The Nords of The Banner Saga aren’t living the idyllic Viking life of raiding coastal towns and throwing big parties with the spoils. Over the course of the last two games, we’ve seen their numbers diminish rapidly as a mysterious force called The Darkness takes hold and pushes an army of Dredge across the region. The third game begins at a point where hope is scarce and the humans and Varls have their backs up against the wall. 

Banner Saga 3 picks up at the end of the second game, with one caravan marching heedlessly into the Darkness while the other takes up a defensive position at Arberrang, the last bastion for the humans. The story swaps back and forth between the two. Iver’s caravan, Juno, and Bolverk’s Ravens take their uneasy alliance into the unknown to try and end The Darkness, while the others try to stay alive as long as they can to buy the others time. The game supports many endings that could see you lose all the heroes, lose Arberrang but purge the evil, and everything in between. Stoic wants to make sure players feel their choices have mattered across all three games rather than give a binary choice at the end. 

Enter The Darkness
Our demo joins the group heading into the darkness, and it’s clear from the get-go that this alliance is on a weak footing. Right away the group comes into a dispute where I choose the option of intimidating the Ravens to follow along with our plan. Iver growls “who wants to be first?” And the Ravens immediately back down. The crazy purple lighting that struck just behind our hulking hero may have had something to do with their reaction. 

Suddenly the group finds themselves surrounded by mutated enemies, and we get our first taste of how combat in this mysterious realm differs from the norm. Just like the buildings and landscapes are warped here, so are the living things. Warped Varls, spearmen, and raiders all have heightened statistics and passive traits that make them more formidable. That shouldn’t make the threat too overwhelming considering your heroes have been upgrading their skills over the course of two games. 

Since the game is a race against time, developer Stoic Games has added a wave mechanic in the darkness realm. For each turn-based battle, you have a timer that counts down until another wave of Dredge bears down on your position. This creates an interesting risk/reward to these battles, as holding your ground through a second wave is the only way to earn new items in this realm. Before each new wave starts, you can reposition your party to make sure they’re in the best position to succeed.

During these wave battles, the Valka spear that Ivan recieved at the end of Banner Saga 2 comes in handy. The spear fills with up to three charges players can use to unleash a chain lightning attack. Just like the willpower attack in previous games, but anyone in the party can use the spear attack.

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New Faces In The Fight
This is the first game where players can take control of Juno as well, and she brings a unique dimension to the fold. She can turn into a ghost during battle to gather the darkness energy to gain strength and willpower. If the player loses the battle while she’s in the nether region, then they lose, so she needs to get to as many energy spots as she can and get back to her body before the battle is over. Players will learn why she can take this ghost form and come to understand what’s going on through the course of the narrative.

Juno is just one of the new playable characters in Banner Saga 3; all told players have more than 40 heroes to choose from, each with unique skills, passive abilities, and storylines. For the first time, the cast includes a playable Dredge character, and the Varl historian Ubin can finally join your party for the last stand. Another new face, Alfrun, is a witch who can add strength to fellow party members during battle and deal massive damage from afar with a swooping “ride the lightning” attack.

Stoic wanted to give the game a sense that the characters earn their nickname through accomplishments, so once you get your characters to level 10, you can spend renown to give your characters heroic titles. For instance, the options available for Bulwark the Dredge character are Bulwark Bloodletter, Death’s Messenger, Dredge Breaker, Monster Killer, Oath Maker, or Shadow Walker. Each title has five ranks you can unlock, and they all impart passive upgrades like resist willpower damage, increased strength damage, etc. Once you choose a title for a character you can’t change it, and it becomes unavailable for other characters. 

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The Last Stand
After the battle in the darkness realm comes to a close, the story transitions back to Arberrang. Here, we see the city largely surrounded by the Dredge, with the darkness creeping closer and closer each chapter of the story. This caravan won’t be journeying out of the city during the course of this game; instead, they must dig in their heels and get ready to defend the city at all costs while trying to avoid the infighting that has a tendency to break out when the outlook is this bleak. Based on your decisions, the city will change dynamically. Perhaps revolting people will start fires within your walls, burning down districts. You have clickable events to check out that evolve based on the circumstances the city faces. 

Arberrang has three rings of reinforced walls, which makes me think the dredge will inevitably breach and pour through the opening. Sure enough, the commander of the dredge forces unleashes a chain attack to pull down the outer walls. As the dredge advance between rounds, you will see the city change visibly – and not for the better. 

Look for The Banner Saga 3 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC sometime this summer. 

Splatoon was perhaps the biggest surprise hit on Wii U. In the time since its release in 2015, the colorful, family-friendly shooter has exploded in popularity and spawned a sequel on Nintendo’s wildly popular new console, Switch. Just like its predecessor, Splatoon 2 has benefited from numerous free multiplayer updates. However, earlier this month, it was announced that Splatoon 2 is receiving a large single-player expansion this coming summer. The Octo Expansion is the first piece of paid DLC in the series’ history.

I caught up with the producer of Splatoon and Splatoon 2 Hisashi Nogami to chat about what fans can expect from the Octo Expansion, as well as topics like the language of the inklings and the internet’s speculation of the developer’s referencing Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the reveal trailer for the Octo Expansion.

Why did you decide to
create a new single-player campaign through DLC?

There are actually a few reasons we decided to move forward
with the single-player expansion. One of the purposes we gave for the
single-player – Hero mode as we call it – in the first and second games was to
give people a training ground of sorts to give them different weapons, items,
and strategies to take into multiplayer.

After coming out with the games and their content, we’ve
continued to create a variety of new weapons, and we’ve seen players use these
weapons in all sorts of different ways. As developers, with these updates we’ve
been bringing out, we’ve had new ideas that we’ve wanted to try out, new
situations that we wanted to challenge the player with. We’ve kind of been
storing those up. The first reason we’ve decided to go with this is that we’ve
had enough of these built up over time that we felt confident that we’ve got
enough ideas that would make for a satisfying single-player experience.

Another reason was being able to use single-player as a way
to flesh out story elements that we hadn’t been able to so far, whether that’s
the characters from Off the Hook we’ve seen in their news capacity to this point,
or Captain Cuttlefish, who has been missing since the first game. Now you get to
meet up with him and find out what he’s been up to.

We want to be able to continue providing fans with these new
gameplay and story elements that constitute a really satisfying amount of new
content, and something that we feel confident being able to make as paid DLC.
We felt that this type of content is best suited as single-player.

We’re really sensitive to things like how adding certain
kinds of weapons into multiplayer that you have to pay for would create
imbalance among the players. We really want to make sure that we keep
multiplayer an even playing field for everyone, and a place where the players’
skills are on display and that is what decides the matches. But with that said,
we did want people to be able to bring the skin or aesthetic of the octolings
into multiplayer.

What should fans
expect from these single-player stages of the Octo Expansion? Are there any new
elements you’re hoping to introduce in these stages?

We’ve said that there are more than 80 of these stages that
you’ll have to encounter in the Octo Expansion, and among them are those that
are really short and those that are longer. In the single-player campaigns
until now, the stages have largely been about starting at point-A and making
your way to the goal in point-B and the stage is done. That won’t necessarily
always be the case for the stages in the Octo Expansion. Instead, you may have
mission objectives that you need to clear, and once that’s cleared, you’ll have
cleared the stage.

Among those objectives, there are some that may take a
really long time to complete and others that you may be able to complete right
away. That will depend largely on players’ skills. We hope that those
differences in stage objectives offer fun enough content for people to go
through.

This goes back to our thinking for the single-player as a
training ground for multiplayer. There are certain stages in the Octo Expansion
where you may need to use a special weapon from the get-go and you’ll just have
it after starting. For example, a stage that you’ll need to clear using the Inkjet,
the jetpack special weapon, entirely. For a player that may not have used the Inkjet
or decided they didn’t want to use it up until now, now they’ll need to use it
to clear the stage. Maybe they’ll end up thinking, “Oh, I really kind of
enjoyed that. I can take it into multiplayer and have the confidence to use it
there as well.”

How is the inkling
language developed? I’m always hearing phrases from the inklings that almost
sound like English phrases, like “ready!” when they respawn or “quit it!” when
they get splatted. Am I hearing things, or are their phrases inspired by
real-language phrases?

When creating the inklings speech, we wanted it to not sound
too much like any particular language; this was a game we were envisioning
making a global product, after all. Of course, for the text, that’s been
localized to the language of wherever the game is being sold, but when it came
to the audio that you hear the characters speak, we really wanted to strive for
this kind of neutral ground that would make people think, like you said, that,
“Maybe I recognize that from my own language,” or “That kind of sounds like
something I heard in a foreign language,” and keep people guessing.

It might be that while we were creating a system for that,
that we would try to pick up intonations of a variety of languages so that this
little bit may sound like English, or this bit sounds like something we heard
in Spanish.

On the second page, Nogami talks about what it means to have his characters in Super Smash Bros., as well as if the internet is correct that the Octo Expansion announcement trailer referenced Biggie and Tupac.

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Each Monday, come here for a rundown of all this week’s big events that we know about, from game releases, to betas, to recapping the biggest continuing news stories from the previous week. If there’s anything we missed, feel free to let us know! This week covers the dates from March 26 to April 2.

Upcoming Releases

Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings (PS4, Switch, PC) – March 27
Far Cry 5 (PS4, Xbox One, PC) – March 27
MLB The Show 18 (PS4) – March 27
Outlast 2 (Switch) – March 27
The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 (PS4) –  March 27
Agony (PS4, Xbox One, PC) – March 30

Things To Watch Out For

Street Fighter Costumes (Captain Commando, Monster Hunter) – There are multiple Capcom costumes this week, including Nash as Captain Commando and Ken in Rathalos armor.
Marx Joins Kirby Star Allies – The once-Kirby nemesis will come to Kirby Star Allies on March 28.
Brolly and Bardock Come To Dragon Ball FighterZ – The legendary Super Saiyan and the Legendarier Super Saiyan join the cast on March 28.
Overwatch League Stage 2 has ended as of week 5.

In Case You Missed It

Ubisoft Avoids Vivendi Takeover
Nintendo Releases List Of Top Ten Selling Indie Titles On Switch 
Hyper Light Drifter, Nidhogg 2, And Crashlands Coming To Switch This Year 
Far Cry 5 Executive Producer Discusses Length Of Game 
The Next Elder Scrolls Online Expansion Returns To The Series’ Roots 
Game Developer Unionization Talk Stirs Amidst IGDA Concerns 
The Mythology Of Kratos: God Of War’s Story Thus Far 
Nintendo Hosting Super Smash Bros. Switch & Splatoon 2 Tournaments At E3
Why Digital Extremes Removed An “Insanely Profitable” Microtransaction From Warframe 
EA Is Hiring For An Open-World Star Wars Game 
Level-5 Teases Large-Scale RPG Set In The Modern Day 
The Best Indie Games Of GDC 2018 

What are you looking forward to this week? Let us know in the comments below!

Playdead, the creators of Inside and Limbo, handed out a postcard at GDC asking developers to join its team, and on that postcard was a very enticing image.

Inside released in the middle of 2016, six years after the release of Limbo, and in January 2017, Playdead tweeted out a tease for what it has planned next.

At the top of this page you can see the postcard that was handed out to GDC attendees, which features some similar imagery, like what appears to be a used parachute. The only insight we have into this project are these two images. There is no release date, no title, or anything that truly hints at what this game will be or how it will play – but we’re excited to learn more.

For our review of Inside, head here.

 

Our Take
This could very well be just an interesting image that looks great on a postcard, but I really feel strongly that both of these images are teases for whatever Playdead is currently working on. Only time will tell.

Over the past few years, Nintendo has seen the Splatoon series skyrocket in popularity. As part of that rise to prominence, the fan community has scoured the game’s lore for any hints to the mysteries of Splatoon’s post-apocalyptic world. I sat down with producer Hisashi Nogami to finally get the answers the fans deserve.

For more with Nogami, check out this interview where he talks about the Octo Expansion, Biggie and Tupac, and the inklings appearing in Super Smash Bros.

 

The upcoming Octo
Expansion takes place in a subway system. What prevents the subway from being
flooded when there’s so much water everywhere?

That’s a really good question! [Laughs] I think the best
answer is to probably say that we can’t quite be sure where it is that this
Octo Expansion is taking place, whether it’s simply beneath the surface of the
Splatoon world or if it’s in its own sort of sealed-off location somewhere.

We have said that it is underground in some way. We had this
idea, when we were creating the Octo Expansion, of “deep sea” as a sort of
background setting. I can’t quite be sure as to what level the water has come
to in that location quite yet.

It is true that the inklings will sort of disappear into a
puff of smoke when they touch water, so I’m going to really have to think about
where the physical location of the Octo Expansion is. [Laughs] We have said
“deep sea,” but whether it’s actually in the water is something that we have to
consider.

It might just be that this is a sort of secret underground
laboratory of sorts, so it might just be that they have some type of mysterious
technology they’re using to keep the water out.

What is the tastiest
item on the menu of the Crust Bucket?

If I could choose one, the Galactic Seanwich is the one I
would choose! [Laughs] We’ve actually seen people trying to make these menu
items using real-world foods as well, but I didn’t see any reviews about how
delicious they were.

But you would try a
Galactic Seanwich in real life?

If I have the right opportunity, I might even try to make
one! [Laughs]

Do Pearl and Marina
know they’re in a video game? They seem very self-aware.

Oh, that’s a really difficult question. I think that if you
play Splatfests, you’ll occasionally see them say things that may put their
position somewhere in the middle of Splatoon and our world in the references
that they’re making. They also fulfill this role of discussing what stages are
upcoming and the news, but when it comes to Splatfest, we wanted to make the
Off the Hook characters something that’s a bit closer to reality, as Splatfests
are events that expand beyond the boundaries of the game and occasionally tie
elements of our world into Splatoon.

So it just might be that during those moments of Splatfest,
they may have an occasional inkling that they are characters in some sort of a
virtual space in the world of a video game. When it comes to the Splatfests,
there is this Japanese idea of a Matsuri, which is a Japanese-style festival.
In Japan, those Matsuri festivals usually have some kind of a female shaman,
who is kind of the leader of the festival in Japanese tradition. These
characters – whether it’s Callie and Marie or Pearl and Marina – take on those
roles in the Splatfests as well.

It might just be that in these special events that are
Splatfests, the characters leading the Splatfests may come into contact with
consciousness greater than their own! [Laughs] It might just be that they’re
speaking words that aren’t even their own.

Bisk, the spider crab
who works at Shella Fresh, has six legs with shoes on them. Is that why he
decided to get a job at the shoe store in Inkopolis?

He’s actually a musician. [If you look at Shella Fresh] he’s
got a guitar in the background, so he plays in a band. But being a musician, as
you may know, doesn’t always pay the bills [Laughs], so he got a job here at the
shoe shop, but he hasn’t thrown away his dream of becoming great rock star. I
think he’s probably a fan of shoes, too. You can see how many he’s wearing.

Does he get good
deals or an employee discount for working there?

Judging from the number of shoes he’s got, I would say
probably. [Laughs]

Is there a name for
the transformation state in between kid and squid?

We don’t really have a name for it, but it is kind of creepy
because if you notice, when you’re in between two forms, you’re made out of
liquid and it’s a little bit gross. [Laughs] In the same way that insect can
metamorphize, like how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, it might be somewhere
in the middle like that. I’m not sure what the name would be.

One of the key
mechanics is being able to swim through the color of ink that you’re spraying.
When the inklings do this, are they becoming one with the liquid, or are they
sinking beneath the surface of the ground?

At least in my mind, they’re becoming a liquid. They’ve sort
of changed forms to become something long and thin that allows them to slip
through the ink at great speed. It’s not that they lose their shape completely
but… wow you’ve really put it to me here, this is difficult… [Laughs] I guess
maybe it’s something a little closer to jellyfish where they can become really
flat and stretched out, still holding their shape as they’re slipping through
the ink.

In my mind, it’s not that they melt completely or dissolve
completely into the ink, but that they still hold sort of a shape and know,
“Okay, I’m still a squid!” as they’re swimming along.

That’s the first time I’ve gotten that type of question!
[Laughs]

Have the inklings
tried to do any research to adapt to be able to actually touch water?

I don’t think that the inklings themselves are probably
doing that research. They kind of live in the now and they’re creatures that
sort of live for fun, [laughs] so they just kind of accept that water just
doesn’t work well for them. They’ve just kind of accepted that.

Do the inklings know
that at one point in the past, squids could go in water?

So this is just one of my own theories I have, but these
inklings have gone through a lot to evolve from the squids that we know to the
creatures that they’ve become in this world. In that evolution, one of their
characteristics is that they can change their forms freely. But again, one of
my theories is that one of the downsides to being able to so freely change
their form is that their outer membrane is thin and very permeable, so when it
comes into contact with another liquid surface like water, that the ink within
them will just sort of bleed out and that may be the cause of the problem.

For the inklings, in the process of their evolution, which
has made them better in some ways. One of the downsides of that is that they’ve
lost the ability to swim around in water. That’s just something they’ve had to
toss aside in their evolution. The salmonids [from Splatoon 2’s Salmon Run
mode], in a different way have evolved, but for some reason they are still able
to enter water and swim around.

Are the creatures of
Splatoon’s universe much bigger now than they once were before they evolved, or
has the world been scaled to their smaller size?

This is something that I’ve not even thought that much about.
[Laughs] I suppose it’s probably something a bit in the middle that the scale
of the world may have changed over time, but also that in their evolution,
these creatures have changed in scale as well.

We may think that an inkling stands this tall, but unless we
do further research, we may never get the answer to that.

For more burning questions about your favorite franchises, check out our similar features about PokémonYoshi’s Woolly World, Sonic the Hedgehog (here and here), and Mortal Kombat.

Pokémon Go still has a huge fan base, many of which turned out yesterday to catch shiny Bulbasaur during the game’s third community event. These one-a-month events have been a success, but are not enough to keep the most ardent fans engaged. Those players who have reached level 40 and caught every Pokémon will have something else to explore later this week.

Niantic is adding NPC quests to the game, starting with Professor Willow asking you to help him locate Mew, the only remaining Gen 1 Pokémon. Assisting Willow sounds like an elaborate process that is broken up into two tasks: field research and special research. Field research is conducted by spinning PokéStops, which now give players objectives, such as discovering and catching certain Pokémon, or engaging in battles. Special research comes directly from Willow. Niantic isn’t giving specifics on what Willow wants, but does say he will take you on a journey to make discoveries.

Completing the research assignments brings rewards for the players. A screenshot below shows a player earning stardust, a mystery item, and a Pokémon encounter. The player also earns a stamp, but can only collect one a day. The screen shows that the player needs six more to earn a breakthrough with Willow.

All of the research likely adds up to the player being able to locate, battle, and catch Mew.

Our Take
The addition of NPCs and quests is a huge addition to the game, but we’ll have to wait until the content drops to see just how deep this well is. Right now it appears Niantic is only rolling out one NPC. I don’t think this is Niantic just testing the waters. The company has never delivered a ton of content at once, and I’m guessing we’ll see new NPCs appear and disappear as time passes. It would be great to see NPCs everywhere in the world, each asking different things, but it looks like Niantic intends to keep the focus on one thing at a time. It isn’t a bad roadmap, as it appears we’re getting events every couple of weeks now.

 

After targeting tin-pot dictators and megalomaniacs across the globe, Far Cry 5 sets its sights closer to home. This entry moves the open-world mayhem to Hope County, Montana – a beautiful base of operations for outdoorspeople, rugged individualists, and a murderous death cult. It’s also a playground for the explosive antics that we’ve come to expect from the series, where you and a friend can seamlessly go from taking down an armed convoy to bow hunting to fly fishing – or flying a plane – depending on what sounds fun. Once the luster of the new setting and co-op companionship wears thin, however, you’re left with an experience that’s familiar to a fault.

Hope County has been overrun by Joseph Seed, leader of an apocalyptic cult called Project at Eden’s Gate. A disastrous raid on Joseph’s compound leaves your created character, a rookie sheriff’s deputy, alone and outnumbered in a hostile environment. The setup is interesting, but soon settles into a standard routine. Your job is to clear out the Peggies (the local slur for the cultists) by any means necessary – most of which boils down to reclaiming outposts and taking on missions for the locals. Joseph has a lot of land to cover, and he’s a master at delegating. His church heralds include the charismatic John Seed; hunter of man Jacob Seed; and psy-ops hippie Faith Seed. These three walking archetypes have little consistency between them apart from their last names.

Far Cry 5 isn’t as provocative as its posturing may lead you to believe. Its exploration of religious extremism is too bizarre to be taken seriously, and it’s delivered with a self-serious tone that it doesn’t earn. You get knocked out, abducted, and tied to a chair a ridiculous number of times. Since your character is mute and can’t (or won’t) engage in conversation, you end up with extended scenes where vamping bad guys talk at your immobilized form and over-explain their half-baked philosophies. Some moments attempt to subvert your expectations, but they’re generally limp commentaries along the lines of saying, “Ah, yes, but have you considered that YOU are the real villain here?”

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The story doesn’t offer many big surprises or payoffs, and the same can be said for the gameplay. It’s competent on most fronts, providing a massive world to explore and an arsenal of destructive tools, but it doesn’t feel fresh. Taking down outposts doesn’t provide any new thrills or challenges, and new items like proximity bombs don’t open up encounters. Past games introduced strategy and light puzzle elements as you were rewarded for staking out these camps and figuring out how to take advantage of their weak spots. The Peggies seem more interested in maintaining their human flock than setting up decent defenses. They all follow the same basic setup: A couple of guys are on roofs, one or two have set up shop by the alarms, and a handful of bearded weirdos linger near the explosive barrels. You’re certainly welcome to scout the bases and direct your A.I. companions to help you remain undetected, but going in with guns blazing is just as effective and definitely more efficient. You may miss out on a few cash bonuses, but I was generally flush throughout the game and at no point felt like I was missing out. Vignettes showing former residents reclaiming each outpost are satisfying, but getting to those points isn’t particularly gratifying.

Ubisoft Montreal does break from past games in a couple of major ways. First, your deputy doesn’t reveal the world around them by climbing towers to get a better view. Instead, you remove the fog on your map by doing missions and finding maps scattered in ranger stations and other structures. Environmental puzzles are still here in the form of lucrative prepper caches, which are one of my favorite parts of Far Cry 5. Each one offers a unique challenge, which can include escaping a trapped bunker or navigating a mountain obstacle course, with big rewards at the end of each one. I got excited every time an NPC conversation put a new cache icon on my map. 

The second major break from tradition is a decreased focus on hunting; animal pelts are only redeemable for cash, and are no longer associated with crafting. I enjoyed the survival aspect from past games, as silly as it was, and it felt strange to see a previously important part of the series fall to the side like that. Instead of using skins to build holsters and ammo pouches, now you invest points in upgrades as you see fit. The game is generous with the points, which you earn through mission progression and challenges, and it’s easy to prioritize abilities to how you like to play. For instance, if you prefer diving into fast-travel locations from the air instead of spawning on the ground, you can choose to do that. Or you can prioritize potions, making it easier to find the required components and reduce their cost. You will be able to pick up most, if not all, of these perks along the way, so it doesn’t matter too much in the long run. 

Dismantling Jacob Seed’s operations could be downright tedious if not for one of the game’s most fleshed-out systems. The Guns for Hire, A.I. companions that you recruit to fight alongside you, add some much-needed variety to the game. There are nine of them to find in the world, and you have to complete a special mission to convince them to tag along. It’s generally worth it. You can bring two of them on your adventures in the solo game, and finding effective combos is part of the fun. Feel like being stealthy? Bring Grace, a sniper, and a tamed cougar named Peaches. Would you rather go a little crazy? Put Hurk (and his RPG) in your crew. Each companion brings something special to the table, too, such as dog Boomer’s ability to automatically mark targets for you. It makes playing solo feel less lonely, and I got a kick out of experimenting with different pairings. The best pairing is with another player, however, and that’s where the game shines. 

For the first time in the Far Cry series, you can play through the entire campaign in co-op. Having a second player around makes the game significantly more entertaining (even if the difficulty balance seems tailored for one), and exploring the playground together is a blast. I had a great time tormenting my partner, whether I was luring him under beehives, blowing up dynamite inside our plane, or rigging his car with explosives. Players are tethered together, so you can’t freely roam around the entire world independently, but it’s a generously long leash. It was never an issue during my time with the game, aside from a few times when I hopped in a plane and took off before my partner could join me in the cockpit. The scripted tasks can feel like chore lists, but players who enjoy messing around with systems can find plenty to love. It’s worth noting that you’ll need to find a charitable partner, since only the host’s mission and world progress is saved. Your buddy will keep their character progression and inventory, but they’ll have to repeat everything else on their own game. 

The experience isn’t necessarily about beelining through the critical path, however. If you don’t take the time to talk to NPCs, you miss out on a wealth of side missions, which are generally more interesting than being talked at for the Nth time by one of the Seeds. Still, Far Cry 5 doesn’t deliver on exploring the lives of people who live in this Red-Dawn-meets-David-Koresh nightmare. You can read notes that outline some of the challenges the characters have faced, but the tragedy isn’t typically explored through gameplay. Instead, you’re asked to chase down baseball cards for a former player who is sad, or harvest bull testicles for a picnic. Those moments of levity are especially jarring when you routinely drive past corpses that have been hung from bridges or strung up in grotesque effigies. “I guess I can help you catch that lunker, ma’am, but have you noticed that your neighbors have been crucified?”

Public executions aside, Far Cry 5’s world is meticulously constructed, and it’s a remarkable facsimile of Big Sky Country. Unfortunately, too much of the action in it is uninspired. It’s a beautiful but bland recitation of what’s come before, from both the series and Ubisoft’s open-world playbook. It’s never bad, but considering how great the past games have been, its overall predictability is disappointing.

Far Cry 5 has branded itself as a brooding game, one that tackles the intersection between religion and American violence. In spite of that pitch, the game itself is more wacky than you’d probably expect. We got up to a lot of shenanigans running around Hope County. Here’s some of the craziest stuff we saw and did.

Note: We won’t be spoiling any major story beats from Far Cry 5 in this list but be aware we are talking about side mission content.

1. You can set a bear on fire and send them running into an outpost, mauling and lighting up any of your foes that get in its way.

2. Early on you get access to a big rig equipped with machineguns. You get to test said rig out, running down foes and blasting them to bits as you destroy road blocks put up by the cultists.

3. You can consume drugs to make your melee attacks strong enough to send enemies flying yards away.

4.  You can craft bait to attract drones that are basically mindless zombies, and sic them on foes.

5. While driving you can apparently hurl an empty can at professional baseball pitcher speeds through your windshield and shatter it. Because why not?

6. There’s a surprisingly in-depth mission centered around bull testicles. We’ll leave it at that.

7. One of your A.I. buddies is a cougar named Peaches. Why not reward her for slaying an entire outpost of fools from the shadows with a good-job pet?

8. There’s a surprise waiting for anyone who climbs to the highest point on Far Cry 5’s map. It’s pointy and hurts a lot.

9. Use your flamethrower to set fire to a trailer park filled with mindless cultists while The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno” blares in the background.

10. Spend thousands of dollars on various shades of camo outfits.

11. Shoot down a vulture to help a farmer recover a key that said bird has swallowed.

12. Unlock a ray gun. No, seriously.

13. Rig a cultist’s car to explode next time the vehicle hits anything and then chase them along the highway, forcing them to hit a rail.

14. Likewise: you can rig your own car and then use it as an explosive battering ram, leaping out right before you vehicle reaches its target.

15. Kill a guy by hurling a shovel at his face.

16. Befriend a bear. Have your bear eat people’s faces.

17. Kick a turkey to death. Sell its feathers on the black market. Feel slight guilt.

18. There’s a skill tree (perk) option that lets you airdrop onto a location on the map.

19. Order your dog buddy to maul a dude and then bring you said dude’s weapon.

20. Run headlong into an enemy’s truck while driving an ATV, sending the truck sailing over you and into a tree.

21. Take on a biplane with a helicopter in a death-defying duel over mountain peaks.

22. Accidentally shoot your buddy riding shotgun with you in the head while trying to do a drive-by on a group of cultists.

23. Get bored and reenact scenes from Firewatch with the various lookout posts around Hope County.

24. Take a break from all the murderin’ and mayhemin’ to catch some sweet bass in a nearby lake.

25. Become an apex predator by hunting elk and bears with an aluminum bat.

When you hear that a franchise is bringing a mobile version of a game to either PCs or consoles, it can be disheartening. That was certainly the case for me when they announced RollerCoaster Tycoon was coming to Switch, but it was adapted from the mobile edition. However, after seeing the game in action, I feel a bit more confident about what developer Nvizzio Creations is doing with the Switch version.

RollerCoaster Tycoon Switch lets you jump into the action with three different modes: Campaign, Scenarios, and Sandbox. Campaign gives you very little money with the goal of building up to a theme-park juggernaut. Scenarios often put you in the middle of difficult situations with an existing park and require you to dig yourself out of the mess. Sandbox lets you jump in and create with few limitations. In these modes, you can customize your rides, coasters, attractions, and shops with over 50 colors.

To fill your park, you have over 200 attractions to choose from, with seven different kinds of coasters to build out. You can also modify the land by placing rocks and other natural formations anywhere on the map, but I was a bit disappointed that each plot of land is the same flat, rectangular surface, and there’s little in way of terraforming options. I was able to check out the trail customization and the different attractions, but the build I saw did not feature the game’s coaster customization.

The simulation aspects are intact with this version of RollerCoaster Tycoon, with a streamlined park management system to allow for accessibility to a wide range of players. In addition, you can use the touchscreen when you’re in handheld mode to make things even easier. Playing in handheld mode drops the resolution from 1080p to 720p, but it maintains a solid 30 frames-per-second.

RollerCoaster Tycoon is a great fit for Switch. Nvizzio Creations seems to be heading in the correct direction when it comes to building off of a mobile version to create a console experience; there are no microtransactions in this version. However, I still have a lot of questions regarding just how deep the customization goes with this version, so I’m eagerly waiting to learn more about this version. Hopefully the team is able to deliver the kind of RollerCoaster Tycoon experience fans crave on Switch when it launches this fall.

When RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 launched in 2004, it allowed players to hop on their creations as passengers for the first time. Unfortunately, the feature was limited, as the processing power required for the first-person mode was greater than the simulation aspect of the game, and players were simply watching it from the monitor rather than actually feeling like they’re inside the world. Nvizzio Creations hopes to deliver the full realization of that feature with the upcoming PlayStation VR title RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride.

At its base, RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride allows you to hop on-board a number of pre-made coasters or build your own. Using basic track customization tools, you can design your ride pretty easily. If you get to a point and want to wrap up the process, you can click a button and the game will close the circuit for you. You can set your creations in a number of different environments, but my favorite is the city setting that let me spiral the tracks down skyscrapers and in between structures.

Barreling down drops and around tight curves tricks your brain, giving you a similar sensation as riding a real coaster. On top of simply riding along the tracks, you also participate in a target-shooting competition using the motion controls of the standard PlayStation 4 controller to aim. In order to score big, you can shoot different value targets and earn one of several power-ups to your gun. It’s a fun diversion and can be quite the challenge, but the main attraction for me is being able to ride the coasters; if you don’t want to shoot the targets, you can just ignore them.

In addition to being able to build whatever coaster pops into your head, you can also share and download creations using PlayStation Network, giving you an even deeper pool of rides. You can also use the leaderboards to see how you rank in your shooting skills, or pass the PSVR headset around the room and compete with up to three other players.

It’s clear that the concept behind RollerCoaster Tycoon 3’s CoasterCam has come a long way. Being able to actually feel like you’re riding the coasters you dream up is a strong selling point for longtime fans of the series, and the target-shooting game adds an extra layer into the mix. PSVR owners who have been disappointed by the roller coaster offerings on the platform could get rewarded for their patience with RollerCoaster Tycoon Joyride when it launches this spring.