Xbox Series X/S,
PC), TBA (Switch)
Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher Nacon and developer KT Racing have announced WRC 10, the latest in the long-running rally racing series. The studio is implementing several changes in hopes of improving the overall racing experience. Not only that, but this game strives to celebrate the 50th anniversary of FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2022 through several new features.
As part of the celebration of WRC's 50th anniversary, WRC 10 introduces a retrospective mode, allowing players to relive 19 of the most important events in WRC history. These challenges are meant to put your skills to the test as you deal with different conditions specific to each era of racing. The mode offers six historic rallies including the Acropolis Rally in Greece, Rallye Sanremo in Italy, and more. On top of all that, this package delivers four brand new rallies: Estonia, Croatia, Belgium, and Spain. You can attack these rallies with more than 20 of the most well-known rally cars from manufacturers like Audi, Subaru, and Mitsubishi.
Career mode is also receiving various improvements, complete with a new livery editor and team creator. Players can outfit your car and apply your own colors as you please. Now, you can create your own team to race alongside the 52 official teams present in the 2021 season. Once you're on the track, die-hard players will notice several gameplay improvements. Whether you're struggling to hug the muddy corners or blasting onto the paved straightaway, WRC promises to recreate surfaces with a greater attention to detail than ever before. Players will also notice better aerodynamics, improved turbo, and better braking.
Nacon and KT Racing also released a brief announcement trailer showing the game in action. You can see the short announcement video below.
With Pokémon Red & Blue and the anime less than a year old in the U.S., 1999’s Pokémon Snap on Nintendo 64 let players step into a completely new role in the Pokémon world. Rather than traveling across the land, searching far and wide for Pokémon to catch, train, and battle, players instead moved behind the camera lens in an experience that brought the world of Pokémon to life in ways that were, to that point, unprecedented. Now, more than two decades later, Pokémon Snap is finally getting a follow up on Switch. Separated by 22 years and three full console generations, New Pokémon Snap looks to retain the spirit of the original while adding new folds to the formula. I had a chance to watch extended demos and speak to the director, Haruki Suzaki, to see how this new game evolves the 1999 cult classic.
Capturing Pokémon’s Good Side
By 2021, we’ve experienced the Pokémon universe from so many angles that I wondered if the Pokémon Snap formula would still feel novel. However, following my time with the game, I’m once again excited to pick up the camera. Just like in the original, you assume the role of an enthusiastic photographer who travels on predetermined paths through various environments snapping photographs of Pokémon in their natural habitats.
Keeping that basic formula was important to the development team at Bandai Namco Studios. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the team instead looked for ways to modernize, adjust, and enhance. “I absolutely wanted to keep the foundation of the base gameplay where everyone can have fun just looking at Pokémon thriving in nature and taking snapshots of them,” Suzaki says.
Suzaki has worked at Bandai Namco since 2002 and served as director of the company’s Pokémon fighting game, Pokkén Tournament. That game debuted in arcades and Wii U, but has since made its way to Switch. Because of this, Suzaki has a keen appreciation of not only the Pokémon franchise, but also how the Switch can enhance preexisting games or series. With New Pokémon Snap, Suzaki wants to deliver on the potential of the Switch hardware, giving players lush, beautiful environments to move through as they take photos of their favorite creatures.
Of course, a lot has changed for the Pokémon franchise since 1999; not only have trainers expanded their horizons far beyond Kanto, but the Pokédex has exploded from the original 151 entries to the nearly 900 that exist today. While Sword & Shield did not include every Pokémon, which remains a controversial topic, that subject is more palatable when it comes to spin-off games like Snap.
According to Suzaki, the theme of photographing Pokémon in their natural habitats served as the team’s guide. “The selection of Pokémon was truly hard,” he says. “My vision was to create a world where you can actually imagine wild Pokémon thriving in their natural habitats and ecosystem. At first, we thought about Pokémon’s natural habitats and fascinating landscapes and climates to research. Then, we narrowed down our choices by balancing out how different Pokémon would live in these habitats and their relationships within each environment. As a result, there are more than 200 Pokémon, rich in variety, appearing in this game.”
A Ride on the Wild Side
In an exclusive look at the Founja Jungle stage in New Pokémon Snap, I see firsthand what Suzaki means when he talks about creating beautiful habitats full of Pokémon that make sense for the locale; you can almost feel the humidity of the jungle stage from the jump. While you must work to get the attention of certain Pokémon, the opportunities to see your favorite creatures throughout the game’s Lental region are plentiful.
Whether you’re talking a group of Bounsweet relaxing on an overhead branch, a Pikipek hammering away at a tree, or an Arbok behind the brush, you have several different creatures to focus on and try to interact with using fluffruit or other means. Tossing a fluffruit, which resembles an apple, in the direction of Pokémon can elicit different reactions from creatures. While the most common reaction is happily chasing it down to munch on, the reactions vary by Pokémon. For example, one Liepard, in true cat fashion, completely ignores the fluffruit in favor of continuing its nap.
In addition to fluffruit, players have other tools at their disposal. Scan allows you to not only see if something is hiding beyond your view, but also garner a reaction from some Pokémon. You can use the Melody tool to see if the Pokémon feel like dancing. New Pokémon Snap also introduces Illumina orbs, which can trigger unique behavior and cause Pokémon to glow.
The key to getting the best shots is to keep your eyes peeled and get creative with how you use the tools. “These are simple things, but a combination of these tools, timing, and situations can cause a variety of things to happen,” Suzaki says.
Not all Pokémon need to be incentivized, however. Throughout Founja Jungle, Beautifly curiously flutter right up to you, giving you several chances to snap them both alone and in swarms. Later in the stage, you’re given a scenic waterfall with a pool surrounded by species including Magikarp, Quagsire, and more. I wonder if there’s some way to push that Magikarp into the waterfall, but I unfortunately don’t get the opportunity as my look at this stage ends.
In addition to Founja Jungle, I’m treated to multiple playthroughs of an early tropical level called Blushing Beach. As players travel to different islands in the Lental region, they explore vastly different biomes, even diving beneath the ocean’s surface in some cases. Sadly, I don’t get to see the secrets hiding under the waves in Blushing Beach, but I do get a great sense for what to expect from this sandy stage depending on when you visit.
The first playthrough of Blushing Beach I see takes place during the day. Right off the bat, I spot a couple of Exeggutor frolicking across the sand as a Crabrawler scurries along. A Lapras swims in the shallows and a Pikachu playfully runs past. In the distance, I spot Vivillon and Wingull soaring over the sea. Immediately I recall the fond memories I have of the Nintendo 64 original. That scene, with Exeggutor basking in the sun while other Pokémon go about their days, takes me back to the first stage of the original Pokémon Snap, where a flock of Pidgey fly toward the camera before you see Pikachu, Doduo, and Butterfree hanging out on the beach.
We toss the Exeggutor a fluffruit and it joyfully scoops it up as we snap away. We continue along the beach, but another Exeggutor sits in the way, bringing our NEO-ONE pod to a halt. We could lure the big guy away to clear the path, but instead we look to our left and notice something is bustling in the bushes. We scan to reveal that some Bellossom are tucked away. As Suzaki says, it’s up to the player to figure out how to lure Pokémon to you and get them to react. In this case, we use the Melody tool to bring two dancing Bellossom out of the bushes. As players of the original game know, if you can snap multiple Pokémon in the act of doing something unique or exciting, you’re well on your way to getting a highly scored photo.
Now that we’ve gotten some great shots of Bellossom, it’s time to move on. We throw a fluffruit and pull the Exeggutor off the path so we can continue. While you can’t manually stop your vehicle whenever you want, certain encounters like this one give you a little extra time to figure out how to optimize your opportunities.
Continuing down the path, the pod leaves solid ground to float among the waves. Weaving between rocks that jut out of the sea, we have a wealth of opportunities presented to us. Do we photograph the Machamp hanging out on shore or do we focus on the Pyukumuku lounging on the rock next to Corsola? We end up scanning two water-types on the rock, causing Pyukumuku to wave at us and Corsola to flash a smile our way.
Finneon swim beneath us as we head back to shore. This trip through Blushing Beach is just about over, but not before we spot a Stunfisk lying flat on the sand. We shoot a picture of it and then head straight for the goal, exiting the daytime run of Blushing Beach.
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Holding a Mirror to Your Work
After completing each stage, you select the photos you want to share with Professor Mirror. Each shot is given a rating up to four stars. This is important, as your Photodex can hold one photo of each Pokémon at each rating. Once you present your favorite shots to the professor, he’ll score them based on pose, size, direction, placement, other Pokémon in the shot, and what the background looks like. You then have the option to replace the current picture in the Photodex with the new one.
If you feel you could make your shots a bit better with some tweaking, New Pokémon Snap gives you the tools to perfect them. Seemingly inspired by the Instagram age, New Pokémon Snap allows you to “re-snap” your photos by adjusting the zoom and tweaking the brightness, blur, focal size, and focal point. You can add a filter and even stickers to create comical or cute scenes within your shots. Unfortunately, Professor Mirror will only grade your raw photos, and thus, you can only save the originals to your Photodex. Don’t worry, though, as you can still save the re-snapped photos to your in-game album and share them with the world online.
Based on the photos you provide to the professor, you gain expedition points, which boost your research level for the stage. Once you reach a certain threshold, you unlock new levels for that area and time of day.
“Pokémon behavior will change as the research level increases,” Suzaki says. “A new research will start when your level increases to search for the changed behavior and photograph it. The game is also about trying to take a photo of a great moment you missed in the next trip, so if the research level is the same, the research course stays the same in general. But if the research level goes up, you will see many changes such as Pokémon that didn’t appear before will start appearing, Pokémon that didn’t eat fluffruit because they were being cautious will now eat them, and the pod’s course will also change.”
After chatting with Professor Mirror and further filling out the Photodex, we jump back into Blushing Beach. However, this time, we’re going after the sun sets. As you might expect, the Pokémon you spot at night are often different from the ones you see during the day. Even as the character is entering the environment, I spot a Drifblim in the background and a towering Zangoose walks along the path. We throw the Zangoose a fluffruit and get a great shot of of it smiling as it enjoys it.
As we approach the bush where the Bellossom were during the day, we once again scan the area. The tool tells us something sounds like it’s sharpening a blade. This time, we’re not graced by the playful twirling of the smiling grass-types; instead, a fierce Seviper emerges just in time for a photo. It’s a good thing we scanned early on, as there’s no Exeggutor to block the path at night.
The night path is the same as the one we traversed in the sunlight, but your opportunities are vastly different. As soon as we go out onto the water, Inkay floats by and we see a Magikarp asleep on the rock where the Pyukumuku was during the day. We could snap a photo of the sleeping Magikarp, but what’s the fun in that? Scanning does little to wake up the sleeping splasher, but by tossing an Illumina orb at it, the Magikarp springs to life, and flips off the rock and into the water. We capture its acrobatics before moving to the next rock.
This evening expedition presents an Octillery perching on the rock next to a Crystabloom plant. We throw an Illumina orb at the Crystabloom and the octopod reacts by spitting a fountain of ink straight into the sky. We snap a photo, then throw a fluffruit at it and the Pokémon waves at us with one of its arms. As we continue to survey our surroundings, I spot a Bellossom and a Zangoose relaxing on the shore, but just above them, a Mareanie looks down off the cliffside, presenting a new Pokémon for us to photograph; we don’t waste the opportunity.
While we’re out at sea, an icon pops up in between some of the protruding rocks. If you scan that, you’re able to go along a different path through the stage. However, to fully explore how different night and day versions of stages really are, we opt to stay on the main path.
We return to land to perhaps the most exciting opportunity of my entire demo: Several Sandygast lay hidden beneath the beach, while an Alolan Raichu sleeps on shore next to a chill Octillery. We toss a fluffruit at the Sandygast to get it to emerge. As we pass by, the Raichu awakens, hops on its surfboard-shaped tail, and rides out into the waves. Just before we reach the goal, we lob a fluffruit at a Sandygast next to the Octillery. When the creepy sandcastle Pokémon emerges, it gives Octillery a huge fright and the water-type Pokémon panics, fleeing out into the middle of the ocean, arms a-flailing.
This hilarious scene is just an example of how players can not only evoke interesting reactions, but exciting interactions between multiple Pokémon in the habitat. The environmental puzzles of New Pokémon Snap appear to be just as much fun as they were in the original. Shortly after that, my nighttime run ends, as does my time with New Pokémon Snap.
If what I saw is any indication, New Pokémon Snap effectively captures the magic of the original. With a new region, new mechanics, and a vastly expanded collection of Pokémon to pull from, I’m excited to see how this entry improves upon the first game. More importantly, I can’t wait to get back behind the lens and document the fascinating sights for all to see when the game is released at the end of this month.
This article originally appeared in Issue 335 of Game Informer. Portions of this article previously appeared here as part of a prior embargo.
YouTubers Life first made its debut back in 2016 and was met with positive feedback for its in-depth simulation of what it is like to be a content creator. The title was well-received, and because of that, YouTubers Life 2 is on the way and aims to take the impressively detailed inside look at what it means to be a content creator to a whole new level. For those interested, we here at Game Informer have your first look ready to rock and roll.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. It's "fun" and "trendy" to dunk on YouTubers and content creators alike, but what I think many people don't realize is how demanding this can be. Editing, concept ideation, community management, self-PR, self-marketing, being ahead of the curve with trends, the almost-required need to be "plugged in" 24/7 to stay in the know is honestly exhausting a lot harder to manage than many might think. Pair that with those still finding their place in the community by doing all of that and holding down a more traditional 9-to-5 job, and you've got important skills being developed and a lot of hard work ahead.
YouTubers Life 2 aims to capture more than just the glamor of "making it;" it captures the reality of what goes into being a "successful" content creator. The fatigue felt in long hours, the elation at seeing that community grow, the sense of accomplishment at cashing in that first paycheck; it's all there!
If you're like me, this is a fun adventure to pass the time. The first game was engaging and easy to get lost in but playful with its art design to where it was a fun getaway. Create your own videos, gain your first subscribers, attend the wildest parties? Go big or go home.
“The original Youtubers Life has been such a big success and continues to be to this day, but the kinds of things content creators are both doing and achieving now is monumentally different to the world we first looked to simulate back in 2016,” project director and co-founder of Uplay Online Quim Garrigós tells Game Informer. “We wanted that original premise to grow with the content creators themselves, which is why we’ve been working on expanding our offering significantly with Youtubers Life 2. There’s nobody else operating in this space, nobody else simulating Youtubers either big or small, so we’re proud to stand as the go-to game for gamers looking to live out their content creating dreams.”
So what can players look forward to with the YouTuber's Life sequel? Glad you asked:
“The original game enjoyed the exact same kind of virality the best content creators amass every day,” adds Sergio de Benito, Marketing Director at Raiser Games. “In all, Youtubers Life videos have passed the 350,000 mark, generating more than 500 million views for more than 50,000 content creators. We think UPLAY Online’s plans for Youtubers Life 2 will enable the franchise to cement its position as the ultimate content creator simulator.
The more modernized YouTubers Life 2 will be launching on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC sometime this year. Thoughts on the YouTuber simulating game? Have you tried your hand at content creation? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below!
A new Polish game development studio, Covenant, is launching a dark fantasy strategy title called Gord in 2022. At the helm of the project is Covenant founder Stan Just, formerly of CD Projekt Red and 11 bit studios. Gord combines city-building, survival, questing, and a number of other elements such as tapping into procedural generation to explore its dark themes and dire fantasy. All worlds find their inspiration somewhere, and Gord’s is rooted in Slavic folklore. Gord is a single-player affair and is headed to PC. For a quick look into the darkness, check out the trailer below:
As you can see, your little crew of adventurers and townsfolk are at extreme risk of being slaughtered in grisly ways, whether that’s simply being eaten by wildlife or falling prey to demons, insects, giant spiders, or worse. I guess those that get gnawed on by wolves are the lucky ones, eh? Surviving in Gord while building up your city is a key element of the game as you lead the Tribe of the Dawn to greatness or doom. Probably doom, for most of your attempts.
At the heart of your adventures is the city-building or simulation component, but it’s tempered with many other mechanics and features that task you with taking on legendary monsters and setting off into the wilds on quests. Managing your city includes elements that go beyond keeping your crew fed and physically healthy, you’ll also have to manage their sanity as things go awry. Random elements weave into this to create a varied play experience for each time you have a crack at weathering the wilderness. Things are grim, but they’re not impossible, as you are able to employ powerful magic to augment your adventures as you set off to battle. Before you play, you can customize elements of the game including environment, enemy types, resources, weather, and more. A sort of meta progression system appears to be part of the experience as well, as you collect torn pages from a mysterious lorebook.
City survival games are always interesting, and I’m eager to see where this dark fantasy tale takes us as we attempt to beat back the malignant evils that surround the settlement. While we are going to have to wait a while to play, we’ll be sure to keep an eye on this one. What do you think about Gord? Let us know in the comments!
Today, an Age of Empires fan preview event held online showcased new content coming to the entire franchise, but also a significant amount of new information on the upcoming Age of Empires IV. Gameplay was showcased along with a number of other interesting tidbits! Age of Empires IV is slated to arrive sometime in fall 2021.
First, one of the most important information points is that Age of Empires IV features asymmetric civilizations. This means that playing as the Delhi Sultanate is going to be much, much different than playing as the Mongols, both in what units you can create and more importantly, how your strategies involving resources, expansion, combat and all other facets play out. While previous Empire games may have hinged mainly on a few special units to create civilization identity, Age of Empire VI is heavily focused on unique gameplay for each faction.
Eight different factions are expected to be available at launch, each playing wildly different from one another. That said, maintaining the “paper-rock-scissors” philosophy for core unit types like pikemen, archers,mounted units, etc was also important, so any civilization can engage with the opponent at this base level, regardless of their overarching philosophies and gameplay mechanics. The Mongols for instance, are nomadic and focused heavily on the stone resource, and are able to move quickly and spread out across an entire map. Mongols can pack up and move their entire base, which makes for massive mobile presence in a game. In stark contrast, a faction like the Delhi Sultanate may be interested in hoarding all the berry bushes because they can do special things with them instead of branching out or hunting at the onset of a game. There are four core resources in Age of Empires IV, but each civilization prioritizes their weights differently. If you’re a real-time-strategy enthusiast, just think about how cool it’s going to be to have eight disparate factions to engage with here. Good luck with the balancing Relic!
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Gameplay showcased at the event highlighted the Delhi Sultanate and their powerful War Elephants. Viewers were treated to watching the Elephants stomp over everything with archers firing, spearmen attacking, and more during a slice of action. The combat looks a lot like the Age of Empires that people know from the legacy titles, so fans are probably going to be happy about that. There are four ages to tap into, which should also resonate well with current fans that are used to the structure of Age of Empires II. Players weave their way through Medieval, Feudal, Castle, and Imperial Ages, with all the assorted keeps, castles, trebuchets, and other technology you’d expect. One little change that players will see is that melee units like knights no longer whack on buildings and castles with swords, instead they will switch to torches and other brick-busting fare when they execute attacks on settlements. It’s a simple sort of cosmetic shift, but it makes things look more realistic than having Brave Sir Edward attempt to take down keep walls with a broadsword.
Viewers also got to see a chunk of campaign and campaign philosophy for Age of Empires IV. The campaign takes a sort of documentary approach, aiming to convey a somewhat historical tale as the player engages with real-world locations with story and scale. Instead of simply giving the player new units or tools each campaign mission as a sort of filler experience before they get to the meat of multiplayer or custom maps, the campaign tackles things with a history hinge. In the Norman campaign, players are treated to Duke William of Normandy and his mission to take control of England from King Harold. This arc features events such as the Battle of Hastings and charts the Duke’s descendants such as William II and Henry I as the story makes its way toward modern day England over the generations. In addition to the Norman campaign, three other civilizations have the campaign treatment to explore in Age of Empires IV. Age of Empires IV campaigns tap heavily into historical figures to tell its tales.
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As much as Age of Empires IV is featured, the Age of Empires legacy titles haven’t been ignored either. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition is getting new campaigns, co-op historical battles, and more later this year. A new civilization, The United States, is coming to Age of Empires III on April 13.
What do you think about Age of Empires IV? Do you still play Age of Empires II? Did you like Age of Empires III? How do you feel about the current state of the real-time strategy genre? Let us know in the comments!
First released in 2005, Star Wars: Republic Commando acted as many a young Star Wars fan's initial introduction to the concept that the clone troopers of the prequel trilogy are human beings--creating unique identities for the seemingly identical soldiers. Republic Commando has a strong legacy among Star Wars fans--despite the game's removal from the official canon, it remains a key part of the Star Wars universe, especially when it comes to video game entries.
Handled by Aspyr Media, Star Wars: Republic Commando Remastered brings the original 2005 Xbox and PC game to PS4 and Switch with enhanced HD graphics and modernized controls, though the multiplayer is absent. Otherwise, it's the same game. And though the flaws in its gameplay are only more noticeable now 16 years later, this remaster manages to still deliver a compelling story of four specialized commandos engaging in a variety of combat missions across the Clone Wars.
In Republic Commando, you play as RC-1138 aka "Boss," commanding sergeant of a specialized commando unit trained to take on missions that require a greater level of skill and cognitive ability than standard clone troopers possess. Your unit, Delta Squad, is also composed of sarcastic demolitions expert RC-1262 aka "Scorch," by-the-books hacker and technical analyst RC-1140 aka "Fixer," and morbidly grim sniper RC-1207 aka "Sev." The game takes place over several locations, beginning with an assignment on Geonosis at the end of Attack of the Clones and concluding on Kashyyyk just prior to the events of Revenge of the Sith.
Following in the footsteps of the classic 2011 golf game, which heavily featured the Masters branding on the box art, EA Sports PGA Tour's box art also focuses on the Masters branding, as well as Augusta National Golf Club. You can see the newly revealed box art below.
This news means that EA Sports PGA Tour is the only game where players can compete at all four major championships, which include The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open Championship, and The Open Championship. EA Sports touts that each major will feature unrivaled authenticity and deliver unique atmosphere to the venues. EA Sports PGA Tour will celebrate several of the biggest events in golf alongside the real-world events, beginning with "Road to the Masters" at launch.
While the other in-game major tournaments will be further detailed at each real-life event this summer, EA Sports did reveal some details of what will make The Masters special in EA Sports PGA Tour. Developer EA Tiburon used new aerial scanning technology to collect millions of data points to more faithfully recreate the course. The game will feature Road to the Masters content that gives players a unique experience surrounding competing in the Masters Tournament, plus other elements centered on Augusta National Golf Club.
This news comes as the golf video game market is seeing a bit of a resurgence. In addition to EA Sports releasing its first golf game since 2015, 2K Sports converted the well-liked Golf Club series into PGA Tour 2K, which had a good showing with PGA Tour 2K21 last year. On top of that, Nintendo and Camelot Software announced a new Mario Golf game coming to Switch this summer.
EA Sports PGA Tour was announced last month with no real details (including no release date or platforms list), but presumably we'll learn more about those details in the near future.
In the center of Balan Wonderworld's hub area lies the construction site of a clock tower. Complete the 12 worlds--the entry points to which are arranged at random around the tower like dial markings on a jumbled clock face--and the clock tower rises further into the sky; an elaborate contraption that stands as a monument to your hours played. Despite a thematic preoccupation with telling the time, Balan Wonderworld feels like something of an anachronism, a throwback 3D platformer whose occasional charms arrive too late.
Balan Wonderworld makes a terrible first impression. It's a 3D platformer where the primary act of running around the levels feels sloppy. Swapping character costumes to employ new abilities is the key novelty, but the initial batch of costumes fail to inspire, and instead add the sorts of abilities you'd take for granted in any other platformer. Completing the early game doldrums, you're dropped into levels without context nor any attempt to explain your goals.
The clumsy controls and character movement are the most persistent problem. There's a weird dissonance in the way it feels like you're moving too slowly while the choppiness of the simplistic animation gives the illusion of moving too quickly. Your character will float slightly above the ground even when standing on a flat surface. Jumping and judging distance feels sloppy and imprecise, mostly thanks to a stickiness of movement but also because, from time to time, the useful ground shadows cast by yourself and other objects will simply disappear. To put it kindly, mistiming or failing to land a jump doesn't always feel like it's your own fault.
Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139 is just a few weeks away from its April 23 release, and we got our hands on the updated version of Yoko Taro’s beloved cult hit that started it all. The original game launched over a decade ago on PS3/Xbox 360, and now fans and newcomers alike are getting the opportunity to play it with quality-of-life improvements, such as adjustments to the gameplay and enhanced visuals.
To see how this newer version is shaping up, my colleague Jay and I both took it for a spin. Nier captivated me back when it came out in 2010, and Jay fell in love with Nier: Automata recently, being curious about the entry that got the series started. We decided to discuss our different perspectives and experiences playing Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139. Just like the game, we had a fascinating conversation about what the cult classic has to offer in our modern times.
Kim: Let’s start with your first impressions, Jay. In Nier, you’re just transported into this world with vicious Shades and sweet little Yonah to protect. What was it like stepping into the role of Brother Nier for the first time?
Jay: Right from the jump, the stakes feel very high and the combat feels somehow tight and frenetic at the same time. But even after slicing through that army of Shades during those opening seconds, there’s a much gentler story being told. Automata’s three main characters are compelling, but they are also extremely reserved and sometimes even emotionally detached from one another (especially 2B and A2). In Replicant, you immediately get the sense that Brother Nier would do anything for his little sister. He’s soft-spoken, optimistic, and a little naive. And there’s something refreshing about playing a character like that in a series that often likes to rip hope away from its characters.
Kim: Exactly! I was very attached to Father Nier and was worried that Brother Nier would not have the same impact on me, but I was very wrong. The stakes still feel so high, and you instantly want to protect Yonah. For those not in the know, the original Nier launched with two versions in Japan - Gestalt and Replicant - each featuring a different main character (Father or Brother) to play as. This is the first time, we're experiencing Replicant in the West, playing as the brother. The only difference I noticed was I liked the banter between Father Nier and Grimoire Weiss a little more; it just felt more whimsical having this old guy communicate with a cheeky talking book.
I will say, I’m happy how much this game still instantly hooks me. The plight to save Yonah just overtakes you, the world just comes alive thanks to Keiichi Okabe’s fantastic music, and you feel this constant uneasiness where you’re ricocheting between hope and doubt if you can have a happy ending.
However, before we get more into the state of the world and characters, let’s discuss combat. The overall gameplay was the original Nier’s rougher elements. I know developer Toylogic tried to shore up some of those weaknesses and make it feel closer to Automata. How do you feel about the combat so far?
Jay: Honestly, I’ve been enjoying it for the most part. Dodging and parrying feel on par with the high-speed animations in Automata. I just feel very agile when playing as Brother Nier, and even though a lot of the combos just come from mashing two buttons, the flashy flourishes and pirouettes always look really cool so that makes up for the gameplay simplicity. As someone who’s played the original, do you think the combat feels satisfying or do you still feel as if something is missing?
Kim: The combat is a big improvement over the original. You didn’t have the lock-on button, which is a godsend here! The camera still has some issues, but everything just feels a lot better. I like being able to use and charge magic while simultaneously executing regular attacks. The charged heavy attacks also feel more powerful and deadly due to the flashy combos they produce. It is more like Automata, which is a good thing. It’s simplistic, but the combination of magic, physical attacks, and dodging/blocking kept me on my toes, especially in boss battles! This is still where the game most shines.
We can only talk about a few bosses due to embargo, but as I was playing, I was quickly reminded of how these battles impressed me so much the first time around. You never know what to expect and you’re always challenged in different ways, whether it’s throwing bombs into a massive machine or targeting the right body part or foe at opportune moments. These encounters feel exhilarating and unique even after all this time. I just love the enemy designs. Getting the bosses is the best part, but on the flip side, dungeons still are pretty bland and have you doing tedious tasks. They’re pretty linear without much variety. How’d you feel about the bosses and dungeons thus far?
Jay: I’m with you 100 percent, Kim. Boss battles feel like incredibly momentous sequences that usually require you to multitask in very entertaining ways. And when the smoke clears, it’s very easy to feel as if you’ve become a little more acclimated to your moveset and the controls in general. Then when you get to the next hulking boss, suddenly, the whole script has been flipped and you’ve got to adapt/react to an entirely new array of attacks. However, the dungeons (and most other environments, for that matter) leading up to these bosses aren’t visually stimulating at all. The gameworld is intentionally dreary and empty, but because of this, I don’t have as much fun getting around to different important locations.
Kim: Yeah, if it wasn’t for Keiichi Okabe’s great music (I’m going to keep mentioning this), getting around the world would be even more of a slog, especially since there’s so many fetch quests in this game. That being said, even if the environments themselves aren’t anything to write home about, I feel like the characters and stories within the game are just so fascinating - and can be downright devastating. That’s what really makes Nier what it is - from seeing an old woman pine for another letter from her faraway lover, to being confronted with the harsh truth that people don’t always do good things. Even Weiss questions you constantly about being too nice and giving.
Kaine still remains my favorite character. However, as I get older for different reasons. I feel like when I played this all those years ago, I connected to her being a hardass and holding her own on the battlefield and against Weiss in the insult department. As I get older, there’s a real sadness and vulnerability to her that I connect with. It was always there, but her story just gets to me on a more emotional level now. I will say, I am glad that the visuals were updated; it stands out to me most in the characters’ faces - they look better and more natural now. I think it helps in certain scenes, especially when things do get heavier. What about you, Jay? How do you feel about the characters and visuals?
Jay: I love the characters. The loyal crew that fight alongside Brother Nier are not only unique on a narrative level, but they also bring a lot of nuance to combat. It’s almost as if you can see their personalities truly come to life every time you enter a battle. So far, I’m a huge Kaine fan as well. You can tell that she masks her insecurities and tragic past behind a harsh tone and reserved body language. But that’s not a front; she can also back the talk up with some really awesome magic and sword techniques.
When it comes to the main cast, the visuals rock, but I’m not as impressed when I’m interacting with NPCs. There’s just something a little deflating about talking to citizens that look same-y and sometimes have poorly rendered face textures, especially when the game expects you to care about their emotionally-charged problems.
Kim: You definitely bring up a good point with the visuals. This was another weak point of the original, and while they did touch-up areas and fix some camera angles, the game still has a dated look to it. Some will find that endearing; others will see it as a little off-putting, like you mentioned with the NPCs. I know this isn’t a remake so they weren’t going to completely redesign anything, but it does bum me out that some parts of the world didn’t get more of a visual overhaul. It’s always tricky when updating a game of how far to really go, but adding some more detail wouldn’t have hurt. I am happy the overall cast at least looks better, though.
Before we go, I’d like to bring up one last thing. How was it entering the original Nier as someone who didn’t play it the first time around? Did you get the hang of things quickly? Were there parts that were hard to adjust to? Do you think people will find this new version a comfortable way to play this classic?
Jay: First off, I’ll say this: I was so excited when Replicant was first announced and I’ve been waiting to hop into it for what feels like years. And even though I’ve only experienced Automata, in a way, playing Replicant feels like coming back home. Because of this, I think I got the gist of how to play very quickly. On a mechanical level, Replicant is pretty easy to pick up and play, and that’s a good thing! On-boarding happens very quickly and you can jump right into the action without exhaustive tutorials or an unforgiving learning curve. Of course, this isn’t to say that bosses and even some of the Shade grunts that spawn in the open world won’t be difficult!
Based on the many videos I’ve watched of the old game, there’s just no better way to experience the first Nier. The gameplay is polished and the flow of battle is easy to get used to. The performances are super solid (particularly Yonah and Kaine!). And, oh man, you’re totally right: Keiichi Okabe’s score is just *chef’s kiss.* Do you feel the same way, now that you’ve gotten the chance to feel out the differences between the two versions?
Kim: It’s always a little scary going back to a game you loved so much the first time you played it. I always swore by the first Nier. It was - and still is - rough around the edges, but there’s something so magical there. At the time it came out, I was looking for RPGs to tell more mature and meaningful stories, but I had no idea I’d get what I did with Nier. There are times when I’m playing it and I just smile, because it reminds me why I fell in love with it in the first place. Other times, I’ll be like, ‘I can’t believe I put up with some of these design choices!’ That will no doubt happen. I'm playing a game that came out over a decade ago now, but I think Toylogic did a good job addressing some of the glaring issues the game had without changing its essence. I’m having a fun ride going back through it, and I can’t wait to see how other people feel when they play the new version.
Platform: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
A new compilation of Atomic Heart gameplay trailers showcases visceral combat and a few highly-detailed locations that you’ll get to explore. From multi-floored museum-like arenas to lush forests with abandoned structures, Atomic Heart looks to offer blood-pumping action sequences within flashy, bombastic setpieces.
Mundfish’s upcoming open-world RPG is set in an alternate reality where the USSR has made substantial technological advancements that push it decades ahead of any other world power. You play as a special KGB agent named P-3. Armed with a robust selection of firearms and melee weapons, you’ll traverse the various environments to unearth the secrets behind the Soviet Union’s creations while fighting off a bevy of the wild experiments that roam the land.
The adversaries shown vary from cyborgs (they’re like an interesting cross between the ones in I, Robot and Alien: Isolation) to powerful monsters. There’s that terrifying beast that emerges from a hole in the ground that P-3 fights at the 5:25 mark, and the sauntering bear-man-thing with the bloody head at the 8:32 mark is the stuff of literal nightmares. Gameplay-wise, Atomic Heart reminds me of the first Bioshock game.
After watching the compilation multiple times, I still can’t tell you exactly what the narrative is all about outside of what has already been provided. And Mundfish’s clips do a good job of setting up an incredibly odd atmosphere and tone without giving away too many details. I can say that much of what I’ve seen looks downright terrifying and definitely not for the faint of heart.
A release date for Atomic Heart hasn’t been announced but it will launch on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.