Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Iron Banner Week is Live

Iron Banner has returned again for the week of July 28th. This PvP event has players pitted in Controlling zones and earning reputation for goodies from the vendor. Here is a list of the possible gear for this week:

New Titan Helmet
New Hunter Helmet

New Warlock Helmet

Dragon Quest XI Announced

Dragon Quest has been a franchise staple since 1986, with ten titles spanning multiple consoles over the years.

Square Enix announced yesterday that Dragon Quest XI is slated to be released for the Playstation 4 and 3DS in Japan. They managed to drop Nintendo NX as a possibility as well, Nintendo's yet to be revealed next console, claiming it is under consideration.

No confirmation of an American Release as of yet.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Spotlight: Seasons After Fall

Seasons After Fall
PC - Xbox One - PS4
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: 2016

Charming platformers tend to ring a chord with me, and Seasons after Fall is well within that category.

Seasons after Fall is an exploration game at heart, in which you take the role of a fox with the ability to change the season as needed to manipulate the world around you. These actions can create platforms with blooming flowers in spring or freezing water to traverse over the icy rivers.

You have unlimited power to change the seasons, but also have the ability to communicate with other animals. We see the fox utilize a floating jellyfish to assist in opening a bridge, and even possible communication with a lumbering bear for a bigger task.

The game is shaping up to be simple, fun, and has potential for some pretty clever platforming puzzles.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ori and the Blind Forest Review - When Storybooks Come to Life

Score: 9.25 / 10
Ori and the Blind Forest
Xbox One - PC
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: March 11, 2015

  • Gorgeous visual appeal
  • Gameplay is fluid and easy to pick up
  • Story is wonderfully told
  • Hidden collectibles and tasks have you often straying from main path
  • You can create your own savepoint, but will often forget
  • Some segments are frustratingly difficult

Ori grabbed everyone's attention at E3 last year. It was a new IP, and a gorgeous one at that, and similar to Limbo or Journey the visual appeal allowed it to standout amongst triple A titles. It was not just the look of the game that drew me in, but the emotional impact a minute and a half trailer carried with it. That small window of time captured loss, hope, and fear with a few simple frames and a beautiful soundtrack. The trailer that stuck with me a few years ago has delivered that very experience from start to finish, with a wonderfully crafted game that is as fun to play as it is to watch.

What is this warm, fuzzy feeling?

Like playing out a storybook, Ori and the Blind Forest's wonderful art direction and atmosphere keeps you hooked into the game from start to finish. Every aspect of the game is the definition of beauty. The light hearted soundtrack compliments the visual brilliance, soothing you with simple melodies or pumping up your heart rate during an epic chase. The standout of the 2D environment shines through with the vivid contrast of light and dark, with Ori standing out like a lens flare in a Tim Burton film. It is a living, breathing world that entices you to explore every corner.

The story compliments this tone with a simplistic, yet fitting approach. No dialogue is spoken throughout the game, and only a translated omnipotent Narrator along with your companion will guide you through the events that unfold. Ori begins his quest after falling from the Spirit Tree during a storm, and is adopted by a creature known as Naru. Soon a cataclysmic event orphans Ori, who is restored to life near the Spirit Tree. Upon awakening Ori is tasked with  restoring the forest by recovering the light of three main elements that balance Nibel.  You meet\ a few other faces along the way that delve into the origins of the cataclysm, the mystery behind your aggressor Kuro, and the effect Ori has on the creatures he finds along the way. It is a tale of love, loss, and the glimmering light of hope that Ori embodies as he overcomes every trial to restore balance to the world.

Fighting the Color Purple

Gameplay is very similar to fans of Metroid as a side scrolling platformer with a mix of combat and perfectly timed jumps. Ori explores areas, unlocks new abilities, and uses those abilities to progress further to each marked objective. Platforming becomes very fluid with wall climbing, boosted jumps, and glides that string together seamlessly. Soon the game will have you chaining together everything you know during chase segments, creating a fluid movement to a safe zone. Combat varies with the different enemies that bar your path, some shooting projectiles and others hopping around aggressively to plop on your head. Ori's guide will shoot out beams of light at a certain range, which can be combined with ground pounds and bashes to open your enemy up for attack.

Ori features a save system that is manually done in lieu of a typical autosave. There will be segments that automatically save but for the most part, you must lay down a save spot before trudging along through a difficult segment. This is a double edged sword, as laying a spot down just outside a difficult part is a joyful convenience, but if you are like most who are conditioned to expect auto saves you will forget this feature a lot. This leads to many trudges through the same spot over and over again until you finally remember to lay down a save point. There are also segments that are frustratingly difficult, especially the end segment that requires near-perfect timing to complete. I found myself having to walk away at one point after dying so much that I could not bear to repeat the same part for the thirtieth time.

 I will find you shiny item...and I will collect you

Those who strive to collect every last item will find a fair share of content off the beaten path, each with its own use. Life Cells and Energy Cells are scattered around that increase the health of Ori or magic ability. These are usually found in areas behind secret walls or areas previously explored. You also gain experience and go through an ability tree, fine tuning your mobility, map awareness, or combat capabilities. By the end of the game I kept them pretty even and still had a handful of locked out abilities that would take a little more effort to fully unlock.

The few inconveniences of the game were not enough to outshine what is one of my favorite titles I have played this year. The wonderfully crafted world, the finely adapted soundtrack, and the fluid gameplay had me exploring every corner and overcoming every obstacle to see the game through to its conclusion. Ori is a game that is captivating from start to finish, and though the road ahead can be frustrating, the storybook feel of the game will keep you motivated to see every backdrop and corner of the world.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Don't Celebrate too Early - A Lesson in Humility

EVO is where the best of the best in fighting unite, but sometimes you get ahead of yourself, as this player finds out very quickly. His early celebration ends up costing him in the end, leaving many shouting "What are you standing up for?!?"

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Spotlight: Volume

PC - PS4 - PS Vita
Developer: Mike Bithell
Publisher: Mike Bithell
Release Date: August 18th, 2015

Toted as Metal Gear meets Robin Hood, Volume is a mixture of stealth and action as you navigate a Tron inspired world.

The story follows Robert Locksley, a petty thief that finds a device called "Volume", which allows him to simulate heists that are part of a secret military coup attempt. The device has an AI built into it that guides Robert on how to use the device. Robert decides to use the it to broadcast the simulations of high-profile crimes across the Internet.

Presented in top down format, Robert navigates from one point to the next, avoiding a multitude of guards and sentries. Though you cannot kill the guards in your path there will be plenty of tools at your disposal to distract or disable them.

Included is the ability to create your own maps and share them online. You add the walls, hazards, enemies, and end-goals for the player. This is a huge opportunity for the player to become the developer in sharing it with the world, and could provide potential for some featured user maps.

A unique visual asthetic coupled with familiar stealth gameplay, Volume looks to be an indie title for any Metal Gear fan at heart. Release date is set for August 18th.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Custom Amiibos Have Overtaken Etsy

Amiibos themselves are fun collectibles, but people are making them even more personalized. Etsy features a ton of hand crafted items, and amiibos are among the most impressive on that list. Just searching through the images, here are a few highlights I was able to find.

Buzz Lightyear Mega Man
Dry Bones Bowser
Fierce Deity Link
Harley Quinn Zelda
Batman Pikachu
Red Mage Mario
Shadow Mario
Metal Gear Yoshi

Monday, July 13, 2015

RIP Satoru Iwata

"On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer." - Satoru Iwata (2005)

Here is to the president that always stood by his company, that saw greatness and creativity and pursued it, and that refused to fire employees by taking a 50% pay cut instead. He was an important member of a video game culture, and will be sorely missed.

San Diego Comic Con - Halo: The Fall of Reach

Halo is getting the cartoon treatment with Halo: The Fall of Reach. Taken from their officialYoutube post:

"This three act series tells the oft-shrouded origin stories of the Spartan-II program. Set during events both befroe and after the terrifying Covenant attack on humanity, the story will introduce viewers to the members of Blue Team and allow them to witness pivotal moments that forged the legendary squad's legacy."

Halo getting the animated treatment should make for a fantastic show, as the Halo 4 Spartan Ops movies were a joy to watch. The show is an animated adapatation of Eric Nylund's novel, showing the origin of Master Chief.

The animated series will be included in the Digital Deluxe Edition, Limited Edition, and Limited Collector's Edition of Halo 5: Guardians on October 27th.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Review - That Familiar Feeling

Score: 9.5 / 10
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date:November 23rd, 2013

  • More open choice in dungeon order
  • Classic dungeon crawling action holds up with added mechanics
  • Clever puzzles and boss design
  • Great use of 3D to add depth to each enemy and platform
  • World swapping can be seen as too similar to ALttP Dark World mechanic
Nolstagia can come in many forms when it comes to video games. The familiar Metroid space pirate tune bringing back your first impending battle with the foe, battling Bowser once again as Mario, or even running across a particular character you remember from the first installment of a trilogy. A Link Between Worlds is the epitome of nostalgia from those who experienced A Link to the Past, one of the best Zelda titles to date. The layout of the map, the familiar character elements, and classic dungeon feel all give nods to its older counterpart, while providing a twist to the formula for an experience all its own.

When I play a Zelda game I expect to go in the classic dungeon order, defeating a boss, and gaining a new item along the way to progress further in the world. A Link Between Worlds decided to change all of that by offering every item used in dungeons almost right off the bat. Bombs, the Ice Rod, and even the Hookshot are available for rent for a mere handful of rubies, purchased for even more rupees. This is encouraged as every enemy and action gives more than the usual amount of rupees. It changes Legend of Zelda from a structured game to one that allows you to immediately complete all the sidequests or challenge a dungeon in any order they would like.

 I'm guessing it is dangerous to go alone?

Taking place years after the events of Link to the Past, Link takes up an adventure after a mysterious figure begins to turn characters into paintings, eventually kidnapping the Princess herself. You venture forth in the expected fashion, collecting items to unlock the Master Sword, and eventually facing the evil that is seeking the triforce. It all appears cookie cutter on the surface, but the game throws a few twists in at the conclusion that helps it all come together.

The 3DS does well in incorporating a look to make the game really standout. The over the top view is often panned around for cinematic encounters seamlessly to showcase a full fledged three dimensional world. The 3D technology adds depth to the various worlds you explore, often with flame pillars popping out at you or towering bosses. The classic soundtrack has some standout new songs, along with renditions of old classics. Overall it is a look that is both familiar and cartoonish enough to give Between Worlds its own charm.

In contrast to the more open world, Link utilizes his ability to adhere and travel along the wall in 2D. This form allows you to slip through cracks in the dimensions of Hyrule and Lorule, often bouncing between worlds to reach inaccessible areas and alter terrain to enter dungeons. It feels like a mechanic similar to hopping between timelines in ALttP. There is clever use of this ability in dungeons in slipping between cracks or steel bars to move across pits or dodging boss attacks. While I would have liked to see it used for a bit of wall paint combat, it serves as another tool to consider using when tackling the dungeon puzzles.

Can I pre-order items too?

Each dungeon features an item that is required to enter it, and that item is the basis of the dungeons' mechanics and puzzles; something Zelda continues to excel at with each new title. The traps that litter your path can leave you scratching your head as you seek out a missing key or backtrack to uncover a hidden path you overlooked. Expect a few classics like the color orb floors and hookshot puzzles, and a few new additions like the creation of sand bridges that really make you stop and look over each room's task. The handy accessibility of the dungeon map on the bottom screen makes it easy to navigate floor by floor. The end bosses are also standouts, as few of them are not nearly as big of pushovers as past boss encounters. Both the dungeons and bosses are a refreshing challenge and the design is fantastic in pointing you in the right direction.

The beauty of this game is the fact that practically every corner of the map is unlocked for you early on, leaving the world of Hyrule at your disposal. If you wish to hunt down every heart piece you have the means to do so, as the game litters you with rupees to rent every available weapon and access every corner. Expect plenty of side quests, running errands for villagers, and plethora of mini games as Link interacts in both worlds. You can also upgrade your purchased items by finding adorable hermit crab children that emote an "aww" inducing retort when they chime along with the Zelda tune upon pickup. There is a big world to explore, and A Link Between Worlds welcomes you with open arms.
Jail is not a problem anymore!

A Link Between Worlds makes a subtle change that brings about a surprising difference. Sure, you can expect a similar mechanic to ALttP in swapping between worlds, but the freedom to explore Hyrule at will and the ability to load out your arsenal with items so quickly makes for a different experience all together. With no fairy at your side, this felt like a Zelda title that held your hand a lot less, similar to how it was in A Link to the Past, without completely leaving you clueless. It is a well designed, well executed, and well established game; and a must have for any 3DS owner.

Friday Spotlight: Hellblade

Playstation 4
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Ninja Theory
Release Date: 2016

Third person sword play experiences are beginning to evolve into more than simple button mashing, and Hellblade looks to be on track to provide a unique adventure.

Players take the role of Senua, with a story based on Celtic myth. Supposedly the game is from Senua's point of view, and the enemies she will face are manifestations of her own reality and mind; tackling the subject of mental health that is now being represented in a video game. Creatures look incredibly frightening and intimidating, warranting cautious movements and reading enemies for openings.

Being called an "independent AAA" game, Ninja Theory is looking to publish and develop the game independently,  but with the quality of a big name title. So far the look alone showcases this, as there are breathtaking landscapes and top quality voicework being used for the project.

The influence from Heavenly Sword is obvious, but overall it looks like it is beginning to shape up. In their recent Developer Diaries, they have covered their continued progress in story and gameplay, reworking their play tests based on player feedback to get pointed in the right direction and even working with studying individuals with psychosis to better shape Senua as a character.

You can check out their Developer Diaries here.

An interesting concept, intriguing gameplay, and gorgeous look so early in the development process makes this one game to keep on your watchlist.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Disney Infinity 3.0 release date and pricing

Avid collectors of Disney's toys to life experience, Disney Infinity, have plenty to look forward to as the latest installment details were released today. Here is the rundown of packs and cost when it releases on August 30th: [1]

  • Disney Infinity 3.0 Starter Play Set - $64.99
    • Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano Figures
    • Toy Box 3.0 Software
    • Twilight of the Repbulic Play Set
  • Solo Star Wars Figures - $13.99 EA
  • Disney Figures- $13.99 EA
    • Mickey
    • Minnie
    • Mulan
    • Olaf
    • Sam Flynn
    • Quorra
  • Disney's Inside Out Pack - $74.99 for all
    • Playset Pack - Joy and Anger
    • Sadness
    • Disgust
    • Fear
  • Four-pack of Power discs - $9.99
That is a ton of content in one release, nearing almost $300 if you want to nab everything at once. A huge investment to be sure.

[1] - Kotaku - All The Disney Infinity 3.0 You Can Buy Come August 30th - http://kotaku.com/all-the-disney-infinity-3-0-you-can-buy-come-august-30-1716478771 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC limited to Next Gen

In the latest move to current gen platforms, Bioware is limiting the latest batch of DLC to Current Gen consoles only.

The last batch of DLC, Jaws of Hakkon, came first to the PC and Xbox One back in March, only later moving to PS3/PS4/Xbox 360 in May.

According to Eurogamer, a post on Dragon Age's official website details a save importer functionality, carrying over items and files from older consoles to the newer one. The key line looming in that report?

"All future Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC will be available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One only..." [1]

[1] - Eurogamer - Dragon Age: Inquisition to ditch PS3, Xbox 360, for future DLC - http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-07-07-dragon-age-inquisition-to-ditch-ps3-xbox-360-for-future-dlc

Thursday, July 2, 2015