New Gameplay Today – Vane

Click here to watch embedded video

Indie dev Friend & Foe released its atmospheric game Vane today, which features stylized visuals, a synthwave soundtrack, and a perplexing lack of direction. Kyle took some time to show Leo and me some of the game’s early portions, from its explosive start to an unfortunate implosion.

Check out the video to see Kyle try to work his way through the first set of challenges. As a crow/raven, his job is to perch on a series of windsock-like devices and attract more birds to his flock. It goes well, until it doesn’t.

Vane is out today on PlayStation 4.

With 2018 in the rearview mirror, it’s time to turn to the year ahead. As an RPG fan, it’s always important to plan accordingly, since these games require time and commitment. As we get closer to wrapping up this console generation, developers are getting in their last efforts, and some are keeping tight-lipped about the future. However, that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to be excited about on both the Japanese and Western fronts. Popular series such as Kingdom Hearts and Wasteland have new entries alongside new titles, such as Pokémon developer Game Freak’s Town and Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds. Find out about these RPGs and more coming in 2019 below.

Note: Entries are listed in alphabetical order

Biomutant

Release: Summer
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

We were hoping Biomutant would launch in 2018, but the extra time hasn’t dulled our enthusiasm for the open-world action/RPG being billed as “a post-apocalyptic kung-fu fable.” Biomutant lets you navigate a vibrant landscape as a raccoon-like creature whose abilities and appearance can be modified with mutations, bionic prosthetics, and weapons. The depth doesn’t stop there, as you can also enhance your character with everything from claws to robotic limbs. Combat combines shooting, melee, and powers from your mutations. Better yet? The game also boasts branching storylines with karma and companion systems. You can even navigate the vast world via air balloon, jet ski, or mech. It’s ambitiously intriguing.

Etrian Odyssey Nexus

Release: February 5
Platform: 3DS

Nintendo’s handheld has been the perfect destination for this dungeon-crawling, map-drawing series, and now it’s saying goodbye to the 3DS with this final entry for the platform. For this reason, Atlus is going all out. You can recruit explorers from many classes spanning the entire series (18 in total) to help you defeat the baddies and discover the treasure that awaits. The game houses plenty of labyrinths, and is also bringing back hero classes from Etrian Odyssey IV. This really feels like a greatest hits title for the franchise, and we can’t wait to enjoy Etrian’s best innovations in this new standalone story. Now to prepare for those nasty FOEs and make sure our map-drawing skills are on point. 

Fire Emblem Three Houses

Release: Spring
Platform: Switch 

Since 2012’s Fire Emblem Awakening, this strategy/RPG series has seen a surge in popularity thanks to a clever relationship-building system and the addition of MyCastle to watch your headquarters grow. However, outside of the Fire Emblem Warriors spin-off, the series has been relegated to the 3DS for the last few years. This is the first mainline entry to hit the Switch, and we’re guessing it’s going to debut on the console with a bang. Set in a new world called Fódlan, anything is possible. While Nintendo has kept a lot under wraps about the new game, we know Intelligent Systems always has some unique ideas up its sleeve. 

Iceborne (Monster Hunter: World Expansion)

Release: Fall
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Last year, Monster Hunter: World made waves, finally capturing a large North American audience with a major console release. With smoother controls, more reactive monsters, and the series’ calling cards of great customization and intense fights, Monster Hunter: World kept us logging in. Now it’s giving us more reasons to hunt when the Iceborne expansion launches this autumn. If you’ve been looking for a reason to return, this would definitely be it, as Iceborne has a brand-new biome alongside new monsters, story beats, and gear. While not as big as the base game, Iceborne is a pretty hefty expansion, and Capcom took fan feedback into consideration when crafting this experience. We can’t wait to slay massive beasts and wear their parts as fashion once again!

Indivisible

Release: 2019
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

From the creators of Skullgirls, Indivisible is taking inspiration from plenty of classics, such as Valkyrie Profile’s combat and Metroid’s exploration. The unique RPG/platformer hybrid has a story influenced by the mythology of southeast Asia. You play as tomboy Ajna, searching for answers about her newly awakened mysterious powers. As your progress, you recruit other eclectic heroes while learning new powers for battle and traversal. As a bonus, the game features beautiful 2D hand-drawn animation and a soundtrack created by none other than iconic Secret of Mana composer Hiroki Kikuta. Considering Lab Zero Games’ success with Skullgirls, we’re eager to see what it can do with a different genre.

Kingdom Hearts III

Release: January 29
Platform: PS4, Xbox One

With just a couple of weeks until launch, we really hope this is the last time we see Kingdom Hearts III on an anticipated list, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less excited to enter brand-new Disney worlds like Monsters Inc and Toy Story while concluding the Xehanort arc. After years of side stories, it’s time to get back to a big mainline entry that could change everything. Director Tetsuya Nomura has spent years crafting plot twists, teasing what’s to come for this important game. With keyblade transformations, flashier moves, bigger worlds, and more Disney characters to meet, we’re excited to finally see if it was worth the wait.   

The Outer Worlds

Release: 2019
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Headed up by two former developers from the original Fallout, The Outer Worlds launches you into space to explore another solar system in an alternate timeline. In it, you uncover a corporate conspiracy that threatens everything humanity has worked for, but it’s not all serious business, as the narrative has its share of dark humor. So far it looks like the game has all the makings of a great RPG: exploration, recruitable characters, and most importantly, plenty of options for choosing how you play. You may want to charm your way out of some situations, while others might allow you to sneak and bypass combat altogether. If you want to fight, you have ranged and melee options at your disposal. Obsidian has a built a name for itself with RPGs, launching games like South Park: The Stick of Truth, Pillars of Eternity, and Fallout: New Vegas, and it’ll be interesting to see what it does with a new IP. 

Town

Release: 2019
Platform: Switch

Game Freak has certainly been busy with Pokémon games, but that’s not all the talented developer has been working on. Town (a working title) is a turn-based RPG that takes place entirely in one village that once enjoyed everlasting peace… until gigantic monsters suddenly appeared. It’s up to you and your townspeople to restore order to your beloved homeland, battling these creatures using smart tactics via turn-based commands. We haven’t seen Town since its announcement trailer, but seeing Game Freak do something new, and for the Switch at that, has us intrigued. 

Untitled Pokémon RPG 

Release: Late 2019
Platform: Switch

We don’t know much about Game Freak’s next Pokémon game, except that it’s for Switch and it’s our introduction to generation eight, but that’s still exciting in its own right. While the game is due out in 2019, we still haven’t seen anything yet. We’re guessing we won’t see much until we get closer to E3. Still, the mystery is part of what keeps us on edge. In an interview with Famitsu, Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara said it’s going to be a game for longtime fans to look forward to, so it’s clear the company has been considering its hardcore fanbase when creating the game. After all these years, we haven’t been able to stop catching ‘em all, and we expect this entry will only keep that desire going. 

Wasteland 3

Release: Late 2019
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

The Wasteland series returned to glory with a new entry back in 2014 thanks to Interplay founder Brian Fargo’s inXile Entertainment. After its success, we’re set to see another sequel this year. Get ready to squad up in the freezing wastelands of a post-apocalyptic Colorado. You fight in turn-based battles in this party-based RPG that’s out to capture the tactical decision making and story reactivity that made its predecessor shine. As the leader of your base, you’ll make decisions about how to run it, and your reputation will precede you. Wasteland 3 is also upping the ante by having vehicles at your disposal and environmental hazards to get through. It also features synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer to embark on adventures with others. Special care is being put into the story, with a newly revamped dialogue system allowing for plenty of choices and consequences to those actions. What type of leader will you be?

Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s teaser trailer just hit the internet earlier this morning, and immediately made Marvel fans start arguing. Why are they at each others’ throats? There’s a debate brewing over who or what the elemental beings are. Some people believe these creatures are hallucinations created by Mysterio, which he quickly deals with in an attempt to paint himself as a hero. Other people (myself included) believe they are dimension hopping beings called The Elementals, which debuted a comic book series called Supernatural Thrillers in 1974. Another group of people think we’re seeing Sandman, Hydro-Man, Molten Man, and Whatever Is Creating That Storm Man.

There isn’t enough footage or information to determine which route Marvel is taking, if it even is one of these, but I like the idea of Marvel bringing on an elemental crisis on the heels of the Infinity Gems. The Elementals bring an extradimensional threat to the table, and could set the stage for what comes next. If you need more convincing, they also squared off against Carol Danvers in the comics. Captain Marvel is the film right before this one. Makes sense, right? I think so. For the sake of clarity, you see all four Elementals in the trailer: Hellfire, Hydron, Magnum, and Zephyr. If they are the threat, Mysterio becomes a much more dynamic character than an actor who can make you see things. He may be a realm-jumping hero in this film who probably loses his way at some point and turns.

If Mysterio is in fact fabricating elemental-based creatures in the city, Marvel has a big problem on their hands: People figured the plot twist out right away. I have to question why Mysterio would create such an odd enemy to combat rather than standard terrorists or super villains. It looks like the creatures are doing a hell of a lot of damage to places, which also makes it seem less like a projection and more like something that is really there, unless we the viewers are under his influence as well and are to believe what we see.

To the final theory: If Sandman were in this film, you’d think we would have heard about his casting. That would be a big deal, right?

Click here to watch embedded video

If Fallout 76 didn’t scratch your persistent Fallout itch, and you already played through the series’ back catalog, you may want to give a PC game called Atom RPG a look. The name alone does a nice job of conveying the post-apocalyptic setting, which takes place in the year 2005, following decades of nuclear war and the earth somewhat healing itself. Drawing heavy inspiration from CPRGs like Fallout, Wasteland, and Baldur’s Gate, Atom RPG invites players to help a band of survivors make a life for themselves in the irradiated badlands. Freedom of exploration is everything, and you’ll have to figure out how to sate your hunger and thirst and protect yourself from the elements. The game features extensive character creation tools, choice in conversations, and quests that offer multiple solutions.

The aptly named Atom Team continues to work on the game, and promises 2019 will bring even more locations, characters, quests, and weapons. Atom RPG is currently only available on Steam for $14.99.

Click here to watch embedded video

On February 13, YouTube Premium will air a new science-fiction anthology series called Weird City. Created by Jordan Peele and Charlie Sanders, Weird City takes us into the near future for a look at a society that is split into two parts – Above the Line and Below the Line. The middle class no longer exists, and the people that live Above the Line are called The Haves, and Below are called The Have Nots. You can probably figure out what that means in terms of societal rank. Each episode explores a different topic that are relevant today, such as our addiction to social media and trying to figure out the best fitness path. Weird City, which is also the name of the location in the show, is loaded with acting talent, and includes Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Mark Hamill, Gillian Jacobs, Ed O’Neill, Hannah Simone, Awkwafina, and more.

Click here to watch embedded video

CBS apparently wants to make as many Star Trek shows as possible, and as worrying as that should be, I’m perfectly okay with getting showered in sci-fi craziness. Along with the ongoing Star Trek: Discovery show, CBS is working on a Captain Picard series, as well as an adult animated show called Star Trek: Below Decks by the executive producer of Rick and Morty. We are also getting a new series that splinters off of Discovery and stars Michelle Yeoh. Writers Erika Lippoldt and Bo Yeon Kim are attached to the project, which will continue the adventures Yeoh’s character Philippa Georgiou following the events that transpire in Discovery‘s second season. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t go into the role Georgiou plays in the entire series, but will say that it isn’t what you would expect.

Netflix has announced that the service will once again be raising their prices on all plans, meaning that every plan now requires payments of over $100 a year.

The streaming company has announced the price goes into effect today for new customers and in the coming months for existing ones. The $8 plan is going up to $9; the middle-tier, which is the most common plan according to Netflix, goes from $11 to $13; the premium plan which allows 4K and UHD streaming jumps from $14 to $16, making it one of the most expensive streaming services on the market.

Netflix is no stranger to price increases, as the company is increasingly trying to figure out how to make the service financially viable. Despite the massive number of subscribers and number of viral hits, Netflix has been losing far more money than it is making, with expected negative cash flows in the billions. As more and more companies start pulling away to launch their own services, like Disney, Netflix is in the unenviable position of needing to charge more while simultaneously losing more content. That means they have to fill the gaps with their own content which also costs truckloads of money.

I assume there are still more Marvel shows to cancel in the meantime.

Publisher: Playsaurus
Developer: Leonard Menchiari, Daniele Vicinanzo, Giulio Perrone
Release: January 3, 2019
Rating: Not rated
Reviewed on: PC

Thanks to classics like The Prince of Persia and Another World, the cinematic platformer was the genre of style in the early ‘90s. The combination of rotoscoped visuals and movement gave characters weight, which made these games fascinating to play – even with their awkward controls and cheap deaths. In spite of its name, The Eternal Castle Remastered is not an actual remastered game from 1987; it’s a beautiful homage to the genre that has you playing a wanderer (whose gender you select) in a mysterious land searching to repair their ship and rescue an acquaintance. Along the way, you have to fight bosses, solve puzzles, and exercise your shooting finger against an arresting pink-and-blue backdrop of a CGA-inspired alien world. The particulars of the story are nothing special, but the setting and visual vibe are enthralling.

The Eternal Castle Remastered is an unabashed nostalgia trip. At its best, it conjures dazzling vistas and convincingly spooky houses with black shadows. Watching the pixelated figures move across the screen animatedly is also a joy to behold. From its menus to its gameplay, The Eternal Castle is as believable as a cinematic adventure game from 1987. Unfortunately, that also means it isn’t always fun.

Movement is just as clunky as it was in the platformers of yore and the controls are often frustrating, sometimes bordering on infuriating – especially when you’re required to complete multi-step actions like running and jumping off a ledge to grab onto another ledge. Moving often feels like your character is sliding across ice rather than moving with two feet, making delays in starting and stopping frustrating and often fatal. One segment has you running across rooftops while fighting or avoiding foes – sometimes mutant monsters, sometimes humans – and a miscalculated jump can send you plummeting to your doom (and there are a lot of jumps).  A generous checkpoint system and laborious stamina meter that depletes with every action are the only genre modernizations The Eternal Castle brings to the table, but it’s not quite enough to offset the annoyances of its adherence to archaic design.

Click here to watch embedded video

The stamina-based combat is as frustrating as navigation. The only maneuver you can do to avoid blows is roll across the ground; the rest of the time you’re just spamming the attack button to shoot or strike. Your stamina bar ticks down every time you punch, run, roll, or jump. This isn’t a big deal when you’re fighting off one or two enemies, but the combat isn’t fun to pull off, given that you’re just hitting one button over and over until the foes is dead. It’s fighting that requires no rhythm or strategizing – most of the time success comes down to plain luck more than skill.

Things get more disappointing in big battles, though. One section has you fighting against a lot of foes in a narrow hallway with only a hammer. The setup is a cool idea (riffing off the infamous Oldboy scene), but you’re just repeatedly knocking down foes in the hopes that your stamina meter doesn’t deplete before you kill them all. In the end, these encounters feel like a bunch of enemies are lining up for you to punch them more than you actively fighting a group of foes in a frantic battle. Likewise, the few boss fights are great to look at but mostly frustrating to complete. The bosses move quickly and have a fair amount of health, so they just pummel you until you manage to roll around enough to dodge them and trick them into hitting each other. It doesn’t help that every time you lose one of these fights, you have to watch the intro to it all over again. The Eternal Castle has all these grand, fantastic-looking set-pieces but none of them are actually entertaining to play.

Instead, The Eternal Castle Remastered is at its best when it turns down the action and plays more like a conventional puzzle-adventure title. One early segment has you facing an armed opponent telling you to vacate his property. You can draw your own gun on him, but you don’t have nearly enough ammo to take him down. Instead, you need to look around for an (immensely enjoyable) solution in the environment. The simplistic stealth sections, which have you crouching in the shadows created by a graveyard’s tombstones or house’s furniture to avoid monsters as you look for solutions to a puzzle, are also satisfying because they instill a sense that you’re overcoming the odds by using your wits rather than your brawn.

I left my time with The Eternal Castle Remastered extremely impressed by its aesthetic achievements but more than a little let down by how much the gameplay feels like a chore. The quality of its visuals are undeniable, but sometimes it’s better leaving certain things, like clunky controls, in the past.

Click image thumbnails to view larger version

 

                                                                       

Score: 6.5

Summary: The Eternal Castle captures the magic of cinematic platforming’s past but the past isn’t always a great thing

Concept: Explore and escape an alien world in an adventure that seeks to capture the magic of classic cinematic platformers

Graphics: Every frame of The Eternal Castle is beautiful, though action and animations are sometimes hard to read

Sound: The lack of a score highlights every thump of a body landing and fist thrown, which makes the atmosphere engaging

Playability: Though the basics are easy to understand, the player is expected to accomplish a surprising amount of complex tasks with limited functions. As a result, The Eternal Castle is often frustrating

Entertainment: The Eternal Castle successfully captures the visual magic of cinematic platforming, but it’s unnecessarily frustrating thanks to poor controls

Replay: Low

In Watch Dogs 2, the protagonist Marcus Holloway sneaks into video game developer Ubisoft’s San Francisco office and leaks a video game trailer intended only for internal use but teasing an E3 release. While a lot of people posited that the trailer was probably a real thing under Ubisoft’s creation, Kotaku’s sources confirmed that the sci-fi game Pioneer was a real product in development and Watch Dogs’ use of it was an intentional tease. Now it seems like game might be dead.

Alex Hutchinson, former Ubisoft director of games like Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed III, recently tweeted a suggestion that the Pioneer project is no more.

When asked if this means the project is “super dead,” Hutchinson replied with more crying emojis. The timing of Hutchinson’s employment at Ubisoft would have fit with him working on the game in some capacity before he left. While there’s no statement from Ubisoft on the matter, they also technically never announced the game, so a public cancellation would also probably be strange.

Hutchinson himself is developing the recently announced Journey to the Savage Planet, revealed at The Game Awards last month.

For now, we just have to think about this extremely strange way to soft-announce a game within another game that ended up never actually coming out. With no Assassin’s Creed game scheduled for 2019, Ubisoft might be looking to produce another Watch Dogs title for this year with another theoretical preview built into it.

Click here to watch embedded video

We flew out to visit From Software in Tokyo for our new cover story on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. While we were there, we interviewed lead game designer Masaru Yamamura and learned all about the process of designing the game’s combat. As you’ll see in the video above featuring some new gameplay footage, not all of your muscle memory and tricks from Dark Souls and Bloodborne will carry over into Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Watch the interview to learn what Yamamura sees as the biggest changes to From Software’s combat formula, the difficulty of designing Sekiro, and how the game was originally inspired by the Tenchu series.

Click on the banner below to learn even more about Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice throughout the month.

Activision has been experimenting with different ways to get Blackout, their Call of Duty-flavored battle royale game, into the hands of consumers, such as selling the mode separately. Now you can try the mode on its own for free later this week during a free week.

The free week is for all platforms for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, meaning PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. You can start playing on January 17 until the January 24, giving you plenty of time to emerge victorious in lauded battle royale mode. 

While free weeks and weekends are common, it does seem like Activision is still looking at days to spread the critically-acclaimed Blackout mode to other players. One of the key factors to Fortnite’s success is that you can download and play it for free and Activision no doubt wants those numbers for their own battle royale games.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 won our shooter of the year award, as well as winning best battle royale mode for Blackout, best progression, and best competitive shooter.

Today, League of Legends developer Riot Games has revealed new company values on its website following last year’s allegations of rampant sexism and misogyny in the company’s workplace.

The controversy resulted in gender discrimination lawsuits from current and former Riot employees. Riot Games apologized to both its fans and workers, stating that it would strive to improve company culture as best it could. These new values are one of its steps towards hopefully making a safer and healthier office environment.

You can click here, or look below to read the new values:

Our values are our north star; the guide to who we want to be. They’re what we look to for help when we fall short of our goals, and the lens we use to evaluate every decision we make.

In 2012 we wrote our manifesto: a statement of who we believed we were as a young company still at the beginning of its journey. It served us well for many years, but didn’t evolve along with us. Today, we need values that represent who we want to be for our next chapter. 

Below are our updated values. We talked to more than 1,700 Rioters, asking them who we need to be to deliver on our promise to players. To make these values true, we promise to institutionalize these values throughout Riot, so they become a part of every Rioter’s daily reality:

• We will continually invest in cultivating an environment where each and every Rioter is able to thrive and reach their peak performance. 

• We will strive for fair and equitable processes that Rioters can rely on. 

• Our leaders will live the values and actively promote them within their teams.

​Our ambition is that Riot will be the best place to work for all those who are passionate about our mission. 

According to Riot, these new values were put together following more than 1,700 conversations with its employees. 

[Source: Riot]

The Carlton and Floss avatar emotes have been removed from Forza Horizon 4 with its latest update, which is likely a response to the growing concern of lawsuits surrounding dance moves in games.

Aside from bug fixes and improvements to Forza Horizon 4, the update’s patch notes briefly mention how these emotes were pulled, though no reason is given. 

These removals could be a sign of Microsoft wanting to stay out of potential legal battles. Epic Games has been facing its share of lawsuits relating to dance moves in Fortnite. Rapper 2 Milly, for example, filed legal action over the Milly Rock dance used in Fortnite. Russel Horning (Backpack Kid) and Fresh Prince’s Alfonso Ribeiro also are suing Epic Games over their dances’ portrayals in the game.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment, and will update this article accordingly should we hear back. For more on Forza Horizon’s update, you can read the full patch notes here
 

Although Microsoft and Playground Games weren’t under fire for the inclusion of these dancing emotes, these removals are likely related to the controversy surrounding Epic Games. Suing a gaming studio over its portrayal of a dance is murky territory, and probably a difficult legal battle to win. Nonetheless, Microsoft probably wants to watch its back until these cases are settled.