Saturday, July 24, 2021

IN THE EVENT YOU Play ” NEW WORLD “? Beta Impressions From The Frontier

Amazon Games’ upcoming MMORPG New World is in the spotlight as a lengthy closed beta session shows off the action ahead of an August 31st release. New World has changed its vision multiple times over the course of development, and now the question on everyone’s mind is – where is this going to land on release? What kind of player is it for? What kind of MMORPG is it? And perhaps the most important question, is it worth your time at all? Over the course of the beta (and a demo session that took me into an endgame slice with a fully-geared character), I’ve seen some areas with huge potential that are currently underserved in the MMORPG space – and some others that could be intense detriments for the title. Let’s talk about New World!It successfully lands a powerful frontier survival vibe If you’re familiar with survival games that have you punching wood to get a house going, New World delivers on this front initially by giving the player myriad survival pursuits. Hunting turkey on the borders of your established safe zones to raise your cooking skill and create rations is far more engaging than it has any right to be. Hunting down elusive saltpeter deposits in mines and crafting your own shells for your old-timey rifles feels fun. Being able to skill up in everything to your liking is a classic system à la Runescape, and its nice to know you can work up every single crafting and gathering skill if you wish, right down to doing some fishing. Banging together your first batch of gathering tools is actually freaking awesome. Digging up carrots and potatoes feels meaningful. Coming back to your town in the middle of the wilderness to trade feed and talk with your fellow explorers has all the allure of bustling about Disney’s Frontiertown, and I’ve rarely had so much investment into crafting and trading systems in MMOs. I can see potential problems with these aspects later down the line, i.e. do I really want to spend my time in the endgame gathering resources just so I can play the game, but for now, there’s plenty of magic in creating my own food, ammunition, and supplies before I trek out into the wild. It feels gritty, it feels raw, and it feels fresh. Faction PVP can be a lot of fun Territory control and faction-based opt-in PVP not only bring back a bit of realm-vs-realm feel from the glory days of Dark Age of Camelot, but they inject something that many online experiences have moved away from in the last decade – social interaction. That means yes, you are going to see a player named PoopyPants (Yes, this was a real player I saw) cutting down trees and screaming outside of town about the price of silver ore, and your chat feed is going to be inundated with comments that make the infamous Barrens chat look downright erudite. However, it also successfully adds shared social stakes to the experience, even if you choose not to interact at the verbal level with any other players. By funneling players into three different factions, you have an investment in your tribe regardless of how deep you want to take it. If you still just want to solo and bring back a load of furs to trade in town, you can – but the real fun is to be had by grouping up, interacting with others, and eventually taking over some territory as your chosen faction. At the solo, guild, and greater level, having game flow dictated by players instead of the “theme park” experience is a bold choice and more than a bit refreshing. The issue here is how interesting and meaningful are these faction wars going to be in the endgame? While I don’t have the answer to that yet, the prospect of really engaging with other players in a meaningful way in a MMORPG gives me a powerful nostalgia bump and some serious differentiation from many other genre offerings today. On the flip side, if you’re not really interested in territory wars or PvP, other existing MMORPGs might be a better choice. The combat is New World’s biggest weakness In almost every MMORPG, you’re going to be doing a ton of combat. It’s probably the biggest portion of the entire gameplay experience. With limited skill options, awkward animations, and very little excitement, New World’s combat is decidedly dull. Now, there’s something to be said about popping an opposing faction member from a great distance before you engage in a 3v3 skirmish that gets real greasy, but that’s more about the player-to-player interaction than the combat, which can often feel wooden and wonky. While I enjoy systems that attempt to break the genre out of the tab-targeting standard that’s been grandfathered into MMOs for ages, it misses the mark here.  I found it hard to determine if the other aspects of the game that seem enjoyable can carry this particular aspect either, as combat is the core of almost every other pursuit. Even if you’re just spelunking for saltpeter, you’re going to have to fight a ton of various zombie-like creatures, wolves, or bears, and it simply does not feel good. This problem is exacerbated in group experiences, both PvP and PvE, but more pronounced in the latter. Chewing into spongey opponents as a pack with the glaring lack of feedback from weaponry is almost comical, and your options in combat feel extremely limited and lacking. Everything can feel the same Enemies, locations, and activities can become a big bowl of mush without breaking it up with some PvP pursuits. You’ll see many of the same rickety little fishing villages, decrepit farms, and crumbling ruins as you traverse the giant world. Killing some undead buccaneers at level 5 feels the same as it does at level 15, and you’re going to be doing a ton of daily-quest/fetch style activities in order to grind out your faction reputation, like wandering around the aforementioned locations for boxes and killing X undead baddies. It feels intensely repetitive even after only twenty hours of gameplay, so I’m concerned about how that will translate to the endgame – will I still, as an elite member of the Syndicate, still be wandering farms killing undead and picking taters? I mean, I do like picking taters... Travel is rough When you’re just starting, it’s fine that you’re walking everywhere because you don’t have far to go. However, this takes a turn at around level 12, where you’ll find the autorun button and some movies on your favorite streaming platform to be your best friends. The world is large, and traveling it all on foot is a huge pain. Without mounts, and the fact that fast travel is limited by resources, moving around the map is an absolute bore and a chore. I realize there are other meaningful concerns that probably flow into this decision, like the implications of having everyone zoom around in a game that’s attempting to create stakes with territory control and PvP, but this becomes harder and harder to ignore the more you play and get quests on opposite ends of your map. Forging ahead Based on the beta, New World is going to be an interesting but potentially niche addition to the current crop of MMORPGs. However, it seems to really serve players that want to play with small groups of friends for faction skirmishes and that are interested in greater territory control wars with big guild politics and all that. If you’re not interested in that kind of greater pursuit with plenty of social interaction and PvP, the PvE elements by themselves do not seem compelling enough to keep things rolling.  While I love the feeling of crafting my own stuff, slowly increasing the areas that I’m strong enough to explore, and fastidiously upping all my gathering and crafting skills, I can see those charms fading rapidly as the activities become somewhat rote. The dynamics involved in faction wars and territory control seem to be the peppy antidote for the never-ending rock farm in various undead shacks and homesteads. As with other games that lean into this kind of emergent gameplay (RIP Shadowbane), some of New World will be what players shape it into.
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    IN A FEW DAYS on Xbox: July 26 to 30

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    Grid Legends revealed: Turn into a legend in a blockbuster racer

    Ready to get back behind the wheel? Revealed today during EA Play Live, welcome to Grid Legends, launching in 2022 on PS5 and PS4. A thrilling and unpredictable driving experience from Codemasters and EA Games, Grid Legends combines thrilling motorsport action, incredible race variety, and an immersive story that puts the player at the heart of the action. Blending brand new features with a quarter-century legacy of fantastic racing experiences, today’s official reveal trailer kicks off a new chapter for a legendary racing series.  So, before we really get stuck into that trailer, let’s take a cruise down memory lane…  Grid Legends: A racing legacy continues The Grid franchise has been busy tearing up the circuits and streets since 2008, when Race Driver: Grid burst onto the scene to critical acclaim – though in truth, the roots of our racing series stretch back into the 1990s. TOCA Touring Car Championship in 1997 created a buzz with its impressive handling and gameplay, and at the beginning of the millennium, TOCA Race Driver took things to another level. A wide range of racing experiences and a gripping story, introducing us to Nathan and Ryan McKane, set the tone for four Grid games to date, expanding the car list, racing disciplines, locations, online action, and engrossing single-player options. Whilst the series has taken plenty of different forms in the past 24 years, every title has remained true to three vital factors: Action-packed racing, incredible motorsport variety, and creating memorable racing stories on and off the track. Grid Legends delivers on these key features – and then some. Take a closer look at today’s trailer, and you’ll see what I mean… Play Video Trailer Breakdown The Grid Legends story A first for the franchise, Grid Legends’ story will be played out via innovative virtual production, blending a fantastic real-life cast, stunning set, and thrilling gameplay to bring you closer to the action than ever before. As the legendary Grid World Series returns for another year, you will be in the spotlight, as a fly-on-the-wall documentary captures every confrontation, all of the paddock politics, and every pivotal moment in the championship, as you challenge the infamous Ravenwest Motorsport, and the McKanes, for dominance on and off the track. The whole team here is incredibly excited to introduce this new form of storytelling to Grid, brought to life by a world-class crew and cast, including the brilliant Ncuti Gatwa (Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’). Prepare to watch the drama unfold off the track, but also be ready to handle your business on it, as a unique racing story plays out – with you in the middle of it all.  Racing variety Whilst our story is what weaves this trailer together, there is so much more to unpack – including a first look at some of the cars you’ll get behind the wheel of come next year. Continuing the franchise’s legacy of racing variety, over 100 cars will feature in Grid Legends, stretching from single-seaters, to big rigs, to classic touring cars, and plenty more. Expect machines from an array of motorsport eras, exemplified in our trailer by the likes of the Shelby Cobra 289 FIA, Audi A4 Quattro BTCC, and Aston Martin Valkyrie AMR Pro Concept. All cars will be upgradable as you progress through Grid Legends, too; more on that in the near future.  That’s a taste of what you’ll be racing, but what about where you’ll be racing? The Grid series has always excelled in providing a diverse combination of real and unique fictional locations to compete at, and Grid Legends is no different. In fact, it’s even better.  130 routes will await you on launch, including iconic real-life tracks like Indianapolis, returning Grid favourites such as San Francisco and Paris, and brand-new locations like Moscow and London, which you may’ve spotted in the trailer. From purpose-built tracks, to high-speed ovals, to tight and twisty streets, the racing challenges on offer in Grid Legends are broader than ever.  Grid Legends Race Creator The possible combinations of car, class, and circuit for a Grid Legends event are clearly vast – but the options don’t stop there. By popular demand, Drift events return, shown off in the trailer by the awesome Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X Drift-Tuned getting seriously sideways.  All this and more can be used in our race creator tool to create your dream racing event. Want to race single-seaters against big-rigs, in the snow, for 50 laps? How about putting multiple GT classes on the track for a rainy sprint around Brands Hatch? Go for it. We’re giving you the tools to create amazing races – and allowing you to take those events online and challenge the world.  Grid Legends launches 2022 All this only scratches the surface of what Grid Legends will deliver next year. In the coming months, we’ll share more on the story and its characters, more cars, more locations, and more new features that make this the most customisable and social Grid experience ever. I’ll see you then.  For now, I’m going to watch the reveal trailer for the 146th time… can you blame me?

    I Expect ONE TO Die 2: PS VR follow-up gets an August 24 release date

    Greetings, Agents! Schell Games’ Community Marketing Specialist Adam Kuta reporting in with an exciting update direct from HQ. As you may know, it’s nearly time to hop back into the field and help The Agency put a stop to Zoraxis’ evil plans for world domination. Rise from the ashes and dive deep undercover with six brand-new missions in I Expect You To Die 2: The Spy and The Liar! Veteran agents who completed the first I Expect You To Die game will feel right at home with the sequel, as many of your favorite elements return. Telekinesis? Check! Immersive environments? Check! Memorable characters and witty dialogue? Check! Various ways to die? Oh, you can expect LOTS of death. As with all great sequels, we have some exciting new things to discover. Eat delicious cupcakes. Wear mysterious masks. Make your own flamethrower. Reflect deadly lasers. On top of that, your missions have also been given a musical boost as each level will now feature dynamic music that changes as you progress. We’ve even made it easier to relive the magic and mystery of your missions – or share the experience with other new Agents – by implementing three save slots! Did I mention the theme song? We know how much fans have loved the original’s opening credits, so we created a brand new 360° intro sequence featuring Puddles Pity Party’s smooth baritone vocals! Play Video Of course, new recruits are equally fit to take on these new missions, as well – no prior intel of the first game is required! I Expect You To Die 2 features a cohesive, enthralling and original storyline through all of your missions for a truly complete experience from beginning to end. Because many characters in the original game became fan-favorites (even those with brief, single-level appearances), we put a much stronger emphasis on character presence and a cinematic feel with the sequel. Each mission is a new scene, and you are the star – right alongside celebrity extraordinaire John Juniper, voiced by the celebrity extraordinaire himself, Wil Wheaton! We’ve got a briefcase full of even more secrets to share as we get closer to the game’s official launch… on August 24, 2021! So stay alert for more intel. In the meantime, Agents who pre-order the game will get a 10% discount as a special reward from HQ. It may not be that vacation you’re always asking about, but even the most novice of spies can see the value in this deal. Stay sharp!

    Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout Season 5 released this week with an adventurous new theme, inviting players to a super-colourful stumble in the jungle…but not everything is as it seems! Ratchet and Clank have tumbled through a rift to the Blunderdome and have decided to stick around to host two Limited Time Events; extra-special opportunities for players to unlock unique costumes and rewards, fresh for Season 5. We’ve teamed up with PlayStation to let you know what to expect from this dimension-hopping extravaganza, with an artistic insight into how the team brought Insomniac Games’ iconic duo to life… in bean form! Play Video Building a Bean… Designing Fall Guys costumes based on well-established characters such as Ratchet and Clank is always an exciting and interesting creative challenge. As an Art Team, we always want to make sure that our creations feel like a Fall Guy wearing a costume—as if our little beans are championing and cosplaying a character rather than ‘becoming’ them. Our goal is to reflect this back onto our players’ experience. Sure, a player may pick a costume just because it looks cool and that’s great! But we’re hopeful that many choose to rock a costume because they love the collaboration characters as much as we do and want to show off their fandom to the world through expressing themselves in the Blunderdome. Concept art created by the Fall Guys team as they began to imagine how Ratchet and Clank could look in bean form. Bringing Ratchet and Clank to the Blunderdome When picking characters for a Fall Guys collaboration, one of the defining factors is asking ourselves; “do we think this is cool?” We’re huge gaming fans as well as artists, so if there’s not passion behind the selection, we’re never going to get the great results Fall Guys players deserve. ​​As soon as the possibility of crafting both Ratchet and Clank in bean form came up, the decision was never in doubt; we all wanted to do it! On a personal level as lead artist, Ratchet and Clank are a genuine benchmark. The games they star in show such ambition and the art direction has always left me astounded. As characters, they are instantly recognisable and appealing, so it immediately felt like a great opportunity. A Fall Guy peeks out of their in-development Clank costume as the 3D team begin to work their magic. Hyped as we were, bringing Ratchet and Clank costumes to Fall Guys presented our Art Team with a classic design conundrum. How do you take iconic characters and wrap them around a little bean so that they feel like a Fall Guy, but are also suitably true to the source material? How do you craft a Lombax bean?! Luckily, we’re getting pretty well practiced at this with multiple Fall Guys costume collaborations under our belts and have a core set of rules to abide by. These inform how much of the base Fall Guy has to remain visible and crucially, how the costume can be divided into Upper and Lower parts to combine with other costumes (safe to say, we absolutely love seeing players’ surreal, creative costume combos!) Ratchet costume art concepts are then brought to life by the Fall Guys 3D team. Once these limits are established, we start with our first concepts, testing shapes and experimenting with the details we need to include that will truly showcase the essence of characters like Ratchet and Clank. It’s an intricate process to make sure the likes of Ratchet’s archetypal Lombax ears and Clank’s chunky robotic features look just right for the Blunderdome! There’s a bit of back and forth between our artists and the lovely team at Insomniac Games, as we collaboratively work to agree on designs that we can both be proud of (they’re super cool, so that part is really easy!) We then move these concepts onto our super talented 3D team to get the game models going and after a bit more back and forth…here we are! Two awesome costumes and an array of cosmetic treats that we believe combine the spirit and iconic look of Ratchet and Clank, through the filter of our silly and slightly clumsy Fall Guys. We absolutely cannot wait for you to grab them for yourselves! Here’s how… Teleport to Ratchet and Clank Limited Time Events! This interdimensional crossover will see Fall Guys players issued with special challenges from the galaxy’s most stupendous duo in two rocket-fuelled Limited Time Events. These will have you racing against the clock to unlock a dazzling array of both Ratchet and Clank costumes, banners, emotes and other cosmic cosmetic treats! Ratchet Limited Time Event will be dropping July 26 – August 1 The Ratchet Limited Time Event brings a whole week of special Challenges from the hot-shot heroic Lombax, with the exclusive opportunity to unlock. Ratchet Banner: 600 pointsLombax Pattern: 1000 pointsRatchet Costume (Lower): 1600 pointsGroovitron Emote: 2000 pointsRatchet Costume (Upper): 3200 points Clank Limited Time Event is set to stumble on August 6 – 15 Clank brings a new set of challenges and oodles of exclusive futuristic rewards for players to get their hands on, featuring… Clank Banner: 600 pointsClank Pattern: 1000 pointsClank Costume (Lower): 1600 pointsClank’s Laugh Emote: 2000 pointsClank Costume (Upper): 3200 points Plus, if you complete both events, you’ll obtain an ultra-special banner featuring the new Lombax Resistance fighter, Rivet! Play Video Dive into Fall Guys Season 5! Limited Time Events are just one facet of Fall Guys’ Season 5 jungle adventure. This major update drenches the Blunderdome with glistening pools, tropical Penguins and even a mysterious Lost Temple to explore, spread across multiple dazzling new Rounds packed with fresh mechanics and our signature ridiculous obstacles. Stumble in now for… Six new Rounds – From rambunctious rhinos to multiple perilous paths to expanding frogs, we’ve got half a dozen new Rounds to test your bean dexterity!Squad goals – Jump in with pals to take on the Blunderdome including limited time Duos and Trios shows.Costumes – Oodles of new looks for the most fashionable (or outrageous!) beans.Even more Limited Time Events – More chances to take on special challenges and unlock unique goodies.Smoother stumbles – Numerous fixes and improvements for an optimal tumbling experience. From myself and all the Fall Guys team, we’re delighted to welcome you on this journey to the heart of the new look jungle-dome. And for all those ready to hop through the rift in search of Ratchet and Clank Limited Time Event treats? Prepare for blast off!

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