Platform: PC (Early Access, £9.99)
Developer: Handyman Studios
Publisher: Reverb Publishing
When it comes to Terraria in space, Starbound may be the big craftbox on campus, but it's actually just one of three futuristic 2D crafting survival games that broke cover at roughly the same time. DarkOut never quite delivered on its tense and stylish survival when it launched last year, yet the dark horse of the trio is still quietly in development, slowly preparing to offer a very different take on what we usually expect from the popular sub-genre.
Edge Of Space is superficially very similar to its peers. After being marooned in a hostile area of galactic real estate, you'll have to subsist on the bare minimum of equipment; mining and crafting your way to superior gear and shelter as you explore the environment. Despite two years of development, it's still rough and ready, both in terms of the visuals and placeholder-strewn state of the the Early Access build.
Within a few minutes, however, you'll realise that Handyman Studios have a unique little proposition on the slate. If Starbound makes us feel like a settler or pioneer, Edge Of Space makes us feel like a soldier. Instead of pickaxes and bows, Edge Of Space presses a particle accelerator cannon into our armoured mitts, straps on a jetpack and throws us into the unknown with our fingers on the trigger.
Or at least, it will, when it's finally finished. Now that a new patch has added multiplayer and even official Terraria content, it's high time we got involved.Click here to read more...
Voice actors are becoming increasingly important in our industry, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in narrative-driven action titles such as inFamous: Second Son.
Well, in order to take a closer look at the nature of bringing virtual characters to life, we sat down with critically-acclaimed voice actor Troy Baker at a recent inFamous: Second Son event to have a chat about fleshing out the game's protagonist -- Delsin Rowe -- with voice and character and personality, as well as discussing some of Baker's most challenging roles, and the rising stock of voice actors in an industry that is truly beginning to find its feet as a narrative medium.
inFamous: Second Son has a lot riding on it. It's the first major first-party title for the PS4 since the console's launch, and excitement is clearly high for Sucker Punch's game. The bundle is already outselling the Xbox One's Titanfall package, and there's no doubt that inFamous: Second Son *looks* the part.
We'll have a much more in-depth look at the game next week when the embargo lifts and we can share our Second Son review with you.
In the meantime, we sat down for a chat with Brand Development Manager Ken Schramm at a recent event for the game, and here's a little video interview with Ken talking about how the team leveraged the power of the PS4 to try and create a more immersive experience, some of the powers and play-styles that are on offer in the game, the importance of Delsin Rowe as a character, and also about the pressure of producing the first big-name, exclusive PS4 title following the console's launch.
Last week, in a creepy, dilapidated town house somewhere in East London with bloodstained rugs (fake) and lashings of cobwebs (real) for added ambience, I had a chance to sit down for a chat with Eric Studer, the producer at Airtight Games, and discuss some of the elements underpinning the studio's upcoming adventure-mystery game -- Murdered: Soul Suspect.
Adventure games, and mystery games in particularly, have made the jump from their 2D origins to 3D in mixed fashion. But we had a blast with L.A. Noire, we got a great kick out of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, and we're looking forward to the finished version of Murdered with eager anticipation.
Here's a game that has the balls to kill your character within the first five minutes and then have you investigate your own death.
But what does that mean practically? Why doesn't Conan just float off to the afterlife? How will we interact with the physical world, if that's even possible? What's the deal with Demons? And, wait a second, did you mention powers?Click here to read more...
When I think of Salem I tend to think of crazed Puritans from centuries ago burning anyone they can find at the stake, the religious hotbed of intolerance that Miller paints so perfectly in The Crucible, of a town obsessed with spirits and witchcraft. Even today, Salem notes its infamous history in rather tongue-in-cheek fashion, gently acknowledging the feared mysticism of ages past in restaurant monikers and the names of its schools.
It's just about the perfect setting for a game that's all about a ghostly detective, treading a path between the living and the dead as he tries to investigate his own murder.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is an intriguing game , and much of that comes from that high concept pitch underpinning everything. You play maverick detective Ronan -- a man with a chequered past, a dead wife and a sweet hat, obsessed with tracking down a serial killer that's been operating in the area. He gets a lead on the suspect's next target and immediately rushes to confront him without backup -- a choice that ultimately leads to Ronan getting thrown out of a fourth-floor window.
The game opens with you desperately trying to get back into the building, only to realise that you can't touch anything, no-one can see you, and hey! isn't that your body lying there on the ground? It's during these sequences that the game explains the basics of navigation and interaction, having you try to realign your spirit with your body, only for the masked man you were trying to pursue to emerge from the building and drill seven shots into Ronan's chest. That would explain why his torso has more holes in it than a wedge of Swiss cheese.
It transpires that Ronan is stuck in a purgatorial realm -- both a prison and a bridge of sorts, as his dead wife Julia explains in an ethereal cutscene -- known as The Dusk, and he's there because there's some unfinished business he has to take care of. "Save yourself," instructs Julia, telling him to work out what part of his life isn't done yet. The answer is clear: he has to find his killer.Click here to read more...
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Cloudbuilt is absolutely breathtaking in every sense of the word. Not only is this indie platformer an achingly beautiful masterclass in hand-drawn art design, but it's blisteringly fast, taking everything we know about parkour and strapping it directly onto a Saturn V rocket.
You wouldn't know it from the start, though. We find ourselves in a deserted empty city, a lonely expanse of dark corridors floating over an endless abyss, controlling an ethereal figure with no name or purpose. As we explore, we gradually learn the basics; jumps, double leaps, grabs, then graduating to wallruns as we search or answers. Eventually the truth will out, revealing that the action takes place in the broken mind of a recovering injured military operative.
Some games would have taken things off in a soulful and melancholy direction, but Cloudbuilt does quite the opposite. Freed from the tyranny of realism and convenional geometry by their imaginative setting, Coilworks waste no time in pouring our heroine into a battle exoskeleton armed with massive rocket boosters and a laser cannon, then loose her onto some outrageously twisted arenas against the clock. Oh yes. We loved the premise ever since it was first unveiled, so I'm delighted to report that the preview build is shaping up to be a bit of a belter ahead of its late March release.
Even though, as you'll know if you watched my first impressions video, I do rather suck at it.Click here to read more...
The Titanfall beta has been and gone. It's time to open the curtains again and maybe, just maybe, step outside once more. Be careful, though, Matt tried to rodeo a double decker bus this morning and it didn't go so well.
The hype train for Titanfall has been rolling steadily onwards since people first went hands-on with the game last year, and there were hour-long queues of just industry reps before the big conventions opened. It's been the game on everyone's lips, it seems, but has that hype been justified? Is the game genuinely exciting, or have we simply been told that it is? Have Respawn simply made COD with big, stompy mechs?
Here's what we made of the Titanfall beta:
Titanfall doesn't really do anything new, not really. We've seen jetpacks and parkour and mechs and domination modes and temporary perks and customisation before. But they've perhaps never quite been bundled up and balanced so impressively in a single game before.
A new console generation is often rife with hyperbole, but it's no surprise that Titanfall's beta has confirmed for many what the press were raving about after convention season last year: that Respawn's new shooter has quality in spades. Much of that has to do with Titanfall's accessibility. The tutorial is thorough but fairly swift, and the game itself packs a variable, dynamic learning curve thanks to the way matches are fleshed out and balanced with AI. Somehow, Respawn have managed to deliver a game that renders K/D pretty unimportant, and allows casual shooter fans to make a meaningful contribution (and to feel like awesome badasses) alongside genre veterans.
There's a new FPS party in town, and everyone is invited.Click here to read more...
The Titanfall beta has been and gone, and as we weep over not knowing what to do with ourselves for the next three weeks, we have a bit of a natter about what we thought of the game thus far.
Be sure to stay tuned for a written roundtable of our thoughts on the recent beta, and we'll have a Titanfall-based edition of Game Night to stuff in your eyes come 5PM.
There's something unmistakeably, what's the word I'm looking for... *cool* about pressing a button and having Delsin Rowe flick out a wrist and suck the neon out of the signs that adorn the streets of a dark and sleepy Seattle.
Sleepy, that is, apart from the swathes of anti-Conduit activists lining the pavements, and the gun-toting military nutjobs trying to blast you into chunky kibbles.
Still, draining the gaudy visions of urban excess of their fluorescent hues and then using the brightly-coloured energy to scale a 15-storey tower block in a second or two is pretty sweet. As is turning said energy into something of a beam sword, and using it to smash armed aggressors over the head in rhythmic, robust fashion that comes with echoes of Arkham-era Batman.
Superpowers are still as fun as they used to be, then.
Our aforementioned protagonist Mr. Rowe is a more youthful frontman for the inFamous franchise than the lightning-charged Cole McGrath, and he's a bit more versatile too. Rowe is able to pinch the powers off of other Conduits, meaning that eventually he'll end up like a superpowered pack of Skittles, with a new flavour for each occasion.
Our demo only yielded two -- smoke and neon -- but it was a promising start. The former allows Rowe to make dash jumps across small distances with a puff of smoke, and travel through steam pipes to pop out of rooftop chimneys. He can lob smoke bombs at people, his punches pack more weight behind them, and his area of attack moves are more powerful. Neon is a speedier, more agile power, gifting Rowe the ability to glide up and over walls, engage enemies with a disco-flavoured melee weapon, and pepper foes with rapid-fire pulses of energy, slowing time for a few brief seconds with L2 if you want to take a more precise shot.Click here to read more...
Before we begin, there's a simple question that you need to ask yourself: Do you find South Park funny?
If the answer is yes, then all is well. Come on in, kick off those wet shoes, and I''ll regale you with stories from an hour or two spent in the company of an interactive, feature-length South Park episode filled with all of your favourite characters. We'll chuckle about side quests that see you hunting down Man Bear Pig for a super-cereal Al Gore, delight that the game has you trotting about the Colorado town collecting Chinpokomon, and giggle at infiltrating Kenny's garage to pick up some crack from a bunch of addicts for Tweak's dad.
If the answer is no, then we might have a problem, though I'm not entirely sure why you're reading a piece about an RPG based on South Park anyway.
The game opens with a brief character creation screen (The Stick of Truth wins bonus points from allowing me to have an afro -- complete with comb jutting out of the side -- from the start) followed by the arrival of your character in South Park. You're new, a silent amnesiac (a well-worn trope that game takes great pleasure in pointing fun at), you have no friends, and your parents are incredibly insistent that you make some. So off you trot, out onto the streets.
It isn't long before you bump into someone who's also rather eager to make a proper friend or two, dressed up in a tin-foil hat, and stumbling over words in a rather endearing fashion. Butters introduces himself as a Paladin, befriends you on the South Park version of Facebook, and whisks you off to meet his chum who just so happens to be an all-powerful wizard with an affinity for Cheesy Poofs, and protector of the game's eponymous magical totem. Cartman asks you for your name -- a regular feature in RPG games. But the interface doesn't let you, and so after three attempts, and much taunting, Cartman resolves to call you "douchebag" for the entirety of the game.Click here to read more...
Early Access was made for games such as Starbound -- titles with an irrepressibly alluring bundle of core mechanics that can be expanded upon throughout an open development period that allows a game's creators to respond to player feedback in real-time. As such, we've been having a blast with Starbound for since before the turn of the year, enjoying watching and experiencing the game grow and develop. And with the massive patch a couple of weeks back ending the cycle of character wipes, we thought it was time we told you what we thought of the game.
So, in similar fashion to our WildStar roundtable last week, we thought we'd present a few thoughts on the ongoing Starbound beta thus far, and why we've been so besotted with Chucklefish's procedurally-generated, sci-fi craftbox.
To me, Starbound is a marriage of my favourite things – procedurally generated adventures, and space-faring exploration. It’s for this reason that the project grabbed my attention many months ago, but even though I have been following the development for a while I wasn’t quite prepared for my first steps into Chucklefish’s early access build, because it really impressed me. If I had to sum up my experience so far in one word, it would be “charming.” Yep – that game has charm all over the shop, and I’m absolutely swooning for it.
Exploring new planets and coming across existing communities, be they friendly or not, brings a sense of discovery that Terraria doesn’t quite manage, and the ability to go planet-hopping makes sure that happens again and again and again. All of that on top of the usual task of creating your own home with creation suite that powerful despite its simple presentation. In fact, trying to tame the world in a bid to make it hospitable was a task that, while challenging, was incredibly enjoyable, and that is a credit to the effort Chucklefish have put into their systems.
One minute I could be on an Earth-like planet, the next I could be somewhere with acid rain, making traversal a challenge even during the day. That next planet you go to might be filled with lava, or it could be the complete opposite by being the coldest thing ever and freezing your character to death in seconds. This variety keeps the action interesting and forces the player to adapt to new scenarios, which is something that I think other sandbox titles don’t do quite as well.Click here to read more...
As you'll no doubt have noticed, we've been covering WildStar a fair bit on the site over the last few weeks thanks to a bunch of beta codes from NCsoft, and constant updates and conference calls from the dev team that have kept us plenty busy with info roundups and fact drop features. We've delivered videos designed to inform and (haplessly) entertain, and we've had a lot of fun doing it.
But we haven't really dished out our verdicts on the game thus far, and it's time to rectify that. So here's a big, fat, meaty roundtable of juicy WildStar impressions, and we recorded an hour-long podcast yesterday chaired by our MMO expert Carl that'll go live later today. Enjoy!
To say “my enthusiasm for WildStar is well documented” would be putting it rather mildly, having followed and provided coverage for Carbine’s MMO for well over two years now. I’ve waxed lyrical about its refreshingly fun art style, I’ve swooned over what will end up being one of the best soundtracks in recent years, and with each hands-on preview I have been graciously invited to I’ve seen the game develop from its first iteration with WoW-like mechanics into the fast-paced combat we have in-game today.Click here to read more...
After playing WildStar for several weeks, we figured it was about time we did our jobs and picked the game apart. So here it is: a big, fat, bumper WildStar podcast that goes into detail regarding our likes, dislikes, criticisms, and joyous songs of praise for Carbine's upcoming MMO extravaganza.
You can either hit the play button on the video below and listen to us discuss the game over a bunch of our captured game footage and video material from Carbine and NCsoft, or there's an audio-only option should you want to pop it onto your phone or iPod for listening to on your travels.
I've been on a bit of a VR trip of late. Ever since THAT mind-blowing EVE: Valkyrie Gamescom demo, in fact. So when I had an opportunity earlier this week to check out the upcoming sci-fi adventure game Loading Human, from developers Untold Games, I absolutely jumped at the chance.
You can read my account of the 30-45 minutes hands-on session in my preview here, but here's a TL:DR brief summary anyway:
Untold Games are pointing the way forwards for adventure games with Loading Human; this is a tantalising possible future for the genre and for interactive storytelling in general. But whether or not it takes off sooner rather than later will all come down to execution. We're on the cusp of having the most immersive interactive narrative experiences any of us have ever seen; fingers crossed that the tech holds up.
Afterwards, I had the opportunity to sit down for a chat with Flavio Parenti and Elisa Di Lorenzo -- the creative and technical heads respectively at Untold Games for this project -- and our discussion ranged from the origins of Loading Human to how the team are pressing forward in rather pioneering fashion, to point the way forwards for the adventure genre.Click here to read more...
I'm stood in line at Boots, patiently waiting for the pharmacist to pop some antibiotics in a bag, feeling utterly loathsome and wondering if the workmen who've been noisily drilling in the recesses of my mind will permit me some respite from this godawful migraine, when my phone buzzes. It turns out that a space has opened up at noon for a chance to go hands-on with Loading Human -- the deliciously ambitious sci-fi adventure game that was revealed only a few days ago, and makes use of the Oculus Rift and the Hydra motion controller. I have an hour and a half to rush back home, grab my stuff, and then race across town. I slap myself in the face, grab the bag of prescription drugs, and run my arse off... for about 100 metres before collapsing in a coughing fit.
I made it in the end, though.
How could I not, in truth. When I made my predictions for 2014, I stated confidently that this year would herald a great shift as VR would become a consumer reality, and spoke about how the recent wave of experiential titles -- games such as Dear Esther and Gone Home -- would be most gloriously served by the the increased prospects for immersive gaming presented by devices such as the Oculus Rift. Step forward, then, Loading Human -- described by developers Untold Games as "an old-school adventure game" that certainly fits the mould, but is inspired by sci-fi pillars such as The Matrix and Strange Days as much as it is by Monkey Island.
The concept behind Loading Human is deliciously meta in nature. You play Andre -- a man dying of Alzheimer's diseased -- who finds himself placed into a virtual world by his Nobel Prize-winning genius wife Michelle, so that he might relive his memories and recover himself. The Oculus Rift will immerse you in the virtual world within the virtual world of the game itself (INCEPTION GAMING!), and motion controls such as the Razer Hydra or Sixense STEM will be the tools by which you interact with the world around you. Just as Andre is rediscovering himself, so too will we be rediscovering a means of interacting with virtual worlds.Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (Steam Early Access, £16.99)
Developer: Little Green Men Games
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Starpoint Gemini 2 promises to be an intoxicating proposition for fans of space sims and RPGs. Throughout a freeform galaxy wracked by fierce conflict, players will battle, mine, salvage and trade their way to bigger and better starships bristling with turrets and fighters, exploring dozens of systems, all while pursuing a lengthy storyline and levelling up their character with perks and skills.
However, we've heard it all before, since the original Starpoint Gemini made much the same boast but fell short in the execution. Little Green Men Games have therefore gone back to the drawing board to deliver a firm foundation for the sequel: a fully 3D, PhysX-powered sandbox universe to explore and conquer in real-time, allowing us to directly control our capital ships in tense naval battles among the stars.
This foundation -- sans storyline and several features -- is currently available on Steam Early Access. Though Starpoint Gemini 2 still has much to prove, I'm delighted to report that it's shaping up very nicely indeed. Full power to engines, launch all fighter wings and fire at will!Click here to read more...
We have one last video for you from last week's Focus Home Interactive showcase, and it's a rapid playthrough of one of the cases you'll be asked to solve as the master detective himself, in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.
There's precious little Creepy Watson in this one, but it's choc-full of the usual stuff: character profiling, multiple suspects, creating links between evidence gathered and statements made, and then at the end of it all you get to make your final deductions and settle on one out of four possible suspects.
You can choose whether or not to condemn or absolve your suspects too, and also see if your deductions were correct or not. The last point is a lovely little touch, making it perfectly possible to go through the whole thing, never realising that you'd been banging up entirely the wrong people.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is out in Q2 2014, and is confirmed for all major platforms except for Xbox One.
Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360 | PS4
Publishers: Focus Home Interactive
You have to admire Spiders' ambitions. They're a small team who want to make big games. Really big games. We're not talking shooters that you can rattle through in a matter of hours; we're talking RPGs with branching storylines, loads of customisation options, a decent story, optional companions, and an engaging combat system. These things don't come cheap, and the amount of effort it takes to craft a 20-25 hour RPG is intimidating.
That's what Bound By Flame is: a fully-fledged, high fantasy RPG on a budget that's a mere fraction of the likes enjoyed by Bethesda's and EA's studios. Made by a team more famous for porting The Testament of Sherlock Holmes to consoles than perhaps for their first stab at a truly expansive title in Mars: War Logs.
At least, that's the idea.
But Spiders are building up the time for their game at a good time. There's a dearth of fantastical Western RPGs right now, and if they can get Bound By Flame out ahead of the likes of The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, it is to be hoped that the gap in the market might do them some favours. With a while yet to wait until the coming big-hitters make their retail appearances, it's not surprising that Bound By Flame is getting a fair bit of attention, and rightly so.Click here to read more...
Spiders, the studio behind numerous Focus Home ports and last year's Mars: War Logs, are back with another mid-range RPG this year, setting out to try and prove once again that you can make a fully-fledged RPG with branching narratives, loads of customisation, loot, and character paths, for less than the usual multi-million dollar bill racked up by triple-A studios.
Mars: War Logs was a valiant effort, certainly, but it was riddled with issues and most agreed that whilst it was a game with a good grounding in the fundamentals of a good RPG, it was certainly lacking in the spit and the polish that a larger budget might have bestowed upon the game. Ambitious, yes; but ultimately hugely flawed.
Still, much of that can be attributed to it being Spiders' first real crack of the whip. Bound By Flame sees the studio returning with a different focus, a different setting and tone, and wearing its inspirations on its sleeve.Click here to read more...
Developers: Cyanide Studio
Publishers: Focus Home Interactive
Cyanide are rather busy of late. As well as readying a sequel to the Warhammer spinoff Blood Bowl, the studio are also hard at work on another spinoff title, this time in the world previously explored in Of Orcs and Men.
The recently announced Styx: Master of Shadows refers to the eponymous protagonist of the piece -- a goblin two centuries old, and the side kick to the orc Arkhail in the previous game.This is a world of traditional fantasy turn upside-down, where mankind has a lots to answer for as the races of Orcs and Goblins are trodden underfoot -- the former captured and enslaved, and the latter mercilessly persecuted.
Where Arkhail was large and lumbering and brutally strong, however, Styx is light, acrobatic, and nimble. A master thief and assassin, this game see him infiltrating the giant Tower of Akenash -- an intricately laid-out fortress built by the humans to protect a great tree that provides a substance called Amber. Think of Amber as Mana, and you wouldn't be far off, with the orangey substance proving to be the source of Elven magical power. Styx, the first of his kind, and full of questions as to the origins of the Goblin race is eager to sneak through the Tower and uncover the secrets of the Amber tree.Click here to read more...