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Before Your Eyes Is An Emotional Adventure Game You Control By Blinking

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 21:45

Publisher: Skybound Developer: GoodbyeWorld Games Release: April 8, 2021 Platform: PC

Before Your Eyes is a unique narrative adventure that you control by blinking your eyes. Yes, as in with your actual eyeballs. You're probably asking yourself "How the heck does that work?" Read on to find out what this eye-catching indie title has in store. 

The game is described as a “personal tale of self-discovery” as players embark on a journey guided by The Ferryman, a feline (or canine?) boat captain who shepherds departed souls to the afterlife. The debut trailer shows off various stages in one’s life, such as playing games with loved ones, traveling to other countries, and, eventually, death. To relive these memories, players must physically blink and those movements are detected by your webcam and registered as inputs. 

Click here to watch embedded media

Blinking can move time forward by a few days or a few years. Certain interactions are also triggered by blinking, shown in the trailer when the Ferryman instructs players to blink over his hand or when viewing a photo album. The idea is that life is literally flashing before your eyes, and I can’t think of a more immersive and organic method of getting that point across. 

Before Your Eyes is the debut title by GoodbyeWorld Games, and was born from a 2014 prototype called Close Your, which won an Indiecade Developer’s Choice Award. The project is the brainchild of Will Hellwarth, founder and director at GoodbyeWorld Games. He and his team have spent the last several years expanding the intriguing premise into a full-fledged title, with Skybound Games of The Walking Dead fame handling publishing duties. 

“We’ve been working on this game since college—for the better part of a decade—so it’s really the definition of a labor of love,” said Oliver Lewin, game director and composer. 

If you want to know what it’s like to control a game using your peepers, keep a lookout for Before Your Eyes when it launches for PC via Steam on April 8. Meanwhile, you can click here to learn about Skybound's recent partnership on upcoming horror game, The Callisto Protocol. 

What do you think of Before Your Eyes' inventive approach to storytelling? Let us know in the comments! 

Categories: Games

Exclusive First Look At Ultimate Rivals: The Court

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 15:00

Publisher: Bit Fry Game Studios Developer: Bit Fry Game Studios Platform: iOS

When Skylanders and Disney Infinity were flying off of store shelves, Bit Fry Game Studios almost made a toys-to-life sports title. I was shown a prototype of a Wayne Gretzky figure that would be used for the game by Ben Freidlin, Bit Fry's founder and CEO. The hope was to create a game that blended athletes from all major professional sports, whether it was hockey or baseball, to compete in all sports whether they knew how to in real life or not. As development of this title ramped up, the entire toys-to-life category collapsed, and Bit Fry wisely pivoted to adapt its vision to a standard video game format.

The result of that change was the wildly successful Apple Arcade game Ultimate Rivals: The Rink, an arcade-style hockey game that has assembled over 70 recognizable athletes. That entire roster (along with even more stars), are replacing their ice skates for sneakers in the forthcoming game Ultimate Rivals: The Court.

Drawing heavy inspiration from the NBA Jam games of old, The Court delivers fast-paced, dunk-heavy 3-v-3 basketball action that runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second. It launches this year on Apple Arcade, but will later be released on Steam, as well as unspecified consoles. Here's hoping it comes to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch!

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In creating The Court's dynamic action, Freidlin tells me that Bit Fry looked at fighting games just as much as action-sports. "The mechanics are learnable instantly, but the theory crafting is deep," he adds. When picking a roster, players shouldn't just be picking the athletes they know and love, and instead should be thinking about how their team of three sits against their opponents'. Athletes from different sports have different skill sets. Yes, Lebron James will be a well rounded superstar, but a quarterback like Drew Brees has better accuracy at hitting a full-court shot given his ability to throw the ball downfield. Animations, shots, and deke moves are also different for various athletes and their sports.

As you can see in the image above, the game has superhero-like qualities to it, allowing for hockey players to turn to ice and everyone to be able to soar higher than they should. As amazing feats are performed, a familiar voice from the past will amplify their excitement. Bit Fry has enlisted the voice-acting talents of Tim Kitzrow (of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz fame) to provide commentary. We doubt he'll scream "He's on fire," but we're sure he'll have some other zingers that will get stuck in our heads. If you check out the trailer below, you can hear him say the line that put him on the map.

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Along with the 70-plus athletes from The Rink, Bit Fry is expanding the roster to over 140 competitors, many are NBA stars from today and yesterday, but you'll also see famed names from other sports as well. Bit Fry doesn't want to announce every player just yet, but from the NBA side, players can look forward to suiting up as Stephen Curry, Giannis Antekounmpo, Luka Doncic, Paul George, and Damian Lillard. As for other sports, the addition's include the MLB's Bryce Harper, the WNBA's Candace Parker, the NHL's Patrice Bergeron, the NFL's Lamar Jackson, and USWNT's Christen Press.

The Court is designed with short game sessions in mind – both for online competitive play and against A.I. Along with the standard touch controls, it supports bluetooth-connected console controllers. Freidlin says plenty of depth awaits in a challenge mode called The Gauntlet, and players can also enter a training mode to figure out their perfect team chemistry and to master the moves. "The training mode is modeled after Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat," he says.

Click here to watch embedded media

In a world without NBA Jam games, I'm hoping Ultimate Rivals: The Court can pick up the torch and set fire to this genre again, especially since it will be expanding to other platforms later this year.

Categories: Games

Aliens: Fireteam May Be The Bug Hunt We’ve Wanted

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 15:00

Publisher: Cold Iron Studios Developer: Cold Iron Studios Release: Summer 2021 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Alien fans got their moment in the sun with Alien: Isolation, Creative Assembly’s exquisite homage to Ridley Scott’s 1979 film. Folks who lean more toward the bombastic action that James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens provided have had to be more patient. We haven’t gotten a truly great Aliens game (sorry, Colonial Marines), and while it’s absolutely too early to assess its quality, the newly revealed Aliens: Fireteam looks like a combat-booted stomp in the right direction.

Cold Iron Studios is using Aliens as a launching point, but the development team is determined to carve out its own path. One way it’s doing so is by setting Fireteam in the year 2202 – 23 years after the events of the Alien trilogy. In other words, don’t expect to see cameos from familiar characters or to revisit locations that we’ve explored time and time again. Instead, players will be experiencing an all-new storyline that spans four campaigns (each containing three missions). 

You play as a newly recruited member of the United States Colonial Marines. You create your own soldier and choose from one of five classes (gunner, demolisher, recon, technician, and doc), each with their own combat roles. For example, technicians can deploy portable turrets to lock down hallways or provide additional support fire; docs can provide their teammates with temporary buffs and healing; and so on. Players can further customize their characters with different cosmetics, weapon upgrades, unlocked perks, and more. It doesn’t appear to be a crazy deep amount of RPG-style tinkering, but it seems as though Cold Iron has been developing Fireteam with an eye toward replayability.

Click here to watch embedded media

The mission we see in a live demo is set on an abandoned orbital refinery named Katanga. The USS Endeavor, which is your hub between missions, has responded to the site after receiving a mysterious distress call. It doesn’t require a tremendous amount of imagination to guess what happens next.

Over the course of several brief firefights, I get to see the Aliens fantasy delivered in full force. Rather than trying to outsmart and outmaneuver a single xenomorph a la Alien, this is all about fending off unrelenting waves of the creatures. They scamper along walls and drop down right in front of us, hoping to overwhelm us with the sheer force of their numbers. Thanks to smart turret placement and decent coordination, they don’t stand a chance. Their black carapaces split under our gunfire, showering the vicinity with their corrosive innards. Thankfully, we’re at a healthy enough distance to not be consumed by the deadly goo.

It’s just a small slice of combat, but there’s enough to get a sense of the various rhythms at play. Before calling an elevator (and initiating a countdown-governed standoff), we have a few quiet moments to reload, regroup, and coordinate how best to survive what could end up being a last stand. I’ve always liked those little lulls between explosive action in Aliens, and it’s a nice breather in Fireteam.

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Cold Iron wants players to play through missions repeatedly. To encourage that, the team is giving players the option to play modifier cards before deploying, which can change the game in myriad ways. You might activate a noir modifier, which changes up the color palette. Or you could do something that significantly adds to the challenges, such as a card that only registers headshots when battling xenomorphs. Playing these cards can earn you bigger rewards, including cosmetics, when you’re finished. 

The studio was cagey about pricing and other details when first discussing Aliens: Fireteam, but studio head Craig Zinkievich later clarified that this was not going to be a live-service title. In addition, he emphasized the importance for the game to exist on its own, without charging players for a steady drip of lootboxes and other microtransactions. 

Cold Iron has definitely nailed the visual tone and other details, like the iconic pinging sound of the motion tracker to the staccato sounds of a Smartgun’s percussive shots. I’m excited to see more about the campaign itself, and to learn how my Marine fits into the larger narrative. It doesn’t appear that I’m going to have to wait long. The studio says the game will be coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC this summer.

Categories: Games

The Binding Of Isaac: Repentance Comes To PS5, PS4, And Switch Later This Year

Mon, 03/01/2021 - 21:18

Publisher: Nicalis Developer: Edmund McMillen, Nicalis Release: March 31, 2021 (PC), 2021 (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch) Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

The Binding of Isaac is a roguelike classic for a reason, thanks to its gripping gameplay, fun powerups, and the infinite loop of "one more try." Now, about a decade after the original's release, creator Edmund McMillen and developer Nicalis are ready to close out the saga with The Binding of Isaac: Repentance. This new version of the roguelike classic adds a ton of upgrades to the base game to deliver an experience Nicalis has branded as "bigger than any sequel." 

Despite releasing a decade after the original version, Isaac is still a tearful toddler exploring the horrors of his basement. In this new, enhanced version, Isaac can travel to unexplored depths, encountering new places, enemies, and bosses. However, he'll also have new weapon combos and items to use in his quest for answers and survival, as The Binding of Isaac: Repentance adds more than 130 new items to bring the total tally to more than 700. 

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance also includes a full alternate path with new chapters, a new final boss, and a new ending, as well as true four-player cooperative play. Players can also expect to encounter more than 100 new enemies, 25 new bosses, seven new challenges, and more than 5,000 new room designs. 

In addition to confirming the release window of Q3 2021 and the platforms of PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and Switch, Nicalis also revealed a physical edition for PS5 and Switch, which includes a full-color manual and reversible cover inserts. If you don't want to wait that long, The Binding of Isaac: Repentance is already set to hit PC on March 31.

Check out the teaser trailer for the game below and let us know if you're ready to descend back into the depths of Isaac's basement this fall.

Click here to watch embedded media

[Source: Nicalis, Nicalis on Twitter]

Categories: Games

New Details Emerge On The World Of Halo Infinite

Fri, 02/26/2021 - 01:28

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Developer: 343 Industries Release: 2021 Rating: Rating Pending Platform: Xbox One, PC

343 Industries has taken to offering up regular monthly check-ups on the status of Halo Infinite as it steers toward its much anticipated launch later in 2021. After earlier looks into art, graphics, and the work of the live team, this month the team is shining a spotlight on the setting itself. The Zeta Halo is a massive explorable environment that seems to dramatically outstrip the scope of many previous games in the series, especially in terms of freedom and discoverability.

One of the big focuses for creating the game world for Halo Infinite is described as focusing on two central tenets – legacy and simplicity. “For 'Legacy' we really want players to feel like they are experiencing a game that they remember fondly (Halo: Combat Evolved), but with modernized graphics of course,” says Justin Dinges, the campaign art lead on the project. “As far as 'Simplicity' is concerned, we wanted to ensure that we steer away from overly noisy designs and details which is a key takeaway for the team coming off Halo 5.” That’s a welcome message for longtime fans of the series, as Halo has always found a way to balance a modern sci-fi aesthetic with natural beauty.

Taking cues from Bungie’s work on the original Halo: Combat Evolved, 343 Industries is looking to the environment closest to home near their studios in the Pacific Northwest to help inform the artistic look of the Zeta Halo. To nail the right balance, they’re exploring forests, fields, and natural biomes that sit on the surface of the Halo, juxtaposed against jutting hexagonal shapes from the original Forerunner technology, sitting just below the surface. “This is our way of mixing a beautiful real-life biome (the PNW) with something fantastic and sci-fi (the hexagonal structure) as the experience aims to be the best of both worlds,” says Dinges.

This month’s post also offers some fascinating insight into designing gameplay in the large open spaces that the Zeta Halo enables, with a particular focus on the new Grappleshot tool, which lets players zip to distant locations. “Equipment like the Grappleshot is a great example creating new and exciting possibilities,” says gameplay director Troy Mashburn. “Walls, cliffs, and small gaps don’t stop Chief any longer which gave us the opportunity to rethink how encounters are built. This caused some challenges early on because designers couldn’t just place the final objective at the far end of a base assuming players will have to fight their way through. With the Grappleshot, players can go wherever they want whenever they want. From a development standpoint, this was both terrifying and completely liberating at the same time.”

The resulting gameplay encourages players to find their own solutions to confronting a challenging encounter, like how to infiltrate and overtake a large enemy fortress, whether that be taking the frontal assault approach, or grappling up to a sniper nest and taking out a bunch of enemies from a high vantage point.

Future “Inside Infinite” installments in the coming months are set to discuss the overall approach to audio, and include discussions with the PC team, and we’ll surface those discussions as they happen. In the meantime, the discussion of the Zeta Halo setting includes a number of other insights directly from the team, including their opinions on cooperative play within the space, and the focal points for development over the remaining months of development.

Check out the full conversation at Halo Waypoint.  

Categories: Games

Final Fantasy VII Remake Gets New Yuffie-Based DLC

Thu, 02/25/2021 - 23:01

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Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Square Enix Release: April 10, 2020 Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 4

Final Fantasy VII Remake was one of the best RPGs of 2020, and Square Enix is building on that success by releasing a new DLC episode featuring Yuffie – one of the party members from the 1997 original who did not appear in last year’s game. And if you're excited to see what Yuffie can do, you won't have long to wait.

The new content is called Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade, and as revealed during PlayStation's State of Play event, it releases this summer on June 10. That is also the same day that the PlayStation 5 version of Final Fantasy VII Remake is being released, which also leads to an interesting tidbit about Intergrade. According to the presentation, it appears as though this new content is only available on the new-gen console; amid the instructions for the free PS4-to-PS5 upgrade, text flashed on the screen that said, "New episode featuring Yuffie available for purchase after upgrading to the PlayStation 5 version." 

So, what's the big deal about Yuffie anyway? Why is this exciting? Well, if you haven't played the original Final Fantasy VII, all you need to know is that Yuffie is an energetic ninja warrior from Wutai, and she has an unstoppable desire to acquire materia – the colored orbs that give Cloud and his friends magical abilities.

For a clearer idea of what Yuffie's adventure entails, you can watch the full trailer above. It has all sorts of interesting info and nods, including Yuffie wearing a cute Moogle cape and staying just barely out of sight of recognizable heroes like Tifa and Barrett. 

The Intergrade episode also features a new companion named Sonon who fights alongside Yuffie. The trailer shows them fighting a huge mechanical beast, as Yuffie performs acrobatic leaps and stylish attacks with her blade. Though the familiar Sector 7 slums seem to the setting for at least part of the game, fans can count on brand-new  story beats, bosses, and areas to explore.

While Square Enix wasn't completely tipping its hand in terms of what to expect from Intergrade, we will undoubtedly learn more as its June 10 release approaches. What are your thoughts about this new expansion to Final Fantasy VII Remake? Are you excited to play it? Were you hoping Yuffie's big entrance would be in the next full game instead? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Categories: Games

Five Reasons To Be Excited About Returnal

Thu, 02/25/2021 - 23:00

Publisher: PlayStation Studios Developer: Housemarque Release: April 30, 2021 Platform: PlayStation 5

While a few cryptic early videos have teased the atmosphere and visual potential of Returnal, Housemarque’s new game has remained largely a mystery since its announcement. But after a recent hands-off demo I had the chance to check out, and its appearance at today's State of Play event, my anticipation for the project skyrocketed.

An action game like Returnal lives or dies by how tight the controller play feels, and of course, that’s one element that I can’t speak to with authority until I get hands-on. As such, I’m not ready yet to crown the game as my new shooter obsession until I play it in full on PlayStation 5 for the April 30 release. But independent of gameplay feel, Returnal has a lot in its favor as it nears release in a couple of months.

The Expertise of Housemarque

Housemarque has been around for a long time, and the team has the experience and talent to nail top-tier action. Not everyone knows the team’s games, because in recent game generations, they’ve focused primarily on downloadable arcade-style action games, including titles like Resogun, Nex Machina, and Alienation. Those were fast-paced games that didn’t immediately reveal their depth, but any player who dug in found a rich well of complexity and immense replayability, thanks to immaculate balancing, very tight action controls, and a steady ramp of challenge that allowed for constant improvement by players.

Returnal shifts perspectives to a third-person action shooter, but early gameplay exhibits many of the same focal points of replayability and smooth, fast moving action. And that bodes very well for the chance at some engaging combat scenarios.

Roguelike Structure

Returnal explores the conceit of an astronaut named Selene who crash lands on a weird alien planet called Atropos, filled with monstrous creatures. As she explores, her limited knowledge and weaponry inevitably lead to death. But after meeting her demise, she inevitably wakes back up on her crashing spaceship, destined to experience a madness-inducing time loop.

From a gameplay perspective, that means that Returnal follows the familiar structure of a roguelike, albeit with some twists. Selene can acquire new powers and avenues for exploration that permanently unlock, including a melee attack, a hook shot, and even changes to the geography of the world, like a bridge or door that opens up for subsequent runs. Meanwhile, other upgrades can be acquired on each run, but disappear afterward, like weapons and mods, max health, and attack power.

As such, there’s the promise that players can gradually unlock entirely new areas and biomes, as well as core powers, but also expect that each run brings a sense of discovery and newness.

Procedural Generation

Content that is randomly created for each run can be a blessing or a curse in roguelikes, but based on my time observing the game in action, the team has zeroed in on a number of systems that make the most of both hand-crafted, curated content, while simultaneously having it presented in creative ways on each runthrough.

Amid 10 weapon archetypes, like machine guns and shotguns, there is a tremendous variance that changes the baseline behaviors of armaments you find. In addition, weapons come with traits that further change things up, like piercing bullets, sniper rifle rounds, or explosive rounds – all of which can stack. On top of that, weapons also come with unique alt-fire options, like adding a lightning gun shot, or tentacle attacks that entangle foes. Add in randomized specs, and players can expect all kinds of weird and wonderful weapons. On top of weapons, players also encounter parasites, which graft onto Selene, and offer a random selection of both positive and negative effects, leading to a risk/reward choice for using them. For instance, you might bear one parasite that attracts revenge bullets from enemies you kill, but simultaneously creates explosions every time you pull off a critical reload.

Likewise, the level design is built to optimize for variability while not ignoring the need for thoughtful construction and progression. Individual rooms are hand-crafted, but their orientation with other rooms changes. And the contents of the rooms also changes, from the monsters that appear there, to the secret chambers or passages you can find, to the loot you can pick up. On a larger level, Returnal also features several unique biomes that you’ll gradually encounter– with entirely new color palettes, environmental effects, and geography to explore.

A Mysterious Story

While the shooting and action is certainly a big focus, Returnal also has some big narrative ambitions. Selene’s exploration of the Atropos planet is wrapped up in mystery and secrets, including the very nature of the time loop itself, and why it’s happening. At times, Selene encounters manifestations of her own dead self, sometimes arising from previous lives she has lived exploring the planet, but also sometimes encountering dead selves from future runs she hasn’t yet taken.

Players learn that a strange signal drew Selene to Atropos, labeled “White Shadow,” and she desperately searches for its origin and meaning.

But strangest of all, during Selene’s journey, she occasionally encounters what seems to be an Earth house hidden amid the alien growth – a place that clearly has some ties to her own past. When players approach the house, the view shifts to first-person, and Selene can wander the house, though there are doors she won’t initially open, seemingly because of some trauma connected to her time there.

The storyline is built to unfold gradually over the course of many runs and lives through the game, which has the potential to lend a linking nature between the many playthroughs that players may inevitably confront on the journey to answers.

Sweet PS5 Exclusive Action

While there are plenty of fascinating trappings that add intrigue and replayability to Returnal’s appeal, it will all be for naught if the shooting, speed, and overall action aren’t up to snuff. The full picture there won’t come into focus until I’ve had a chance to play it for myself, but the combat I saw in the hands-off demo looks very promising.  

In keeping with Housemarque’s arcade history, many of the battles draw heavily on the “bullet-hell” tradition of constant attacks pouring out across the screen, demanding the player dodge, run, and dash to safety, even while pumping out counterattacks. There’s a twitchy, fast-moving quality to the action that is sure to remind players of the team’s other work on titles like Resogun.

Beyond that, the quality of the action is especially high, thanks to the game’s exclusive appearance on PS5. One of a handful of games so far that have been exclusively built to cater to the PS5’s potential, the onscreen visuals (and especially particle and weapon effects) are a sight to behold. Housemarque told me that their team is also investing heavily in leveraging the PS5’s 3D audio tech to create increased atmospheric immersion; plan to play with a headset if you can. In addition, the team is also exploring ways to capitalize on the PS5’s awesome DualSense controller; for instance, the adaptive trigger feature will be used on the L2 aim button, letting you get a focused zoom by pulling the trigger halfway, but also letting you push past the resistance so that the weapon will switch into alt-fire.

We don’t have long to wait until we can all try out Returnal for ourselves. The game is targeting a full release on April 30, exclusively for PlayStation 5. In the meantime, if the idea of Housemarque’s great eye for action has you excited, the team’s earlier games, including Resogun, remain as fun now as on the day they released – go check them out!

Click here to watch embedded media

 

Categories: Games

Squading Up In Watch Dogs: Legion Online

Mon, 02/22/2021 - 17:00

Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Ubisoft Toronto Release: October 29, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), November 10, 2020 (Xbox Series X/S), November 12, 2020 (PlayStation 5) Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

Watch Dogs: Legion may have launched last October, but the fight to liberate London rages on in its upcoming online mode. Ubisoft plans to launch Watch Dogs: Legion Online on March 9 (delayed from February 23), and expands the game’s sandbox to allow players to work together to hack machines, fight Albion soldiers, or just goof around and cause wanton chaos. I spent a few hours roaming the mean streets of London with a squad to see what the mode has to offer.

So far, Watch Dogs: Legion Online looks to be solid fun, especially if you’re digging the main game and want to experience more of that with a few buddies. Some of the smaller missions are pretty straightforward, but the more complex missions, like Tactical Ops, showcase the teamwork and creative aspect. While I’d be surprised if it reaches the same heights as GTA V Online, it should offer a totally respectable playground for goofing around. 

Categories: Games

Find Mankrik's Wife In Hearthstone's Forged In The Barrens Expansion

Fri, 02/19/2021 - 22:38

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Release: March 11, 2014 Rating: Teen Platform: PC

Hearthstone's next expansion, Forged in the Barrens, is lined up to kick off the Year of the Gryphon for the digital collectible card game. As part of a themed block, the expansions this year follow a sort of World of Warcraft progression pattern as players will begin the journey in the low-level (but still very iconic!) Barrens zone and then take travel to other areas later in their journey as the year goes on. The Barrens is a zone known for two things – lively chat and Mankrik's wife. While thankfully the Barrens chat experience isn't coming to Hearthstone, Mankrik's wife is!

Alongside some signature Barrens fun like raptors and quillboars, the set includes some new features to shake Hearthstone up. Some cards include the new Frenzy mechanic, which triggers when the unit takes damage and survives. Some units really get psyched up from taking damage, so you can bet that little one damage effects to start revving your troops up are going to be part of new strategies.

Also, an important note both for the set and for the game, spells are being sorted into schools to interact with new cards. For instance, spells will now be classified as arcane, nature, etc, and this determines some important interactions. Hearthstone now contains cards that boost or trigger upon certain spell schools only, like a card that gives additional damage to nature spells specifically and not a blanket "plus spell damage."

One other significant new suite of cards has different effects based on how many mana crystals you have. So, an early game spell may just summon one imp for two mana, but if you have all 10 mana crystals unlocked it may give you an entire army. These "scaling" cards can let you hit your early game drops but also be incredibly useful if drawn late in the game, giving you some powerful flexibility.

Forged In The Barrens includes 135 new cards, including 10 legendary mercenaries that we'll be following as they progress through the aforementioned "WoW progression loop" where we start in the Barrens and move into more in the B dangerous fare later down the line.

Categories: Games

Knockout City Breakdown And Hands-On Impressions

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 23:18

Publisher: Electronic Arts Developer: Velan Studios Release: May 21, 2021 Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

EA pulled back the curtain today on Knockout City during Wednesday's Nintendo Direct, and the new competitive multiplayer game centers on the noblest of all sports: dodgeball. The game moves the beloved childhood sport from black tops and school gyms to futuristic rooftops, construction sites, and bustling city streets. Even after watching the debut trailer you probably have a few questions: What the heck is this thing, why should I care, and how much is it going to cost me? I recently spent several hours playing the game and have returned with answers to all of those questions. 

If Knockout City piques your interest, Velan is holding a PC closed beta period from February 20-21. There will also be a full game trial on launch day, so curious players can try before they buy. Knockout City has potential and with a few more months of polish and player feedback, it could be offer an entertaining alternative to standard multiplayer offerings. If it can dodge the pitfalls of other failed multiplayer titles, it just might have a shot a success. 

Categories: Games

Hawkeye Gets Detailed In Latest Marvel's Avengers War Table

Tue, 02/16/2021 - 19:34

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal Release: September 4, 2020 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia), March 18, 2021 (PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S) Rating: Teen Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

In December, Marvel's Avengers finally received its first post-launch hero in the form of Kate Bishop, the protégé of original Hawkeye Clint Barton. Her story, Operation: Taking AIM, centered around a conspiracy involving Nick Fury and time travel, which leads into the story of the next post-launch hero, Clint Barton. Today, developer Crystal Dynamics provided its first in-depth look into the arrowed Avenger, as well as a March release date for Hawkeye.

Hawkeye's story is called Operation: Future Imperfect and takes place in the not-too-distant possible future where all hope is lost and the world has been devastated. The Kree have come to Earth and laid waste to the planet.

According to the War Table presentation below, the Operation: Future Imperfect story is heavily inspired by the Old Man Hawkeye Marvel Comics run. That story centers around the world's supervillains organizing to wipe out all superheroes. In Marvel's Avengers' loose adaptation of this storyline, old man Hawkeye retired and sat the fight out, so he wasn't a part of the fight when the Kree attacked. Meanwhile, modern-day Hawkeye is involved in a storyline inspired by the Hawkeye comics My Life as a Weapon

In the apocalyptic future, a nuclear war has destroyed the planet and Hulk is driven insane by the tragic events as the additional radiation causes him to further transform into Maestro, a version of the green monster that combines Hulk's might with Banner's intelligence. Maestro takes out all remaining heroes and villains in the world to attempt to rebuild the planet in his image. With a throne surrounded by trophies like Iron Man's helmet and Captain America's shield, it doesn't look like things went so well for Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Once you pick up the bow as Hawkeye, you can expect an eclectic mix of abilities from Clint. While you may best know him as the expert archer in the Marvel universe, Crystal Dynamics took inspiration from Clint's time as Ronin to also give him high-level swordplay. Clint is able to sidestep attacks and parry with ease. His Deadeye ability lets him home in on a specific target to maximize damage, while his arsenal of 10 unique arrow types will let you approach fights how you want to. His Hunter's Arrow ultimate allows him to shoot an arrow (or multiple arrows when you upgrade) that flies from enemy to enemy across the battlefield. 

You can see the entire War Table presentation below.

Click here to watch embedded media

The release of Hawkeye and his story coincides with the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of Marvel's Avengers. You can read more about that news here, or get up to speed with the game by checking out the full list of playable heroes and our review.

[Source: Marvel's Avengers on YouTube]

Categories: Games

What Is Valheim And Why Is Everyone Playing It?

Mon, 02/15/2021 - 18:05

Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing Developer: Iron Gate AB Platform: PC

Over the weekend, Viking survival game Valheim crested to a concurrent player peak of over 360,000 players on Steam. While Steam and other game storefronts are inundated with survival titles to choose from, ranging from Minecraft (and its many assorted mods) to Ark to Terraria to Rust, the new early access title from Iron Gate AB is barging its way onto the scene. From a core list of features and mechanics, Valheim may not appear different at all from many other survival titles. So what separates Valheim from any of the other survival titles out there? Should you give it a try? Here are a few key takeaways that help explain Valheim’s rise through the ranks…

Two Distinctly Different Speeds

You can explore the world of Valheim by yourself or with 9 other friends, on dedicated servers or just by joining your friend’s world. While the single-player experience is fundamentally the same game, it plays much differently. Alone, the game is more of a Zen garden of sorts, allowing you to take each day at your own pace, enjoying every little piece of cooked grub and being the sole owner of every exploration, every triumph, and every discovery. Pacing as a solo player is much slower, and becomes a sort of survival meditation as you plan each day and overprepare for every step outside your door. After all, there’s no one to help you out should you get killed and need to perform a dreaded corpse run to get your gear.

Multiplayer is more traditional survival as players work together to craft multiple bases and take on the challenges of building, gearing, exploring and boss-slaying together. Some players shy away from this style of play, as not logging into the game for even a single day can have profound effects on what tier the server is at (We’ve all started Terraria worlds, left for a day, and come back to our friends zipping around in the sky with laser guns as we hold up our little baby wooden pickaxe…). But after around a week of diving into Valheim, the co-op multiplayer is the best way to play. Meeting up with your friends and bonding over a raft ride in a storm or just heading out to mine some copper together is a blast.

In fact, you can resummon big bosses and they have multiple spawn locations per world, so if you did want to play independently but still have a support group on a server, that's an option as well. If your crew is anything like mine, players will naturally fill the archetypal buckets of builder, explorer, fighter, and more, making for a fun time whenever you log in. If you choose to go the multiplayer route, I highly recommend forking out the cash for a dedicated server so you and your friends can come and go as you please instead of having to wait for a friend to set up the world every time you want to play. While I think the multiplayer is vastly superior and teamwork makes the dream work, the solo game is an enjoyable, albeit incredibly different, activity in which you’re sure to enjoy every discovery yourself.

Of additional note, the barebones PvP is entirely opt in and pretty much just for fun, making the multiplayer aspect of Valheim completely co-op. This (almost) eliminates the griefer vibe that can permeate some other survival games. Yes, theoretically someone could come into your game and smash your house down if you open your world up to the public, so try to play with people you know!

Simplicity Is Key

Valheim’s structure is immediately discernible and understandable even for players far removed from the survival genre. Essentially, each biome is a tier and ruled by a boss. Farm the zone for resources, make new gear and recipes, kill the boss, rinse and repeat with tools to tackle the next zone via the boss drops. The boss battles create server-gathering events for you and your friends, and if you’re playing with a particularly inquisitive or adventurous group there are creative ways to sequence break the natural order of progression. The key here really is that the game is understandable from the get go, with a helpful crow giving players tutorial steps. You don’t need to worry about making fifty other items to craft a single item or complex multifaceted crafting schools, it’s just get up and go and start making progress in your world.

Conquering the Meadow is a breeze, the Black Forest offers a significant bump up in exploration and challenges, and things get considerably more intense in the Swamp, Plains, and Mountains. And Valheim has optional secrets to discover as well that exist outside the biome hierarchy that can greatly enhance your options and progress, like the merchant and a certain sea creature I won’t spoil. There’s something to be said that you aren’t tasked with trying to cobble together thirty different types of resources just to get things going, wood and stone is enough. Survival titles are somewhat inherently intimidating by genre, and Valheim is surprisingly welcoming for a game where vikings battle werewolves in the snow.

Rewards Instead Of Punishment

Yes, Valheim has some fairly hardcore consequences for death in that you need to run back to your body to recover your gear and items, but you can prepare for it quite well. Outside of that though, Valheim rewards you for interacting with survival mechanics rather than punishing you for failing to do so. Eating food makes you much harder to kill, providing hit point regeneration, stamina, and other bonuses – but you won’t die from not eating. You’re incentivized to find shelter and warmth from the cold and wet conditions, but these things won’t kill or damage you either. From a gameplay standpoint, this makes dealing with the world a lot easier. You know that if you’re going to be doing any difficult task like forging ahead into a new biome or taking on a boss you’re going to want to be fully rested with hearty meals in your belly, but you are not constantly nagged to death by hunger, thirst, or weather meters. This design shift is highly significant for alleviating excess player frustration in a hostile world.

Punctuated, Powerful Discovery

Most survival games have meaningful discoveries, and Valheim puts an exclamation mark on them with sparse musical notes and well-utilized effects. Valheim’s world is surprisingly beautiful at times, with impressive lighting and weather adding accents to the action. Rainstorms. Lightning. Blizzard whiteouts. The first time comes at you while you climb up the frozen slopes of the Mountains, your first journey on the sea where you run into the great , and summoning your first boss are just a few examples of momentous moments that you’ll have, by yourself or with your Viking crew. While much of the fare in Valheim is in fact featured in other survival games too, Valheim nails the discovery aspect, filling players with equal parts trepidation and exhilaration as they wander into new areas for the first time. Finding some of the optional discoveries lends much to the standard Biome > Boss > Biome recipe that might otherwise render the journey rote, and hearing the horn the first time you set sail on the sea is something you simply can’t find anywhere else. 

Coming Back To Reality

Yes, there's also the COVID-19 factor that is shining the spotlight on gaming experiences both solitary and social, but it would be dismissive and wrong to attribute Valheim's success to that aspect alone. I’m happy that Valheim is seeing a ton of early access success, and I hope it means the team can eventually push out an amazing final product. The realities of the situation are that because it is early access and only about half the content is there worldwise, there’s going to be an inevitable fall-off as players hit the end of the current content offerings. Many will likely wait until the full version is available rather than tackling every patch on the roadmap. While this is perfectly normal and expected, expect plenty of cries from the peanut gallery that Valheim is a “Two-week game” or “Lol dead game!” as the playerbase trickles out after the initial surge.  Valheim is looking great as an approachable, intriguing, and flavorful world. You should probably take a look. 

Categories: Games

How To Spend Your Gold, Rubies, And Amber In Valheim

Thu, 02/11/2021 - 17:45

Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing Developer: Iron Gate AB Platform: PC

If you’ve been playing the Viking survival game Valheim, you’ve probably amassed a huge pile of precious gems and coins from your travels in the first few biomes, the Meadow and The Black Forest. Burial Chambers and Troll Hunts can line your pockets with valuable items during your first few days of gameplay, and later forays into the Sunken Crypts of the Swamp can yield huge piles of amber, amber pearls, and rubies while you collect scrap iron. Be sure to bring a torch or light source into these dungeons and caves, as you may otherwise miss these valuables as they are tiny, hard to see, and often tucked away in a corner out of sight. Of course, sometimes you’ll find a stack in a chest, but do check out the darker areas in primary rooms.

Turn in your treasure for extremely useful items at Haldor

It’s likely that your valuables and coins are sitting nested away inside a box at your homestead, waiting for the day you find someplace to spend them. With any luck, that day has come, as you head to locate the vendor in The Black Forest biome. Depending on your world seed, your vendor(s) may be incredibly easy to find, or you may want to pack a sack lunch for a long exploration across the world. Either way, you should plan on locating the vendor as soon as possible, don’t put it off as you begin exploring the Swamp and Plains biomes. Basically, you should try to have a vendor found at or around the time you take down the Elder, but don’t sweat it if you put together a location expedition a bit later. That said, the vendor provides access to some incredibly powerful items that will make your life much, much easier as you move into the more difficult areas of the game.

The vendor’s name is Haldor, and shows up on the map with a big bag symbol. There’s a fairly generous range for this map icon to show up, so keep an eye on your map while you are looking for Haldor, as the symbol will show up long before you can see his camp. Depending how close your civilization is to Haldor, one of your first projects should be to construct a portal nearby (assuming you have the surtling cores to spare). Then, it’s time to take a look at what this mystic merchant has to offer!

Haldor sells fishing rods and bait which can greatly diversify your cooking options and give you something to do on those long trips across the sea, but that’s just the beginning. The big ticket item on sale for 950 gold is the Megingjord. You want this. What does it do? In Norse mythology, the Megingjord is Thor’s magic belt of strength. In Valheim, it functions much in the same way, and wearing it will raise your weight cap from 300 to 450. That’s a ton more ore that you can haul back out of those dungeon delves, and it makes using higher-end metals to craft your gear more palatable. Iron is heavy!

Tired of carrying around a torch? Pick up the Dverger circlet and you’ll have a light source on your head wherever you go! And if you just want to sit around the homestead in style as you cultivate crops and honey, grab the Yule hat. It’s stylish.

It’s going to be tough to come up with the raw thousands of coins you and your team need to get a full complement of goods from Haldor, so that’s why you want to bring him your valuables. While you can’t sell standard goods to Haldor, anything tagged “valuable” in your inventory can be sold for coins.

Once you find Haldor and have a chance to trade in your treasures for useful items, your progress through Valheim gets some new options and extremely useful tools to help make the survival journey easier. Find the vendor as soon as you can!

Categories: Games

Bravely Default II: Important Things To Know Before You Play

Tue, 02/09/2021 - 14:00

Publisher: Square Enix Developer: ClayTechWorks Release: February 26, 2021 Platform: Switch

Bravely Default II arrives this month, so let's take a dive into the upcoming turn-based grind-heavy JRPG. Digging into the game's opening hours reveals many similar aspects to the "modern" take on the classic template, much like other games in the franchise and Octopath Traveler. Looking for more? Our review lands later this month.

Dungeon Delving

First, the game's dungeon structure is formulaic but fun. Once you have it down, you'll really never question about where you are at in terms of progressing through the many, many dungeons. Essentially, the structure is warp point (a quick teleport back to the start of a dungeon in order to use a tent, heal up, save, etc), and then a further warp point later in the dungeon next to a save point. This means the boss is ahead. In Bravely Default II, you want to be saving at every possible checkpoint you see like this, because the bosses can represent an extremely large difficulty spike that may require you to readjust your classes, gear, and skills before going into battle.

Explore Everywhere

What I've been enjoying especially about Bravely Default II so far in the first few chapters is open-world exploration. Each major chunk of the game hinges on a major city and many outlying areas and dungeons. In the open world, you can wander around, find chests dotted around the landscape, chop down grass for sometimes-incredible loot (I found some areas' awesome, best-in-slot gear this way), and even wander into rare monsters. You also need to be cautious when traveling the open world. If you see a suspicious land mass that doesn't have any dungeons or anything on it, and there's a conspicuous strip of land, peninsula, or nook, be extremely careful approaching any enemies nearby. They may be an elite rare monster. These creatures often represent an absurd power spike relative to the areas they are in, much harder than the area bosses, and can wipe out your crew in a single attack. These monsters give you reasons to come back to areas you've conquered to continue investigation. In fact, Bravely Default II rewards you for backtracking early and often, offering new quests in past areas and fast travel between capital cities. So go explore! It's fun! Just be careful.

Alternate dungeons are littered around the landscape as well, and some have big secrets to discover. You can and should use these areas to level up and grind while you work on job combos to handle big bosses. Main story bosses are mandatory to continue your progress, but you don't need to just grind on every bug, goblin, and ogre outside. Plenty of internal areas tucked away in the landscape let you pull out your dungeon-crawling lantern and look around. The enemies are likely tougher than outside, but you can find all kinds of excellent gear and even permanent stat-boosting items.

Grandiose Grinding

This is a game you're going to be doing a considerable amount of grinding in, and you will be swapping around your job abilities to make that happen. In Bravely Default II, you can utilize monster bait to make your grinding more efficient and less time consuming. Are you going to be slaughtering insects en masse in the forest? How about taking on demons in a temple? Humans in a sewer? Whatever major enemy type you're up against, there's an associated bait food you can activate to make sure wave after wave of them will show up, one right after another. What does this do? Not only does it give you the experience, gold, job points and loot that the battles would give packed into one battle, it provides a nice multiplier to your job experience. You can stack this with area-of-effect skills and a job perk that you can obtain early in the game to become an experience and loot lawnmower, ready to gobble up foes and some essential extra padding for boss encounters. Turn your battle speed up to max, get your actions set up, and plow through battles rapidly for a big payout. You can't turn the battles off in Bravely Default II, but weaker enemies will run away from you on sight, so you will only rarely have to fight if you're not interested once you are high level for an area. You can catch them easily, so this doesn't impact mass farming.

Don't Rush 

Over the course of the game, you will find many different "asterisks" which let your characters become new jobs. Passive job skills you unlock can be transferred around between jobs, and this is where your creativity and breaking the game skills come in. While I can't talk about them today, there are all kinds of ways to create incredibly powerful combinations. That's good, because bosses can have strong defenses and incredible attacks, you won't be able to get through tough fights by just defaulting and using moves. Having a coordinated build to take on areas and bosses is key, and the game is good at delivering the tools for you to handle them. Be sure to do sidequests and explore if you're feeling completely dominated in a area, and yes, throw on some monster bait and grind it out!

Bravely Default taps into that old-school turn-based JRPG well that we've seen recently with Octopath Traveler, and will likely make players craving that nostalgia blast happy when it arrives later this month. Look for our full review closer to release!

Categories: Games

Valheim: How To Summon The Elder And Find The Swamp

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 18:30

Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing Developer: Iron Gate AB

If you checked out our starter guide for the Viking survival game Valheim, you’ve probably already beaten Eikthyrnir and started working on a happy homestead for you and your fellow Norse explorers. Your next mission tasks you with taking on the much bigger and badder boss The Elder and tackling the challenges of the Black Forest and Swamp biomes. After beating the first boss, the game opens up in several important ways that will take you in different directions. While Valheim is perfectly enjoyable as a solo experience, I recommend handling the journey ahead with a few good friends.

After Eikthyrnir’s demise, you’ll have the opportunity to fashion your first pickaxes from its antlers to mine stone, copper, and tin. These items can be found in the second biome in the game that spawns adjacent to your starting zone, the Black Forest. The Black Forest is much more dangerous than the Meadows, and includes Trolls, Skeletons, and a variety of deadly Dwarves. As you explore the Black Forest, be acutely aware of your surroundings and listen for the rumblings of Trolls. Trolls can kill you in one or two hits with your Meadows-tier armor, and corpse running through the Forest is a perilous endeavor.

The Black Forest And Surtling Cores

You can create many powerful items and tools from your newfound ores. However, you’re going to need a smelter, forge, and other additional amenities that you want to set up at your main base. For these, you are going to need to collect surtling cores. Now, there are several ways you can go about getting the surtling cores you need, but we’ll target the traditional way first, and then get to an alternative method later.

The Black Forest contains two different kinds of core “dungeon delves”. Keep an eye out on rocky outcrops with a door leading into the earth. One of these that can appear are Troll Lairs. You won’t need these as each one contains a Troll and some treasure in a single room, but you can feel free to farm these for amber, gold coins, rubies, and Troll hides. You can exploit the game’s artificial intelligence here by going into a Troll Lair, shooting the Troll with a few arrows, and zoning out of the cave. Rinse and repeat until the Troll is dead and walk away with some great loot safely, and make yourself a Troll cape!

The second kind of dungeon delve is the one you’re looking for. These Burial Chambers include a variety of dangers and treasures, and contain multiple rooms. You will face many skeletons in these areas, including some more dangerous archers and magic-imbued creatures. This is a great time to learn how to parry attacks with your shield. You will have poor visibility down in the depths, so a torch is suggested as your main weapon here (or you can bring more players with light sources as you swing with a traditional weapon). Be sure to open and clear each room carefully, cleaning up skeleton, ghosts, and skeletal spawners. In addition to finding various treasures in these areas, you will find rooms that contain a variable number of surtling cores. If you’re lucky, you can find all the cores you need for a bustling base in just a few dungeon dives.

Your First Foray Into The Swamp

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Alternatively, you can find surtling cores in great abundance in the Swamp biome. Now, going to the swamp biome at this point in the game is a dangerous prospect, as it is home to poison blobs, leeches, enhanced skeletons, and more. Depending on your world seed, it may be possible to get to the swamps naturally or with some light swimming, but you will likely need to fashion a raft and head to the edges of your Meadows and Forests, and set out on a short trip through the ocean. A bigger, broader ship is advised if you have the farming inclination to set it up. Extreme caution is suggested for your first foray into the Swamp. I highly recommend making an encampment with a bed spawn point on the edge of the biome but not in the biome, so on a Meadows tileset adjacent to the Swamp is ideal. The reason for this is that you do not want swamp creatures invading your home or, even worse, destroying it. Your home-away-from-home will be able to handle the deer and boars that come knocking, but not the swamp fare. Additionally, your first priority upon making a settlement adjacent to the Swamp is to create a portal here that links back to your main base, but you can do that after your beds and walls have been safely secured.

One creature that you can find in vast numbers in the Swamp is surtlings. These fiery foes can be quite dangerous in packs. My advice is to pick them off at range with your bow in relative safety. At all times in the Swamp, and especially when hunting surtlings, keep an eye on your environment and stay out of the many water patches when moving around. Water patches are a hotbed of leeches and they can sneak up on you and kill you easily while you are otherwise occupied. Surtlings are an incredible source of both surtling cores and coal, so if you are an adventurous sort, this is a far better method of collecting these resources than attempting to find and clear out the Black Forest dungeon delves. High risk, high reward!

How To Spawn The Elder

The Swamp contains a number of other dangerous pursuits that you’re welcome to explore immediately, but your primary concern at this time in the game should be putting together a set of gear and tactics to take on the second major boss in the game, The Elder. This massive tree is much more difficult and deadly compared to Eikthyrnir and can be located at extremely inconvenient locations for a corpse run. First, how do you spawn The Elder? There’s a clue at his summoning point (something that is consistent across all Valheim boss encounters) that tells you to burn the young. In this case, we’re talking about the Graydwarves young. 

Now, you may be thinking that you have seen tons of Grayling dwarves, but never gotten a trophy from them to use as a sacrifice in the burning bowl. It’s true, that’s not the way to spawn The Elder. Instead, you will need to find some Ancient Seeds (The dwarves here in Valheim grow from seeds, so these are basically… unborn baby dwarves. ew…). Ancient Seeds can be found in The Black Forest area by hunting down and destroying a Graydwarf Spawner. Look for a purple glow as you wander around the Forest and you should find one in no time. Place these seeds in the burning bowl at The Elder spawnpoint to make him appear. The Elder can fire incredibly powerful vines, summons deadly root spawns, and will absolutely annihilate you if you wander into melee range with a powerful stomp. Make no mistake, this boss is much, much more powerful than Eikthyrnir and can easily kill you and your friends, so I recommend you bring excellent armor and food, practice running and gunning, and bring a mountain of fire arrows to light The Elder up.

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The Swamp and Black Forest are meaty zones with much more to explore than the Meadow, and expand the Valheim experience significantly, both in terms of the dangers you face and the options you wield to combat enemies and the environment. Have you tried Valheim yet? Are you playing solo or with friends? Let us know in the comments!

Categories: Games

How To Get Started In Norse Survival Game Valheim

Thu, 02/04/2021 - 19:45

Publisher: Coffee Stain Publishing Developer: Iron Gate AB

Valheim has been making longboat waves in the sea of survival games since its early access launch on PC earlier this week. The combination of Norse mythology and brutal endurance is a natural fit for the genre. Survival games have become a major player on the scene in the last decade, with a never-ending string of offerings in various states of early access and release, allowing players to battle against the elements, hunger, thirst, and even massive monsters. Of course, this begs the question: How do you get started in a world that’s actively trying to kill you? Ask any aspiring warrior and they’ll tell you tales of their terrifying first night, huddled in the cold attempting to survive against a tide of evil dwarf-things and skeletons. Fear not, Ragnar. We’ve got your starter survival guide right here to beat back the night.

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First, it’s important to note that you can (and probably should) tackle the dangers of Valheim with friends. You can play with up to 10 people in a single game, and bringing more fledgling Vikings into the mix greatly improves your efficiency and survivability. Getting a group that enjoys a mix of tasks is a big benefit, dividing and conquering activities like building up your homestead, exploring underground dungeons, and gathering essential materials. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit here. When you begin Valheim, you’re unceremoniously dropped into a little forest nook in the Meadows biome where you get a taste of what your future holds. Here, at a magical altar, you can see runestones depicting the various gods that you’ll be taking on over the course of the game. 

Surviving Your First Day

Your first big mission is to summon and destroy Eikthyrnir, a giant stag demigod. Yep. A deer. Doesn’t sound too scary, right? Well, we’ll get to more on that later. You’re cold, it’s wet, and you have some raggedy pants on. Time to get to work! Your first night will fall quickly, and like other survival games, Valheim’s evenings are much more dangerous than the days, and having shelter is important. The first order of business is to start punching trees. No, this isn’t Minecraft, but you are going to need some wood! Don’t try and knock down the massive trees just yet, start on the small bushes and find yourself some rocks lying around. Using the rocks and wood, craft yourself a makeshift axe. With that, you can cut down the bigger trees and start collecting massive amounts of wood. You’re going to need it.

You may have noticed that as you run, cut, and craft that your skills are going up. Valheim uses a skill-based advancement system that rewards you with proficiency for doing things. Blocking with a shield, stabbing with a knife, swimming, jumping, whatever. You get bigger and better for doing the things you love! That said, there are stakes and risks here. When you die, you could lose some skill points, so it’s best to value your life as much as possible. Also, you drop everything (including your equipped weapons and armor) when you die. You’ll have to participate in the dreaded “corpse run” in order to get your stuff back, so especially early on, try to die near home.

But we don’t even have a home yet! Let’s fix that. Use the massive amounts of wood you’ve collected to put up a crafting bench and build a makeshift house around it. It’s going to need roofing and a door, and you need to make sure you build it around the bench, as you won’t be able to use the bench unless it’s properly located in shelter. Once your bench is up, you’re in good shape, and it’s probably already getting dark out. Craft a campfire and a bed, and go to sleep. You can pass time to day as long as all players in the game are in beds. If you’re solo you have nothing to worry about here, but if you’re playing with friends it’s important to communicate that it’s bedtime. They will each need a bed as well, which also functions as your bind point where you will respawn on death. As you continue to explore the world of Valheim and push your boundaries, it may behoove you to build bases further and further away from the safety of the Meadows.

Cooking And Crafting Your Way To Victory

Moving right along, the next thing you need to do is place a cooking rack above your campfire. This allows you to cook meat. Food is extremely important in Valheim. Not only do foodstuffs heal you, but they also increase your maximum hit points and confer other benefits. Until now, you’ve probably only been eating berries scrounged from nearby bushes. It’s time to make a real meal. Head outside and let's kill some boars! You can use your fists, make a flimsy club, or even use your axe for the task. 

Boars are everywhere in the Meadows, and make great meals. They also drop your first important resource, leather scraps. With leather scraps, we can make a multitude of useful goodies at the crafting table, including a shield and a bow. You want to prioritize making the bow, but I also can’t stress enough how good shields and blocking are in Valheim. Many enemies can kill you in just a few hits, even with some good food in your system, and blocking can prevent much or all of the damage of a timed swing. It takes some getting used to, but practice using your shield, it will pay off.

Don't Fear The Deer

Once you have a bow, arrows are easy to craft with wood, so make yourself a nice stack of 50 to 100. Of important note is the fact that you can repair any and all of your gear at your crafting stations in Valheim at no resource cost, so take advantage of this to get the most out of your weapons, armor, and tools. Once your bow is crafted, it’s time to explore a little further from home. Try to find some water sources nearby. What you’re looking for at the rivers is flint, which you can find alongside the water and even in it. Pick up as much as possible as you explore. During this time, you should also be using the bow to take on an enemy that may have eluded your fists and clubs. The mighty deer.

Deer are everywhere in the meadows and offer different crafting materials than the boars, and can be used to make some early tier leather gear like helmets. Deer are incredibly skittish, and are hard to chase down and kill with melee weapons. However, your bow is perfect for sniping them at long range. Try to be quiet with your approach, aim, and fire, and keep a lot of distance between you and the target, as they are quite perceptive and will flee at the first sign of you. In addition to the excellent early game drop tables that deer provide, you need to find a deer trophy. With it, you can summon the first boss in the game, Eikthyrnir. The giant enemies and god-tier foes in Valheim are a staggering contrast to the pastoral fare that you’ve been taking on thus far, so be sure to appropriately prepare for the Eikthyrnir battle.

You’re going to want a flint spear, a shield, a bow with a lot of arrows, and the best armor you can craft up. You want to eat the best meal you can whip up as well. At this point in the game, that’s likely going to be a cooked neck (lizard), cooked meat (boar/deer), and whatever raspberry/blueberry you have lying around or a mushroom. With all these in hand, it’s time to take on your first real challenge. Head to Eikthyrnir’s altar (which should be marked on your map if you clicked on the first runestone where you landed to start the game) and place the trophy on the altar. Good luck!

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After besting Eikthyrnir, you’ll be able to make some new tools forged from his antlers that assist in tackling the next big biome, The Black Forest. The Black Forest is a lot bigger and a lot harder than the Meadows, and will send you deep into underground dungeons and place you face to face with undead assailants and giant trolls as you begin learning the wonders of smelting and forging.

This is just the beginning of Valheim as early access continues to roll out new features, and we can’t wait to see what’s next as we attempt to survive and thrive in these dangerous Norse lands.

Categories: Games

Sega Announces Total War: Warhammer III

Wed, 02/03/2021 - 15:00

Publisher: Sega Developer: Creative Assembly Platform: PC

The popular Total War: Warhammer series is officially continuing, as Sega of Europe today announced Total War: Warhammer III. The conclusion to the Total War: Warhammer trilogy is once again helmed by the team at Creative Assembly and promises to cast players into a major conflict between the daemonic powers and the sentinels of the mortal world.

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The team promises major choices for players to make within the climactic clash with strategy on a grander scale than the series has seen to this point. This third entry will feature iconic races from World of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, including the first video game appearance of Kislev and Cathay. This entry features the most diverse group of heroes, monsters, creatures, and powers in series history. The all-new campaign tasks players will saving or exploiting the power of a dying god, with each race offering a unique journey through the Chaos Realm, with an endgame centered on determining the fate of the world.

"Our vision, from the start, was to create a series that felt like an incredible journey through this world we all loved," game director Ian Roxburgh said in a press release. "The enormous support of our players in ensuring the success of the first two installments has pushed our ambition to new heights, and we can't wait for everyone to experience it."

This game's predecessor, Total War: Warhammer II, resonated with us, garnering an 8.75 out of 10 review score when it launched in 2017. In that review, Daniel Tack said that "exciting new races make for a delightful strategy offering." With even more races entering the mix of Total War: Warhammer III, hopefully that once again ups the ante to provide for a thrilling conclusion for fans of the franchise.

We don't yet know when Total War: Warhammer III will be available, but you can pick it up on Steam, Epic Games Store, or direct from the developer.

Categories: Games

New Among Us-Inspired RPG Eville Announced, Demo Available Today

Wed, 02/03/2021 - 14:00

Among Us has been all the rage since its surprise resurgence last year, and independent development studio VestGames hopes to court some of the enthusiastic following of the massive hit. Eville is a social deduction title that combines elements of Among Us with the card game One Night Ultimate Werewolf and wraps it up with RPG elements and a fantasy village setting and aesthetic.

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After a series of murders upends the peaceful and quiet town of Eville, it's up to players to take matters into their own hands. The residents must deduce who the killer is and put a stop to the murders. The citizens of Eville must work together to stop the killings before they end up as the next victims.

Each character has unique skills and roles to help figure out the identity of the murderer. Once someone is identified, you put them on trial as either a means for finding the murderer or as a way to turn villagers against one another in a fit of mistrust. Villagers can also assume the role of Conspirator and help the murderer by removing barriers to clear the path for the killer. 

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At the start of each game, every player is assigned a role: Citizen or Conspirator. Within those umbrella classes are specialized roles that grant unique abilities to support either the investigation or the string of killings. Villagers must work together to achieve their goal of finding the responsible parties, but they can also call upon the help of NPC villagers to look for clues and identify suspects. Conspirators' job is to aide the murderer and work to throw the villagers off the scent while protecting their own identity. If the Conspirators are identified based on clues left behind, it's into the flaming cage for them.

Customizable avatars, an interactive village community, and a meaningful day/night cycle all point toward this being a distinct take on the currently-popular genre. If you want to check it out for yourself, Eville launches into Steam Early Access sometime in 2021, but a free multiplayer demo is available from today until February 9 as a part of the Steam Winter Festival.

Categories: Games

Devs Share A Behind-The Crash Look At Destruction AllStars

Tue, 02/02/2021 - 01:05

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment Developer: Lucid Games Release: February 2, 2021 Platform: PlayStation 5

Destruction AllStars crashed into public consciousness last June during Sony’s PlayStation 5 event. At the time of its bombastic reveal, the car-combat title was set for a retail release around the then-upcoming console’s launch. In October, Sony pumped the brakes, announcing that the title was getting delayed to February 2. To mitigate the sting, the company said the game would be available at no extra charge for PlayStation Plus subscribers. Hours from its worldwide launch, we spoke with Destruction AllStars’ senior producer and director to learn about its old-school roots, on-foot action, and how it’s treating cars like guns.

When we spoke, the game was slowly coming to life on the other side of the globe. Players in New Zealand were the first to be able to check out the game, which has been an interesting experience for Colin Berry, director at Lucid Games. “This is the first time I’ve launched a game and now there’s somebody playing it live on Twitch,” he says. “Which is cool and exciting, but I’ve described it as being a bit unnerving.” 

Berry has been developing games for decades, working on the Wipeout series, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, and more. He says Geometry Wars 3 was the last game he’s worked on that most people have heard of, adding, “It was only maybe five or six years ago, but the world was a different place back then.” He says the launch of the PlayStation Portable game Wipeout Pure went well, for example, but that it essentially occurred in a vacuum. “I never actually got to see anyone playing it outside of E3. Because once it’s out, you don’t see people play your game. Only now you do, and that’s new to me. You’re more connected to the people who are playing your game.”

The Shift To PlayStation Plus

If things go according to plan, there are going to be a lot of people playing Destruction AllStars. Its competitive nature was the impetus for the move away from a full-priced retail game to a PlayStation Plus release. “The reason for that was quite simply, online multiplayer games need an audience,” says John McLaughlin, senior producer at Sony. “And to give the game the best audience possible was to put it into PlayStation Plus. PlayStation Plus decisions are made way in advance, so the earliest we could come out was February.” It’s a move that helped give titles like Rocket League and Fall Guys an early boost, and Sony is hoping for a similar effect with Destruction AllStars.

The delay gave the developers time to ensure that its online tech was up to snuff. “There’s a difference between launching when there’s no consoles out there and having a very small audience and then coming a few months later when you have potentially millions of players on,” McLaughlin says. “We spent a lot of time on the back end, working hard and making sure that everything goes as smoothly as it possibly can.”

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Car Combat Comeback

Back in the PlayStation 1 era, car-combat games were fairly common. In fact, the original demo disc for the console featured playable demos for Destruction Derby and Twisted Metal. “There used to be a lot of these games of this type, and then they just kind of seemed to dry up,” Berry says. “It’s similar not just with the car arena-combat games, but even with action-arcade racing games like the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 era of Burnout and Split/Second and Blur and those.”

Arcade racers still come out from time to time, but players who just want to smash cars together until they explode have fewer options. And as Berry points out, those games don’t stop being fun just because they’re not being made much anymore. 

“I can remember early on in our project – I won’t name-check the guy because he wouldn’t be happy – but we have a concept artist who joined us fresh out of school, a really good guy, a really talented guy,” Berry says. “He must be 21, 22 now, so he was 18 back when we first sort of started the project. One of the references for one of the things that we were looking at, I mentioned Burnout, and he was like, ‘I’ve ever played Burnout.’ I was like, ‘What? It came out blah blah blah this year,’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I was four.’ Right. That explains that.” Berry says that exchange made him appreciate that his team would be bringing a genre to players who may not have had a chance to experience the satisfaction of crashing virtual cars together.

The twist with Destruction AllStars is that you don’t lose when your car is wrecked. Instead, your character can continue on foot – which is about as dangerous as it sounds. “In this game, even though it’s car combat and it’s about smashing into each other and the cars are a really heavy focus, the way we sort of think about it, for our mentality, is you are the character and the cars are your weapons,” Berry says. “They’re disposable. You’re supposed to wreck them and cause damage. You’re supposed to get wrecked. In years gone by, it’s always been that thing of, ‘Oh, if I get wrecked I’ve lost.’ Or that’s game over. But it’s not. You get wrecked, and you come flying out of the car in an explosion of metal and wheels and bits of car, and your character comes out and lands on the floor and bang. They go, and they’re off.”

Wear And Tear

Destruction is, obviously, a huge part of the game. As cars degrade and take damage, they begin to perform more poorly. As it turns out, finding the balance for that aspect of the driving was a little tricky. “It’s mostly cosmetic, and this was something that we deliberately tuned because we could have gone either way,” Berry says. “Because you can get out of the car at any point, it became a question early on, ‘If we gimp your handling as soon as you get impacted, you’re just going to get out of that car and go and get another one.’ And that means we end up with an arena littered with abandoned cars that are of no use to anybody, and it means that we’d probably get less spectacular wrecks because you take a bit of damage, lose a wheel, and then get out because the car feels really, really gimped.

“On the flipside, if we never reflect the damage in the handling and in the car’s performance, that’s not going to feel completely right, either, because it’s going to feel like a little disconnect. We tailor it so that as the car has taken quite extreme damage and it’s on its last legs, say its last 25-percent of health, you can start to feel it pull to one side if it’s taken damage to one side or lost a wheel. And you start to feel the bite on the accelerator on the adaptive triggers and also the brake, they start to rattle and you can feel that your car has taken damage. It’s going a little bit slower, but not massively slower. It was a conscious choice of wanting to reflect damage in the vehicle performance but we don’t want to do it to a level where it becomes too much and the players just leave the car behind.”

Destruction AllStars is available February 2 on PlayStation 5 via PlayStation Plus.
 

Categories: Games

Evil Genius 2 Aims Its Doomsday Device At March Release Date

Thu, 01/28/2021 - 15:00

Publisher: Rebellion Developments Developer: Rebellion Developments Release: March 30, 2021 Platform: PC

If you've been desperate to take over the world on your own terms, Rebellion Games has you covered. In fact, World Domination just so happens to be the name of the game ... literally. Evil Genius 2: World Domination puts you in the shoes of one of four maniacal masterminds as you build up your evil lair, train your minions, stop unwanted intruders, and, eventually, take over the world with the help of your Doomsday Device. Today, Rebellion Games let us know that March 30 is when we'll be able to chart our path to snatching control of the Earth away from the powers that be.

Evil Genius 2: World Domination lets you select from four different playable characters: Max, a narcissist with a well-rounded playstyle; Ivan, a muscle-bound madman; Emma, a master manipulator and former spy; or Zalika, a science-heavy zealot. Based on the character you choose, your options, playstyle, and even story change. If that's not enough customization, you can also choose from three island locations on which to build your supervillain headquarters. Each island features its own gameplay challenges.

Once you get down to brass tacks and start building your lair, vastly updated controls allow you to build multi-floor lairs with ease. If you're worried about do-gooder spies from the Forces of Justice infiltrating your lair (and you should be worried!), new rooms, henchmen, traps, and more can be placed however you see fit to try and catch those who would dare attempt to thwart you. 

Of course, you can't dominate the world if your entire operation is contained to one little island. You can send henchmen and minions on missions across the globe to gain influence and control over different regions. By completing various schemes and heists, you can expand your criminal network and steal valuable loot.

Check out the new release-date announcement trailer below and get ready claim the world for your own.

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Evil Genius 2: World Domination lands on PC via Steam on March 30. For more on the long-awaited sequel to the 2004 cult-classic, check out my preview from late 2020 here. To learn exactly what Evil Genius 2: World Domination is, read up on my coverage of the reveal from E3 2019.

Note: The original headline and body text stated the release date was May 30. The actual release date for Evil Genius 2: World Domination is March 30. We regret this error. The headline and body text have been changed to reflect the accurate information.

Categories: Games

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