Friday, April 26, 2013

Steam Budget: $0

In lieu of this week's tea time, AristoGamer presents a list of free and free-to-play/micropayment games on Steam. Think of it as a build-your-own tea time.

There's some real gems in here: single- and multiplayer, cooperative and competitive, puzzles and action and shooters and hot damn, Latin America Spanish localization DLC for Alan Wake is free?! Que bueno.

Be sure to check out Alien Swarm if you want to find out which of your friends would die if facehuggers were real. Lookin' at you, O'Dubhshlaine.

Check out the list right here. It is helpfully maintained by Steam user IvanDoomer. Thanks, Ivan.

We'll be returning to our usual tea times next week. Until then, if you have any suggestions for games or genres to review, contact me at madamarcadia@aristogamer.net.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What Even Defines an RPG Anymore?

When gaming was young, nothing had been done before. Imagine a new form of media completely devoid of anyone saying, “This is just like that, but slightly different.” Unfortunately, as vast and expansive as the possibilities were, pulling games from the creative ether was more difficult since there was nothing to draw on and no examples. This lack of reference point necessitated pulling from more established media for inspiration or direction. And as such, early games mimicked other types of games like sports and board games. Another source of inspiration was the pen and paper tabletop RPG that captured the imaginations and hearts of enthusiasts with player-controlled story and stat-based combat. And thus, RPGs made the jump from pen and paper to TV and controller with games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Since then, the term RPG has come to encompass a myriad of titles and genre subsets and it now begs the question “What is an RPG? Is that genre even a useful classification anymore?”

My absolute favorite RPG since I actually started caring about stories in games has been Final
Fantasy VI, though at the time I knew it as III. Featuring a cast of colorful characters, a deep, engaging storyline, and battle systems that were far more detailed than anything I’d ever seen, I was smitten with the plot of Terra trying to find her identity. Slowly, other RPGs came into my life like Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy IX. One day, I was in search of an old RPG to play, something that would really steal my free time and attention. One post on a message board later and I had nine replies, most of which recommended tactics games which are totally not RPGs, but one title came up a few times called Secret of Mana. I’d never played it, so I downloaded the game and started playing.

Immediately, I was painfully aware that it wasn’t an RPG. It had the graphics of an RPG, the story of an RPG, the emotion-jerking music of an RPG, but you ran around freely and hit things with a sword like in Zelda. What the heck, I thought, am I missing something? I continued playing, but brushed it off as people not knowing the actual definition of RPG. This trend continued until sometime in 2006 in which I had a debate with one of my roommates about best RPGs of all time. Of course I said Final Fantasy VI, what sane person who’s played it wouldn’t? But he kept arguing for Final Fantasy Tactics and would not budge. And once again, I was faced with ignorance.
Only this time, I realized it was my own.

I started doing research into RPGs, not knowing what the title really meant anymore. In my mind, an RPG was categorized by a turn-based fighting combat with a narrative-driven plot that featured a host of playable characters, quests, and bosses. As it turns out, that definition is incredibly narrow. The actual definition is far broader. The definition according to Wikipedia is “a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting.” I also found out there are multiple types of RPG. Games like Secret of Mana and Mass Effect are classified as action RPGs since they aren’t turn based, but still feature most of the qualities of a traditional turn-based RPG. The same applies to strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem. Dungeon crawlers like Diablo also count as RPGs.

So where do we draw the line?


Is Legend of Zelda an action RPG in which items and hearts are used in lieu of stats for managing progress? What about Gears of War? Is that an action RPG that doesn’t have stat management, but still has parties? These examples may be a little extreme, but the definition of RPG is so vague that it invites far more games to the category than it rightfully should. And to alleviate that, we’ve created sub-genres on top of sub-genres just to try and get some sort of meaningful description of the game we’re playing. Bioshock could be described as a first person shooter action role playing game. That’s a mouthful. What about FPS action RPG? Does that make it better? Do you gain any ideas about the game by hearing that description? Let’s try an experiment.


Let’s say I’m raving about a new game that you’ve never heard of called Quintessence. It’s absolutely incredible! It’s challenging, addicting, and so deep that it has tons of replay value, I rave.

Oh yeah, you say, half-heartedly listening, What genre is it?

It’s at the forefront of the first person shooter adventure puzzle role playing game genre.

You scratch your head for a second, trying to grasp what that game would even entail. So the camera is from the perspective of the player, you solve puzzles, maybe you’re trying to be Indiana Jones, and maybe there’s a stat management system?

As it turns out, I got my names mixed up and what I meant to say instead of Quintessence is Portal. If you really get down to it, Portal is a first person shooter in which you solve puzzles, are exploring a facility, and are playing as the character of Chell. Obviously this is a stretch, but you get my meaning — RPG is no longer a useful classification of game.


It’s my belief that genre classifications had their place in time and that time was gone. When there were very few reference points to draw on, it was easy to say “Chrono Trigger is an RPG” since that conjured ideas of Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. But now, that word refers to so many games, the only thing telling me a game’s genre does is tell me what it’s not. If Ni No Kuni is an RPG, I’m positive it’s not a sports game, at least until sports RPGs become a thing. Oh wait, that’d be Football Manager. Add another to the list.

Instead of giving me the game’s genre, tell me what games it’s like. Instead of telling me Warframe is a third person action FPS, tell me it’s like Mass Effect with Ninja Gaiden’s platforming, but online. And even if I haven’t played Mass Effect, you can describe it using a few games. Since the Nintendo-era of gaming, we have almost 30 years of games to draw comparisons to, comparisons that bring forth far more information and experiences to draw on than a generic genre.

I’ve already stated why we don’t do score reviews on this site, and it seems genre classifications are similar — it’s an arbitrary system that has been aged past the point of usefulness. And just as describing games with similar titles brings forth ideas about quality and how much you may personally like it, they also set expectation for what the player may experience in the game. This approach to game classification and critique is far more useful and holistic than arbitrary filing systems simply because experiences and memories bring far more information to your mind than words.

Though shifting from genre classifications would be difficult, as it’s a language most people understand even if it had very little meaning anymore, it’s a necessary shift in order to talk about a form of media with actual data rather than theory. Instead of trying to fit games to a vague ideal, you can pick and choose bits of other games people may have played to describe a game more vividly and informatively, using definitions players make for themselves, not the ones they’re given. And that’s a powerful tool.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tea Time with Effing Hail

It's coming.
Another short tea time! You know what that means. That's right: value. You'll spend less time reading and more time pretending you're Storm after someone told her that the mohawk was a bad choice.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

April 2013 Podcast

Colby, Casey, and Nine talk about the Adam Orth always-on fiasco and how it's affected Xbox 720 in addition to an overview of PAX East 2013. Oh and they also get into a heated debate about both Metal Gear Solid 4 and Kingdom Hearts. You know, the hot, pressing issues.




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Yet Another Nintendo Direct Press Conference

Nintendo is at it again stealing the spotlight on an unassuming April morning. This time they focused on the Luigi based games, calling this the "Year of Luigi." With a new Mario and Luigi game coming out for the 3DS along with New Super Luigi U DLC for the WiiU as well as the already released Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, reviewed by our own Apprentice Nine here, Nintendo is really letting Luigi take the limelight this year.
Among the various announcements regarding updates for the WiiU and additional information on already announced games, some really interesting news was revealed in the conference. Not only are Earthbound, Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, and Legend of Zelda Oracle of Seasons getting a virtual console treatment, but Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime announced a new Zelda game for the 3DS. What's more, it isn't a Majora's Mask 3D treatment as most expected, but a brand new game set in the Link To the Past timeline. Now I have to finally upgrade and get a 3DS as I was pleasantly surprised by the information released in this Nindendo Direct Press Conference.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Did You Miss It? - Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon



It’s been almost twelve years since the release of the Nintendo Gamecube. The little purple box boasts a wide range of excellent releases, and Luigi’s Mansion was one of its earliest and brightest. Despite the game’s short length, Luigi’s Mansion was innovative, intelligent, and gave the timid Luigi a chance to shine in the spotlight! Now, at long last, Luigi’s Mansion has been given a sequel on the 3DS. The result? It’s a delightfully comic and eerie adventure, one that takes the innovation of its predecessor to beautiful new heights.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Microsoft's Hand Possibly Forced on Future Xbox Connectivity

With tonight's podcast going into discussion on Microsoft's Creative Director Adam Orth's comments about Xbox 720 rumors, we figured it would be good to provide a summarized recap of the events. For starters there have been rumors circulating around for some time that the future Xbox console was to feature an always-on function; meaning that in order to use the console, one would have to keep a constant internet connection going. This doesn't mean what you would normally think, in that this just means you have to have an internet connection to access certain features of a game like multiplayer. No, in actuality this would mean that to even play a purely single player campaign in a game that doesn't even have online features, you would still need to stay connected to the internet. Such speculation on reasoning behind this idea includes strengthening DRM (Digital Rights Management), fighting piracy, or fighting against used games since authorization would be required each time it's accessed. Now Microsoft has been rather hush-hush on this whole matter, wanting to keep speculation alive and user interests to continue in growing. For all we know, they could be keeping silent because the spreading of such a rumor is still providing advertising for their console, allowing them to officially put down such rumors at a later date and seem like heroes. Enter Adam Orth on Twitter who says that players need to just "deal with it" should a service come into existence. Following this comment came a rather tremendous backlash from all across the internet (as one would expect). This soon lead to a conversation on Twitter with BioWare's Senior Designer Manveer Heir.


 

Now before anyone decides they need to rant and rage at good ol' Orthy, first know that the above comments may be out of context. Heir soon stated that Adam Orth is an old friend of his and that this kind of conversation is the usual style of joking around that they do. This wasn't meant to be a deliberately insulting post, but more just Heir being trolled by a friend.  The problem with this, though, is that instead of it being a private conversation, it was a done publicly and in response to a legitimate concern on the future Xbox console. Whether or not this was a joke doesn't really matter, in the end the comments are there and made by someone whom can be considered a high-up representative of Microsoft.  In any case, it should be interesting to see how Microsoft plays this one out now that there is a potential risk of a wide-spread negative build-up on their future console. 

AristoGamer April 2013 Podcast

Spring marches on, and so does gaming news! Tonight we'll be discussing the following topics:

  • Adam Orth, Microsoft, and Always-On
  • Indie-dev friendliness
  • PAX East 2013

How to download and use Teamspeak



Date: Tuesday, April 16
Time: 8:00pm Central Time

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tea Time with Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles


I'm so anime I wink stars.
The year was 1996. I stood atop a pile of mutilated corpses, the remains of those foolish enough to challenge me. These people had once been my friends. Now they were gone and I was the Tetris Attack champion. Had the cost been too high?

This Tea Time, I'm reaching out to all Tetris Attack veterans and victims. I'm here to show you that puzzle battle games can be played responsibly and without harming anyone. I present Wind and Water: Puzzle Battles.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Batman: Arkham Origins Revealed

In a pleasant surprise found on the May cover of Gameinformer, Batman: Arkham Origins is in development as the third game in the Arkham series.Set before the other two games, Arkham Origins shows off a younger Batman and how he is dealing with life just as he begins to discover bad guys that are worse than your average street thug. Releasing later this year on October 25th, Batman: Arkham Origins is going to be a game to watch out for later this year. Not only that but a portable Arkham game, Arkham Origins Blackgate, will be released the same day as a separate title set after Arkham Origins.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Video Games Lives. Oh man.

Professor Tyranus sent me this rather heart-felt review of Video Games Live, one of the most popular video game-centric music shows on the planet. He must have picked it up from a small child in Dallas, TX. One with sad eyes.

There was a great selection. Zelda, Megaman, Mario, Street Fighter, and other staples made appearances, which is to be expected. What wasn't expected was things like the Tetris Opera, which was extremely well done. A fun arrangement, and a great tribute to the game. Only problem was when people started clapping. Apparently Texas Gamers can't clap on beat if you held a gun to their heads. Who knew.


At one point they said they were leaving the next song a surprise. Cool, I like surprises. Then the music starts to swell and while most people wait in wonder, a few people (including me) immediately knew what it was. Shadow of the Colossus. Deep...DEEP memories of that game came back. Another masterpiece. You could feel the energy and emotion in the room as each song played, with the wonderful reminiscence of how deep games can affect people.

Skyrim came on at a point and the crowd went nuts. I kind of wished they'd have maybe added in The Dragonborn Comes somehow, but for the sake of time, they did the theme and that's perfectly fine.

Earthworm Jim got a very long medley...kind of surprising. Not a bad choice, just odd to get that much play time.

Final Fantasy, of course, had it's presence. However, when he started talking about it, my mind immediately went to "One Winged Angel". It's a good song, but right now, it's my Gangnam Style for VG orchestral concerts. Everyone does it. EVERYONE. So, fine, get it over with.



"We have the choir here to help."One Winged Angel. We got it. Just go."And this is the song that defines so much with Nobuo's work. "One..." So much happening with each instrument! "Winged..." Without any more delay we present the opening... "Ang--wait, what? Opening? "To Final Fantasy 8." WHAT. They didn't even play video for it but I guarantee any FF8 fan in the audience was already playing it in their head, note for note, beat for beat.

Journey got a showing. At the time I hadn't played the game, but once I had, the music was even better. Was good to see an indie game get love.

There was a guitar hero challenge. Guy won. Everyone got free passes to SGC. Awesome. I've heard that they try to do something like this at every concert so be expecting some fun with this.




But they got to the end of the concert. I knew they'd do an encore but they hadn't played Chrono Trigger/Cross yet. I started going through all the other songs they hadn't done anything from that they could play: Halo, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, their Retro Game Medley...all seemed like bigger, more obvious options. I've personally waited over 12 years to hear Scars of Time live. 12...long...years. I've been to 4 different VG orchestral performances and not one played Trigger/Cross, so I was crushed. My heart shattered and I was pretty much ready to hear what they were doing for the encore, enjoy it without being upset about going 5 for 5 and never hearing Scars of Time live.

They came out and started talking about how all these other staples...Zelda, Mario, Tetris, etc...they weren't the most requested piece. I immediately went to Halo or One Winged Angel. Up until the moment they announced it was Trigger/Cross, I was pretty much defeated. They announced it and I immediately felt every part of my body prepare.

Then I cried. A lot. Trigger started it, Cross just cranked up the waterworks. A person across the aisle made a joking comment about it and someone else went "no, dude, you don't understand how powerful this song is". For about 6 minutes, I smiled, I cried, and it felt like a lifetime wish had been granted.





Then we all sang Still Alive.

Hands down the best VG concert I've been to. Distant Worlds is so serious about it's music, but this realized how fun and exciting games were, so yeah, hell yeah, make some noise! Definitely returning any time they come back through. Do NOT miss this if it comes to your town.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tea Time with 1916: Der Unbekannte Krieg

Dinobots, assemble!
This week's tea time is so short that I'll cut to the chase:

There are raptors. World War I raptors. And they want your flesh.








Thursday, April 4, 2013

LucasArts Closes It's Doors

It is a sad day indeed when a game company closes up shop and no longer makes video games. After buying LucasFilm and LucasArts last year, Disney has decided to shut down the legendary game studio behind all the Star Wars games in years past along with point-and-click adventures like Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Day of The Tentacle. While LucasArts has not made a successful game in a while, it is unfortunate that development teams will be laid off and games in development, like Star Wars 1313 will be most likely shelved. A sad day indeed.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bioshock: Infinite Review

In the future, when people argue about whether a game can be a vessel for conveying themes or considered art, I hope Bioshock: Infinite  is part of the conversation. While in development for over 2 years, Bioshock: Infinite teased gamers with its unique art style and intense story through short gameplay clips and demos at various shows. Since its release, I’ve been converted into a believer and hope that Bioshock: Infinite acts as a sign for things to come in video games and how they can evolve.

You experience this amazing tale through the eyes of Booker Dewitt, a man with many secrets, and apparently a large amount of debt that can be erased if she finds a girl, Elizabeth. After being shot up into the air and landing, you discover the flying city of Columbia, a place that seems equal parts nationalistic idealization of America, racial supremacy, and religious fervor. Everything about the world jumps out at you in a continuous flood of small details and quirks that drive the overall immersion in the world. From propaganda posters to brands made by in-game characters, and snippets of dialogue from the citizens, all serve to pull you deeper into the floating Eden. Columbia is a fantasy brought alive much like Rapture was in the first Bioshock, and just like its spiritual predecessor, it’s not without its ugly side. Being set firmly in the 1910s, civil rights was far from popular as is evident by the segregated washrooms, non-white vernaculars, and socioeconomic classification based on skin color.  And as a large juxtaposition to Rapture, God plays very heavily into Columbia’s narrative. All over the city you can see people praying over the statues of Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington, the Americans they’ve deified to be Columbia’s moral pillars. Put all these together and Columbia represents the mindset of a more “pure” union, where the idea of white-supremacy is a religious truth, as is the faith in the founding fathers of the USA. Irrational Games has built a world that I want to explore over and over again and always see something new, from recordings found throughout the game to conversations with Elizabeth and other people in Columbia. These details serve to push forward Columbia’s narrative just as much as the story and social values.

Without spoiling anything, I can explain that Booker is sent to find and take Elizabeth from Columbia. Most of the story is centered on the idea of getting the girl and getting out of dodge. As is typical of Irrational, the story takes some unexpected turns in the most beautiful ways possible, flexing their narrative muscle to remind us exactly why we love Bioshock so much. However, while the story itself is an amazing tale to experience, one of the most thrilling aspects of playing is interacting with Elizabeth. Acting as your companion for 90% of the game, she is a very important aspect in whether or not the game is a large boring escort mission, or an engaging experience with a very deep and satisfying partner. Elizabeth is most definitely the latter, as she is one of the most interesting companions that I have had in a game. If anything, you’re the one she’s on an escort mission with. She doesn’t simply tag along while you run around and kill people. Booker interacts with her; she has dialogue and internal conflicts as Columbia shows her a very harsh reality that is a stark contrast to the metaphorical and literal birdcage that she grew up in. She is even central to some of the decisions you make in game. While they don’t have much of a larger impact on how the game is played, Irrational could have simply said “go here to further the story, or there is another place for side missions.” Instead, Elizabeth acted as a conduit for exploration, wanting to see everything Columbia had to offer. Her personal growth affects that of Booker as well, the two of them teaching one another through their shared experiences. This narrative element is especially powerful since Booker represents selfish pessimism, wanting to kidnap Elizabeth and get out so he can have his debt repaid, and Elizabeth represents the naïve innocence that comes with having little life experience. As the two cut their way across the flying city, their experiences change them almost as much as their conversations. One of the things that surprised me about Bioshock: Infinite, was how it dealt with areas of discussion, like religion and racism, with tact and elegance through the conversations of two radically different people with a reasonably similar goal.

Irrational Games has set the bar for understanding how to deal with delicate issues in video games. While they used some creative license to establish the fiction of the universe, the religious, racist, and historical elements all serve as a way to establish the world that you are in, and convey a powerful theme that has nothing to do with these issues. All of the emotional introspection that comes from the characters has to do with personal convictions and fears, and nothing to do with any controversial topic that was the vessel for the message meant for the player. This game is absolutely brilliant at emphasizing the player’s empathy with the characters while striking a balance with the social issues of the game. Never does the story of Booker and Elizabeth take a backseat to the social issues of Columbia. That’s not to say the quandaries presented in this game are downplayed, but rather that they integrate seamlessly with the story of the main characters. Instead of displaying some kind of fantasy America and saying “Look at how bad these people are,” Bioshock: Infinite uses antagonists like Father Comstock as a tool for encouraging a change in perspective and personal reflection, and uses them well. I have never felt so emotionally conflicted while playing a game like this before, and maybe that is in part because game developers have never dared to deal with issues like this in a serious and elegant manner. A common idea I have been hearing lately is that video games are akin to the first black-and-white movies in the 40’s, used only as simple entertainment without dealing with larger issues. I think Bioshock: Infinite should serve as proof that not only can video games deal with bigger issues than shooting the next one hundred people, but that they are evolving to do so while retaining their entertainment value.

Since Bioshock: Infinite is a first person shooter, the combat is very fast-paced and frantic as you run around various areas and fight your way through multiple types of enemies. Using a combination of weapons found around Columbia and Vigors, special powers from tonics found in certain areas, Booker Dewitt has to fight many battles to make his way through the city. Branded as the “False Shepard” in the beginning of the game and the public opinion of you quickly turns from non-existant to one of hate and fear, meaning you are forced to fight for every inch to get to Elizabeth and to get her out of the city. The weapons are varied and interesting as you start out with basic weapons like shotguns or carbines, and throughout the game find unique twists on the basic designs. Guns like the Repeater, a faction-specific modification of the standard machine gun, and Heater, a sort of fire shotgun, keep the gameplay fresh by giving you more options on how to deal with each new enemy and confrontation. The Vigors in the game, not unlike the Plasmids in the first Bioshock, are what really keep the battles exciting and interesting. Varying from your standard electric bolt to pushing people away or drawing them in with a jet of water, the vigors are powerful effects that really allow you to handle a multitude of situations. The only real downside is that since you can have only two Vigors and two weapons equipped at any one time, you have to be careful about mis-equipping yourself and not having the ideal tools to deal with a situation. With Vigors, it’s not as bad since you can just re-adjust on the fly from a menu, but with the guns in the game you can only have two, period. And it can really be unfortunate if you have a revolver and a machine gun if you find yourself battling against a Handyman or Motorized Patriot.

The various enemies and use of the skyhook system really keep the long firefights in the game appealing. In the beginning of the game you find a Skyhook, which gives you access to rails set up throughout Columbia. With the skyrails, verticality is added to combat, adding an extra dimension to combat. Riding on the lines lets you ride around and attack from multiple angles while shooting at your enemies from afar, or running away when the heat is on. That combined with Elizabeth’s ability to pull things from other universes, shooting people in the face has never felt so gratifying. Elizabeth has a very unique ability to pull things in from other universes, a useful ability when you need to fight off opponents. Occasionally she can pull through a hook to jump on to, but it gets even better when you can instantly give you cover or a gun turret to help you in the fight. And when you fight with big tanks like the Handymen or the armored Pyro enemies, you’ll need all the help you can get. Thankfully while Elizabeth is a metaphorical princess that you save from her tower, she is literally a lifesaver when you fight your way through Columbia. Not only is she the one that brings you back from the dead, but she can toss you resources like ammo, health, or money at random moments in the game. The money sounds less important than ammo or health, but it really comes in handy when trying to upgrade your weapons and Vigors.

Throughout Columbia, vending machines are set up to let you purchase ammo, health, and upgrades. A fun nod to the vending machines in the first Bioshock, the machines are often passed up since many of the upgrades and improvements cost a hefty amount of silver eagles, the chosen currency in Columbia. Thanks to the help of Elizabeth, a lot of the upgrades are affordable and useful, like an increase in damage on your shotgun or a more powerful shock from your Shock Jockey Vigor. While the combat is entertaining and peppered with unique twists that keep interesting, it can turn into a hide-and-shoot gallery, and it’s moments like that when you can thank Elizabeth for finding money instead of health. The challenging fights quickly became exhausting experiences, but in the best possible way. Fighting my way through hordes of non-trivial enemies to advance the story added a certain amount of desperation to the situation, knowing what I had to do just to get Elizabeth out of the city, and for me it made the game all the better.

Bioshock: Infinite will easily be defined as a classic game years later; it’s certainly one of the best games I’ve ever played. At this point I would usually recommend this game if you’ve played others like it, but that doesn’t do the game enough justice. This game is just too good to limit the audience — everyone should play it. This 8-10 hour experience offers an impossibly deep story, challenging gameplay, and more immersion than I’ve seen in some time. Bioshock: Infinite is not only a phenomenal game, but it’s a truly outstanding piece of media. From the aesthetics to the mechanics and everything in-between, this is a game that stands away from the pack on the cutting edge of what games can truly be.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Final Fantasy VII Remake Review

J takes a turn to the deepest bowels of the internet to find something genius-- the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Is it everything we all want it to be? Of course it is.


PAX East 2013 Part 3 - Dive Kick, Elder Scrolls Online, and Heroes and Generals

Dive Kick


The game is called Dive Kick. It stars Dive and Kick. The only two buttons in the game are dive and kick. And it’s the most intense, satisfying, elegant fighting game I’ve ever played.

Seriously.

No, seriously.

On the surface, Dive Kick is a joke; Uncle Sensei is not only a character, he’s the mentor of Dive and Kick. But right below the surface is a very simple, but incredibly tense fighting game that will have you playing for hours. Here’s how it works.

20 second rounds, one hit kills. The dive button will jump, and pressing kick while in the air will send you on a diagonal path to the ground. Kicking the ground will jump you away from your opponent. Each character has a special which does seemingly minor things, but in a game of two buttons, they are quite powerful. And that’s really it, other than a few boosters. Here’s a quick video showing off how it’s played, though it should be noted this was the first build of the game and the upcoming release will look far better:



Now I know. I know. It looks like a joke. But it’s not. It, no sarcasm intended, is one of the best fighting games I’ve ever played. There are fighting game pros who figure out some strange priority combo that can reduce their opponent’s health by half if they land the first blow and send them into a combo for 10 seconds, not knowing exactly what’s happening. In Dive Kick, there’s never a time in which you’re not in control of your player, and you always know what your opponent can do. There’s no secret moves, no weird combos nobody knows about. If you lost, it’s your fault. There’s no mystery to winning or losing and it’s wonderful.
Dive Kick is the game I’m most excited about from PAX East.  It’s a chance to meet minds with someone on an even playing field where nothing is secret and all cards are on the table. This truly is the most well-balanced and intense fighting game experience I’ve ever had and it’s coming from a title that everyone thinks is a joke. The dichotomy of this game is just the best.

I got to interview Adam, the creator of Dive Kick, and he’s just as excited about this game as I am. Listen to the full interview here.

Release Date: Spring 2013 (so close!)
Platform: PS3, Vita, PC

Elder Scrolls Online


If you’re anything like me, the prospect of an online Elder Scrolls game both excites and worries you. Will it be more like Elder Scrolls? Will it be more like an MMO?

Well, it’s both, but unfortunately, it’s more MMO than anything. Don’t get me wrong, the environments are strictly Tamriel. From looking at any of the scenery, you can just tell it’s an Elder Scrolls game. The MMO part comes with most everything else. The number-key skills system, the third person over-the-shoulder camera, the “kill four boars” quests: all mostly MMO staples. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. Tons of people love MMOs, and if you do, you’ll probably love this game. Even better if you’re a fan of both ES and MMOs – then you’re in heaven or wherever Talos is. The problem is when you’re expecting something like Skyrim but online. This game simply is not that and I don’t see that changing over the development cycle of this game. 

Some interesting things to note about this game are that you and your friends can be in the same area staring at the same city and depending on your choices in your game, the two can look completely different. Maybe you chose to let the city burn instead of save it. If that’s the case, you’ll see the town in shambles, whereas they’ll see the town as being fine. That means that no matter what level or what part of the game your friends are at, you can join up with them and that adds a level of accessibility needed in MMOs for playing easily with others.


So if you’re looking for a new Elder Scrolls game, but not a new MMO, you might want to skip this one. Though it’s still going to be interesting to check out and see how it evolves, I wouldn’t expect it to be replacing your Skyrim time anytime soon. But if you’re ready to see Tamriel through a completely different perspective in all its HD-rendered glory and you like MMOs, this game is going to be a godsend.

Release date: Mid to late 2013
Platforms: PC and MAC


Heroes and Generals


Free-to-play WWII FPS games up your alley? What about if you could also use strategy to influence a huge war taking place in real time across the world? Then Heroes and Generals is for you.

You start off by picking a side on the war, Axis or Allies, and then you’re presented with a map of the war. Each side is fighting for control over land and in order to win that land, control points within each sector must be taken by one team or another. To do this, players must send their resources to each town. If they are met with enemy opposition, combat breaks out and the FPS part of the game comes in to play. You can spawn in one of many companies depending on what resources have been sent to each battle. If no vehicles have been sent, you’ll be hoofing it. Or maybe using a bicycle. That was radical.

You can spawn as different classes with different weapons depending on what style you like. As you face off against the enemy for control, you have to gain control of control points. When the battle is done, the frontline of the battle is redrawn to give that territory to the victor.


And the maps are huge. The wars last not on the order of hours or even days, but weeks. As one group of players goes to sleep, another is just waking up and starting to push the frontline. It’s incredible to watch these things go.

The only bad thing about this game is that you have to unlock almost everything and if you want to unlock it sooner, you need to pay. It’s definitely a microtransaction game and that starts off with a bad taste in my mouth. Only time will tell whether it’s Pay-To Win, but at the moment it seems fairly balanced. Also, the FPS controls are a little weird and kind of stiff. Think Call of Duty 2 but prettier.

Overall not bad, definitely an interesting experience. And you can’t beat free!

Release date: No date yet, but it’s in open beta
Platforms: PC



And that’s PAX East 2013 in a bag. The titles from both indie developers and AAA publishers alike came together to wash over the gamer masses with a deluge of goosebumps and excited squees. Oddly, the games I’m most excited about are indie titles with Dive Kick and Transistor leading the pack. Though Watch_Dogs, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix, and Saints Row IV are all highly anticipated titles and high up on my priority list, it was the indie developers that really caught my eye. What’s that? You want a top 5 list of games I’m most excited about from this PAX East? Oh, you don’t? Too bad, here it is anyway:

  1. Transistor
  2. Dive Kick
  3. Watch_Dogs
  4. Rain-Slick 4
  5. Heroes and Generals
The future is looking pretty bright for gamers. Or dark but lit by the warm, familiar glow of a TV screen/monitor. Either really.

PAX East 2013 - Dive Kick Interview

Dive Kick Start Screen

Adam 'Keits' Heart, the man behind Dive Kick, expounds upon the most elegant fighting game I've ever seen. Seriously, it's so much more than just dives and kicks.

Actually its not, but that's why it's beautiful. You can read more about how totally super awesome this game is here. You can stream the full interview here:




Or download here directly
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