There's an air of familiarity to Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem. It's an action role-playing game with heavy inspiration from Diablo and Path of Exile, from their high-fantasy gothic settings to their destiny-bound protagonists and plethora of abilities to dabble in. Wolcen wears its influences on its sleeve, and while it makes changes to their established foundations, it stumbles so many times along the way that it just feels lost by the end of it.
Wolcen's opening obscures some of its more novel ideas, with a stale and predictable narrative that makes it feel generic. You play as one of three siblings born and bred for battle, but cast out from the only family you know when an unknown power awakens within you. It's a plot filled to the brim with exposition, riddled with vaguely explained fantasy jargon and worldbuilding that never clicks into place. It's easy to forget about entirely after the first few hours, with only the stilted dialogue and awkward cutscenes reminding you of the uninteresting events dressing Wolcen's main draw.
The setting, however, doesn't fall prey to the same oppressive medieval look. Gloomy caverns and bright, colorful forests are equally impressive backdrops for the equally outstanding visual details buried within them. The variation across Wolcen's three acts is impressive too, as it whisks you between the opulent, gold-laden halls of an ancient sacred ground to the blood-drenched trenches of a chaotic battlefield.
Baldur's Gate is an incredibly beloved PC RPG franchise, but Baldur's Gate II released in September of 2000, so there is a good chance that you missed the original buzz. Thankfully, Baldur's Gate III might be the perfect entry point. Larian Studios is handling development, and the studio received a ton of praise for its work on the Divinity: Original Sin series. We recently had an extended look at the game, and based on what we saw Baldur's Gate III could be a must-play RPG for the generation. To prime your excitement, here is everything you need to know about this promising project.
Do I need to be a fan to play this?
No. Whether you’re a fan that has been waiting 20 years for Baldur's Gate III or a complete newcomer, developer Larian Studios is working to ensure that the game is approachable for everyone. If you are a fan of Baldur's Gate or even the Dungeons & Dragons universe, there will be plenty of Easter eggs to find, but an understanding of the franchise isn’t a prerequisite for fun.
What is the story about?
The game opens with a giant floating ship traveling across the country and kidnapping people. Those prisoners are infected with a vicious-looking tadpole creature that is slowly turning them into Mind Flayers – psionically powered monsters with a face full of tentacles. However, the ship crashes before the process is complete and everyone onboard is scattered to the wind. You control a group of survivors who must deal with the tadpoles in your brains before you mutate into Mind Flayers.
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Okay, so who are these poor saps?
In Baldur's Gate III, you can create your own character or choose from one of several pre-made heroes. These pre-made characters come with their own backstories, skills, and motivations. Even if you create your own hero, you will encounter Larian’s pre-made characters throughout the game and they may join your party. We were given a brief glimpse of a few of Larian’s characters, and they are all unique. For example, Astarian is a vampire spawn who suddenly finds that he can walk in the sunlight without burning. However, he still possesses a hunger for human blood. Another interesting hero is Shadowheart, a cleric who was on a mission but voluntarily had her memories wiped, and now all she knows is where she needs to go to complete her mission. Whoever you choose as the main protagonist will dramatically color the rest of the story, change your side quests, and influence the interactions you have with everyone else in the world.
Enough about story! How does combat work?
That’s a bit aggressive, but okay. Baldur's Gate III’s combat is turned based, and you control a group of heroes that unleashes an assortment of magic spells, ranged attacks, and close-quarter skills to dispatch a variety of foes. The action takes place from a grid-free, top-down perspective and feels like a lot of strategy games and classic CRPGs. Players have a wide number of options during combat. Each hero has their own set of unique skills, but you’re also rewarded for thinking outside the box and using the environment to your advantage. We watched a mage cover a group of enemies in grease and then set them on fire in one deadly explosion. In another combat encounter, our heroes tried to push a stronger enemy into a pit full of deadly spiders. Several encounters did not go according to plan, but improvising your way out of a jam seems to be half the fun in Baldur's Gate III.
Seems like there are a lot of systems in this game … uh, this isn’t a question.
No, but it is a correct statement. Larian is a big fan of systemic game design, and the developers told us that they want to let players do anything that a dungeon master would allow during a session of D&D. That sounds ambitious, but Baldur's Gate III looks incredibly open-ended. We watched our heroes stack boxes to create a staircase toward a hidden alcove, douse flames to remain hidden from enemies, and sneak behind an archer then push them off a cliff before combat started.
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So the game is entirely top-down?
Actually, no, many of the cutscenes we watched featured more dramatic camera work similar to modern RPGs like The Witcher III. In fact, you can zoom in with the camera to have a behind-the-shoulder view while exploring the world. A zoomed-out, top-down view of the battlefield seems best when managing a party of four in combat, but it’s nice to have a more intimate view of the world if you desire.
Sold, when can I play it?
Larian Studios is fond of early access and plans to release Baldur's Gate III in early access to players sometime in the “next few months.” Players will only be able to play an early chunk of the story, but Larian will continue to release more of the game as development progresses. Still, you won’t have to wait long to start getting to know Baldur's Gate III’s characters or to explore this interesting world.
Have you ever seen an old cartoon where a fight breaks out and the brawlers turn into a cloud of punches that flips tables and breaks everything it touches? Bloodroots, a breakneck action-puzzle game from Quebec developer Paper Cult, lives inside that cloud. A short, speedy tale of mayhem and revenge, Bloodroots dares you stab, bludgeon, squash, and otherwise murder dozens of thugs with the ruthless efficiency of the Wild West’s greatest outlaw and the zany gusto of Bugs Bunny trolling Yosemite Sam. Whether you do this for the sake of its well-written story and/or the thrill of a score chase, Bloodroots can be stylish, graceful (once you know what you’re doing), and surprisingly easy to pick up despite demanding a tremendous attention to detail. In its pre-release state, however, its most elating moments are easily and frequently disrupted by technical issues, keeping you from really hitting your stride as often as you should.
Bloodroots puts you on the warpath with the Wild West outlaw Mr. Wolf, who’s out for revenge against his gang, the Blood Beasts. The Beasts, who all wear animal skins and go by Reservoir Dogs-style code names like Mr. Boar and Mrs. Crow, betray and nearly kill him after murdering an entire town in the name of their new leader, Mr. Black Wolf. From the moment he recovers from his attempted assassination, Mr. Wolf has one goal: to kill his former gang and anyone who gets between them.
The story, though simple and predictable, is made compelling through strong dialogue that forges complex characters. Though Mr. Wolf rarely speaks, you learn a lot about him; his story and the history of the gang are told in carefully constructed interactive flashbacks and through his encounters with the Beasts. You don’t spend too much story time with any one character--this is an action game and the gameplay comes first--but in tracking down each former partner, you come to understand and savor your time with them. Everyone, and I mean everyone, in Bloodroots is a bad guy, but you come to see that every character has their own perspective on how the gang rose and fell. In hearing about Mr. Wolf’s past from the Beasts, in their own unique voices, you not only understand the situation better, but come to understand that there’s more in their lives than a single act of vengeance. That isn’t to say you won’t have reservations about your mission--they’re bad guys through and through--but you understand why they made their choices, which makes your hunt more satisfying.
If you loved being terrified by Mr. X in the Resident Evil 2 remake last year and you’re looking for another pulse-pounding experience, then you’re in luck. Capcom’s Resident Evil 3 remake takes the ideas that worked well in last year’s game and applies them to the next numbered entry in the series. Here are five reasons you shouldn’t be afraid to pick up a controller when Resident Evil 3 releases on April 3.
The Updated Visual Style Is Great
Since Resident Evil 3 has been completely remade for modern consoles, it should look better than the original. However, Capcom has also taken this opportunity to revisit everything from character designs to environmental art. Capcom has given both Jill and Carlos modern makeovers that feel more realistic. Raccoon City has also been remodeled and is now a sprawling metropolis. Not only will fans see new areas that that weren’t in the original game, but old areas have a much greater degree of detail. The streets shine after evening rain and broken store windows reflect nearby neon street signs.
This Is More Than A Remake
If you played both versions of Resident Evil 2 then you probably know what to expect with one of Capcom’s RE remakes. This version of Resident Evil 3 is more than a visual overhaul. In fact, Capcom has started using the word “reimagining” to describe its approach to design. The layout of the entire game has been redone. The original Resident Evil 3 was a bit linear when compared to previous entries in the series, but this remake has expanded on the original’s environments, giving players a lot of reason to explore and slowly open up new places in traditional Resident Evil fashion. Another good example of how the game is updated is RE 3’s puzzles, which are completely new. Capcom asked us not to explain these puzzles in detail, but based on what we saw, the new puzzles are much more realistic but still offer a good change of pace from the tense action that happens on the zombie-packed streets.
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The Dodge Works … And Is A Big Deal
Capcom has called Resident Evil 3 a more action-focused game, but this is still a survival horror experience that will force you to thoughtfully manage your supplies. Thankfully, Jill has a new trick up her sleeve that might make your battle against the undead a little easier. Instead of using defensive weapons to prevent zombie bites, Jill can dodge out of the way of an attack at the last minute. If timed correctly, Jill can sidestep the attack and then slow time, allowing her to quickly squeeze off a few retaliation shots on her attacker’s head.
The Nemesis Is Terrifying
Mr. X was the breakout star in Resident Evil 2, but Resident Evil 3 has a stalking tyrant of its own, and his name is Nemesis. Much like Mr. X, the Nemesis will relentlessly chase Jill throughout the game, following her from one environment to the next. However, unlike Mr. X, Nemesis is faster, can leap in front of Jill to block her path, or use tentacles to trip her up. Later on, Nemesis gets aggressive with a series of weapons that lead to some epic boss encounters. The music Capcom uses whenever Nemesis shows up really ramps up the tension too, so don’t play this game if you have a weak heart.
The Resident Evil franchise has dabbled with multiplayer mayhem to varying degrees, but we haven’t played a multiplayer mode that we wanted to come back to in a long time. Resistance could finally break that trend. This asynchronous 4v1 mode tasks a group of survivors with escaping the sadistic machinations of an Umbrella experiment. Each match is split into three stages where four survivors work together to complete a variety of objects, and each hero has their own set of skills. I played as a support hero who could reveal special items on the map as well as a tankier survivor who was skilled in melee attacks. There is a good amount of variety among the survivors so almost anyone should be able to find a character that clicks for them. However, I had the most fun when playing as the Mastermind who works against the survivors, laying traps and unleashing zombies on the team from the safety of a control room.
There is a lot more to say about Resident Evil 3, but if you’re not excited for this survival horror remake at this point we don’t know what we could say to turn you around. I guess you could start by reading our review for Resident Evil 2 or watching our New Gameplay Today video.
Capcom earned the praise of players and critics last year with the release of its Resident Evil 2 remake. How do you follow up something like that? If you were thinking "Resident Evil 3 remake," congrats. In today's episode, Leo and I grill Ben Reeves about what he saw – and played – during a recent event for the upcoming game.
There's a lot to absorb here, including a nice (?) glimpse of Nemesis, a quick walk around Raccoon City and its various shops, and Carlos' weird-looking hair. Seriously. There's a lot more to check out, but that hair is really something that stuck with us.
You can watch the episode above, or in 4K over on our YouTube channel! Resident Evil 3 is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 3.
From the Minestrone Mines to Gumbo Grotto, Snack World is an RPG universe entirely founded upon various types of cuisine. But although this base is admirably creative, Snack World's failings outweigh its strengths. Although it is conceptually innovative, the execution never quite lives up to ambition.
Right from the get-go, Snack World acknowledges the tropes it attempts to riff off of. You awaken as an amnesiac hero, conveniently discovered just outside the castle gates. You earn an audience with the king, who is simultaneously jovial and relentlessly selfish, and he tasks you with a variety of quests to satiate his daughter's fleeting desires--most of which she no longer cares for by the time you retrieve your boon.
Once you embark on an odyssey to regain your memory while becoming a dungeon-crawling virtuoso, you're quickly bombarded with a hefty amount of information tied to the game's various systems. Although they are relatively straightforward and conventional--character traits, codex entries, and opportunities for dungeon co-op--the explanations are buried under esoteric apps on a phone-like device called a Pix-e Pad. It's an interesting idea, but they're unnecessarily facetious, confusing nuance with jargon.
The first game I played in Dreams was a cute Captain Toad-inspired puzzle platformer called Pip Gemwalker. It's about a Sloth who has to collect hidden gems across seven increasingly-complex levels. The second game I played was Blade Gunner, a Resogun-style twin-stick shooter with upgrades, an in-game store, and online leaderboards. After that I hopped into Art Therapy, a first-person game where your goal, as a disgruntled artist wielding a baseball bat, is to smash your way through a museum without any of the guards catching you in the act. The fourth was Shadows Dance at Olivetop Reach, a fantasy RPG with turn-based combat and an XP-based levelling system.
Each of these games is vastly different from the last, not just in terms of genre and gameplay mechanics, but their use (or disuse) of cutscenes, voice acting, art style, music, narrative, and so on. The one thing they each have in common is that they were all created using the exact same set of tools. That's Dreams in a nutshell: a platform where you can create pretty much anything you can put your mind to. Developer Media Molecule has continued the mantra of "play, create, share" that it used to define the LittleBigPlanet series and applied it to a much more ambitious concept with a significantly broader scope. Metaphorically speaking, if LittleBigPlanet is a single country, then Dreams is the entire universe. There's just so much promise and potential for the burgeoning Dreams community to create some innovative and inspired art, all by using an intuitive toolset that's made accessible via a streamlined creation suite and the use of informative hands-on tutorials. Whether these creations take the form of an hour-long video game, a short film, a simple visual spectacle, or something as simple as a sound effect that another player can use in their own project. The possibilities are endless, which I know is a tired cliché, but in Dreams--more than anywhere else--it actually applies.
There are two parts to Dreams which both branch out like roots from a tree. DreamShaping is where you can begin creating your own projects and find myriad tutorials that will teach you how. DreamSurfing, meanwhile, lets you find other people's creations and play them for yourself. It's also where you'll find Media Molecule's own creations, including Art's Dream. If you want to construct a level in LittleBigPlanet, you are always confined to the base template of a side-scrolling 3D platformer. Inevitably, some people found inventive ways to circumnavigate this template, but compared to what you can do in Dreams it's overly restrictive. To demonstrate the monumental shift between LittleBigPlanet and Dreams, Media Molecule has created a showcase of sorts, placing Art's Dream front and centre when you jump into DreamSurfing for the first time.
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, iOS
The latest season of Fortnite has started, and the spy-themed Top Secret backdrop for battle royale includes ways to change the island permanently.
Players choose sides and complete missions as part of the Ghost or Shadow sides. The Battle Pass contains agents such as Meowscles, skin-changing Maya, Marvel's Deadpool, and others, and you'll complete weekly missions for each character for variant skins.
Animal Crossing is one of those series without much middle ground; people are either really into it, or they struggle to see the appeal. I’ve been a fan of the weird little village simulators since the GameCube days, and have been looking forward to a fully realized new entry for years. New Horizons is almost here, and I got about 40 minutes of hands-on time with it, from the opening until the moment the Nintendo reps wrenched the controller from my hands. Here’s a small slice of what you can expect to see for yourself in about a month.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons starts off as you’re preparing to book your trip via Tom Nook’s Island getaway service. Timmy and Tommy Nook ask you for your name and birthday, and then have you pose for your passport photo. In a departure from past games, I’m then dropped into a simple character creator, where I’m able to pick my hair style and color, skin tone, and eye shape and color. The options are limited, but it’s nice to be able to choose exactly what I want instead of being surprised with how I look after answering a series of questions, as has been the case in the past.
Then I’m asked if I want to visit an island in North America or elsewhere. If you’re new to the series, Animal Crossing games are tied directly to your console’s date and time, with seasons that change according to the time of year. If you live in Australia, for example, your in-game island’s seasons will match what you’re experiencing outside. Regardless of your hemisphere, the next step is picking what island you’ll be visiting from four randomized selections. You can see the layouts of the rivers as well as where Tom Nook’s HQ will be. If you don’t like the selections, you can keep cycling through new ones until something strikes your fancy. I choose one with a winding river that doesn’t seem especially intrusive.
As a quick aside, the Direct showed off some of New Horizons’ terraforming elements. Don’t like the flow of a river? Put on your hard hat and change it. That ability, coupled with the option of building bridges and staircases, will let you transform your routes if you decide the layout isn’t to your liking anymore. You can also build a vaulting pole and ladder to cross gaps and scurry up cliffs if you don’t want to make any permanent changes to your layout.
All right, back to my game. There are a few more jokey bits of dialogue to go through, and then I’m off. The screen goes black, and I hear then whirring of a propeller and some in-flight announcements. In a nice little touch, the warbly little animal sounds have an added layer of static to better emulate the kind of audio you hear on a plane’s overhead speaker system. The charter company, Dodo Airlines, is run by a pair of bird brothers (Orville and Wilbur, naturally), and their offices later serve as a place to access multiplayer and send letters. You can also depart on mini adventures to random islands to find and collect items.
After landing, I watch a brief orientation video with clips of villagers and animals going about their day doing typical Animal Crossing things. The level of detail is phenomenal, and everything looks great. Characters have the same general art design and style, but they’re brimming with little visual flourishes. My animal companions (chosen randomly from a large roster of critters) are Mac the dog and a bunny named Mira. They’re not exactly furry, but they have a pseudo-flocked texture on them, giving them the appearance of looking like living toys. Bugs like cicadas and bees have iridescent wings, though they’re not likely to stick around long enough for you to admire them.
Since we’re on a deserted island, the first order of business is to claim our site. Tom Nook has already staked his claim for his Resident Services tent, but everything else is fair game. I start wandering around, looking for the perfect place to pitch my tent. I find a great spot a bit north, between a pair of orange trees and overlooking a waterfall. What could be better than falling asleep with nature’s own white-noise generator? I try to plop my tent down, and I’m told it’s a little too close to the water. After backing up a few steps, I’m able to set down what will be my new home. Don’t worry; if you regret where you’ve set up camp, you can move it later. As with a lot of things in New Horizons, Nintendo is aiming to eliminate the pain points from past games.
Before heading back to Nook, I decide to do a little exploration. There’s not a lot to see in these early days, but since it’s winter I’m able to shake trees without having to worry about getting stung by bees. As I run, arms stretched behind me, the sounds of my footsteps are muted in the snow. I see a few snowballs – perfect for rolling into snowmen. In the rivers, I spy a few shadowy fishy figures. They disappear in a flash as I zoom past to report my success to Mr. Nook.
Tom is impressed with how quickly I’ve set up, so he tells me to help my fellow campers. I find Mira a ways south, and she’s struggling to find the perfect spot. She says that she threw a stick and was determined to set up wherever it landed, but now she’s not so sure. I tell her it’s a perfect location, and she feels better about the situation. A few moments later, she’s got a place to call home. Mac is similarly stuck. I tell him I’ve got the perfect place, and he enthusiastically goes along with my plan. I run back to my tent, and try to put his tent as close to mine as possible. Hey, I like having neighbors, and Mac is a cool guy. Unfortunately, I’m told that our tents must have a little more real estate between them. So much for that plan. I manage to have him fairly close, but it’s not the tent-to-tent setup I was hoping for.
The island seems to have ample room for growth, which is key. In addition to serving as home to all the various animals and services that will move in over time, it must sustain multiple players. Up to eight players can live on an island, with one character (and home) for each registered user. Online, eight players can inhabit an island simultaneously. If you want to play locally, up to four can play together, with one player serving as leader and determining where the screen scrolls. I didn’t get to play that mode, but looking at the Direct it seemed like a serviceable (if cramped) way to play together. Items that the followers find will be deposited in the recycle bin for the host to collect later.
I have to run a few more errands for Tom Nook, including gathering wood for a bonfire and fruit for a party. I can’t spoil what happens at the party, but it’s funny and heartwarming in the familiar Animal Crossing ways.
Reality sets in when I wake up. Tom swings by my tent and gives me a NookPhone, which is a fancy new piece of tech. He says it’s easy to use, because he removed most of the features. He also brings up the matter of payment, which is something I’d been waiting for. All told, I’m indebted to him to the tune of 49,800 bells. Things are different in New Horizons, thanks in no small part to the NookPhone. Rather than pay solely in cash, I’ll be able to work off my debt using a new mileage program he’s cooked up. The scheme is actually pretty cool: You earn “Nook Miles” by completing in-game tasks you’d likely be doing naturally. Things like picking up shells, talking to neighbors, snapping photos, catching fish and bugs, and planting flowers all earn you miles. In addition to paying off your debt, you can use those miles to pick up cosmetic items for your character. These tasks have different tiers, too, and I scrolled past tons of empty slots. It looks like there’s going to be plenty to do, and now you’ll actually get rewarded for doing it.
In the Direct, we saw permanent structures such as the museum and the Able Sisters moving to the island, as well as an actual player home that replaces the tent. Though the first debt can be paid off with miles, that doesn’t necessarily make bells an obsolete currency; further upgrades down the road might require bells, but I didn’t play long enough to test that theory. Either way, the mileage program seems designed as a way to acclimate players to the various activities and steer them toward the big beats.
My first mileage-earning opportunity comes when I use the new DIY workshop for the first time. Crafting appears to be a big part of the game now. Before, you could design patterns for use as flags and clothing. Now, you’re making things like furniture and tools. As you get new recipe cards, you can make more sophisticated items and even further customize things you already know how to make.
Nook gives me the recipe for a flimsy fishing pole and tells me to gather the materials to craft it. In this case, it’s several sticks. It’s flimsy, after all. After clicking into the workshop, I’ve got my own fishing pole. Not too bad! Well, sort of. In what’s bound to be a controversial move, New Horizons’ tools break over time – and not just the ax, as has been the case in previous entries. I don’t have a sense of how long they last, but the “flimsy” part doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. This is a case where it could be much ado about nothing for some players and a real issue with others, the way the weapons in Breath of the Wild polarized Zelda players.
Will larger fish wear out poles faster? Do failed attempts carry an additional ding to the pole’s overall durability? Again, it’s too early to know from this short demo, but I’m definitely curious, and more than a little apprehensive about how it all works. All I know is my fishing pole was strong enough to let me catch a horse mackerel from the ocean, which I proudly displayed in my tent next to my lantern, radio, and camo-patterned cot.
And with that, my demo ended. Animal Crossing is a tough game to appreciate in such a short session, but I can already feel myself getting drawn into its laid-back loops. These games are meant to be savored over long periods of time, when you’re able to get to know the animal residents and make your own place in the world. Mac and Mira were very kind (Mac gave me a nice denim cap, and Mira passed along a recipe for turning weeds into an umbrella), but it was a brief introduction. Hopefully, I’ll see them again someday. Maybe I’ll run into them on Bunny Day in April, which is the game’s first post-launch festival?
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is coming to the Nintendo Switch on March 20.