NetherRealm Studios has announced that while Mortal Kombat 11 contains no “pay-to-win” aspects, players will be able to purchase cosmetic items with real money.

On this week’s “Kombat Kast” (a regular Mortal Kombat 11 livestream from NetherRealm showing off characters for Mortal Kombat 11), producer Shaun Himmerick announced an in-game currency called “time crystals,” purchased with real money, that lets you directly purchase skins, pieces of gear, intro and victory animations, easy fatalities (a consumable that simplify the inputs for fatalities), and other cosmetic items.

You won’t be able to buy anything that alters your characters actual combat prowess or moves, however, such as custom moves or augments (which are the stat modifiers you plug into gear), as well as the consumable power-ups you can use in the Towers of Time mode. NetherRealm has stated in the past they’re open to adding additional moves post-launch as DLC, though if they were implemented, they’d likely be free.

You can, however, earn everything in the game without paying for it. “Nothing in the game requires time crystals,” Himmerick said. “You can play the whole game, unlock all the stuff there, without every dealing with time crystals. If you want, you can get time crystals and shortcut your way to different things.” He also stated that time crystals would drop throughout normal play.

The company did confirm there would be no loot boxes in Mortal Kombat 11, however, so you won’t be rolling the dice on getting the skin, piece of gear, or fatality you want.

For more on Kombat 11, check out our recent feature breaking down how many of Mortal Kombat 11’s classic characters evolved for the sequel. And with Mortal Kombat 11 being this month’s cover story, make sure to check out all of our features on the game this month by clicking on the hub below.

Lego is celebrating 20 years of making Star Wars sets with a unique line of product based on Star Wars: A New Hope. This commemorative line received an unexpected edition at Star Wars Celebration: the Tantive IV, a 1,768-piece set that comes with five minifigures. Lego says it will hit retail stands on May 3 for roughly $200.

This rebel frigate comes with the figures you would expect: Princess Leia, R2-D2, C-3PO, Captain Antilles, a rebel trooper, and one you wouldn’t expect, Bail Organa (yes, Jimmy Smits). The ship opens up to reveal an interior, cargo hold, escape pods, and gun turrets. You can take a look at all of these pieces in the image gallery below:

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If you’re a fan of Star Wars, then you probably have opinions about the frequency of the movies after Disney purchased the property. Starting with The Force Awakens, there has been a Star Wars movie every single year. A lot of people suspected this would continue into the foreseeable future, but Disney president Bob Iger says that Episode IX, now named Rise of the Skywalker, will be the last one for a while.

Speaking to Bloomberg after yesterday’s Disney Investor’s conference, Iger expressed that the annual structure for Star Wars isn’t a long-term strategy.

“We will take a pause, some time, and reset,” Iger said, “because the Skywalker saga comes to an end with this ninth movie. There will be other Star Wars movies, but there will be a bit of a hiatus.”

Iger has previously expressed regret about the scheduling of Star Wars movies, especially with the short amount of time between 2017’s The Last Jedi and early 2018’s Solo. He took the blame for setting the movies that way, which is likely why he’s pumping the brakes here. Iger did say that there are other movies in development, they’re just not coming out soon.

In the meantime, there’s always Respawn’s game to be revealed tomorrow and The Mandalorian TV show, which will get a full reveal on Sunday.

[Source: Bloomberg]

Hello, faithful readers, enjoying your balmy spring weather? I certainly was – until Mother Nature decided we were due another reminder of what state we live in. I’m writing today’s column from home today, because we are once again buried under a foot of snow and the office is closed. I don’t want to exaggerate the situation, but a penguin delivered my mail today! I tried to ride a tauntaun in to work, but it collapsed in my front yard! My freezer is collecting unemployment checks! That last one doesn’t even make sense conceptually, but I don’t care because it’s snowing in April and the old rules don’t matter anymore!

It’s easy to rag on Minnesota’s weather, but the truth is I love this crazy state. I love actually having all four seasons, even if their timing is a little super-duper wonky. It certainly beats the Groundhog’s Day-like weather monotony of California (also, the massive fires), or decorating a palm tree for Christmas. Minnesota is for nature lovers, and the older I get, the more I appreciate being able to unplug from our internet overlord and be surrounded by trees and parks and weather and wild turkeys (yes that’s a thing). But appreciating nature also means solemnly acknowledging its ability to kick our assess anytime it pleases.

In this regard, Minnesota is remarkably tricky, always coming up with innovative new ways to torture test us during winter. When I was kid, Minnesota winters couldn’t wait to just dump a ton of snow on us in November. I even remember trick or treating through the snow on Halloween one year. I was set to go as Frankenstein, but my block head was made out of cardboard and colored with a black magic marker, which wouldn’t have stood a chance against the wet, slushy precipitation (and yes I know it’s technically Frankenstein’s monster, but I already told you the old rules don’t matter anymore so SHADDUP!). Thankfully, my mom came up with an ingenious solution: a protective shower cap, towel, and soap-on-a-rope turned me into Frankenstein…taking a bath. The potential disaster of a soggy-headed Frankenstein was instead replaced by a dull din of embarrassment – what the hell is Frankenstein taking a bath for anyway? In his winter jacket much less! Is he some sort of extreme never-nude? It makes no sense, ma! But I guess conceptual incongruencies don’t matter when it snows in October, either.

In recent years, Minnesota’s winters have taken longer to get going – having snow on the ground at Christmas feels like a 50-50 shot now. But not even climate change can stop Minnesota’s frozen fury! It just delays it a little. Secretly, I’ve always delighted in the naïve optimism of my nonnative co-workers and out-of-state interns when February rolls around and they think winter is more or less done. That’s what Minnesota is banking on! Just when you think it’s over – or actually about three weeks after you think it’s over – this state hits you in the face with another metric ass-ton of fresh powder. Suffice it to say, it even got me good this year.

I didn’t wear a jacket to work on Monday – I even rolled down my car windows on the way to the office! When I got home, my wife and I walked a few blocks to a nearby park and played freaking TENNIS. We laughed about how we’ll have to wear shorts next time because it’s so nice out and we’re both so bad at tennis that running down errant shots was really working up a sweat. Turns out we’re also bad at checking our weather apps, because two days later I looked out my window in the morning and saw this.

Well okay, maybe not exactly that, but pretty damned close! Winter is back! We just got over winter! How is it back already?! Did I reverse-hibernate like some kind of screwed-up Bizarro bear? Wait, would that just be a polar bear?

If you’re still waiting for me to tie all this back to video games somehow, forget it – it’s too damn cold! I already had to trudge out into the icy tundra to take that picture for you (the header image, not frozen Satan), and the blizzard-force winds blew a bunch of snow up the back of my shirt! And just to once again drive home how absurd all this is, after my wife and I got done playing tennis two days ago, we stopped at Dairy Queen for BLIZZARDS. It’s like the Lincoln-Kennedy coincidences, only COLDER.

Oh, fine – just so I can say I did my job and collect my paycheck, here it is: Like Dark Souls, Minnesota has a way of continually crushing you with its sheer power and apathy for your very existence, and it’s up to you to glean some kind of deeper meaning out of your perseverance and continued survival. Also like Dark Souls, I will crawl out of my home when all this snow finally melts and yell “Praise The Sun!” until the neighbors call the cops.

Enjoy your spring weekend – or, if you also live in Minnesota, stay warm.

Vader Immortal is a three-part VR series for Oculus that is penned by David S. Goyer, a famed writer of movies and games like The Dark Knight trilogy and Call of Duty: Black Ops, directed by Ben Snow, who worked in film visual FX for 30 years on such films as Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and Iron Man, and features narrative design from Mohen Leo, who recently received Academy Award and BAFTA nominations for as visual effects supervisor for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The name of the game delivers the thought that you’ll play as Darth Vader, but you are actually a guest against your will in his fortress on the lava planet, Mustafar. You play an unnamed smuggler who just happens to be operating near the wrong planet in a ship called the Windfall. This smuggler doesn’t have a voice, gender, or age, as developer ILMxLAB wants you to embody that role, but your droid co-pilot, ZOE3, will have plenty to say, and is voiced by Maya Rudolph. ZOE3 is said to have plenty of spunk.

Vader Immortal is playable at this year’s Star Wars Celebration on an Oculus Quest. The demo is short, but effective, providing story sequences and an intense lightsaber training battle. The demo delivers a satisfying look into what this VR experience will offer, and even brings you face-to-face with Darth Vader, or should I say face-to-chest, given his enormous and intimidating size. 

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Rather than force choking you to death or harming you in any way, Vader instead hands you a Jedi Holocron. You need to reach out and grab it, and then use your other hand to interact with it. The gold-adorned cube comes to life with blue energy surging within it. This pleases Vader. When he leaves the room, the demo moves from your lovely interrogation room, complete with a chair with shackles, to an expansive training room with large bay windows giving you a scenic view of rolling rivers of lava. In front of you is a pedestal holding a lightsaber.

Nothing happens until you reach out and grab it. Then the room comes to life with metal cylinders rising from the ground, each containing a droid with a lightsaber or a Marksman-H combat remote, the floating ball Luke Skywalker trained with on the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope. With a press of a button, your saber comes to life, surprisingly with a blue blade – you’d think Vader would only keep red ones around. I ask Goyer why the saber isn’t appropriately evil toned, and he said, “There are narrative reasons for it, but I better not go into it now or I could get in some trouble. Some answers to questions like this will be answered in the first episode, others will be doled out later on in the experience.”

Sound design in this training area is key, as you must listen for the Marksman-H to know when it’s going to fire lasers at you. If you time your lightsaber swings correctly, you can knock the lasers back into the droid, knocking it out of the fray. The other droids will approach you quickly, and you are tasked to block their saber attacks to open up a window where you can hack away at their metal bodies. This section of the demo delivered three waves of combat.

That’s all ILMxLAB really needed to show to sell the concept of this Star Wars experience. “We found people liked the lightsaber experience so much that there’s an extended mode where you can train as much as you want, Leo says. “In that area you’ll earn different colors of lightsabers.”

The entire first episode is contained on Mustafar, mostly in Vader’s monolith, which you’ll get to explore a good chunk of it, more than you’ve seen before, including some of his personal spaces. “This story will go into why Vader may have built his castle here,” Goyer adds. “You get in to explore a little more of a what is going on inside of his head, and you definitely get to learn more about Mustafar and what is going on on that planet – why it’s been special for the last thousand years.”

While the demo warped me between two rooms where I was tethered to a small circle, in the final game you will be able to move around freely using the analog sticks or teleporting. You’ll also get to interact with various objects you find in the environment – probably of the Sith variety.

“I was super excited to be involved with a project with Vader,” Goyer says. “VR is really good about giving you a sense of presence, and and taking you to another place and making you feel like you are really there. The possibility of doing that in the Star Wars universe, and to do it with Vader sort of as your guide and to add to his lore, that was too good to pass up.”

The first episode of Vader Immortal is set to release this spring for Oculus Quest and Rift.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Game Informer.

Have you ever dreamed of making a first-person shooter or RPG? Maybe a racing game? Many of us have yearned to try our hands at game creation but for various reasons we’re never quite able to do more than fantasize. Learning how to develop games is time-consuming and expensive, often requiring years of study, not to mention tracking down collaborators to help create the parts of the project you can’t. But what if you could create that amazing game nestled in the back of your mind not in a matter of years, but days? For the past seven years, LittleBigPlanet creator Media Molecule has toiled to design a creative suite both accessible and ridiculously deep, capable of letting users who have never programmed or illustrated in their lives make almost any game in any genre they can imagine – and do it with style.

The ambitions of this team of England-based developers’ sounds like an impossible fantasy. You know whats even wilder?

They might just pull it off. Read more…

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Last year, Thanos made an appearance in a special Fortnite battle royale mode that let players turn into the snappy Avengers villain. The mode came about when Avengers: Infinity War directors the Russo brothers, who were big fans of Fortnite, ended up speaking to people at Epic and the two parties agreed a Thanos mode would be pretty cool. Now it looks like we’ll be seeing a return of the mode, according to some recent datamining.

One of the new death messages reads “[PlayerName} yielded to the POWER of Thanos ({Killer}),” indicating that the mode that allowed players to turn into Thanos and wreak havoc across the battlefield will be coming back. The previous version had to be rebalanced immediately after being reintroduced, so presumably Epic is taking a softer hand to how powerful Thanos is this time.

A Thanos reintroduction makes sense with Avengers: Endgame releasing close to the end of the month, so a co-marketing deal between the biggest movie of the year and still the biggest game out there. There’s no information about when the mode might come back, but sometime around the movie’s release on April 25.

Operencia: The Stolen Sun review screen

Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Release: March 29, 2019
Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on:
PC

Zen Studios is best known for its plethora of pinball-based projects, but the eccentric interests of the Hungary-based developer don’t end there. Its newest title, Operencia: The Stolen Sun, is a first-person, grid-based dungeon crawler – a style of RPG established decades ago by games like Wizardry and Dungeon Master. Thankfully, Operencia features as many new and unique ideas as it does nods to the past, making it a satisfying adventure.

Fantasy tropes are a dime a dozen in many dungeon crawlers, but Operencia is notable for which fantasies it calls upon. The tale is steeped in Hungarian folklore, from the Sun King Napkirály (whose kidnapping kicks off your adventure) to mythical figures like Hadur and Goncol. Zen Studios has crammed a surprising amount of its home country’s myths and legends into Operencia, and while you still fight plenty of animated skeletons along the way, a lot of your quest to save Napkirály feels refreshingly new; you hunt for the Sword of Attila, battle shape-shifting three-headed dragons, and talk celestial deities into joining your party.

Operencia: The Stolen Sun review screen

Hungarian folklore also gives the diverse levels a unique feel, from the Griffin-filled branches of the World Tree to the glimmering paths of the Copper Forest. These 3D environments are lushly detailed, but still adhere to the grid-based movement of yesteryear. As such, exploration can feel a bit wonky at first, as you walk and strafe your way through the environment one block at a time. However, in addition to providing some fun throwback nostalgia, the system also comes in handy when solving puzzles and searching for the myriad secrets and treasures squirreled away in each level.

Zen’s take on the dungeon crawler also feels like it was made with the completionist in mind; each level’s map tells you exactly how much of the location you’ve discovered and how many secrets remain hidden, encouraging you to see and do everything the game has to offer. A healthy dose of Metroid-style exploration means you’ll be returning to earlier levels with new items to solve old mysteries, such as a magic feather that levitates and moves heavy objects, and a pair of magic boots you can use to outrun deadly spike traps. Solving a puzzle that’s been percolating in the back of your mind for a few hours is extremely rewarding, and aside from a few obtuse clues – not to mention a sliding picture puzzle that had me cursing up the office – Operencia’s challenges are creative, clever, and fun to work out.

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As you explore each level you encounter roaming enemies, which trigger discrete turn-based battles. Operencia’s combat is straightforward but satisfying; your four party members (selected from a larger pool of seven) take turns doling out ranged and melee attacks, powerful area-of-effect strikes, and a variety of elemental spells from a first-person perspective. Each character has numerous special abilities to unlock, from invaluable group heals to a devastating sword strike that has a chance to trigger an instant kill. These abilities cost energy, which can be recovered with a defensive maneuver that works on a cooldown. As such, part of the challenge (and enjoyment) lies in balancing your party’s health and energy levels, and prolonging fights long enough to recoup the latter as much as possible. The question isn’t if you’ll win a battle, but rather how efficiently you can win.

Combat encounters, as well as hidden treasure chests, offer a steady stream of new weapons and armor, which provide incremental upgrades to your party as you cycle around equipment. Leveling up also awards a variety of passive abilities and skill points, and every party member earns experience points whether they are in the fight or not. Nothing about Operencia’s combat loop is particularly revolutionary, but the pacing is spot-on and the sense of steady progress remains satisfying throughout the approximately 35-hour runtime. The story also holds up, introducing new characters, locations, and a few memorable plot twists during your quest to return the sun to the Middle World.

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Zen Studios has found itself another cozy niche in the video game market, and as always, the studio’s enthusiasm for the subject matter shines through. Operencia probably won’t be kicking off a massive revival of grid-based dungeon crawlers, but it is a worthy successor to the classics. I enjoyed the consistently pleasant mix of environmental puzzles and combat, as well as the crash course in Hungarian folklore.

Score: 8.5

Summary: Zen Studios updates a classic genre with clever puzzles and Hungarian folklore.

Concept: Round up an eclectic party of adventurers and save the Hungarian Sun King in a revamped take on the first-person, grid-based dungeon crawler

Graphics: Operencia mixes its richly detailed, hand-drawn visuals and creative 3D environments to great effect

Sound: Some of the voice acting performances are better than others, but the music and sound effects are well done

Playability: Once you get acquainted with the grid-based movement, navigating Operencia’s levels and copious menus are simple enough

Entertainment: Operencia offers a consistently entertaining blend of combat and puzzle-solving from beginning to end

Replay: Moderate

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It feels like we’ve been waiting forever for a first look at Star Wars: Episode IX. Lucasfilm has been unusually quiet with its flagship franchise following the disappointing box office haul for Solo: A Star Wars Story. Like many Star Wars films these days, Episode IX‘s development was rocked by Lucasfilm parting ways with writer and director Colin Trevorrow in the scripting stages, and ended up going back to J.J. Abrams to complete this episode, which just happens to be the conclusion of the Skywalker saga. Abrams brought in Oscar-winning writer Chris Terrio (Argo, Batman v Superman) to help piece this story together. Abrams worked with Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) on The Force Awakens.

At this year’s Star Wars Celebration, and in front of a roaring crowd in Chicago’s McCormick Place, Abrams finally pulled the curtain back to show what he and his team at Lucasfilm have been working on. The panel began with a surprise: Stephen Colbert ran out as the host and opened with a barrage of Star Wars jokes, saying he just flew in from Dagobah, or did he, he may just be a Force projection.

Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy took the stage next, and hyped up the movie in a big way. Kennedy saying that Abrams cares about Star Wars “more than anybody.”

Both Abrams and Kennedy repeatedly said in different ways that they know how special Star Wars is to the fans and want to do 40 years of films justice with this final act.

Colbert asked how Abrams approached the void left by the great Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia. “We talked about how to move on. She was the best, glorious, amazing,” Abrams said. “It was impossible. What do you do? Recast that part? We had a number of scenes from The Force Awakens that went unused, we realized there was a way to use that footage. What if we could right scenes around her? Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me.”

The conversation then moved to what Episode IX’s story is. Abrams said it doesn’t pick up right where the last film left off. It’s an adventure that the group goes on together – the group being Rey, Finn, and Poe.

The cast then came out, starting with Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and his robotic companion, R2-D2. Daniels said that for nine movies, 3PO was the voice of reason, telling his companions they were running into danger, but they never listened. In this film, he says the Golden One fights back.

Billy Dee Williams was the next to join the panel, shooting love to everyone in the packed auditorium. Colbert asked Williams if it was easy to find Lando again, and Williams said “he never left me.” A comment met by huge applause by the audience.

The next generation of Star Wars heroes then took the stage. Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose), and Joonus Suotamo (Chewbacca) were joined by newcomer Naomi Ackie. Ackie revealed her character’s name is Jannah.

Ridley revealed Rey brings back Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, and Boyega joked that Finn is the most eligible bachelor in the galaxy. Colbert asked about the bond between Rey and Kylo Ren, and Ridley deflected.

Tran received the biggest round of applause, and Abrams said that her casting was the greatest gift Rian Johnson handed to him for Episode IX.

BB-8 then introduced his new friend, Dio, a tiny one-wheel droid that whistles.

The cast then left the stage, and the trailer played, revealing the name, The Rise of Skywalker and the cackle of the Emperor. As surprising as that is, the voice of Luke teases in the trailer, “We’ll always be with you. No one’s ever really gone.”

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Publisher: Mad Dog, Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Saber Interactive
Release: April 16, 2019
Rating: Mature
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

World War Z’s launch is just around the corner, and what better way to get ready for it than to get a glimpse of all the zombies you’ll be mowing down in this third-person shooter?

The game is based on the 2013 film of the same name that starred Brad Pitt. As a four-player cooperative experience, you’ll try to “outlive the dead” by traveling to places across the world, such as New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Japan. You can watch the trailer above to see just how explosive things will get, as you pick from six unique classes all with their own perks and play styles. 

World War Z hits on April 16 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. You can learn more about the game at its official website.