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  • Game Informer News Feed: Raptors Hunt In Packs! Exclusive First Details For Jurassic World Evolution 2

    Publisher: Frontier Developments
    Developer: Frontier Developments

    SLIGHT SPOILER: A world of trouble is teased within Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom's final moments. Director Colin Trevorrow shows us what happens next in the little-known short film Battle at Big Rock, which gives the thunder lizards new territory to explore. We’ll have to wait until next June to see how this story concludes in Jurassic World: Dominion, but can soon play through another of this story’s chapters within the video game, Jurassic World Evolution 2.

    Frontier Developments says that this sequel will have more of an authentic story that shows us what is happening within the United States. This isn’t just a theme park building experience. You’ll be pushed to contain dinosaur threats in different ways as this narrative unfolds.

    In a 30-minute, hands-off demonstration of the game in action, Frontier shows me one of the environments set within the northern hemisphere. Snow-capped mountains stand tall over a sprawling lake flanked by a thick forest of pines. Sunlight dances across the water, leading the eye to another glimmer flickering off of a massive glass dome, which I quickly realize is a new aviary. It's positioned next to the ominous peak of Jurassic World’s innovation center, which sits next to a crowded street filled with gift shops, attractions, and swarms of people. Behind this commotion, I see movement within the tall pines. The necks of Brachiosaurus bound slowly within them, looking oddly small given just how tall the pines are.

    The game’s director Richard Newbold tells me we are looking at a Sandbox map, which stretches across the entire screen. “All of the maps the player has access to are a lot bigger than the first game,” he adds. “There's a lot more space available to build and place as many dinosaurs as possible. With changes to the territory system, they’re going to need a lot more space in some instances, especially since there’s a direct conflict between some species. It’s not as easy to put as many dinosaurs in the same space. There’s a lot more balance that needs to be done.” Along with the forest theme, the player will make parks in desert settings (which you can see in some of the images).

    The dinosaurs that you’ll add to your park and enclosures are more realistic than they were in the first game. Newbold tells me there are over 75 different species to unearth – most are ground dinosaurs, but players can also add marine and flying reptiles as well. In my brief look at this sequel, I wasn’t able to see if the Tyrannosaurs Rex moves in new ways, or if it hunts more realistically, but I did see how it studies its habitat. Newbold hatches two Tyrannosaurs from the Hammond Creation Lab, and to much surprise, they emerge together, looking even more menacing than ever when standing next to each other. Their entry animation is a sight to behold. The Tyrannosaurs' bodies are brown, but the crowns on their heads appear to be slightly red.

    The player will have more skins and colors to choose from when creating their dinos. I'm told each dino has roughly a dozen body colors along with seven different patterns. Holding true to the expeditions from the first game, dino DNA is once again obtained from fossils. When eggs are synthesized, you can tweak the DNA to enhance social behaviors, make them more resilient to disease, less aggressive to rangers, and more. Rather than incubating one egg at a time, you can now generate a clutch of eggs. "As part of this editing phase, you are increasing or decreasing the chance of any of those traits manifesting," adds Newbold. "Once you make that decision, you choose which ones you want to bring to maturity and release them all in one go as a group."

    When a dinosaur hatches from the Lab, it won't immediately settle into a state of comfort or agitation, and will instead explore the habitat to see if there's an area that fits its needs. If that space is found, the dinosaur will claim that territory.

    The dinosaurs residing in distinct territories means that the player can set up a variety of areas within the same enclosed space, and hopefully keep them comfortable. When a dinosaur is highlighted in an enclosure, the player will see its territory, which displays as a white outline on the ground.

    "This system is dynamic," says Newbold. "It's building up as the dinosaurs walk around this enclosure. As the Triceratops moves, it will move its territory in a new direction as the old territory it created long ago starts to decay. It's walking toward things it needs – water, forest, and ground fiber. It's not just about that, but also the territory of other dinosaurs in the area. Sometimes the species are complementary and they live together harmoniously; but other times the species will have conflicts. If there's an overlap in their territories, there may be behaviors between those two dinosaurs. They'll try to build their territory to their size. It's a dynamic system that puts a realistic connection between dinosaurs." This also means a species will rest together, socialize in more ways, and act more like herd in their defined space.

    Frontier has made it easier for the player to implement change to these enclosures and has minimized the back and forth between menus and gameplay. Executive producer Adam Woods walks me through this new system. "I can quickly edit the environment with the landscaping tools, and you can see the dinosaur [information] is left up so I can quickly reference it," he says. "You can see I need forest, so I can use the paint brush tool to add trees. The forest needs are met as I do this."

    Herbivores now feed on the foliage and no longer require feeders, so you'll need to make sure you add the right plants when editing the terrain. For the Triceratops, the solution is the fibrous ground plant. The number of items that players can add to the enclosure is greatly expanded. I saw roughly a dozen different rocks, and there may have been more.

    The enhanced enclosure design extends to the aviary, which can hold numerous flying critters, including the Pteranodon, which I got to see emerge from a Lab. Three of them fly out together, each animated in different ways to give off the impression of a flock. Their habitat is barren at first, but Woods dives into the editing tools to quickly add trees, water, and rocks to it. The size of the aviary is also determined by the player. More glass domes can be added freely – much like the fencing – to make the enclosure grow dynamically. If the Pteranodons grow agitated, they can smash through the glass and fly around the park, potentially going after guests. The player will then need to track them down and tranquilize them to get them back where they belong. I asked if the ground dinosaurs could interact with the flying reptiles, and neither Woods or Newbold wanted to talk about it just yet, saying that answer will come closer to the late 2021 launch of the game.

    I didn't see any dinosaurs fight in my demo, but I'm told the smaller variety will team up to take on larger beasts. Yes, that means raptors hunt in a pack! "Predators, when taking after their prey, will chase after them dynamically," adds Newbold. "There's no stopping and starting. There's improvements to the fighting system as well."

    If a dinosaur is injured, it may need to visit the Paleo-Medical Facility, the one new structure I see among the familiar Ranger Station, Research Center, Park Tour, and more buildings from the first game. This medical facility is white, and has a large fenced-in area behind it where dinosaurs can be treated. You'll need to fly them in via helicopter. If a dinosaur cannot be treated in the field, you'll need to bring it here. The example I'm told is if one is seriously injured in battle. The Paleo-Medical Facility also comes with a unique vehicle called the Mobile Vet Unit, which you can freely control (just like all of the other vehicles in the game).

    Monitoring dinosaurs' health will be much easier through the implementation of the new ranger post, which looks to be a small shack that you can place anywhere in an enclosure. The rangers use this station to perform welfare checks. The dino vitals are not as clearly defined in this sequel. Woods says there's a bit of a "fog of war" to that information, and the player will need to keep tabs on it. The best way to do that is through the ranger post.

    Significant enhancements are also being applied to guests, their behaviors, and the structures you can build for them. Each guest's mood is divided into four categories: adventure, standard, nature, and luxury. They will gravitate to areas that they seek the most. For instance, an adventure junky will want to see carnivores.

    The player can tailor attractions and amenities to these specific groups. These two structures are fully customizable, right down to what they offer and how they look. With the click of a button, the base attraction can transform into an aquarium, bowling alley, cinema, arcade, spa, and you name it. The design of that building is also fully customizable. The facade, roof decoration, entrance, entrance location, signage, and immediate surrounding ground can be changed with a number of preset options. For the ground, you can have trees, dinosaur skeletons, flags, and more. The color of all of the items can also be altered. If you want your shop to be hot pink, so be it. If you want each piece to be a different color, you can do that, too. The range of color is extensive, allowing for specific shades to be picked from a wheel.

    During my demo, Woods and Newbold were positioned in the lower left, covering up most of the display where the park rating was in the first game. I didn't get to see what was there, but when Woods moved his arm, I saw a series of arrows. I asked if the player could speed up time, and Newbold responded: "There are some time controls. We allow the player to pause time and also speed up time." If a problem arises in the park, those time controls may be disabled until that issue is taken care of. 

    One of the new threats to the northern region is a snowstorm, which covers the ground in snow and can create problems all across the the park, such as losing power.

    Woods and Newbold walked me through a number of the game's new features, but wouldn't talk about others that were teased in the trailer. We know marine dinos are in this sequel, but I didn't get to see them. The Mosasaurus lagoon will have to be huge, but what else can we add to it, and how customizable will it be? What other water dinosaurs are in the game? Can they leap up and eat land dinosaurs? We really need to know the answer to that last question...

    Details about game modes are also light at this time. I did however learn that the contract missions from the first game aren't in the story campaign, but will be present in Challenge mode. 

    Jurassic World Evolution 2 is coming to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. Frontier says they have nothing to say at this time about a Switch version. Details are also scarce for the new generation versions, but I'm told they will be enhanced.

    I walked away from my demo impressed by the changes that Frontier is implementing. It looks to be a much deeper experience than before that gives the player a variety of new toys to use with less hassle. I can't wait to see that darn Mosasaurus, and how the story will be handled. Here's hoping they give us looks at these aspects of the game soon!

    The Dinosaurs I Saw:
    Tyrannosaurus Rex

  • Gamespot News Feed: Game Builder Garage Review - Building Blocks

    Game Builder Garage isn't Nintendo's first foray into game creation software, but its previous efforts have all been narrowly focused. Super Mario Maker and its sequel gave you the tools and freedom to create your own Mario levels, while WarioWare DIY for the DS let you create and share brief microgames. Game Builder Garage, on the other hand, seems to have grander ambitions. Nintendo has billed it as a way to "learn to make games from the minds at Nintendo." While it doesn't quite live up to that sky's-the-limit pitch, it's nonetheless an impressively flexible toolkit and a charming introduction to the basics of game creation.

    Fundamentally, Game Builder Garage is an expanded version of the Toy-Con Garage mode from Nintendo's Labo kits (as evidenced by the various Labo assets featured in the software). Just as in Toy-Con Garage, "programming" in Game Builder Garage is handled by stringing input and output nodes together; connecting a B button node to a character node, for instance, will "program" the character to jump when that button is pressed. The most noticeable difference between the two is their presentation. Whereas Toy-Con Garage featured a stark black background with minimal UI, Game Builder Garage is bright and cheerful, making the software feel much more inviting, particularly for younger users.

    To further help ease players into the experience, the game cleverly personifies the different nodes as beings called Nodon. These creatures come in many varieties, each representing a different mechanism or element of the game; there are Nodon that conjure specific items like apples and boxes, and others that track time and control the camera. Each type of Nodon looks and sounds distinct, which helps make it easier to remember their different functions.

    Continue Reading at GameSpot
  • Game Informer News Feed: Sea Of Thieves: A Pirate's Life Preview – The Day That Rare Finally Caught Captain Jack Sparrow

    Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
    Developer: Rare
    Release: (PC, Xbox One), (Xbox Series X/S)
    Rating: Teen
    Platform: Xbox One, PC

    Rare surprised Sea of Thieves fans by announcing it had partnered up with Disney to bring the swashbuckling world of Pirates of the Caribbean into the game. While Rare had previously shied away from such crossovers, the move makes sense – and not just because both properties revolve around pirates. Sea of Thieves was always designed with the philosophy of giving players the freedom to forge their own paths and make a name for themselves on the high seas. That defines the pirate’s life, and that freedom is what Captain Jack Sparrow values even more than the shiniest trinket, making him the perfect fit for the adventure.  

    A Pirate’s Life launches June 22 as a free expansion that kicks off Season Three of Sea of Thieves. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned player or a curious newcomer enticed by the idea of sailing alongside cinema’s most famous pirate. Rare says anyone can immediately jump into A Pirate’s Life, even describing it as a great starting point for newcomers. If you’re considering taking the plunge, Rare provided a deep dive into the expansion’s narrative premise, its large new areas filled with fearsome foes, and the movie-themed booty players can earn.

    This Is A Tale…Of Captain Jack Sparrow

    A Pirate’s Tale unfolds over the course of five large story quests, or Tall Tales, which themselves are divided into smaller chapters that can be played solo or with friends. Jack Sparrow has stolen perhaps the greatest treasure imaginable: a golden key to other lands and a ticket to true freedom. Jack uses it to open a portal that transports him to the world of Sea of Thieves. Unbeknownst to Jack, he’s followed by the villainous Davy Jones, who discovers he has no dominion over the dead in this unfamiliar world. That doesn’t sit well with Davy, who wants to control these new oceans, threatening the pirate’s life for everyone.

    A Pirate’s Life is an original story that combines elements from every Pirates of the Caribbean movie with Rare presenting their own take on these classic characters. While obviously a kick for fans, Rare also says you don’t need to have watched every film to grasp what’s happening. But for enthusiasts who want to know, the studio also says to assume that this Jack Sparrow has already survived the events of the 5th film, Dead Men Tell No Tales

    Jack is voiced by Jared Butler, who portrayed the character in Kingdom Hearts III. Rare is going all out to make sure their version of the pirate remains accurate to the source material. For example, the studio hired Johnny Depp’s stunt double for the 4th film, On Stranger Tides, to perform Jack’s movements (in full make-up and costume no less) while providing plenty of expert insight into his quirky mannerisms.  

    The reveal trailer confirmed other familiar faces such as Jack’s first mate, Mr. Gibbs, and there's also hints pointing at the presence of Jack’s rival, Captain Hector Barbossa. It doesn’t stop there, as Rare says players will meet other members of the Black Pearl’s crew. Does this mean Elizabeth Swan and/or Will Turner make an appearance? Rare doesn’t want to spoil anything but didn’t confirm or deny either way. 

    While you can’t play as Jack yourself, he becomes a full-fledged member of your crew. He’ll aid in combat (like manning ship cannons) and accompany you during missions. Jack will even pose for selfies. Rare describes Jack as a fun though unpredictable partner. If the films are anything to go by, it wouldn’t be shocking if fans suffer betrayal or three from their charismatic though self-serving companion. 

    Another important new face is the Castaway, a mysterious storyteller who serves as the keeper of the Tales you’ll experience. There’s also the Cursed Captain, a talking, disembodied skull. Players find him early on and he provides guidance and exposition about the worlds of A Pirate’s Tale. He’ll also spout witty commentary for just about everything happening around you, including when you dance or play music for him. You can also just abandon him on the ground, though he likely won’t be a big fan of that. 

    An Expanded Horizon

    Players begin A Pirate’s Life in the Sea of the Damned, a special realm that connects Sea of Thieves’ main world to the expansion’s areas as well as anywhere else Rare could want to go in the future. Unlike most of Sea of Thieves’ locations, only you and your crew will occupy this zone, allowing Rare to craft more cinematic moments that unfold here. This eerie realm features haunted grotto caves, a ship graveyard, all blanketed by the ghostly glow of an ominous lighthouse. Given its name, expect to face plenty of pirate ghosts eager to make you a permanent resident. 

    Another new area is the Sunken Kingdom, an undersea domain ruled by the sirens. They construct their homes by attaching gigantic chains to ships, then drag them under to break apart to use the salvage to build new structures. Thus, the area is littered with sunken vessels surrounding the otherwise colorful, coral covered kingdom. Unfortunately, the Black Pearl herself fell victim to the sirens, and one of the Tales tasks players with diving to below to search the Pearl in search of Jack’s trusty compass. Diving plays a larger role in A Pirate’s Life thanks to networks of underwater cave systems where players will explore deeper than ever. To facilitate that, Rare is adding air-bubble producing plants to allow players to stay under longer. 

    While Rare wouldn’t reveal every new locale in A Pirate’s Tale, it describes each zone as being substantially large and filled with activities outside of the critical story path. Areas contains meaty sidequests, plenty of hidden lore to find, as well as secrets to keep an eye out for. 

    On that note, A Pirate’s Life is not only inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean films but also by the iconic Disney ride that gave birth to them. Disney Park fanatics will likely recognize recreated scenes from the ride, such as the pirate band and the skeleton captain sitting atop the treasure pile. Rare even included original audio from the attraction to bring these scenes to life while adding nostalgic authenticity. 

    Fierce Adversaries Requires A Powerful New Weapon

    A Pirate’s Life brings many new dangers in the form of never-before-seen foes. Sirens may be the deadliest adversaries. These mythical terrors evade players with swift, graceful movements, using their siren song to attack from afar. Their speed also allows them to quickly move in to unleash a barrage of vicious scratch attacks. Worse of all, a gemstone in their chests allows sirens to create a healing sphere that can restore their vitality as well as damage players. Siren leaders are tougher versions with more potent healing abilities and carry weapons called the Trident of Dark Tides.

    Other enemies include Ocean Crawlers, a class of crustacean-like creatures that come in several types. One is a clam-headed humanoid that can spew poison, burrow underground, and charge at players using its rock-like shell head. Crab Ocean Crawlers are hulking tanks with sturdy armor and immense strength. The electric variant may be the most dangerous. They fire lightning bolts, can quickly dash around, and generate electric shields that damage players and their teammates should they attack it. If you think you’re safe outside of the expansion, think again. Rare states that every new enemy will dynamically populate Sea of Thieves’ larger world and are not confined to A Pirate’s Life. 

    Thankfully, players can also wield the aforementioned Trident of Dark Tides. This mystical staff fires powerful magic bolts but can also be used as a melee weapon. While you’ll gain access to the weapon simply by playing A Pirate’s Life, they can be found anywhere within Sea of Thieves’ larger world washed up on beaches, within shipwrecks, and in other locations. It simply serves as another tool for players of all types to use as they wish. 

    Rewards And Cosmetics

    As with every previous season, A Pirate’s Life brings its own set of tiered rewards that are unlocked simply by playing. Those who complete 100% of each Tale by finishing every objective and finding every secret will be rewarded with a special sea shanty of a certain famous pirate tune from the films that you’ll be able to play with your crew.  

    Premium Pirates of the Caribbean cosmetic items can only be purchased from the Pirate Emporium. You may not be able to control Jack Sparrow, but you can buy his outfit and masquerade as him as well as other Black Pearl crew members. The famous prison dog, complete with cell keys in his mouth, can be bought as a pet. And, of course, you can outfit your ship with cosmetic items based on the ships in the film, such as the tattered sails of the Black Pearl

    A Pirate’s Life is Sea of Thieves’ biggest expansion yet, both in sheer size and depth and due to the magnitude of collaborating with Disney on such a beloved franchise. The studio has spent almost two years toiling away on A Pirate’s Life in secret; it considers the fact that it didn’t leak prior to its reveal a feat in itself. While it gives long-time players a fun new bone to chew on, this is probably the best lure yet for getting new players on board. Pirates of the Caribbean remains a popular franchise and taking on Davy Jones’ Flying Dutchman with Jack Sparrow at your side is a potent draw. It’s also a great time to get new eyeballs on Sea of Thieves to show off the significant improvements Rare has made since its lukewarm launch in 2018. 

    Best of all, Rare says A Pirate’s Life isn’t going anywhere even after Season Three concludes. Its content will remain in the game for as long as it sees fit. That’s good news if you can’t dive on day-one. As someone who was pretty mild on Sea of Thieves and has been waiting for a good excuse to check out its current state, A Pirate’s Life is the most alluring reason yet to set sail one more time. 

  • Game Informer News Feed: Pokémon Unite Launching On Switch This Year, Everything We Know About The MOBA So Far

    Publisher: The Pokémon Company
    Developer: Tencent Games
    Platform: Switch, iOS, Android

    Last summer, Pokémon Unite was revealed by President and CEO of the Pokémon Company Tsunekazu Ishihara during the Pokémon Presents showcase. A 5v5 team-based MOBA, Unite has players drive down their respective lanes to capture wild Pokémon and upgrade their stats and abilities. Because of Unite’s competitive nature, players will have to thwart one another’s progress while traversing the arena. This means that many skirmishes will likely take place so you’ll need to remain cautious as you progress down the battlefield; you can watch some cinematic and gameplay footage below. If this piques your interest you’ll be happy to know that, according to a new press release posted on the official site today, the game is launching on Switch and Mobile this year.

    Click here to watch embedded media

    Everything We Know About Pokémon Unite

    Pokémon Unite launches on Switch in July and on mobile devices in September. Which platform will you be playing on, and what are you most looking forward to?

  • Game Informer News Feed: Stranger Of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin Is Awesome Or Terrible. Possibly Both.

    Publisher: Square Enix
    Developer: Koei Tecmo
    Release: 2022
    Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

    I really didn’t know what to expect when I sat down with Team Ninja’s take on classic Final Fantasy last night, but I sure as hell wasn’t ready for what I experienced. At once, it was both a nostalgic romp through one of my favorite Final Fantasy game settings in precision timing action form and a bizarre B-movie with characters hammier than a pork sandwich. I’ve heard a ton of people complaining about the graphics as well, but I actually didn’t have an issue with them. PlayStation 3? Have you actually looked at a PlayStation 3 game lately? Seriously, c'mon. Yes, it's absolutely not the definitive "current gen experience", but to call it a PS3 game is ridiculous.

    Click here to watch embedded media

    The goblins (imps), wolves, and the rest of the temple setting actually work for me and herald back to one of the more underrated games in the Final Fantasy series, the original game for the NES. At the time, creating your own party was a rarity when the JRPG was basically being shaped and molded by linear fare like Dragon Quest, so bringing your own concept team into a long playthrough was exciting. Sure, you could run the default team of fighter, thief/blackbelt, white mage, black mage, but it was way more fun to try to do something cool for your second or third playthrough like four blackbelts, four black mages, or the extreme four white mage composition. While playing Stranger of Paradise, I especially appreciated the callbacks to the early game creatures of Final Fantasy. I really, really enjoyed the soundtrack which played with the original music for the area. The combat and mechanics seem heavily inspired by both Nioh and Sekiro, and seem to work well once you get the hang of things - you can even “blue mage” your opponents by stealing their abilities by parrying and send them back at them, rewarding exact timing. While it’s impossible to tell exactly how in-depth the sets and skills get from the demo, I’m confident that the lessons and takeaways from Nioh will work out fine in that area in the greater game.

    The team of Jack, Jed, and Ash is beyond puzzling. Is this some kind of galaxy brain discoverability and discourse play? Did they know we’d all be talking about these characters and how out of place they are in a Final Fantasy universe? Have we secretly become mere pawns in some genius marketing plan that seeks to create a conversation around this game via absurdity? Jack belongs in a wrestling arena or something and feels shockingly out of place among the fantasy trappings, an “angry dude” who loves powerbombing Bombs and ripping wolves in half. The dialogue is atrocious to the point that they should have just used text from the original Final Fantasy. I don’t know why this crew exists, but one thing is for certain - they are here to kill Chaos. Hell yeah. Jack is gonna snap into a Slim Jim right after he takes Garland out with a jump from the corner ropes.

    I'm here to kill Chaos

    — Daniel Tack (@dantack) June 17, 2021

    The big boss fight with Garland actually worked for me as a battle. Taking him on by refusing to engage with the mage class was a lesson in parrying, blocking, and dodging, which brought out a bunch of mechanics that one could otherwise ignore during the demo. The battle absolutely felt Sekiro-ish, with careful and continued play rewarding me with opportunities to shred his stamina to nothing and lead to the critical blows. A phase transition halfway through the fight was both expected and pleasant. As boss battles go, I’ve had better. I’ve had worse. With Garland being the main villain of the original Fantasy Game (who yes, eventually becomes Chaos), I am really curious as to how many of the other major bosses in the title will translate into multiphase encounters, from Kraken to Tiamat. I can’t wait to see Jack rip one of Tiamat’s heads off and shove it into Warmech and say something like “This machine wants power? Let’s see it handle THIS! UNH!”. Maybe he’ll just pick up the entire desert tower and shove it into Tiamat. Who knows!

    The Stranger of Paradise demo isn’t exactly what I expected when we all heard the rumors of a Team Ninja Final Fantasy Souls-like. Like an incredibly cheesy movie that borrows from big brands to create some weird spinoff, the more I think about it, the more I think it works in some strange way. It’s like the Freddy vs. Jason of games. It’s having fun with it, even if not everyone will. The amount of folks out there that care about canonical devotion to the source material can probably be counted on one hand, so maybe it’s alright that Jack is just gonna crush his way through Final Fantasy. The days of belts are over. The time for a new hero is here. A hero that KILLS CHAOS. What a ride, and somehow I’m curious to see what comes next.

  • Game Informer News Feed: Hands-On With Tales Of Arise Reveals Smart, Strategic Gameplay Tweaks

    Publisher: Bandai Namco
    Developer: Bandai Namco
    Rating: Teen
    Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

    I’ve been a longtime fan of the Tales series; whether it was watching Symphonia’s Llyod confront his naivety or seeing Abyss’ Luke realize he’s kind of a jerk, I love how the main characters become better versions of themselves through the bonds they build. While Tales’ strongest features are its character interactions and the fast and fun action combat, it’s struggled this last generation to both appeal to modern gamers and provide something new and exciting for its longtime fans. 

    Tales of Arise is being called a “reinvention” for the venerable, if stuck-in-a-rut, franchise. Any time a long-established series uses the word “reinvention,” it’s hard not to be skeptical. Change is scary and risky, as developers try to toe the line between retaining the elements that fans cherish while also evolving the formula in different and interesting ways. I wasn’t sure what side Tales of Arise would land on, but after going hands-on with the game, I feel much more confident in Bandai Namco’s new vision for the series due to some smart tweaks to combat and a new interesting world that begs to be explored. Here are some of my big takeaways.

    A Vast World With Cool Discoveries

    The hands-on demo didn’t offer much in terms of story or character personalities, outside of allowing us to see protagonists Alphen and Shionne bickering. The demo did, however, highlight part of the game’s third region called Elde Menancia, which looked more rural, focusing on nature’s beauty with forests, streams, and even a hidden waterfall for good measure. The demo took place about 10-20 hours into the main story, when you finally have all your party members.

    What stuck out about the world to me – outside of the breathtaking watercolor-like aesthetics – was just how much is hidden off the beaten path to discover. From items such as ores for crafting to ingredients for recipes, there always seemed to be a reward for taking the time to explore. This includes stumbling upon special treasure chests, where I found valuable materials, such as accessories and better weapons. At one point, I came across a small farm with cows, pigs, and horses grazing, and of course, the cows provide milk to use in cooking recipes. Yes, cooking is back. Bandai Namco said it will talk about this feature more at a later date, but so far it looks like what we’ve come to expect from these types of systems, offering stat boosts in battle, like giving you more attack power for a certain duration.

    Alternate paths are all around if you seek them out. Later, I found a hidden stream, which had a waterfall with a small cave housing a valuable chest. I played the demo three times, and each time I found a new discovery, whether it was a hidden area or treasure to unearth. It appears that Bandai Namco is packing a lot into the zones, so they don’t feel like big, empty spaces like in previous games. Tales of Arise isn’t open world, but it certainly feels grander than any other Tales game. 

    The Fluid Action Combat Still Shines

    A strength of the series has always been its fast and fluid action combat that’s focused on chaining up combos and pulling off flashy moves. That isn’t changing; the action is still fast-paced and combo-driven, where you swap between regular attacks and your artes (special moves that cost points to use). You can string up to three normal attacks together, but this limit can be increased once you learn certain skills. Jumping and attacking in the air also causes characters to unleash different normal attacks, which is a nice touch and adds some variety to how you play and what moves you want to chain together. 

    The controls are a little different than previous games and it did take me a few battles to acclimate to them. Your regular attacks are executed using the right bumper, while all your artes are on the face buttons. The right trigger acts as your defend/evade. If you time your evade/guard just right, you perform a perfect evasion/guard, nullifying any damage and giving you the opportunity to counterattack by pressing attack.  

    You have two things to keep track of as you fight: AP (artes points) and CP (cure points). The former is all your special, damage-inducing attacks, while the latter is your support and healing artes. New to this entry is boost strikes –potent, one-hit kill co-op attacks – that can be executed once you fill a gauge up through combat. These are more likely to occur at low enemy HP and higher combo counts. In addition, every character also has their own unique boost attack, which you can use in battle with the d-pad. Filling up a boost gauge, which charges over time and by landing attacks and counters on enemies, enables you to activate these.

    I was impressed with how smooth the controls felt, the variety of attacks at my disposal, and the satisfaction that comes from delivering those satisfying cinematic special moves. The battlefield remains chaotic, which means it can also be hard to keep track of where everyone is when the action heats up. Four total party members can be on the field at once, with two others in the support spots. At any given time, you control one character, but can swap to others in an instant. You can also play around with the party tactics, which allows you to focus your members on attacking, healing, or taking the default, balanced approach.

    Different Character Playstyles Make Battles Feel Exciting

    Party members all have something different to offer in terms of their playstyles, and each one has their own special perk and boost attack. I played the demo multiple times using various party members, and my strategy shuffled depending on who I controlled, offering a new and exciting feeling to how battles played out.

    I started with knight Kisara, who wields a giant hammer and has a huge shield to match it. With her strong offensive and defensive capabilities, she’s perfect to fight on the front lines, but with big weapons and armor comes slower attacks and movement. Thankfully, Kisara’s perk is Guard Ignition, which means she uses her shield to block attacks instead of dodging them outright. She can even trigger some artes while guarding. If you successfully block with her shield, it raises her morale, making any artes and combos unleashed during this time stronger and harder to block. 

    Kisara is a more advanced character to learn; she’s powerful but you need to use her abilities wisely to get the most out of her. For instance, her massive shield can also protect others, but that requires paying attention to your party members and the enemy in front of you. Like I said earlier, battles play out fast and chaotically, so this isn’t exactly always easy. It took me some time to find my rhythm with her, but she’s fierce and her boost attack can be a big blessing, as it downs any enemies it hits, weakens their charge attacks, and boosts all allies’ defense, both physically and elementally. 

    The next character I tried was mage Rinwell, who, as expected, relies on magic-infused artes. Rinwell’s casting takes time, but her magic has far reach and is extremely potent. For her perk, she can charge up her magic; all you have to do is hold the arte button down to boost its power, and let go to unleash it. Better yet, you can charge a cast up and save it for later by pressing the bumper, which will activate it after your next attack/arte. However, that’s not all to this special charge power, if you cast the same arte in succession to the one currently charged, they combine into a higher-tier spell. 

    My strategy was to get as far away from the enemy as possible to perform a charged-up cast before an enemy could thwart my plans. This wasn’t an issue for me in regular battles, but in the big boss battle I took on, I had to restart my casts a few times in order to dodge incoming attacks. Rinwell’s boost attack can cancel an enemy’s magic attack; if she executes it while they’re casting an arte, it not only downs them, but she steals the spell, charges it, and then blocks them from casting it for a while. 

    The last character I experimented with was close-quarters martial artist Law, who is a purely offensive character. Expect to use his fists and feet to distribute flurry after flurry of strikes to overwhelm foes, but also be aware that his low defense means you have to keep your hand on that evade button. Law was by far the fastest, most get-in-the-action character I played, with rapid diving kicks and fiery punches.

    Law’s perk, Awakening, raises his concentration the longer you avoid hits; this ups his attack and elemental power. The boost ends once he gets staggered or fails to land hits for any period of time. What you give up in defense, you gain in power. His boost attack, Breaker Fist, is highly effective on armored baddies, breaking through their defense and downing them.

    More Strategy Is Part Of The Fun

    The high action and flashy moves have always been fun in the Tales series, but the core strategy has certainly revolved around combos and special moves. As you can see with the different characters and their abilities, there appears to be much more to think about on the battlefield than mashing buttons at opportune times. From what I played, the addition of boost attacks alongside character perks really changed how I thought about battles. 

    It all came together for me in a boss battle against a giant mantis, where I realized I had to study my enemy for success. Bigger foes now have weak points you can target to take them down faster, and this is essential in boss battles. With the left bumper, you can swap to different targets on the enemy’s body, and the weak points will usually have an orange glow to draw your eye. Attacking these orange cores and breaking them immediately downs an enemy, making them take increased damage from your strikes, so it’s smart to also use boost attacks during these windows. Combos also have diminishing returns if you repeat the same arte multiple times for four actions. This forces you to try different combinations and not rely on the same tactics.

    Between targeting the mantis’ weak points, evading its big moves like a charge attack that could send my characters across the screen for high damage, and calling in boost attacks and strikes after I chained enough combos, I ended up victorious. However, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a short battle. This fight really showcased the increased strategy behind the combat, and I loved how the adrenaline rush of it all. 

    Tales of Arise makes a lot of smart tweaks to Tales’ core formula. I can’t say much about the story, but I saw a lot of promise in what I played. Varied enemy types with different weaknesses and characters having their own special skills via boost attacks to capitalize on feel like steps in the right direction. Time will tell how it stakes out, but I'm optimistic about the future of the franchise. 

  • Game Informer News Feed: Madden NFL 22 Preview – Hoping For A Fresh Set Of Downs

    Madden NFL 22

    Publisher: EA Sports
    Developer: EA Tiburon
    Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC

    While a running joke among sports video game players is about what little innovation takes place in the space, last year's Madden NFL 21 was a particular target thanks to minimal upgrades to the series' most played modes. In response to a launch that brought about an unprecedented amount of backlash from the community regarding Franchise mode, EA Sports and EA Tiburon appeared to take the criticism to heart and laid out a roadmap that included free post-launch updates as well as improvements that would be implemented in Madden NFL 22. Today, the studio pulled back the curtain on Madden NFL 22 as a whole, including changes to Franchise mode, new ways that Next-Gen Stats are being implemented, and various improvements to the atmosphere of the games you play.

    Feel The Atmosphere

    If you've ever attended a high-stakes, live sporting event, you know the electric feeling that comes from being there for the tense moments of anticipation, the crescendo of the big play coming together, and the devastation of defeat. With Madden NFL 22 on new-gen consoles, EA Tiburon wants to replicate those feelings, and in the process grant gameplay advantages to the home team.

    New Gameday Atmosphere mechanics bring the crowd to life and give the home team extra benefits beyond the cosmetic realm. While new crowd animations, remastered crowd recordings, and "hero" crowd characters help make the spectators more believable and realistic, they can and will impact the way games play out.

    "We want you to feel like if you're a fan and that's your home team, you go there and you get that sense of what it sounds like; we hope to translate that to the game," executive producer Seann Graddy says. "We also wanted to feel like that when you're the away team and if you're playing in Franchise with your favorite team and you're playing as the Steelers and you hate the Ravens, but you've been there and you know what that sounds like when your team goes there. We want to bring that to the table."

    Madden NFL 22

    Crowd noise can make it tough for opposing quarterbacks to hear the playcall, and new characteristics for each stadium grant special bonuses to the home team and apply various gameplay modifiers based on the location. For example, in the thin air of Denver, throws and kicks will fly further for both teams, while the visiting team will struggle to catch their breath, taking a hit to short-term stamina. Other examples include the Windy City of Chicago making it tougher for kicks to fly straight, Vikings players getting a red zone boost as the "Skol" chant rings through the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. And the notorious 12th Man of Seattle rattles visiting players, making it so their pre-snap play art is squiggly.

    That might sound familiar for those who have played the NCAA Football series, but according to EA Tiburon, this goes beyond anything that series did. "Gameday Momentum, it really has its origins in what we had in NCAA for sure, but it's modernized and one of the key pieces of feedback we got way back when we made an NCAA game was it was a little too ambiguous and there wasn't a lot of different objectives to know when you unlocked certain things," gameplay producer Clint Oldenburg says. "So that's what we really attacked with Gameday Momentum, is giving you the proper feedback to know exactly what you need to do and what you're going to unlock and when you're going to unlock it. It's a modernized version of that blast from the past, if I may put it that way."

    Of course, if you don't give the fans something to cheer about, they can't be a factor in the game, which is where Gameday Momentum, another new mechanic, comes into play. Now, when you play through a game of Madden, a Momentum meter appears at the top. Depending on performance of each team, momentum shifts back and forth, granting additional bonuses (called M-Factors) to the teams. These can include activating those aforementioned modifiers like making the play call more difficult, or other bonuses like making kickers less accurate or making receivers less effective at running hot routes. While each team can use these M-Factors, the home team gets a slight advantage with one additional M-Factor to hammer home the notion of home-field advantage.

    Building Up The Franchise

    As I mentioned before, the Franchise mode of Madden NFL 21 was perhaps the most maligned mode in the game. EA Tiburon made decent strides post-launch via three separate title updates, and while Madden NFL 22 will operate under that strategy, with post-launch updates planned throughout the NFL season, the Franchise mode will be stronger right out of the gate. 

    "Just like when we started in Madden 21 when we started that title, players were saying they wanted more from the mode," Graddy says. "We came back with the three title updates that we talked about and set out a roadmap that we wanted to achieve. For the most part, we delivered the things that we rolled out. At the same time, we said, 'Hey, we're going to come back in 22 and invest in this super popular mode – depending on the time of the year, it's our most popular mode, the highest number of players inside of it. It was important to come back with a robust feature set for that audience that kind of started at the launch of Madden 21."

    The new Franchise Staff feature lets you build, grow, and customize four coaching staff positions using RPG-style skill trees. Using experience earned through play, you can develop your head coach, player personnel, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator with more than 60 different talents. Additionally, players can expect more talents to arrive following launch. 

    Madden NFL 22

    For Madden NFL 22's Franchise, EA Tiburon wanted to make every week feel like a distinct struggle. Sure, it accomplishes that through the new crowd and stadium atmosphere mechanics, as well as the specialized team-based momentum modifiers, but each team behaves different, and the gameplay should reflect that down to the core of the experience. Now, before every game in Franchise, you can set your strategy heading in. Using a new interface, you can study your opponent's strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies, then shape your gameplan around that. For example, if you're playing against the Ravens, you might want to set up some way to try and contain their hybrid quarterback, while facing off against the pass-heavy Bills might require a different strategy. Then, if you get into the game and see new tendencies emerging or that certain strategies are more or less effective than you thought, you can now adjust your gameplan at halftime.

    It's no secret the game of football is a grueling sport that can grind down the human body week after week, so Madden NFL 22 is including a new way to monitor player health. Now, when you set up the practices for the week, you can manage each player's practice intensity and if they're donning full pads the whole week in a careful balancing act of getting them the fullest benefits while also making sure they're healthy when they suit up on Sunday.

    The decisions don't stop there, however, as you now have more engaging goals to complete alongside choices to make and challenges with better rewards. New storylines emerge, complete with cinematics, choices to make, and more goals specific to the team you're controlling. Through these sequences, you can earn staff points, player experience, or even Dev Traits. 

    It all comes together in the newly redesigned Franchise Hub, which has been streamlined to surface the most important and pertinent information to you. If all this isn't enough, EA Tiburon is also planning its first post-launch title update for Franchise mode, tentatively targeted for September. In that mode, you'll be able to dive deep into player scouting, with the ability to manage and assign national and regional scouts, with players that gain and lose value on your draft board throughout the course of a season. This much requested feature looks great in the small glimpse I saw of it, and hopefully it's just as detailed in execution, giving players the much-needed tools to have better control over their draft planning.

    Replicating Real Life

    Of course, every new gameplay innovation and off-the-field mechanic is for naught if the on-the-field product is bad. While the actual gameplay itself may have been the best part of last year's package, EA Tiburon has continued improving upon the successes while tightening up the shortcomings. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of Madden NFL 21 utilized NFL's Next-Gen Stats to create a more realistic and less robotic experience, and EA Tiburon is continuing to tweak and expand the parts of the game that these specialized stats impact. 

    Since this is the second year of Next-Gen Stat implementation, its effects are wider reaching. Players feel more accurate to NFL superstars and thanks to additional route-running and player-speed data, ball carriers feel more explosive, receivers have more control in catching (including more situational awareness for things like sidelines toe-drags and jump-balls against defenders), and quarterbacks have more control both in and outside of the pocket. 

    Madden NFL 22

    On top of that, new Star-Driven A.I. means players behave more like their real-world counterparts when under the control of the game's A.I. According to EA Tiburon, more than 80 percent of Madden NFL 21 games were played against A.I. instead of real players, so the team wanted to make sure that experience felt just as dynamic and meaningful. Quarterback decisions under pressure are now more reflective of real life, as are situations like passing on the run, making decisions under pressure, open-field pathfinding, and the A.I.'s knowledge of opposing X-Factor abilities. On a team level, playing against run-heavy teams feels different from pass-heavy teams, as does driving down the field against a blitz-heavy defense. As tendencies emerge throughout the course of the real NFL season, EA Tiburon will update the characteristics of the players and teams in the game.

    Finally, player momentum is more respected in Madden NFL 22. The upgraded system does a better job of taking player size, speed, and traits into account when collisions happen. Additionally, players can expect a more dynamic passing pocket that feels more authentic, and run blocking momentum enhancements lead to better running lanes and more realistic animations.

    The package is rounded out with other returning modes, including The Yard, Face of the Franchise, and of course, Madden Ultimate Team. While details aren't as readily available for those modes just yet, we do know that Face of the Franchise is called "United We Rise" and lets you choose quarterback, wide receiver, running back, or, for the first time ever, linebacker as you strive for superstardom with an all-new cast of characters. The new class system combines with player physiques and customization to let you create your avatar that will travel between Face of the Franchise and The Yard.

    Only time will tell if these changes result in a meaningfully better experience both on and off the field, but the early outlook is positive for the next entry in the long-running football franchise. Madden NFL 22 launches on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC on August 20. If you want to experience the Gameday Atmosphere, Gameday Momentum, and Next-Gen Stats features, you need to play on the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S version.

  • Game Informer News Feed: Metroid Dread Preview – A Fusion Follow-Up Two Decades Later

    Metroid Dread

    Publisher: Nintendo
    Developer: MercurySteam
    Rating: Teen
    Platform: Switch

    This last week we saw several announcements and reveals, but perhaps the biggest surprise was the unveiling of a new 2D Metroid game on the E3 2021 Nintendo Direct stream. Metroid Dread picks up following the events of Metroid Fusion, which launched on Game Boy Advance in 2002. While we've received remakes like Samus Returns on 3DS, a full trilogy of first-person shooters, and a third-person 3D action game since Fusion's release, the newly announced Metroid Dread is the first all-new 2D game in nearly two decades. 

    Dread is being developed by MercurySteam, the studio behind Samus Returns, and is under the watchful eye of Nintendo's Yoshio Sakamoto. Sakamoto, who serves as producer for Metroid Dread, has a long history with Samus Aran's series. In addition to serving as a designer on the original Metroid, Sakamoto was the director of the beloved Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, and Metroid: Zero Mission. While Sakamoto's role is as a producer on Samus Returns and Metroid Dread, he says his input has gone beyond that of a typical producer.

    Metroid Dread

    "My role on Metroid Dread was similar to or the same as it was on Samus Returns, where [Nintendo of Japan] and MercurySteam worked together to be one team," Sakamoto says. "They are different companies, of course, but we had one mind. Also the same as Samus Returns, I was always in communication with MercurySteam from a day-to-day basis, looking at the good and bad, what they were producing for designs. I guess I was called the producer, but I was more involved on the creative side of things as well."

    Sakamoto's history with the series, as well as MercurySteam's respect for the classic franchise, is evident throughout the demo I saw. Taking place after the events of Metroid Fusion, Samus makes her way deep beneath the surface of a mysterious planet to investigate a transmission sent to the Galactic Federation. However, once she arrives she discovers that the planet has been completely overrun by hostile alien life. However, the robotic threats, known as EMMI, might be even more horrific. These bots patrol certain rooms and hunt down any intruders. While Samus may be a formidable warrior, her power armor's weaponry is no match for these creatures, so her only option is to avoid them or make a break for it if they discover her.

    Metroid Dread

    Samus is more nimble than ever before, and she'll need to use her full moveset to survive the encounters with EMMI robots. In addition to moving quicker than in any previous Metroid game, Dread maintains many of the moves from Samus Returns. The Free-Aim mechanic from Samus' recent 3DS outing is back, as is her ability to melee counter incoming attackers to devastating effect if the player times it right. Unfortunately, her missiles and arm cannon are no match for the thick armor of the EMMI, and if they catch her, she has a very narrow window to counter the killing blow and escape; if the player misses the chance to wiggle out of the EMMI's clutches, it will deliver an instant kill. Samus' only chance to stand toe-to-toe with an EMMI (that we know of so far) is the grab the temporary Omega Cannon power-up that can blast through their thick armor.

    If you played Metroid Fusion, this gameplay convention likely sounds familiar, as one of the main antagonists was SA-X, a powerful parasite that mimics Samus' abilities. Since SA-X is more powerful than Samus, the bounty hunter had no choice but to run or hide from it. The EMMI encounters are undeniably tense and add a looming, nearly invulnerable threat that constantly pursues you, similar to how horror games add extra layers of anxiety to their situations. Despite this convention being borrowed from that genre, Sakamoto doesn't consider Metroid Dread a horror game. "It's really about Samus encountering fear, but she actually stands against that fear and fights it and beats it," he says. "That part of it is important. As far as where the inspiration came for my wanting to take the game in this direction, it comes from the tension surrounding the SA-X gameplay from Metroid Fusion, and how we wanted to take that style of gameplay and put it into what is considered to be the normal Metroid gameplay to make for an exciting experience."

    Metroid Dread

    In stark contrast to other Metroid games, where Samus begins on the surface and drills into the depths of the planet, in Metroid Dread you start underground and work your way towards your ship. As you make your way through ZDR, you can expect all the trappings of a typical Metroid game, including unlockable weapons and abilities that allow you to explore new areas of an ever-expanding map. However, you often must solve exploration-based puzzles in order to obtain these powers. I see this play out in the demo as the player comes to a couple of rooms where heat radiates through the door; it's too hot to go inside, so Samus blasts through several enemies and drops down an alternate route featuring timed flame traps. 

    Samus reaches a terminal, where she can communicate with Adam, the A.I. of her ship. This section uses text to expound on the lore of the planet, as well as the situation Samus is in, but my demo intentionally skips through this section to avoid spoiling story details. As players experience Metroid Dread, they'll encounter plenty of text, but that's not the only way the story reveals itself. "With Samus Returns, we made use of cutscenes as well; there were 3D cutscenes and 2D scenes as well that transitioned very seamlessly between the two," Sakamoto says. " That helped us with showing expressiveness in the game. We found those very effective in Samus Returns. In a similar way in Metroid Dread, we use those to maintain a sense of tension and also expressiveness. Also, the story is very important in this game, so these cutscenes will be used to express the story as well."

    Metroid Dread

    Samus eventually arrives at a device she can interact with to redirect fuel and change which doors are accessible; now she can double back and pass through those hot doors from earlier. However, the fuel redirection has blocked her path, so she has to find an alternate route back. Samus can blast through weak walls, but unluckily for her, the way back involves stepping through a pixelated door, indicating that she's entering an EMMI-patrolled zone. 

    As mentioned before, Samus doesn't have much of an answer for these stalking robots, but her Phantom Cloak ability, which turns her invisible for a short period, is extremely useful. Players shouldn't rely on it too much, though, as once Samus use up her Phantom Cloak's energy, staying invisible eats away at her health. EMMIs track you based on sight and sound, but you have some tools at your disposal as well: A red dot on the map shows where EMMIs are, and their haunting chirps and beeps broadcast when they are near. The EMMI zones are tense affairs; the relentless robots stalk Samus with scary effectiveness, and losing them looks to be no easy task. As nimble as Samus is in Metroid Dread, the EMMI bots appear to be just as capable and intelligent.

    Metroid Dread

    Samus finds the exit to the next area and is finally free from the oppressive automaton. She accesses another fuel redirect, opening new doors in a previous area. Unfortunately, to get back there, she needs to once again go through the EMMI zone. This time, the EMMI gives a more spirited chase, even crawling through what looks like a vent that runs beneath Samus' feet. The robot snatches Samus and goes in for the kill, but luckily the Nintendo Treehouse demoist times his counter perfectly and Samus is able to escape and continue running from the EMMI. 

    The EMMI has lost track of Samus, but continues hunting her throughout the area. As with most stealth games, you have to make difficult calls about routes to take and when to make a mad dash for a clear path at the cost of making extra noise. After an intense chase, Samus finally exits the EMMI zone and the demo comes to an end.

    Metroid Dread

    With Metroid Dread, the five-part arc that began with the original Metroid game in 1987 and continued through Metroid II: Return of Samus, Super Metroid, and Metroid Fusion, will come to an end. However, that doesn't necessarily spell bad news for the franchise. In fact, it sounds like the next idea may already be coming down the pipeline. "The Metroid story until this point has dealt with Samus' strange fate that's been intertwined around this strange being called the Metroid, and until now that has been the focus of the series," Sakamoto says. "What this game represents is a bit of a pause, or kind of a new start to something else. Nobody wants the Metroid series to end, and we know that. We ourselves don't want that either, but we just want people to know that there is some kind of new episode that is waiting in the works. We want you to look forward to what we do with that next, but there are no specifics now."

    After spending this extra time with Metroid Dread, I'm even more confident this 2D revival is what fans of the series have been clamoring for over the last couple of decades. The exploration, the combat, and the ever-encroaching sense of, well, dread all look to add up to be a stellar continuation of Samus' galactic journey through the years. 

    Metroid Dread launches for Switch on October 8. To learn why the game took so long to make, head here.

  • Game Informer News Feed: Everything We Know About Redfall, The Vampire Co-Op Game Revealed During Xbox E3 2021

    Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
    Developer: Arkane Studios
    Platform: PC

    Let's be real, Xbox-Bethesda absolutely slayed its shared E3 2021 showcase. From Starfield to an incredible look at Halo: Infinite and a plethora of other titles, Microsoft wasn't playing around this year when it came to bringing the heat (something that was very much needed because overall, this year's show had quite a few pitfalls). Among the titles showcased was a brand new IP from Arkane Austin, the studio that gave us 2017's Prey. This time, we're not going to space; we're going to vamp town. For those curious, here's everything we know about Redfall. 

    From the co-op structure to the dark and explosive nature, many likened Redfall to Valve's Left 4 Dead. But there's so much more we don't know. Luckily, we know more now than we did at the time of the reveal, thanks to Bethesda. 

    Welcome to Redfall

    Click here to watch embedded media

    Redfall can be played solo or with a team of four friends, all with the task of going up against hordes of dangerous vampires looking to go in for the kill. Redfall is a tiny little island town that is pretty boring. That is until vampires decided to make it an all-you-can-eat buffet. Luckily, we've got some badass characters to help make sure that if we do all go down, at least we can go down on our terms (unlike Batman in the DC comics-verse, apparently, and not in that way). 

    According to Bethesda, players will be able to choose their path when taking the fight to the vamps while having a few unique characters to choose from. Each playable character has their own special abilities and gear they like to bring to battle, and more customizable weapons can be found the more you explore the island. "Do whatever it takes to build the perfect vampire slayers," tasks the studio. We say, "Challenge accepted." 

    Meet the squad

    There are four heroes to choose from. Whether more will be added post-launch remains to be seen, but here's what we've got so far: 

    • Devinder Crousley
      • Dev is that influencer with a claim to fame in the realm of all things paranormal. His shtick revolves around investigating the extraordinary, and he's also a pretty nifty inventor. Want cool gear? He's your guy because he can basically make it all. You know, if he survives. 
    • Layla Ellison 
      • A biomedical engineer, Layla actually has a connection to the sudden takeover. When in attendance at the mysterious Aevum Therapeutics research facility, Layla recalls that something "very wrong" happened there, but she can't remember exactly what it was. Whatever happened, it gave her awesome telekinetic powers, effectively turning the vamp hunter into a kickass supernatural wizard.
    • Remi de la Rosa
      • Ah, Remi. Remi is a combat engineer and smarter than pretty much everyone else around her. She used to be a part of an elite Navy rescue force, but now she's taking her talents to fight the undead instead. And she's got a spiffy robot companion called Bribon. 
    • Jacob Boyer
      • Another character with a military background, Jacob is a sharpshooter than lands his mark every time. He also has a weird vampiric eye and a spectral raven that acts as his partner. 
        • (Yes, they had me at spectral raven)

    All about science, baby

    Oh, you thought these were your average vamps that Buffy herself would be familiar with? Nah, son, that's not how Arkane rolls. These vamps were a scientific experiment gone horribly wrong, and then evolution decided to step up to the plate to say, "You know what? They're not scary enough; let's make it worse and throw in some psychic powers and psychological warfare into the mix." 

    There are numerous types of vamps that players will encounter: scientific, psychological, magical - you name it. Oh, and there's a cult too. Because naturally.

    “Every game we make is a little different for the last,” says Co-Creative Director Ricardo Bare. “Dishonored featured stealth. Prey leveraged tons of physics-related gameplay. Mooncrash introduced rogue-like elements. Despite those differences, in every case, our focus remains on deep world-building and inventive game mechanics. The same will be true of Redfall.”

    Redfall makes its grand debut sometime in the Summer of 2022 and will be available on Xbox Game Pass on day-one. To learn more on other big reveals from this year's E3, check out our dedicated events hub here to play catch up! 

  • Game Informer News Feed: Why Metroid Dread Took So Long To Make

    Metroid Dread

    Publisher: Nintendo
    Developer: MercurySteam
    Rating: Teen
    Platform: Switch

    The announcement of Metroid Dread earlier this week was met with widespread excitement as fans of the series are finally receiving a new 2D Metroid. While some games in the series, primarily 1994's Super Metroid on Super NES, are considered among the greatest games of all time, fans of the 2D style of Metroid have been waiting for news of a new adventure for Nintendo's galactic bounty hunter to embark on.

    Following the launch of the last all-new 2D Metroid game, 2002's Metroid Fusion on Game Boy Advance, the name "Metroid Dread" began floating around as early as 2004. Though we've heard rumors of cancellation, development restarts, and platform changes throughout the last 16 years, Nintendo has been largely quiet on the follow-up game to Metroid Fusion. However, Tuesday's re-emergence finally gave long-suffering fans the relief they've been waiting for.

    Click here to watch embedded media

    While the Metroid faithful have known the name Metroid Dread for more than a decade and a half, Nintendo's Yoshio Sakamoto, who serves as producer on Metroid Dread, says development has been on and off rather than continuous. "At the time that we came up with the idea, the hardware wasn't there; the technological concepts weren't working with our vision," he says. "We had to put it on hold. Then some time later, we started again, but then we stopped again for pretty much the same reasons."

    The technological hurdles were largely surrounding the platforms Nintendo had on store shelves at the time. Two years after the launch of Metroid Fusion on Game Boy Advance, Nintendo released the DS, adding additional hardware capabilities, including better graphics, more processing power, and a second screen with touch functionality. "Thinking in terms of the specs that I had in mind, it was a bit difficult to realize that concept with that hardware," Sakamoto says. 

    Metroid Dread

    As the hardware continued progressing, Sakamoto kept his eyes open for ways to make Metroid Dread. He says that a confluence of events – better hardware, a better development system, and an established collaboration with Metroid: Samus Returns developer MercurySteam – led to the game finally getting made. "With Samus Returns, you know that we met with MercurySteam Entertainment to make that game," he says. "The reason that I actually met with them was in the hopes that they'd be able to realize the concepts that I had for Metroid Dread, and with their ability and their technical know-how that they'd be able to make what was once a concept an actual reality. I'm sure you know having played Samus Returns that they are a good team. So, in meeting with them, I got the sense that they were a team that I could work together with towards a singular concept and realize this goal that I had in mind for Metroid Dread."

    Despite all of the time that has passed since the original idea, Sakamoto says that the main concepts endured since that initial period of wanting to create a direct sequel to Fusion around 15 years ago. The idea was the powerful warrior Samus would be stalked and chased by an overwhelming enemy and she would have to escape, creating a tense environment as players explore. That notion is realized through EMMI robots, nearly invincible adversaries who patrol certain areas of the game. These characters can deliver one-hit kills if they can get ahold of the bounty hunter, with only a tiny window available for players to try and counter the killing blow.

    Metroid Dread

    Now that Metroid Dread development is in full swing and the game is set to hit later this year, Sakamoto seems pleased with the results when compared to the vision he initially had when dreaming up a 2D sequel to Metroid Fusion in the early 2000s. "My excitement for Metroid Dread has to do with the EMMI gameplay," he says. "It is really better than I imagined those 15 years ago when I had the idea for this. Seeing that realized made me really, really satisfied. It's to the extent that I really can't wait for this game to be released and for you to get your hands on it and enjoy it yourselves."

    Metroid Dread launches on Switch on October 8. For more, check out our extensive preview here.