Sunday, August 30, 2015

PAX Prime 2015 - Day Three  

Welcome to the third (and final) installment of Gamecritics at PAX Prime 2015!  
While the show's still going on for a fourth day, we have to pack our bags a bit early and wrap up. That said, we managed to get time with nearly everything we wanted to see, and we're proud to present this last group of games that are worthy of your attention.
Also, special thanks go out to @CapitalistPig21, who was top-class freelancer support in covering the show.  They don't come any better!
Now, on to the coverage...


Dreadnought While a lot of other kids wanted to pilot an X-Wing, I wanted to command a Star Destroyer, and the devs at Yager finally gave me that chance with Dreadnought. This 5 vs. 5 combat game lets you take control of massive, lumbering capitol ships and duke it out against the opposing fleet. These leviathans are not the graceful fighters found in most space sim games -- the eponymous dreadnoughts are as slow as would be expected from ships of their size, so positioning is key. The absolute last thing you want is to be caught open amidships as a heavy battlecruiser burns you from stem to stern. Players can choose between one of several classes of ships, ranging from fully offensive, to defense and support. While the games I played ended up turning into chaotic free-for-alls, dealing with ships of this size requires coordination, lest you find yourself surrounded with no way out of the noose. If you've always wanted to know what it's like to command Home One or the Executor, thenDreadnought is for you. SB


Okhlos Reason through mob rule -- that's the general idea behind Okhlos. Filling the role of a philosopher in ancient Greece, I had to gather up a group of followers and strike down the gods and their worshipers. Much like in Pikmin or Overlord, my followers did most of the grunt work for me. They would fight my battles, protect me from harm, and eventually bring down the gods. Of course, I had to protect my flock from themselves, making sure they wouldn't eat poisoned food and telling them when to block. In turn, they would die for me, protecting me with their lives as I spread the truth of reason throughout Greece.  SB


Wayward Sky I visited the good people at Uber entertainment, and they had VR on display, both Valve/HTC's Vive and PS4's Morpheus. The Vive was just running a demo featuring some of the assets from Planetary, but the Morpheus was running Wayward Sky, a launch title for Sony's headset. The first thing that I noticed was that I wasn't getting sick in the headset, even a bit. My last experience with VR (an early Oculus) left me nauseous and with a splitting headache, but I was totally fine this time. According to the devs, they're developing a lot of tricks to stave off VR-induced illness, a lot of it being directorial choices. As for the game itself, it's a supercute "Point and Go" game that's mostly shown from a third-person perspective, except for a few sections where it dips into first-person in order to push a button or pull a switch. The Morpheus was definitely not as powerful or as convincing as the Vive, but considering that it was running on the PS4 and not a cutting-edge PC, it was an impressive display. BG


Hard West I cannot wait for the full release of this X-COM-meets-Deadlands turn-based strategy game later this year. For those not familiar with the term "Weird West", just picture watching a version of the film Tombstone set in the Cthulhu mythos and you'll have an idea of what it means. As a lover of that concept and of strategy games, Hard West struck all the right tones with me. Avoiding being in the open, proper scouting, and careful use of your skills are mandatory to survive. Make no mistake, Hard West is, well... hard. Those looking for a difficult turn based strategy game set in a world that's not often visited should take note.SB


Broforce You can't run from freedom. Broforce is a frantic 4-player co-op shooter. Levels are fast and chaotic, filled with bombs, bullets, and bros. The game lends itself well to quick plays as I never spent more than three minutes per level. Death can come swiftly as only one shot is enough to put down a bro, but there are always several more waiting to fight for the American way. Each bro controls differently and brings their own style to the game. The Brocketeer has a jump pack to traverse levels more easily, while the Bro in Black has a super-charged gun to blast the enemies of freedom. Rambro, The Brodock Sains, Mr. Broderson, Bro Norris, The Broxpendables... the list of those willing to liberate the world is never-ending. Also, everything in the game is fully destructible except for the American flag and the ground upon which it rests. Not that you would think about doing that... Commie. SB


Enter the Gungeon This gun-focused roguelike is one of my favorite games from this year's PAX, despite sounding semi-ludicrous in explanations. You pick one of a handful of characters to travel into the gungeon, fight off wave after wave of walking bullets, dancing guns, and sentient turrets, all to make your way to the bottom to find the gun that will kill... your past. Chock-full of reference humor lifted from several games and action movies, Enter the Gungeon had me smiling from the get go. The gameplay is tight and felt natural as I flipped tables for cover and dove out of the way of incoming bullets. While the first few floors could be considered "easy", the difficulty quickly spirals out of control, with enemies shooting out so fast that the game turns into a "bullet-hell" style shooter. I loved it. SB


This War of Mine: The Little Ones How can you make a game that was one of the most realistic depictions of war in the past few years even more depressing? You add kids to the equation. This War of Mine: The Little Ones is an expansion to the bleak resource management game that hit PC last year. The Little Ones add more items, more locations, and the aforementioned children. For anyone who was able to easily make the hard decisions from the base game (namely, who has to starve to death because there isn't enough food to go around) this shift might change that. A child dying will devastate morale, yet they are too young to contribute much to the household. This added burden definitely puts an extra wrinkle into the proceedings. Bring tissues. SB


Starr Mazer While still early in development, Starr Mazer has tons and tons of potential. Originally a Kickstarted project, Adult Swim Games swooped in and is helping bring the game to fruition. This anime-inspired, shoot ‘em up crossed with a 90's point-and-click adventure game oozes style and presses down hard on the nostalgia button. It's still rough around the edges (it's in early alpha at the moment) but Starr Mazer is one of the more memorable games I saw on the entire floor. SB


Adult Swim Speaking of Adult Swim, I know that they've been doing good stuff for a while, but it really struck me at this show that the curation of the content that they're publishing is actually outstanding. Whoever is picking and choosing the titles has a sharp eye, and their booth's lineup was impressive. Everything they had was slightly off-kilter her and weird, but in the best possible sense. I was definitely into Starr Mazer, but the strong visual presence ofRain World was intriguing, and Death's Gambit (seen above) is essentially a 2D Dark Soulsthat's coming to the PS4 - and it was great. Anyone interested in indies and alternative experiences should definitely be keeping an eye on Adult Swim. I don't think many people paid them much attention to them at the beginning, but they're quickly becoming a force.BG

Darkest Dungeon The PAX 10 had strong titles on display this year. One was Assault Android Cactus (written up on Day One) but it wasn't the only notable. Another one that had me drooling for more was Darkest Dungeon, which has been on Steam Early Access for some time. I know that it's been going through some development woes and push-back from the fans recently, but what was being shown today was quite strong and this 2D roguelike dungeon-crawler was incredibly appealing with gothically-morbid visuals and a strong sense of tactics. I wouldn't ordinarily have chosen this one to write about, but the developers say that it's coming to PS4 and Vita, which is beautiful music to my ears. I've been wanting to play for a while now, but I have a very hard time planting myself in front of a PC for gaming. Now, I don't have to. BG

Battle Chef Brigade The other game I want to spotlight from the PAX 10 was Battle Chef Brigade, which was a wonderfully absurd and captivating project. Basically, you play as a girl who's competing in an Iron Chef-style tournament, but the game is broken up into different sections. First, in order to collect ingredients, the player has to literally run outside and kill animals to collect their pieces. This part plays like an action platformer, complete with special moves and combos.  Once the animals are chopped up, they're brought back in the kitchen and each piece of meat has a specific "ingredient" profile which is represented by orbs of various colors.  The chef then takes these pieces, puts them in a pot, and then the game becomes a Puyo Puyo-like task of creating harmonious flavors by aligning colors into combos. It sounds totally absurd, but I found it incredibly appealing, and a mashup that really worked. It was good, good stuff. BG

...And with that, we bring our coverage of PAX Prime 2015 to a close. We hope you've enjoyed the selections we hand-picked out of the ocean of games being shown on the floor, and we thank you for checking back with us each day. Let's do it again next year, shall we?

PAX Prime 2015 - Day Two  

PAX Prime, day two!
While I usually handle most of the reporting for PAX Prime, this time I enlisted Steven Brown to help me cover the floor. If the name sounds familiar, you might know him from twitter as @CapitalistPig21. He's also a frequent contributor to @Gamecritics.
Now, on to the coverage!

The Banner Saga 2 The sequel to Stoic's excellent strategy RPG/Oregon Trail hybrid looks just as gorgeous as its predecessor.  Resuming a few weeks after the end of the first, The Banner Saga 2 will carry over all of the decisions made in the previous game if you still have your save file. Considering that the lead protagonist will differ depending on who survived, I'm interested in seeing how dramatically the plot will change to accommodate that.  Mechanically, it looks very similar to The Banner Saga, with some extra classes and more interactivity with the maps.  As a big fan of the first, I couldn't be happier with what I saw.SB

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows While the art style looks quite a bit like The Banner SagaMasquerada plays completely differently.  This fully-voiced isometric RPG put me in direct control of three characters at once.  Pausing during combat is mandatory, since the game is incredibly difficult without taking the time to set up the proper order of attacks.  In fact, since each character has a small set of skills with long cooldowns, not unlike a MOBA, it's essential to pause in order to survive. SB

Lego Dimensions Lego seems to be going all-out on this one, aiming directly at grown-ups with nostalgia. I mean, I'm sure the kids will enjoy playing it, but the properties I saw on display were Back to the FutureDoctor WhoThe Wizard of Oz, and Portal (among others) and as a parent, I feel pretty comfortable in saying that those aren't hot with little kids these days. The gameplay seem split in two flavors: story missions with traditional Lego-style puzzles, and the more open, do-your-own-thing levels that less structured. I'm a bit burned out on Lego at the moment so the gameplay wasn't anything that interested me greatly, although I will say that I admired all of the small touches that the devs put into each character. For example, when transforming into the first Doctor in the Doctor Who playset, the inside of the TARDIS changes appearance and turns black and white. Similarly, one of Scooby Doo's special powers is the ability to disguise himself as a southern belle, just like he did in some of the cartoons. The developers are clearly doing their deep-cut homework here. BG


Homefront: The Revolution I went into this one pretty jaded. What I saw from E3 didn't look promising, and the specter of mediocrity from the first installment hovers over the entire franchise.  Those concerns were lifted after getting my hands on the demo for the first time, though. The open-world gameplay can quickly devolve into enjoyable chaos as resistance forces will clash with KPA occupiers across the ruined outskirts of a city.  These dynamic encounters are completely optional to join in, and in fact, more than once I used the conflicts to draw attention away from my own objectives.  Sure, the resistance I use as diversions would get wiped out, but that's a small price to pay for freedom.  While my time with Homefront didn't push it into must-play status yet, its showing here at PAX definitely raised my opinion on it. SB

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided I fully admit to being a Deus Ex fanboy, and have loved the series since the first.  Human Revolution was easily in my top five games when it released, and I've been eagerly awaiting a sequel.  The hands-off demo I was shown only increased my desire for it. The developers are stressing verticality in the environments this time, and one of the newer tools given to help traverse them is an augment called the Icarus Strike.  If you can picture the blink ability from Dishonored, you wouldn't be too far off from how it works.  That's just one new tweak among others, but the key thing here is that everything that made HR so great looks to have been carried over. SB

Ladykiller in a Bind Christine Love's newest visual novel is a departure from her two previous works, Analog and Hate Plus.  Moving away from dark, sci-fi settings to a far more humorous and erotic tone, Ladykiller is about a woman who has to pretend she's her brother while fighting off the advances of two obsessed beauties. Fans of offbeat titles and those who enjoy Love's work should check it out -- her excellent writing and wit are still apparent. SB


Minecraft: Story Mode From the demo I saw, this is definitely A Telltale Game. If you've played any of their recent efforts, you can pretty much know what to expect, although the difference being that this is taking one of the biggest non-narrative IPs in the world and giving it both story and characters. It was quite cute and charming, and as someone who has dabbled in Minecraft, it was pretty interesting to see what they've done with it. There are now more action-oriented QTEs, and I was told that some of the main tonal influences are The Goonies and Ghostbusters; they're going after exciting, thrilling experiences, but definitely keeping it funny and approachable for kids. BG

Fortified This game looked pretty early, but I like the "active" tower defense genre and it actually reminded me a bit of Iron Brigade -- coming from me, that's quite a compliment. The 50s sci-fi feel was nice, and the ideas on display were solid. Looking forward to seeing this one in a more-completed state. BG

Super Dungeon Bros If you and three friends are ever bored on a couch, I would suggest taking a look at this four-player co-op rock-and-roll themed dungeon crawler that throws in a few roguelike elements to keep things fresh.  However, I would recommend only playing with friends as the potential for griefing is high.  Shared lives, the ability to throw your companions (either to solve puzzles or toss them to their deaths), and a difficulty that increases with time mandate cooperation.  Oh, and each character is a different class with different skills, so be sure to discuss who enjoys being the DPS and who likes to tank beforehand. SB

Battleborn It's easy to dismiss Battleborn as an arena shooter version of Borderlands at first glance, but that would be a mistake.  While the self-styled "hero shooter" is focused on adversarial play, 2K showed off what the five-player cooperative campaign would be like, and it was a blast taking down hordes of enemies while escorting a large spider-wolf tank.  Plus, I got to play as the most dapper robot butler I have ever seen, so that's a plus.  The full roster of 25 wasn't unlocked for the demo, but the characters that were available to play were radically varied, from long-range support to close-up melee.  It wouldn't be much of a stretch to consider this an FPS version of League of Legends, just without the towers and minions. SB

For Honor I didn't know much about this one going into it, but it ended up being one of my favorites at the show despite the uber-generic title. Essentially, it's a squad-based game where groups of samurai, vikings, or knights go out and wage war with each other. In the demo players had to control three points on a map. This in itself wasn't anything special, but it was the controls and level of lethality that absolutely made the game. I quickly discovered that the right stick controls the character's stance, positioning the sword in up, left, or right positions. If your block matches the direction your enemy's attack is coming, their attack is halted, and it gives you an opening to strike back. If you guard wrong, you take the hit. It's a lot more dynamic and heart-stopping than it sounds because the pace is quick, and it's not always the easiest thing to tell which stance your enemy's in. However, the other thing cranking this title up a notch is that it's heavily focused on team play, so while one-on-one odds make for tense matches, the moment it becomes two-on-one, it's time to run -- guarding against one person will inevitably leave you open against the other. I expected absolutely nothing from For Honor when I started, but I was totally impressed by how exciting and intense it felt. Also, heads up that there is a solo mode and a campaign, so it's not a multiplayer-only experience. BG

The Division This second game from Ubisoft has a lot in common with For Honor, in the sense that team play is integral. The difference is that it ditches all of the medieval trappings, and instead sets itself in a run-down city abandoned by authorities and taken over by small groups of soldiers. In the demo, players had to take control of an extraction point, and keep control of it for a certain amount of time before a helicopter arrived. It was a lot harder than it sounds, because once one player secured the site, they immediately became a target for the other teams in the area, all controlled by real people. Lone-wolfing it here is a quick way to get killed, and players definitely need to cover each other's backs. It was a little weird that there was no crouching or melee, but hopefully that will be addressed before the game launches. As someone who's recently become way more interested in team play, this one was looking promising.

Ubisoft SIDE NOTE: Both For Honor and The Division had female characters available from the start, and none of them were dressed in boob-centric robes or metal bikinis. In fact, it was nearly impossible to tell the gender of a character at first glance because both sexes were wearing protective, functional armor. Seems like Ubisoft's come a long way from their former claim that women were too much work to animate... I'm glad they dropped the bullshit. Good on them!

That's it for day two. Come back for day three tomorrow!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

PAX Prime 2015 - Day One  

So, day one of PAX 2015.

I have to say, this year is a weird one. After spending all day on the floor looking at upcoming games, it seemed that there were fewer than last year... I don't have any hard numbers or anything, but it usually takes me at least two full days (if not three) before I feel like I've had a really thorough look at everything on display, but by the time I was jonesing for an afternoon cup of coffee, I had seen nearly everything on my list.

Still, I was on the floor for hours and I definitely saw things worth talking about. Here we go...

The King's Bird This was one of the hidden gems on the floor. It will be shown at the Indie Minibooth later in the show, but I was able to sit down with the developers and a laptop on a quiet corner of the floor. Coming from new devs Serenity Forge, The King's Bird is a kinetic, inertial sort of platformer where the goal is to maintain a natural rhythm while traveling throughout the level. The main character is a tiny woman with a cape that functions as a pair of wings. She's quite agile, and with a few taps of the controller, she skates across nearly any surface in the environment. When she takes to the air, her ‘wings' let her soar. At the moment the game is in an alpha state, so look for this in 2016.

Assault Android Cactus I saw this one a couple of years ago and we even did a preview of it, but it's in the PAX 10 this time around, and for good reason. The developers have been tweaking and polishing, and it looks notably better than the last time I saw it -- and I thought it looked pretty good back then! In a nutshell, it's an arena-based shooter with a focus on managing enemies. The pace was frenetic and there were a billion bullets onscreen at any given time. Plus, super-cute chibi androids!

Dragon Fin Soup Although I think the nonspecific title doesn't give a good sense of with the game actually is, I was quite impressed by this procedural roguelike with a strong emphasis on aesthetics. Three years in the making, the devs are quite proud of what they've come up with, and after having a brief discussion, I'm convinced that their heads are in the right place. Hearing them name-check a number of my favorites in the genre suggested that we were on the same page about how a roguelike should be, and the art was just fantastic.

Hob This is the new jam from Runic, makers of Torchlight, and it seems like quite a departure. But in a good way! The main character is a small creature of some sort, with anenormous mechanical arm. It's set loose in the world that seems half natural and half ruined technology, and action was platform-centric with some clever puzzles on display. Everything had a wonderful verticality to it, too -- not only was the character climbing up multiple levels to traverse the areas they were in, but activating puzzles and switches raised or lowered other parts of the environment. The action looked great, and the stylized graphics were stunningly solid.

Through The woods This psychological suspense game is coming from a team of first-timers, but you'd never be able to tell from how polished and creepy it looks. The story of a woman looking for a child who's been taken by creatures was freaking me out in the demo, and the game is told in a flashback structure with the woman's voice narrating the details of what's happening onscreen to someone in the future.

Mirror's Edge: Catalyst This was one of the games that ended up being exactly like I thought it would be based on the trailers I've seen... It's Mirror's Edge. The graphics were quite clean and reminiscent of the original style. The controls didn't feel completely dialed in, but it's early build and I'm sure things will be tweaked accordingly. The demo consisted of three different activities (a time trial, a delivery/combat mission, and navigating an area to reprogram a billboard) and it all felt exactly like... Mirror's Edge. I have to say that I'm not convinced the open world was a good direction to take it, though. I grant that the demo was brief and much remains to be seen, but opening a map of the city, choosing a checkpoint, and then to traveling to the checkpoint didn't seem to add much to the game, and was even confusing at times. The game's engine automatically highlighted parts of areas that it thought I should follow and it worked pretty well most of the time, but despite the fact that this game is about parkour and being in motion, I just didn't get much value from going place to place to start discrete objectives.

Rise Of The Tomb Raider I wasn't a fan of the previous TR's heavy emphasis on combat and its sadistic level of graphic violence. Rise seems to answer those complaints, and I'm definitely more interested in it now. In the demo, Lara actually raids a tomb, and once she's inside, there are some puzzle elements and a little bit of trying to figure out how to get from one area to another, which was very reminiscent of the originals. I also noticed that when Lara was checking parts of the ruins, she "leveled up" her Greek translation abilities by looking at artifacts and objects, which seems to put some emphasis on the importance of doing something besides shooting a thousand goons in the face. There were some traps, there were cinematic moments, and of course, the graphics are great. I'm going to hold off for the PS4 version next year, but I'm sure Xbox One fans will be happy with this one.


Star Wars Battlefront @RichardNaik and I played this one co-op, and it's another one of those that's pretty much exactly what you think it is. The graphics are great, the controls feel good, and the Star Wars themes seem to be used properly, from what I can tell. It was also a huge bonus to hear that none of the prequel garbage is in this game whatsoever. There weren't a lot of specifics to be had regarding progression, unlocks or the heroes, but it wasmade very clear that there are solo and co-op modes. The developers were very keen to emphasize that it's not a multiplayer-only experience, so that was welcome news.

Dark Souls III If there was ever a game that I didn't really need to see in a demo sense, it's probably this one. I mean, as anyone who's played these games knows, the real worth of them comes from learning the systems, experimenting with builds, and taking the time to explore every nook and cranny of every environment... It's tough to get the measure of anything from a ten-minute demo. That said, I did notice that the color palette was alarmingly gray. As someone who was not a fan of Bloodborne's visual style, the demo's opening area was incredibly dreary, and not in an intentionally-atmospheric way. Nearlyeverything was one shade of gray or another, and I found it tough to visually parse. Speaking of Bloodborne, the developers have clearly taken a few cues from it. Right from the start, the enemy mobs were bigger and faster, and the pace of combat definitely felt kicked-up a notch. I was using a barbarian character and there's a new type of buff where different abilities are triggered depending on which class and what weapon are being used. My barbarian stomped his foot and gave a shout, powering up his axe attack. It seemed pretty straightforward, but like most things in this game, it's probably something that requires a lot of examination before grokking it.


Abzu This super-chill underwater exploration game was intriguing, and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the full version. The graphics are stylized and quite beautiful, and swimming around underwater was incredibly calming. It seems like there's more to it than just looking at pretty fish, though... For instance, there were little pools of matter to be collected by robot drones that accompany the scuba diver, and part of the world was made up of heavier, colder water that the diver couldn't enter. There's definitely something going on in this world, but it wasn't going to be unraveled in this demo.


Xenoblade Chronicles X I never got around to playing the first Xenoblade, but I saw quite a bit of X being played at the Nintendo area, and it looked pretty ballin'. The graphics are great, and I was really digging the Phantasy Star vibe. The giant robots on display were pretty cool, and it seem like there was a whole world to explore, from areas full of alien wildlife to more urban areas complete with streets, buildings and civilization. The combat looked interesting and I was actually quite eager to see more. I wasn't expecting much from this one, but it kinda blew me away.


Mad Max The most important thing to keep in mind when looking at Mad Max is that it's probably a very different beast from the film, and not intended to continue the scenes or characters from the movie. Anyone going into it with that expectation is bound to be disappointed, but with the proper framework in mind, I thought it looked surprisingly cool. Driving around the wasteland had a good feel, with plenty of room to maneuver while staying fairly strategic. There was quite a bit of car customization as well. When on foot, Max was performing missions inside enemy encampments, with plenty of combat that was fairly Batman-esque. I was definitely liking what I was seeing here, and if the rest of the game is as good as the demo, this one might be end up being a sleeper hit if people are able to get past the fact that Imperator Furiosa is probably not going to make an appearance.

That's it for day one! Tune in tomorrow for another batch of coverage from PAX 2015!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

PAX Prime 2015 is tomorrow!  


So… PAX IS TOMORROW! Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!

Between keeping @Gamecritics humming and preparing for the madness that will be unleashed in less than 24 hours, I haven’t had much time to update Coffeecola. BUT, following this update you can look forward to a full four days of hands-on coverage posted every night during the show.
I’ve still got a lot to do in order to get ready, so without further delay…

>My review for Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultimate Despair Girls went live today.

We also recently ran…

>@GC_Danny’s review of the Mega Man Legacy Collection

>GC_Danny’s Smite (XBO) review

>@InsrtCoins’ review of The Talos Principle: Road To Gehenna

Currently, I’m working on a review for Toy Soldiers: War Chest (PS4) and while my writeup’s not finished, what I can say is DISAPPOINT GET. Look for that one after PAX is over. 

Otherwise, I'm waiting for some stuff to come in so I'm not ready to commit to anything big just yet, especially since I know that I'm going to be occupied with the show. As such, I’ve been dipping into the Vita backlog…

>Titan Souls. I was waiting for this one to go on sale for a while, and I finally got my chance. I have to say it was a waste of money, though. Although I like the concept of having only one life point and a single arrow while going up against big bosses, the developers completely fuck it up by not learning the lessons taught to us by Super Meat Boy and Trials HD -- if you're going to have a ridiculously hard difficulty curve, get the player back in the game immediately in order to stave off frustration. The delay in reloading and the pointless overworld that needs to be traveled to get back to the boss that killed you in 1.5 seconds is a colossal waste of time and a massive error in design. This forced lagtime between attempts shot my rage meter shut up immediately and I had to quit. Also had to delete.

>The Swindle. I'm always up for a good roguelike, and a video quicklook from @JebusF convinced me to give it a shot, but after playing it, I'd say that guy was too nice to it. While there are definitely elements of coolness to this thiefing/steampunk hybrid, I found it to be too harsh in terms of progression and too random when it came to its level generation. The player only has a limited amount of time in order to potentially beat the game, but I was constantly restarting due to not being able to get enough cash at the beginning, or from getting into levels where I didn’t have the skills or abilities needed to progress. When I fell into a hole that there was no exit from, I’d decided I had enough.

>Monsterbag. This suuuuuuper-cute puzzler asks players to help a living backpack reunite with the little girl owner he’s separated from. I’ve only just scratched the surface of it so far – it seems pretty straightforward, but the art is irresistibly adorable and I’m all about compact experiences these days. Jury’s still out, but it’s got a good vibe.

>Resogun. I know everyone was losing their minds over this one when the PS4 launched, but I gotta admit, I’m just not feeling it. It’s a prettier Defender… and… it’s a prettier Defender. It’s fine enough, but I forgot about it two seconds after I put it down, and felt no real pull to get back to it. Nothing wrong with it really, just… Mehhhhhh.

So, that’s it for now, but tune in tomorrow for my Day One report from the PAX floor. Also, if you've got any questions or if there's something specific you want me to check on while I'm at the show, feel free to reach out and let me know!



Armello - League of Geeks
Awesomenauts - Ronimo Games
Barkley 2 - Tales of Game's
BELOW - Capybara Games
Butt Sniffin Pugs - SpaceBeagles
Captain Forever Remix - Pixelsaurus Games & Future Crayon
Chasm - Discord Games, Inc.
Darknet - E McNeill
Death Road to Canada - Rocketcat LLC
Distance - Refract
Due Process - Giant Enemy Crab
Eco - Strange Loop Games Inc
Galak-Z - 17-BIT
Gang Beasts - Boneloaf
Hyper Light Drifter - Heart Machine
Infinifactory - Zachtronics
Kathy Rain - Raw Fury
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes - Steel Crate Games, Inc.
La-Mulana 2 - PLAYISM
Ladykiller in a Bind - Love Conquers All Games
Mini Metro - Dinosaur Polo Club
Moon Hunters - Kitfox Games
Mushroom 11 - Untame
Nova Blitz - Dragon Foundry
Playsets. - the playsets team, llc
Rising Thunder - Radiant Entertainment
Shoot Shoot Mega Pack - Jon Remedios
Sometimes Always Monsters - Vagabond Dog
Stonehearth - Radiant Entertainment
That Dragon, Cancer - Numinous Games
The Magic Circle - Question LLC
The Westport Independent - Double Zero One Zero
Through the Woods - Antagonist
To Leave - Freaky Creations
Tumblestone - The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
Ultimate Chicken Horse - Clever Endeavour Games
Universe Sandbox ² - Giant Army
Viking Squad - Slick Entertainment Inc
Wattam - Funomena
XING: The Land Beyond - White Lotus Interactive
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG - Ackk Studios

Absolute Drift - Funselektor Labs Inc.
Antihero - Tim Conkling
Brigador - Stellar Jockeys
Burly Men at Sea - Brain&Brain
Celestial Tear: Demon's Revenge - White Guardian Studios LLC
Check-in, Knock-out - Lionade Games
Circa Infinity - Kenny Sun
Cloud Grove - bromoco
Evergreen - Siege Sloth Games
FutureGrind - Milkbag Games
Gnomoria - Robotronic Games
Interstellaria - Coldrice games LLC
Into the Stars - Fugitive Games
Inversus - Hypersect
Metro Warp - Another Yeti Inc
One More Line - SMG Studio
Pillar - MichaelArts
Poly Bridge - Dry Cactus
Sublevel Zero - Sigtrap
Super Chibi Knight - PestoForce
The King's Bird - Serenity Forge
Timespinner - Lunar Ray Games LLC
Together: Amna & Saif - Mount Olympus Games
VA-11 HALL-A - Sukeban Games

Cinelinx: A Card Game For People Who Love Movies - Cinelinx Media
Cogs in a Machine - Mikeware
Gruff - Studio Woe
Mech Deck - Off the Shelf
Monikers - Palm Court
Paperback - Tim Fowers
Pleasant Dreams - Aerjen Games
Skiptrace - Skiptrace
Skulldug! - Ruddy Games
Steamcraft - Rock Manor Games





Sunday, August 9, 2015

PREVIEW: Dungeon Travelers 2 (Vita)  


Welcome back to Coffeecola! 

I don't often do straight-up previews of games here at the blog, but every once in a while I make an exception, and I'm doing just that for the upcoming Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & The Monster Seal. It's coming to the Vita, and published by the good people of @AtlusUSA. 

I talked about this game in the last post, and I'm happy to say that my initial impressions have only gotten better -- and I really liked it at the time!

While there's no doubt that it's a fairly traditional dungeon crawl game played from the first-person perspective, what stands out to me are the nuances and variations on the standard turn-based combat formula. It's not something that leaps out at you right off the bat, but after putting in quite a bit of time, I've only got appreciation for the ways the devs have changed things up.

The biggest shift is that Dungeon Travelers 2 doesn't boil down to being the usual battle of attrition that games of this kind usually do. In general, when trying to clear a floor in a dungeon, progress is usually a matter of seeing how far you can get before you run out of magic points or healing items. It encourages hyper-tight management of resources during battle, and is a pretty standard rule of design. In this case, the developers have eschewed that in favor of something more generous and flexible, and it doesn't take away from the game at all. 

Basically, many of the characters have skills which automatically replenish their life and magic points during or after battle. Another big difference is that one of the classes, the Maid, has a variety of skills that cost her zero MP. These 'upkeep' skills can heal other characters, refill magic points, and have a variety of other effects. As long as a Maid is in the party, many of the usual things that chip away at the player's ability to keep playing are negated, or at least strongly mitigated.

I'm also a fan of the way that Dungeon Travelers 2 handles magic spells. Rather than happening immediately after being selected from a menu, any character casting a spell (friendly or enemy) has to chant for certain amount of time. If they take enough damage while chanting, the spell is canceled. Other games have done this in the past, but what makes this feel so different is that enemy magic is incredibly strong, and if foes happen to get a spell off, it's usually an express ticket to a party wipe. As such, whenever I see an enemy start to chant, it becomes a mad rush to knock them out of their spellcasting, regardless of whatever else I'm doing at the time. It lends a lot of urgency to each encounter, and changes the flow of battle.

The varied character classes (each with several advanced upgrade forms available on a branching path) are as smart as the other changes, and the moment-to moment strategies are deep. The way a Berserker functions on the front line is absolutely different from the way a Paladin does, and that in turn has a ripple effect on the rest of the party. I think it's every bit as nuanced and complex as the finely-crafted systems seen in Etrian Odyssey, and just as enjoyable.

While I don't think there's anything here to change the minds of people who don't like this kind of hardcore dungeon crawl, those who are inclined to such experiences should definitely take the time to check it out. It's different, it's interesting, and I've been having a really hard time putting it down.

The game releases in the US on August 18th, and my full @Gamecritics review should be up the day before.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dungeon Travelers 2, Ziggurat, and Resident Evil Revelations 2  


Welcome back to Coffeecola! 

First up, here are some links to content that @Gamecritics has published over the last week or so.

>@Gamecritics Podcast, ep. 134 – Guest-starring @Ind1fference

>@KayinAmoh’s review of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (multi)

>My review of Lost Dimension (Vita/PS3)

>@MikeSuskie’s review of Her Story (multi)

>@KayinAmoh’s review of Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy (Vita)

Now, let's get down to games…

First up, @AtlusUSA has released the Dungeon Travelers 2 demo on Vita. It's a really generous demo basically encompassing all of the first three levels. In a smart move, the data transfers to the full version once the player wraps it up, so the time spent is not wasted. I absolutely love demos like this, and I wish more companies would do it.

Anyway, the game. It's essentially a straight-up dungeon crawl very similar to Etrian Odyssey, although none of the do-it-yourself mapping is in here. The systems seem pretty interesting, and while there's always a certain amount of grind it a title like this, this is one of the first games I can recall that actually gives a clear reason to grind beyond pure XP.  Specifically, after defeating a certain number of monsters, their leftovers can be turned into an item which can be equipped on characters to give an ATK UP, DEF UP, and other things along those lines.

There are a few other nice little design tweaks to keep it feeling fresh and the writing has been clever so far, but (probably) the biggest thing people might immediately notice about it is the level of skin on display. Make no mistake, this is a fanservice game when it comes to the presentation -- most of the “monsters” are buxom ladies, and apparently the characters wear less clothing as they change into advanced classes.

I'm not going to lie, there's a lot of T&A going on here, but just as is true for books, music, and films, not every game is right for every player. People who are allergic to this stuff should probably stay away, but those who don't mind it or those who might want a good dungeon crawl should check this one out.

Sony’s having a big sale on a lot of titles right now, so check that out if you are so inclined. I already had most of the good ones, but I did pick up Ziggurat.

I was a little hesitant since it was coming from Milkstone Studios -- I remembered that they put out a bunch of garbage on XBLI – but the reviews seemed pretty positive and I had a few people on Twitter tell me it was good, so I gave it a whirl. I'm happy to say that they weren't wrong, and I'm looking forward to putting more time into it.

Basically, it's a first-person shooter, but structured like a roguelike where each dungeon layout is random and so are the enemy placements and pickups. It’s nothing revolutionary, but what I've seen so far has been well done, and the action comes fast and frantic. Feeling like I got my money’s worth so far, so heads up on this one and grab it before it goes back to full price if it sounds appealing.

The last thing I've had time for this week is Resident Evil Revelations 2 on PS4. Playing it cooperatively with the wife and we only just finished the first chapter, but it's been a great time so far. In fact, it’s probably the most enjoyment I’ve had with a RE in quite some time.

Where's Barry? RIGHT HERE!!

We’re playing in splitscreen, so it's not optimal but definitely acceptable. The setting is pretty standard evil scientist/gross experiment kind of stuff and the action is find-a-key/shoot-the-zombies, but I really don't mind since it feels like the series is coming back to its roots in a way that's long past overdue, especially after the nonsensical action-movie genre-mashup of the blowjobbing-a-giraffe RE6.

There's still quite a bit of game left to go, but it's gotten off on the right foot. I mean, I wasn't sure I'd ever be down for more Resident Evil after the last couple of games, but this one might have turned things around. We'll see.



Armello, a fantasy board game come to life from League of Geeks will have two additional characters when the title launches on September 1, 2015 for PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac and Linux. 

Zosha the female rat and Barnaby the male rabbit are the two newest characters to be introduced. Zosha goes into Stealth every sunset where she can outmaneuver her competition, avoiding aggressive heroes while also sneaking up on those who least expect it. Barnaby can come up with the perfect item to fit any situation, making him adaptable to many different strategies.

The final build of Armello including Zosha and Barnaby will be playable for the first time at PAX Prime. PC gamers have until July 31 to purchase the game on Steam Early Access, after which the title will not be available until the official release.


Deep Silver and inXile today announced that the acclaimed post-apocalyptic PC best-seller, Wasteland 2 is coming to the Xbox One, the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, and the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system on October 13th in North America. Wasteland 2: Director's Cut will be playable at gamescom 2015 at the Deep Silver booth in Hall 9.

Wasteland 2: Director's Cut takes last year's critically acclaimed PC release through a complete visual overhaul; it features a more sophisticated lighting system, upgraded environments and improved textures as well as brand new, higher quality character models. All major speaking parts and NPCs have also received new voice-overs, and weapon sounds have been revisited in order to provide more variety and punch. inXile has implemented additional gameplay advances such as improvements to combat encounters, additional passes to balancing, enhanced cut scenes plus all-new "Precision Strike" and "Perk & Traits" systems. Most importantly, the game's UI and control scheme have been completely reworked and optimized for consoles.

Key Features:
· The Director's Cut: Overhauled graphics with fully redone character and level art, voice-over expanded with tens of thousands of lines, and new features make this the definitive version of Wasteland 2.
· Turn-Based Tactical Combat: Tackle explosive and deadly squad-based combat encounters against the wasteland's raiders, mutants, robots and more that will test the limits of your planning and tactics.
· Your Squad Your Way: Don't feel like finding the key for a door? Pick the lock, bash it down with your boot or just blow it open with a rocket launcher!
· A Huge Reactive Story: With hundreds of choices and consequences at your disposal, with both short and long term reactivity to the players choices and 80-100 hours of gameplay, no two players will have the same experience.
· Huge & Customizable: Dozens of hours of gameplay. Hundreds of characters. Thousands of available combinations for your Rangers' appearance. More than 150 weapons. Dozens of skills!
· Enhanced Classic RPG Game Play: Classic RPG game play ideas updated with modern design philosophies.