Games have a hard time being funny, because they sort of have to play
it straight. Although good writing and editing can make a game funny in the
traditional sense, the “joke” of a wonky control scheme or level is usually at
the player’s expense, which makes it hard to tolerate. It’s Anecdotal’s 39 Days
to Mars feels like a series of “jokes” in exactly that vein, and while it does
an admirable job of getting some genuine laughs out of the way you interact
with it, it’s not enough to make the journey memorable.


The story follows 1800s explorers Sir Albert Wickes and The Right
Honourable Clarence Baxter, who decide on a whim to fly a steampunk spaceship
to Mars. They need to prepare for the journey by taking care of the little
things, like nabbing a key hanging from a tree, or finding the map. Although
there isn’t much a of narrative, the affair has a charming, understated tone to
it, as Albert and Clarence display a casual indifference to both the enormous
task of getting to Mars and the life-threatening complications they encounter
along the way.


Of course, the key isn’t just hanging on the tree, nor is the map laid
out before you. Each menial task on the way to Mars is an intricate puzzle you
coordinate with a friend to solve. To get the key, for example, players rotate
one of two wheels that moves a hook and wire horizontally or vertically along a
short maze to retrieve it without touching the edges on the way back. To
assemble the map, both players have to hold a piece and rotate it into place.


The controls for each
of these puzzles are simple in practice, but take enough getting used to that
you spend as much time fumbling with different switches and objects as they do
coming up with solutions. As the puzzles become more involved, they lead to comedies
of errors, where one player might have a good grasp of how to move a claw that
mines coal, but the other is incapable of operating the bicycle it’s attached
to. That might sound frustrating, but it makes for some fun laughs at your
buddy’s (or your own) expense as you flail your way to a solution. Thankfully,
none of the puzzles are so devious that you have to sit there and problem-solve
for long; the trick is usually in figuring out how to properly implement a
simple solution.

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Unfortunately, the triumphant moments don’t linger too long. While
it’s fun to solve puzzles as a team, none of them are tricky or memorable
enough to provide a true sense of accomplishment. You can run through every
puzzle in about 90 minutes, and the ending arrives just as the ideas at play
start picking up. This made me hungry for more fun experiments, but ultimately
unsatisfied.


I’ve talked about 39 Days to Mars as a co-op adventure not because you
can’t play it alone, but because you shouldn’t. The puzzles are clearly designed
for two players (even the single-player option in the menu suggests playing
co-op), and the haphazard fun of mucking around with some of the stranger
contraptions with a buddy turns to serious frustration when playing alone. The
puzzles are identical in both modes, and since most require multiple
deliberate, simultaneous actions, keeping track of two cursors and buttons
simultaneously makes problem-solving laborious.


As a result, most puzzles wear out their welcome far more quickly as
you try to wrap your head around these intricate contraptions. Testing your
coordination with unintuitive control schemes in arcade-style games like QWOP
is one thing, but because here you’re working toward definite, finite
solutions, I felt less like I was testing myself and more like I was struggling
just to move a simple puzzle piece around. I didn’t even get the fun of
laughing at someone else’s screw-up, then working with them to accomplish
something.


39 Days to Mars does a better job of relaying comedy through gameplay
than most games, but the “jokes” it tells aren’t worthwhile. Little is terrible
about the core concept or its execution (aside from the awful single-player
mode), but nothing was outstanding or notable, either. I had a few laughs with
the people I played, but by the time I reached Mars, I was ready to just shrug
my shoulders and go back home.

In an interview with Japanese newspaper Nikkei, incoming Nintendo CEO Shuntaro Furukawa explained how he is going to be changing things up with Nintendo’s structure.

One major change being made is the way video games are given the go-ahead within Nintendo. While Furukawa didn’t detail how it currently works, the new Nintendo head is changing it so the executive board looks at game ideas and makes the decision on whether it makes sense to proceed. Furukawa explained that he will make the final decision on how the game benefits the company.

The board will consist of five people, Furukawa included, consisting of developers and Nintendo executives. It is likely that Yoshiaki Koizumi, director of games like Super Mario Galaxy and architect of the Switch, is one of the five considering his recent promotion to Nintendo’s executive board of directors.

Despite not detailing how the process currently works at Nintendo, Furukawa did imply that the current process goes through far too many people, and the change is to try and make it more efficient and give more games a chance.

[Source: Nikkei]

 

Our Take
It’s an interesting change, though I suppose how well it works out depends on who is actually on that panel. It’s a smart way for Nintendo to modernize, though, and start handing over operations to the next generation. 

This week I have this intense desire to talk about my undying love for the Dragon Quest series. It was integral into shaping me into an RPG fan, and the confirmation that the newest entry is just a few months away has me giddy. Growing up, I played Final Fantasy for the characters and evolving battle system, but I played Dragon Quest for the sense of adventure and exploration. The franchise is over 30 years old, and I still enjoy it for those same reasons. It just keeps getting better and better, providing vast and exciting worlds to lose myself in. 

While Dragon Quest has been very successful in Japan often selling well into the millions, it has never made that kind of impression in the West. I was on pins and needles when Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age was first announced, wondering if Square Enix would see the value in releasing a very traditional RPG in the action-craving West. After all, Square Enix passed publishing to Nintendo for some of the handheld remakes and IX, and we never received the MMORPG Dragon Quest X. I can, thankfully, breathe a sigh of relief since Square Enix has confirmed its plans to bring Dragon Quest XI to PS4 and PC on September 4. This is another chance for the series, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not worried about history repeating itself. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe Dragon Quest XI sells enough to get by, and that’s successful enough. But I’m also hoping a new audience can find it and cherish it in the same way Persona 5 found a wider audience, bringing a more niche series into the mainstream consciousness. 

I had the opportunity to meet with some of the Dragon Quest XI team while I was in Japan a few months ago. I’ve also played a part of the import and uncovered so many things about the game, and yet, the actual journey is still mostly a mystery to me. Dragon Quest XI is packed with content. According to the team, people who just go through the main story put about 80 hours into the game, while those who play the side content finish around 120 hours. “We were worried people would say, ‘It’s too long,” but what we’re [hearing is], ‘Wow, I just really got absorbed’,” says producer Hokuto Okamato. Walking through the colorful world, side quests are around every bend, and there are extra activities to lose yourself in from gambling to horse racing.

Not since 2005’s Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King has a Dragon Quest game appeared on a home console in the West. The jump in graphical fidelity is noticeable. The world feels more alive with detailed animations and environments.“We put in monster habitats, upped the amount of enemies you find on the field, and the ways the villages move and interact,” says producer Yuu Miyake. When I played the import, villagers were more vocal than ever before, trying to guide me in the right direction and building up the world’s lore. This may all seem like small stuff, but Dragon Quest really is about the little details that bring to life a grand adventure. 

You have to admire a series that knows its roots and refuses to abandon them. In a day and age where action combat is prevalent in RPGs, Dragon Quest XI is still sticking to its turn-based battle system, which it helped popularize, and there’s something endearing about that. Combat remains similar to past entries, but this time you can move freely around the battlefield while your attacks are on a cooldown. If you prefer the old-school, fixed first-person view, you can swap to that. I’ve always enjoyed Dragon Quest’s monster design, and its boss battles never disappoint. I look forward to seeing what gigantic baddie will appear before me. I also use these a battles as an opportunity to show off my skills. Believe it or not, Dragon Quest games are about more than mashing a button to attack. You must carefully manage all the skills in your arsenal if you want to stay alive.

Beyond including English voiceovers, the Western release will also come with a bunch of additional content, such as a hard mode, a dash function, and a camera mode. Nice additions, but nonetheless, I am mostly onboard for the thrill of the adventure. “The philosophy behind Dragon Quest and the way we design Dragon Quest is that it’s a game everyone can play and enjoy,” Okamato says.“That’s not going to change, that really is at the core of what is in the game.” 

Will that be true in this era where nostalgia and modern sensibilities often clash? Can Dragon Quest retain its classic vibe and please newcomers? “I’m very confident we’ll be able to satisfy old-school fans and what they’re looking for,” Miyake says. “But at the same time, I think a lot of new players will also come in and I think those new players will not see it as something old-fashioned or outdated, and they will be able to accept it and play it as a modern game.” 

As a longtime fan, I’m interested in how this entry pans out; buzz from Japan is high, and I’ve seen more than a few people on my Twitter feed call it “the best Dragon Quest game to date.” That’s a high bar. I adore VIII the most, and ironically enough, XI looks to trump that game’s scope and ambition. In many ways, VIII reminds me of XI, having a lot to prove, but mainly just giving fans what they want: adventure and exploration on a grander scale.  

Thanks to a bevy of visual teases leading up to Fortnite’s fourth season, Battle Royale players are now conditioned to scour the map for secrets. Along with the comet debris, which destroyed a number of homes and areas on the map, players are focusing on one anomaly in particular: a gigantic dinosaur footprint where a building once stood between Snobby Shores and Greasy Grove.

Is this singular footprint a tease for more Season 4 content, or perhaps even Season 5? We don’t think so. The theme of Season 4 appears to be motion pictures. The new costumes look a little bit like superheroes, the new story in Save the World mode is called “Blockbuster,” and if you examine the site of the footprint closely, you’ll see a movie set, complete with a camera. The Rex outfit (which is basically a Godzilla-like skin) was also recently reissued. Odds are, the dino doesn’t point toward new content (or anything to do with Season 5), but we wouldn’t put it past Epic to have already planted those seeds elsewhere on the map.

The beauty of continuing games like Fortnite is developers can change or add content whenever they want. The comet appearing unexpectedly is the perfect example of this. Season 4 ends in roughly 70 days. Do you think the dino footprint represents anything, or is Epic getting into the game of misdirection now?

Journalist and E3 Coliseum head Geoff Keighley has announced a Grim Fandango anniversary event to take place in L.A. this June.

The celebration of the game’s 20th anniversary includes live music, a live read from the game script with the original cast, creator and recent GDC lifetime achievement award recipient Tim Schafer, and more. The event will be broadcast live from the E3 Coliseum, the on-stage and backstage E3 show focusing on panels and interviews.

Keighley revealed the event in a tweet today and promised more surprises to come.

 

Our Take
Grim Fandango has been a cult-classic for two decades now, so I imagine there’s a lot of pent up desire to really outwardly celebrate the things that game did to define what narrative adventures would look like for the next twenty years.

Rockstar just rolled into town with the latest Red Dead Redemption II trailer, and it’s packed to the brim with an information overload that our Red Dead fanatics have been working all morning to unpack. Here are the biggest takeaways from Rockstar’s latest glimpse into its return to the Old West.

Familiar Faces Everywhere
The last two trailers showcased mostly new faces. This one served as a reunion with some of our favorite characters from the original game, including freshly scarred John Marston and a woman we’re 99.9 percent sure is Abigail. It looks like Uncle shows up as well, sitting around the campfire during story time. You can peek at a younger Javier Escuella in some scenes as well. However, the most interesting cameo has to be a fellow who looks a lot like a younger not-so-scummy-yet Edgar Ross, standing off in the background, complete with a mustache and bowler hat. There’s no sign of his trademark cigar, though.

Dutch’s Gang Takes Center Stage
The history of John’s time with Dutch’s gang wasn’t just some background history in the original game, but also the impetus for everything that happens in Red Dead Redemption, with John and the rest of his former crew trying to escape the sins of the old days. It looks we’ll find out just what those sins are and how new protagonist Arthur Morgan fits into the whole thing, per a plot synopsis Rockstar released alongside the new trailer:

America, 1899. The end of the wild west era has begun as lawmen hunt down the last remaining outlaw gangs. Those who will not surrender or succumb are killed.

After a robbery goes badly wrong in the western town of Blackwater, Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang are forced to flee. With federal agents and the best bounty hunters in the nation massing on their heels, the gang must rob, steal and fight their way across the rugged heartland of America in order to survive. As deepening internal divisions threaten to tear the gang apart, Arthur must make a choice between his own ideals and loyalty to the gang who raised him.

From the creators of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an epic tale of life in America at the dawn of the modern age.

You can see what we presume is the full size of the gang in the shot above. One thing we do know is that at the start of RDR, the only gang members left were John, Abigail, Dutch, Bill Williamson, and Javier Escuella. Expect to see the herd thin dramatically in this game. 

Not So Back To The Future
During the last breakdown we did, we latched on to several clues that suggested Red Dead Redemption II might be hopping along the timeline, taking place in the days of Dutch’s gang as well as serving as an epilogue of the original game. Nothing in the new trailer suggests that theory holds. On the contrary, this collection of scenes pushes back against that. The woman we theorized could be Bonnie McFarlane last time is probably not her after all, given there are scenes in the trailer where she’s running with Dutch and crew.

A Glimpse At The New Antagonist
Though Edgar Ross shows up in Red Dead II, it appears the rival this go-round is an unnamed dude who’s a cross between a fire-and-brimstone preacher and the kind of villain you’d see in an Indiana Jones flick, with Ross possibly working under him. We have no idea what his particular beef with Dutch’s crew is yet, but he definitely has anger issues.

A Bigger City?
We see Blackwater in the trailer, but we also saw glimpses of a burgeoning, turn of the century city of brick and stone featuring the kinds of amusements (like the theater shown above) that not even Blackwater featured in Red Dead Redemption. We’re excited to learn more about this new town, which is hopefully filled with activities for you to enjoy. We also saw another glimpse of small-town life in the trailer, which looked much more vibrant than the hamlets of the original. Expect to see NPC activities more on par (or even surpassing) those in GTA V.

Gameplay Hints
The trailer showed Arthur chasing to break in a wild horse, a stagecoach hijacking, another robbery, and folks getting down and dirty with their fists. Chances are these are the kinds of gameplay sequences you can expect to play in RDR II. 

The Technology Looks Amazing
Rockstar’s always pushing the boundaries when it comes to tech (remember how incredible Grand Theft Auto V looked and ran on aging last-generation hardware?). It looks like Red Dead Redemption II is another step forward for the developer’s output in that regard, with impressive fire particle effects, improved horse animations, great weapon details (you can even see the pistol barrel rotate while firing), and awe-inspiring environments and skyboxes.

For more on Red Dead Redemption 2, be sure to check out our breakdown of the previous trailer here.

The upcoming Elder Scrolls Online expansion marks the first time players will be able to interact with the secretive Psijic Order, a mysterious group of mages who have isolated themselves from the rest of the world. In Summerset, players travel to the isle of Artaeum to uncover more about the elusive group – and tap into their power for yourself.

According to Bethesda, players who complete their questline – which centers around closing time breaches across Summerset – will gain access to the group’s powerful abilities. Characters can manipulate time, slowing and freezing enemies; restore health and resources through meditation; and rewind time.

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset is coming to PC on May 21, and on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on June 5.

Taki has been added to the roster for fighter Soulcalibur VI, complete with her ninjitsu prowess and dual blades, Rekki-Maru and Mekki-Maru.

The video shows off Taki’s deadly closing speed and acrobatics, among other abilities.

For a look at our hands-on time with the game, check out this installment of New Gameplay Today.

Soulcalibur VI is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC this year.

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We’ve dissected and analyzed the previous two Red Dead Redemption II trailers to extract as much information as possible and formulate theories about the return of the van der Linde gang and potential new features coming to the game. Seven months after the last teaser, Rockstar Games has dropped another slice of gameplay footage to fuel our insatiable thirst for information about the upcoming open-world western. 

You can watch the trailer here:

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Red Dead Redemption II is still slated to release on October 28 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. 

Fantasy Flight’s mega-popular X-Wing tabletop game has been announced to get a reboot with a new edition of the game available later this year.

After watching how players took to the game, Fantasy Flight has announced the second edition with a number of changes and tweaks “improving the game’s flow and refocusing on the physical act of flying starships.” This means changes on red actions that include stress, linked actions on ship cards, upgrades with charges, repairing damage, and, of course, the Force. 

Additionally, cosmetic changes will also come to a lot of the ships as they get rereleased in the game’s second edition, including being able to adjust the S-foils on the X-Wings to go into attack and flight positions.

“Alongside the second edition we are thrilled to announce the official X-Wing squad-builder app,” Fantasy Flight says, “ushering in an era of dynamic play for both Organized Play and casual games. With the app, players can easily assemble squadrons and manage their collections. Point costs for ships and upgrades and upgrade slots available to ships can be adjusted for the course of a single event, a tournament season, or an entire season of the game.”

The core set, a wave of expansions, and conversion kits for players to bring their first edition sets to the new edition are all planned to release in Q3 this year.

 

Our Take
The X-Wing game is really quite popular and Fantasy Flight must be really happy with its success. Hopefully the second edition is every bit as successful for them.