Anthem, Bioware’s first live service game, has had its fair share of problems since the VIP demo back in January with players experiencing glitches, unable to load the game, and various other problems. Those issues were mostly solved with the second demo. However, Origins Premier PC players who are getting their hands on the full version of Anthem before everyone else are experiencing new issues.

Several players are reporting a particularly nasty surprise where choosing quickplay will load under-leveled players into the final mission of the game. One streamer, Brandon Larned, recorded a video that supposedly shows a level 3 player entering the mission. We can’t see the players’ levels or comment on whether or not what’s seen here is part of the final mission but given the multiple reports and the genuine surprise in everyone’s voices in this clip, it’s likely this issue is real. You can watch the video below if you don’t mind spoilers:

For more on Anthem, head here to watch Bioware talk about how it planned to handle storytelling in the game.

The 2019 Toy Fair is under way in New York today and per usual, that means some video game-related figures are being revealed. This year, it’s quite a number of them and they’re all on the way from McFarlane Toys.

The manufacturer revealed today that figurines from Doom, Fortnite, Mortal Kombat, Elder Scrolls, Call of Duty, and more were in production and slated for release in 2019 or 2020. Here are the most notable ones:

Call Of Duty
Frank Woods
Richtofen

Doom
Doom Slayer

Fallout
Power Armor
Vault Suit

Fortnite
A.I.M
Brite Bomber
DeluxeGlider Mako
Glider Pack
The Ice King
Jonesy
Quadcrasher
Raven
Ragnarok
Shopping Cart Pack
Wild Card

Elder Scrolls
Alduin

Mortal Kombat 11
Scorpion
Sub-Zero

For more on the world of toys and games, check out Hasbro’s upcoming lineup of Overwatch figurines.

When Fallout 76 released earlier this year, I gave it a fair shot. Like many, I tuned out of the game after playing a few hours. However, I didn’t quit because of bugs or because I thought the gameplay was bad. Instead, I was just tired of Fallout’s take on the end of the world. After several games of unclimbable rocky terrain, bombed out buildings filled with burnt books and skeletons, and sassy writing, I was just exhausted of the setup. Sure, Fallout’s gameplay has shifted many times over the past two decades, but its tone and view of people in general hasn’t.

My thoughts kept drifting back to Fallout this past week while playing Metro Exodus, the third installment in a series of games about people living in Moscow’s subway after a nuclear doomsday covers the city in fatal levels of radiation. The first two games followed the journey of Artyom, a citizen of the underground society who gets caught up in wars between the underground factions that have cropped up over the years, including a “Fourth Riech” and the various remnants of Russia’s government. If you weren’t navigating tunnels filled with Nazis that wanted to slit your throat, you were on the surface, wandering the streets of the city fending off predatory mutants. The third game, Exodus, takes Artyom and a group of loved ones across the open terrain of Russia in a train as they search for a new life, hopefully escaping the darkness of the metro at last.

What I’ve always loved about Metro is its commitment to its fiction, keeping true to the tone of its setting as well as supporting that fiction through novel gameplay mechanics. In the first two games, bullets are not just ammo but also function as currency, letting you trade them for weapons or precious health kits. This means you have to approach every combat encounter carefully. Can you really afford to go gung-ho when every bullet in your arsenal is literally a dollar? You also have to maintain your radiation-blocking gas mask with filters that deteriorate over time, meaning you’re constantly searching them out in the darkest parts of tunnels or trading for them. If your gas mask gets damaged, you have to manually tape over the crack in a darkly humorous display of DIYism. As Metro takes place in dark tunnels, you also have a headlamp you have to charge constantly as you proceed through the first two games.

A lot of this might sound like a chore. However, Metro’s flirtations with realism result in something tense and fascinating. Some of the fondest moments in gaming I’ve had over the past few years have occurred in Metro’s tunnels, where I crawled through ventilation shafts and stepped through corpse-strewed stations with only a few throwing knives, a broken mask, and a pistol with two rounds in it to keep me alive. The tension is palpable, especially when your headlamp starts to flicker and you have to render yourself defenseless to recharge it for a few seconds.

Metro’s approach to presenting its version of the apocalypse through narrative is equally as fascinating as the gameplay. Though Fallout, Rage, and its ilk have conversational NPCs in order to inject personality into a dead world, a lot of them are surprisingly stationary or move and stick to their schedules in slightly robotic fashion (like the inhabitants of Fallout 3’s Rivet City, always either sleeping in their bunks or taking up their post in the market). However, Metro’s embrace of Half-Life’s “Make The Player The Camera” storytelling tenants goes a long way in making me feel a part of that world.

The various stations of Metro are dark and cramped, with families often sleeping in grungy cardboard forts as barrel fires blaze next to them. In spite of that dinginess, hope pervades. Children run around, picking on one another and having fun, while men and women drink and try to find a little bit of light in the dark. As you walk through these stations, you can take in these scenes or you can rush past them, obsessed with the urgency of your quest to save the metro. However, even if you do that, the story goes to great lengths to build camaraderie within its core characters.

Shortly after the opening hours of the Metro 2033, Artyom meets Miller, the commander of the Spartan Order, a squad of elite troops dedicated to protecting the people of the metro. The two don’t hit it off at all. However, as the series goes on, Artyom and Miller form a relationship of begrudging respect, especially after Artyom falls in love with Anna, Miller’s daughter. Likewise, The Spartan Order comes to respect Artyom after seeing his bravery on multiple occasions. The Spartan Order’s cast of characters comes to depend on one another and bask in their collective emotional warmth to stay alive in even the bleakest times. Though there are many aspects of Metro’s narrative and voice-acting (or lack thereof) that are stilted, it gets the most important thing right: the series gives us people stranded in the darkness seeking a way out, people who are believable and worth rooting for. Exodus charts the path to that escape.

I was skeptical when 4A Games revealed that Exodus was going to be more open-worldish. After all, the things I liked about Metro were that it was different from the majority of post-apocalyptic games, rejecting barren sprawl and fetch quests for tight action-packed gameplay and pinpoint narrative focus. I worried that the series might finally be lost to the trend of generator-spewed emergent stories instead of continuing to embrace its own identity. Luckily that was not the case. Yes, Exodus is bigger, but the things that make Metro so lovably unique are still retained and even blown-out.

Exodus bears down on the character-driven storytelling from the previous games, taking a page from Wolfenstein’s book and creating a hub space where you can check in on your characters and listen to them pour forth their anxieties and hopes about the world while you sit back and listen. These moments are basically the glue of the entire Exodus experience, letting you really become invested in who these people are. Will Stepan’s affection for hitchhiker Katya result in something other than friendship? Will Miller get over his resentment of you leading everyone out of Moscow? Small dramas and moments of levity unfold when you’re in the hub, reminding you that there is a reason for you to be doing whatever is you’re doing when you’re out and about in Exodus’ regions.

Speaking of the regions, they’re rad. A big problem with post-apocalyptic games is that they tend to all look the same: barren, rocky environments filled with dilapidated houses.  This is not always true, of course. The Last of Us, another game that separates its levels into seasons, also has rich and varied environments. However, every one of Exodus’ maps feels distinct from one another in a way that’s exciting. It’s not just a matter of the desert locale being a change of pace from the wintery river locale. Every location has its own faction that you have to contend with, like the weirdos who worship a fish god. These folks are pretty harmless in the long run, and how you handle them – through brute force or evasion – will change your relationship with everyone else in the region as well. Every location responds to your actions in a way that feels fluid. If you develop a reputation for sparing people, more enemies will surrender to you during combat. If you’re a monster, that might have consequences, from one of your crew members saying something in disapproval to one of them paying the price for your bloodthirst.

Metro Exodus feels alive in a way that most of its post-apocalyptic siblings don’t, and that’s because it doesn’t settle for giving a player a post-apocalyptic sandbox. Metro instead crafts its own tale about despair and hope while giving players ample flexibility to find entertainment within that space. The world might be dingy and overcast, but its heart beats with the kind of excitement, innovation, and heartfelt storytelling that more games need to have.

For more on Metro Exodus, check out our review for the game as well as some tips to help you survive the journey.

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The latest update for Rainbow Six Siege, Burnt Horizons, is out now, which adds a little Australian flair to the action. Our own Leo Vader got a chance to play the new map and both operators recently, and came back with some pro-level footage. Ladies and gentlemen, this is gaming.

The new operators include Mozzie, who can hack drones and take control of them; and Gridlock, who can shut down roamers by deploying a self-replicating network of spiky traps. Leo is excited for how both characters can potentially change the meta, which he dives into while narrating his 4K gameplay footage.

As for the new map, it has a giant shark.

Burnt Horizons is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

We recently called Rainbow Six Siege “the king of the comeback” in our list of games improved the most by free updates and boy has that game earned the title thanks to consistent updates and constant communication with its community. Year four of Ubisoft’s support looms on the horizon for Siege and the publisher’s put out a video detailing all the changes coming as well as the philosophy behind them.

To learn more about the operator changes, events, and fixes to address toxicity coming to Siege, give this a watch:

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For more on Rainbow Six Siege, check out our video on how Pro Rules breathe new life into the game.

The debate has gone on for years, and yet it never seems like the industry can decide on whether your player character should have an active role in the story they’re a part of, or keep to themselves like the good player avatar they are. As more games trend toward having their main characters speak for themselves but others remain steadfast on keeping players curiously mum, we want to know: is it ever a good idea to have a silent protagonist?

Link is the first silent protagonist who comes to mind, and I can’t help but feel his is the best case you can make. I think if there were ever a game where Link were a fully-voiced character, he’d be kind of annoying. Not “excuuuuse me, princess” annoying, but I think a large part of his character comes from how we imbue him with traits that we like in lieu of having a clear personality to cling to. As a general rule, though, I find myself rolling my eyes whenever characters speak to me like I’m Lassie.

Do you prefer silent protagonists? Do you think there’s a general rule for when a silent player is the best kind of player? Let us know in the comments.

As companies like Activision continue to make record profits as they lay off large portions of their staff, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is calling for game developers to unionize.

AFL-CIO treasurer Liz Shuler has written a letter, published on Kotaku, detailing an argument for why an industry facing overworked conditions, sudden joblessness, and the emergence of groups favoring the notion should work to unionize. 

Shuler writes that the game industry, which she cites as one of the most lucrative “commodities” the U.S. produces, is built off the back of workers who passionately work tireless hours to produce works of art that bring joy to millions of players. “There’s nothing more powerful than throwing yourself into your craft, putting in day after day of passionate, hard work,” she says.

According to Shuler, however, workers are not being fairly compensated by this work, and argues that, regardless of game developers’ passion for their chosen field, it’s time they get their due. “While you’re putting in crunch time, your bosses are ringing the opening bell on Wall Street,” she argues. “While you’re creating some of the most groundbreaking products of our time, they’re pocketing billions. While you’re fighting through exhaustion and putting your soul into a game, Bobby Kotick and Andrew Wilson are toasting to ‘their’ success.”

Meanwhile, workers face a number of workplace issues, including long hours in crunch time, a fear to speak up about better compensation for fear of backlash, and “toxic work conditions that push you to your physical and mental limits.”

Shuler call upon employees of game companies to kickstart their efforts to unionize because it won’t happen without activism from the employees themselves, and points them towards organizations like Game Workers Unite, which are working alongside the AFL-CIO to help galvanize the industry into action. “Your fight is our fight, and we look forward to welcoming you into our union family,” Shuler says. “Whether we’re mainlining caffeine in Santa Monica, clearing tables in Chicago or mining coal in West Virginia, we deserve to collect nothing less than the full value of our work.”

Labor issues have come to the forefront of video game industry talk in recent years, even moreso in the last few months. Last year, the Game Developers Conference had a swirl of discussions about the topic, while this year, a GDC survey revealed 44 percent of people in games work more than 40 hours a week, and a 47-percent majority of developers think the industry should unionize. A few years ago, the video game industry also saw a controversy between the SAG-AFTRA union strike and several video game companies lead to a negotiation between the two about improving the conditions of voice actors in the industry.

Unionizing an industry as large as video games is no small task and is likely to be long road filled with its own difficulties, long hours, and late nights. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen, especially when the result could be better working conditions for employees who won’t be fired on a whim and can get to do what they love and see their families at reasonable hours.

Tag-team fighter/dress-up game most of its characters look uncomfortable to be a part of SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy will be heading to Steam next week.

The game will head to the PC platform on February 21, SNK announced the news at this year’s Evo Japan. Though no trailer for the game is officially available online as of this writing, a fan attending the event was able to capture off-screen footage of a trailer playing at Evo Japan making the announcement. We expect a full announcement with more details to come at a later date.

SNK Heroines features several women from across the SNK catalog of games, as well as Terry Bogard and Skullolady.

Dota Auto Chess, a custom game inside Dota 2, continues experiencing enormous success, garnering a playerbase much larger than most games on Steam.

The game recently surpassed a brand-new milestone: 300,000 concurrent players, and is currently sitting at over four million total subscribers. This is a sign of the mod’s continued growth, as only last month the game was sitting at over 100,000 concurrents and nearly 700,000 subscribers, according to esports outfit Team Secret’s director of operations Matthew Bailey.

This makes the mod itself one of the most popular games on Steam. If you were to rank Auto Chess on Steam’s official player statistics rankings across all games on Steam, it would place fourth, putting it ahead of the Steam playerbases for Rainbow Six Siege (the game is also available on consoles and through Ubisoft’s own store on PC) and Grand Theft Auto V (which is also available outside of Steam through the Rockstar Social Club store), and behind Steam exclusive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which sports more than twice the concurrent playerbase.

Of course, much of this is off the back of Dota 2’s nearly million-strong concurrent playerbase, but that the mod has seen nothing but growth in the past month bodes well for its success, as developer Team Drodo continues to update the game and makes money through in-mod microtransactions.

If you’re curious about what the heck all this Auto Chess business is all about, check out our recent primer on the mod.