Madden Ultimate Team is back, boasting new solos, ways to play, and an upgrade mechanic that helps both first-timers as well as those in it for the long haul. This guide also has something for everyone during the mode’s early life, from how to make coins to Solo Battles.

Note: Madden Ultimate Team evolves all the time, from what players are available to what they’re worth, so be aware that while some of the larger principles are constant, details will change. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Where/How Do I Start?

If you’ve already played Ultimate Team, the game skips you forward to MUT Level 10 while giving you a bundle that covers all you would have missed. Conversely, if you’re a new player, it won’t take long to go through the pre-season solos and level up – with rewards along the way.

No matter the rating of your team, single-player Solo Challenges are the easiest way to both make coins (for the auction house/buy packs), get collectible items you can later redeem in sets, accrue training points (see below), and earn packs and/or specific players.

For instance, The Campaign Solo program is specifically designed to upgrade your ratty, starting bronze team to a gold one while giving you coins, tokens for the Campaign set, and even elite players. This is a good place to start.

In the early going in particular, you won’t find these hard to beat, but if you want to make your life at least more comfortable, don’t ignore the settings menu before each solo. When you start a solo, toggle the Event Type to “Quick Presentation” and turn on the Accelerated Clock. This speeds the presentation up, which is useful – unless, of course, you need more time to complete an objective. Speaking of objectives, do the bonus objectives for extra coins.

Also, do your Daily Objectives for coins (this can be accessed from the main MUT menu). Even having to buy the cheapest pack in the store (500 coins) and possibly go to the auction house for another silver for the Daily’s set requirement, after you complete the requisite three solos/games – which give you coins for completing as well – at worst you should break even after redeeming the Daily Objective’s quicksell reward, which can give you as many as 50,000 coins.


Should I Spend Real Money?

mut, madden ultimate team,

Real money can be spent to buy points in MUT. Points are, in turn, spent on packs in the MUT store – including some packs that can only be purchased with points. Packs odds, however (which you can now see this year by going into a store pack and selecting “View Info”) are never good. Most of the time you’re not going to hit anything close to the jackpot.

If you want to buy points and spend them in the store, however, I would take a look at the MUT Level Packs (which you unlock once you hit the appropriate level) and other packs in the Special Offers tab, which you can only buy a limited number of times. For instance, currently there’s an Elite Fantasy Pack (150 points/$1.50), which in these early stages of the mode could deliver some decent players that you could keep or sell in the auction house. Higher up the chain, the Kickoff Bundle (2,200 points/$19.99) comes with four packs and 150 training points.

Speaking of the auction house, before you buy any pack in the store, check to see if its contents can be sold in the auction house or not (those that cannot are called NAT – Non-Auction/Trade), which can influence whether it’s worth spending the points or coins in the first place.


Should I Spend Coins on Packs?

Apart from the MUT Level packs you unlock as you play the mode, I don’t purchase many packs via coins in the store. I prefer to spend my coins on specific players in the auction house or to buy cards in the auction house and then sell them for profit (see below). I buy packs on occasion, mainly just for fun, and sometimes am surprised by what I get, whether that’s to go into my lineup or to sell via auction.

However, a reminder: The pack odds are not in your favor.


What’s An Easy Way To Make Coins?

Polishing off Solo challenges is the easiest way to make coins, but if you want to take a break from playing or just want to augment your stack, go to the auction house. But first, a disclaimer – DO NOT QUICKSELL YOUR CARDS FOR COINS. Yes, there are special cards with high quicksell values, but your average card isn’t worth quickselling. It has exponentially more worth either in the auction house or in a set.

Making coins in the auction house is easy and reliable. All it requires is a relatively small amount of coins for startup capital and patience. Playing the auction house is based upon using the game’s sorting tools so you can see the best deals at the moment.

Here’s the simplest way to make coins in the auction house: 

1. Go into the auction house. Along the lefthand side of the screen are various ways to sort all the cards currently on sale (Type, Quality, Team, etc.).

2. Go into the Quality filter, and pick a rating range (70-74, 80-81, etc.). In here you’ll see cards pre-sorted by the cheapest Buy Now Price (at the top of the page).

  • E.g. Pick Quality 70-74

3. The next step is to further filter these cards down so you’re seeing the newest and cheapest ones available so you can get the best deal and buy it before everyone else does. The cards shown to you in the auction house at any given time only show you 100 cards at a time. So often you have to use multiple filters to further refine your search, that way you know you’re seeing all the cards within that filter.

  • E.g. Add two more filters: Type – All Offense + Team – Broncos. You’ll know there are less than 100 cards showing by counting them, but the easier way is by looking at the light grey slider bar on the right-hand side. The bigger it is the fewer cards there are.

4. Now you’re seeing all of the Broncos’ offensive players with an OVR of 70-74 for sale. These are automatically listed in ascending order by the lowest Buy Now price. Take a look at the top rows of cards. They should all have roughly the same price. Make a mental note of this general range. Now change just the Team filter and see what the offensive, 70-74-rated cards are going for on other teams to verify this range. The majority of these should be in the same range, no matter the team, player, or position (with exceptions, of course).

  • E.g. The majority of Core Gold 70-74 offense cards on multiple teams are going for about 1,000 coins.

Which ones should you buy? Since we’ve just established the current going rate for these cards, you’re looking for cards that can make you a profit AFTER TAX. When you sell a card, EA takes a 10 percent cut of what you sold it for. So selling a card for 1,000 coins actually nets you 900 coins when someone buys it. Therefore, I buy cards that are about 20 percent lower than the average going rate in order to both account for tax and to bake in my profit.

  • E.g. Buy a card that’s normally going for 1,000 coins when you see a Buy Now price at 800 or lower (1,000 x .2 = 200. 1,000 – 200 = 800). But first, take a quick look around the page and make sure that the identical cards for that player are all priced at 1,000 or so. That way you know that 800 or less is actually a deal for that card, and not just the natural rate for a card that might happen to be selling for less than average.

5. Now, you’re going to immediately turn around and sell that card for a profit. This method works at any card quality level, and you don’t really have to memorize prices of individual cards; you’re simply pricing off of the current market.

  • E.g. Selling that card for 1,000 Buy Now gets you 100 coins after tax.

It’s not much, but if you do this several times, you’ll have coins to reinvest for higher cards. Sometimes I might sell the card for slightly less to see if I can move it quickly or sell it for more than the average rate to see if I can get someone to bite. You can also check to see what it’s worth at MUThead.com. Sell your cards for a duration of one hour. If it doesn’t sell, don’t worry, throw it up again.

Of course, this is just the simplest method. You can also sort cards by pressing the right trigger and selecting Newest from the drop-down menu. This is helpful because by sorting by the newest and not just the cheapest cards on the page, you see more relative deals, not just the lowest prices. Overall, you want to see the newest cards (listed as 59 min) because it helps you gauge prices based on the assumption that a card that’s even a few minutes old probably would have already been bought by now if it really was a deal.

Play around with the sorting menus to find your own filters. Switch teams, investigate the different programs, sort by position or cap value, or whatever. You’re simply trying to find the newest cards that are selling below market value so you can flip them for market price or more. I highly suggest you check out MUThead.com for more info on cards. Here you can get a better sense of cards’ worth if you want to stalk individual cards, get a sense of the market for higher priced, more prestigious cards is (which is where you snipe the most lucrative deals), and a host of other tools to make you a better MUT auction house player.

There are other more complex ways of using the auction house such as timing when to buy/sell cards based on new card drops or weekend competitive play, buying/selling via bidding, anticipating card value based on their value for sets, targeting specific positions, and more.


What Cards Should I Get Early On?

mut, madden ultimate team,

Per usual, speed is always nice to have, so I’d lean that way for some of your skill position players. One in particular – Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill (Core Elite) is at the time of this guide the fastest wide receiver in the game (faster than even the Legend, 91-rated Randy Moss). This will, of course, change as the season goes on, but Hill is a card you can get via a MUT Level pack (level 12) that is, interestingly given what I’ve said about spending money in the store, only available for points (150 points/$1.50).

Elsewhere, wide receiver Brandin Cooks (Core Elite) combines 87 speed with 83 catching. Legends like Michael Vick, Sean Taylor, and Randy Moss are available by doing their solo missions. In addition, Campaign tokens can be redeemed for 87-rated offensive and defensive heroes like LeSean McCoy (RB) and Telvin Smith (ROLB).

Madden 19 also features numerous Power Up cards (more below) depending on your needs you can get for cheap in the auction house and upgrade to a decent level. Matthew Stafford’s Throw Power on his Power Up card goes up to 89 just by upgrading him up to 81 OVR (103 training points), and Ben Roethlisberger is an option if you have four Campaign tokens.

Be sure to check out MUThead.com’s player database feature where you can search and sort all of the mode’s players according to whatever metric you want – including being able to see how many training points it’s going to take to upgrade appropriate players to their various levels.

If you want more ideas of how you can construct your team, you can also check out the mode’s Solo Battle teams (see below). Head over to the sub-mode’s menu screen and hit triangle/Y to see those teams’ lineups.


Is It Worth Investing In The New Power Up Cards?

Last year the card power up system cost too much to be worth it, but this year developer EA Tiburon made the upgrade system more viable. In the early stages of MUT, you get multiple cards that you can upgrade by spending training points to increase players’ OVR and unlock choosable chemistries along the way.

The points themselves come as rewards while playing or by quick-selling other cards for training points, such as the ones you get from playing the Longshot: Homecoming story mode and its solo challenges. Cards of different tiers are worth various amounts of training points, so be careful before you buy a bunch of cards in the auction house in order to melt them down for training points.

Even early in the mode, you should be able to take a player or two up to 80 with little fuss. In the long run, it’s hard to tell how aggressive you should go towards quick-selling for training and pumping them into these cards because we simply don’t know when EA is going to release new cards that could put these to shame.

I’m not worried about that right now, and I’m concentrating on maxing out a couple of cards just for fun. For example, try picking a few Power Up players from your favorite team and commit to upgrading them. Because they’re from your favorite team you’ll probably be less inclined to toss them aside when a newer and better player comes out at that position. You can downgrade a Power Up card of its training points, but since you only get half of them back as a penalty, I’m not going to do this.

Cards other than those specifically part of the Power Up program can be upgraded, including Legends and Team Captains. Furthermore, many cards can be assigned one or more chemistries in order to give an attribute boost to all the cards in your lineup using that chemistry. In the long run – and especially if you’re going to be playing competitively – you’re going to want to spend training points to unlock the right chems (like Secure Tackler and Gunslinger), so keep plugging away on those Solos and sets that award training points, and keep handy a few Elite cards or higher to sacrifice.


What Are Solo Battles?

Solo Battles are new this year, and they are games against the CPU A.I. based on real players’ MUT teams. You can play a total of 13 games in a week, with each win bestowing more points based on the result, what you did in the game (TDs, INTs, etc.), a difficulty bonus, etc. The more points you tally in those games, the better your rewards at the end of the week.

Doing well in this sub-mode and getting good prizes isn’t just about winning, it’s about getting the most points possible while doing so. This means having a good enough team to beat the CPU on the higher difficulty levels while running up the score, racking up the sacks, and other in-game feats. At the moment speed feels more sluggish in solo battles in particular, so you’re going to need a fast team to compete.


Can I Cut It In Competitive Play?

Competitive play in Seasons and MUT Champions can be tough, but also yield some great rewards. At the moment, unless you’ve been raging through the solos, making money in the auction house and picking up good players, and crushing Solo Battles, you’ll probably be going up against competition that’s too stiff. This is simply because of the various early access periods across the systems there are already plenty of players who’ve maxed out their teams at this point. But by all means, have a go if you think you have the stick skills to hang.


What Else Can I Do In MUT?

If you want a slightly different MUT experience and you have some friends who want to play, you can get together and play the MUT Squads co-op mode either versus the CPU or other teams of three players. Playing gets you rewards that you can turn in for various set prizes like players, coach Madden himself, classic unis, or the current ultimate prize of a 90 OVR David Johnson.

Playing the mode itself can be a little rough, as it requires all of the players to be on the same page to run routes and get positional responsibilities right, but it can be fun simply being on the same team as well.

MUT offers some long-term goals to plug away at, including improving the MUT Master Ryan Shazier card up to a 95 OVR. This is done by hitting larger objectives through normal play in the mode as well as specific objectives tied to Shazier himself.


The Assassin’s Creed series is famous for its rich worlds with various activities to pursue. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is continuing that tradition, but the team at Ubisoft Quebec is also expanding on it by layering in a variety of new, interconnected systems. The story of Alexios or Kassandra searching for their family is still the central pillar of Odyssey, but the content supporting that arc has grown more intricate and interesting.

“There’s still a main narrative that you’re going to want to follow, but there are a lot of other things for you to do,” says game director Scott Phillips. “You’re going to follow the main path for a couple of hours and then at some point you’re going to go, ‘I need to level up’ or ‘I need to get a new weapon’ or ‘I need to go do something else,’ and we give you a huge buffet of things to do.”

This is one of the major ways Odyssey is evolving beyond the previous installment, since Origins relied primarily on basic sidequests to get players to the recommended level for the next story mission. In Odyssey, you spend your time with a broader and more varied array of tasks. These are the diversions that grab your attention and entice you to stray from the critical path with promises of treasure, allies, and more.

1. The War
Odyssey is set during the time of the Peloponnesian War, which means that Athens and Sparta are constantly fighting for control over many nation-states. Your intervention can change the tides of an individual conflict, but it won’t win the war. That isn’t the kind of progress you’re making here. Instead, you’re working for the rewards you get along the way as you’re flipping or defending a nation-state. “The world is a moving chessboard, with 28 city-states,” says creative director Jonathan Dumont. “Some are owned by Athens, some are owned by Sparta. We wanted you to be able to pick a side at any point, since you’re a mercenary in the game.”

You don’t have any particular loyalty to Athens or Sparta, so which side you choose is purely practical. You can look at the potential rewards for siding with one power or another, and then work toward the outcome you prefer. That’s a multi-step process, not just a single mission. “Each nation, their resources, their power, their ability to wage war is shown to the player represented as a nation power gauge,” Phillips says. “The player will have in-game actions that they can perform that will weaken the state – killing soldiers, destroying their war supplies, stealing their national treasure and then ultimately killing their leader, which will make them the most vulnerable.”

Once you are victorious and your reward is in the bank, the nation-state will eventually fall into jeopardy again and you can continue the cycle. Except maybe that next time, the other side has a more tempting offer.

2. Sailing
Your ship is more than a means of transportation. It’s your base of operations, and a formidable weapon. The vessel’s baseline power levels up with you automatically, so you won’t be outgunned in regular encounters if you don’t want to fuss over upkeep. On the other hand, for players that enjoy the naval element, you can invest additional time and resources to upgrade your ship’s hull and weapons to become a greater threat.

Another way to improve your ship is through passive boosts you get from characters you recruit. These can be drawn from multiple categories, including friends you help, mercenaries you defeat, or even regular soldiers on patrol. “They have bonuses for you ship,” Dumont says. “These are called our lieutenants, and you can have four that are active at the same time on your ship, but you can have a roster and collect them like Pokémon.”

The naval elements don’t appeal to every player, so diving deep on these features isn’t a requirement. But it offers a satisfying way to tie various activities together for those who are interested. “It makes it feel like there’s a connection between the land and the sea, which was always we knew could be a challenge,” Phillips says.

3. Contracts and Bounties
Though technically part of the war effort, contracts are quests that run in the background. They usually involve targeting particular groups or units, like killing a set number of Athenian soldiers, or Berserker Spartans. “These are long-term quests,” Phillips says. “These are things you’re going to pick up from the message board. Some you might complete within 30 minutes, and some you might not complete for five hours.”

Contracts are put out through war leaders, so your success ultimately contributes to strengthening or weakening your chosen side in a conflict. But message boards also allow you to pick up a more neutral quest: Bounties. Just like when other mercenaries come hunting for you when you step out of line, you can bring justice to people who break the law. Bounties might even set you against other mercenaries, posted by people who want to get revenge. While these may be more straightforward quests, they can have some narrative significance. “They’re real stories that we retouched so it fits our game, but a lot of these things are part of the research we’ve done,” Dumont says.

4. Collecting And Upgrading Gear
The cycle of collecting loot to help you defeat stronger foes and get even better loot is a staple of the RPG genre. This was one of the things propelling you forward in Assassin’s Creed Origins, but the concept has been expanded even more in Odyssey.

One sign that your gear is even more important is that your armor now occupies specific body slots: head, chest, waist, arms, and legs. What you’re wearing isn’t just cosmetic like in Origins; five armor slots mean you have five opportunities to improve your stats and create stacking bonuses. But you also aren’t stuck with your equipment’s innate properties, since you can engrave items with a special bonus, like improved defense, or boosts to certain kinds of damage.

“Engraving is good for enhancing what you want to focus on or making up for areas where you’re weak,” Phillips says. “If your armor is really low because you’re an assassin player, and you’re wearing more cloth gear, you’re not going to be wearing the super helmeted stuff, you’re going to be weaker in fight, so maybe you want to engrave things that are going to make you a little more balanced in that way.”

As you progress, you can expect a steady stream of new gear to replace your old stuff. While that is usually a good idea, the team at Ubisoft Quebec isn’t forcing you to leave your favorite pieces behind. Like Origins, you have the option to bring a lower-level piece of equipment up to your current level. This process costs obsidian, so you won’t be upgrading every piece of equipment this way, but if you have a weapon that you love with just the right enhancements for your playstyle, you can keep it relevant until something better comes along.

5. Mercenaries
The mercenary system allows you to fight challenging enemies and reap rare rewards. Plus, it lets you recruit powerful lieutenants to accompany you on your journey. Imagine the Phylakes from Origins crossed with a hint of Shadow of Mordor’s nemesis system. If that combination sounds fun to you, read more about it with our in-depth feature about how mercenaries work.

Bonus entry: Traditional Sidequests
Not every part of your progression is new or reimagined. Fans of previous games can expect plenty of the activities that have helped define the series through the years; all of the stuff you’re accustomed to doing in Assassin’s Creed still feeds into your progress. “You assassinate, you complete points of interests,” Phillips says. “So forts, camps, tombs, ruins, sunken shipwrecks, and things like that will give you XP.” Some of these might contain threads that lead you toward other optional quests, or send you to areas of the map that you may not have explored otherwise.

That isn’t a comprehensive list of everything you can do in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey; these are just the primary loops that tie into your progression. While it may seem straightforward, the intricacy of these systems becomes apparent when you see how they all interact. To get a sense for how the elements can affect each other, take a look at this arrow-filled diagram from Ubisoft:

Players may not always think of their exploits in terms of a flow chart, but the image showcases the borderline-ridiculous degree to which a single act can have consequences in other areas of the world’s gameplay ecosystem. Don’t be overwhelmed, though; the goal isn’t to drown players in mandatory busywork. Instead, the team wants to provide different activities (and worthwhile rewards) to ensure that players can engage with the things that interest them.

“We don’t want you to just blow through the main story,” Phillips says. “We’ve built this game and the experience that we’ve tried to craft is for you to take time and go off and try other things. That’s the way it should be played.”

 

Click the image below to visit our coverage hub, where new features about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey will be posted throughout the month!

Ion Hazzikostas, the game director for World of Warcraft is handling the “story time” keynote speech for PAX west. He joined Blizzard in 2008 after leaving law and ended up being a designer on WoW. He became game director in 2016 after working on raid content and is heading up development on the Battle for Azeroth expansion. 

PAX west starts August 31 in Seattle, Washington with tickets for the upcoming PAX south going on sale this week. PAX south starts January 18 in San Antonio, Texas and badges for PAX west are still available

Blizzards latest expansion is out today, check out our latest preview for 8 reasons to look forward to Battle for Azeroth. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man is nearly upon is, with only three weeks until release. A new gameplay trailer showcases the upcoming villains, Miles Morales and swinging through New York City. 

In our recent preview Spider-Man after getting four hours with the game, with Andrew Reiner telling fans to “Be excited. Be very excited”. Sony’s latest is shaping up to be the best game from the web-slinger yet. 

Spider-Man will be out on PlayStation 4 on September 7 alongside a limited edition console. 

Microsoft’s new internal studio The Initiative, announced during the company’s E3 showcase, has hired a slew of industry veterans. Ex-Crystal Dynamics head Darrell Gallagher, The Initiative’s studio head, announced six new hires via LinkedIn, according to GamesIndustry.Biz. Gallagher later deleted the post, but ResetEra user CrimsonEclipse posted a screenshot of his post.

ResetEra User CrimsonEclipse

The new hires are as follows:

  • Brian Westergaard, lead producer of God Of War (2018) and Rise Of The Tomb Raider
  • Annie Lohr, a recruiter who formerly worked at Respawn Entertainment, Riot Games, and Microsoft Studios
  • Christian Cantamessa, writer of Read Dead Redemption and Middle Earth: Shadow Of War
  • Blake Fischer, senior director of portfolio planning at Microsoft for 16 years
  • Daniel Neuburger, co-director of Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider 
  • Lindsey McQueeney, hired as The Initiative’s HR and culture manager

Westergaard, Neuburger, and Cantamessa are particularly significant hires, especially given that Phil Spencer teased that The Initiative would be working on a narrative-based game. 

[Source: GamesIndustry.Biz]

Most recent big-budget horror games have firmly planted themselves in Western conventions. Trafficking in copious gore and physical monsters, titles like Alien: Isolation and Resident Evil 7 have far outnumbered the more supernatural spooks of Japanese horror games like Fatal Frame. However, a teaser from Bandai Namco hints at a new game with a firm base in J-horror traditions. 

All that exists of Domas so far is this website, a static image of a house with a slowly moving orange sky. The eerie lighting and film grain make it hard to tell if the graphics are photorealistic or lo-fi, and as such the image is more unsettling than a suburban house has any right to be.

The website has a battery readout and pixelated numbers at the bottom, reminiscent of a handheld camera. The numbers read 8.30.2018, strongly implying that more info will be revealed on August 30. We previously wrote about the effectiveness of lo-fi horror here; if Bandai-Namco can mesh those aesthetics with the scares of classic J-horror like The Ring or Fatal Frame, it’ll have a potent combo of scares. 

Hardship transforms people, and none more so than the protagonist of Nomada Studio’s new title Gris. The Switch/PC title coming in December chronicles a young girl’s journey through the pains of life, her emotional growth transforming her own abilities and the world around her.

The game’s a platformer filled with puzzles and skill-based challenges, but according to the Barcelona-based developer, does not include “danger, frustration, or death.” Regardless, the protagonist’s journey is also reflected in her dress, which gifts new abilities to her that lets her explore new areas in the world.

Gris will be playable this month at Gamescom and PAX West, so we’ll let you know more about the title if we get our hands on it.

After six years, we’re finally reaching the conclusion of Telltale’s The Walking Dead – which also means the end of our time with fan-favorite  character Clementine. Video games rarely give us the opportunity to watch a character grow up over the years, but we’ve seen Clementine go from a naïve and inexperienced little girl to a hardened and resourceful survivor. That transformation came with ups and downs that never recaptured the magic of the debut season, and the first episode of this final season is a reminder of that, with another group of survivors scavenging for food and safety amid the overflow of deadly zombies.
 
We’re back in Clementine’s shoes after spending last season controlling Javier and seeing the apocalypse through the lens of his family. The opener doesn’t really acknowledge much about that time in Clementine’s life, but gets straight into the action with Clementine finally being reunited with A.J., a child she’s tried to take care of since he lost his parents just after birth. Clementine is coming full circle, doing for A.J. what Lee did for her by teaching him the art of survival. While the parallels are overt (alongside shoehorned-in references to Lee), A.J. is the first character we’ve met who hasn’t known a life before the apocalypse. This is intriguing, as most survivors fight because they know things can be better, while A.J. merely accepts his world. The story quickly taps into certain tendencies that have developed in A.J. from living this way; he doesn’t like loud noises, he lacks empathy, and he enters every situation on high alert. That’s about the only new, intriguing thread that surfaces here.
 
The premiere episode has all the staples we’ve come to know from the series: zombie fights, a new group of survivors, and heat-of-the-moment decisions for survival. While these threads are part of the appeal of zombie-apocalypse stories, I often felt like I was just going through the motions with predictable patterns. I could see the betrayals and dangers from a mile away. At times I felt like I was walking into a trap, like when you watch a horror movie and want to yell, “Get out of there!” at oblivious characters. The dialogue options don’t even let you express reservations about these moments, causing a disconnect between the authored story and how players think Clementine should react.

 Clementine has been an interesting character, but this episode is inconsistent with her growth throughout the seasons. Zombie attacks, ally betrayals, and death are commonplace for her, so she should have her guard up. Instead, this episode ignores her years of experience in this world. She’s too trusting, and it feels dishonest to the character. So many times I thought, “Clementine would know better than this.” For instance, a big part of this installment is her forming an alliance with a new group of young survivors that have turned a large, secluded school into their safehouse. While she knows nothing about this group, she instantly joins up with them. I was disappointed that I had to get to know a new set of survivors so quickly; I wanted to get some quality time with just Clementine and AJ. At least the group is diverse, representing different races and sexualities alongside having their own having their own personality quirks and pasts to uncover. A laid-back, kindhearted musician provides a softer, more calming persona, while a closed-off, headstrong woman exemplifies the struggle that comes with living in this depressing landscape after a romantic partner dies.
 
The new season is an upgrade in visuals, looking more akin to The Walking Dead comic. Telltale has also made the interactive sequences more creative, whether it’s killing zombies or harpooning fish. You now have the option to stun, stab, or activate traps to kill zombies, while catching fish becomes a minigame about aiming and timing throwing your harpoon just right. The relationship-building still takes center stage, with you choosing between characters and having your actions affect your favorability with them. I liked that Telltale brought back decisions that let you decide between two places to visit with different characters to bond with at each, allowing you to feel like you need to sacrifice to get the payoffs you want.  
 
I’ve enjoyed Telltale’s The Walking Dead for its shocking reveals and difficult choices, but not much of that was present in the opener. This premiere does little to excite me for the rest of the season; the set-up feels too predictable and familiar. I’m interested in seeing where Clementine’s story ends and if my choices really shape the type of person A.J. becomes, but this is a weak start. Hopefully, the next episodes can provide something more unique for fans. Right now, the emotional impact is missing, the decisions aren’t hard-hitting, and the twists are easy to see coming.

Have you ever seen those people on Pokemon Go community days that carry around more than one phone to maximize their ability to catch rare Pokemon? Those people are thinking small time. The real hardcore take it to 11.

Chen San-yuan has become a celebrity in Taipei for attaching multiple phones to his bike as he rides around the city. Affectionately known as Uncle Pokemon to locals, Chen’s picture was posted to Reddit earlier this month after he was interviewed by a local news station. Until then, Chen did not even know he was particularly well known.

Pokemon Go does require a connection for the phone and Chen isn’t riding around with a hotspot for all 11 phones, so this Pokemon journey is costing him about $1290 a month. But considering it is keeping him healthy and helping to stave off Alzheimer’s, it seems worth it.

[Source: BBC News]

Every advancement in graphics technology is accompanied by a new, goofy method of showing it off. Whether it’s 128 versions of Mario running around a globe for the GameCube, a million Toblerone pieces scattering around in Knack, or 1-2-Switch’s lockpicking minigame demonstrating all those ice cubes inside the Joy-Cons, developers often design around the possibilities of powerful new tech.

But this raises an important question: What about the food? According to statistics I just made up, we spend about 15 percent of our time eating and another 82 percent of our time thinking about eating. In contrast, I only spend about 10 minutes of my time each day thinking about 128 Marios running around and getting into trouble. Do you think each Mario thinks of himself as the true Mario, and the others as imposters? Hopefully, he recognizes that each Mario has the same right to individuality as himself. I’m getting off track here.

There is a criminal lack of gaming centered around the most important part of our lives, the part where we shove food in our face. Nintendo designed Super Mario Sunshine around the gorgeous water simulations new hardware allowed them, but they could have designed an equally gorgeous milkshake simulator or acorn squash bisque-drinking challenge. VR lets gamers hold virtual objects right up in their face to inspect; mostly, this is used to observe how various guns do, in fact, look like guns. But this ability could also be used to approximate a bakery, with all sorts of different loaves of bread and croissants to observe. Which brave developer is going to be the first to let me scrutinize a perfectly risen sourdough loaf?

Fortunately, some modern designers have heard my cries. The past few years have been a golden age of food-simulation, with new lighting techniques and physic systems being applied to the most noble of goals: making me want to eat while I play games. Make sure you’ve got some snacks in the pantry, because this list is going to make you hungry.

 

Final Fantasy XV

I was a Boy Scout as a kid, and one of the best parts of going on a trip was planning all the garbage my friends and I were going to eat. The official rules of camping state that rules of nutrition don’t matter in nature; all that matters is how peach cobbler tastes when you make it in a dutch oven while huddled around a campfire at night.

No one understands this better than the impeccably dressed Ignis Scientia in FFXV. Noctis and his boys are spending long days on the road, fighting wooly mammoths and throwing swords and whatever else a royal posse does on a cross-country trip. At night though, they settle down and Ignis provides them with some legitimately stunning meal selections. Little can pull a group together like well-made food, so it follows that the friendship between FFXV’s spikey-haired lads is one of the most effective parts of the game.

One of my favorite meals from FFXV is the Taelpar harvest galette, a truly mouth-watering remix of a basic fruit dessert. A galette is a pastry that falls somewhere between a calzone and a pie. It folds in on itself enough to just allow a peek at the deliciousness that resides inside. A properly made galette is downright scandalous.

Tumblr user “My main is a cook” concocted a recipe for the Taelpar harvest galette from Ignis’ cookbook. It involves oranges, goat cheese, cinnamon, and that trademark flakey crust. Honestly, if you just told me it was pie-like and involved goat cheese, I would have already been on board. Put all those ingredients together, and you’ve got a dish I’d smack out of the hands of the prince of Lucis.   

A fresh-cooked galette, courtesy of Ignis

Monster Hunter World

Monster Hunter is a game of excess. Characters wield swords that weigh approximately 95 pounds and whack dragons the size of apartment buildings around, just for the chance of getting a scale to make their armor prettier. But stripped down to its essentials, Monster Hunter emphasizes effective hunting by way of preparation and planning. The most important part of hunting prep? A hearty meal, of course.

There are two kinds of living things you don’t kill in Monster Hunter. The first are other human beings. The second are Palicoes, sentient cats that wear clothes and talk to each other who are so cute it should be illegal. No one questions the Palicoes, nor should they. This is simply a beautiful world where humans and cats have similar rights and treat each other with respect.

Meowscular Chef takes great pride in his work

Of course, the Palicoes are objectively better than humans. This should be obvious – they have whiskers and tails, after all. Even better though, the Palicoes have culinary skills that our meager homo sapien brains can only dream of. Monster Hunter: World’s head honcho is the Meowscular Chef, an intimidating Palico with one eye who commands a small army of other cats. Working as a team, they cut slabs of meat (don’t ask which monster it came from) on a sizzling stone griddle, stir kiddie-pool sized soup bowls, and throw in some veggie skewers for good measure. When the food is ready, hunters tear into it without modern pleasantries like silverware or chewing.

The best parts of Monster Hunter: World’s food is in the preparation. Little touches stand out; the fatty parts of the meat fold over with realistic weight, and blocks of cheese have a satisfying rind. Sure, an Azure Rathalos has been dragging my ass all over the ancient forest. But if I get to come back to this kind of meal every time I lose, failure doesn’t sting quite as much.

Link preparing to cook some sort of poultry-stuffed pumpkin

 The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

I appreciate Breath of the Wild’s approach to cooking because it closely mirrors my own: throw a bunch of tasty-seeming ingredients in a pan and hope they work. Link just takes a big armful of veggies, meats, and spices and tosses ‘em all in. Like me, he sometimes gets “dubious food,” a pixelated concoction which he chokes down out of stubbornness. More often though, those ingredients come together into something healthy and delicious-looking.

Out of all these games, Breath of the Wild’s food feels the most sustainable for a healthy life. Eating isn’t a special occasion, it’s something we do every day. As such, the mushrooms, meats, and soups that Link subsists on feel tangible, the simple-but-hearty diet of a man on the road. It reminds me of the scene in Princess Mononoke when Ashitaka and Jigo sit in a cave and eat rice porridge. The food isn’t luxurious or complicated, but it’s made by a practiced hand and would probably be perfect after a long day.    

Okayu (rice porridge) in Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke

For my money, the seafood curry in Breath of the Wild comes out as the best all-rounder. With these kinds of straightforward dishes, the difference between adequate and exceptional often comes down to seasoning. Link’s addition of some Goron spice pushes this one over the edge; the shrimp/crab/rice combo also seems very filling, and the description promises that the spice packs a serious kick. 

Persona 4

Not all food is created for the same purpose. Some provides simple sustenance. Some is for celebration, some for mourning. Other times, food is an expression of dominance. On the show Man v. Food, a single man would attempt to consume inhuman portions of everything from hot wings to oysters to pancakes. After seven seasons, the show continues, but the original host has stepped down; food was ultimately victorious.

It’s a tidal wave of beef

In Persona 4, you have just one food-based rival, the mega beef bowl. It is described as a “tidal wave of beef.” You’ve got the opportunity to visit the Aiya Chinese Diner and attempt to eat the entire bowl of in one sitting, a feat you’ll only accomplish with very high stats. If you manage to do so, the bowl is free! Hopefully, Aiya also puts your picture on the wall or something.

Persona 4 has the series’ traditional calendar-keeping gameplay. Every day, you can hang with friends and take pop quizzes and shop, just like non-gaming teenagers presumably do (I wouldn’t know). When it’s raining though, many of these activities aren’t available. But rainy days are incidentally the only days when the beef bowl challenge is available. I love this conceit. Everything in the whole city is shut down, the day is ruined, so why not go eat a metric ton of seared meat?

Time to knock the milkshake-drinking smirk off his face

Wolfenstein 2

Have you ever watched a cooking video on YouTube where they don’t try the food at the end? It’s infuriating. Watching someone prepare food is an emotional investment, and if I can’t eat it, I want to be able to live vicariously through someone who does. In gaming, motion capture and animation have recently brought us to a place where characters can give believably rapturous reactions to well-crafted foodstuffs. Unfortunately, one of the best reactions to food in games comes from an absolute piece of garbage. 

In Wolfenstein 2, BJ Blazkowicz must meet a character who runs an old-timey diner in the middle of the Nazi occupation of America. This diner has everything: cheap burgers, coffee, and a true vintage soda fountain. I should point out that a good soda fountain isn’t the blocky thing they have at every McDonalds and Bojangles. It’s a flexible instrument with the ability to produce drinks like an egg cream and a ginger yip, a throwback to a more personalized era of carbonated drinks. The diner also has the proper kind of milkshake; individually blended in a giant metal cup that the owner might let you drink from once your glass is empty.

So when a Nazi captain who’s even more weasel-y than the typical Nazi walks into the diner and orders a strawberry milkshake, it hurts me in my soul. Not only is this punk in a state of not-being-punched, but he’s ordering a handmade dessert that tastes the way summer memories feel. I’ve had a strawberry milkshake. In fact, I’ve had a strawberry milkshake made by the exact same lime-green blender, from a place called Ox and Rabbit in Durham, NC. That place is now shut down. So now I can’t have a strawberry milkshake, but this Nazi can? It’s an absolute injustice. He closes his eyes and takes a long drink, savoring the chunks of strawberry mixed in with the piercing cold of the ice cream. He looks like he enjoys it.

He also gets his brains blown out about two seconds later. No milkshakes for fascists.