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Series Kings: The Best Games In Five Big Franchises

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Most people can easily rattle off a handful of their favorite games, but comparing every game you’ve ever played against every other one is tough – especially if you’re supposed to rank them. But what if you limit the field a bit? If you only compare the games within a specific series, it gets easier to single out your favorites. With that in mind, I’ve chosen five major franchises in which I’ve played every mainline installment, and then selected the one game from each that deserves to wear the series’ crown. 

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

Metal Gear Series

For a series with as many entries as Metal Gear (and so many passionate fans), you’d think the debate over the best entry would be a contentious one. But surprisingly, most players seem to agree with me that Metal Gear Solid 3 is the standout game. It’s not unanimous, of course, but Metal Gear Solid 3 just has so many outstanding characters and moments. The mystery surrounding The Boss’ motives. The fight against The End. The ladder. Plus, because it is the first game chronologically in the Metal Gear timeline, you don’t need a ton of background knowledge to appreciate the story. All of this, combined with tense stealth in both interior and jungle environments, creates the quintessential Metal Gear experience. By the way, I specifically singled out the Subsistence re-release here (rather than the original Snake Eater) because it has a much-improved camera, plus it includes the original MSX Metal Gear and Metal Gear: Solid Snake games for those who really want to dive into the series’ history.

Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy Series

Over the years, Final Fantasy VI has established an insurmountable lead in my mind as my personal favorite Final Fantasy. In fact, it’s my favorite game, period … so it has this win locked down. However, a person could easily make the case for several other games in Square Enix’s long-running RPG series. For example, I think Final Fantasy X has the best story, while Final Fantasy VII is certainly the most groundbreaking. And though it’s a sprawling MMO rather than a traditional single-player adventure, Final Fantasy XIV is like a “greatest hits” of the whole series. I can’t argue against those excellent games, but Final Fantasy VI comes out on top with its fantastic cast, airtight combat system, beautiful music, and a surprising mid-game twist that left me staring at my screen in disbelief. I’m sure my nostalgia for this 16-bit classic weighs heavily on my choice here, but Final Fantasy VI blew my mind when I first played it.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Series

For several years, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was my favorite installment in this series. To me, Syndicate represents the pinnacle of the “old style” of Assassin’s Creed, before Origins pressed reset and took everything in a more RPG-like direction. That new direction for the series is not a bad thing; after spending a decade traveling down one evolutionary path, it just took a few installments for the series to find its stride in a new direction. With Valhalla, Ubisoft finally seemed to get a firm grip on Assassin’s Creed’s new identity, and it knocked Syndicate out of my top slot for the series. Valhalla has a little bit of everything I loved from older installments – sailing, town-building, weird present-day stuff – and incorporates them into the newer RPG-style foundation. The result is a massive and enticing Norse world full of cool little stories, entertaining combat, and lots of secrets waiting to be found.

God of War (2018)

God of War series

I’ve been a fan of God of War since the beginning. I loved the original trilogy, I enjoyed the PSP spin-offs, and I even had fun with God of War Ascension. But even though those older games drew me in with their bombast and gore at the time, today they just feel like the foundation that made 2018’s God of War possible. That isn’t to diminish their influence, but I don’t think Kratos’ original adventures have aged particularly well. However, his most recent outing takes a mesmerizing leap into the modern era, updating the series’ approach to combat and redefining the tone of the its narrative. Kratos is a quiet, restrained father – a transformation that carries added weight if you played previous games, but doesn’t depend on them to tell the tale. The fights are more brutal and intimate, trading zoomed-out blade-slinging for up-close axe-throwing. And delving into Norse mythology opens up a whole new pantheon for Kratos to confront. But even though the gameplay and story are great, the thing that elevates this entry above its peers is its ability to acknowledge the past and learn from it, a theme that applies to God of War just as much on a meta level as it does to the in-game events.

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition

Devil May Cry Series

One word: Vergil. The original version of Devil May Cry 3 was already a high point in terms of ridiculous weapons, stylish combos, and action-packed cutscenes. But when the special edition released, it introduced a playable version of Dante’s twin brother, Vergil, and sent this entry blowing past the competition. He offers a distinctly different playstyle from Dante, emphasizing precision and mobility rather than overwhelming force. And, let’s face it: With his icy and aloof demeanor, Vergil is just cooler than Dante. Of course, other games in the series have also added Vergil (including special editions of Devil May Cry 4, Devil May Cry 5, and even DLC for Ninja Theory’s DmC), but none of those versions are built on Devil May Cry 3’s rock-solid foundation. The base game has creepy demonic locations, amazing boss fights, and a versatile progression system that lets players develop a playstyle tailored to their preferences. When taking all of that into account, plus the option to play as either Dante or Vergil, this entry is undeniably the total DMC package.

If you can't get enough of series-related lists, check out our rankings for https://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2017/02/17/legend-of-ze…; target="_blank">every entry in The Legend of Zelda franchise, as well https://www.gameinformer.com/feature/2019/02/04/ranking-every-single-ro…; target="_blank">every Rockstar game. And if you'd choose different games for the series listed above, let us know in the comments!

Pringles Unveils Limited Edition, Halo-Inspired Moa Burger Flavor

Halo Reach fans may remember Moa as an alien species of bird native to planet Reach. The large, flightless bird resembles an emu, and apparently made good burger meat, evidenced by the game's World Cuisine restaurant advertising Moa burgers. If you ever wondered how a fictional bird-turned-hamburger tastes, Pringles of all companies has pulled the curtain back on its limited edition Moa burger flavored chips.

According to Halo’s official Twitter account, the chips are being sold exclusively by Walmart, because when I think of where to get Moa flavored things, I think "Walmart." I mean, they sell everything, so why should this be the exception? What I want to know is how Pringles determined the flavor of an imaginary alien bird. Maybe they taste like a Beyond Meat burger? Or maybe they just taste like potato-y chicken. 

A pre-burger Moa, in case you're curious

What makes this product a little messed up is that according to the Halo Wiki, Moa technically became endangered during the fall of Reach (tough to survive on a glassed over planet). So now we’re eating fictional, near-extinct alien bird flavored Pringle chips. That presents a tangled ethical conundrum that could stump even the greatest minds. 

Be sure to grab a can of these Moa Burger Pringles soon if you want to try them, because they won’t be around forever. We don’t know how long they’ll be on shelves, but assume the general population will want to snack on this curiosity and grab it sooner than later. If nothing else, eating these might add a new layer of immersion during your next Reach playthrough. 

In less edible Halo news, the latest game, Halo Infinite, continues to churn along with help from Gears of War developer The Coalition. If you’re looking for other weird Halo partnerships, Xbox is apparently interested in teaming with Elon Musk to manufacture real-life warthogs.

5 Fantasy RPGs To Play If You Like D&D

Alternative Fantasy RPGs To D&D

Ask anyone who has been involved with the tabletop role-playing scene for a long time, and they’ll confirm that we’re in the middle of a golden age for the hobby. A number of factors – including livestreamed shows, remote play options, crowdfunded projects, and mature design – have led to an explosion of interest in the role-playing experience.

Without a doubt, the latest version of the original tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, remains a driving force for the current success across the industry. The excellent 5th edition has done wonders for uniting disparate fan groups of the game around an approachable (but still nuanced) fantasy role-playing system. As a player of various editions of that game since childhood, I’ll be the first to recommend the current edition of D&D to both newcomers and old-timers.

At the same time, the breadth of the hobby has grown so much that I also recommend players consider the tremendous variety of other games on the market today. Even if you desire to stay mostly within the bounds of the fantasy milieu, there’s no shortage of options. And that’s without even stepping beyond into other genres or playstyles, which could easily occupy a whole range of additional articles like this.

These games will refresh both GMs and players, with different rulesets and approaches that are sure to reinvigorate the whole group’s excitement. Moreover, I think you’ll find that exploring other game systems often has major benefits, even if you ultimately return to the familiar territory of d20-style D&D games, as you carry some of your favorite ideas back.

Here are five of my top recommendations of other fantasy role-playing games you should try, each of which brings some wonderful mechanics and playstyles to the table.  


Alternative Fantasy RPGs To D&D

Pathfinder: 2nd Edition
Publisher: Paizo

If you like the general structure of D&D, but you’re looking for more options and a style of play that more closely emulates the venerated 3rd edition, you should strongly consider diving into Pathfinder. Paizo’s flagship property began as an outgrowth of the D&D 3.5 edition ruleset, but as Wizards of the Coast moved on from that, Paizo transformed Pathfinder into its own fully realized experience. In the many years since, that system has continued to be refined and developed, eventually resulting in the impressively flexible Pathfinder 2nd Edition game.

If your gaming group likes the idea of trying something new, and is ready for a bit of increased complexity and customization, Pathfinder 2E is the ideal choice. Many mechanics will be instantly familiar, from the focus on d20 rolls for action resolution to the general flow of play. But Pathfinder has some meaningful distinctions, including an action system that tends to provide for more tactical choices in a given round, as well as a character builds that have more room for customization. In general, it’s a “crunchier” game than modern D&D, with more complexities and rules to track. But the rulebooks are remarkably well-written and feature gorgeous design and illustrations, easing you into any new ideas without making you feel overwhelmed.

Pathfinder is an easy recommendation to make, especially to existing D&D players, since it shares so many of its roots with the more well-known and longer-running game. I often tell people that Pathfinder feels like playing an alternate timeline of how D&D could have developed over the last decade-plus, and both timelines have turned out pretty amazing.

Also Consider: Starfinder

Alternative Fantasy RPGs To D&D

Vaesen
Publisher: Free League Publishing

One of my favorite new entries in the RPG field from the last few years, Vaesen is a wonderful departure from expectation. A simple and elegant rules system won’t take your group long to learn, and the 19th century Scandinavian folklore setting is miles away from D&D’s familiar western medieval adventures, but still rooted firmly in the fantasy tradition, albeit with a hefty dose of atmospheric horror thrown into the mix.

Vaesen draws from one central artistic inspiration, and a separate core game design source. The artistic and setting source is found in the art of Swedish illustrator/author, Johan Egerkrans. He’s become known for his evocative takes on Scandinavian monsters, gods, and other mythological elements, having published a series of wonderful art books that include fictional elements, and his art is gloriously spread across the game. Meanwhile, Vaesen borrows its core gaming engine from other Free League books, adapting the stellar Year Zero system from other games the company has released, like Tales from the Loop and Mutant Year Zero.

Players control investigators who – due to some past trauma or event – have gained the Sight, and can see the invisible creatures like trolls, fairies, and ghosts, that act to manipulate or interact with the world of people. Taking on archetypes like hunters, priests, or scholars, you investigate the strange happenings involving these “vaesen” across Scandinavia, working to resolve conflicts that often arise between the old ways of nature, and the burgeoning worlds of industry and modernity.

Vaesen and its unique rules focus less on constant combat, and more on mystery, atmosphere, character relationships, and encounters without clear-cut answers. The clever structure of play moves the group between important scenes, much in the way you’d expect a good movie to skip over the small stuff. Play groups can also expect a healthy dose of gothic horror, where the mundane is suddenly thrown into stark relief against the terrifying power and fickle aspects of nature unbound.

Also Consider: Tales From The Loop, Forbidden Lands

Alternative Fantasy RPGs To D&D

Conan: Adventures In An Age Undreamed Of
Publisher: Modiphius

The entire genre of fantasy, specifically anything related to sword-and-sorcery vibes, owes much to the storytelling of Robert E. Howard, and the tales he spun of Conan the Barbarian. Modiphius took up the challenge of bringing Conan’s world to life in its role-playing adaptation of the setting, leveraging the company’s successful 2d20 tabletop RPG game system to invigorate and realize the bloody, swashbuckling, and primitive tone that pervades the world of the Hyborian Age. For gaming groups that want to focus on savage encounters, particularly deadly and evil magic, along with exciting action-packed adventures, this is an awesome choice.

Modiphius’ 2d20 system has a lot of things worth celebrating, and the system is strong enough that the publisher has adapted it for a number of different settings in all kinds of genres, including everything from Star Trek to John Carter of Mars.  In Conan, the most notable dynamic at play is the push and pull between a shared player bonus pool called Momentum, and a similar pool called Doom that the GM can pull from to create additional challenge. By drawing from this bonus pool, PCs can accomplish remarkable tasks at critical moments, or villains can enact particularly devastating actions.

Consider the Conan RPG if your aim is to amp up the action of big battles, focus on party cohesion and cooperation, or if you simply love the idea of a tailor-made system built around this expansive fantasy world. Modiphius is known for its high production values, as well as its meticulous research to nail the "feeling" of a property. Both those dynamics are in place with this Conan RPG, which captures the magic and intensity of those early pulpy stories.

Also Consider: John Carter of Mars, Star Trek Adventures

Alternative Fantasy RPGs To D&D

Zweihänder: Grim & Perilous RPG
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

If D&D has always felt just a bit too colorful and whimsical, and you and your group just really want to embrace the darker and grittier aspects of the fantasy genre, then you should take a close look at Zweihänder. While the game nods to the oldest of old-school tendencies in the role-playing genre, it’s more fair to say that it looks to one corner of those traditions – where luckless vagabonds and adventurers struggle against nearly impossible odds, often dying along the way, but seeing some bloody and grim battles fought on their way down.

Zweihänder embraces a relatively simple-to-grasp percentile-based rules system for resolving actions, but it’s the many details and character options that flesh out the massive 700-page tome that makes up the core book. Rather than more stratified classes that present lots of room for customizing, the game includes a plethora of professions (well over 100 in the core book) that let you take on all kinds of weird and wonderful roles, from jesters and animal tamers to necromancers and inquisitors. Those professions are given added depth as players take on a variety of skills and talents, which they may desperately try to use to survive in a horribly unfair and often chance-driven world.

I’ve heard from many potential players over the years about their enthusiasm for the worlds presented in franchises like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), or Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher, which feature dark themes, brutal political machinations, and unlikely heroes drawn into impossible conflict. In many ways, Zweihänder offers a better fit for those kind of stories than the more general purpose fantasies supported by D&D. If you’re willing to put in the work to learn and embrace a very different set of mechanics, you’ll find a lot to love in Zweihänder.

Also Consider: Mythras, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: 4th Edition

Numenera
Publisher: Monte Cook Games

You like the emotional tone and sense of exploration and discovery that is core to fantasy narratives, but you’re sick to death of dragon-slaying knights and wizards in a western European setting? For those ready for something completely different, there is no better fantasy game to embrace than the weird and lavishly imagined universe of Numenera.

After a long tenure contributing to the Dungeons & Dragons game, Monte Cook started his own company and released the first iteration of Numenera back in 2013. The game is set on Earth in an impossibly distant future. After a long absence, humanity has come again to the planet after eight prior great civilizations have risen and fallen, leaving behind the detritus of technology that is indistinguishable from magic for those who live there. Players take on the role of explorers and builders who sift through the remains of these old civilizations, repurposing it to fuel a new age of discovery.

Firmly rooted in the traditions of science/fantasy as well as a variation of the sub-genre often called Dying Earth, Numenera will win your affection thanks to the constant surprises and unique ideas that make up its world. From monsters to locations to adventure hooks, the game excels at presenting insane twists on expectation, playing with the ideas of reality, time, technology, virtual existence, and alternate dimensions, all while remaining firmly rooted in tropes of the classic fantasy adventuring party.

Numenera is a rules-light game that values narrative flexibility and player participation over almost all else. This is a place for a gaming group to be inventive and push the boundaries of character creation and storytelling, and it demands a narrator who likes to be the architect of a game, but who also wants the players to actually be the builders. The game was given increased depth by a loose second edition a few years ago (presented as a paired set of books called Numenera: Discovery and Numenera: Destiny), which expanded on the existing rules without invalidating what came before. Numenera is a personal favorite of mine; as someone who spent years loving D&D (and I still do), this is a game that is a stark departure, focused on fewer rules and more on weird moments of wonder, and I can’t recommend it enough. And, as an aside, if you want a taste of Numenera's unique tone without leaving behind D&D 5E rules, Monte Cook Games has you covered with its excellent Arcana of the Ancients supplement.

Also Consider: The Strange, Invisible Sun


The role-playing game scene today is filled with an array of remarkable projects. In the fantasy genre, D&D serves a wonderful role, acting as an an adaptable and streamlined game system that carries the advantage of familiarity – many gamers have already encountered its core conceits in other places, like in video games. It's a great place to start, but can also fuel years or even decades of fun. Even so, with so many rich systems out there to dig into, it would be a shame to not try out more of what is on offer, and the above recommendations just scratch the surface of other fantasy games you might enjoy. If you're a dedicated role-playing gamer, I can't stress enough how much fun is waiting for you if you stretch your wings and explore other game systems.

If you’d like a more focused  recommendation catered to your group, drop me a line via email, and I'll try to help you out. If you’re just looking for other great tabletop games to enjoy with friends and family, feel free to peruse the backlog of our Top of the Table articles, where you’ll find a selection of strong options, including some of the best tabletop RPGs of 2020.  

Disgaea 6 Arrives To Switch In June Alongside Free Bonus Characters

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny is launching June 29 exclusively for Switch. The latest title in the quirky turn-based strategy series was announced last September and brings a host of new changes to the long-running franchise.

For one, the game ditches the series’ traditional 2D sprites for fully 3D character models. A 32x mode speeds up battles exponentially, and the level cap has been raised to a staggering 99,999,999. But that’s not all! The release date trailer (posted below) also announces bonus content in the form of four additional characters from Disgaea’s past: Girl Laharl, Asagi, and Disgaea 2’s Adell and Rozalin. They, along with story content surrounding them, will be included in Disgaea 6 free of charge. Check them out in action in the video below and be treated to the bonus site of seeing Nippon Ichi Software president Souhei Niikawa rocking some sweet Prinny gear.  

Click here to watch embedded media

Disgaea 6 stars Zed, a cocky zombie residing in the lowest pits of the netherworld who can die and resurrect even stronger thanks to a new Super Reincarnation system. Zed’s world is rocked when a God of Destruction threatens to destroy everything, and it’s up to him to put a stop to it. Zed can’t do it alone, and he’s joined by his kid sister and a host of other zany characters (this is a Disgaea game after all). You can get to know the colorful cast better by watching the most recent character trailer here

Although Disgaea 6 is also launching for the PlayStation 4 in Japan, the game is only coming to Nintendo’s platform here in the west, at least for the time being. You can also pick up the Unrelenting Edition of the game that comes with a mini art book and digital soundtrack. 

Are you excited to play Disgaea 6 when it launches to Switch this summer? Let us know in the comments! You can also learn why we're excited for it by reading our list of upcoming RPG's we're most most eager to play here

Ghost Of Tsushima Developers Named Official Tourism Ambassadors

Ghost of Tsushima was one of the best games of last year, allowing players to explore the island of Tsushima in an open-world adventure inspired by classic samurai cinema. But it turns out that Sucker Punch's latest project did more than just entertain gamers; it raised awareness of the real-life location, and now the mayor is honoring two members of the development team by naming them tourism ambassadors for Tsushima.

Click here to watch embedded media

Game director Nate Fox (who we interviewed last year on the Game Informer Show) and creative director Jason Connell from Sucker Punch will be presented with the award and a letter of appreciation. 

A statement from the mayor of Tsushima (as reported by VGC) reads: “[Fox and Connell] spread the name and history of Tsushima to the whole world in such a wonderful way,” he said. “Even a lot of Japanese people do not know the history of the Gen-ko period. When it comes to the world, the name and location of Tsushima is literally unknown, so I cannot thank them enough for telling our story with such phenomenal graphics and profound stories.”

In addition, Sony Interactive Entertainment will work together with the island on a new tourism campaign to teach fans of the game more about its real-world counterpart. Though Ghost of Tsushima is a great game with an evocative setting, it's important to remember that it isn't necessarily historically faithful; Sucker Punch didn't recreate the era so much as pay homage to its popular depiction in movies.  That portrayal paid off; Ghost of Tsushima was a huge sales success for Sony and Sucker Punch, selling 2.4 million copies in just three days.  

If you aren't able to actually visit Tsushima in real life, you can at least see some of the most impressive sights the game has to offer, like the hottest hot springs and bear-related mishaps.

[via VGC]

Netflix's The Witcher Season 2 Reportedly Casts Downton Abbey Actor Kevin Doyle

Netflix's The Witcher season 2 is back in production after a few delays, including an injury involving Geralt's actor, Henry Cavill. Several delays have been an unfortunate occurrence for the show's new season due to COVID-19 and Work From Home orders, but the show continues on with a brand new castmate in tow. According to recent reports, Netflix's The Witcher season 2 casts Downton Abbey actor Kevin Doyle. 

As reported by Redanian Intelligence, a property that has provided a number of onsite images and a plethora of insider information, the newest cast member will reportedly be playing a character by the name of Ba'Lian. Known for his portrayal of Mr. Molesley on the period series, he's also contributed his talents to other shows like The Tudors, Hawaii Five-0, and Happy Valley.

If you're among the people that we know are asking "who," you're not alone in your confusion about who Ba'Lian is. This character does not appear in any of the novels from Andrzej Sapkowski, the source material behind the show that eventually spawned CD Projekt Red's hit The Witcher game adaptation. This will be an all-new character to meet somewhere during the season 2 narrative. 

The upcoming season will be much darker than the previous episodes we've experienced and has taken quite a few notes following the first season's reception. To the relief of many, one critical portion of feedback that has been implemented is making the Nilfgaard armor actually resemble armor versus the weird tree testicle visage first witnessed in the debut episode. 

Season 2 will see the return to Geralt's childhood home of Kaer Morhen, where the hope for peace is long gone for our cast of beloved characters. With Yennefer's return from her perceived death and even more characters from the series making their on-screen debuts, Netflix's The Witcher season 2 is the highly anticipated continuation of where this show can lead fans.  

What are your thoughts on Netflix's The Witcher season 2's latest casting reveal? What are you hoping season 2 includes that the first one did not? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below. 

[Source: Redanian Intelligence via r/NetflixWitcher]

5 Takeaways From The Elden Ring Leaks

Since the cryptic cinematic reveal in 2019, players haven't heard or seen anything official from From Software's Elden Ring. With the dynamite success of Sekiro, Dark Souls III, and the rest of the Souls saga, expectations are high for From Software's next contribution to the subgenre they put on the map with Demon's Souls a decade ago. Recently, some blurry snippets of what's purported to be Elden Ring footage have leaked, as these things sometimes do. Bloodborne aka Project Beast was famously leaked prior to release, showing off what would be an incredible and horrific dive into the unknown.

After Sekiro, we've all had tons of questions about Elden Ring. How will it iterate on From's dark fantasy formula? Well, if these alleged clips are something to go on, we can answer a couple of those burning inquiries. Please note that this footage was likely ancient in game development terms, never meant to be screened to the public, and any number of these elements could be changed or completely nonexistent when we finally see the game for real. There are often huge changes in development that players never know about. That said, let's look at a few elements...

There's A Jump Button

Souls jumping is the stuff memes are made of, with thousands of clips out there where players take blundersome tumbles off walls, ledges, cliffs, and anything else you can fall of of. A dedicated jump button was featured prominently in Sekiro, letting players embrace traversal and speed options. However, it's been absent in the Souls games, where if you want to cross a gap you basically held down sprint and prayed for everything to work out. A small snippet of gameplay shows a character executing what appears to be a standard jump, so that could be exciting for exploration possibilities.

You Can Ride A Horse. And Fight On It!

Mounted combat is here. Given the expected scale and scope of Elden Ring's world, getting around on a mount is probably going to be a nice way to travel when you need to. Potentially more exciting is a few frames that feature actual attacking on horseback, which could let you set up assaults on high priority targets before making an important getaway as deadlier enemies come your way. The horseback riding against vistas like snowy mountains and more looks really awesome.

We're Going To Fight Dragons

Shocking absolutely no one, there's a giant fire-breathing dragon in the clips. Hidetaka Mizazaki has a thing for dragons, especially dragons on bridges, so I'm guessing we'll have at least two to take on. That's a guess based on nothing except Souls game dragon math, and the fact we see a giant dragon in the leaked footage.

There's a Lot Of Dark Souls DNA Here

In the footage, we see a lot of Dark Souls essence. Backstabbing, swordfighting skeletons, homing soulmass spell, rolling, giant door opening, and more. The released reel looks incredibly Souls-like, so much that you could easily insert the frames into some Dark Souls 3 DLC and not even miss a beat. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Give us that open world Dark Souls experience we always wanted!

There's Probably Going TO Be a Dark, Rickety Environment

The snippets of footage give us a look at a rickety, hard to traverse area of planks and wood, which is an environmental concept we've seen since Valley of Defilement, Blighttown, and more. The torch itself plays prominently in several clips, so it's possible that lighting mechanics could be being toyed with again, an aspect that was originally going to play a much bigger role in Dark Souls 2 but was essentially pared down to being meaningless in final release.

What do you expect to see in Elden Ring? Did you check out the leaks or are you waiting for an official reveal? Let us know in the comments below!

Destiny 2 Trials Of Osiris Disabled Indefinitely Following Win-Trading Shutdown

Earlier this week, Bungie removed Trials of Osiris from Destiny 2: Season of the Chosen following the revelation that that players were "win-trading" in order to get those coveted rewards. While the studio gave us some good news regarding the hilariously fun 12-player raid glitch, Bungie also confirmed that Trials of Osiris is disabled indefinitely. 

In the most recent This Week In Bungie blog post, Cozmo offered up an update for those players curious about when Trials would return. The update was short, not so sweet, and to the point: "Last weekend, Trials of Osiris was disabled due to unexpected issues. While these issues are being investigated, Trials of Osiris will be unavailable to players. We will have more information when it becomes available." 

While the indefinite removal is a bummer for some, the good news is that it sounds like it will be making its way back into the game at some point in the future. Bungie has a lot of change up ahead, including crossplay and transmog -- as well as a total overhaul to rewards -- so the rollout of Trials maybe a little longer than usual. Still, there are a lot of problems with the setup of this particular PvP instance, so hopefully Bungie takes the time to look at some of those less-than-desired aspects of Trials before bringing it back into the game. 

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As we mentioned in our previous coverage, Trials is an instance that is overrun cheaters, making the already brutally challenging PvP instance even more so, especially for those running on PC. Other players feel that Bungie hasn't been consistent regarding what this experience has to offer, especially in terms of what the ultimate goal is. Some feel that if the player count is low, Bungie will switch up the Trials experience to try to bring more Guardians in. Given that Trials is incredibly challenging as part of being a Pinnacle PvP activity, new players get smashed into the ground fairly quickly and with nothing but the equivalent of "I went to Trials and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." 

It will be interesting to see how Trials of Osiris continues to evolve in Destiny 2, we hope that the latest iteration of tweaks is one that players will resonate with. 

To check out what else is moving and shaking in the world of Destiny 2 with Season of the Chosen, you can check out our game hub here to learn more. 

[Source: Bungie]

How Many Wins Can We Get In Call Of Duty: Warzone - GI Live

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Almost a full year after the game's release, Call of Duty: Warzone remains one of the biggest titles on the planet. But as far as I know, the Game Informer team has yet to produce a win on stream in that time. Will that change today?

Join Game Informer as we squad up and try our best to produce that coveted win (or dub as the kids call it) and have a fun fraggin' Friday stream with the GI community.

If at first we don't succeed in Warzone, we're going to be going on a tour of some of the other modes in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War as well. Will we be able to survive the treacherous zombie hordes in the game's new Outbreak mode? How will Reiner, Tack, Blake, and I fare as a squad in more tactical game types like Search and Destroy? You can only know by tuning in. 

We're kicking off the fun at 2 p.m. CT, so be sure to join us for all the fraggin' fun and end your week on a high note! We'd also love your suggestions on what game modes you'd like to see us play, so don't be afraid to make your voice heard in chat. If you can't get enough of our live shows, remember to subscribe on YouTubeTwitchTwitter, and Facebook to get notified when we go live each week!

Needing more reasons to be excited about Call of Duty? Be sure to check out Dan Tack's write-up on what the new Outbreak mode is all about and why it's going to be a big deal. You can also check out why you made need to buy a new hard drive if you're planning on playing Black Ops Cold War on a PlayStation 4.

How The Marvel's Avengers Game Can Turn It Around

Marvel's Avengers has an incredible single-player story, which made it very odd that Square Enix chose to market the Crystal Dynamics game heavily as a multiplayer experience. With so much of a focus on playing with friends, the endgame component of the Marvel game left little to be desired. Many felt that the grind was not worth the effort, a problem that games like Destiny 2 have faced, and with the response to those complaints being to make the title even more of a grind, we couldn't help but wonder what the heck the studio is doing and offer up a few things we'd like to see to help them turn it around. 

How can Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics make Marvel's Avengers good again? 

The single-player story of Marvel's Avengers, despite initial reservations over character models, was a pretty big hit for many players. It offered a different perspective of some of our favorite heroes and it also gave the "adorkably" charming Kamala Khan a spotlight that this character deserved. The story wasn't the problem. The problem was that Square Enix shoved the story aside when marketing the title pre-launch so when it eventually did release, players were expecting this breathtaking, fully fleshed-out multiplayer endgame experience. What they got was an endless repetitious cycle that didn't feel like there was any real payoff. The grind was real. It was also Real Boring™. 

In response to criticisms that the grind was just too much and that the endgame experience felt lacking, Crystal Dynamics announced a new set of changes. The answer? More grind! Now, the studio is making it even harder to level up and is not even offering an increase in XP until level 25. The vanilla version of the game made the grind to level 50 slow (seemingly never-ending), and without reward. The decision to make the progression even slower, even harder to get to was the exact opposite of the change this team should have implemented. 

To further the disconnect that the studio seems to have with what players want, our own Andrew Reiner noted in his review that the endgame content didn't match up with the goal intended. He said, "It doesn’t have the competitive hooks of similarly designed games like Destiny. A steady drip of new stories and missions will be needed along with the announced heroes."

Marvel's Avengers

While we've seen new characters join the fight, and more on the way, it's not enough. The concurrent player count for Marvel's Avengers has dropped dramatically since launch, a problem an online game never wants to face. So what can the team do differently? Ready for a controversial statement? Here we go: Square Enix needs to take a page from the Destiny 2 playbook. 

Destiny 2 received a mixed reaction from players surrounding its launch. Those critical of the game took issue with rewards locked behind paywalls, lackluster endgame, cheaters galore, and a disconnect between story expansions all painted a bleak picture for the future of Bungie's space franchise. Then Bungie parted ways with Activision, and we as players began to see change happen. Did the positive change happen overnight? Absolutely not. Is the game perfect now? Still nope. Between Trials of Osiris woes and Stasis' mixed reception, Bungie still has a lot of work to do. The difference is, the work Bungie has done thus far has injected fresh life into the community – a community that once more has a healthy number of active players and even more jumping in all of the time. 

What Crystal Dynamics (and Square Enix as the publisher) needs to do is listen. The decision to make the game even more of a grind comes from the creative director mentioning that he thought that players felt that way because they were "confused." What Bungie has done, and what others have done as well such as Ubisoft with The Division 2, is listen without presumption and make plans accordingly. That's caused some missteps along the way, especially with a community like Destiny's where players seem split on what they want, but what's important is that they never stopped trying. The game available now is wildly different than the launch title. The real turning point was the Forsaken DLC, an expansion that made the risky move of killing off one of the most beloved characters in the franchise's history. What many thought would be the final nail in the coffin for Destiny 2 actually acted as a catalyst for a bright new future. Bungie has invested heavily in endgame experiences (we're ignoring Trials here, because good god is that a mess) and Square Enix/Crystal Dynamics needs to do the same. 

Instead of making the grind even more at a snail's pace, Crystal Dynamics needs to instead focus on fixing the more glaring technical issues that are still prevalent, especially those regarding Kate Bishop. Between the delayed arrival of Hawkeye and the lack of any meaningful tweaks to endgame, Marvel's Avengers is in a dangerous position of slipping permanently into the trap that Anthem did. But it's not too late. 

They also need to reverse plans for the slowed progression. That is not the way to go in any reality and will only further hurt any other improvements that are on the way.

More content

Marvel's Avengers

Crystal Dynamics needs to adopt a more consistent content schedule. The sparsity and sporadic release of anything new makes it hard for players that are losing faith to stay focused on the game. Personally, I would love to see the studio release a new hero and a new baddie every 3-4 months or so. That will keep players interested long enough to wait out any "online boredom" felt while awaiting new arrivals. It will also keep those that do move onto other games a reason to jump back in, and a reason to keep jumping back in. 

But new characters won't be enough, especially with the continuously dropping player count. In addition to a new good guy vs. bad guy rotation, the team should invest in multiple zone expansions on a frequent scale as well. While I understand that this might not be as doable as in the past, especially with COVID-19, any purposefully withheld content needs to be brought front and center if it's ready. 

New skill trees to invest time in, meaningful skill trees that feel new and exciting. New zones to explore that hide rewards that players will care about, new little Easter egg voice lines for players to stumble upon and want to talk about. More comedy, more levity. People want to laugh right now. They need to laugh right now. So make them laugh, this is an all-star cast of heroes that we grew up loving and aspiring to. The MCU and comics have proven time and time again that Marvel has a unique edge when it comes to a comedic overlay, even during serious arcs, and Square Enix should encourage Crystal Dynamics to lean into this. 

Is it worth it? 

Should Square and Crystal continue throwing money at a game that continues to go downhill? It's technically still making a profit, so it's not in the position that BioWare found itself in with Anthem, but that doesn't mean that the same future isn't a distinct possibility. What the company needs to do now is show that they are listening. Tap into its inner Bungie and put action behind words: "We hear you, we're listening, we'll do better" and then actually do better. Players want content. The company has more content than most IPs to work with. Use it. Harness it. Deliver it and we could just see a 180 that the game needs to thrive. 

Apple Now Under Investigation For "Anti-Competitive Behavior" Following Epic Games Lawsuit

The wild ride that is Epic Games vs. Apple began back in August 2020 when Fortnite was pulled from the iOS store as a result of an ongoing battle between Epic Games and Apple. Epic Games tried to cheat the rules that Apple has in place for third-party apps by circumventing the required payout for all third-party businesses, so the tech company removed the game. Epic Games fired back saying that Apple adopts a favoritism model regarding business support, which prompted the Orwellian 1984-styled #FreeFortnite campaign. Even Valve was pulled into the mix, something that the PC giant is also fighting. Now, the UK government is looking a bit more closely at Apple over "anti-competitive behavior" concerns. 

The UK government has declared that the Competition and Markets Authority is looking into reports regarding Apple's practices, including the 30% pay cut on all payouts to third-party companies. This investigation is tied to the ongoing battle between Apple and Epic Games, because that feud is far from over. 

"The CMA’s investigation will consider whether Apple has a dominant position in connection with the distribution of apps on Apple devices in the UK—and, if so, whether Apple imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers using the App Store, ultimately resulting in users having less choice or paying higher prices for apps and add-ons," reads the announcement (via PC Gamer).

While the investigation is spawned by the UK government, it is not just UK properties that are being looked at. According to the announcement, the aspects of Apple that are currently being looked at includes Apple UK Limited and Apple Inc, which is the parent company that is based in the United States. 

It's important to note that the document itself doesn't name Epic Games explicitly, but the wording of the reasonings behind the investigation paired with circumstance makes it easy to connect the two events. Even more so following the decision Epic Games has made to take the legal battle against the tech company overseas under UK jurisdiction. 

Chief executive Andrea Coscelli of the Competition and Markets Authority says that the investigation is still in its infancy and because of that, no decision has been made at this time. That being said, the "worrying trends" have the investigation being taken seriously based on the impact of reach Apple has on the mobile and app market currently.

She added, "Our ongoing examination into digital markets has already uncovered some worrying trends. We know that businesses, as well as consumers, may suffer real harm if anti-competitive practices by big tech go unchecked. That’s why we’re pressing on with setting up the new Digital Markets Unit and launching new investigations wherever we have grounds to do so."

You can catch up on the legal ongoings of Apple vs. Epic Games with our previous coverage here. The case is expected to go to court later this year. 

[Source: Gov.UK]

Bungie Isn't Rushing To Fix Destiny 2 12-Player Raid Bug

Last week, we wrote a piece about the Destiny 2 12-player raid bug that completely changed the way the game felt and how much we ourselves were loving it. We waited until Bungie was aware of the bug before writing it to prolong that joy a little further, but turns out we don't have to. Guardians were shocked to see that a fix for the unintentionally hilarious and amazing glitch weren't included in this week's patch notes. That was intentional. Good news, friends! Bungie isn't quite ready to part with the Destiny 2 12-player raid bug either quite yet. 

In the latest "This Week At Bungie" blog post, Cozmo updated fans awaiting news about the double-the-Guardian-double-the-fun glitch. According to him, the team is loving watching everybody having so much fun, he even went so far to say that if you haven't cheesed a raid, dungeon, or Presage yet to go ahead and do so now. 

The big buzz around the community this week has been players finding out a way to cram four fireteams in activities meant for one. We’ve been watching the 12-player raid hype and are glad you’re enjoying yourselves. We aren’t rushing out a fix for this and it’s totally fine if you want to try it out and have some fun. Just keep in mind that we didn’t create these activities expecting a clown car of Guardians to roll up, so you may experience some weirdness. 

Eventually a fix is coming, but not today. Rejoice! 

As mentioned in our previous piece that took on more of a feature feel than a news post, we have been loving this glitch. It makes sherpaing infinitely more fun for those that really just don't seem to care about learning the more complicated mechanics, but it also gives a fun edge for those that want to take the raid grind to more enjoyable heights. Similar to the feeling of playing an Overwatch match with a team of nothing but Reinhardt's, taking to Gardens of Salvation with a group of 12 players, all having fun and the freedom to spec out they way they'd like versus the way they should was just absolutely gratifying. 

A fix is expected, because of course it is, but my personal hope is that Bungie sees how much joy bigger fire teams gives players and that they adopt some kind of mode in the future to allow for just that. 

What do you think about the Destiny 2 12-player bug and Bungie's delay of a fix? Sound off with your hot takes in the comment section below, Zavala would want you to. 

Hitman 3 March Content Roadmap Announced

Hitman 3

The final chapter in Agent 47’s international journey of political intrigue, espionage, and assassination launched to strong reviews earlier this year.  Despite the main story coming to a close, developer IO Interactive is releasing even more content for players that are looking to take on more missions. The upcoming update includes new weapons, elusive targets, escalation contracts, and —that’s right, you guessed it — Easter bunny eggs. 


Hitman 3 March Roadmap

Escalation Contract

The Lesley Celebration is slated to be Hitman 3’s  next escalation contract. Players must hunt down a number of VIPs within the claustrophobic confines of a crowded Berlin nightclub.  Similar to normal contracts that you can complete, escalation contracts usually require players to neutralize an enemy while adhering to specific objectives and restrictions. These restrictions amplify the stakes and challenge of each mission (e.g., wearing a certain outfit while eliminating a target or using a specific weapon for the duration of the contract). When the deed(s) has been done, the escalation contract’s difficulty will increase which can lead to more nuanced playthroughs that can potentially include extra targets. 

The Lesley Celebration drops on March 4.

Additionally, on March 30, owners of the Hitman 3 Deluxe Edition will gain access to the Satu Mare Deluxe Escalation. The mission is inspired by Agent 47’s very first escape as players are tasked with breaking out of  a large prison complex. Players can unlock a “Straight Jacket” costume, the “Taunton Dart Gun,” and the “Straight Jacket Belt.”

Featured Contracts

Details surrounding the next featured contracts have been relatively scarce, but based on previous content they’re bound to be as exhilarating as Hitman 3’s default missions. On March 11, the Chongqing Featured Contract by Easy Allies is set to launch, and on March 25, the Mendoza Contact by Eurogamer will be available. 

Seasonal Event

From March 30  to April 12, The Berlin Egg Hunt will commence. You’ll need to find various eggs scattered around an expansive Berlin location. Of course, there will be guards and the like patrolling the area; nothing’s ever easy, is it? Once the season event is completed, you’ll be given the “Raver Outfit” so you can kill your other targets in style. 

Elusive Target

Head to the Isle of Sgàil on March 19 to initiate Hitman 3’s latest elusive target contract. What makes elusive targets so exhilarating is the fact that players are only given one opportunity to assassinate their target. If the target escapes, the mission is failed...for good. The Isle of Sgàil event  lasts for 10 days as players must scour a high society party on an island to set up the perfect kill. 


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Finally, if you finish "The Final Test" mission at the ICA Facility , you’ll unlock “The Tactical Turtleneck” outfit. This can be nabbed at any point during the month of March. If you’re still struggling with Hitman 3’s base content, read our guide on How To Find The Game's Most Useful Disguises so you can bypass security, eliminate the VIP, and escape unscathed. Hitman 3 is available for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, and PC.

Before Your Eyes Is An Emotional Adventure Game You Control By Blinking

Before Your Eyes is a unique narrative adventure that you control by blinking your eyes. Yes, as in with your actual eyeballs. You're probably asking yourself "How the heck does that work?" Read on to find out what this eye-catching indie title has in store. 

The game is described as a “personal tale of self-discovery” as players embark on a journey guided by The Ferryman, a feline (or canine?) boat captain who shepherds departed souls to the afterlife. The debut trailer shows off various stages in one’s life, such as playing games with loved ones, traveling to other countries, and, eventually, death. To relive these memories, players must physically blink and those movements are detected by your webcam and registered as inputs. 

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Blinking can move time forward by a few days or a few years. Certain interactions are also triggered by blinking, shown in the trailer when the Ferryman instructs players to blink over his hand or when viewing a photo album. The idea is that life is literally flashing before your eyes, and I can’t think of a more immersive and organic method of getting that point across. 

Before Your Eyes is the debut title by GoodbyeWorld Games, and was born from a 2014 prototype called Close Your, which won an Indiecade Developer’s Choice Award. The project is the brainchild of Will Hellwarth, founder and director at GoodbyeWorld Games. He and his team have spent the last several years expanding the intriguing premise into a full-fledged title, with Skybound Games of The Walking Dead fame handling publishing duties. 

“We’ve been working on this game since college—for the better part of a decade—so it’s really the definition of a labor of love,” said Oliver Lewin, game director and composer. 

If you want to know what it’s like to control a game using your peepers, keep a lookout for Before Your Eyes when it launches for PC via Steam on April 8. Meanwhile, you can click here to learn about Skybound's recent partnership on upcoming horror game, The Callisto Protocol. 

What do you think of Before Your Eyes' inventive approach to storytelling? Let us know in the comments! 

Final Fantasy Lo-Fi Is Now On Spotify Thanks To Square Enix

Lo-fi is one of my favorite music stylings to listen to throughout the workday, so when Square Enix added some chill Final Fantasy lo-fi sounds to Spotify, my heart got really happy really quickly. The company recently just added a ton of new tunes to the music streaming service, including a "Chill Out" tracklist specifically designed to help relax and unwind. 

"Introducing new chill-out arrangements of music from Square Enix’s popular game titles," says Square Enix about the Spotify "Chill Out" album. "This album features a selection of classic tracks, mainly taken from Squaresoft’s 1980s releases, such as Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy Legend, Final Fantasy Legend II, Final Fantasy Legend III, and Final Fantasy Adventure."

Square Enix

The lo-fiesque tunes takes music from Squaresoft's '80s releases and arranges them in the best way possible. Games like Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy Legend, Final Fantasy Legend II, Final Fantasy Legend III, and Final Fantasy Adventure. 

The arrangements for this album are a product of talent from all over the world, including DJ Lord Echo from New Zealand, Oval's Shingo Suzuki and Shingo Sekiguchi from Origami Production, Kylie Minogue's director (and pianist) Chris Gulino, and more. 

"Bundled with mellow music perfect for a relaxing time, this album will unquestionably bring a moment of peace to all game enthusiasts and relaxing music lovers alike.," Square adds. 

You can also listen to the Final Fantasy VII Remake original soundtrack on Spotify as well below. You're welcome: 

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For those that want the physical version of this soundtrack, you can buy it here for $29.99

I don't know about you, but the Final Fantasy lo-fi music makes me feel so completely dreamy and calm. I love it! Hopefully it helps you in your day-to-day as well, lord knows we could all use a little more chill in our lives

[Source: Square Enix via PC Gamer]

Valve Gives Up On The Artifact Reboot

Today, Valve announced that development on the Artifact reboot, previously known as Artifact 2.0, has ceased. That beta version of the game is now available alongside the original artifact for free. Since these are two different games, with Artifact 2.0 having a multitude of changes, players can elect to download and play either game at this point for free. The original can be played as Artifact Classic, while the newer version is known as Artifact Foundry. Both can be found on Steam.  Players can no longer spend money on either game (like on card packs or the classic client, for example), since they are both 100-percent free at this time. In an official blog post today, The Artifact team commented on the reboot:

"While we're reasonably satisfied we accomplished most of our game-side goals, we haven't managed to get the active player numbers to a level that justifies further development at this time. As such, we've made the tough decision to stop development on the Artifact 2.0 Beta."

No further game updates are planned for either version of Artifact.

I was quite smitten when I first saw Artifact at PAX years ago, and I had a blast with Artifact 2.0 (Foundry) during its beta session as well. My review of the initial classic release was also quite positive. The online digital card game market is highly competitive, and I do wish things would have ended differently for this game especially. I believe that serious issues with the game's monetization plan and other aspects of the game including lack of updates and content rollouts put it on a path that was incredibly difficult to course correct, and it's a shame to see the game's potential languish.

Oh well, at least I can still pop into Artifact Foundry for a draft. I think they did a bang up job on that new draft format, and played quite a few hours with both friends and randoms. Artifact captured Dota's characters (and even some new ones!) in card form and gave players another fun way to engage with that universe when they weren't trying to six-slot Anti-mage in a 50-minute melee in Dota 2. It's sad to see that the revitalization plan for the game won't see a real release, and looks instead condemned to live as a historical example for other online collectible card games to learn from.

"We're grateful to all Artifact players, and particularly to those who were able to help us tune and refine what would become Artifact Foundry," the Artifact team posted. "The team feels this is the approach that best serves the community. We're proud of the work we've done on both games and excited about delivering them to a much larger audience of gamers."

You can check out the entire post here. Did you ever play Artifact? Did you play the rebooted version? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

What Is Loop Hero And Why Should You Care?

Loop Hero hits Steam today, a little indie gem that combines some different genre styles and mechanisms for a fairly compelling effect. While it’s a different sort of beast than many of today’s other deckbuilding roguelikes such as Slay the Spire or Monster Train, I’m guessing the same crowd is going to be rather enthralled with Loop Hero. Essentially, it combines deckbuilding, townbuilding, and… dungeon building. And idling. Yeah. You don’t control your hero at all. Instead, you make the major decisions that determine the hero’s future by creating a world around them, a loop that they’ll walk around until you either summon and defeat a boss or die. 

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Build too many obstacles and enemies to battle, and your poor champion finds themself overburdened and dead. Build too few, and you won’t be able to acquire the gear or experience needed to survive as the enemies grow stronger every loop. And throughout it all, you’re tasked with creating creative combinations by using the board space and special cards to assemble the best possible dungeon for your intrepid explorer to destroy.

The so-called “gameplay loop” of loop hero lets you take on the encounters with a variety of classes once you get going. With a warrior, a rogue, and necromancer, there are different loop templates to tackle that come with different modifiers. Of course, you’re not going to win every time. In fact you’re often going to lose and get sent back to your encampment with some collected resources to spend on permanent and powerful settlement upgrades, making this a roguelite instead of a roguelike for those who care about such designations. While in the loop, you’re constantly faced with a value proposition each time you complete a loop around the circuit – do you cash out with the full resources you’ve collected or do you press your luck and keep going? If you do end up dying, you’re only going to get to take home thirty percent of your haul, so knowing when to call it a day and head back with a full yield is another important skill that must be learned.

The most entertaining aspect of Loop Hero is constructing your loops for your daring adventurers to explore. There are many hidden combinations to discover that can alter the landscape. Building mountains can increase your character’s life points, but what if you stack a 3x3 grid full of them to build a towering peak? There’s a bonus for that, but it will also bring harpies to land occasionally on your loop, causing problems.

Perhaps you enjoy building forests for an attack speed bonus. Build too many, and a village of evil wooden training dummies will spawn that you hopefully have a Oblivion spell ready to destroy before you end up getting slaughtered by a stack of persnickety planks. On the same note, perhaps you could build a lightning temple off to the side, but with forests in your path – forests burn, you know, and it might alter their effects. The constant juggling of myriad locations and their various effects on the board state create a consistently enjoyable value proposition that’s a blast to grind and grind, even if you never actually have any real control over your champion’s attacks or defenses.

Just because you’re not controlling your character directly doesn’t mean you’re not making choices. Crushing legions of foes gives experience points that you can use to level up, selecting from three different choices each level that you can use with gear and carefully selected map effects to create potent builds. There are also “gold cards” you can unlock and pick one of to use each run which can completely change the way you approach a challenge. For instance, one gold card removes your armor HP bonus (which is significant!) but gives you more maximum hit points every time you kill a creature with a soul. You’re going to take that into account when you build your deck, because you’re not going to want to stick a bunch of soulless foes in there, and you’re going to want to try to shoot for numerous, weaker living creatures in order to take advantage of the bonus. On the surface, this may seem incredibly obvious, and it is – things get interesting when you’re making many of these macro and micro decisions, weaving them together, and watching how it all plays out.

Loop Hero has interesting and intriguing mysteries to dive into with a strategy RPG deckbuilding roguelike experience where you craft your own perils and then overcome them. Loop Hero is available on Steam today, but I hope it comes to other platforms as well.

 

You Can Make "The Field Of Dreams" Using MLB The Show 21's Stadium Creator

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I'm not sure if people travel to Iowa's "Field of Dreams" to attend a baseball game played in a cornfield, or if they are there to see ghosts. It's probably a mix of both. This unique setting is a part of MLB The Show 21. Holding true to the popular line "If you build it, he will come" from the Field of Dreams movie, you'll get the chance to build your own stadium and plant your own cornfield using The Show's new stadium creator. While this destination looks like the iconic Iowa location, I doubt you'll see the spirits of legendary baseball players on the field, but we'll have to wait to see what Sony has planned.

The stadium creator gives you a high level of freedom to make each ballpark distinct. Using 1,000 different pieces, you can pick the wall types (determining their height and distance on the fly), set where the foul poles are, and also design the stands, including props positioned inside and outside of the stadium. As the trailer above shows, you can even make the skyline look like a scene from an alien invasion movie with spacecraft floating menacingly over the city.

Everything you create can be shared online. If you like someone else's stadium and want to make one little change to it, you can download and edit it. I'm sure there will be no shortage of people being inspired by Fenway's Green Monster, only in every other color possible. Although The Show is launching on both current- and next-gen machines, the stadium creator feature is only available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S. All of these versions feature crossplay functionality, however, so it will be interesting to see how Sony handles the user-created stadiums in the online space, as they will be usable in both Diamond Dynasty and Franchise modes.

If you plan on playing MLB The Show 21, and spend time in the stadium creator, I recommend two experiments: a stadium with short walls as close to the infield as possible, and another with standard distanced walls that are so tall no player could ever hit a home run. It'll be interesting to see how games play out in both of these venues.

MLB The Show 21 hits on April 20 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One. A collector's edition featuring the great Jackie Robinson will be released for all of these versions.

GI Show – Aliens: Fireteam And It Takes Two Impressions, What We Want From Elden Ring

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On this week's episode of The Game Informer Show, we discuss a handful of the games we've been digging recently, including Maquette, Outriders, Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos, Aliens: Fireteam, and It Takes Two. Then we reflect on the recent Elden Ring trailer leaks as we dream about what we'd like to see from From Software's next title, and what possible contribution author George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) brings to the table. It's a full show, but we make time for another fantastic round of community emails. So please join Dan Tack (@dantack), Alex Stadnik (@Studnik76), Liana Ruppert (@DirtyEffinHippy), Jeff Cork, and Ben Reeves (@Benjaminreeves) for another wild and ever-entertaining episode!

Thanks for listening! Please make sure to leave feedback below and share the episode if you enjoyed it. You can watch the video above, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Playlisten on SoundCloudstream it on Spotify, or download the MP3 at the bottom of the page. Also, be sure to send your questions to podcast@gameinformer.com for a chance to have them answered on the show!

Our thanks to The Rapture Twins for The Game Informer Show's intro song. You can hear more of their music at their website.


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

00:00:00 - Introduction
00:01:25 - It Takes Two
00:07:24 - Aliens: Fireteam
00:09:52 - Outriders
00:20:35 - Destiny 2
00:22:42 - Animal Crossing: New Horizons Mario Update
00:25:39 - Rogue Heroes: Ruins of Tasos
00:30:49 - Maquette
00:34:08 - StarCraft II
00:35:25 - What We Want From Elden Ring
00:47:50 - Community Emails

New Dragon Ball Demon Breaker Trailer Breaks Down The Upcoming Demo

Dragon Ball Demon Breaker is a fan-driven project that aims to revitalize the Dragon Ball franchise in the gaming space and a new demo is on the way soon. From the team over at SaiyaSlash, the upcoming game is a hack 'n slash adventure that places players in the role of Trunks. A Dragon Ball Demon Breaker demo trailer has arrived ahead of the early play period dropping this March to tease fans of the anime about what's ahead. 

Like most demos, the Dragon Ball Demon Breaker early access period will be a limited portion of the game for gamers to try out. It will allow those interested a chance to check out what it's like to become Trunks as he faces off against hordes of demons when taking on Saiyan Palace. 

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The demo trailer above (via GameRant) is just a small tease starring Future Trunks and shows off that players will be able to take to battle with his base form and his Super Saiyan form. Being able to swap between the two forms seems effortless enough, though I wish we could have seen more features in the trailer since most of this centers around things we've already known. 

The goal of Dragon Ball Demon Breaker is to completely revamp what Saiyan combat means to gamers. With the anime currently on hiatus, creators Saiya-Slash and Atlas Studios are drawing inspiration from the Devil May Cry franchise to provide a more meaningful fighting experience unlike previous games under the anime umbrella. 

We don't have a release date at this time, but it's kind of cool to see a fan project like this come this far. A bigger demo is expected to drop later this summer with a full launch sometime this year. Who knows, maybe Bandai Namco will feel inspired by what Demon Breaker has to offer and we'll see a whole new way to experience the Dragon Ball world. 

To follow the progress on Dragon Ball Demon Breaker, be sure to check out the official Twitter for the free, non-profit Dragon Ball game right here

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate First Look At New Monster Hunter Mii Costumes

The latest fighter to join the Super Smash Bros. roster is available today with Pyra and her alternate form, Mythra. Game director Masahiro Sakurai showed off what the latest arrival brings to the fighting game, including a new stage and some more sprites for players to enjoy. Also revealed, outside of the Xenoblade focus, were the new Monster Hunter-inspired Mii costumes. 

We've had some pretty cool Mii costumes in the past, even if previous revelations led to the disappointment that the actual characters themselves weren't arriving (we're still mourning the unofficial inclusion of Undertale), and the latest additions arrive ahead of Monster Hunter Rise. 

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In the latest Super Smash Bros. Ultimate showcase (at time marker 31:56), we see the different direction that Nintendo decided to take when introducing the newest Mii costumes, pivoting away from Xenoblade to celebrate Monster Hunter. The four newest costumes include: 

  • Hunter equipment (swordfighter)
  • Rathalos equipment (swordfighter)
  • Arthur (swordfighter)
  • Felyne (hat)

Three of the four are specifically designed for swordfighter characters, but the Felyne hat can be donned by anyone playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The director mentioned that the costumes are a part of celebrating the upcoming release of the latest Monster Hunter with Rise and that the Arthur swordfighter costume was a special homage to Ghosts 'n Goblins following the success of the recently released Ghost 'n Goblins Resurrection (you can read our full review of that right here).

Missed the full showcase? You can check out our previous coverage here to learn more about the newest fighter to join the fray later on today.

What do you think about the new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Monster Hunter Mii costumes? Do you agree with one of the theories that this means we won't be seeing an actual Monster Hunter character join as a full-on fighter? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below!  

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The Sinking City Pulled From Steam Again After Frogwares Issues DMCA Takedown

Lovecraftian horror game The Sinking City has once again been pulled from Steam as part of the ongoing (and increasingly ugly) publishing dispute between the game's developer, Frogwares, and its publisher, Nacon. The game released in June 2019, but was pulled from Steam and several other digital storefronts for months as a result of the legal conflict. The French courts eventually allowed Nacon to sell The Sinking City again while a final decision on whether or not Frogwares is legally obligated to deliver the Steam version of the game was still pending.  

The Sinking City appeared on Steam again in late February, and Frogwares implored players not to buy it, alleging the game had been pirated and illegally modified by Nacon and provided its own proof. Nacon denied the accusation, stating: 

“In line with the courts’ decision, Nacon has repeatedly and unsuccessfully requested that Frogwares make the game available on Steam, failing which it would apply a clause in the contract wherein such a case, the game would be adapted by a third party. Frogwares then attempted, without the knowledge of Nacon and in violation of our rights, to make the game available on Steam without mentioning Nacon in its capacity as the publisher. This is, therefore clear proof that no technical impossibility prevents the game from being put back on Steam.”

In response, Vice reports that Frogwares has issued a DMCA takedown of The Sinking City to have it removed from Steam. It succeeded; as of writing, searching for the game on Steam yields zero results. Valve’s VP of marketing Doug Lambardi also confirmed the company's decision to remove the game from sale following Frogwares' request.  

Frogwares issued a formal statement on the takedown, telling Vice in part:

“Regarding our use of a DMCA to remove the game from Steam. We believe in a very short time, we were able to collect extremely strong evidence to indicate this version of the game was pirated and contains content that Nacon has absolutely no rights to – namely The Merciful Madness DLC. A DMCA notice proved to be our most effective tool to give us time to gain further potential evidence and to also start the required and lengthy additional legal processes to prevent this from happening again…”

Frogwares also points out that it could take months or even years for the French courts to render a final decision on the matter, so don’t expect this saga to wind down anytime soon. 

If all of this controversy has made you curious about playing The Sinking City, you can still purchase the game on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch and PC via Origin and Gamesplanet.

[Source: Vice]

Don't Fall For Fake Diablo II: Resurrected Alpha Invites, Warns Blizzard

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Earlier this week, Blizzard confirmed that there will be at least two chances for players to get their hands on Diablo II: Resurrected with alpha tests but now the company is warning players of fakes trying to capitalize on the excitement. 

Adam Fletcher, Blizzard's community development lead, took to Twitter to warn that the company is already being made aware of a few different fake alpha invites floating around following the reveal. "Just a heads-up to everyone interested in Diablo II: Resurrected and the tech alpha," begins his warning. "Don't fall for scams. I've seen numerous places state they are running contests or giving away access. That isn't true." 

He also posted an example of said scam in the follow-up tweet shared above. Further along in the thread, the community lead links to the Diablo II: Resurrected subreddit saying that it is helping to facilitate these scams and that the only way to get in on the alpha action is through the official website linked here

Following his calling out of the subreddit, the Blizzard dev's Reddit account was banned from participating in the thread about the game he is a part of. Bizarrely enough, the same thread created another giveaway post not linked by the community dev and has locked down comments so that no one can call it out as a fake. 

Why the mods running this thread thought banning the community development lead from the very game he is working on was a good idea is anyone's guess, but at least that makes it easier to see that it is, in fact, fake. 

What are your thoughts on the revealed remaster with Diablo II: Resurrected and the shenanigans documented above? Sound off in the comment section below! You can also learn more about the newest Diablo tale with our exclusive coverage hub seen here for Diablo IV. 

Exclusive First Look At Ultimate Rivals: The Court

When Skylanders and Disney Infinity were flying off of store shelves, Bit Fry Game Studios almost made a toys-to-life sports title. I was shown a prototype of a Wayne Gretzky figure that would be used for the game by Ben Freidlin, Bit Fry's founder and CEO. The hope was to create a game that blended athletes from all major professional sports, whether it was hockey or baseball, to compete in all sports whether they knew how to in real life or not. As development of this title ramped up, the entire toys-to-life category collapsed, and Bit Fry wisely pivoted to adapt its vision to a standard video game format.

The result of that change was the wildly successful Apple Arcade game Ultimate Rivals: The Rink, an arcade-style hockey game that has assembled over 70 recognizable athletes. That entire roster (along with even more stars), are replacing their ice skates for sneakers in the forthcoming game Ultimate Rivals: The Court.

Drawing heavy inspiration from the NBA Jam games of old, The Court delivers fast-paced, dunk-heavy 3-v-3 basketball action that runs at a smooth 60 frames-per-second. It launches this year on Apple Arcade, but will later be released on Steam, as well as unspecified consoles. Here's hoping it comes to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch!

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In creating The Court's dynamic action, Freidlin tells me that Bit Fry looked at fighting games just as much as action-sports. "The mechanics are learnable instantly, but the theory crafting is deep," he adds. When picking a roster, players shouldn't just be picking the athletes they know and love, and instead should be thinking about how their team of three sits against their opponents'. Athletes from different sports have different skill sets. Yes, Lebron James will be a well rounded superstar, but a quarterback like Drew Brees has better accuracy at hitting a full-court shot given his ability to throw the ball downfield. Animations, shots, and deke moves are also different for various athletes and their sports.

As you can see in the image above, the game has superhero-like qualities to it, allowing for hockey players to turn to ice and everyone to be able to soar higher than they should. As amazing feats are performed, a familiar voice from the past will amplify their excitement. Bit Fry has enlisted the voice-acting talents of Tim Kitzrow (of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz fame) to provide commentary. We doubt he'll scream "He's on fire," but we're sure he'll have some other zingers that will get stuck in our heads. If you check out the trailer below, you can hear him say the line that put him on the map.

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Along with the 70-plus athletes from The Rink, Bit Fry is expanding the roster to over 140 competitors, many are NBA stars from today and yesterday, but you'll also see famed names from other sports as well. Bit Fry doesn't want to announce every player just yet, but from the NBA side, players can look forward to suiting up as Stephen Curry, Giannis Antekounmpo, Luka Doncic, Paul George, and Damian Lillard. As for other sports, the addition's include the MLB's Bryce Harper, the WNBA's Candace Parker, the NHL's Patrice Bergeron, the NFL's Lamar Jackson, and USWNT's Christen Press.

The Court is designed with short game sessions in mind – both for online competitive play and against A.I. Along with the standard touch controls, it supports bluetooth-connected console controllers. Freidlin says plenty of depth awaits in a challenge mode called The Gauntlet, and players can also enter a training mode to figure out their perfect team chemistry and to master the moves. "The training mode is modeled after Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat," he says.

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In a world without NBA Jam games, I'm hoping Ultimate Rivals: The Court can pick up the torch and set fire to this genre again, especially since it will be expanding to other platforms later this year.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Pyra/Mythra Showcase Reveals New Stage, Kirby Copy, And More

A new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate showcase has game director Masahiro Sakurai front and center once more to break down what Pyra and Mythra bring to the roster ahead of their official arrival in the fighting game. The latest episode of Mr. Sakurai Presents breaks down more about the fighting style of the newest additions as well as a first look at what the adorable Kirby Copy looks like when swallowed whole. 

You can see the entire showcase in all of its Xenoblade x Super Smash Bros. glory in the video below: 

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Among the reveals is our first look at the Cloud Seas of Alrest stage. The game director reveals that the stage itself is set on the back of Azurda (also called Gramps) and it's during the opening scenes that players will learn that this is Rex's home. Players will be able to see other Titans appear at random in the background as the stage floats among the clouds. Also confirmed is that each Titan will have its own geography, making each one special and unique to the play experience. 

The above showcase also shows off Kirby's adorable copy of the character while revealing that Kirby's abilities will differ depending on if he inhales Pyra or her alternate form with Mythra. 

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate already has spirits for Tora, Rex, Nia, Poppi a, Morag, and Zeke, but the newest arrival will also bring in new spirits with Jin, Malos, Lora, Amalthus, and one more that's still a surprise. 

The latest characters to fight their way into the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate roster arrive later today for $5.99 (if you buy by the character pack by itself), the Fighter Pass is $29.99 for six characters in total with two more fighters yet to be revealed.

What are your thoughts so far on the Xenoblade additions? What other characters would you like to see round out the latest Fighter Pass? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below! 

An Open-World Dungeons & Dragons Game Is In Active Development

There is a lot happening in the world of Dungeons & Dragons currently. Following the news that actor Hugh Grant is set to play the role of the lead villain in the upcoming D&D movie, new information has arisen about yet another tabletop-inspired project in the works. As confirmed by Wizards of the Coast back in 2019, one of the "seven or eight" projects currently in development is an open-world game from Hidden Path Entertainment. 

In a recent tweet, the studio confirmed the new game with a hiring notice. "We are in development on a AAA, third-person, open-world fantasy RPG that will be taking place inside the Dungeons & Dragons franchise," reads the tweet. 

From the jobs postings listed, it's clear that a lot of resources are going into this open-world game. We already know about Larian's take with Baldur's Gate III and the upcoming revival of Dark Alliance (both set within the Forgotten Realms), but this new project looks to be something new entirely. 

The new game will also be using Unreal Engine 4 for some of the "best" visual effects and simulations for the upcoming title. Also confirmed is that the dialogue will be fully voiced with the writers hired on needing to be versed in "narrative branching skills" for a "strong ensemble" cast. 

Not a lot of other information is known at this time other than the game's existence, but it does make us excited to learn that there is a lot of support going into an open-world game within the Dungeons & Dragons universe.

What do you hope to see from the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons open-world game? Any particular storyline you're hoping for? Shout out those fandom thoughts and theories loud and proud in the comment section below. 

Dungeons & Dragons Movie Casts Hugh Grant, Sophia Lillis

Following the news that the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie landed its new writer with John Wick creator Derek Kolstad and the reports that Chris Pine is in the film as well, a new casting decision has been announced. Hugh Grant is slated to play the role of the lead villain in the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie alongside It's Sophia Lillis. 

In a new report from Deadline, Grant is poised to play the big villain of the upcoming movie. Lillis' role is unclear at this time, though more details are expected to drop soon. As for the rest of the cast, Grant and Lillis both join an impressive roundtable of actors including the aforementioned Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Rege-Jean Page (Bridgerton), and Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu).

At the helm of the upcoming movie is both John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein as the film's directors with Kolstad as the lead writer. Kolstad's involvement had a lot of fans excited when it was revealed back in January. Creating the epic John Wick franchise alone was enough to give D&D fans faith, but he's also had experience with gaming adaptations as well, including Hulu's Hitman: Agent 47 and his work on Marvel's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier television series. 

With the future still mostly unknown, it does have us interested in what fans would like to see the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie take on in terms of its story. Which characters would you like to see up on the big screen and who would you like to see take on those roles? Do you think Grant has what it takes to play the big bad in the upcoming movie? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below and tell us what you'd like to see out of the latest D&D project!

[Source: Deadline]

Report: Nintendo Announcing 4K-Capable Switch Model With Bigger Screen This Year

For years, we've been getting reports of a "Nintendo Switch Pro" model that would add extra power and other features meant to appeal to core gamers. While reports of a new Switch model in 2019 ended up pointing toward the handheld-only Switch Lite, the rumors have continued to swirl regarding a potential more powerful Switch console. As recently as last August, reports continued surfacing about a 4K-capable Switch set to launch in 2021.

Today, Bloomberg reports more details on the heavily rumored model than we've ever seen before. The report states the new model will feature a larger Samsung OLED touchscreen on the device for use in handheld and tabletop mode. The screen is said to be a 7-inch OLED panel capable of 720p resolution, with production to get underway as early as June and shipments set to go out to assemblers in July. The current Switch models feature a 6.2-inch screen on the base model and a 5.5-inch screen on the Switch Lite. 

The new Nintendo Switch model will also reportedly be capable of 4K resolution when docked and connected to a capable television. The report claims that Nintendo hopes to revitalize the Switch lineup to make it more relevant in an industry that just last year saw the release of new, more powerful consoles from both PlayStation and Xbox. According to the report, Nintendo is currently planning to reveal the upgraded Switch later this year, with a release in time for the holiday season. 

We have reached out to Nintendo for comment on this rumor, but did not receive a response as of this writing. Bloomberg said representatives from both Nintendo and Samsung Display declined to comment on the report. If Nintendo returns our request for comment, we will update the story accordingly.

Last year, Nintendo said the Switch was in the middle of its lifespan. A new, more powerful model can certainly extend the lifecycle of a platform to help keep it relevant, as well as provide additional incentive for people to either double dip or buy a Switch for the first time. For more improvements we'd love to see in an upgraded Switch model, check out my wishlist.

[Source: Bloomberg]

Keanu Reeves Wrote A Comic Book Called BRZRKR And It's Out Today

Last year, actor Keanu Reeves, New York Times bestselling writer Matt Kindt, and artist Ron Garney launched a Kickstarter campaign for BRZRKR, a comic book series about an immortal warrior who is drawn to look like Reeves. The campaign was embraced by over 14,000 people who combined to pledged a whopping $1,400,000 to get this project made.

Supporters of that Kickstarter receive the full story within three hard or softcover books. If you missed out on that campaign, and are interested in this comic, which Reeves co-writes (and kind of stars in), you can pick up the first issue today at your local comic book store. Published by Boom! Studios, BRZRKR is worth tracking down, as almost every page shows Reeves in action, being brutal and effective much like John Wick. Reeves' wavy black hair and low-key attitude are also delivered in almost every frame.

The action takes center stage, and there's little story progression until the final pages of this first chapter, but big reveals are delivered, one of which is tied to Reeves' character, Berserker, eating a pill that is both red and blue in color. Berserker is a half-mortal, half-god with regenerative powers much like Deadpool's. He's lived and battled for centuries, yet ends up working for the U.S. government as the person who tackles assignments that are too dangerous for any ordinary human.

If you ever wanted to read a Keanu Reeves story written by Keanu Reeves, you now have a chance to see how wild it can be. Reeves' comic book persona is reminiscent of many of his on-screen roles. It's quite cool to see how well it plays in print.

The first issue features many covers to choose from, with the standard edition created by the great Rafael Grampá (which you can see below).

How Base Building Saved No Man's Sky

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We all know the story of No Man’s Sky and its unlikely resurgence. A title that, through the perseverance of Hello Games, came back from the ashes after numerous marketing blunders threatened to abbreviate its lifespan. But have we ever looked back to see exactly how Hello Games changed the course of No Man’s Sky? Sure, the game’s 14 major content updates are largely to thank for its comeback, but when did the atmospheric space title turn it all around? Is there a specific update that we can point to and say, “Yeah, that’s the moment everything changed?”

Fans and critics alike credit the game’s multiplayer update, No Man’s Sky Next, as its saving grace, however, I’d argue that the game’s early problems didn’t stem from the lack of an online player count, but instead were the product of an incomplete exploration loop. Why should I explore? What’s driving me to continue cataloging the depths of space outside of my own curiosity? Hello Games had to find the answer to these questions before they could ever hope to bring their game back from the dead.

And luckily, they did. 

Despite the immense changes that No Man’s Sky has undergone since its release, the mission the game presents to its pilots is still the same today as it was back in 2016: embark on a journey across the stars, chart new planets, and uncover the mysteries of an alien universe. Only this time, they had a place to call home.

Hey, I’m Alex Van Aken from Game Informer, and this is how base-building saved No Man’s Sky. If you enjoy this video essay, be sure to watch Associate Editor Jay Guisao's essay on The Weight of Departures and Reunions in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Curious what score Game Informer awarded the original version of No Man's Sky? Read the game review here.

We definitely recommend watching the video essay to appreciate the full experience, however here is the transcript if you need it:

 

Nearly five years after its original launch, No Man’s Sky is a markedly different game than the one we first played. Hello Games has not only fulfilled its original promises through myriad updates and content drops, but the studio has molded its once-lackluster survival sim into a one-of-a-kind space-faring odyssey. While the vanilla experience lacked the necessary hooks to keep players engaged for the long term, today No Man’s Sky offers a plethora of meaningful activities to participate in, including character customization, underwater settlements, cooking and farming, derelict freighters to creep through, technology trees, and most recently, tameable companions and pet trading. Hell, the game even supports virtual reality now.

In addition to introducing new and expanded systems that have bolstered the weaker aspects of No Man’s Sky, Sean Murray and team have reinforced the strengths of the original project that were worth sticking around for. Multiple facelifts have made the title’s mesmerizing planets even more arresting with the addition of fluorescent foliage and landscapes that are straight out of your favorite sci-fi films. 

But the game wasn’t always this great.

Regardless of being home to over 18 quintillion planets, No Man’s Sky was largely a hollow experience at release. The title’s procedurally-generated biomes offered little variation in their offerings to the player, and without flagship features like multiplayer or large-scale space battles, it was the husk of what was first promised. However, the gameplay loop of the original release was largely the same as it is today - repair a crashed ship, explore space, and harvest resources to survive and fund further expeditions. So, what exactly was lacking?

Well, the only meaningful system that encouraged planetary investigation at launch was tied to the Analysis Visor, which is an essential multi-tool technology that allows the player to scan undiscovered flora, fauna, minerals, and points of interest. Not only does it inform you of your distance to those aforementioned curiosities, but it also allows you to upload the results of your discoveries in exchange for credits that can be spent on ships and items. Though the Analysis Visor is a well-designed game mechanic, Hello Games desperately needed to create additional avenues that would incentivize players to continue playing No Man’s Sky.

After all, the game’s main mission, which was to reach the center of the galaxy, was yet another victim to an overhyped and misleading marketing campaign. After sinking potentially hundreds of hours into the game, players that finally managed to warp to the center of the galaxy would find themselves at the start of another, stripped of everything except for what was in their inventory. The hours-long journey loses significance when the final destination strips you of your progress and rewards.

So how exactly did base building save No Man’s Sky? 

Well, in a world where every atom is procedural, players needed an anchor that kept them interested and, more importantly, rewarded them for investing time into the game.

Enter the Foundation update. 

Released in the Fall of 2016, the Foundation Update established the game’s base-building system. None of us knew it at the time, but this first update would ensure a legacy for No Man’s Sky, as I’d argue that it was crucial to the game’s resurgence and eventual success.

So, what sort of content did this new patch introduce? Well, for starters, players could craft modular structures and decorations. By snapping together floors, walls, and doorways, you could theoretically build the base of your dreams. Yes, No Man’s Sky was now “Minecraft in space,” and it was cool as hell. Not only did shelters serve as a home base on your chosen planet, but they also offered new functionality that made both exploration and survival less tedious. For instance, instead of fleeing to the confines of their ship’s cockpit, players could seek solace from hazardous storms by simply hanging out in their base.

For more financially-driven players, the game’s brand new farming system allowed them to cultivate and harvest crops either outside or via hydroponic labs. There’s a lot of money to be made by selling these Harvested Agricultural Substances, as the game so eloquently describes them.

But what if a player wanted to leave their home star system altogether? Wouldn’t creating a base on a planet discourage them from pursuing the far reaches of space? Luckily, no. Hello Games foresaw this potential problem and created a solution. The studio soon introduced teleporters and freighters to the game. Freighters are massive ships that can travel to new star systems alongside the player and serve as a base on wheels, while teleporters allow players to warp between a base, freighter, and any space station on a whim.

Base building also solved many quality of life issues that plagued the earliest versions of the game, specifically an overall lack of inventory space or permanent storage. With a terrestrial roof over their head, players could now store precious materials in bulk rather than discarding or selling them to create more space in their pockets.

With all of these new features to explore, No Man’s Sky was finally starting to feel like a game that prioritized player freedom rather than a ruleset that simulated worthwhile progression. Yet Hello Games didn’t stop there.

13 subsequent content updates eventually made their way to No Man’s Sky, and nearly every one of them was built on the Foundation Update’s framework. The Path Finder and Atlas Rises updates, which launched at separate ends of 2017, introduced starship and multi-tool specializations, a bevy of land-based vehicles and hangars to store them in, more base parts and exterior finishes, and a tiered crafting system that unlocked valuable items via different combinations of resources. In 2018, Hello Games released No Man’s Sky Next, Visions, and The Abyss. These three chapters established the game’s full multiplayer suite, cooperative base building, massive underwater environments and settlements, and a submarine exocraft to offer new avenues of exploration. 

One of the most significant and necessary additions to No Man’s Sky was the Construction Research Station, which permanently linked the game’s base building and exploration systems after it was introduced in the Beyond update.

Here’s how it works. 

Players that venture out into space can search for Salvaged Data, a valuable currency buried in underground technology modules. In order to pinpoint the item’s location, which can be scattered across almost any planet, players need to scan the environment around them with the Analysis Visor. Once excavated, the Salvaged Data can be redeemed back at their base’s Construction Research Station for a myriad of base-building parts, including agricultural modules, aquatic construction, illumination, transportation, and sci-fi decor. With the addition of the Construction Research Station, base-building serves as a natural incentive for exploration. Previously these recipes were only available from special NPC’s, but now can be more easily researched with this process. If you’d rather, the Salvaged Data that you collected can be refined into a separate currency called Nanite Clusters and instead be used to upgrade your starships and multi-tools.

Even more base tools have been added to No Man’s Sky, including Exo Mechs, a new terrain editing system, and a Nutrient Processor that works as a cooking appliance. All of these aforementioned features provided the carrot-on-a-stick that No Man’s Sky so desperately needed at launch. And still, even five years later, Hello Games continues to push update after update, molding their game into what we’ve always hoped it would be. And none of it would have been possible without the foundational gameplay systems that were introduced with base building. 

Like I said, the game that is playable today is a far cry from the version that was first released. Today, No Man’s Sky is an experience that truly captures the awe of space and the wonder of the unknown. It’s a game that sparks our curiosity as we ignite our hyperdrives and warp to lightspeed in search of what’s next.

Despite everything, No Man’s Sky is simply intoxicating.


 

Animal Crossing: New Horizons St. Patrick's Day Update Is Coming Soon

While many island dwellers are currently getting their Super Mario on with the latest event in Animal Crossing, Nintendo just revealed what fans have to look forward to with the upcoming New Horizons St. Patrick's Day update. 

While not a full-on event like some other seasonal activities, the Animal Crossing: New Horizons St. Patrick's Day update does add a few themed items for players to enjoy as they live out their island fantasies. From furnishing that home with a special shamrock rug to chugging down tankards of shamrock soda, there are quite a few ways to celebrate the luck of the Irish while still disappointing all of the villagers that trust you to run the island. 

Oh, is that just me? Alright...

The new items shown above will be available from March 10 through March 17, with one new item being available each day and a few variants thrown in here and there. For those who are suckers for fashion like myself, the Able Sisters shop will also have a few St. Patrick's Day-themed clothing options available during this time as well. 

Want even more themed goodness in your island life? There is a special Sanrio crossover also going on right now which gives Hello Kitty, My Meloy, and Keroppi fans something new to enjoy. There are also a few returning villagers from Animal Crossing: New Leaf with this particular update which begs the very important question: Who is worth kicking someone off of your island for and why is it Marty? 

Interested in learning even more about what's currently going on in the world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons? You can check out our game hub right here to see all of the latest and greatest when playing this charming simulator. 

Thoughts on the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons St. Patrick's Day update? Do you wish it was an all-out event, or are you happy with just some new items? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below!

Diablo II: Resurrected Will Have Two Alpha Tests For Players Pre-Launch

During the virtual BlizzCon experience back in February, Blizzard Entertainment made an announcement that gave longtime Diablo fans pure joy. With Diablo II: Resurrected dropping sometime this year, fans of the action role-playing classic are eager to know when they can get their hands on the enhanced experience. While we don't have a release date quite yet, the company did confirm that there will be two Alpha play periods available for gamers to check out. 

With the help of Vicarious Visions, the upcoming Diablo II remaster will bring updated 3D graphics to the table as well as new art, more modernized textures, better audio, and improved lighting. Players can check out the improvements for themselves when the first Alpha test drops at an undisclosed date. For those that want to be in the know when the game's early access test period begins, Blizzard has opened up a way to opt-in on alerts for the second that signups goes live. For those interested, you can opt-in right here

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The upcoming Diablo remaster allows players to once more pursue the Dark Wanderer as they battle it out against the hordes of Hell. The difference? Now Diablo fans can experience the journey of discovery in up to 4K 2160p on PC with the following features, according to Blizzard: 

  • Remastered graphics
  • Classic gameplay option, untouched (like Halo: The Master Chief Collection)
  • Updated Battle.net support
  • 3D lighting rendering 

The technical test will be PC-only but Diablo II: Resurrected itself will arrive on all platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. 

What are your thoughts on the revealed remaster with Diablo II: Resurrected? Between this and Diablo IV, the world of Sanctuary is going to be very active once more, which is exciting. You can also learn more about the newest Diablo tale with our exclusive coverage hub seen here

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope Owners Receive A Free Friend's Pass

The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope can provide solid scares while playing alone, but anyone who’s played Until Dawn with friends knows there can be something special about having someone else along for the ride. Supermassive and Bandai Namco clearly agree, because as of now, Little Hope owners have access to a free friend’s pass to pass along to a buddy.

The pass allows a player who doesn’t own Little Hope to play a single full playthrough of the game alongside an owner using the Share Story mode. The pass applies to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC versions of the game and both users must play on the same platform. Once you and your buddy have completed a playthrough, that friend’s pass is used up and can’t be applied again. If that sounds good, you’ll want to wrangle up a partner/victim sooner than later. The friend pass will only be available one month after initial release (which was yesterday), so fire up the game and get going!

Bandai Namco also announced a Curator’s Cut of the game is coming to all players. This new mode adds new, exclusive scenes that offer a new perspective on the narrative once players complete their first playthrough. The game’s soundtrack is also now available to listen to on all major streaming platforms.

Little Hope is the second game in The Dark Pictures anthology following Man of Medan, though it’s a self-contained adventure. The game centers on a group of students who uncover a mystery surrounding 17th century witch trials in a creepy New England town. You can read our review of the game here. The third game in the anthology, House of Ashes, is scheduled to release sometime this year. 

Will you be making use of the free friends pass? Let us know how you plan to coerce your buddies down in the comments!

Genshin Impact’s Hu Tao Is Here. We Tried To Gacha Her Up, And Here’s What Happened

Hu Tao is finally available in the new Genshin Impact banner, allowing players to spend wishes or primogems to take a chance and try to add one to their party. Yes, it's a gacha-style system, but players can save up currency over time to spend their primogems and wishes to get the characters they want. The issue is, there are probably a lot of characters that you'd like to have.

In this respect, while Hu Tao seems amazingly cool, she's almost certainly a "primogem sink" because if you've been playing Genshin at all so far, you probably have a high level, high power Xiangling in your team already, who fills the exact same pyro polearm combination. Sure, Hu Tao can push out some massive burst damage and also has a cute ghost sidekick, but is she really worth dumping your hard-earned currency on?

Well, I sure thought so. I mean, she has a ghost. Seriously. Oh, she also has a unique "blink" effect on her dash, so that's likely to be highly useful during fights, I'd love to turn it into my own personal invincibility-frame Dark Souls roll. Anyway, so I decided to hit up my wish bank that I've been saving for a while (Sorry Xiao, I never got around to spending wishes on you...) and take a chance. What happened? You can check it out in the video below!

Click here to watch embedded media

Not only can Hu Tao ride a delicate balance of risk/reward by trading hit points for power, but she has damage-over-time and party buffing capabilities as well. Hu Tao can gain significant amounts of life back after consuming it for power by utilizing her ghostly companion, the blazing spirit. If you can tank your hit points below a certain threshold, the skill is even more effective, encouraging the Hu Tao to truly flirt between life and death in order to achieve maximum efficiency. That's thematically pretty awesome, given Hu Tao's position as funeral director of Liyue.

Have you pulled a Hu Tao? Are you going to try? Do you have any awesome five-star characters? I'm kind of sad that I splurged so many of my wishes here because I just know an awesome Dendro character is coming and I'm going to regret not having a big stack saved up. Let us know in the comments!

Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition Jumps To PlayStation 5 And Xbox Series X Tomorrow

Mortal Shell served as a solid offering to Souls fans when it launched in August 2020. The game bleeds Dark Souls through and through, but features a unique twist by allowing players to take control of various bodies to use in combat. In a similar manner, the game has found new platforms to inhabit: the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Mortal Shell is coming to Sony and Microsoft's new-gen consoles on March 4 (that's tomorrow!). This upgraded edition introduces new visual and performance improvements to make an already respectable experience even better.

Mortal Shell: Enhanced Edition boasts upscaled 4K visuals with improved textures and targeted 60fps gameplay. The game also takes advantage of the DualSense’ haptic capabilities for greater immersion while cutting down all manner of monstrosities. Players will feel subtle sensations including heartbeats and whispers, as well as the haptic feedback of arrows and other projectiles whizzing by. The trailer below provides side-by-side comparisons between the original game and the Enhanced Edition.

Click here to watch embedded media

Mortal Shell was an under-the-radar releases last year. It proudly (or shamelessly) wears its Dark Souls inspirations on its sleeves, featuring a largely similar combat and progression system and oppressive atmosphere. However, Mortal Shell separates itself with its soul-separating mechanic. Players control a fragile being who can inhabit and swap between various empty bodies, or shells, that essentially act as traditional classes. Dying once ejects you out of your shell, freezing time to provide a few seconds to jump back in. Die a second time, and you’ll be greeted by the Game Over screen. Players can also "harden" their shells to block and counter attacks. I personally enjoyed what I played of Mortal Shell, but didn’t finish it due to getting sidetracked with other games. Maybe I'll finally dive back in with this new-gen upgrade. 

If you already own Mortal Shell on last-gen platforms, you’ll be happy to know that upgrading to the Enhanced Edition comes at the low price of "free". For newcomers, expect to part with $29.99 to purchase the game standalone. 

Did you play Mortal Shell, and will you be looking into upgrading to the Enhanced Edition? Let us know down in the comments!

Mass Effect Trilogy: Vinyl Collection 4LP Box Set Reveal Ahead Of Legendary Edition Release

The Mass Effect Trilogy: Legendary Edition is just a few short months away, and to celebrate the musical stylings of the fully calibrated remaster, SpaceLab9 has revealed a brand new trilogy vinyl collection box set for N7 fans to enjoy. 

The company took to Twitter to share our first look at the vinyl set with its white backdrop and cutout N7 logo emblazoned on the front. The collection is set to go live to pre-order on March 4 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and will include 85 tracks from the trilogy specifically tailored to the vinyl format: 

We recently sat down with composer Jack Wall, who worked on the original trilogy, ahead of the vinyl's official reveal. You can learn more about his time with the iconic BioWare franchise, as well as his other work on IPs like Call of Duty, with our full interview right here

While he worked on the trilogy as a whole, he took the leadership role with the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack. "Working on Mass Effect 2 was challenging," Wall told us. "BioWare was really trying to do something new and I know it was a challenge for them as well. Everything came down to the wire to get the game out on time. But we did it, and I believe Mass Effect 2 has one of the best endings of any game ever, I'm really proud to be a part of it."

The entire team's work on the trilogy was incredible. From the dramatic lows to the ecstatic highs, the Commander Shepard-driven OST remains one of my top five musical experiences in gaming to-date (alongside Mega Man and Halo, of course). 

Pre-orders go live on March 4 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern sharp, so don't miss out! You can learn more at the retailer's site right here. You can also learn more about the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition with our hub linked below for all of our exclusive coverage for our February cover story! 

Yakuza's Creator On His Life, Career, And Why Sega Should've Fired Him In The '90s

Toshihiro Nagoshi has worked on some of the most influential games of all time, including Virtua Fighter and Shenmue. These days, he’s most well known for his work on the Yakuza series. We caught up with Nagoshi to learn more about his life, career, and why he thinks Sega should’ve fired him. 

Toshihiro Nagoshi knows how to make an entrance. He’s seven minutes late after a smoke break, wearing a $2,700 Louis Vuitton jacket. Coy yet honest, reserved and flashy all at once, somehow, he fits his 30 years of game-development history into an hour-long Zoom call. It’s a story that encompasses childhood trauma, Yu Suzuki, and drunken meetings that turned into one of the biggest cult franchises in video game history. But it all starts far away from where he’s sitting right now in Tokyo.

Nagoshi grew up in the small, rural prefecture of Yamaguchi. When you talk to him about his early life, he doesn’t have a lot of positives to share. Nagoshi came from a poor household, his parents victims of sizable debt, and his father in particular had a gambling problem. Despite saying he recognizes that what he went through with his family was a necessary learning experience that got him to where he is today, he has a lot of complicated feelings about the household he grew up in.

Nagoshi says his younger life lacked direction, and that he didn’t really have aspirations for himself in Yamaguchi. He did, however, have one dream: He had seen Tokyo on TV, and something about city life appealed to him. After graduating high school, as the people he grew up with began getting jobs in their hometown, Nagoshi realized he didn’t want to live a similar life. He didn’t want his parents’ lives either. So, he left.

“Just to be honest, I grew up in a poor household and watching my parents, I kind of figured that staying [t]here and following in their footsteps wouldn’t necessarily lead to a happy life for myself,” Nagoshi says through a translator. “So, just being young and having a strong desire to get out and make a life for myself was one of the reasons that I went to Tokyo.”

Later in life, after working his way up within the game industry, Nagoshi returned to Yamaguchi to pay off his parents’ debt. Unfortunately, however, he says by the time he was able to do this both his mother and father had dementia, to the point they were unable to recognize his actions or appreciate what he had done.

“But I did hear later on from the people of the town that my parents, when they saw that I had an interview published in a magazine or saw me in the media, they would take my picture around,” Nagoshi says. “They would really proudly tell the townspeople about me. Hearing that really made me happy. Even though the money caused strains in the relationship, I’m 100-percent at peace with it now.”

Virtua Racing, one of the first games Nagoshi worked on at Sega

In the 1980s, Nagoshi moved to Tokyo to study movie production in college. His timing wasn’t great, though, as the Japanese film industry wasn’t exactly a lucrative business. Looking unsuccessfully for a job in movie production, Nagoshi says he came across an opening at Sega. At the time, he says he knew Sega was a big company, and he thought there was no way he’d ever be brought onboard. He applied anyway, “For kicks,” as he puts it. Nagoshi wasn’t turned down, but in fact was hired to Sega AM2, a development team within Sega known in the ‘90s for its arcade and fighting games, headed up by legendary developer Yu Suzuki. 

Having no formal background in game development and working with Suzuki, Nagoshi says his early years at Sega in the ‘90s came with a steep learning curve. On the other hand, he racked up an impressive portfolio, working as a designer on Virtua Racing, directing Daytona USA, and even working on Suzuki’s over-budget magnum opus, Shenmue, the most expensive game ever made at the time.

In the ’90s, Suzuki was not only a big deal in the game industry, he was a big deal at Sega – which perhaps afforded him and his team special treatment within the company. Nagoshi says the team was isolated from the rest of Sega, physically at a distance from its headquarters. The AM2 office even needed a special key to enter. “It was sort of irregular and a top-secret type of operation that was going on,” Nagoshi says.

“It was very strange, where even though he was part of Sega, the president of Sega would not know what [Suzuki] was working on at that time,” he says. “There were occasions where, every six months or so, the president and his entourage would come knocking on the door demanding to see, like, ‘What’s going on in there?’ And there were times that even then we wouldn’t show them what was being worked on.”

“It’s amazing that [Suzuki] didn’t get fired,” Nagoshi says, laughing, adding it’s amazing the entire team wasn’t fired along with him.

By the end of Nagoshi’s time with AM2, Sega wasn’t doing great. The Dreamcast, released in North America on Sept. 9, 1999, ended up being a failure for the company, eventually leading Sega to exit the hardware space entirely and focus on developing games for companies like Sony, Microsoft, and even its once-fiercest rival, Nintendo.

Shenmue

At the same time, Sega was restructuring its internal development teams, splitting them into eight separate semi-autonomous studios, each led by one of the company’s top designers. Nagoshi was appointed president of Amusement Vision, which would go on to make the Monkey Ball and F-Zero series for arcades and the GameCube. Three years later, in 2003, Sega restructured itself once again, merging the studios into four teams and inviting the heads of the three most successful studios to become executives within Sega. Nagoshi was one of those three, as was Sonic Team’s Yuji Naka and Hisao Oguchi, who later became Sega’s president for a time. Amusement Vision was merged with members of Jet Set Radio Future developer Smilebit, eventually becoming Sega NE R&D – or New Entertainment Research & Development – in 2004.

“Our first real challenge was how to combine the strengths of these two developing teams and make something new,” Nagoshi says. His solution was to come up with a game unlike anything either team had ever worked on; something completely new that would appeal to Japanese audiences. To brainstorm new ideas, Sega NE R&D would take company field trips to a place that would come to define Nagoshi’s career: Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red-light district, at one time the heart of the city’s yakuza activity, and the real-world inspiration for Kamurocho, the primary setting for nearly every Yakuza game.

“We all really liked to drink a lot,” Nagoshi says. “The discussions in meeting rooms are important to have in meeting rooms, but also, just being in a completely different setting where we’re just kind of casually having drinks, I felt, was a much easier way for me to communicate with especially the younger team members and have them feel like it was easier to speak out with courage.”

“I’ve been to so many of the bars and shops there [in Kabukicho], so I know a lot of it,” he continues. “But it’s only just a tiny percentage of this huge, bustling area of the city. When we were drinking and talking about it, someone, and it wasn’t me, someone mentioned, ‘What if there was a game where we can go to all of the places here? What if there was a way to do that?’ That really stuck and eventually led to the Yakuza series.”

The creation of the first Yakuza game is a well-told story at this point (we did our own version in issue 301). At the time, the game was a risk, appealing not to children or western markets, but only to adult Japanese males – not the most profitable demographic. Initially, as the story goes, Sega rejected the game’s proposal, only for Hajime Satomi, CEO and owner of the holding group Sega Sammy, to become interested in the project after footage of it was sneaked into a presentation of upcoming Sega games. Through Nagoshi’s persistence, and the backing of Satomi, the first Yakuza was greenlit and released in Japan on Dec. 8, 2005, to critical acclaim, selling 232,650 copies in the country that year. A sequel followed quickly; Yakuza 2 was released in Japan on Dec. 7, 2006.

In Japan, the Yakuza games have consistently sold well, and their success has even led celebrities to getting involved with the series. Actors known for appearing in yakuza films, like Riki Takeuchi and Shô Aikawa, known stateside for their roles in Takashi Miike’s Dead or Alive trilogy, and even legendary actor/director Takeshi Kitano have all appeared in the Yakuza series. Additionally, Miike, a prolific Japanese director known for his yakuza movies, directed Like a Dragon, a live-action adaptation of the first game.

Yakuza 0

In the states, though, the Yakuza series didn’t catch on fire in quite the same way ... until Yakuza 0 was released in 2017 to rave reviews and global sales beyond expectations. “As far as my personal favorites go, after Yakuza 1, it is 0, so it makes me really happy that it was received so well,” Nagoshi says. Yakuza 0 has since led to a Yakuza renaissance in western territories. In fact, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life sold just as many copies in the United States and Europe as it did in Japan. In November 2020, Sega announced the series had sold 14 million copies globally.

“When it comes down to it, I really feel like the sort of simple, straightforward storytelling had a lot to do with why global fans took to [Yakuza 0] so much,” he adds. “You know, we can’t really control sparks like that from happening. But the team and I often talk about, like, ‘Think that’s gonna happen again?’ Like, we really wish that [would] happen again.”

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

In 2011, Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios was established, a dedicated Yakuza team under Sega CS1 (itself a continuation of NE). Following the success of the Yakuza series, Nagoshi has continued to climb the ranks within Sega. In 2012, he became the chief creative officer of Sega Japan and was added to the company’s board of directors. The following year, he was also added to the board of directors for Atlus, a subsidiary of Sega known for the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series. A far cry from his humble roots in Yamaguchi, Nagoshi has become a recognizable figure in Japanese game development, and a bit of a cult icon in the west, known for his striking sense of fashion. As he tells it, though, that notoriety has come with bit of a cost; he can’t frequent Kabukicho in quite the same way he used to.

“[O]ne of the reasons why we don’t go as often anymore is because as the series became more successful and popular and I would have more opportunities to go out and speak with the media and become more known, people would recognize me more when I went there,” Nagoshi says. “So it became harder to go out and relax and enjoy it.”

With Yakuza: Like a Dragon out around the world now, Nagoshi is looking toward the future – and he’s surprisingly open about the possibilities, without confirming anything. On one hand, he says he knows Yakuza fans want more Yakuza. On the other, he says he has a talented team, so he’s open to trying something new.

“The Ryu Ga Gotoku team members, they’ve only really worked on the Yakuza series,” Nagoshi says. “But I think it would be a waste if these really talented team members that we have aren’t able to use all of their skills to their full potential. That might be challenging themselves, creating something of a whole different genre and a different style. We don’t know that yet, but that’s something that we’re really taking into consideration right now for the growth of our team as a whole.”

An Epileptic’s Guide To Gaming

A common misconception about seizures is that they only happen to people with epilepsy. That's not true; seizures can occur in anyone. There is also no "one type" of epileptic episode, which means learning about triggers can be a tricky process. With accessibility in gaming becoming more of a priority within the gaming space, studios are finally beginning to look at the impact of certain effects on those susceptible to neurological episodes beyond simply slapping a warning label on games and calling it a day. 

As someone who has seizures due to an injury from my time when I was active duty, the years following this new development have been a steep learning curve for me when navigating some of my favorite and most anticipated games. I no longer can enjoy titles like Dead Space freely as I used to, which opened up an entirely new world of development that never even entered my scope of awareness. Since seizures have become my new norm, I often make sure to pay special attention to certain design choices that can be harmful to those sensitive to neurological traps. That way, I can decide for myself if something is safe to play, and see if there is a way to work around those obstacles and try to offer some navigational tools for others that may be facing similar roadblocks. For those who experience any type of seizure or those who live in the same household with someone with epileptic tendencies, here is our Epileptic's Guide to Gaming. 

An Epileptic’s Guide To Gaming

I opened up about certain types of triggers in an article back in December regarding Cyberpunk 2077. Since then, CD Projekt Red took the necessary steps to make (very) small tweaks to make the title a little safer for all. I've also been hit with a plethora of questions from gamers with epilepsy, parents of children susceptible to seizures, and studios looking to make more educated design choices. Because of this interest, and in the interest of continuing to make gaming something that everyone can enjoy, here are a few tips that I've learned through the years when approaching new adventures in the digital space. But first, let's talk about the different varieties of seizures before laying out some tips. 

Different shades of epilepsy 

It's important to remember that epilepsy is a broad term covering many specific areas of neurological divergence. It's not "one" disease, there are many different patterns and triggers that differ from person to person. While doctors and scientists continue to learn more about epileptic triggers and how to prevent them, here is a general overview of the different types of epilepsy and the associated symptoms with them: 

  • Generalized epilepsy
    • Seizures start on both sides of the brain with two distinct kinds of symptoms:
      • Generalized motor seizures, known as Grand Mal seizures, can cause a loss of body control, loss of consciousness, and a stiffening/tweaking of muscles
        • Terminology includes clonic, tonic, and myoclonic
      • Generalized non-motor seizures, known as Petit Mal seizures, often results in a "zoning out" for the person affected, small tweaks to facial features (most common is lip-smacking)
        • Terminology includes typical, atypical, and myoclonic 
        • Also called "absent" seizures because it can seem like the person affected isn't "really there"
  • Focal epilepsy
    • Seizures will typically focus on one part of the brain, also called "partial seizures"
    • Focal epilepsy is typically categorized into four classifications: 
      1. Focal aware - the person is "aware" of the seizure happening
      2. Focal-impaired awareness - the person is often confused during an episode, sometimes with no recollection at all
      3. Focal motor - the person will experience some uncontrolled movement (twitching, muscle spasms, repeat extremity movements, aimless walking)
      4. Focal non-motor - the person affected usually won't exhibit external symptoms; instead more internal aspects are present like confusion, heart racing, a drastic drop in temperature, and more
  • Generalized and focal epilepsy
    • This means the person affected has a blend of the two epileptic types seen above
    • This is the type I have
  • Unknown
    • There is still so much unknown about epilepsy and how it's caused, what triggers it, and treatment 
    • Unknown categorization means that a seizure can happen at any time, long after birth, and symptoms/triggers have no discernible pattern

Triggers come from a variety of places. For me, flashing lights at a certain rate can almost guarantee a seizure. This is something most photo-sensitive epileptics have to be aware of. While sometimes seizures can occur with no discernable trigger, a few common irritants are known that are good to be aware of: 

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Specific hours of the day
  • When you're ill or with a fever
  • Stress
  • Flashing lights at a certain rate, speed, and color (most commonly red and white)
  • Alcohol or excessive drug consumption
  • Women can sometimes be more susceptible with their menstral cycle
  • Diet restriction, drastic changes in diet
  • Certain medications
  • Heat or extreme cold
  • Hormone shifts
  • Excess caffeine

Tips 

Knowing what sort of epilepsy you experience (or those around you experience) is key. Still, the reality is that so many people go undiagnosed because it's hard to spot, especially with the focal types. They can be difficult to document in a professional setting, as well. I experienced seizures for two years before my doctor was finally able to discern a pattern to trigger one. He was able to capture a seizure on-camera in a controlled environment. Because it's hard to diagnose – or can sometimes even be a one-off occurrence – there are no set guidelines for preventing them. That being said, the below tricks are what I've implemented in my daily life regarding games, movies, and TV:

  • Sit at least two feet away from the screen, if possible
  • Try to keep your gaming area well lit to reduce the impact of flashing lights as the sole focus
  • Dim your screen's brightness
  • Invest in a monitor/TV screen that offers an Eye-Saver Mode. This will eliminate blue light, which has helped me with red and white flashing
    • Some monitors offer glare guards and flicker-free settings
    • "Gamer glasses" like from Gunnar also help as well, especially if an eye-saving mode monitor isn't available at this time
  • Try not to play a game if you're in a state of extreme exhaustion
  • Don't forget to take breaks, often
  • Pay attention to how you're feeling
    • If you start to feel "off," don't ignore that. Identify what triggered that change in feeling and take a moment to step away
  • In extreme instances (for games like Cyberpunk 2077), you can also alternate covering one eye over the other and switching off periodically
    • This is especially helpful for focal epileptics
  • Try not to play anything when you are home alone, if possible
    • If you live alone, have a plan in place with a close friend or neighbor should you need help
  • Play around with in-game settings
    • Disable motion-blur, if applicable 
    • Some games, especially indies, will offer alternative game modes that dim flickering effects in games (ie, glitch effects, "hacking" effects, etc)

Do video games "cause" epilepsy?

No! They can trigger epileptic episodes, but you won't suddenly develop a tendency for seizures by playing a lot of games. "It's quite clear that the exposure to video games does not make you become an epileptic," says Giuseppe Erba, M.D from the University of Rochester Medical Center, in guidelines from the Epilepsy Foundation. Video games also impact a much smaller amount of people than you might think. While the exact number is still unknown, it is estimated that children that exhibit photo-sensitive seizures only amounts to about 4-9% of the population. Adults are harder to diagnose for a numeric measurement due to diagnosis complications, but susceptibility does go down with age. 

"The risk of having a seizure if you are sensitive is only one out of 17,000 viewers if you are young," continues Erba. "If you are older, it's even less. It's one out of 90,000."

Those numbers sound low, right? While the answer to that is yes, that doesn't mean that studios can't take the steps needed to make games safer. Sometimes the changes are so minuscule that a player would have no idea a change even occurred unless they were told. While the number of epileptics that are confirmed with a diagnosis is relatively small, there are so many that are not diagnosed and instances where a seizure occurs with no previous disposition. 

Looking ahead

In my case, my epilepsy is a symptom, not a cause. I never had a single neurological issue before the service, but a brain injury changed that for me. When I suffered my first Grand Mal seizure while playing Deadpool on the Xbox 360, I almost died. I lost control of my entire body (including continence, which is a little embarrassing), and my husband says that I was screaming that my skin was on fire. Since then, I've had numerous Grand Mal seizures. I'm constantly learning new triggers and ways to make day-to-day life safer. TV, movies, games - they all potentially could trigger a seizure for me and many like me, and sometimes, those seizures can be fatal. 

I recently sat down with Microsoft's senior gaming accessibility program manager, Brannon Zahand, to discuss how Xbox is making strides with game development and epileptics. "We’re always exploring new ways where we can innovate in the accessibility space, whether it’s hardware, games, the platform itself, or our services," he told me. "Epilepsy was actually one of my first experiences with the disability community. When I was in fourth grade, a coach of mine had a seizure on the court while we were playing, which caused a significant injury when he fell. I think many people simply don’t understand how impactful and dangerous a seizure can be. So it’s a topic my team, and I bring up regularly when working with publishers and developers."

He added, "We also have developed the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (or 'XAGs'), which are a set of best practices we defined in partnership with members of the Gaming & Disability Community and with other industry experts. We share these with developers, which they can use for design ideation as well as validating the accessibility of their games. We have one XAG dedicated to photosensitivity which suggests avoiding certain display patterns and the use of industry-standard tests to help ensure products are as safe as possible.

"As for working with people with disabilities, the Xbox User Research Team has been doing a fantastic job of helping us bring more and more of the disability community in to provide us with feedback on our products. That includes individuals on the neurodiversity spectrum. And we have other mechanisms in place as well, such as Inclusive Design Sprints and a Gaming Accessibility Boot Camp, where our studios have the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with our community and take their feedback."

With the strides in accessibility through the years, I'm confident that more players than ever before can enjoy the world that gaming has to offer. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop a comment below! I also recommend learning more with the Epilepsy Foundation of America, a resource that has been invaluable in ongoing research and help for those worried about possible epileptic tendencies. 

Five Star Wars Stories That Would Make Great Games

Now that Lucasfilm is allowing more publishers and developers to take a crack at making Star Wars games, I'd love to see a handful of Star Wars "classics" get reborn as interactive experiences. I put "classics" in air quotes because Star Wars' history is so complicated and messy that some its greatest stories no longer exist in the universe's ongoing continuity. Yes, you can still buy and read these stories, but most have been retconned. Lucasfilm now calls them "Legends," treating them like "what if" alternate timelines or dreams.

Seeing amazing creative works get reconned is awful, but I understand why Lucasfilm did it from business and storytelling perspectives. With dozens of stories hitting each year, the Star Wars universe quickly became a mess of confusing plotlines and crossed wires; there was just too much happening at once and not enough checks were in place to ensure quality content was being delivered. When it came to creating a new sequel trilogy with Luke, Han, and Leia, they all had lived full lives in novels and comics. Communicating their character developments to theatergoers would have been a monumental task, a task that would need to be nailed down to every small detail. Could it have been done? Yes. Should it have been done? Yes. Did Lucasfilm's decision to turn the Death Star's laser on these stories pay off? I think the answer is also yes.

Whether you like the sequel trilogy or not, the mystery surrounding these titular characters was enjoyable to see unfold. We all wanted to know where Luke was and what happened between Han and Leia. Again, you may not like the answers that were given. You may prefer these movies get retconned to bring back the lore from the books, but Disney's decision to work with a blank canvas created fantastic story potential – not just for the films, but books, comics, and games. Anything is possible, and we even see some creators diving deep into those lost works to bring back fan-favorite characters and ideas. All is not lost.

While I wish none of it was retconned in the first place,  I do love a lot of the new content that is being made, and some of it may not have been possible given what was established in the old stories. I truly believe The Mandalorian is the best thing to happen to Star Wars since the original trilogy. And by a long shot. Could it have been done regardless of what happened to past stories? Perhaps, but there's likely a chance we would have gotten the canceled Underworld show instead.

As we move forward with the likes of Ubisoft and potentially other studios being given the green light to play in in this beloved universe, here are some stories I wouldn't mind seeing come back in some fashion. 

Star Wars: Dark Empire

Penned by Tom Veitch with art by Cam Kennedy, Star Wars: Dark Empire is a short comic book series that was released by Dark Horse Comics in 1991. Set six years after the Battle of Endor, this story shows us that the Rebel Alliance's victory is short lived, and their champion, Luke Skywalker, couldn't resist the allure of the dark side. As he struggles with his inner demons, Han and Leia Solo (who are now married) are being hunted by Jabba the Hutt's loyal servants. Free from the Sarlacc Pit, Boba Fett is also gunning for them. The Empire is rising in a terrifying way. The fallen Emperor Palpatine returns with his wretched soul duplicated in a clone army (an idea J. J. Abrams used for The Rise of Skywalker).

This excellent Star Wars story is a page turner that screams of video game potential. Playing as a conflicted Luke Skywalker would be awesome, and being on the run as Han and Leia (in shooter or stealth sequences) would be equally as satisfying. We'd then see the group come together with Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca for space battles and even more on-foot action. Most Star Wars games either give us a Jedi experience or a shooter experience. Why can't one deliver both? The heart and soul of many Star Wars stories sees an ensemble of unlikely companions overcoming great odds. That's the core of what works for this crew and it would be a shame to not have that come through in a Dark Empire game. There's enough in the framework of this story that would still work somewhat well with Disney's sequel trilogy.

Bring it back, Lucasfilm!

Star Wars: Darth Maul – Shadow Hunter

A Darth Maul video game was in the works years ago at LucasArts (which I wrote extensively about in a retrospective), but it never saw the light of day. Playing as this beloved Sith Lord would be amazing because it wouldn't be a story far removed from the more traditional tales, but it would give players a chance to take part in a narrative that's not centered around the Jedi. Set just six months before the events of The Phantom Menace, this game would show us why Darth Maul is such a threat, as he uses his double-sided lightsaber to off politicians, warlords, and even a padawan.

Star Wars: Tales of the Bounty Hunters

Tales of the Bounty Hunters is an anthology of short stories that bring us closer to Boba Fett, IG-88, Dengar, Bossk, Zuckuss, and 4LOM – the lineup Darth Vader met with in The Empire Strikes Back. The game would latch onto this concept and give the player control of all of these bounty hunters for their own stories, which could even connect with one another to have numerous hunters on the trail together. I would love to learn why Dengar is considered such a threat (or should even be considered cool), and getting more from Boba Fett is always a good thing.

Given the similarities between all of these feared hunters, the controls and gameplay would be universal for all of them, but each would have distinct abilities, such as Boba Fett's jetpack, and, well, whatever Zuckuss can do.

The Star Wars

George Lucas' original rough-draft screenplay for Star Wars was penned in 1974, and was quite different than what ended up on the silver screen three years later. This early version of the story followed a character named Annikin Starkiller. With the blessing and guidance of George Lucas, Dark Horse Comics adapted this script into an eight-issue comic book series in 2013. It's a fascinating read that shows us what could have been, including an older version of Luke Skywalker who looks almost identical to Lucas today.

I'd love to see this story get fleshed out as a video game. I know Lucasfilm wants everything to be canonical now, but i think Star Wars fans would go nuts for it. Some of Ralph McQuarrie's early Star Wars sketches are based on characters from this script. Whenever those artworks are spun into toys, collectors froth at the mouth for them. A full game of McQuarrie-esque imagery would be wild, as would be seeing Lucas' early ideas come to life in an interactive way.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old High Republic

If you are confused, you should be. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the great video game series that BioWare introduced in 2003, which is sadly no longer canonical. Regardless of this, people want BioWare to make a sequel, but with its stories and characters no longer existing, what would that next chapter or reimagining be? To further complicate things, Lucasfilm recently introduced The High Republic as a new era, which is set over two hundred years before the events of the feature films.

The High Republic is basically the new place where old Star Wars stories are told. Yes, KOTOR is set four thousand years before the films, but I doubt Lucasfilm would want two old eras running in parallel. What I would like to see happen is for BioWare to create a similarly designed RPG game set within the New Republic. So instead of being Knights of the Old Republic, it would be Knights of the High Republic. The comic books and novels for The High Republic have been fantastic so far, and there's significant amounts of narrative room for a game (or series of games) to explore. Just imagine how cool the Drengir would look on next-gen hardware. Playing as Lula Talisola or having her be a companion wouldn't be a bad way to kick this story off.

Song in the Smoke Brings Brutal Survival To VR

Song in the Smoke is a new VR title by 17bit, the team behind Galak-Z and Skulls of the Shogun. The game tosses players into the wilderness to fend for themselves, and given that this is all in VR, it aims to offer a more immersive take on classic survival for gamers to enjoy. 

Survival aficionados will have a good idea of what to expect. Players must manage their food and water intake to survive as well as build campsites in safe areas to stay warm and out of harm’s way. Crafting tools, clothing, potions, and weapons becomes key to lasting another day, especially against the aggressive wildlife. Song in the Smoke seems unforgiving, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be pensive moments of beauty as players take a moment to admire the scenic environments. 

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While all of that sounds par for the course for the genre, Song in the Smoke’s VR perspective had a new layer to immersion. As seen in the trailer above, players will have to physically carve sticks into spears, pull the springs on their bow, and defend themselves from creature attack by blocking and parrying. 17bit touts that predators hit with the force of “a furry train”, and timing attacks correctly is the difference between living to survive another day and becoming food for a hungry lion. 

Story details are sparse, but 17bit alludes that players will move from zone to zone, guided by visions of a strange shaman. There definitely seem to be supernatural elements at play, such as a mysterious, perhaps otherworldly creature that lurks during the late hours of the evening. If you can brave exploring the pitch-black forest at night using only your torch, taking down deer with your clubs in first-person, look for Song in the Smoke when it releases later this year for PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and Oculus Quest. 

[Source: PlayStation Blog]