core principal of its design was focused on capturing the feeling of bleakness and hopelessness, which is perfectly captured within its dark and dreary art style.

The game features three different ending to explore, and whatever happens to you in your never-ending nightmare changes the story. The game keeps you on your toes as it gets progressively darker and the monsters you come across become increasingly more disturbing.

Neverending Nightmares is a confusing game but thrives building on its ideas and taking close and personal problems that many of us face and explaining them in an easy-to-understand manner. It’s pretty good as a horror game that keeps you on edge through its dark and sinister atmosphere.

There you have it – my recommendations for games you should play this Halloween. What picks would you want to play? Have your own recommendations? Let me know in the comments below. It is always fun to find some obscure horror game or experience a big-name horror franchise for the first time.

 

 

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Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review http://gameluster.com/danganronpa-v3-killing-harmony-review/ Sat, 28 Oct 2017 21:32:58 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20075 The Danganronpa series started out as a cult hit, its first release a PS Vita exclusive. Since then, it’s rapidly grown in popularity. At present there are three core games, two anime adaptations, and a spin-off title. I’ve been a fan of the series since the first release and have played all core releases, including the latest, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, and loved every minute of it.

Danganronpa V3, as a narrative-based game, was very difficult to review. Normally with such a title I would discuss the characters and the plot in-depth. Unfortunately, I’m rather limited here due to Danganronpa’s premise, which guarantees that characters die frequently, and I’d rather avoid spoilers.

Each of the game’s sixteen student characters are “Ultimates,” which essentially means they’re a prodigy in some particular regard. These talents include Ultimate Detective, Ultimate Inventor, and Ultimate Cosplayer. All are forced to participate in a “high school killing game” by the series’ antagonist and mascot Monokuma, a robotic bear.

The aforementioned Ultimates wake up in a sealed building modeled after a high school and are informed by Monokuma that the only way to escape is by getting away with murder. Essentially, to win this game, players have to kill another player. After a killing takes place, all the participants investigate, searching for clues as to who committed the murder, and then the group goes to trial. If the killer, known as the blackened, is convicted, they are executed. These executions are displayed via animated cutscenes, and appear abstract, grotesque, and graphic. If, on the other hand, you convict the wrong person, the blackened goes free, and all other participants are executed. According to Danganronpa’s premise, the game goes on like this until only two participants remain.

Each of Danganronpa’s six chapters can roughly be broken down into a three-phase cycle.

The first phase is “school life,” essentially visual novel meets social sim. You explore the school, which has new areas open as the game progresses, interact with other characters individually and in groups, and view events that occur to advance the plot. This is the longest phase and, in my experience, takes around five hours.

The next phase, investigation, is point-and-click, where you and the other characters investigate a murder and gather clues. This is the shortest phase, typically being one or two hours.

Lastly is the Class Trial phase, which weaves visual novel narrative with arcade-style gameplay. Basically, players have to solve a number of puzzles, perform complex reasoning, and pull off gameplay feats all at the same time. This phase took approximately three hours in my experience. In all, Danganronpa V3 took me about fifty hours to complete.

Danganronpa does a beautiful job of fusing disparate elements and feels like nothing you’ve ever played before. The closest comparison is the Ace Attorney series, but the adult subject matter and tone, larger cast, additional gameplay elements, and superior production values present in Danganronpa make it a unique experience. If, on the other hand, you’ve played a previous Danganronpa game, then you know roughly what you’re getting; the game’s formula is more or less the same. I find it easy to overlook this given how strong the title’s plot is.

Danganronpa’s characters are a quirky lot. The game casts you as Kaede Akamatsu, the Ultimate Pianist, or, as she calls herself, “the piano freak.” One character, Angie Yonaga, is considered the Ultimate Artist, but perhaps would be better as the Ultimate Cult-Leader. Angie believes in a god called Atua to a fanatical degree, and she advocates this faith among the other students. The Ultimate Inventor, Miu Iruma, is obsessed with profanity and the obscene, and most of her inventions have something to do with this.

Then there’s Kokichi Oma, the Ultimate Supreme Leader, a textbook case of antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) and pathological liar. Kokichi is child-like in behavior and appearance, and is an enthusiastic participant in Monokuma’s killing game.

Speaking as a psychology student, whoever wrote Kokichi’s character must have had a copy of the DSM-5 open in their lap because the psychology underpinning this character and others is excellent. It’s characters like these and the interactions between them that make Danganronpa so enjoyable.

There’s also amusing pop-culture references spread throughout the game. At one point a character stated, “This is the year of the Jets! F— the Patriots!” (As a resident of New Jersey, this is a sentiment I support whole-heartedly. F— the Patriots indeed.)

Danganronpa is clearly an anime video game. Some will find this a draw, others less so. The game incorporates anime tropes, and there’s definitely a slice-of-life feel to some character interactions and themes of trust and friendship. That said, the game is as much a parody of anime as an anime video game itself. Consider K1-B0, the Ultimate Robot with average intellect and subpar athleticism. Let’s just say he won’t be giving One-Punch Man’s Genos any competition.

Danganronpa also has a strong, cynical side to it, as it points out regularly that people would have to be pretty messed up to voluntarily spectate or participate in the killing game (or, perhaps, play it).

I have only one negative criticism of Danganronpa V3: the voice acting, specifically the amount of it. Danganronpa is not fully voiced, and some of its lines, including core narrative content, are unread. Obviously, many other games do this, but I’m opposed to it when a game can afford to do otherwise. Danganronpa’s voice actors were quite good, and with how much money the series has made, the developers, Spike Chunsoft, could have afforded to make the game fully voiced, especially considering that voice acting is typically not expensive.

Some readers may be familiar with the phrase “hard PG-13” that refers to movies that are a hair shy of an R rating. Danganronpa V3 is, to my eyes, a hard M because it uses explicit words and phrases I’ve never seen in video games before, and I’ve seen more than my fair share. I’m not criticizing the game for its use of profanity; I think it was implemented in a clever way. Certain characters spew profanities, others are quite mild mannered by comparison. I felt that the use of profanity made Danganronpa’s characters more believable, but in case anyone is averse to this sort of content, buyer beware.

Having finished Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, I am immensely satisfied by the experience. Its easily one of my favorite games of the year, and with Nier: Automata and Persona 5 as competition that’s saying a lot.

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony comfortably earns a 9.5 out of 10. It’s my second-favorite Danganronpa title after the first entry and further justifies my interest in the series. I’ll be awaiting the next one enthusiastically and, in the meantime, recommend this entry highly.

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Fire Emblem Warriors Review http://gameluster.com/fire-emblem-warriors-review/ Fri, 27 Oct 2017 00:41:18 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20040 In the world of video game crossovers, none seemed stranger then Hyrule Warriors back in 2014. Koei Tecmo took the fantasy adventures of Zelda and merged it with the Warriors franchise, a fast-paced hack-and-slash series that had players fighting to take forts and complete missions against waves of enemies. These two franchises seemed worlds apart, but it worked. Hyrule Warriors was a fun and frantic change to the traditional Zelda franchise, offering a different type of experience for Zelda fans.

Fast forward to 2017, and Koei Tecmo is at it again. They have a license from Nintendo and have built it into a brawler. This time we enter the world of Fire Emblem, a great fit for the war aesthetic. Fire Emblem Warriors is a wonderful twist on the series with a nice change of pace and some thoughtful changes to the Warriors brand.

Similar to their work with Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem Warriors brings a brand new story to the world of Fire Emblem, and this time the difference is the focus on two original characters as opposed to franchise characters. Hyrule Warriors did feature original characters, but the story still focused on Link. Fire Emblem Warriors focuses on Rowan and Lianna.

Twins Rowan and Lianna are the prince and princess of the kingdom of Aytollis, and are forced into a war to save their kingdom when the Chaos Dragon sends the land into turmoil. In doing this, the twins must seek out the gleamstones, mystical gems carried by heroes, to restore the shield of flames and gain the power to destroy the Chaos Dragon. As part of the Chaos Dragon’s doing, heroes from various Fire Emblem games end up in Aytollis working with the twins to help them grow and save their kingdom.

This brings many fan-favorite characters into the fray, such as Marth from the original Fire Emblem, Chrom, Robin, and Lucina from Awakening, and the entire royal families from Fire Emblem Fates. All these characters seek to put aside their differences to help stop the greater threat that has whisked them away from home. The coolest thing about this is seeing characters that generally hate each other in Fates work together so happily. Hearing the casual comments of Xander and Ryoma as they team up to take down a big enemy is wonderful.

Sadly, this does mean that many characters were left out of Fire Emblem Warriors. Some of them do show up in the main story but they only have connections to the games previously mentioned, although some other characters such as Echoes‘ Celica are available through the game’s history mode. Unfortunately, fan favorites such as Ike are left out of the fray, not even being included in future additional content, which may be disappointing to some players considering the abundance of Fates characters in the game.

The gameplay of Fire Emblem Warriors is a huge departure for the franchise. Warriors switches out Fire Emblems’ staple turn-based tactical gameplay for fast-paced hack-and-slash. It isn’t as bad as it sounds; this move is refreshing for the franchise, offering a different way of play and providing an approach that will appeal to a slightly different demographic.

Fire Emblem Warriors revolves around large-scale battles, and you often find yourself surrounded by hundreds of foes that you must tear through. While fighting through foes you will often need to take keeps to gain control of the battlefield, and eventually  you’ll have to defeat a major boss.

During each mission, events happen that will often require you to take a character and slice through huge enemies to save a random person, or to close a portal that powers the boss and summons more enemies.

There is a great sense of camaraderie because, like in recent Fire Emblem titles, you can have characters pair up to topple bigger foes. Your partner character can block hits as well as preform massive combination attacks when the respective warrior bars are filled up from fighting. It’s satisfying to see this bar fill up and then have two characters unleash a devastating attack on a giant foe that makes even the weakest character seem powerful.

At its core, Fire Emblem Warriors is simple, but it is a lot more than button mashing through waves of foes. Its premise is expanded through the use of a major Fire Emblem mechanic: the weapon triangle. This mechanic alone makes enemies more difficult to take down if you aren’t using the right weapon to counter them. For those unfamiliar with Fire Emblem‘s weapon triangle, it is as simple as sword beats axe, axe beats lance, and lance beats sword. It’s possible to beat an enemy that resists your character’s weapons, but it’s often harder with reduced damage opportunities and more damage taken.

This is where another mechanic is most welcome: Hyrule Warriors’ 3DS incarnation introduced the power to switch characters on the battlefield, and Fire Emblem Warriors carries this over. Most battles allow you to have four characters on the field which you can control, allowing you to balance a team around the enemy situation. Using the pre-battle outlook, you can see what enemies will be on the battlefield and which weapon types will have advantages and where. Through this you can plan the characters you use, balancing out your team with a character of each type as well as a magic user or archer who hold their own advantages on the battlefield.

Being able to switch on the go is really helpful to avoid needlessly putting a character in harm’s way, especially when some missions fail if certain characters fall. As such, the game gives you chances for tactical opportunities – it is based on a strategy game, after all. Not only do you control characters directly but you may order them to certain positions. All major characters may be sent to different points on the battlefield, which help you take over keeps and control the battlefield. The strategic options change the game and make Fire Emblem Warriors a better experience.

You can move characters out of harm’s way when they stupidly take on a boss they aren’t prepared for, or tell them to guard or heal another character. This option feels in line with Fire Emblem‘s typically strategic approach as you play tactician in the middle of battle directing your troops to their optimal location. Even jumping to this screen mid-fight doesn’t break the flow; it arguably builds more momentum as you know characters are off helping where they are needed.

Warriors also uses another classic Fire Emblem mechanic: when a character dies in Classic Mode, they’re permanently dead. Having Classic Mode adds a level of complexity to each battle as you fight to maintain your characters’ lives by not letting them fall on the battlefield. This makes battle tougher but all the more satisfying when each character survives a tough fight. Although players can choose to play the game in Casual Mode where characters fall in the battle and return for the next, it is nice to have an option that adds real challenge to the already difficult gameplay.

Outside of the story there is the much lengthier History Mode. This mode allows for choice of battle and has brilliant nostalgic art. You play on maps reminiscent of previous Fire Emblem games and see the standard sprite art that represents the main character of the battle while you choose from a series of different fights, moving towards the goal. Better yet, these are lengthy campaigns that you may use any character you have unlocked in, making some fights much easier.

History mode brings great campaigns to players with varying battles with an assortment of different goals. In some missions you are focused on capturing forts while maintaining control of your main one, while in others you are trying to take down as many enemies as possible within the time limit. The variation keeps this mode refreshing as you move toward completion. This is where Fire Emblem Warrior‘s long-term enjoyment is found – take the skills you learned in the campaign and work toward completing historical wars in the Fire Emblem franchise.

Fire Emblem Warriors takes the framework of the Warriors franchise and expands upon it with attributes familiar to Fire Emblem fans. The fact that the developers decided to focus on building more strategy within the gameplay as well as add the weapon triangle makes this one of the most enjoyable Warriors games to date. The Fire Emblem universe serves the game well.

If you own a Nintendo Switch get Fire Emblem Warriors, whether you like Fire Emblem, the Warriors franchise, or even dislike both, this is not a game to miss. Fun definitely comes in waves.

This review is of the Nintendo Switch version only. Fire Emblem Warriors is also available on the New Nintendo 3DS.

The first and third screenshots are from Heavy.Com. The second is from Dualshockers. The fourth is from Nintendo Wire.

 

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South Park: The Fractured But Whole Review http://gameluster.com/south-park-the-fractured-but-whole-review/ Wed, 25 Oct 2017 04:47:32 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=19975 In 2014, Ubisoft released what would go on to be considered one of the greatest licensed video games in South Park: The Stick of Truth. With the assistance of the South Park creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the developers at Obsidian Entertainment proved they understood the source material and built a classic, faithful game. Most fans of the franchise could agree Stick of Truth was rude, crude, but everything we wanted from a South Park game. They had struck gold.

It didn’t take long for Ubisoft to reveal the game’s sequel, which was met with excitement but also caution. For one, Ubisoft was handling the game on its own, attempting to build on the framework made by Obsidian, and there was also concern whether Stick of Truth was a one-hit wonder. After playing through The Fractured But Whole, it’s safe to say that the game is great fun but never tops the work of the original.

The Fractured But Whole may have taken three years to arrive, but in the land of South Park it has been about a day since the last game. The sequel starts with the remnants of the fantasy adventure from Stick of Truth and introduces us to the new combat system when Cartman, dressed as his superhero persona, The Coon, calls it quits with the fantasy adventure and declares they are now playing superheroes. Their objective: find a missing cat to receive a $100 reward.

The general story plays out as a war between the two superhero factions Coon and Friends and The Freedom Pals. These two groups are at war over making a billion-dollar superhero franchise. In typical South Park fashion, the story goes much deeper. With the adults in town being useless, the boys are left to stop the rise of a powerful crime syndicate that is threatening to change South Park.

While playing through this game it was hard not to compare it with Stick of Truth. The similar premise of an almost town-wide game of make-believe still works really well, and playing superheroes opens the town up to new story potential. While the story never reaches the same memorable high points of Stick of Truth and its over the top humour, it tells an enjoyable tale with many twists and turns. There are moments where the story will shock or surprise you, and make you laugh with how awkward things may get.

There are weaker elements in the story, such as the war between Coon and Friends and the Freedom Pals. It’s disappointing that the game does not allow you to choose a side in this civil war. Overall the story is too linear and forces you to follow a path rather than make a choice.

As for the main game, you explore South Park and take varying quests from residents. Most missions come from the superheroes who tie in with the main story, though side missions also crop up, some with a greater connection to the main story and some that are throwaway. These include assisting the police with taking down a “drug kingpin,” or helping Cartman’s mother with her “tutoring” business. Other quests in the game involve searching the town for certain reference items, akin to the previous game’s Chinpokomon. In this game you search for yaoi art from the “Tweek X Craig” episode of the show, some of which can get pretty disturbing considering they are children.

The most important change in Fractured But Whole is the combat system. This is where at least half the game takes place and it changes dramatically from the style of Stick of Truth. It makes sense within the story: the boys of South Park decided to change the rules of combat, moving the game from a traditional form of stationary turn-based JRPG to a grid-based system. In combat characters move around the battlefield and launch attacks based on enemy distance and attack style.

Most battles feature four characters under your control with you working out the best position to place each character in to deal damage to the enemies while avoiding harm as much as possible. This is where Fractured But Whole thrives. While the change in the battle system is a shock, the more thoughtful and involved approach grows on you. Each battle feels like a puzzle that needs to be solved. Bad character placement will lose the fight. You need to pay attention to the enemy’s positioning to keep your characters out of harm’s way that may come in the next turn or three turns later.

With this battle system you need to be aware of every character on the field, learning your enemy’s varying tactics and how each of the playable characters can harness their skills to win. At times you can lose a fight because you entered with a team that wasn’t fit for a battle’s goal, or the characters didn’t quite match the moves you had planned.

In fact battles really change based on your team make-up. Through the game you unlock access to many key characters from the show and their superhero persona, and each character offers different skills that change the way you approach a fight. Where some characters need to be right in front of an enemy for their attacks, others rely on distance, and so before most fights (unless otherwise told) you need to determine the characters that will fit best for the situation.

This brings us to Fractured But Whole’s class system. Akin to classic RPGs or Stick of Truth, there are variety of classes you can choose from which will affect battles. Unlike Stick of Truth, you won’t spend the game relegated to the class you chose at the start of the game. Instead you are granted new classes throughout the game. This follows common archetypes such as Blaster and Brawler as well as a variety of similar superhero types such as an Elementalist, Psychic, or Speedster. There is a wide variety available which can change how you fight in battles with more being added over the course of the game. Which do you prefer? Vulnerable close combat? Long-distance attacks? Or perhaps a more protective approach? With the additional classes you pick through the game you are able to blend attacks from the classes to choose your particular style. Three attacks are available on a general basis with one ultimate move ready when a bar fills up.

Each of these types fit in with one of the game’s characters and leads to a big decision of how each character will affect the battle. You can never get too comfortable with a team as different situations call for different allies. More importantly certain characters are forced into battles for story missions, making it so you need to learn characters’ move sets to assist you in battle. Sometimes you need a focus on characters with knockback, other times it is helpful to have characters who can provide status effects such as bleed or burning.

The enemies you face in the game fit with the idea of the show. Among the main enemy types are sixth grade bullies or the Raisins girls, who are essentially the child version of the Hooters restaurant. You also face Rednecks who hate you for your self-identification, Chaos minions who work for Butters’ alter ego, Professor Chaos, and even Crab People. There are a lot of enemy types throughout the game that bring plenty of difference to how each battle plays out, keeping you on your toes with their varied techniques.

Outside of battle you improve your character’s capabilities through an artifacts system. As you play through the game you find varying artifacts (a variety of show references) which can be equipped, and you pick one that will adjust your base skills such as power or movement ability. Other bonuses occur through this system that benefit your battle team with health boosts across the board, better knockback damage, or even status effect damage. Artifact slots are unlocked as you level up, and you need to constantly change the ones you use as you progress to even stand a chance in the later game. They build up your general statistics as well as your team’s Might (a point that is directly related to your power for taking on missions in South Park).

Returning to the town of South Park is welcome, even being back in this universe is great. Much like playing Stick of Truth, it was fun to wander the town and see many of the iconic locations, and this game does this well with all the new inclusions. Many South Park areas were added for the sake of the story that failed to be included in the original game, and many of the new areas from the show’s more recent run also appear.

While not all references will hit some players, especially those who have not watched the more recent episodes, it was still great to see some of the changes made to the town that fit with the show’s changes. The developers could have kept the same town from Stick of Truth, but it would have been a disservice to the show. These changed areas were among the most interesting to explore.

A point of contention is that the town never thrives in the same manner. Because we already did it, South Park is not as exciting to explore, and the characters within the original locations aren’t as alive.

A point which will also annoy players is the lack of freedom in the town. It takes a while before the entire town becomes open, and though it is explained through story means it is annoying not being able to explore everywhere. You are at the mercy of having to do so much before you can finally explore everything that open-world South Park allows.

Another point to make against the game is the terrible load time. To continue referencing Stick of Truth, there were load times in the game, but any you came across were barely noticeable. In this game you come across load times much more – you can barely walk a couple of screens before having to sit through a lengthy load screen. This completely slows the pace of the game.

On a lighter note, The Fractured But Whole thrives with humour. While not every joke lands, for reasons of key references or just being bad, most are pretty funny. Jokes such as your backstory are so stupid it’s funny, like the bizarre line that closes out the game, or the goal of genetic manipulation and how it is used for pointless reasons. At least ninety percent of the game will have you laughing its sheer randomness. You will laugh at combat with the mechanic of macroaggressions (a show reference), where someone will say something offensive to a race or that has generally rude implications allowing you to freely hit them. Every time this popped up in combat it was hilarious, especially with the sound clip that accompanies it.

Your powers of gassy proportion also return. While exploring South Park and doing major story quests, you regularly find a problem that your powerful flatulence can solve. Some of this involves working with other characters to solve problems such as removing “lava” or getting to high-up places with the Human Kite. The greater power from your powerful gas is the ability to affect time, and one ability allows you to briefly rewind time to restore key items or remove objects from your path which you helped to move initially. This power can also affect battles by allowing you to skip one character’s turn every so often. You can also stop time to solve puzzles which allowed the developers to create many interesting scenarios.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a solid game that continues on the adventures of the South Park children and The New Kid in great stride. Its combat changes make battles much more enjoyable with better options for strategy, and, with a great range of superhero classes, the play-styles are varied. However, the game never reaches the high points of Stick of Truth with its story, design or general world. Fans of South Park will still be happy, and although a lot of the references will go over people’s heads if they haven’t watched the show in recent years, they will still spend the majority of the game giggling with a stupid smile on their face.

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Emmaline Rambles: It’s OK to Procrastinate http://gameluster.com/emmaline-rambles-its-ok-to-procrastinate/ Wed, 25 Oct 2017 00:23:52 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20023 As an avid gamer, I can never seem to beat games, though I finish everything else. This isn’t because a game sucks, or I don’t have the capability of beating it, I just never get around to doing it in an under-four-month time period.

Am I necessarily wasting my money?

Some games do not need to be completely beaten to experience the full essence of them. For instance, any game with marriage in it isn’t completely beaten until you actually get married; however, this is usually not a crucial part of the game, so it doesn’t matter that you do not participate in it.

It is not necessary to beat every trainer in Pokémon, even if you miss out on leveling up your Pokémon or filling your Pokédex. You also may still have completed everything else except maybe the last boss or dungeon.

It is OK to leave a game unfinished as long as you’re happy with the game and complete it at least halfway. It would be a waste of money if you didn’t get to the midpoint of the story, but even if you don’t meet all the characters, it’s all OK. If the game was partially fun for you to play in emergencies, then it was worth it for those times, along with any experience or knowledge gained .

If a release is a replica of another game or something similar, like a spin-off or a remastered version, it is quite understandable if you do not finish it. You have played something similar to it and don’t see the point in completing it all over again. I’ve been contemplating whether or not to get Pokémon Ultra Moon, having already played Pokémon Moon. I do not see the point of completing the game if I get it, even with a new storyline and added legendaries.

It is definitely OK to leave a game unfinished if it is pure crap. As long as you tried to play it and gained something out of it, whether it was annoyed emotions or motivation to create something better, it was worth the money and time. For example, there are certain games, mostly older games for systems like the Game Boy Advance, that you can’t even understand enough to advance to the next level. I used to have Bratz: Rock Angelz for GBA and couldn’t finish most of the mini games because, although intended to be easy, they were extremely difficult for me to figure out.

It is OK to leave games unfinished if you plan on going back to beat it. Right when I got Pokémon Moon I was super thrilled, playing it every second I could, but one day I just stopped. It wasn’t until about after three months of having it that I actually beat it. There are many games that take too much to beat, so it’s OK to break up play time into intervals. I also understand going back to beat a game or taking your time so you have the utmost experience playing through it. I’ve had times I’ve taken longer on a game so the fun doesn’t end too soon.

It is OK to leave a game unfinished if it is causing you to rage quit. There’s no point in playing a game that is going to make you unhappy, unless it’s a love-hate relationship. Whenever you get mad, that’s fine, as long as you don’t attempt to break the game disc or cartridge.

It is OK to procrastinate with video games because I do constantly, and I am still a hardcore gamer as ever. Game on, even if you don’t finish gaming on.

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No More New LEGO Dimensions Expansion Packs http://gameluster.com/no-more-new-lego-dimensions-expansion-packs/ Tue, 24 Oct 2017 03:48:11 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=20019 It was rumored for days that LEGO Dimensions would be seeing the end of its run, and this news didn’t surprise anyone. The game arrived towards the end of the toys-to-life trend and since we have seen other franchises such as Disney Infinity fall and Skylanders barely survive. It seemed a matter of time for an ill fate to befall LEGO Dimensions, and now Warner Brothers has confirmed it.

LEGO Dimensions is finished with new content.

The news came through Twitter:

As said in the statement, the game will still run with ongoing server and customer support, and all content currently available will continue to be available for purchase. However, fans will not get the previously expected year three content.

LEGO Dimensions blended real LEGO characters with a game world. It featured several big franchises including Batman, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Sonic, Gremlins, and more.

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Cartography At Its Finest: Etrian Odyssey V Impressions http://gameluster.com/cartography-at-its-finest-etrian-odyssey-v-impressions/ Tue, 24 Oct 2017 03:22:04 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=19995 Since 2007, Nintendo handhelds have been blessed with one of the best dungeon-crawling franchises on the market. Starting on the Nintendo DS, Etrian Odyssey has been giving players one of the best ways to experience the dual-screened handheld. Now the fifth installment in the mainline series is here to give the 3DS another leg to stand on as we near the end of its lifespan, and if you’ve never played one of these games, today might be a good time to start.

Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth dropped in America, Europe, and Australia on October 17, more than a year after its 2016 release in Japan. Despite being the fifth iteration on the game’s simple dungeon-crawling formula, it still remains as addictive as ever. The fat from previous titles has been trimmed out, creating a more focused journey through the Yggdrasil labyrinth, and for those new to the series, it has some friendly settings to help boost your confidence.

The Etrian Odyssey games pride themselves on bringing back tough old-school RPG mechanics. You build a five-member party, giving each character their own class, look, and voice, and this party explores the labyrinth in first-person, moving one square at a time. What makes these games stand out, however, is that the bottom screen is reserved for you to draw the map as you explore. It’s nothing complicated; everything is on a grid, so it’s a matter of filling in squares and drawing straight lines. There are many ways to leave notes for all the varying parts of the dungeons, so you won’t forget where that thinly-veiled trap is next time you want to lose some health. If that puts you off, Etrian Odyssey V is nice enough to add an auto-fill option so the map can be drawn for you. But I think that ruins part of what makes this series so special.

This series hasn’t been known for its character building. Atlus took a stab at giving the games some color through the remakes of the first two games, but for the most part, the mainline Etrian games don’t make a concerted effort to have the characters in your party stand out. Etrian V breaks that tradition, allowing you to customize each of your party members’ hair, eyes, and skin color; but the best addition is the choice of voices. You can give each character one of the forty different voices in the game—although people who prefer the silent experience can opt out—and the added personality really shows itself in the dungeons. My healer, Herb, is a timid but nice fellow who looks out for his teammates, but whenever he heals the sassy fighter Eltaea, he’s met with a, “I didn’t need that or anything.” These little interactions build more stock in these characters, which up until now have just been hollow shells for the class system.

The game features ten classes, which at first are linked to the four races you can choose for your character. The humans get four classes while the other three races get only two classes each. In typical Etrian Odyssey fashion, a variety of classes have great synergy with each other, giving you more than enough options for party formations. The way skills are handled is the simplest it’s been in the series, and that’s for the better. Previous games overwhelmed you with the skill trees each class can go down, which makes you worry that at some point, you made a bad decision. The skill trees in this game are more straightforward. Each skill point is still a meaningful decision, but the decisions feel easier to make.

Digging through the dungeons feel the same as in previous games, which can at times feel repetitive if you’ve played a lot of Etrian Odyssey games. To keep the pacing fresh, Atlus introduced the Adventure Log. On each floor of the labyrinth, many small events await you at different dead ends. Some of them can leave you with more loot, others can lead you to the game over screen. This isn’t new to the series, but what is new is that characters can take points in skills that can give you an edge in these moments. Because my swordsman is also a great hunter, I’ve been able to find more food. Because my black mage has night-vision, I’ve saved myself from being ambushed many times. Every time you complete these events, it’s recorded in your Adventure Log, giving you a small boost in experience—which, by the way, is infinitely more precious than gold in this game.

Exploring the labyrinth is all about being able to withstand the challenges the game throws at you. Most fights are random encounters, and the bigger fights come from mini-bosses called FOEs that actually roam the labyrinth. More often than not, the first time you run into a FOE won’t be the first time you want to fight them. Finding ways around them requires you to memorize their patrol path, like a puzzle. Scattered throughout the maze are different gathering points; some are for raw materials that lead to better weapons, others for food items.

Raw materials from deeper parts allow the local shop to sell better gear, and food can be used to recover between battles. Interestingly enough, your party can learn different recipes to make better food that heals more than the raw ingredients alone. Taking the time to understand cooking makes dungeon crawling much easier; between every fight, you can scarf down enough food to keep everyone’s health up, even if it isn’t necessarily the healthiest amount to eat.

The turn-based battle system hasn’t made any big changes since Etrian Odyssey IV. Instead of the Burst Gauge, Union Skills are introduced, which are powerful abilities that can only be initiated after a character builds up their union gauge. Once full, they can activate a skill by teaming up with a number of party members. Strategically, the union system makes pivotal moments in a battle more tense. For example, there’s a skill that replenishes your party’s HP, but it takes four of your five party members to do it, limiting your options if you want to activate another union skill in the same turn.

What makes battles so brilliant is that they offer the perfect stage to see and feel your party’s growth. It’s a slow, gradual growth, which says a lot about the pace of the game. On your first foray into the unknown wilds, you’ll likely run into enemies who pull very few punches, and it doesn’t get any easier from there. It can feel like every other battle will send you back to town to lick your wounds. After a couple hours though, you’ll notice your characters are more durable and can handle the growing difficulty of the labyrinth. When you’re ten floors into the dungeon, it’s satisfying looking back to see the strength and resilience your party’s accrued.

On a technical level, the graphics haven’t made major improvements since Etrian Odyssey IV. There have been some UI changes that make the menus look more sleek and nonintrusive, especially the new design for the map toolbar. The soundtrack, however, is worth a listen. As far as JRPG soundtracks go, it hits the same beats you’d expect. The music for the labyrinths elicit a sense of wonderment, as if you’re truly probing into an undiscovered world. The tracks that play while in combat reflect the sense of danger the enemies present; if you’re caught off guard at the onset of a fight, the music will be chaotic and tense. If you get the upperhand and ambush an enemy, the music sounds heroic, as if it’s driving you to your inevitable victory. The boss fights are especially improved by the music, as each note makes the enemy seem all the more daunting.

Etrian Odyssey V is a solid addition to the 3DS’s lineup, especially while we’re in its sunset period. The game delivers a lengthy playtime, addictive battle system, and invigorating character growth. The experience is definitely more about the journey than it is the destination, and while it doesn’t deliver anything new, the game executes what it knows very well. It’s a polished dungeon-crawling RPG that’s sure to please diehard fans and welcome interested newcomers.

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Pokémon GO Halloween Celebration http://gameluster.com/pokemon-go-halloween-celebration/ Sat, 21 Oct 2017 18:51:01 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=19989 Pokémon GO has special Halloween treats.

Gastly and like Pokémon will be back, and some Ghost-type Pokémon originally from the Ruby and Sapphire releases will appear for the first time. Candy rewards will be doubled and anyone’s buddy Pokémon will find candy twice as fast.

Players may stock up on items like Raid Passes and Super Incubators via special boxes from the in-game store and dress their avatar with Mimikyu’s disguise hat.

Most importantly, Pikachu will don a seasonal outfit.

The Pokémon GO Team encourages users to take photos of their Halloween adventures with the app’s AR camera and to share them using the hashtag #PokémonGOHalloween.

Of course, caution is advised – journeying about with Pokémon GO on its own and going out and about on Halloween are on their own potentially dangerous activities. Combining them means practicing extra caution.

The celebration began October 20 and will last through November 2 at 8:00 PM UTC.

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Mary-Kate and Ashley: Sweet 16 – Licensed to Drive Is Not THAT Bad http://gameluster.com/mary-kate-and-ashley-sweet-16-licensed-to-drive-is-not-that-bad/ Sat, 21 Oct 2017 14:30:44 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=19946 You may have heard of this game, due to famous people such as Game Grumps already reviewing it. But let’s take this from the point of view of someone who grew up with it. For a seven year old girl, this was the bomb. At least, the GameCube version was – I do not know if the PlayStation 2 version is the same.

From the title, we know that the game is based around driving and aimed at kids yearning for freedom and teenagery things. The whole game consists of mini games, there really is no story line. But like any other game, you can become attached to the characters: Claire, Tiffany, Mary-Kate, and Ashley. Yes, this game is actually aimed for girls due to there only being girls as options for players.

The game is ideal for anybody who prefers a quick-match type game, one you don’t have to try so hard at or keep up with a story line. It’s been compared to Mario Party but it’s more for girls or teenagers that just want to chill and play a game. The map is similar to Mario Party, for you travel from panel to panel, but the mini games are quite different and it’s a care-free game consisting of hot girls and boys driving and feeling young.

Some people have actually tried to compare the GBA version of this game to any GTA game, but there aren’t any violent acts or strippers in this kid game – only driving.

On the soundtrack, I can’t actually talk that up, but will say it is very edgy, different from the modern era’s But first let me take a selfie type lyrics. The music does fit the whole freedom and teenager girl vibe, which the game was going for, so that’s a plus.

I think the graphics fit the game nicely. They have the cartoony feel to them, similar to the Zelda game The Wind Waker. The maps for the game are very detailed and appropriately fit the environments. A lot of the mini-games are based on driving skill, so they feature cones as part of the map to practice accuracy in steering. Another visual note is that Mary-Kate and Ashley are clearly distinguished by color: blue for Mary-Kate, the tomboyish one, and red for Ashley, the more girly twin.

I can honestly say that even if this doesn’t appeal to most gamers, it is actually pretty entertaining, if not to play, to laugh at. Characters were clearly defined and had variety, there were many mini-games available, and there was competition for players who like to win. Maps were customized to fit the scene and the music fit the whole mood of the game: freedom and a sort of pop-punk girly feel.

The intention and the audience were well-defined and, even though I am a hardcore gamer, I considered picking this game up again, just to play the mini-games and have a good laugh. It’s a stress reliever, no waste of money there.

Screenshot courtesy TeraPatrick2008 at Gamefaqs.

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Remaster of Star Ocean: The Last Hope arrives this November http://gameluster.com/remaster-of-star-ocean-the-last-hope-arrives-this-november/ Thu, 19 Oct 2017 20:38:52 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=19967 The prequel to the original Star Ocean will be arriving on PS4 and PC on November 28 as a full HD remaster with added 4K support. The game will be released digitally, with the Steam version having keyboard, mouse and controller support.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope keeps the original item creation and private action systems that explore character relationships and subplots for a richer and more rewarding story. It also retains the exhilarating Blindside battle system, which fuses evasion and offense.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope is priced at 20.99 USD for both platforms. PlayStation plus members and Steam users who purchase the game before December 12 will receive a ten percent discount. Additionally, those who purchase on Steam before December 12 will receive an exclusive downloadable mini-soundtrack featuring music for the game, while purchasing it from the Playstation Store before January 8 will nab you an exclusive theme and twelve network avatars featuring the main characters.

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Hacking and Slashing Through History: Wulverblade Review http://gameluster.com/hacking-and-slashing-through-history-wulverblade-review/ Thu, 19 Oct 2017 20:32:26 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=19890 Anyone reading this review is familiar with the powerful way video games entertain us. But the medium is capable of much more, and the educational aspect of Wulverblade, a newly released indie title from developer Fully Illustrated, highlights this potential. Scattered throughout the levels of this beat-em-up throwback are a number of historical artifacts that, when acquired, provide a blurb of information to the player. These well-written and informative nuggets of knowledge cover Roman history, and although this emphasis on a fiction paralleling reality is Wulverblade‘s most valid claim to uniqueness, the remaining package is a genuinely good addition to the Switch’s flourishing indie library.

Wulverblade is a faithful retread of the side-scrollers of yesteryear. Combat is basic enough to remain accessible but still has the nuance so that improvement is a viable endeavor. When this game first surfaced, I saw some parallels drawn between it and Castle CrashersWulverblade, however, is a distinct offering and strays clear from familiar RPG traits. Whether this is a good thing depends on the player but, personally, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of stat-based incentives and character progression. Wulverblade strictly harkens back to the arcade games that inspired it, and won’t scratch the itch of those looking for an evolution of the genre.

The game offers two primary game modes: story and arena. Arena is a wave-based survival mode that tasks the player with overcoming hordes of enemies who continually grow in difficulty. While the arena inherently lends itself to leaderboard-based competition, it also serves as practice for players to refine their combat skills. Wulverblade‘s story mode is relatively unforgiving, and even slight errors in input have catastrophic results that accumulate quickly. But mastery of its simple control scheme is rewarding; tearing through a horde of enemies unscathed is a cathartic experience, especially if the same crew was responsible for your death earlier.

The experience is marred by clunkiness. An enormous amount of the character’s actions are assigned to a single button, which makes the hectic battlefield a nuisance on occasion. The button used to attack is the same used to pick up objects—a baffling design choice. This cost me health on more than one occasion, and in a game where mistakes are so damning, this frustration often dampened the experience.

Otherwise, the game plays much like one would expect, given the genre. There are three playable characters that fulfill a speed, power, and balance trifecta, and every once in awhile the player will encounter different weapons to use for brief stints. The boss battles are fun, if not slightly redundant and similar, and the challenge is addictive.

Particularly daring players can play a classic mode where only three lives are given to the player. While I don’t know how anyone could have the skill to survive under these circumstances, it is an awesome addition that caters to the hardcore audience that Wulverblade will likely attract.

Visually, it’s a living comic book. Characters and environments fluidly interact and produce a gripping 2D atmosphere. Extra touches, like wolf silhouettes passing through the foreground, are icing on the visual cake. Sound design is good throughout, and the tunes are fitting, if forgettable.

Despite some frustrations, I had a great time playing Wulverblade even though I’m not part of the game’s target audience. The game largely accomplishes what it intends to, and those looking for a beat-em-up on the Switch will likely find themselves satisfied by this virtual romp through historical fiction. 

GameLuster was provided a game code for the purposes of this review.

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Thoughts On Think of the Children http://gameluster.com/thoughts-on-think-of-the-children/ Wed, 18 Oct 2017 03:29:47 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=19919 Developer Jammed Up Studios, along with Publisher Surprise Attack, have confirmed that their new game Think of the Children will be released this Thursday.

The game describes itself as a “parenting simulator” with goals of keeping your children alive and avoiding prosecution of child neglect.

“Hauled before the court for bad parenting and endangering the lives of your children, the Prosecutors present a series of events as evidence that will either condemn or exonerate you: a birthday party at the park, a day at the zoo, a camping trip, an unexpected visit to the Australian Outback and more,” its Steam store page states. “Only, each of these locations proves to be far more dangerous than they sound, and even the tamest of environments are filled with deadly hazards. Play through each event in flashback to prove your parenting skills—and your innocence—to the judge, and avoid going to jail.”

My first reaction to this game is: I have absolutely no idea who it’s for.

Surely people with kids spend their days trying to keep their real-life kids alive, so I suspect they have no interest in keeping virtual ones alive in their spare time.

People without kids would either not want to try to keep their kids alive, having decided they don’t want kids in life or in games, or would actively try and drown the little brats for their own amusement. Having said that, both the description and trailer are more focused on failing the game—letting the kids die—rather than succeeding at it, as if the cartoony deaths are meant for sadistic pleasure. It’s like when you take someone who pissed you off in The Sims, lock them in a room and start a fire (I’ve heard some people do crazy stuff like that).

The game lists as a feature “All Kinds of Families Welcome.” Are they really, Jammed Up? Thanks for letting alternative families know that you’ve decided it’s okay for them to exist. All families will be welcome when they can be included in games without straight people patting themselves on the back for not being jerks.

View the launch trailer below, though be aware that deaths of children are depicted. It’s all non-graphic, cartoon fare, but it may still offend.

 

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Glo Review http://gameluster.com/glo-review/ Wed, 18 Oct 2017 00:32:33 +0000 http://gameluster.com/?p=19914 Have you ever played Tetris and thought, “Wouldn’t this be better if the screen was almost completely dark and I couldn’t see what I was doing?” Well, my friend, your incredibly specific prayers have been answered.

Glo is a new indie puzzle game from Chronik Spartan, with the opening description line: “What happens in a game where most of it is hidden?” After gaming for fifteen years, I can honestly say that that question falls into the category of: “I wasn’t thinking that, but am now.” And do you know what happens in a game world where most of it is hidden? Frustrating, repetitive, creepy brilliance!

Despite me referencing Tetris at the beginning of this due to the similarity of having generic cubes, the game isn’t anything like Tetris and is an entirely unique and interesting concept. You move one cube around a world built entirely out of generic cubes, with the aim of sitting on the only unique-looking cube, to crush its unique spirit.

As the game promises, your cube is the only source of light and only illuminates a small amount of the world around you. You can defend yourself by firing a small bullet that creates light into the game world to try and get a better idea of your surroundings, and you can later find new ways to light up the world around you, but for most of the game you are in darkness.

There does seem to be some element of story to the game with short lines of text hidden throughout the levels, indicating that you are being trapped by some sort of evil, creepy overlord, or overlady, or overgender-neutral ruler. The messages are very random, and I didn’t always notice them on my first attempt. This was very intriguing, and I found myself desperate to reach the game’s conclusion for the sake of finding out the fate of this tiny black cube, rather than simply playing a puzzle game.

From what I’ve concluded, you have been trapped in this dark world by the overperson, who is very lonely and in dire need of company. In order to keep you in their world, they’ve set a series of obstacles for you to overcome in your attempt at escape. The messages become more intense, expressing emotion and giving warnings to the square, showing both concern and resentment toward the character and building a complex relationship between the overperson and the player. Yes, it’s deep, and I love it! It creates almost a David Firth level of creepy in an adorable world decorated with florescent blue highlights and rainbow guns.

Like most puzzle games, the game does get incredibly frustrating at times, with very little to go on in terms of instruction and most levels relying on trial and error, or occasionally luck, but for me that’s the appeal of a puzzle game. It’s not angry frustration, it’s fun frustration, the kind that gives you a little squeal of joy when you complete a level you found particularly taxing. However, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this game to someone going through anger management.

You may attempt a level as many times as you like as there is no lives system and when you die you simply start the level again from the beginning. However, if you crave intensive motivation to best the game on the first try, then in the start menu there is a death counter in the top-left corner that I’m sure can give you some motivation.

Like any game, there is room for improvement in Glo. The music is incredibly repetitive and I turned it off after the seventh level or thereabouts. Repetitive music does seem to be the standard for puzzle games, though, so this isn’t a knock unique to Glo.

The visual aspects are beautiful and appeal to the deep gothic princess inside me, along with the bitter sarcastic side that likes to see things suffer and fail. Occasionally you’ll encounter a level that seems a little rushed as some levels feel very similar to ones before, but mostly it’s a well laid-out game world that contains unique levels and is forever changing and adding in new features.

Glo would have more success as a mobile game than a PC game, since it has a lot of potential as a puzzle game and mobile seems to be the main market for puzzle games nowadays. This is the first time in a long while I’ve sat down to play a puzzle game, as I usually play them on my phone during loading transitions when playing other games. (I’ve heard that mobile games are great for the outside world too, but the outside world is also loud and scary.) While Glo has story and charm that keep it interesting and the player invested, I’m not sure if it’s enough to reach the same success on PC as it would on mobile.

On Steam one of the features listed for Glo is “A world where nothing is known, everything is a surprise,” and that pretty much sums everything up. It’s fun, it’s cute and one of the best games I’ve played this year. Glo will be available on Steam on October 23 and, costing only 4.99 USD, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to play it.

I would have liked it if it had been released earlier since I would have enjoyed browsing Tumblr for Halloween costumes inspired by this game. I guarantee someone would have tried and the result would have been amazing.

GameLuster was provided a game code for Glo by the developer.

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