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  • Game Informer News Feed: How Crossplay Works

    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

    Publisher: Activision
    Developer: Infinity Ward
    Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

    A hot topic in the conversation surrounding Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to this point has been how Infinity Ward will handle crossplay. The team has said the highly anticipated shooter will feature full crossplay between platforms, but further details have been scarce. Today, we learned a lot more about how the feature works.

    First and foremost, anybody playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare needs to have a Call of Duty account. You can go here to create one using your PSN, Xbox Live, Steam, Activision, or account. Once you get you get your hands on the game, you choose to opt in or opt out of crossplay. Choosing to enable crossplay means players can play with others on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Once you have your Call of Duty account and you enable crossplay, you can create cross-platform friends lists and parties comprised of players from PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

    One of the largest questions fans have had about this feature is how Infinity Ward will balance keyboard-and-mouse players with controller players. PlayStation 4 players can decide to use a keyboard and mouse. PS4, Xbox One, and PC players can all play with each other as long as they all use controllers, or all use keyboard and mouse. However, you can also join lobbies where there are no control-scheme filters, meaning you can play with players across all platforms with controllers and keyboard and mouse.

    Infinity Ward has also announced that it intends to demonstrate its commitment to this crossplay initiative by delivering most post-launch content (maps, modes, Spec Ops missions, etc.) simultaneously across all three platforms. Despite this, the franchise maintains its partnership with PlayStation, with the studio stating that PS4 players will have "an exciting Day 1 advantage." The team did not provide details about what that means, but says information will arrive soon.

    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare launches on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 25. For more on the upcoming shooter, check out our coverage hub by clicking the banner below.

  • Gamespot News Feed: Children of Morta Review

    Children of Morta is a game about family. Mechanically, it's a satisfying dungeon crawler where you grind through bad guys, level up your characters, and unlock better abilities so that you can face off against a series of increasingly difficult bosses. But really, at its heart, it's a compelling game about what it means to be a part of a family, and how being surrounded by loved ones can make you a better, stronger person.

    The Bergson family, six of whom you're able to play as, is made up of warriors, mages, and inventors all tasked with holding back the Corruption--which has, at the game's opening, started to spread across their homeland. Their house sits atop a shrine, and to battle against the evil forces of the demonic Ou they need to travel through portals and conquer dungeons, in order to awaken three spirits that can guard against the Corruption.

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    It's a cliched fantasy setup, but Children of Morta makes the most of its tropes by making sure that you're invested in the Bergsons and their plight. Between runs of the dungeons, you're treated to cutscenes and vignettes of the family interacting with one another, and you get to know the beats of their lives and what they get up to when they're not enduring dungeons. You start with two playable characters, family patriarch John and his eldest daughter Linda, but the other four are introduced within the game's opening half. Seeing them train and grow in cutscenes, and getting a sense of their place within the family, means that you're already attached to the characters before you get your hands on them.

    Gameplay in Children of Morta involves battling your way through hordes of enemies to reach each dungeon's boss, exploring thoroughly and nabbing as many temporary boosts as you can along the way. Each character has three main abilities they'll unlock as they level up: a standard attack that can be used continuously, a special attack with a cooldown, and a more defensive ability (although some of these can still do damage). The combat isn’t necessarily super deep, but it’s a lot of fun thanks to some extremely satisfying animation and the strategic possibilities that become available as you level up. Dungeons consist of multiple levels and are generated anew each time you enter, so finding the entrance to the next level will always require some exploration. Occasionally I’d find myself frustrated when the path to the exit ended up being very elaborate, but this also kept the game feeling fresh when some dungeons took a long time to clear.

    There's an imbalance between the number of melee and ranged characters--four melee to two ranged--which is a shame, because playing the ranged characters changes the rhythm of the game significantly by encouraging a slower, more thoughtful playstyle, and only having two of them feels like a missed opportunity. I found that Linda (who uses a bow and arrow) was the character I most often managed to beat bosses with, since so many bosses are primed to punish you for getting too close, and I would have loved to have another option beyond her and Lucy, the family’s youngest daughter.

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    Each character plays differently, and you'll no doubt have your favorites. Lucy can shoot a continuous wave of fireballs while standing still, and can be upgraded to withstand three hits without damage; Kevin, the youngest son, can dramatically increase his speed and strength by building up "rage" with continuous knife attacks, but he needs to get very up-close to do so before using his power of invisibility to get out of danger. Some characters are less interesting; for the life of me I can't figure out how to make Joey, who swings a huge hammer, effective. But it's still fun trying out a character you haven't played for a few runs and getting into the groove with each of their distinct rhythms.

    You need to switch characters regularly, too, as any member of the family who is used too many times in a row begins to suffer from corruption fatigue, which lowers their overall health until they're given time to recover. Each member of the family can also unlock new abilities that benefit every other family member as they level up (like higher rates of critical attack or even assists in certain situations), and later abilities in their skill trees can be very useful--I initially dismissed John for being too slow but found his shield and wide swing arc extremely useful later in the game, and was ultimately glad that the game encouraged me to use every character and discover their strengths (in five cases out of six, at least).

    The plot's focus on the family, paired with the tremendous art and beautiful animation, makes it easy to love the Bergsons. Lucy is so full of energy that she'll jump in the middle of her run animation (which doesn't interrupt your pathfinding at all but adds personality to her sprite), while eldest son Mark's Naruto-style run is a perfect complement to his martial arts fighting style. Charming touches like this are everywhere, and they give the characters more personality. You feel those unique traits come through in combat, too; there are few things more satisfying than seeing Kevin shimmer with rage and rip through a huge mob of enemies.

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    And as with any family gathering, Children of Morta will encourage and then test your patience. It's a grind-heavy game; it was very rare for me to beat a dungeon on my first shot, as most required that I level up and learn the boss' attack patterns, which requires storming through the dungeon to get to them a few times. You can get away with running right past most enemy mobs, but to stand a chance against the boss at the end, you want to be armed with powerful buffs, and growing stronger requires farming experience and gold to unlock new abilities and improve your stats.

    However, it takes a long time for the grind to start wearing you down. The combat is meaty and intense, and the allure of growing stronger is so compelling that dealing with huge crowds and collecting all the gold they spill can hold your attention for hours. There's a sharp increase in difficulty right at the end, but I could always identify what had gone right--which fights I'd avoided, which charms I'd made use of, how I'd thought about my character's relative strengths and weaknesses to the boss--and adjust my strategies accordingly to continue to do well. The grind helped make me a better player, instead of simply acting as a level gate.

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    There are special buffs that are only active for that session, and you have a much better chance of beating the boss if you go in after thoroughly exploring the dungeon and powering up. There are many different kinds of buff you can unlock, some temporary, some permanent; I found that I did far better against bosses when I went in with a lot of them active. You can find the various items and objects that make you more powerful throughout each dungeon, or buy them from shopkeepers that pop up, and I found myself getting excited whenever I found a good combination. Going up against a boss that has beaten you several times, now armed with a combination that you think will give you an advantage, is a great feeling.

    Your dungeon runs are also broken up by numerous subquests that can appear throughout each dungeon, which expand on the game's lore, introduce new NPCs, and result in significant upgrades or rewards. A few even have major narrative impact--there are a series of quests early on that end with the Bergsons adopting and raising an adorable puppy, for instance. But if one dungeon is really giving you grief, eventually it can feel like the game's ready for you to move on before you're ready yourself--you'll stop getting cutscenes and character vignettes after missions, and you'll find that you've run out of subquests to complete. But then, the feeling of eventually taking down a boss that was troubling you is extremely satisfying, especially knowing that you're going to get more lovely character moments as you try to beat the next one.

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    You also have the option of playing the whole game in co-op, and the game balance differs depending on whether you're alone or not. However, I found myself preferring to stick to solo play--it's annoying for a friend to talk over cutscenes and the difficulty scaling makes co-op more complicated.

    Children of Morta's fantastic art style and enjoyable storytelling take what would have been an otherwise fun roguelike dungeon-crawler and elevate it a great deal. Taking down enemies and eventually triumphing over bosses is enjoyable, but what kept bringing me back was the connection I felt to the Bergsons, and my sincere desire to help them push back against the Corruption. After all, it's a lot easier dealing with dungeons full of monsters when you have a family to come home to.

  • Game Informer News Feed: The Surge 2 As Seen Through A Violent Music Video

    Click here to watch embedded media

    Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
    Developer: Deck 13
    Rating: Rating Pending
    Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

    Developer Deck 13 Interactive promises plenty of violence and a brutal challenge in The Surge 2, which launches on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC next Tuesday (September 24). You've seen plenty of Surge 2 videos that show heads flying, and you'll see that aspect of the game again in this short video, but this time it's a little different.

    The violence is set to a cover of the song 'The End of the World,' which was originally penned by Skeeter Davis in 1963. The cover is done by Sharon Van Etten in what Deck 13 is calling the "Symphony of Violence" trailer.

  • Game Informer News Feed: Hideo Kojima Answers Our Questions About Death Stranding

    Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Developer: Kojima Productions
    Rating: Rating Pending
    Platform: PlayStation 4

    The last week has been a busy one for Hideo Kojima. Even with Death Stranding in the final stretch approaching release, the legendary creator took the stage at Tokyo Game Show for two separate live presentations showing off his unique and difficult-to-explain project. While we learned a lot from watching those demonstrations, they also raised many questions about how Death Stranding works and what it tries to convey. What is the goal behind the asynchronous multiplayer? What do "likes" do? How has the game changed since its inception? To get the answers to these questions and more, we visited the Kojima Productions studio in Tokyo for an interview with Hideo Kojima himself. 

    Of all the new features that you revealed at the first TGS live show, what was the one you were most excited to finally talk about?

    Playing the game is a lonely feeling, because you play alone usually, even though you’re online. A lot of people play on the couch, and perhaps they feel like, “Oh, I’m lonely, and I’m maybe strange, playing all alone.” And you’re doing it over and over. You’re traveling with BB, and maybe you feel lonely. Norman [Reedus] actually got this point as well – you’re struggling all alone. But at a certain point, you realize, “There is someone really similar to me who felt this loneliness,” because you see it when you’re indirectly connecting. Like in a movie theater – there are maybe 200 or 300 people watching a movie together.

    But today’s games, you’re playing by yourself in your room alone usually. Then suddenly, you open to a world like “Oh, I’m not the only one.” And I’m really happy a lot of people understood that, and I think that was the most successful part. Of course, you can’t see other people’s faces, but you can see the tracks and traces, so you can feel or think about the other people.

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    And players get some additional feedback from “likes” they receive. But what can they actually do with those likes?

    I had a big argument with the staff, actually. In a game, you get more money, or you get more fame, or you get more kudos, right? That’s what game systems now days are about – you want something in return if you do something. At the beginning, the Asian staff said, “Hey, Hideo, no one will ever understand this. Maybe the Japanese might.” I said, “That’s why I want people to do it in the game.” So all these staff members said to me, “We have to give them kudos or points or whatever,” but that would be like a normal game – any other game. So I said, “Giving ‘likes’ is giving unconditional love.”

    But, of course you can see how many likes you get, so that’s maybe a little reward. If you just use [something another player placed], one like will be sent automatically. But also you can send more, like a tip. I don’t want to say I’m brilliant for thinking of this idea, because it’s really a mix of the Japanese way; we don’t have tips, but you know you get really good service in Japan. Whereas in America, there’s a tip system where waiters try their best because they want to be tipped. So it’s a cross lateral in the game.

    What I really wanted to do – I didn’t want to give “thumbs down.” I didn’t want to give any negative in this game; it was a positive intent where I started this idea. In current SMS and internet, there’s likes and thumbs down. To me, [thumbs down] is like the stick – it’s an attack. But that’s why it’s a positive intent in the game; if [your objects] have few likes, they might disappear, and the ones with lots of thumbs up will remain, but it isn’t negative.

    So the idea isn’t to give players an incentive to “like,” so much as unite everyone to make the world of Death Stranding as supportive as it can be?

    Yes, because the world setting is the dark and lowest world you can think of. Your solitude, you’re alone – the storyline itself is a worst-case scenario. So why don’t I put in a system where it’s really more positive than negative?

    We’ve seen many cryptic trailers for Death Stranding over the years. In the final game, where does it fall on the spectrum between ambiguous storytelling – something like Twin Peaks­ – and more straightforward delivery?

    I haven’t lied at all – I just create the story as-is. In the trailers, maybe I just put out the scenes in between. But if you play from the start to the end, you will understand because it’s all connected. All the side plots are kind of recovered, all the small stories and things like that. But I am a great fan of David Lynch as well, so, yeah.

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    Sam has a lot to manage – his health, his equipment, etc. A lot of people turn to games to escape these kinds of responsibilities. How do you approach taking mundane maintenance tasks and putting them into a game so they don’t feel like work?

    Previously, in design, you had to create the rule because you couldn’t do the realism, right? In our everyday lives, there are so many mechanisms we have to work through, as you say, and we have to take the balance of what we do, how we maintain ourselves, and how we live. So I wanted to free the game design concept that we had to live by because we didn’t have the technology to do so in the past. We always created a rule, like the life bar is like this, and one hit takes away this much health. I wanted to add the real essence in Death Stranding.

    For instance, in any game, you could carry as many items as you want – even in Metal Gear, it was unlimited. Of course, you can’t do it in real life, right? You have to select one bottle when you climb a mountain. That’s why I put it in; a lot of games have aborted that kind of rule. This time, if you’re in the river, you can drift away – and that’s in real life as well. So that’s the gimmick and mechanism I kind of recreated, where other games – and even my games before – had to deform in a way.

    But the other thing about it is that you can go anywhere in the world. It’s open-world. In the past, even if games are “open-world,” there are limitations where you can’t go further. Like, they created valleys where you can’t go. But in this game, you can go anywhere. You set routes, and you want to know what goes on beyond. In this game, I think you will not understand if I just say this, but once you start playing the game, just walking in that world is really fun. What I realized is, when I monitor playtests – even the staff's – they don’t get it at first. But when they really start playing, just walking is really fun in the space.

    And now everyone will say, “Oh, it’s a walking simulator!” 

    It’s the same as when I first brought out a stealth game. If 100 people play it and 100 people say it’s fun, it means the genre or the game already exists. But this is a new genre – same as stealth the first time, there will be people who don’t get it. It will take time for the real evaluations to come in.

    Let’s say a player has finished the game and is watching the end credits. In your best-case scenario, what do you want the player to be thinking about at that point?

    Well, I should really not say and leave it to the users. But the theme of the game is connection; you will understand the meaning of it. Like in dramas, or games, or online – everything comes together, and you see the end credits. But I just want people to finish the game.

    Not a good example, but if you climb Mt. Fuji to see the rising of the sun – in Japan a lot of people do that – it’s really tough to climb to the top. On the way, some people might abort. But once you’re on the top, and you can see the mountain, people just cry. Same with our game; people who don’t make it to the end won’t be really moved. Of course, I left that up to the players.

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    How does the concept of the chiral network differ from our modern-day communication?

    It’s a “letter theory.” It wasn’t real-time before, in the past. For instance, a husband writes a letter from the battlefield a long time ago: “I don’t know when I’m going to die.” And he sends it, and it takes a couple months before it arrives, and the wife receives it and reads it. There’s a time when she thinks, “He might be dead.” The wife has to imagine what he was thinking at the time he was writing – and this was the communication then. Right now, it’s more real-time.

    This is about caring for people. It’s not direct; I wanted to do that with the internet we have today. If someone puts a cup there in Death Stranding, you might think to yourself, “Did that person deliberately put it there? Did he just have to throw away the load? But you think about it. It’s like the letter theory. In this direct communication era, I wanted to create an indirect communication using the technology of today so you feel for others more. Like you used to, back then – the 20th Century, 19th Century style – when people had to think about others in communication. But nowadays people forget about it because we’re so direct. I can Face Time you any time. So, right now, if I see your cup, I can phone you and say, ‘Hey, what’s this cup for?” But in Death Stranding, you can’t. You have to think about it.

    Now, when you place a cup after that experience, you have to think about, “What would people think if I put it here?” So I believe that this way, people’s feeling towards each other will deepen in Death Stranding because of how it’s connected.

    And within the context of the world, when you go to a prepper, for example, and plug them into the chiral network, are you just plugging them in to a better internet connection?

    There’s actually three steps to that chiral network. For Bridges’ sake, you’re connecting from east to west and they want you to join the UCA – the United Cities of America. When you connect, you can use UCA services, but at the same time, they’re retrieving your information 24 hours a day. It’s like 1984. Some people may not like that, and say “I’m not going to connect to UCA, because we’re going to repeat the same thing that we did.” Like Trump, or the EU, these things. It’s a metaphor. However, if you get really close, they start to say, “Okay, I’ll connect.”

    A lot of preppers just sign a contract to be connected to Bridges. The network is there, but there’s no communication or other actions – that’s why they can’t use the chiral printers and things like that. If they say they will join the UCA, then you can use the chiral network, the chiral printers, things like that. In the game, the mission is to really reconnect America again – but I haven’t said whether that is correct or not.

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    In the “Briefing” trailer, a lot of the language about people being divided sounds familiar to what we hear in America today. Is that intentional?

    It’s about America, but I made that map deliberately not correctly America. Maybe it looks like Japan from that angle. I want people to not think “America,” but “where you are.” Because it depends on who is seeing it. And of course, it’s in the future, and everyone’s connected by internet, but everyone is fragmented. That’s kind of a metaphor as well. So Sam is not hip-hip-hooray for connecting America; his motivation is to save Amelie, and a whole fleet of sensitive people will share the same attitude. They have to, because they are on a mission. They always don’t want to. Sam actually moans a lot on this journey, saying “Why am I doing this?” And it’s actually the same position the players can be in. “Why am I doing this? It’s so rough, so lonely, and so solitary!” When you play, and connect, there’s drama, there’s preppers, there’s storyline; you start to feel like connection might really feel good. But I’m not saying it’s positive or negative to connect. It’s really up to the players to see how they feel while playing the game.

    The game is so close to being complete. Now that you can see the near-final product, what is the biggest difference you notice from how you first envisioned Death Stranding?

    The concept hasn’t changed at all from the start. On the vision side, yes, I imagined I could do more – like, PlayStation 6 for the visuals. But it’s not all about graphics. A lot of people were against my first concept, and I’m really happy that the staff made it together with me. All the staff really liked playing the game and I really feel happy. And I just feel it’s the user’s turn now.

    A new concept is really difficult to explain at the start. The stealth game, no one really got it when I first presented it. Your first enemies are always your staff, or the people working with you. “You carry things, you connect, and you only give thumbs-up – what’s fun about that?” was the first reaction. If I had listened, it would just be a normal game. But a lot of staff, they believed me. They said, “Okay, we’ll try it out.” A lot of staff members, whether quickly or late, they start to get it. I can’t really blame the staff, because I can’t show inside of my brain. No one understood at all when I first explained. “Are you insane?” But they participated. Norman, Mads [Mikkelsen], same. When I asked them to join, and I explained to them, they had no idea what I was going to do.

    Have you explained Death Stranding to anyone and had it click immediately, instead of taking a while to understand?

    Yes, there were some people. Especially creators were quite quick to click. Like [director] George Miller, who is kind of my mentor – my god. In 2017, I went to Australia. I only had a trailer, and I also explained verbally to him. George Miller said, “In all aspects, you are correct. Mathematically, psychologically, physically, philosophically.” He kind of started to draw a diagram, he has this theory, so he said, “What you’re trying to do is correct.” I should have recorded that! I should have sent it to the staff! That was really a happy moment.

    Maybe not people in the game industry, but musicians, directors, and creators. So, that’s why I tend to kind of overlap with musicians and film directors more than the game industry people – because they kind of tend to synthesize with me in that way and click faster.


    Death Stranding releases on November 8 for PS4.

  • Gamespot News Feed: Greedfall Review

    There's religious fanaticism, and then there's Inquisitor Aloysius from Greedfall, a man so excessively villainous his whole schtick borders on farcical. A member of Thélème, one of the game's six factions, he appears when you first step into the town square of the city San-Matheus. What draws your eye is the sight of a hulking woodland beast howling in pain while tied to a stake in an enormous burning pyre, as a captured native islander looks on helplessly. When asked why the creature and his people are subjected to such cruelty, the Inquisitor bellows an odious response about cleansing the corrupt souls of his tribe. Then in one swift movement, he yanks the islander's head, stabs the poor soul with a knife, and yells obscenities about heresies into the sky.

    That uncomfortable scene is emblematic of the plot in Greedfall; its tales of colonialism and political subterfuge are tackled with such little nuance that it verges on parody. The islanders wear face paint, have heavy accents, and venerate the woodland beasts as deities, while the cardinals, bishops, and alchemists refer to them as savages that need enlightenment or salvation. Greedfall relies heavily on these kinds of blunt narrative tropes for its setting, much in the same way it does on a very familiar open-world RPG structure. And while it's very easy to lose yourself in its competent, if comfortable, formula, it means that Greedfall ultimately feels unremarkable at best.

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    You play as the charming diplomat De Sardet from the Congregation of Merchants, who's in charge of brokering peace between two warring factions: the Thélème, a theocratic nation that preach their gospel heavily and want to convert as many natives as possible, even if it's by force, and the Bridge Alliance, home to a nation of alchemists who wield their vast and incomparable knowledge of science for political ends.

    Both factions want to colonize a mystical island called Teer Fradee, which is brimming with fantastical flora and fauna. They, as well as the clans of indigenous people who are resisting their incursions, seek your help for their own ends. But that's not all; you also have something you want from the island: the cure for the Malicor, a mysterious plague devastating your home. In short, everyone wants a piece of this enchanted isle, and your task is to navigate through this political minefield for the best outcome--whatever you think that is.

    Greedfall attempts to tweak certain aspects of its otherwise conventional colonialist plot (the islanders aren't depicted as crazed natives or hungry cannibals, and the factions are somewhat multicultural), but beyond a vague sense of awareness about its oppressive legacy, Greedfall's heavy-handed themes never make way for anything more nuanced or interesting. Sure, it highlights the exploitative behaviors of the Thélème and Bridge Alliance factions, but their actions are so moustache-twirling malicious that they become mere caricatures of evildoers.

    Even your companions and other characters are cookie-cutter emblems of their group: Siora is the native princess who wishes to seek peace for her clan; Petrus is the religious Thélème advisor with tons of political savvy; and Kurt is the loyal, headstrong mercenary whose stoic demeanour can barely disguise his world-weariness. Most damning of all is your character, De Sardet, who, as the big hero, embodies the "white man's burden" allegory that also plagues other colonial-themed narratives; it's all on you to liberate the natives or unite the factions against them.

    Greedfall's saving grace is that its role-playing systems are adequate, and the game's greatest strength is how well it sticks to what is tried-and-tested. It features mechanical design that's common in the genre--exploring, looting, questing, etc--but it's also savvy enough to incorporate the best versions of these elements--most notably it feels like it draws inspiration from CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3, a title I couldn't stop making mental comparisons to.

    At the beginning, you're given the choice of playing as one of three character archetypes: the melee-focused warrior, the stealthy gunslinger, or the spell-wielding tactician. But you're also given the flexibility to break out of these standard classes through an array of skill trees. As you progress through the game, you can freely invest hard-earned points, which opens up a variety of methods you can approach combat with and even how you resolve quests--be it bludgeoning your way through conflict with a two-handed axe or wearing a horde of rampaging beasts down with poison traps.

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    And, as has become common in open-world RPGs, Greedfall also comes with a crafting system. Materials are in abundance--enemies, from human foes to wild animals, drop them frequently, while crates and jugs across most cities are bursting with goodies you can loot. One constraint, however, is that you can only craft upgrades to armor and weapons you own, rather than cobble brand-new equipment altogether. This streamlines crafting, and it also encourages you to still seek out better equipment. Meanwhile, combat is more than just a frenzied blur of swords and gunplay too; you can make tactical pauses to examine your enemies closely, change your target, consider your combat options, or silently contemplate how stunning your swashbuckling buccaneer looks in the heat of action.

    Greedfall suffers from some bugs, primitive systems, and even glaring spelling errors, however. Some dialogue is clearly skewed towards a male De Sardet; in my playthrough as a female De Sardet, several characters still referred to me as "he." The stealth mechanism is also unintentionally hilarious. When on a stealth mission, enemies tend to treat companions as invisible; they will not notice two big, oafish men blundering about in front of them, but will jump out of their skins when they notice De Sardet peeking out from behind a nearby crate. Romancing your companions is also another thing you can do in the game, but the moves you need to make to get into their hearts (and under the sheets) is so perfunctory, it’s almost unmemorable. You engage in a three-part companion quest with the lover of your choice, where you'll find conversations that give you the chance to maximize your romance meter. But the game makes it obvious when you've said something wrong (characters will retort back unhappily, accompanied by a numerical drop in your reputation), so it's an easy process to save scum, and the ultimate reward is a not-very-saucy bedroom cutscene.

    In spite of the game's blundering narrative issues, it's still easy to get hooked into the rhythm of exploring, crafting, brawling, investigating, and interacting with the host of characters and beasts, while getting lost among the beautiful lush greenery of Teer Fradee. Running into more challenging enemies or engaging in boss fights are a particular treat, since it's an opportunity to pit your hard-earned combat abilities against formidable foes. And tucked within the story, as hackneyed as it is, are occasional glimpses of genuine humanity, such as De Sardet's close relationship with their cousin Constantin, who's also the new governor of Teer Fradee.

    But ultimately, because Greedfall is so cavalier about its colonialist themes, and because it plays it safe by sticking so closely to the template of open-world RPGs, it doesn't really feel revelatory in any way. Instead, it's content to be just another digital playground--just another world filled with magic, riches, secrets, and monsters for players to shoot and loot at will. I did have fun when I got lost in its familiar RPG loop, but its lack of nuance or innovation prevents it from being truly remarkable.

  • Game Informer News Feed: Bandai Namco Shares More On The Characters And World

    Developer: Bandai Namco
    Release: 2020
    Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

    Outside of a few basic beats, Bandai Namco has been keeping details about Tales of Arise under wraps. This TGS marks the first time we've had new information, thanks to a new trailer and stage show. 

    We learned more about how the two main characters, Alphen and Shionne, will be connected. The pair come from two very different worlds. You see the story through the eyes of Alphen who is from Dahna. He crosses paths with Shionne, who is from Rena, which Bandai Namco referred to as "a land of the righteous and divine." Shionne's land of Rena has ruled over Alphen's Dahna for the past 300 years, and it hasn't been pretty. Rena, with its advanced technology, has depleted Dahna of its natural resources, keeping them subservient and miserable. 

    It still hasn't been divulged exactly why, but Shionne, who has thorns growing all over body that hurt anyone who touches her, is being chased by her Renan cohorts when she meets Alphen. Her encounter with Alphen leads him to take the torch flame sword and work to free the people of Dahna. Apparently, she has "secret motivations" for turning on her people and helping Alphen and the people Dahna gain their freedom. The game begins with both Alphen and Shionne looking to change their fate and create a new future. 

    Her touch causes pain. He can’t feel pain. Alphen and Shionne’s intertwined fates will change the world.
    Watch the new trailer of Tales of Arise, just revealed at Tokyo Game Show! #TOArise

    — Tales of... (@TalesofU) September 15, 2019

    In this universe, "astral energy" exists in both living beings and inanimate objects, and when used for magic is referred to as "astral artes." Only Renans know how to use these artes, their eyes glow blue when using it. While Shionne has to power to cast healing artes, Alphen wields the "torch flame sword," which is a manifestation of astral energy. Here's where Alphen and Shionne become reliant on each other, when Alphen uses the flame sword, the fire damages him, meaning he needs someone like Shionne around to heal him. Although Alphen doesn't feel physical pain, which is why he can use the sword, he still suffers adverse effects from using it. It's said that the relationship between these two "changes the fate of the planets."

    The new trailer shows plenty of Alphen and Shionne's dynamic in action, but also comes with a tease: another character. All we can see is their shadow walking toward the two and collapsing, as both Alphen and Shionne run to help. While we knew there would be other party members, as we were told at E3 to expect a cast the size of past entries in the series, this is our first glimpse at another party member, so hopefully, we learn more in the future.

    Lastly, the new art style was discussed, longtime “Tales of” team artist, Minoru Iwamaoto, who was previously a character designer, is now the art director. It's said that the team put a lot of thought into utilizing the Unreal 4 Engine, but still having the game capture the essence of the Tales series. The watercolor art style will remain intact, but Bandai Namco said it's making the enemies look more realistic and more menacing this time around. The goal is ultimately to strike a balance between the anime-style and photorealistic artwork. 

    Tales of Arise is set to come out sometime next year on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. 

  • Game Informer News Feed: Gust Is Making A Game Based On The Popular Anime, Here’s What You Need To Know

    Publisher: Koei Tecmo
    Developer: Gust
    Release: 2020
    Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

    Fairy Tail, a long-running manga and anime, is receiving the video game treatment. Koei Tecmo and Gust made the announcement ahead of Tokyo Game Show and held a stage show there today to showcase more about the game based on creator Hiro Mashima’s work. The game is being created under Mashima’s supervision to make sure our journey to the continent of Fiore is as close to the true experience as possible. For those not in the know, Fairy Tail places you in a world of mages and wizards. It follows the exploits of a mage guild, taking jobs to earn their keep and learning more about the world’s mysteries. We were on hand at Tokyo Game Show to learn more about the RPG, which is taking plenty of cues from Gust’s flagship franchise, Atelier. 

    You control main character and Dragon Slayer Natsu, but over 10 characters will be playable. In addition to Natsu, the following have been confirmed: Wendy, Lucy, Grey, and Erza. The game doesn’t cover the entirety of the anime but will feature several arcs from it. The story focuses on the point where the characters are rebuilding the guild, which ties directly into the gameplay. You accept missions and requests, slowly raising your guild’s renown to new heights via a lettered ranking system. As you earn money from missions, you can also use it to upgrade your guild’s exterior, such as adding a magic shop or a better quest board. Characters will join your guild through the story, but a few you will need to bond with before they will join your party. You can also recruit supporting characters (not for battle) to join your guild, although they won’t be playable they will help around the guild. 

    Click here to watch embedded media

    The town of Magnolia has been recreated in 3D and it looks gorgeous. I had the game demoed for me and everything was crisp and clear, and the cutscenes were in line with the anime. Magnolia may be your base of operations, but it’s not your only destination. You also travel around on the world map, gaining access to new areas as you advance in the story and complete quests. Areas look very similar to the layout of the Atelier games, filled with enemies, items, and materials. Gust confirmed there would be a crafting system in the game, but it wouldn’t be anything overly complicated. You use the materials you find to create magical crystals, which you equip and strengthen your characters.   

    Battles are turn-based, with a focus on managing your MP wisely alongside chaining attacks and performing combination specials. Since Fairy Tail is all about magic, Gust is tying that into your strategy, as elemental weaknesses are a big part of the game. Associate head of Gust Keisuke Kikuchi said to expect all the signature magic and some of the “legendary, flashy” magic. 

    Gust feels like a natural fit for Fairy Tail, and I was surprised at how well some of the systems they’ve been perfecting in the Atelier series complement Fairy Tail’s world. Time will tell how it shakes out, but it’s interesting to see Gust approaching a big property with such fanfare. 

    Fairy Tail is set to come out sometime in 2020 for PS4, Switch, and PC.

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  • Game Informer News Feed: Going Turn-Based, And Other New Highlights

    Publisher: Square Enix
    Developer: Square Enix
    Platform: PlayStation 4

    Square Enix already released a new trailer for Final Fantasy VII Remake, but that isn't all the information the company had for fans at Tokyo Game Show. During a live stage presentation at the PlayStation booth, Final Fantasy VII Remake producer Yoshinori Kitase showcased a variety of additional features and moments that we haven't seen yet.

    You can see the whole presentation in the footage below. However, since it was all in Japanese, the official Final Fantasy VII Remake Twitter account followed up with a series of helpful explanations to shine a spotlight on the most interesting parts. 

    Click here to watch embedded media

    The most surprising announcement came in the form of the "classic" battle option. Final Fantasy VII Remake reinvents the original battle system and focuses on action, but players who want an experience closer to the original can turn on the classic option. This creates a more traditional turn-based feeling in combat.

    The next sequence shows off the ridiculous (and hilarious) squat minigame in action, which then transitions to Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith in battle against Aps – a boss in the Midgar sewers. Tifa is unsurprisingly adept at up-close melee combat, while Aerith seems most effective at range. However, the most tantalizing part of this encounter is the mysterious summon gauge that fills.

    Of course, that doesn't remain a mystery for long. When the summon gauge is full, characters can use the summon they have equipped. Unlike the original Final Fantasy VII, these creatures don't just show up for long, one-off attacks; they remain on the battlefield as active participants. In the demo, Cloud summons Ifrit, who goes toe-to-toe with Aps independently, though players can still issue specific commands to summons (just like they can with other party members). Once the summon gauge hit zero again, Ifrit left the battlefield, but not before executing its signature Hellfire attack. 

    As a longtime fan of the original, all of these new bits seem like smart moves. I'm happy to see how the team is experimenting and deviating from the original pattern; game design has evolved a lot in the 20-plus years since Final Fantasy VII first released, and it appears that Square Enix knows how to mix classic and modern elements. I'm excited to see how they all come together at release.

    Final Fantasy VII Remake launches on March 3 for PlayStation 4. For more on the game, watch the footage we recently recorded at TGS.

  • Game Informer News Feed: How Private Rooms Work

    Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
    Developer: Kojima Productions
    Rating: Rating Pending
    Platform: PlayStation 4

    Earlier this week, Hideo Kojima gave Tokyo Game Show attendees a 50-minute deep dive into Death Stranding that taught us a lot about the mechanics and flow of the gameplay. Today, the creator once again took the stage at TGS to demo the game, but it wasn’t to show off any action. Instead, Kojima explained a new feature called private rooms.

    Because Sam’s mission is to travel from east to west across the country, he doesn’t have a centralized base he returns to regularly. Instead, players can construct safehouses in the world, which provide a place for Sam to recover – but they are capable of more than just restoring your health. These structures contain private rooms that incorporate a variety of unique methods of customization and interaction.

    Click image thumbnails to view larger version



    In private rooms, you don’t control Sam directly. Instead, you adjust the camera angle, and different things happen depending on your focus. Keeping the camera trained on Sam’s upper body might cause him to strike a few poses, but he may shuffle his feet instead if you zero in on his boots. This is also an opportunity for some amusing break-the-fourth-wall moments; if you repeatedly try to zoom in on Sam’s crotch, he eventually gets up to punch the camera. But even if you don’t cross that line, Sam still acknowledges your presence in private rooms. He gives sly winks and points at things unprompted, building an interesting kind of rapport between the character and the player.

    You also have the ability to interact with some objects in the room by looking at them. For example, focusing on the shower area gives you an option to clean off, and a shelf behind Sam contains collectible action figures you can examine. Sam’s BB – the baby he carries with him in a pod – is also in the room, and he can walk over and tap on the glass. However, when this happened during the demo, a disturbing scene occurred with the BB headbutting its way out of the pod. Thankfully, other ways to use the private rooms are less nightmare-like.

    Click image thumbnails to view larger version



    These spaces have many customization options. You can change room itself (like the color of the walls), but you can also alter Sam’s appearance and equipment. Put on a hat and sunglasses, then choose their colors. Fiddle with your backpack and allocate space for different pieces of equipment. And when you’re all done, you can go back to the open world and decide what music and holograms greet players as they approach your safehouse.

    Like most things you build in Death Stranding, safehouses (and the private rooms they contain) will populate the world for everyone. That means other players may see the private room you design, or you may run into safehouses other people have constructed and customized. While the private rooms may be a small part of Sam’s overall journey, this unconventional demo has us eager to spend time in these spaces and take a good look around.

  • Gamespot News Feed: AI: The Somnium Files Review - Eye Love You

    AI: The Somnium Files is an adventure game that combines two classic storytelling genres: the murder mystery and the buddy-cop movie. On top of that, the "buddy" for AI's lead character, detective Kaname Date, isn't human. Or animal, for that matter. Rather, it's a snarky, quirky, super-powered feminine artificial intelligence in the shape of an eyeball--named Aiba--that lives in his left eye socket and has a direct connection to his brain. Oh, and she also helps Date by transforming into a humanoid avatar form to explore the dream worlds of various characters you meet throughout the game. Talk about an odd couple, huh?

    It's an intriguing concept for sure. Thankfully, the near-future sci-fi detective story that AI: the Somnium Files tells lives up to the promise of its unique premise, delivering a great dialogue-driven adventure that sucks you in and doesn’t let up until all of its twisted mysteries have been unraveled.

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    Date is a detective for a secret, experimental Tokyo police division called ABIS. When the body of his best friend's ex-wife is found displayed in an abandoned amusement park, Date soon finds himself swept up in a complex investigation to find the culprit before they strike again. Along the way, he crosses paths with a bubbly up-and-coming internet personality, her diehard fanboy (and his beleaguered mother), a Yakuza group, a corrupt politician, and the victim's young daughter, amongst many other odd, interesting, and sinister personalities. And that's not even mentioning the oddest personality of them all: Aiba, his quick-witted and sharp-tongued AI partner and confidant in exploring the case.

    Having a smart-alecky AI constantly feeding commentary into your brain might sound nightmarish, but Aiba comes with some special skills to aid Date with his investigations: X-ray vision, heat sensing, zooming to check up on faraway places, and even the ability to help Date in quick-time event-style combat. But Aiba's biggest role is to help Date get information from the various characters by acting as his avatar in their dream worlds. When interrogation gets tough, ABIS staff hooks a subject up to a Psync machine, which allows Date and Aiba to explore their subjects' subconscious "somnium" dream world to uncover clues and deeply hidden (and sometimes forgotten) secrets. The excursion is under a strict time limit--otherwise their consciousnesses become forever intertwined.

    Gameplay in the exploration and investigation sections of AI: The Somnium Files follows a fairly typical point-and-click adventure game style: You look at objects in the environments for clues and talk to characters by making comments and asking questions. The way AI handles these sections makes you less likely to get stuck than in other adventure games, however. You're only given the option to move to a new area once you've done everything necessary to advance the story in one particular location, which ensures you won’t need to backtrack or worry that you're missing anything important. If you can’t move to the map, you know there’s still more to do.

    While exploring the various environments will yield a fair amount of clues, it's the interactions Date has with the various characters (and Aiba’s reactions to those interactions) that really move AI's twisting mystery along. Each character you interact with is unique and memorable in their own way. There's Iris, the cheery aspiring internet idol whose mischievous personality causes Date much consternation; Ota, a devoted fan of Iris with numerous nerdy pursuits; So, a slimy politician with his fair share of secrets; Boss and Pewter, two eccentric personalities that work with Date at ABIS; and Mizuki, Date's friend's daughter with a sour attitude and strength beyond her years. There are many more interesting faces you’ll meet, too, each with an important role to play in the story and a strong personality to match. The excellent character designs by Yusuke Kozaki (Fire Emblem Awakening, No More Heroes) also give each NPC a striking visual element to match their distinct characterizations.

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    At certain points in the story, you encounter other modes of gameplay, like interrogation scenes where you present evidence to a character and action scenes involving quick-time event-style button presses to help Date fend off threats. However, the most important parts of the game take place when Date uses the Psync machine to explore another character's somnium worlds. Using Aiba as an avatar, you interact directly with elements within these characters' surreal, illogical, and often very disturbing dream worlds, with every action she performs costing precious time. If Date and Aiba can’t solve the puzzles in the somnium within the time limit, they’ll be forced out, and you will have to start the somnium exploration over from the beginning.

    Solving the puzzles to progress in the somniums involves performing certain actions in a certain order on certain objects--and since these are bizarre, often illogical dreamscapes, sometimes the solution isn’t obvious or runs contrary to common sense. You can earn and use items called TIMIEs to help conserve time, but if time grows short, your best option might be to restart. This involves repeating much of the same actions and dialogue to get back to where you were, but skipping all the previous, time-wasting actions you tried before. If you don’t want to do the whole event over, you can go back to checkpoints within a somnium to try and save time by only performing necessary actions. However, you can only do this up to three times before you are forced to restart. Making this even worse is that sometimes you’re saddled with time-penalty TIMIEs from certain actions, meaning that your next action will cost significantly more time than usual and possibly even lead to unwinnable situations. As a result, the six-minute time limit winds up being a source of stress, discouraging you from exploring and appreciating the well-crafted dreamscape environments as much as you’d like and sometimes standing as a roadblock to further progressing the story.

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    Besides revealing important story beats, the somnium sequences serve another important purpose: Depending on your actions within the somnium, the overall story will branch down one of many different potential paths, with different events taking place on each story branch. Only by seeing all of the various story possibilities, good and bad, will the whole truth behind AI's saga be revealed. Fortunately, you’re able to jump around to various points in the game’s saga (and replay somnium sequences) whenever you want, so you can put one story branch aside and pick up another anytime you feel like--though there will be roadblocks in some spots if certain plot points have yet to be revealed. As the various branches of the story give tantalizing tidbits of information and reveal more about each of the main characters, you feel like you’re piecing together an elaborate puzzle, which makes it all the more satisfying when big revelations happen.

    Despite the occasional frustration in exploring its dream landscapes, the whole of AI: the Somnium Files winds up being a fun, thrilling, and engaging experience. The story is filled with intriguing twists and shocking surprises, and the characters and their individual arcs inspire you to care about what happens to them. The somnium dream worlds add a layer of psychological horror to the ongoing mystery, and Date and Aiba’s constant back-and-forth interactions provide levity to make every investigation all the more amusing. AI's unconventional detective story is one you won’t soon forget.

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