Capcom's Ghost 'n Goblins franchise has a very specific reputation. Whether you played the Arcade or NES version of Ghosts 'n Goblins, Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the Genesis, or Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the SNES, working through these games felt like pushing a boulder up a mountain or pulling teeth. A little over 35 years later, Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection remixes and revives those games into a platformer that looks new but, perhaps unsurprisingly, embodies that same boulder-pushing, teeth-pulling gameplay. Its modern flourishes soften the blow a bit from time to time, but Resurrection is still defined by punishing, borderline cruel tactics that game designers have long-since outgrown.
Ghosts 'n Goblins Resurrection is a new game, but it functionally retells the Ghosts 'n Goblins story. The basic mechanical structure of the series remains intact, too: You run and jump from left to right, throwing javelins, knives, flaming potions, and other weapons at a seemingly endless onslaught of zombies, scythe-wielding skeletons, and winged demons. Famously, you begin the level clad in armor but lose some of it every time you take a hit until you're inevitably hopping around in heart-adorned boxers.
Resurrection derives large chunks--level themes, sequences, and bosses--from previous games, most notably Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Some of the series' distinctive bosses and sequences are reimagined in Resurrection's pencil-style art, which smartly breathes a lot more color and whimsy into a series that's always felt more cheeky than spooky. Not every reference to the old games is pulled literally from an older game; some, like the now-towering gray cyclops from Ghosts 'n Goblins, are more liberal reinterpretations. Even the enemies and sequences you can trace back to a specific point in a previous game are not identical to their predecessors, and it doesn't feel like replaying a portion of another game, but it's a potent dose of nostalgia.
(Xbox Series X/S),
Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC
Watch Dogs: Legion may have launched last October, but the fight to liberate London rages on in its upcoming online mode. Ubisoft plans to launch Watch Dogs: Legion Online on March 9 (delayed from February 23), and expands the game’s sandbox to allow players to work together to hack machines, fight Albion soldiers, or just goof around and cause wanton chaos. I spent a few hours roaming the mean streets of London with a squad to see what the mode has to offer.
So far, Watch Dogs: Legion Online looks to be solid fun, especially if you’re digging the main game and want to experience more of that with a few buddies. Some of the smaller missions are pretty straightforward, but the more complex missions, like Tactical Ops, showcase the teamwork and creative aspect. While I’d be surprised if it reaches the same heights as GTA V Online, it should offer a totally respectable playground for goofing around.
Hearthstone's next expansion, Forged in the Barrens, is lined up to kick off the Year of the Gryphon for the digital collectible card game. As part of a themed block, the expansions this year follow a sort of World of Warcraft progression pattern as players will begin the journey in the low-level (but still very iconic!) Barrens zone and then take travel to other areas later in their journey as the year goes on. The Barrens is a zone known for two things – lively chat and Mankrik's wife. While thankfully the Barrens chat experience isn't coming to Hearthstone, Mankrik's wife is!
Alongside some signature Barrens fun like raptors and quillboars, the set includes some new features to shake Hearthstone up. Some cards include the new Frenzy mechanic, which triggers when the unit takes damage and survives. Some units really get psyched up from taking damage, so you can bet that little one damage effects to start revving your troops up are going to be part of new strategies.
Also, an important note both for the set and for the game, spells are being sorted into schools to interact with new cards. For instance, spells will now be classified as arcane, nature, etc, and this determines some important interactions. Hearthstone now contains cards that boost or trigger upon certain spell schools only, like a card that gives additional damage to nature spells specifically and not a blanket "plus spell damage."
One other significant new suite of cards has different effects based on how many mana crystals you have. So, an early game spell may just summon one imp for two mana, but if you have all 10 mana crystals unlocked it may give you an entire army. These "scaling" cards can let you hit your early game drops but also be incredibly useful if drawn late in the game, giving you some powerful flexibility.
Forged In The Barrens includes 135 new cards, including 10 legendary mercenaries that we'll be following as they progress through the aforementioned "WoW progression loop" where we start in the Barrens and move into more in the B dangerous fare later down the line.
It's easy to identify many of Blue Fire's potential inspirations. Its platforming, combat, and overall structure harken back to the sprawling maps and challenges of Hollow Knight, its handful of dungeons could pass for shorter versions of those in most Legend of Zelda titles, and its progression mixes many elements synonymous with From Software's Souls series. But developer ROBI Studios struggles to bring all of these elements together in a cohesive fashion, and the addition of the studio's own ideas to the mix weighs down Blue Fire's otherwise exceptional platforming.
Blue Fire's most prominent focus is its platforming, which permeates every action you take across its 12-hour adventure. You start with just a jump and a dash, and Blue Fire immediately makes great use of these limited mechanics by giving you a satisfying amount of control over your movements. The length of each jump or dash is tied to the length of a respective button press, which means you can easily cancel either action in mid-air and have greater control over your aerial movements. This in and of itself isn't unique to Blue Fire, but the fine-tuned feel of movement makes leaping around each varied biome in its world a treat.
These basic movements are coupled with a growing repertoire of moves that you acquire as you progress, including movement speed boosts, wall-running, and double jumps. Blue Fire introduces these new mechanics gracefully; you have plenty of time to get to grips with one before being tasked to learn another. Eventually, stringing them all together feels like you're conducting an elegant ballet in mid-air, accurately timing and weighing each button press with care to make sure you're making pin-point jumps around areas designed to challenge these skills.
About an hour into Little Nightmares II, I found a toy duck resting on a hardwood floor. It was the kind of carved, wooden plaything that kids drag around on a piece of twine, with wheels where the real waterfowl's webbed feet would be. A dim spotlight from somewhere above shone on its reflective wings. Behind it, there was an oaky barrier, formed from leaning one table against another--too tall for my character, a tiny child named Mono, to climb. When I approached, the floorboard the duck was sitting on sunk into the floor. I turned to run just as a metal light fixture swung down from the ceiling, smashing me into the barrier and killing me.
Once the checkpoint reset, I tried again, attempting to quickly run away from the floorboard before the pendulum fell. No dice. Again, it smashed me against the wall.
"I wonder if I can..." I thought, eyeing the nearby toy, "...duck."
EA pulled back the curtain today on Knockout City during Wednesday's Nintendo Direct, and the new competitive multiplayer game centers on the noblest of all sports: dodgeball. The game moves the beloved childhood sport from black tops and school gyms to futuristic rooftops, construction sites, and bustling city streets. Even after watching the debut trailer you probably have a few questions: What the heck is this thing, why should I care, and how much is it going to cost me? I recently spent several hours playing the game and have returned with answers to all of those questions.
If Knockout City piques your interest, Velan is holding a PC closed beta period from February 20-21. There will also be a full game trial on launch day, so curious players can try before they buy. Knockout City has potential and with a few more months of polish and player feedback, it could be offer an entertaining alternative to standard multiplayer offerings. If it can dodge the pitfalls of other failed multiplayer titles, it just might have a shot a success.
Xbox Series X/S)
Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC
In December, Marvel's Avengers finally received its first post-launch hero in the form of Kate Bishop, the protégé of original Hawkeye Clint Barton. Her story, Operation: Taking AIM, centered around a conspiracy involving Nick Fury and time travel, which leads into the story of the next post-launch hero, Clint Barton. Today, developer Crystal Dynamics provided its first in-depth look into the arrowed Avenger, as well as a March release date for Hawkeye.
Hawkeye's story is called Operation: Future Imperfect and takes place in the not-too-distant possible future where all hope is lost and the world has been devastated. The Kree have come to Earth and laid waste to the planet.
According to the War Table presentation below, the Operation: Future Imperfect story is heavily inspired by the Old Man Hawkeye Marvel Comics run. That story centers around the world's supervillains organizing to wipe out all superheroes. In Marvel's Avengers' loose adaptation of this storyline, old man Hawkeye retired and sat the fight out, so he wasn't a part of the fight when the Kree attacked. Meanwhile, modern-day Hawkeye is involved in a storyline inspired by the Hawkeye comics My Life as a Weapon.
In the apocalyptic future, a nuclear war has destroyed the planet and Hulk is driven insane by the tragic events as the additional radiation causes him to further transform into Maestro, a version of the green monster that combines Hulk's might with Banner's intelligence. Maestro takes out all remaining heroes and villains in the world to attempt to rebuild the planet in his image. With a throne surrounded by trophies like Iron Man's helmet and Captain America's shield, it doesn't look like things went so well for Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Once you pick up the bow as Hawkeye, you can expect an eclectic mix of abilities from Clint. While you may best know him as the expert archer in the Marvel universe, Crystal Dynamics took inspiration from Clint's time as Ronin to also give him high-level swordplay. Clint is able to sidestep attacks and parry with ease. His Deadeye ability lets him home in on a specific target to maximize damage, while his arsenal of 10 unique arrow types will let you approach fights how you want to. His Hunter's Arrow ultimate allows him to shoot an arrow (or multiple arrows when you upgrade) that flies from enemy to enemy across the battlefield.
You can see the entire War Table presentation below.
The release of Hawkeye and his story coincides with the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of Marvel's Avengers. You can read more about that news here, or get up to speed with the game by checking out the full list of playable heroes and our review.
Over the weekend, Viking survival game Valheim crested to a concurrent player peak of over 360,000 players on Steam. While Steam and other game storefronts are inundated with survival titles to choose from, ranging from Minecraft (and its many assorted mods) to Ark to Terraria to Rust, the new early access title from Iron Gate AB is barging its way onto the scene. From a core list of features and mechanics, Valheim may not appear different at all from many other survival titles. So what separates Valheim from any of the other survival titles out there? Should you give it a try? Here are a few key takeaways that help explain Valheim’s rise through the ranks…
Two Distinctly Different Speeds
You can explore the world of Valheim by yourself or with 9 other friends, on dedicated servers or just by joining your friend’s world. While the single-player experience is fundamentally the same game, it plays much differently. Alone, the game is more of a Zen garden of sorts, allowing you to take each day at your own pace, enjoying every little piece of cooked grub and being the sole owner of every exploration, every triumph, and every discovery. Pacing as a solo player is much slower, and becomes a sort of survival meditation as you plan each day and overprepare for every step outside your door. After all, there’s no one to help you out should you get killed and need to perform a dreaded corpse run to get your gear.
Multiplayer is more traditional survival as players work together to craft multiple bases and take on the challenges of building, gearing, exploring and boss-slaying together. Some players shy away from this style of play, as not logging into the game for even a single day can have profound effects on what tier the server is at (We’ve all started Terraria worlds, left for a day, and come back to our friends zipping around in the sky with laser guns as we hold up our little baby wooden pickaxe…). But after around a week of diving into Valheim, the co-op multiplayer is the best way to play. Meeting up with your friends and bonding over a raft ride in a storm or just heading out to mine some copper together is a blast.
In fact, you can resummon big bosses and they have multiple spawn locations per world, so if you did want to play independently but still have a support group on a server, that's an option as well. If your crew is anything like mine, players will naturally fill the archetypal buckets of builder, explorer, fighter, and more, making for a fun time whenever you log in. If you choose to go the multiplayer route, I highly recommend forking out the cash for a dedicated server so you and your friends can come and go as you please instead of having to wait for a friend to set up the world every time you want to play. While I think the multiplayer is vastly superior and teamwork makes the dream work, the solo game is an enjoyable, albeit incredibly different, activity in which you’re sure to enjoy every discovery yourself.
Of additional note, the barebones PvP is entirely opt in and pretty much just for fun, making the multiplayer aspect of Valheim completely co-op. This (almost) eliminates the griefer vibe that can permeate some other survival games. Yes, theoretically someone could come into your game and smash your house down if you open your world up to the public, so try to play with people you know!
Simplicity Is Key
Valheim’s structure is immediately discernible and understandable even for players far removed from the survival genre. Essentially, each biome is a tier and ruled by a boss. Farm the zone for resources, make new gear and recipes, kill the boss, rinse and repeat with tools to tackle the next zone via the boss drops. The boss battles create server-gathering events for you and your friends, and if you’re playing with a particularly inquisitive or adventurous group there are creative ways to sequence break the natural order of progression. The key here really is that the game is understandable from the get go, with a helpful crow giving players tutorial steps. You don’t need to worry about making fifty other items to craft a single item or complex multifaceted crafting schools, it’s just get up and go and start making progress in your world.
Conquering the Meadow is a breeze, the Black Forest offers a significant bump up in exploration and challenges, and things get considerably more intense in the Swamp, Plains, and Mountains. And Valheim has optional secrets to discover as well that exist outside the biome hierarchy that can greatly enhance your options and progress, like the merchant and a certain sea creature I won’t spoil. There’s something to be said that you aren’t tasked with trying to cobble together thirty different types of resources just to get things going, wood and stone is enough. Survival titles are somewhat inherently intimidating by genre, and Valheim is surprisingly welcoming for a game where vikings battle werewolves in the snow.
Rewards Instead Of Punishment
Yes, Valheim has some fairly hardcore consequences for death in that you need to run back to your body to recover your gear and items, but you can prepare for it quite well. Outside of that though, Valheim rewards you for interacting with survival mechanics rather than punishing you for failing to do so. Eating food makes you much harder to kill, providing hit point regeneration, stamina, and other bonuses – but you won’t die from not eating. You’re incentivized to find shelter and warmth from the cold and wet conditions, but these things won’t kill or damage you either. From a gameplay standpoint, this makes dealing with the world a lot easier. You know that if you’re going to be doing any difficult task like forging ahead into a new biome or taking on a boss you’re going to want to be fully rested with hearty meals in your belly, but you are not constantly nagged to death by hunger, thirst, or weather meters. This design shift is highly significant for alleviating excess player frustration in a hostile world.
Punctuated, Powerful Discovery
Most survival games have meaningful discoveries, and Valheim puts an exclamation mark on them with sparse musical notes and well-utilized effects. Valheim’s world is surprisingly beautiful at times, with impressive lighting and weather adding accents to the action. Rainstorms. Lightning. Blizzard whiteouts. The first time comes at you while you climb up the frozen slopes of the Mountains, your first journey on the sea where you run into the great , and summoning your first boss are just a few examples of momentous moments that you’ll have, by yourself or with your Viking crew. While much of the fare in Valheim is in fact featured in other survival games too, Valheim nails the discovery aspect, filling players with equal parts trepidation and exhilaration as they wander into new areas for the first time. Finding some of the optional discoveries lends much to the standard Biome > Boss > Biome recipe that might otherwise render the journey rote, and hearing the horn the first time you set sail on the sea is something you simply can’t find anywhere else.
Coming Back To Reality
Yes, there's also the COVID-19 factor that is shining the spotlight on gaming experiences both solitary and social, but it would be dismissive and wrong to attribute Valheim's success to that aspect alone. I’m happy that Valheim is seeing a ton of early access success, and I hope it means the team can eventually push out an amazing final product. The realities of the situation are that because it is early access and only about half the content is there worldwise, there’s going to be an inevitable fall-off as players hit the end of the current content offerings. Many will likely wait until the full version is available rather than tackling every patch on the roadmap. While this is perfectly normal and expected, expect plenty of cries from the peanut gallery that Valheim is a “Two-week game” or “Lol dead game!” as the playerbase trickles out after the initial surge. Valheim is looking great as an approachable, intriguing, and flavorful world. You should probably take a look.
If you’ve been playing the Viking survival game Valheim, you’ve probably amassed a huge pile of precious gems and coins from your travels in the first few biomes, the Meadow and The Black Forest. Burial Chambers and Troll Hunts can line your pockets with valuable items during your first few days of gameplay, and later forays into the Sunken Crypts of the Swamp can yield huge piles of amber, amber pearls, and rubies while you collect scrap iron. Be sure to bring a torch or light source into these dungeons and caves, as you may otherwise miss these valuables as they are tiny, hard to see, and often tucked away in a corner out of sight. Of course, sometimes you’ll find a stack in a chest, but do check out the darker areas in primary rooms.
Turn in your treasure for extremely useful items at Haldor
It’s likely that your valuables and coins are sitting nested away inside a box at your homestead, waiting for the day you find someplace to spend them. With any luck, that day has come, as you head to locate the vendor in The Black Forest biome. Depending on your world seed, your vendor(s) may be incredibly easy to find, or you may want to pack a sack lunch for a long exploration across the world. Either way, you should plan on locating the vendor as soon as possible, don’t put it off as you begin exploring the Swamp and Plains biomes. Basically, you should try to have a vendor found at or around the time you take down the Elder, but don’t sweat it if you put together a location expedition a bit later. That said, the vendor provides access to some incredibly powerful items that will make your life much, much easier as you move into the more difficult areas of the game.
The vendor’s name is Haldor, and shows up on the map with a big bag symbol. There’s a fairly generous range for this map icon to show up, so keep an eye on your map while you are looking for Haldor, as the symbol will show up long before you can see his camp. Depending how close your civilization is to Haldor, one of your first projects should be to construct a portal nearby (assuming you have the surtling cores to spare). Then, it’s time to take a look at what this mystic merchant has to offer!
Haldor sells fishing rods and bait which can greatly diversify your cooking options and give you something to do on those long trips across the sea, but that’s just the beginning. The big ticket item on sale for 950 gold is the Megingjord. You want this. What does it do? In Norse mythology, the Megingjord is Thor’s magic belt of strength. In Valheim, it functions much in the same way, and wearing it will raise your weight cap from 300 to 450. That’s a ton more ore that you can haul back out of those dungeon delves, and it makes using higher-end metals to craft your gear more palatable. Iron is heavy!
Tired of carrying around a torch? Pick up the Dverger circlet and you’ll have a light source on your head wherever you go! And if you just want to sit around the homestead in style as you cultivate crops and honey, grab the Yule hat. It’s stylish.
It’s going to be tough to come up with the raw thousands of coins you and your team need to get a full complement of goods from Haldor, so that’s why you want to bring him your valuables. While you can’t sell standard goods to Haldor, anything tagged “valuable” in your inventory can be sold for coins.
Once you find Haldor and have a chance to trade in your treasures for useful items, your progress through Valheim gets some new options and extremely useful tools to help make the survival journey easier. Find the vendor as soon as you can!
With its bright energy, colorful characters, and wacky-powered cars, Destruction AllStars takes many of the aesthetic and mechanical trends from the last five years of multiplayer-focused live games and applies them to the long-dormant car combat genre. Speeding around beautifully detailed and cartoonishly articulated demolition derby courses, looking for your chance to rev your engine and hit another player so hard their ride explodes. When your own car inevitably gets busted up beyond recognition, you can hop out of your car and climb into another: A novel idea, but one that keeps you out of the action. Despite its striking visuals and solid driving fundamentals, Destruction AllStars' demolition derby-style car smashing is inconsistent and unpredictable. Every multiplayer game has highs and lows, but Destruction AllStars' best bits are few and fleeting.
You have one job to do in Destruction AllStars: Get into a car and crash it into other players. At the start of each match, 16 players start out on foot and race to grab one of a handful of empty cars, which come in many recognizable shapes like slick sports cars, burly SUVs, and tough trucks. Unlike in most car games, though, you are not tied to your car forever. You can eject from a vehicle at any time to trade for a new model or because the car's health is low and you don't want to wipe out.
Whether you crash or get crashed into, at least you're going to look good doing it. Destruction AllStars' large arenas are incredibly well-detailed and drenched in bright, colorful lights are a visual feast. The characters, from Fuego the masked-metal head to Ratu, a teal-haired boxer in an orange jumpsuit, are all drawn in a familiar Overwatch-esque style but have very specific looks that pop and draw you to them all the same. Even the little flourishes, like how a character jumps into an empty white car which instantaneously takes on their color scheme, look cool every time.