We took last week
off to stuff our faces with plenty of food, but we’re back for another edition
of Blog Herding!

Community Blogs
For November 16 – November 29:

Puzzle
Racers

StarterPack has a challenge: write about which two genres should fit. He got to
thinking about this when trying to race through Portal, and wondered, are there
“any puzzle racing games?” I’m guessing you have puzzles in games with timers,
much like in the original Resident Evil, but I’m not sure of too many.
StarterPack takes us through his idea for such a game, and challenges others to
doing the same.

The
Beauty of an Empty World

Haley Shipley is here to write about how different it is to feel emptiness in a
self-reflective way, versus one that makes you search and yearn for more. It’s
made her rethink her relationship to Breath of the Wild. Heck, I like a less is
more approach, and often just like discovering…well, views in Breath of the
Wild. Finding Koroks and other things is cool, but I just loved exploring so
much. While in California and Oregon for my honeymoon, I couldn’t help but
think how Breath of the Wild could take inspiration from what I saw there, but
just how fun exploring without a purpose can be.

Skyrim
VR: Exploring the World Again for the First Time

When it comes to VR, Kyle Wadsworth was all for the experience combined with
Skyrim. And though it seems to have some major glitches early on, it is
something to behold in VR. It’s not the best version of the game, but
Kyle is still enjoying the experience enough to keep playing. “…the VR version
is icing on a delicious cake,” he writes.

The
Essentials Challenge: Widdow Son – Eternal Darkness

I’ll never forget the scene in Eternal Darkness that Widdow Son chose to write about for
Father Titan’s ongoing feature. I walked through a door, only for my character
to be staring at me through bars. I was imprisoned, he started screaming, and
then the moment reverted back to “normal.” So, yeah. If that sounds okay to you,
read all about Widdow Son’s first time playing it and why!

In
These 4 Years as a Blogger

GerardoExber is a longtime blogger around these parts. So, when takes time to
reflect, he has a lot of time to reflect on. Four years, in fact. It’s kind of
crazy to think about how long some people have blogged here, what they’ve gone
on to do, and how many wonderful words about video games have been written.

Game
Making Challenge: The Next Evolution of Battle Royale

Since we are covering two weeks of games here, Brendon Curzio was actually able
to answer StarterPack’s writing challenge. Basically, he put together the Souls
games with PUBG. I haven’t played much of either, but I like where he goes with
this. I’m down with massive PvP.

Writing Challenge:

Please see StarterPack’s challenge above. It’s a good one!

I hope you enjoy
the blogs! Please contact me via my Game Informer page or on Twitter at @LouisGarcia12 with
any blog news or playdate suggestions.

Another day, another game migrates to the Switch. As announced by developer the Game Bakers, the heavily stylized action game Furi is coming to the Nintendo Switch in early 2018.

Furi originally released last year to middling reviews, but the Switch version will include all the content released for the game so far on other platforms as well as any fixes that have been made to the game over the last few months. Furi will be available for $20 with a release date to be announced soon, and if you want to watch the game in action, check out the short trailer below.

For our review of the game, click here.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

[Source: The Game Bakers via Gematsu]


Our Take
Anyone looking for a stylish, visually striking action game with brutal boss fights will find plenty to like in Furi. Complaints against the difficulty and lackluster boss design are valid, but if you want to take the “git gud” ethos on the road, the Switch version of Furi will definitely let you do just that.

Nintendo’s wacky arm flailing fighter has a new mechanized version of Spring Man available thanks to the latest update.

In a Twitter post made by Nintendo, the company revealed Springtron, a mechanical version the game’s original character, is freely available as part of Arms’ 4.1 update. 

“He’s the ultimate fighting machine, the titan of tech, the tester of mettle,” the post reads. “The enigmatic and seemingly indomitable Springtron is now available with the new ARMS 4.1 update.”

The post came with a preview image of the fighter, which can be viewed below.

The update will provide a slew of balancing fixes as well, from character speed to projectile punch curve and damage. A bug which causes Revolver and Retorcher projectile attacks to freeze in midair will also be fixed.

Released June 16 of this year on the Nintendo Switch, Arms has seen positive reception and support from the gaming community for its take on the arena fighting genre, pitting four players against each other with pojectile punching-based gameplay. Three other characters, Max Brass, Lola Pop, and Misango, have been added since launch.

[Source: Destructoid]

 

Our Take
It’s always a pleasure to see a company provide free content with a game’s update, and a new character added to one of 2017’s most creative fighters is more than welcome.

Tomorrow marks the release of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a massive Switch-exclusive RPG from developer Monolith Soft. Right about now, reviews are hitting for this title… but ours isn’t quite ready yet. 

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a huge game; I’ve spent about 100 hours with it, and even with that much time invested, I still haven’t finished (though I am so close). While I have certainly formed some pretty solid opinions over that span, I want to be sure to see the story through to its conclusion – especially considering the potential for wild twists. The scope and value of possible post-game content is another element I’d like to take into consideration before issuing a final verdict.

Here’s what I can say that isn’t likely to be influenced by the final chapter: It is a deep RPG with a cool core premise, and set in a world that is fun to explore. I especially like the depth to character progression; if you enjoy allocating various points and taking a hands-on approach to managing your party’s growth, this is basically a dream come true.  

Those are the best parts, but the whole picture isn’t so rosy. Combat is entertaining in bursts, but it drags as the encounters get longer without getting more tactical. Also, much of the quest design feels archaic, with fetch-this and kill-that objectives filling up most of your to-do list. Lastly (and this might change), the story and characters are serviceable, but not necessarily surprising or interesting. 

Check back later (hopefully today!) for a more detailed assessment in our official review.

Destiny 2 has been struggling against some negative impressions in recent weeks. Dedicated players have highlighted numerous aspects of the endgame experience that need work. I articulated some of my own concerns in an extensive write-up on the game’s first season experience. More recently, information emerged regarding some questionable practices with XP rewards in Destiny 2, which seemed to point players toward more active engagement with the Eververse microtransactions, and a subsequent change doubled the XP required to level.  Today, Bungie halted its existing plans to roll out more details about Curse of Osiris through a livestream, and is instead offering up an extensive post about the state of the game, and plans for changes in the future. 

Released under the title The State of Destiny 2, the post goes into extensive details on several aspects of play that are in for redesign, as well as the expected time frame that players can expect for each feature’s implementation. 

For Destiny 2 players, the complete blog post is definitely worth a full read. Expect to learn details about a new tier of weapons called Masterworks, which feature stat trackers, random and rerollable stats, and item detail screens. The post also discusses plans for a heroic strike list in December, better rewards for prestige activities, private matches for the Crucible being on track for early 2018, penalties for quitting competitive matches, an improved mod economy, less exotic duplicates from loot, a new way to get an exotic you don’t yet have in your collection through an engram from the enigmatic Xur, and a ton of other specific outlined points. 

In addition, the blog post addresses the recent controversy over XP gains in the game, acknowledging that the recent change (which removed XP scaling based on time played) still has problems, and that the team is working to readjust XP earning. 

Game Informer will be digging into all these planned changes, their expected release time frames, and other aspects of Destiny 2’s changing gameplay in the coming days. In the meantime, the blog post offers a lot to consider. 

[Source: Bungie]

 

Our Take
Without seeing these many changes in action, it would be foolish to draw concrete conclusions about how such adjustments will affect a game as complex as Destiny 2. As such, I’m withholding judgment on how profoundly these proposed improvements may affect the game, other than saying that there’s a lot here that (if implemented well) points toward increased replayabilty and fun. 

With that said, I am very happy to see this sort of transparency in a post from Bungie, which represents exactly the kind of clear communication that I’d like Destiny 2 (and other major games) to offer to its fans. The Destiny community tends to be very active, and capable of digesting complex information about their favorite game, and this post offers exactly that. It speaks about concrete feature plans that target specific problems in the cyclical experience of Destiny 2 gameplay, and provides clear time frames to players about when they can expect those features to be implemented. 

I think fans are still justified in feeling deceived by the recent debacle around XP gains, and I’m not sure this post goes far enough to acknowledge Bungie’s culpability in that system or its implications for pushing players toward microtransactions. However, I’m glad that Bungie is being upfront about plans to address the XP issue, and I’m eager to see the issue improved. It’s also good to see the team acknowledge that the “silent nature of the mechanic betrayed the expectation of transparency that you have for Destiny 2.”

During today’s annual meeting with shareholders, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella talked a little bit about the Xbox brand as part of Microsoft as a whole.

“We’re mobilizing to pursue an expansive opportunity in the 100+ billion gaming market,” explained Nadella. “This means broadening our approach to how we think about gaming end-to-end. About starting with games and how they’re created and distributed, and how they’re played and viewed.”

Nadella noted that future plans include bridging the PC, Xbox One, and mobile users, pointing out that there are 53 million active user accounts, though that number likely includes everyone with an Xbox app on their Windows device.

Finally, while Microsoft has not officially shared Thanksgiving weekend numbers, Nadella has categorized it positively. He boasted that the Xbox One X, which he called the “most technically advanced and most powerful console ever built” is seeing “incredible response from fans this Holiday season.”

 

Our Take
Considering what Phil Spencer has said in the past about streaming being a possible future for Microsoft consoles, Nadella’s statement of how games are played and viewed makes a lot of sense. Microsoft has spent a lot of this generation on their heels, so big moves for the Xbox brand make sense.

Updates for Skyrim and Fallout 4 on the Xbox One were released today, adding Xbox One X updates to the open-world titles.

A few weeks ago, Bethesda outlined how they expect to make Xbox One X updates to their titles for the remainder of 2017. It appears these will happen in waves, with Skyrim: Special Edition and Fallout 4 coming first.

The Skyrim update, for a game which is itself a remaster of a 2011 title, is simply a resolution upgrade to 4K.

Fallout 4, on the other hand, includes “enhanced draw distance for trees, grass, objects and NPCs,” as well as god rays, the pleasant-looking light beams coming from clouds and windows.

Still on the docket for further enhancements are Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Dishonred 2 & Death of the Outsider, The Evil Within 2, and The Elder Scrolls Online.

At Credit Suisse’s 21st Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Take-Two president Karl Slatoff discussed the lootbox controversy happening around the industry.

The whole gambling regulator thing, we don’t view that thing as gambling,” Slatoff said. “Our view is the same as the ESA statement, for the most part. So that’s going to play its course.”

Statoff is referring to the Entertainment Software Agency, the lobbying group representing most of the biggest gaming companies such as Nintendo, Microsoft, and Take-Two, saying that lootboxes do not qualify as gambling in their eyes.

Lootboxes have become deeply unpopular among the gaming populace and, more alarmingly for companies like Take-Two, are being pointed to as harbingers of an easy avenue for gambling by local and federal governments both internationally and abroad.

“In terms of the consumer noise you hear in the market right now, for me it’s really all about content. It’s about over-delivering on content,” said Slatoff. “You can’t force the consumer to do anything.”

 

Our Take
Slatoff is right that they aren’t forcing people to buy anything, but that doesn’t mean you leave the door wide open to dangerous and predatory aspects of games. The ESA will likely fight public perception of lootboxes as bad things for as long as they can, but it seems like it will ultimately be a losing battle.

The first trailer for Avengers: Infinity Wars has been released, which puts the long-teased supervillain Thanos front and center. Of course, it also highlights the Avengers, Black Panther, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, and a bunch of other familiar faces.

You know those gems that have been a constant element of Marvel Studios’ movies? Watch the trailer below and see how they fit into Thanos’ larger plan.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

Avengers: Infinity Wars is coming to theaters on May 4, 2018.

Hearthstone’s upcoming expansion Kobolds and Catacombs lands on December 7, and is loaded with treasure, traps, and dungeon crawling madness. Today, we’re unveiling a wild Mage spell that should be a lot of fun to play – and a lot of fun to watch in action! Check out Deck of Wonders!

Deck of Wonders places 5 Scroll cards into your deck, which autocast a random spell for free when drawn – you can’t pick the targets, and the spells can be from any class, much like a Yogg-Saron trigger. They read “Cast a random spell. Draw a card. Cast this when drawn.” Spells can be from any class and are not limited to Mage spells!

Casting a spell for 5 that doesn’t do anything immediately might seem like a tough sell, but you can take that price and tap into cards like Arcane Tyrant so that you won’t have a “blank” turn when you set up your Deck of Wonders.

Extremely relevant to this conversation, Scrolls also have a casting cost of 5 (they will play for free when drawn, don’t forget), meaning they can be combined easily with other cards that take advantage of higher-casting cost cards in your deck, like the recently revealed Spiteful Summoner. These random spells do not count toward things like Open The Waygate or spell trigger cards like Violet Teacher. If you want to get really tricky, you can use something like Hemet, Jungle Hunter to trim your deck down to size so that every draw has a great chance to hit one of your free spells.

However, if you manage to Thoughtsteal a Scroll, or acquire one through other means – they can still be hard cast for 5 to fire off a random spell and draw a card. 

Hearthstone principal game designer Mike Donais walks us through the creation of Deck of Wonders and ways to squeeze some extra value out of embracing the “invest now for a lot of potential value later” package.

“I think a lot of streamers will include the card in their deck because it’s a fun card,” says Donais. “But I think they’re going to have to get some good synergies like Arcane Tyrant, Spiteful Summoner, and those other spells that haven’t been revealed yet to actually make it worth running in a competitive way.” 

Deck of Wonders changed a bit during development as well, most notably moving from an “all at once” blast to a more nuanced effect that you can build around.

“We liked the idea of a deck of many things or something like that – it created fun situations,” says Donais. “At one point, the card cast the random spells all right away, kind of like Yogg-Saron, but it was a little too close to Yogg-Saron, and getting that impact immediately was really high variance as opposed to one spell, one spell, one spell. It also lessened the chance of just clearing the board. We had it costing different amounts, we ended up with 5 being the right number because it has some synergy with other cards like Arcane Tyrant, and the spells it shuffles into your deck also have a cost of 5, so they work well with Spiteful Summoner. The actual text box changed a little too, we wanted it to work if it was Thoughtstolen. So that if you don’t draw it, you can play it for 5 and get it out of your hand and maybe do something cool.”

Deck of Wonders looks like it’s going to take some serious combinations to take seriously, but it should be epic to watch carefully curated spell chains fire off as a well-tuned deck takes advantage of all the random blasts, bolts, and more that pop out of the tumultuous tome. And of course, there will always be that one time that things go completely wrong (or right!) when two back-to-back Pyroblasts just happen to flip up for a scorching finale!

Check out more Kobolds and Catacombs cards as they are revealed on the official Blizzard site!