We will build your DREAMWEB!
January 7th, 2012
(as of 2012-12-05 01:50:35 PST)
Soul Calibur V (PS3) (UK IMPORT)
DescriptionSOULCALIBUR V is the newest installment of its multi-million selling weapons-based fighting series for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. It delivers exhilarating 3D fighting mechanics, breathtaking visuals, and new characters, as well as expanding the online + character creation modes.
Over on the official Rocket League website, you can find a new page listing the various known issues with the game. Many of these have fixes coming in patch 1.03, which Psyonix said on Twitter we can expect out early this week (barring any setbacks).One of two upcoming DLC cars
Among the issues being addressed in 1.03, according to the Rocket League website and Twitter account:
The known issues page also mentions a few other problems that apparently won't be addressed in the 1.03 patch. This includes improving support for controllers on PC and latency when playing online. In the case of the latter, Psyonix recommends ensuring you choose to play on servers closest to your location.
With the patch due out soon, Psyonix will also soon release the first DLC for the game. In addition to a free new level, two new cars will also be released, concept renders of which you can see above.
Rocket League has now seen more than 4 million downloads across PC and PS4 since its release earlier this month. The game remains a free download for PlayStation Plus members.
The Wall Street Journal reports that China's Ministry of Culture released a statement this week that explains companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo can now manufacture and sell anywhere in the region.
This is a big step up from the previous conditions, under which console makers could do business only in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone--this "stifled sales and potential growth," WSJ said.
“This is great news for us," a Sony spokesperson said. Microsoft and Nintendo were not immediately available to comment.
Though there are undoubtedly lots and lots of gamers in China, the country's censorship rules could impact the performance of games in the region.
The Xbox One launched in China in September 2014, with the PS4 following in March 2015. Nintendo has not yet announced specific plans to bring its consoles or games to the market.
China enacted its console ban in 2000, blocking the sale of systems over concerns about potential harm to the physical and mental development of children.
During an ESO panel at QuakeCon, ZeniMax revealed more about its plans for handling DLC. The recently announced Imperial City pack and its accompanying patch will be available to those playing on public test servers next week, followed by their full PC/Mac launch on August 31. (Xbox One and PS4 get the DLC on September 15.) ZeniMax will follow this up with the Orsinium pack sometime this fall, which introduces the titular city and is said to consist of around 25 hours of new content.
More exciting is what's planned for next year. The Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild, which tend to be responsible for the most entertaining quests in the single-player Elder Scrolls games, will both be added in the first half of 2016. Each of the two will be available in its own DLC pack; there was no word on which will come first or what exactly they'll consist of.
Pricing for ESO's DLC has not been announced, save for the Imperial City pack, which is priced at $20 or is included with an ESO Plus subscription. These types of expansions are likely to be the norm going forward in light of Bethesda's decision to drop ESO's subscription.
The Elder Scrolls Online launched on PC last year, but has since seen major updates (including the abandoning of its monthly subscription). The long-delayed Xbox One and PS4 versions launched in June.
YouTube channel CinemaSins is known for putting together videos documenting everything wrong with various movies, both good and bad. Its most recent target is 1993's Super Mario Bros., a box office bomb in which Goombas are seven-foot tall creatures who wear blazers and can be coaxed into dancing with minimal effort.
It takes a whopping 21 minutes to document the movie's many sins, which range from an awful-looking intro to some of the most incompetent henchmen in cinema history. Whether or not you've seen the movie, the full video is worth a watch.
Where do you rank Super Mario Bros. on the list of bad video game movies? Let us know in the comments below.
That's according to leaked emails from Sony Pictures obtained by Reuters.
A 2013 draft for the Pixels included the Great Wall destruction scene, but it was cut. The movie still shows other famous places such as the Taj Mahal in India and the Washington Monument being destroyed.
Pixels sees a variety of iconic gaming characters, including Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, attacking earth after misinterpreting arcade games as a declaration of war against them. It stars Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, and Josh Gad as "Arcaders" tasked with saving the world.
In the leaked emails, Sony executives said they feared the movie might not be approved for release in China had they been kept this scene, and another where China was suggested to possibly be responsible for the alien attack. Yet another scene contained a reference to a "Communist-conspiracy brother."
All of these scenes were ultimately cut. Sony Pictures China chief Li Chow said in a December 2013 email to senior Sony executives: “Even though breaking a hole on the Great Wall may not be a problem as long as it is part of a worldwide phenomenon, it is actually unnecessary because it will not benefit the China release at all. I would then, recommend not to do it."
Also at this time, emails show that Sony executives were keen to move a car chase scene involving Pac-Man from Tokyo, Japan to Shanghai, China. However, Li Chow also shut this down, citing potential "sensitivity" concerns.
"As to relocating the Pac-Man action from Tokyo to Shanghai, this is not a good idea because it will involve destruction all over the city and may likely cause some sensitivity," she wrote. “In other words, it is rather hard to say whether it would be a problem because the unwritten rule is that it is acceptable if there is no real intention in destroying a certain building or street and if it is just collateral damage. But where would you draw the line?"
Sony Pictures declined to comment specifically, but did explain that, "There are myriad factors that go into determining what is best for a film's release, and creating content that has wide global appeal without compromising creative integrity is top among them."
Pixels opened on Friday as the No. 1 movie, generating $9.2 million on Friday alone. Critics, however, have not been kind to the film, directed by Harry Potter and Home Alone's Christopher Columbus.
Looking for more video game movie coverage? Check out this image gallery to see all the video game movies currently in production--and there are lots.
On the developer's homepage, you can see the image above with the words, "Status: Exploring new worlds, fighting strange creatures, discovering new heroes. Expect news soon."
Back in 2010, MercurySteam worked with Kojima Productions to create the first Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, an action-adventure take on the vampire-hunting franchise. The studio's most recent game was the follow-up Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, which received praise in GameSpot's review for its enemy designs and "beautiful gothic architecture."
While it's apparent from the teaser image that the next project will take a more sci-fi inspired bent, no other details about the game or what company will publish it have been made available. But given that the European games convention GamesCom is fast approaching, we expect to hear more details soon.
Yes, this is another voxel game. Even the most cursory glance at Trove's voxel-heavy landscapes and characters is enough to determine that it owes some heavy debts to Minecraft, and as with Minecraft, exploration and crafting lie at the heart of the experience. Yet these elements also allow Trove to differentiate itself from almost every other massively multiplayer game by making all zones randomly generated, and each can be accessed from level-appropriate portals in the hub world. Deserts give way to motherboardy landscapes straight out of Tron, tundra gives way to open seas where you can fish or steer a ship, and as with Minecraft, almost every bit of it can be harvested and used for crafting. Most of the time, that crafting occurs on player homes on player plots (called "cornerstones") or in a special zone for "clubs" (i.e., Trove's version of guilds), where groups of players can build their own world one voxel at a time.Taking the whirlwind tour of a dragon's lair.
One downside is that plots for the single-player homes aren't particularly large; I was barely able to get a rudimentary re-creation of the Alamo up on mine. Other players have made better work with the limitations, though, usually by going up. My favorite cornerstone was a re-creation of Sauron's tower of Barad-dûr, which shot so far into the sky that I marveled as much at the player's ability not to fall while building it as at the design. Others seem to represent Mega Man levels, as they require a seemingly endless succession of timed leaps to reach the player's health potion refill station or other service boxes. The best thing about cornerstones is that you can move them around to each new randomly generated world you visit as needed, adding both convenience and a way to show off your skills (or patience).
Trove is an apt name for the experience that developer Trion Worlds delivers. On the most basic level, it refers to the little troves of loot waiting at the end of the mini-dungeons that dot the landscape, yes, but it also calls attention to the sheer variety of displays. Collectible helmets and masks ranging from Viking beards and sombreros to baseball caps and kabuki masks seem to number in the hundreds or thousands, offering a wealth of cosmetic customization. Weapons share the same variety, with items like guns and swords running the gamut from fearsome to silly. The beauty of Trove is that many of these items are made by players themselves, making the looting experience far more rewarding than it would have been if Trion were responsible for it alone.
Assuming you've bought another class either with cash or in-game currency, you can switch between classes in an instant.
That variety affects other aspects as well. A common criticism of contemporary MMOGs is that they launch with too few classes or they don't deviate far enough from the old standbys of warrior, wizard, and rogue, but Trove suffers from neither of those problems. Its Steam launch contained no fewer than 11 classes, and since Trove doesn't really have a story, it's not hobbled with a need to stick with lore or even a half-hearted sense of consistency. It's the perfect recipe for a diverse cast. Take the Boomeranger, which pays homage to Link from The Legend of Zelda with its ability to switch between boomerang and sword. Consider the Dracolyte, which can transform into a dragon and burn the voxel landscape. Most of my time was spent with the Pirate Captain, a minion class that can toss out a massive cannon or a puppet that taunts enemies, all while his parrot companion bombards them with a cannon of his own.
Most classes thus feel wonderfully different from each other, although that couldn't have been too hard to achieve, considering that each class only gets three abilities. They're designed well, and they generally allow each class to be a tank, healer, and damage dealer all rolled into one, but this limitation means that gameplay inevitably grows repetitive with time. Some, such as the Pirate Captain, handle this better than others. On my Candy Barbarian, however, the familiar dance of leaping and executing a whirlwind attack to regain health bored me before I'd even reached level 8. That's not really a problem, though; assuming you've bought another class either with cash or in-game currency, you can switch between classes in an instant (although, as in Final Fantasy XIV, you'll have to level it separately)."X" marks the cleared dungeon, or, a bit ironically, the looted treasure.
A variety of enemies walk the open world if you'd like to try your skills on any ol' thing, but most of the action takes place in the many dungeons dotting the countryside. This, even more than crafting, is what Trove is all about. You fight and leap your way through a dungeon, kill the boss (which can be anything from a dragon to some formless blob), and take its loot. All of these dungeons are short, but some are impressive, especially those that require jumping puzzles before engaging a boss or those that require you to use your mining beam to dig your way to the lair.
Admittedly, with some of the more powerful classes (such as the Candy Barbarian), these are almost a joke. Trove may be an MMOG, but virtually all of its content is soloable, and boss kills (and thus personal loot drops and XP) count if you just happened to be in the area of another player doing the killing. Finding a group is usually just a matter of seeing where other players are on the map are riding over to see what they're up to. Indeed, socialization is hardly Trove's strong suit. Half the time, I forgot that the chat window was even there, and while you can join up to five clubs, joining them is often just a case of waiting for somebody to announce open invites in chat. The saving grace? Trove has a wonderful community, and its generosity usually makes up for missing features.
The best thing about cornerstones is that you can move them around to each new randomly generated world you visit as needed.
All in all, this is generally enjoyable stuff, provided you can get in. Trove has been wildly popular on Steam ever since its first appearance on the platform back on July 9--so popular, in fact, that even now, queues often leave me waiting for 30 minutes to an hour before I can get in. I once managed to watch an entire episode of Louie before being able to get back to the business of busting blocks, and that was just last week. It's especially saddening since MMOG developer Trion should be no stranger to this kind of stuff--although similar problems affected the company's release of ArcheAge last year--but it's a testament to Trove's quality that the waits don't seem to affect its popularity. Without fail, every time the queue winds down, I land in a pile of other newly logged-in players, and we rush for the portals to the explore worlds with all the joy of children newly released on the playground.
After many hours of play, that feeling still hasn't entirely faded, but I suspect I'll soon have to step away from Trove for a while to maintain it. Trove is all about the business of exploration, hoarding, and crafting, and in the absence of other MMOG standbys like story quests or PvP, the weight of the requisite repetition starts to nag just a bit past level 10. Trove does its best to fill these gaps with other options, such as leveling different classes, attempting to build a dungeon worthy of inclusion in the game, or simply collecting cosmetic items from boss kills, but for me, it doesn't deliver the kind of MMO addiction that sends me to the computer to sneak in more playtime after everyone else is asleep.Dungeons often look just as cool on the outside as on the inside.
That's the beauty of the free-to-play model, of course. Should I decide to step away for a few days, Trove and its troves are right there waiting for me, just as I left them. It doesn't hurt that Trion's latest MMOG has about as benign a free-to-play model as they get, as you can amass most of the premium coins needed to buy items like new classes or new mounts fairly easily. What's more, Trove allows players to spend real cash to buy in-game gold (along with some performance boosts), but that matters little since there's almost no competition involved.
Is Trove the kind of MMOG that I'd like to spend a part of every day in? No. But it is an MMOG that I'd enjoy visiting every now and then, possibly several times a week. That's enough to make Trove a success, and its speedy updates and randomly generated worlds help make every visit feel different from the last. Now, if they'd just get those queues in line, I'm thinking about making the Alamo 40 stories high, and I don't have time to wait.
The remastering effort here is, without mincing words, an embarrassment. While we’re currently drowning in a glut of remasters, graphical spitshines, and definitive editions--a mild problem in and of itself--nobody can deny that the vast majority of them have been made current-gen worthy. At best, you get The Last of Us or Tomb Raider remasters. At worst, you get this bundle. Yes, both Prototype games run at 1080p. Yes, a few of the textures have been replaced. Yes, a few sounds come from the controller speaker now. But if Prototype didn’t start with a line of text telling you it was released in 2015, the difference between this re-release and its 360/PS3 brethren would be strangely indistinguishable. Draw distances, effects, character models, and most of the textures are are utterly primitive in Prototype. The second game fares much better--in that regard and in others to be addressed--but, bafflingly, runs often at a low frame rate with a constant stutter the busier the screen gets. These are the same games you could play a few years ago, and, really, can play now for the cost of lunch at Wendy’s, if you didn’t sell your previous gen consoles. If you do pick up the Biohazard Bundle, you'll pay full price for the privilege of playing one game graphically crumbling under the weight of time, and another that somehow runs more poorly on better technology.Well, that’s just gross.
Yet, there are those who may never have played either game, and this is the only way they will experience them. For them, the story is marginally brighter. The bad news is that the first Prototype has aged poorly, even as a game. It has a plum set up: A man named Alex Mercer wakes up in a New York City morgue with no memory, but finds out he has a virus that, instead of killing him, has made him into a terrifying bioweapon. He has the ability to manipulate his own flesh into varying shapes and configurations, even allowing him to completely assimilate other human beings and copy their forms. It’s the hellish amalgam of the alien life form from John Carpenter’s The Thing, and the terrifying evolution Tetsuo undergoes in Akira, bolstered further in fun factor by virtue of the game running off Radical Entertainment’s Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. The military seems to know more about things than he does, of course, and while they try to contain the walking biohazard, Alex seeks out any connection to his past to just find out what’s happened to him.
From these promising beginnings, however, comes a sinking feeling that despite an impressive, huge, open world, the game is unsure of how best to make use of its setup. And so, much of Alex Mercer’s time is spent being told to go to various places around the city, and kill various people and things until he’s told to run away and get in disguise to escape, thus unlocking another uninspired cutscene where his hacker sister tells him who to kill next, and Mercer growls about his lack of memory.I belieeeve I can fly/I belieeeve I infect the sky….
The powers themselves do give you a nice range of approaches to any problem, from straight-up brawling, to slicing enemies into mozzarella with hideous claws, to hijacking military vehicles and drowning the driver in a fountain of his own blood--but most end up being for show, once the ability to use the tentacle whip unlocks. It’s the game’s most fun weapon, allowing Alex to split enemies in half from across a city street, and it just so happens to be the most useful and versatile one. Despite this, there are still too many sections where the game’s overly twitchy camera and controls work against you, making the simple act of targeting and following a large opponent and attacking only that one enemy a chore. An early set piece, with virus infected animals being set loose in a chemical factory where Mercer is forced to run around the cluttered floor like a madman, stealing rocket launchers off the army to attack, brings back the PTSD of trying to get Sonic to cooperate in any of his 3D games. What’s more, the game's tension doesn't escalate in any meaningful way. You are never enticed to discover Mercer's past, since the game does very little to make you care about him in the first place. The result is a game that feels, ironically, like a prototype: a collection of mechanics that a better game might be able to utilize fully in some later incarnation.
That better game, as it turns out, is Prototype 2.Alex Mercer’s Sense8 audition was, clearly, a miserable failure.
Prototype 2 follows James Heller, a soldier sent into a New York City still recovering from the events of the first game, who holds a major grudge against Alex Mercer for releasing the virus that killed his wife and child. After an ill-fated run-in with Mercer where Heller becomes infected with the same virus that gave Mercer his powers, he is taken in by the evil military scumbags who tried to bring Alex Mercer down the first time, and is exposed to another version of the truth. Hesitantly, he joins forces with Mercer to get to the bottom of why the government is still messing around with this particularly gruesome bioweapon.
Right off the bat, the game fixes Prototype’s biggest problem: Heller is a great protagonist. His motivations aren’t particularly original, but there’s a forcefulness to his characterization makes you feel that need for retribution in spite of the relatively weak script. Even better, Heller’s baleful aggression never comes at the expense of his humor. Probably one of the best moments in either game is that Heller screws up a hot pursuit about halfway through Prototype 2 because he’s watching one of the other infected humans make a grisly, viral biological bomb out of some hapless military chump and had himself a chuckle. That’s the kind of guy Heller is, and he’s a far more affable character than Mercer, certainly worth spending 20 hours with.
You'll pay full price for the privilege of playing one game graphically crumbling under the weight of time, and another that somehow runs more poorly on better technology.
And thank goodness, because otherwise, the game’s wanton disregard for physics, the human body, or human life in general might strike a wrong chord, like it does in Prototype. Instead, every action Heller takes has a clear motive and logic. Many of Heller’s quests involve violence and destruction, but the monotony is broken by a set of new, macabre powers. The once all-powerful tentacle from the first game now has wilder mechanics at play, where grabbing someone with the diseased tendril might cause the infected victim to explode in new tentacles that grab nearby objects in five directions, and crush the victim inside. The new mechanics for Heller’s claw attacks steal liberally from Activision’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the game is better for it. Countering attacks is easier, and makes the cheap hits of the previous game far less likely, and far more avoidable. Running across rooftops, gliding through the air, and landing feels something close to fluid, which makes escaping when Heller’s been found by the military much more frantic and pulse-raising, albeit still a bit on the loose side. All this takes place in a much more vivid and living New York City, where the NPCs feel less like blank marionettes, and buildings feel hundreds of years old, which makes the sight of them being covered in corrupted viscera and viral runoff even more horrifying.
Prototype 2 certainly offers a stronger experience than Prototype, but it’s still thoroughly outclassed on current gen consoles by Saints Row IV and Infamous: Second Son. At its best, a remaster can be a great reminder of why we loved a game to begin with. Had the Prototype Biohazard Bundle actually been a full upgrade, it would at least show us how far we’ve come. But given even Prototype 2’s mind-boggling technical limitations, this troubled bundle is more of a reminder that mediocrity is still not obsolete.
It starts strong, at least, with a detailed tutorial on the various swing styles that provide you with more freedom than ever before. There are three set swing types: a basic analog stick setup where power is determined by the backswing, a more complex version where the follow-through is also taken into account, and the classic three-button press system. If none of the above suits your style, a custom swing option allows you to combine elements of each approach into a personalized pairing of preferences. You can determine if you'd like to be able to hit power shots, zoom in on the trajectory of your ball, see how the wind shapes its flight, and even closely control its spin. Whether you'd like to play Rory McIlroy PGA Tour as a sports simulation or an over-the-top arcade game, the options are there.Brace yourself, this swing is going places.
No matter what style you choose, taking a smooth backswing and making solid contact with the ball feels authentic, and the putting is challenging without feeling punishing. A dashed line represents the path of your ball from its place on the green to the hole, which takes into account the putt's speed and break. It takes time to correctly read greens with steep hills or sharp ridges, but watching a 20-foot putt bend from right to left and clink at the bottom of the cup is very satisfying.
Other than the lack of load screens between holes and an improved putting system, the swing selection is the only area where Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is bigger and better than what's come before it. The number of real-life courses has been more than halved, with only eight locations that golfers will actually recognize. There are four additional make-believe locations, but none of them make up for the fact that you can't experience the Masters at one of the most famous courses of all time, Augusta National. If that’s not disappointing enough, there are just 12 playable golfers--about a quarter of what previous games have trained us to expect.
Fewer golfers wouldn't be all that damning if the character creator was even passable, but what's available is one of the worst customization tools ever stuffed into a sports game. There are so few options when creating your custom golfer that it's nearly impossible to make a character that you can even pretend looks like you, unless yours happens to match one of the 11 pre-set heads or three body types provided. Instead of feeling like you're starting your own unique career on the PGA Tour, the barebones tools force you to role-play as some anonymous young golfer straight out of a stock photo.Relax and putt.
You take this indistinct, cookie-cutter avatar through a single lower-level Web.com event, and from there, you're off to the races. There's no grand buildup, no scenes of your collegiate career, and no narrative to push you forward. You go from tournament to tournament, either competing in quick rounds where you play five or six of the most important holes per day or going through all 72 holes with the hope of becoming the world's number one golfer. But without any sort of subsidiary content to complement the tournaments--such as a story, drills, or even a schedule to outline your goals--the Pro Career can quickly devolve into an unexciting slog devoid of drama.
The only saving grace is the fact that your character raises levels, earns new clubs, and unlocks additional outfits just about every time you complete a round of 18. This sense of progression makes the gauntlet of tournaments much more palatable, as you're able to see your power, accuracy, and spin vastly improve and lead to pretty shots and even prettier scorecards worth hanging on the fridge. You don't manually add points to specific aspects of your game, but you can choose from different packages that might focus on power, accuracy, or more balanced play.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour fails to pair its solid mechanics with diverse and interesting content, and its myriad technical failings drag the otherwise picturesque courses into the dirt.
Unfortunately, the bleak only gets bleaker as you venture outside of the career, where the online community-based Country Club and popular modes like Skins, Best Ball, and Battle Golf have all been removed. Online tournaments and head-to-head play give you some reason to test your created golfer against players more savvy than the AI, but the utter lack of gameplay variety is disappointing.
If you find yourself hungry for something--anything--new to grab on to, a fresh Night Club Challenge mode is available. This extended series of challenges has you landing balls in small circles and through floating hoops to earn points, but a mid-air nitrous boost just isn't enough to make target practice drills any fun. You can earn three stars per level--similar to most popular mobile games--but the deeper you travel down the road of challenges, the less it feels like golf.
Even outside this neon-lit, objective-based playground lie moments that, again, don't feel like anything you'd find on the real PGA Tour. Sinking birdie putts as your created player often leads to a shot of him or her awkwardly busting out the robot or the sprinkler--and while I don't think golf needs to be some sacred pursuit devoid of humor, the celebrations feel completely out of place.That's one heck of an arc.
Additionally, the commentary sporadically mismatches its messages with what's actually taking place on-screen. Even though I sliced my ball out of bounds and into the trees at St. Andrews, both commentators talked about how unfortunate it was that I just hit it into the water--despite my ball being completely dry. After that, they mentioned how my approach shot had too much speed and not enough backspin as they watched it softly land on the back of the green and spin backward toward the front hole location. Like most other aspects of the game, the commentary is careless.
Rory McIlroy PGA Tour fails to pair its solid mechanics with diverse and interesting content, and its myriad technical failings drag the otherwise picturesque courses into the dirt. There are just too few courses and golfers to keep you playing, and even the limited game modes available don't have anywhere near the complexity or depth we've come to expect. Whether you want to call it a shank, a duff, or a whiff, all that really matters is that Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is a poor effort from a series that was looking to make a splash in its generational debut.
While Serling's tale centers on the unknown horrors of existential dread, it also demonstrates the way in which the creative process itself becomes manifest in the final product. The twist ending is encapsulated by the meta-narrative of the child, who embodies the spirit of this creative potential. Without a child to play with the dolls, they remain sedentary lumps of cloth and paint. Dreamfall Chapters Book Three: Realms begins with its own child, Saga, scuttling around her Storytime home. From here, the worlds of Stark and Arcadia may be viewed from a different perspective, a meta-perspective, in which the boundaries of their occupations by the Azadi and the Syndicate alike form the walls of their respective toy bins. Like the Twilight Zone episode, the Dreamfall trilogy simultaneously is, was, and will be in this abstract, ethereal place.Abby and Hannah. Awwwww.
Admittedly, the postmodern layers weaving through the story are often difficult to pin down. So what better way to illustrate their connection to the boots on the ground than with a little straight-forward adventure-game fare?
The player's first task after assuming the role of Saga in Interlude II involves a laborious easter egg hunt for a series of the child's drawings hidden around the house. Saga's clumsy toddling through the home begins as a cute romp of stilted, giggling mania and quickly becomes an exercise in patience and perseverance as the drawings become exponentially difficult to find and Saga's movement grows more frustrating to negotiate.
Fortunately, as Saga explores the house, she has more to do and interact with than the goal requires. Whether she plays with a picture on the mantle, a poster on the wall, or a simple hat on a rack, Saga's superfluous interactions with these objects fill in some of the rather drab enviro-narrative spaces with flares of color. In classic adventure-game fashion, many of these interactions, such as plucking an umbrella from a pail and pronouncing, "I'm a fancy lady!" are more satisfying than the objective at hand. Typically, "click on all the things" tends to be a fruitless undertaking, but in this case it was absolutely worth it. Saga communicates a real sense of wonder and captivation consistent with her muse-like character.The stealth is better this time around.
Once the entire series of drawings has been acquired, Saga must order them chronologically, with each piece depicting an event from The Longest Journey. On one hand, this is a nod to the trilogy's history, serving as a sort of veteran test for experienced players. On the other, it echoes back to that Twilight Zone episode. Is it possible that Stark, Arcadia, and all their inhabitants exist merely as figments of this child's imagination and illustrated using crayons and paper? Is Saga a personification of the creative process itself? Is she the child in the snow, playing with the dolls in the bin? Dreamfall Chapters wants its players to toy around with and consider these kinds of questions as our heroes in the "physical" world continue their journey.
The following chapter returns to Arcadia two months after the events of Book Two, which is made evident by Kian's nifty new beard and the increased proliferation of pipeworks running through Marcuria. Unlike previous episodes, Kian's (and later Zoë's) path here is simple and straightforward. Instead of presenting you with another network of choices and possibilities, Book Three tightens things up and focuses on establishing the effects of previous decisions in an effort to put all the rubber ducks in a row, so to speak. You cover much less actual ground completing Kian's objectives because the city is under an increased lockdown, with guards and gates cordoning off much of the area previously explored. It's a welcome change of pace to the long-winded trekking prevalent in Book Two.
The puzzles here also jive thematically with this streamlined approach. For the most part, they feel like a relevant series of tasks (such as exploiting an Azadi mechanic to steal his tools, breaching the pipe network, and confronting the engineer at its helm) that serve a single purpose: facilitating Kian's infiltration into the heart of the Azadi conspiracy and the mystery of the infernal machine. Where Book Two focused on reconnaissance, Book Three centers on penetrating enemy lines. No more interrogations, no more spying. Finally, the time has come to take action.
Dreamfall Chapters raises the stakes of not only the conspiracy game but also its players.
On the other side of the coin, Zoë emerges from the explosive conclusion of Book Two with a new look of her own (dig the short hair!) and a similarly intensified security presence in Propast. Again, the limited access offered by Syndicate forces serves the pacing of this act well. Aside from a couple of quick jaunts through Chinatown to check in with Queenie and Mira (who actually shows some niceties to "petal" for once), Zoë is off to the races as she struggles to procure a modded dream machine to further explore the connection between the Syndicate and WATICorp, including an important revelation involving Hannah and the Dreamtime.
Once her task is complete, Zoë's return to the Dreamtime finally makes good on a long-awaited reunion with one of Dreamfall's most familiar and notorious compadres, Crow. This intermezzo of cheeky banter provides a welcome if brief respite from the bustling tempo of Zoë and Kian's journey to this point. It proves yet again that this story still has a few surprises up its sleeve in the way of character development and dialogue treatment.
Along those lines, Book Three continues to pack punch after punch when it comes to character insight. From the bombshell dropped by Anna in her meeting with Kian to Kian's extremely brave and personal confession at the onset of the opening chapter (not to mention an especially sweet scene between Hannah and Abby), Dreamfall Chapters raises the stakes of not only the conspiracy game but also its players. They have true skin in the game, and the conflicts surrounding them become more palpable and complex as a result.Zoe must tip her barber extra.
Without giving too much away, Book Three takes our heroes in new directions, which are sure to affect their characters in interesting, potentially different ways depending on the final and most significant player choice in the episode. Regardless of the outcome, the conclusion sees Zoë finally making her first leap over the proverbial toy bin wall, while Kian is set to do the same. But instead of an out, both heroes are seeking an entrance to infiltrate new spaces in which worlds collide and player decisions dictate the terms of trespass.
In many ways, Book Three acts as the fulcrum from which the story's trajectory pivots on your past choices. It is short and powerful, using the momentum of previous chapters to leverage dramatic weight going into the penultimate act like narrative jiu-jitsu. In contrast to the previous two acts, the third clocks in at around four hours, none of which seem to waste a minute. What will Kian and Zoë find as they continue to scale the walls of conspiracy? At this point, the "what" hardly matters. Book four is poised to bring much more interesting answers in the how, why, and with whom. This is perhaps its greatest victory as I, for one, can't wait to see who else is lying in the snow outside that toy bin.
This new edition of Card Hunter is much the same as the one that hit browsers a couple of years ago, albeit with a new sci-fi campaign, new artifacts, and cooperative multiplayer. If you could smash together a deck of Magic: The Gathering cards and some first-edition Advanced D&D books and then unmangle the resulting ball of papery mush and create a playable game out of the wreckage, you’d have Card Hunter. Basics have been freely borrowed from ‘70s- and ‘80s-era D&D in that you start off with a three-member party made up of the usual warriors, mages, and clerics from iconic RPG races, such as humans, elves, and dwarves. Characters earn experience, level up, and equip themselves with the traditional weapons, armor, and various magical goodies in the usual way.Stage an expedition to the Barrier Peaks—er, the Sky Citadel—in Card Hunter’s new campaign
Adventures are selected on a world map that gradually opens up based on your level. Make your choice, and you’re off to a three-battle (or so--most modules have trios, but the number varies occasionally) module given an old-fashioned D&D name like “Diamonds of the Kobolds” or “The Sinister Wood.” These names aren’t as cheesy as the real thing, like “The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh,” but they’re close. And the classic pen-and-paper RPG vibe has been preserved. Two dungeon masters named Melvin and Gary serve as a Greek chorus, commenting on both your adventuring and life in general. Characters are cardboard cutouts shoved into plastic stands that boldly slide across maps atop the fake wood of recreation room tables. Erol Otus-ish black-and-white art on module intro screens and an accompanying elaborate title font complete the time warp back to your mom’s kitchen table circa 1984. Old-timers will love these little touches, especially the retro font. That thing is beyond hideous, but it is so evocative of a time and place that I immediately flashed back more than 30 years to the first time I played the classic “Tomb of Horrors” module. Nostalgia may be the cheapest way to hook people on a game, but it is effective when done right.
Gameplay has been reworked dramatically from tabletop RPG norms, though. Instead of taking turns to move, roll dice for combat, and so forth, all actions are controlled by playing cards within the turn-based, tiled maps that make up the battle arenas in each module. Character skills and equipped gear provide access to specific cards for attacks, blocks, and spells, so that sword in your studly warrior’s mitts supplies a bunch of different attack cards. The staff toted around by your mage offers up various spells, and the mail worn by your cleric grants cards with armor blocks and healing incantations.Tactical battles involve a lot of serious thinking and planning.
You have up to five cards in your hand per round (although this number can vary slightly depending on the special abilities of certain cards), all drawn from the stock provided by the aforementioned hardware. If you want to cast a healing spell, for instance, you have to play a card featuring one of these functions. The same goes if you want to bash an enemy with a club or even move from one space to another on the tile-based maps featured in every module’s set-piece battles. At the end of every round, you discard unplayed cards to get down to a maximum holdover of two, and then you draw new ones to fill out another hand of five.
Everything has been cunningly put together. Battles roll out as intricate tactical affairs where every action is loaded with tension. I was reminded of the Gold Box D&D games from the late 80s and early 90s, as Card Hunter maintains a lot of the turn-based anxiety from those classics. Cards add an appreciable new element, however, along with some welcome randomness that forces you to take chances. I constantly asked myself questions. "My warrior has Powerful Hack, Reaching Swing, and Skillful Strike up right now, so do I race once more into the breach, dear friends, and go all medieval on these zombies? My mage has Surging Blast and a couple of Big Zap spells ready, too, so maybe I should go that route and move him forward? Can he survive out front like that? Or what about my cleric? She’s got two Healing Pulses in her hand, so maybe I should spend a round hanging back and healing. My mage is down to eight hit points, after all."The sheer size of the initial campaign map is so impressive and so loaded with modules that you may never need to spend a cent to get a lot of gaming out of Card Hunter.
Class specialties work just as in regular fantasy role-playing. Going for the jugular with wide-open attacks isn’t always smart. Instead, you have to use mages and clerics to pave the way for swordplay. Buffs include blessings to make attacks instant hits and spells to make characters invulnerable, while you can also wear down foes with abracadabra stuff that strips away blocking cards, melts armor, and more. Area spells can also be used to cause cave-ins that hurt enemies and slow down their movement, establish walls of flame, pits of acid, and more. Every battle calls for specific equipment, especially as you move into higher levels. What works with troglodytes, for example, isn’t as good with imps, mutants, or zombies, etc. Tips can be called up if you fail a battle, so it’s generally pretty easy to figure out how to retreat after a loss and adjust your equipped gear to gain access to the cards needed to better handle the monsters currently on offer.
Of course, a lot also depends on what those monsters have in their hands. Committing to a rushing attack can be suicidal if the bad guys have the cards that they needed to fend you off. Holding off can also be tough, as you never know when you’re going to draw the right cards. Luck is a big part of every battle. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had my warrior all set to finish off a couple of bad guys only to draw nothing but passive armor and movement cards for a couple of turns until my chance at winning passed me by. Maps also enhance the tactical side of the game. Most battles take place in slightly elaborate settings with corridors, trees, and other obstacles that get in the way of movement and spellcasting.for special bonus 70s-80s nostalgia, the font used in the new Expedition to the Sky Citadel campaign has been borrowed from old Micronauts toy packages.
Card Hunter still has a few problems. The biggest issue for me was the size of everything on a high-res monitor. Text is small, and a lot of the screen is wasted by showing a tremendous amount of the table that the game map is supposed to be sitting on. I loved the nostalgic touches like DM Gary’s “Campaign Notes” notepad and the D&D dice sitting nearby, too, but not at the expense of being able to read card descriptions without squinting. I was in the dark a little more often than I should have been, regardless, as some cards do not fully detail what they do. This can be dangerous, as some can be irrevocably activated with a single click.
More involved combat can turn dreary, especially when mages and clerics are involved. I took on a number of battles that turned into one-on-one scraps between spell-casters where the bad guy would run away and just wait for me to attack. This led to lengthy cat-and-mouse affairs where I would hunker down in a corner and draw cards over and over until I got the healing spells and attacks necessary to charge back into battle. I pulled out a few desperate victories using these cowardly maneuvers, but they were never particularly fulfilling. Sometimes I just gave up the battle and restarted, as this was a more agreeable option than committing to 10 or 15 minutes of playing the waiting game.
Some of the new features in this Steam edition of Card Hunter left me a little cold, too. Expedition to the Sky Citadel is an inspired rip-off (complete with another cool retro font, this one clearly inspired by the old Micronauts toys from the 70s and 80s) of the classic AD&D module “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks,” where fantasy heroes explore a crashed spaceship with the guidance of a robot DM. But it’s also incredibly tough, and the pre-rolled party made up so you don’t have to take your own characters to the suggested level 19 before starting it is not good, with an abysmal selection of gear and cards. Buying all new high-level gear for them was the only option to make them playable, but this was unwieldy enough that I went back to the grind with the original campaign.
My gripes about Card Hunter are minor in comparison with the admiration that I have for what the game accomplishes when it comes to creating a mood and a challenge equivalent to that offered by both classic D&D and card gaming. Nostalgia, intelligent combat, and a range of tactical depth is hard to find in different games, let alone rolled up into one very catchy, very reasonably priced package.
It was my eighth playthrough and the tears still streamed, almost inexplicably; Journey is a song without words, reliant on its rapturous presentation and liberating movement to stir your mind and move your heart. With many games, I have wished that I could play them again for the first time--to experience that buzz that inevitably diminishes with each return visit. I will never need to waste this wish on Journey, however: each pilgrimage is as bittersweet as the last. How appropriate, given the game's theme of death and rebirth, that it feels so sorrowful, so joyous, and so true, each and every time.
"Journey would be just as effective as a movie," a friend once told me, but I must contradict her. Not that I can argue against the game's sumptuous environments and its sublime musical score, which earned masterpiece status the moment Journey was initially released on the PlayStation 3 in 2012. Certain landscapes have rightfully gained iconic stature, becoming the very definition of video game beauty. One shot depicts the cloaked figure you control standing atop a sand drift and gazing at the mountain you must reach, which rises above the desert and pierces the clouds. The view is a master class in simplicity and color story; the peach-orange tones of the sand give way to a sea-green sky--hushed hues for a hushed visual revelation. Another seminal sight: you skate across the sand from right to left, illuminated by a godly beam of sunlight while watching the remnants of a lost culture rush past. The screen is awash with shades of amber, and the warm sand glimmers as if mixed with golden crystals. Yes, even as a work of cinema, Journey would instill wonder.A white-hooded companion joins me, and we continue toward the light.
But Journey is not a film, and its power is not gained by pretty pictures alone, but by your presence in its world. That side-scrolling glide would not choke me up if I couldn't feel the sand beneath my feet, and couldn't hit a ramp in just the right way to propel myself into the air. I wouldn't feel so beat down by the wind if I didn't feel it pushing against me as I trudged forward, and I wouldn't be so euphoric if I didn't personally experience the joy of skimming the ground. You see, you hear, and, vitally, you do. You surf the sand, you ride the wind, you seek shelter from danger, you make a friend. Seeing is believing, but it takes interaction to understand and know.
Describing Journey means describing these moments and these emotions. The mechanical basics are almost secondary, and quickly explainable. As a mysterious robed figure, you cross sand and other terrain en route to a far-off mountain. You make use of only two buttons. By pressing X, you leap into the air and soar, an ability that is limited by the length of the scarf that trails behind you. By pressing circle, you cry out to whatever or whomever might heed your call. Journey is desolate, but you are not alone. You call to flocks of ribbons that hover about like restless robins, and they provide energy to your scarf. You meet cloth creatures that become travel guides and provide magic-carpet rides to higher ground. And presuming you play while connected to the Internet, you may encounter another lone individual in your travels--an individual you can ignore, or one you can accompany, chirping to her when you locate secret hieroglyphs, or when a fearsome ribbon-dragon appears and you don't want to continue alone.Sliding towards the unknown.
The mechanics are simple, but they establish a direct connection to the heart. Consider that flowing scarf, which trails behind you as you surf and soar, growing larger whenever you locate and touch a glowing flower. On a mundane level, it functions as a power bar that you fill up by making contact with cloth, and deplete by leaping. In context, the scarf is your life force, governing your ability to joyfully drift through the air. Gliding is Journey's most exuberant act, and by limiting its use, the game makes joy itself a currency.
Journey uses this ecstasy-based economy to craft an emotional arc across its entirety, as well as to emphasize individual moments. Your scarf grows longer and longer, but a frightful encounter with that terrible ribbon-monster turns your rippling shawl into a mere stub. You cannot fight--you can only hide. Being discovered is devastating because the scarf is where the cheer and comfort of flight are stored. You were offered a heartwarming gift, only to have it yanked from your hands. Journey also uses this moment to connect you with your wordless cooperative companion. By this stage, you understand the meaning the scarf carries with it. Seeing your sidekick succumb like this forges empathy: you know that the monster has abolished his joy.
This give-and-take is how the final levels gain their potency. Your ability to glide is diminished, then revoked. You no longer drift through sand, but brace yourself against an exhaustive wind. Then, the moment comes when all hope seems lost. You hold your breath and assume the worst. And then, the controller rumbles--just once, like a single heartbeat. And all that was taken away is restored, then multiplied, and multiplied again.
This is the source of those tears. It is not the sadness of the loss, but the bliss of being honored for your perseverance. These are tears of elevation, so perfectly described by Roger Ebert in 2009. I have heard people describe this final climb in terms of an afterlife, and that's a reasonable interpretation of the scene, in which you float higher and higher towards the mountain's zenith. But even in the moment, whether or not you make this conscious religious association, you might feel weepy in spite of yourself. The gift was given, and it was taken away. And then, you were liberally showered with gifts, and so you ascended, higher and higher, towards your next journey.
It is possible that Journey will not move you. In such a case, it is simply a beautiful game with a glorious soundtrack, grounded by a wistful cello melody later threaded through a warm quilt of winds and strings. The chance you might be swept away, however, makes it worth plunging your feet into the warm sand. If you are returning to Journey, a higher resolution and a higher frame rate are your ostensible rewards for returning--a return that doesn't cost you anything if you already own the game on the PlayStation 3. But Journey's real rewards aren't so pedestrian. Journey offers you comfort. It gives you companionship in a lovely but forsaken world. It gives you reason to dream even when facing loss.