Shadow of the Tomb Raider arrives next month, and our own Ben Reeves got some new hands-on time with the game at a recent event. He didn’t come back empty handed, either. In today’s NGT, he shares some of his exploits with me, Ben Hanson, and intern Jacob Geller. And as you’ll soon see, those Trinity jerks are far from the most dangerous things Lara Croft has to contend with this time.

OK, fine. I won’t try to be cryptic. There are some scary monsters in this clip. They jump out from behind the trees and yell and jump on guys and are very scary. If I didn’t warn you ahead of time, I feel like I wouldn’t have been doing my job as a fellow citizen of the world. Don’t worry about Lara, though; she’s more than capable of handling herself at this point, especially when she’s under Reeves’ thrall.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on September 14.

The three major pillars of the Tomb Raider series are exploration, combat, and stealth, but chances are that you have a harder time engaging with one of those segments more than the others. In a clever move, developer Eidos Montreal has fragmented the difficulty settings so Shadow of the Tomb Raider players can individually adjust the challenge for each gameplay pillar. For example, if you enjoy puzzles but want to cruise through the combat sequences, you can kick up the difficulty of the puzzles and decrease the challenge of the combat. To better understand how this mechanic works, we sat down with Shadow of the Tomb Raider game director Daniel Bisson.

“This game, in general, is harder [than past Tomb Raider titles] and we want to make sure that people can tailor the difficulty based on their play style,” says Bisson. “Because we feature three different gameplay types, it’s a very difficult game because you have puzzles, traversal, and combat and each of them needs to be balanced.”

When most games adjust difficulty, they really only throttle the difficulty of combat, but Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s difficulty settings also effects its puzzles and exploration, and since you can set them individually it’s easy to tailor a game experience that fits your preference. During a recent hands-on session, I adjusted the difficulty of puzzles and noticed that it affected the amount of time Lara had to react to time sequences. For example, on easy I had more time to run through a door after hitting a switch. Additionally, when I activated Lara’s hunter mode – which highlights important objects in the environment – she offered useful hints and tips on how to complete a certain puzzle. However, on harder difficulties, Lara offers fewer and fewer hints and the path through a level becomes less highlighted.

“In hard, all the white paint that tells players were to go is completely gone,” says Bisson. “The normal difficulty on Rise of the Tomb Raider’s traversal is equivalent to the easy version on Shadow. We wanted to adjust that because it got to the point where people were just following the white paint and it wasn’t very interesting. We want people to lose themselves for hours in there, and by taking out some of that white paint we’re finding that people are discovering things in the world that the might not have found otherwise.”

This approach to exploration actually improved my experience with the game’s early hours. Over the last few years, I’ve grown tired of exploring in games like Tomb Raider and Uncharted because the path forward often feels too obvious – I often feel like the developers are holding my hands through a game because the path forward is painted into the world. Players who are happy with this approach can play Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the easy exploration setting and have that familiar experience. Those who want an old-school experience that doesn’t feature any environmental paint can play on hard. Personally, I feel like Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s normal difficulty does a good job of subtly blending the white paint cues into the environment in a way that isn’t immediately noticeable. This meant that I had to occasionally hunt around for the next place to go, but I never grew frustrated and lost.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s difficulty settings are pretty nifty and I hope that other games take this approach of fracturing the various aspects of gameplay into different difficulties. We’ll see if this approach takes off after Shadow of the Tomb Raider launches on September 14 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

 

For more on Shadow of the Tomb Raider be sure to read about how Lara Croft has evolved for this entry or watch us play nearly 30 minutes of the final build.

Jill Murray is new to the Tomb Raider series. She previously worked on games like Moon Hunters, Lawbreakers, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. But now that Murray is lead writer on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the process of designing a world-spanning adventure feels different.

“Well, first of all, only this game has Lara Croft. Obviously, it’s a huge honor to work on a character with such a lengthy history that spans decades,” Murray says. “She is so strong. She can handle a lot of challenge. With this game, sometimes unwittingly, she becomes her own worst enemy because she is so strong. Our antagonist in this game is a really interesting person, but in a way it’s unnecessary to challenge Lara Croft, because Lara Croft is going to create her own challenges by always going so hard and obsessively and stubbornly on everything.”

At the same time, a lot of Lara’s strength has been earned. As fans of the series know, the last two Tomb Raider games put Lara Croft through the ringer. The internet is full of videos of the many ways Lara can meet a grizzly demise, but Murray hopes to flip that narrative in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. While there will still be several opportunities for Lara to reach an untimely end in Shadow, she also won’t get beat up as much over the course of this new campaign. This change represents how Lara has grown and evolved since the series reboot back in 2013. Lara Croft has gone through a baptism of fire and become a capable survivor/hunter.

“In the previous games, Lara was constantly falling because that was the only way we had, at the time, to go down,” says Murray. “So we had to have her fall because there were no mechanics to go down. Now we have a rappel system, we have underwater sequences where she can go down, and all these elements going down, so things are much more elegant and she’s much more self-controlled. She’s much more mobile with the world, but she’s still doing these crazy things.”

Shadow of the Tomb Raider has no shortage of crazy moments. Our previous tastes of the action have seen Lara swing off the sides of cliff walls, crawling through collapsing tunnels, and falling out of the sky after a plane breaks in half. We’re happy to see how the character has evolved into a more capable hero, but we’re confident that she won’t make it through this next adventure without a few bruises. Shadow of the Tomb Raider launches on September 14 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

 

For more on Shadow of the Tomb Raider be sure to read about Eidos Montreal’s insanely clever difficulty system or watch us play nearly 30 minutes of the final build.

Nintendo sent out a reminder today to let people know that the Nintendo Online subscription service still exists, but did narrow down when we can expect it.

The online service for the Switch, which runs about $20 a year for one person or $34.99 a year for a group of up to seven, will be launching in the second half of September. That means the service’s launch is a little over a month away. 

The rest of Nintendo’s reminders were information we already knew, including that cloud saves are only for compatible games, but Nintendo has not included a list. That might mean it is every game but Pokemon or only certain games like how video recording functions now.

Games that are currently free to play online like Splatoon 2 and Mario Tennis Aces will require a subscription when the service goes live next month.

 

It’s weird how they still have not detailed the online service a month before release, several parts of the website still say “Details coming soon.” It gives the impression they’re either unprepared or withholding because they know it will sound bad. They haven’t even listed all the NES games yet. Sending out a reminder of information we mostly already knew without anything new makes me think it’s a combination of both.

If you have a Switch and haven’t gotten a chance to play Dragon Ball FighterZ, or maybe got hyped at the game’s recent showcase on the Evo main stage and want to see if the game is for you, Bandai Namco is holding a closed beta for the Switch version tonight at 9:00 p.m. PDT.

You can go ahead and download the client now and start playing when it goes live. The beta allows both online and local play in the new permutations for the Switch version, like one-on-one and two-on-two. Since the game has long been out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, there’s no real reason to limit the roster, so you get access to all the non-DLC fighters in the game.

The beta continues until 12:00 a.m. PDT on August 12. Go get your fill and test out the game to see whether the Switch version has the same power levels as the other console versions. The full version of Dragon Ball FighterZ releases on Switch September 28.

As part of the deal Sony made with Marvel Studios over the character Spider-Man, Sony planned to use the inevitable success of a Marvel Cinematic Universe-tied Spider-Man movie to make other movies in the universe of Spider-Man Homecoming. One of these is the upcoming Venom, while another planned project was Silver & Black, a buddy-cop movie with Black Cat and Silver Sable.

According to Variety, the movie has been put on ice and split apart to two separate movies. That means that separate Black Cat and Silver Sable movies are joining the currently in-development Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, Silk, Jackpot, and Nightwatch movies in Sony’s Spider-Man universe roster at various states of progress.

“We believe Black Cat is enough of her own character with a great backstory and a canon of material to draw from to justify her own film,” president of Columbia Pictures Sanford Panitch told Variety.

Venom releases in theaters on October 5. Spider-Man will (presumably) play some role in the next Avengers film scheduled for May.

[Source: Variety]

It was announced earlier this year that Nintendo was officially supporting GameMaker on the Switch, an engine used for games like Undertale, Minit, Hyper Light Drifter, and more. The support opened the door for a lot of indie games coming, as evidenced by Switch ports of Undertale, Minit, and Hyper Light Drifter. When the deal was announced, both Nintendo and GameMaker company YoYo Games planned to make it even easier to get games on Switch by hoping to integrate a “Port to Switch” button.

The new version of GameMaker Studio 2 is in beta and finally incorporates that useful option.

If you’re planning to make a Switch version of a GameMaker game, it no longer has to be done independently of the rest of your work. You do still need a Switch license and be approved as a Nintendo developer beforehand, but the work was at one point a lot harder than it is now.

The Switch version of Minit released today, Undertale is scheduled for September 15 in Japan and should be at a similar time in the west, and Hyper Light Drifter should release later this year.

Welcome back to The Game Informer Show! On this episode Leo Vader, Jeff Cork, and Joe Juba share new, exclusive impressions from the magazine’s cover story on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Then Dan Tack, Kyle Hilliard, and Javy Gwaltney join the show to rave about Dead Cells and the new gameplay trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2. After some great community emails, Imran Khan and Suriel Vazquez help unpack the exciting Nintendo Direct on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and they explain why Dragon Ball FighterZ stole the show at Evo 2018. Unfortunately, the video version of the podcast is still exporting and won’t be posted until later tonight.

You can listen to the audio at the bottom of the page, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Playlisten to episode 410 on SoundCloud, or download the MP3 by clicking here. Also, be sure to send your questions to podcast@gameinformer.com for a chance to have them answered on the show.

To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below…

1:20 – Assassin’s Creed Odyssey cover story impressions
12:16 – The Jackbox Party Pack 5
14:10 – Overcooked 2
17:50 – Dead Cells
31:10 – Red Dead Redemption 2
36:40 – Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 Beta
43:10 – Dauntless
45:00 – Monster Hunter: World on PC
46:25 – We Happy Few
54:20 – Community emails
1:33:55 – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Direct
1:44:55 – Dragon Ball FighterZ and Evo 20
18

Square Enix has announced that American owners of Dragon Quest XI will find some equipment in their starting bag that hits Dragon Quest fans right in the nostalgia. You can dress Dragon Quest XI’s Luminary in the clothes of Dragon Quest VIII’s hero from the get-go.

When you start Dragon Quest XI, you’ll find two items in your bag: Trodain bandanna and Trodain togs. Putting on these two items named after the pivotal castle town in Dragon Quest VIII gets you Eight’s clothes, though they’re just clothes, so you’re still the Luminary. The clothes are slightly better than your starting kit otherwise, but won’t last you the whole game. However, you will get a recipe to create more powerful versions of the clothes for late game content.

You can check out the trailer for the costume below.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age releases on PlayStation 4 and PC on September 4. A Nintendo Switch version of the game will be arriving later, though Square Enix has not indicated when.

World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth expansion arrives next week, and with it comes a host of new additions to the fantasy MMO. From new PVP and PVE modes to giant frog mounts, we break down the eight most exciting changes coming to World of Warcraft in Battle for Azeroth.

The Story

[SPOILERS for WoW: Legion and Battle for Azeroth follow.]

Battle for Azeroth picks up after World of Warcraft’s previous expansion, Legion, which concluded with the titan-turned-demon Sargeras stabbing a giant sword into the planet Azeroth. The wound caused a powerful material called Azerite to pop up all over the planet. The Horde rushed to obtain it, and the Alliance soon did the same.

As revealed in the recent “Warbringers: Sylvanas” animated teaser, Horde Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner burns Teldrassil, the world-tree home of the Night elves, kicking off the Alliance-Horde conflict in Battle for Azeroth. This particular event has caused some upheaval among Warcraft fans.

The Azerite System

The powerful substance that’s causing Battle for Azeroth’s conflict, Azerite, has important gameplay implications, too. After completing an introductory quest chain, players will obtain the Heart of Azeroth artifact, which they’ll use throughout the expansion to empower certain helms, chest pieces, and shoulder pieces with unique traits. For more info on the Heart of Azeroth, you can read Blizzard’s preview of the artifact.

The Island Expeditions

 

Island expeditions take players to the unexplored islands of Azeroth, where a team of three players face off against an opposing team of either other players or “advanced NPC” opponents that take varied approaches to fighting and have more abilities than normal NPCs. The teams race to collect 6,000 Azerite by defeating creatures, mining nodes, and looting chests, all the while fighting with one another.

Each island aspect is randomly generated, meaning players will encounter different events, obstacles, and enemies in each expedition. To read more about island expeditions and about World of Warcraft’s new PVP system introduced in Battle for Azeroth, check out Dan Tack’s hands-on preview of the mode.

The New Zones

Battle for Azeroth introduces six new zones to World of Warcraft – three for the Horde and three for the Alliance. Alliance players journey to the seafaring continent of Kul Tiras, home to the Tiragarde Sound, Drustvar, Stormsong Valley zones. Horde players travel to the troll-dominated Zandalar, where they explore the Zuldazar, Nazmir, and Vol’dun zones. Each of these zones brings plenty of new environments for players to explore and enemies to defeat.

The Unique Themes

 

Hand-in-hand with these new zones comes Battle for Azeroth’s distinct area, gear, and enemy themes. The Alliance’s zones are heavily nautical-themed. Players will encounter lush greenery in Stormsong Valley and sailors and pirates in Tiragarde Sound. The perpetually autumnal Drustvar shakes things up as players face off against witches and treant-like creatures in the zone’s spooky forests. If you’ve ever wished World of Warcraft was more like Pirates of the Caribbean or an American folktale, you might want to consider rolling an Alliance character in Battle for Azeroth.

The Horde zones have major prehistoric vibes, with ancient forests and dinosaurs to boot. The Zuldazar zone is the oldest city in Azeroth, and it’s caked in gilded trollish architecture. Nazmir is home to your quintessential prehistoric landscape, full of swamps and towering trees. Vol’dun provides players with an expansive desert full of dino bones and vicious snake people. Troll themed areas are nothing new in World of Warcraft, but this may be the most extensive and fleshed out troll area to date. If you liked the League of Explorers Hearthstone adventure and its Indiana Jones themes, you’ll probably like Zandalar.

Of course, Zandalar’s tone appears significantly darker than League of Explorers – in fact, the expansion as a whole seems to be taking that path. Warcraft’s memey humor will no doubt be present, but the savage blood trolls of Nazmir, the creepy witches of Drustvar, and the expansion’s Warbringers trailers set a pretty serious tone. The expansion’s return to classic Horde versus Alliance conflict has a fairly epic and climactic feeling to it, so it’s no surprise Blizzard is keeping things dark.

The Updated Visuals

Part of the reason all this new content is so exciting is because it continues to use the cartoony,  higher-polygon art style Blizzard has been implementing since Mists of Pandaria (and, to a larger extent, since Warlords of Draenor’s character model updates). A large number of old models are finally getting upgraded to this visual style, and several NPCs are getting updated appearances to reflect Battle for Azeroth’s story events.

You can see the full lists of the NPCs and creatures receiving updates on Wowhead.

The Allied Races

 

Players who pre-purchased Battle for Azeroth had the opportunity to unlock four new “allied races” – Void elves, Lightforged dranei, Nightborne, and Highmountain tauren. Battle for Azeroth will add four more races to the game: the Dark Iron dwarves, the Mag’har orcs, the Zandalari trolls, and the Kul Tiran humans. The Zandalari and Kul Tirans won’t be added until sometime after Battle for Azeroth’s launch, but they’ll be worth the wait for their awesome-looking dinosaur and tree-creature druid forms.

Each of the allied races come with their own starting quests, as well as the opportunity to unlock unique “heritage armor” sets.

The Warfront Mode

Warfront is a new PvE mode inspired by Blizzard’s Warcraft 3 RTS. Warfronts pit 20 players against A.I. opponents in large-scale battles for territory, and will allow the Alliance and Horde to alternate control of those territories. According to Polygon, “each player-controlled character acts as a hero would, leading the charge and swinging the battle in your faction’s favor.”

Blizzard community manager Randy “Kaivax” Jordan explains how a Warfront is initiated and completed in this post:

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth launches August 13 for players in North America. For more on the new expansion, check out the “Warbringers: Jaina,” “Warbringers: Sylvanas,” and “Old Soldier” character trailers, or read Dan Tack’s hands-on preview.