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Breaking Down The Massive Alliance War Mode

Publisher: FoxNext Games
Developer: FoxNext Games Los Angeles
Release:
Rating: 12+
Platform: iOS, Android

Marvel Strike Force, the mobile hero-collection RPG from FoxNext, is about to receive its biggest update yet. Since its launch last March, Marvel Strike Force has grown substantially, adding tens of new heroes and several new features over the course of its first year. However, it's been rare that an all-new mode has been implemented, but that's just what players can look forward to next week.

Joining an active Alliance is a critical part of getting the most out of Marvel Strike Force; completing raids and Alliance-wide milestones deliver some of the best rewards to boost your roster. However, FoxNext is ready to take the incentives to the next level with a feature that has been teased through a giant "Coming Soon" spot on the menu since launch: Alliance War.

Alliance War has been on the menu since the early days of Marvel Strike Force for a very good reason: The team created the mode the same day they drew up the concepts for the game itself. "As live-service games mature ? and certainly this is what we?re trying to do in this case ? you kind of think about it the way you might concept a pilot for a TV show; you don?t just think about what will happen in the pilot, you think about what will happen over the entire course of the show, hopefully running many, many seasons," FoxNext VP and GM Amir Rahimi says. "That was the approach here. We wanted to not launch with Alliance War because the game was going to be a big enough challenge to get out there, but really design the game for Alliance War and design them hand in hand."

In Alliance War, your Alliance of 24 players takes control of its own helicarrier. The goal of the mode is to attack an opposing Alliance's helicarrier while defending your own in head-to-head matches. You do this by using your ever-growing roster of heroes and villains. Battles play out much like they do in modes like Arena; you set a defense team to protect the room, but when the opposing Alliance attacks, your characters are controlled by A.I. However, you control your offensive attack like you do in any other Marvel Strike Force mode.

Each helicarrier has 12 rooms, with each providing different benefits. For example, the Med Bay provides health buffs to attacking and defending characters, while the Armory gives global attack buffs. Others have specific bonuses for attackers or defenders, making them less valuable overall, but more valuable in specific situations.

Each room has two slots for players to work together to defend the room with their characters. Each player can leave 8 teams of characters to hold down that room for a total of up to 16 teams for the opposing Alliance to work through before it can take the room. The mode is designed to force players to use their entire rosters, something that should give players who have kept their teams well-rounded an early advantage.

Be prepared to use your whole roster when Alliance War goes live.

You must be strategic about which characters you use where and when, as each character can only be used once per war. This means that if you leave your best character behind to defend a room, they cannot be used on offense. In addition, if you use a team to attack a room once, you cannot do so a second time. If you can't fill out a room you're defending, you can either leave fewer characters to at least give some resistance, or you can leave it empty and the game will fill the room with weak, yet better-than-nothing SHIELD minions.

According Rahimi, this particular layer of strategy is among his favorite parts about the mode. "What often happens is you?ll encounter a room and you?ll do this calculation in your head about, ?What?s the minimum team strength that I could bring in to beat this opponent?? and that?s a very different way to think about the game than before,? he says. ?You don?t have to bring five characters into a battle. Now teams of one all of a sudden become interesting. So if it?s a room full of SHIELD minions and my Crossbones is powerful enough, he becomes really interesting because his ultimate can just clear that whole room out. Or just teams of two that synergize well become interesting, like Ant-Man and Wasp synergize really well."

Certain characters also have a new "Military" trait, which means their origin stories have some involvement with or service to the military. So far, the only characters to possess this trait are Captain America, Captain Marvel, War Machine, and Winter Soldier. This means these characters possess various abilities that buff them in Alliance War. Just as some characters like Night Nurse are great in raids, these military characters will be great in Alliance War. Some characters who have military experience, like Punisher, don't have the trait yet, but FoxNext says that may change in the future.

Once the war begins, attacking Alliances must start at the top deck and work through rooms, so you can't just jump right to the bottom. Once you defeat one player in a room, you can see what room is beneath that one; if you defeat both players in a given room, that room is destroyed and all buffs and bonuses granted from it to the opposing Alliance are lost. Destroying a room also grants big point bonuses, which determines the winner of the Alliance War. If you're defeated in the room you're defending, don't worry: You can still attack with the remaining characters.

Since destroying rooms weakens the opposing team and each room has different point values, choosing which rooms to attack first adds a layer of strategy and requires coordination throughout the entire Alliance. To mix things up, Alliance leaders can reconfigure these 12 rooms however they see fit prior to a war starting. ?The goal of this feature for us is to keep players playing forever and ever and ever,? Rahimi says. ?That?s why we added a lot of things like moving the rooms around. A lot of the depth of complexity is in the service of infinite replayability.?

One of the chief concerns of any mode like this is that it can easily become pay-to-win. Just like every other mode in Marvel Strike Force, Alliance War operates on an energy system. Energy caps at five attacks at a time, with that regenerating over time. No outside currency can be used within Alliance War outside of Power Cores, but even then, you're capped on how many times you can refresh energy using Cores. This is done to help level the playing field. "Once the war starts, we want it to be as even of a playing field as we possibly can,? Rahimi says. ?You can use your Power Cores to refresh twice, but you?re capped."

Another way FoxNext is helping level the playing field is through a sophisticated matchmaking algorithm for Alliances. Looking for Alliances with equal overall power isn't fruitful, as one powerful outlier player could throw off the entire balance. Instead, FoxNext's system looks at individual players within Alliances and matches them up based on how well individuals will face off.

Because this mode is more involved than even raids, FoxNext is limiting the number of wars that happen per week. Rather than having a war every day, players can probably expect a few wars each week. FoxNext says that even once you understand the flow of Alliance War, being a fully participating member of your team could consume up to an hour a day.

At the end of each Alliance War, both teams are awarded with Alliance War shop currency. Just as Blitz, raids, and Arena have their own shop and currency where you can buy character shards and gear, Alliance War does as well. However, the quality of Alliance War's shop is going to be more valuable to players. ?The Alliance War shop will definitely be the best shop in the game in terms of value and by far the best source of orange materials,? Rahimi says. ?Players are definitely going to want that currency.?

With so many moving parts and so much to learn with this new mode, players are probably going to want to get started as soon as possible. Thankfully, they don't have to wait long for that placeholder menu slot to activate; Alliance War comes to Marvel Strike Force on March 26.

A Long-Sought Sequel Comes Out Of The Coffin

Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Hardsuit Labs
Release: 2020
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Back in 2004, Troika Games released an uncut diamond with Vampire: The Masquerade ? Bloodlines, a moody, choice-driven role-playing game set in the White Wolf pen-and-paper universe. The game released in a state of disrepair, not unlike an energy-drained vampire desperate for blood, but dedicated fans glamoured by its atmospheric world and unique premise gave it new life, rounding out the rough edges and even restoring scrapped content. The game?s reputation continued to grow while the franchise collected dust inside a coffin, but now it?s primed to emerge from the shadows. 

With Troika long since disbanded, franchise rights owner Paradox Interactive handed the resurrection duties to Hardsuit Labs, which includes Bloodlines writer Brian Mitsoda among its ranks. This makes the studio well-suited to handle the delicate work of updating the series with new hooks while maintaining the elements that have earned the original loyal fans. 

Rather than pick up where the original game left off 15 years ago, Hardsuit instead chose to tell a new tale set in a city never really explored by the World of Darkness fiction ? Seattle. With its pervasive cloud cover, unceasing rainstorms, and vibrant nightlife, it?s a perfect city for bloodsuckers to take residency. The setting may be new, but the politics among the various vampiric clans should be familiar to anyone who played the first game. 

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The story follows an innocent protagonist swept up into this supernatural subculture when a group of vampires go rogue and illicitly perform a Mass Embrace, descending on a bunch of pedestrians in Pioneer Square in the middle of the night and converting them into vampires. This action goes against the vampiric code, so the Camarilla wants to hunt down these ?thinbloods? to learn what happened and put them out of their misery. As one of these targets, you must evade capture and navigate the faction wars to learn who turned you into a vampire and why. 

The world of Bloodlines 2 operates much like the original, with certain parts of the city and its outskirts operating as hubs ripe for exploration and story missions. These spaces feature plenty of vertical spaces and alleys to keep your nefarious deeds in the shadows, and even a series of underground passageways and basements that were actually the ground level of the city in the mid 19th century before the Great Seattle Fire swept through and the city planners decided to build on top of the ruins.

As a fledgling vampire, you start off with a small suit of supernatural powers. Activating your heightened senses highlights points of interest like the investigation mode in Batman, which is also helpful for identifying prey when it?s feeding time. Depending on the choices you make, you can also learn how to levitate and glide through the air, control bats, manipulate objects with your mind, or even turn into a mist cloud to move through pipes to new areas. You don?t start as a member of any particular vampire clan, but as the story plays out you can align yourself with certain factions and even learn new vampire powers from them. Make certain decisions, however, and you may alienate another clan and cut off an entire progression path. 

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Vampires are formidable predators, and this prowess is on display during first-person combat sequences. Much of the skirmishes are focused on hand-to-hand combat, with players taking advantage of their supernatural agility to dodge incoming attacks and close the gap between them and their opponent quickly. Guns are occasionally interjected into the mix, but most of the time you?re relying on your supernatural gifts to survive these scraps. During our demo, we saw the player pull off impressive feats like running up a wall to pounce on an enemy from above. 

You can always choose to cap off your fights by feasting on the weak, but you need to be careful about how much blood you drink at any given time. If you mortally wound a person during feeding you can take on other accruing effects like madness. Over time, you could eventually compromise your humanity and make your hunger more uncontrollable. Going down this beastly path will also have implications with your dialogue choices. 

After years of thinking a Bloodlines sequel was an unrequited dream, it?s nice to see the franchise get the sequel it long deserved. We hope to learn a great deal more about how Hardsuit Labs hopes to live up to its legacy in the coming months.

New Sniper Assassin Map Coming Next Week

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: IO Interactive
Release:
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Agent 47 will soon be able to add a few new targets to his hit list with the release of a new Sniper Assassin map. Next week, players can a shipping yard in Singapore, with the goal of thwarting a hostage transfer.

Sniper Assassin is a separate mode in Hitman 2, in which players trade mobility for methodical, creative kills. As a sniper, players have to complete objectives ? in this case, stopping the Heavenly Guard from moving hostages to a cargo ship ? at long range while (hopefully) remaining undetected. This map doesn't seem to have much at all in common with the extravagant party level Hitman 2 shipped with, but it also rewards players who make use of their environment and seek out hidden objects. 

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The Hantu Port map is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on March 26 and is part of the game's season pass.

A Squirrel Can Murder You In The Red Lantern, A Dog Mushing Game On Nintendo Switch

While at GDC 2019, we got a chance to speak with The Red Latern game director Lindsey Rostal from Timberline Games about the narrative-survival game coming to the Nintendo Switch in the summer of 2019. ?It was a pretty great way to unveil something that I've been toiling away on in the dark... of Los Angeles," Rostal says about appearing in the latest Nintendo Showcase. The game tasks players with journeying with your dog sled team across a (procedurally-generated) harsh Alaskan landscape, where you get lost while training for your first Iditarod race.

?We have a strong narrative background," Rostal says of Timberline Games. "I?ve made branching games and I wanted to find a new way to have a more dynamic narrative. Something that worked more in a streaming context and for a larger variety of audiences." You aren't racing in the game, you're struggling to survive against the wildnerness. Due to the randomization of the game's elements, your runs through the game vary wildly, but you can definitely get lucky.

"It?s a fun way to write. You don?t know what?s really going to happen. There?s likelihoods and there?s relationships between animals in the environments and everything like that," Rostal says. "But things are changing all the time. The unexpected nature of the world is really exciting. You?re like, 'This is likely to happen, but [then again] this squirrel might murder me... It can happen."

Rostal describes the tone of the game as "darkly comedic". While there's the tension ice might break beneath you, you're running low on med packs, and a moose might stomp on you, she says a lot of the game's lighter moments come from the narration. The main character (voiced by Horizon Zero Dawn's, Ashly Burch) will be editorializing the world and contextualizing situations like the tension between a squirrel and your team of dogs. ?It?ll probably be an entertaining and weird game," Rostal says about the fact that the character will be talking for their dogs in a lot of situations.

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The announcement trailer for the game ends with a bear attacking a sled dog, which was shockingly grim for a Nintendo Showcase. "The horrible thing is I don?t think I realized that it was as dark as it was? I probably should have put a trigger warning on the trailer," Rostal says. "We wanted to set the stakes. When you're going up there to change your life and you're setting out to do something that?s a little naïve and a little crazy."

The small team at Timberline games have fallen in love with their game's environments, saying they joked about creating a ?screensaver zen mode" to let players soak in the scenery while using the gyro controls when the Nintendo Switch is in handheld mode. When bringing up the idea of creating a version of the game compatible with Labo VR Rostal says "You never know! If they give me a parka version I?m in."

Mutant Academy

Rad

Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release: Summer 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

As a developer, Double Fine may have one of the most consistently diverse portfolios in gaming. The studio has virtual reality games, graphic adventures, real-time strategy titles, 3D platformers, RPGs, and more. Double Fine constantly changes genres to work on new things and give their own spin on existing ideas. If only by the theory of diminished options, Double Fine would eventually find themselves ready to tackle the roguelite action genre, which they?re applying their trademark charm and personality to with their announcement of Rad.

It?s the post-post-apocalypse, meaning that the world has been ended twice over, and isn?t in a good shape. Despite the toxic poison covering the wilds and the inevitable monsters produced by it, hope springs eternal. Thanks to effigies strewn about the wasteland called Respirators, there is a small chance that humans can once again move out of their settlements and encampments back into the rest of the world. To do that, however, requires brave youth sacrificing themselves by agreeing to activate those Respirators and fighting off the monsters along the way.

To survive the poisoned atmosphere, the teenagers sent outside have to undergo an overhaul to their DNA which makes them susceptible to mutations from the radiation affecting the world. These mutations are essentially perks, giving the adventurous teens extra power in completing their quest. These mutations may manifest in ways like giving your player a cobra head which spits poison, a third arm that can be thrown and returned like a boomerang, eggs that hatch followers to attack your enemies, and more. During each run, you max out at three active mutations, each assigned to a button at your fingertips. You could end up with mutations that synergize extremely well together and destroy everything in your path or you could end up with three mutations that barely help you. The mixing and matching of possible mutations can have unforeseen effects, like becoming a Cobra person means your egg-babies also have tiny cobra heads, too.

In addition, you can obtain an unlimited number of passive mutations that can also change your build up in different ways. Some passive mutations might add health, but only against certain elements like fire, and just remains on the side until or unless needed. Like other run-based roguelites such as Binding of Isaac, players can hope for the best, but it?s going to be skill that gets you across the finish line in the end.

When a player dies, the run starts over back in the game?s origin town named the Fallow. One teenager didn?t make it, so another teenager takes up the mantle, but can buy supplies, buy upgraded weapons, or withdraw from the bank before they go. In concert with the various shops throughout the game, players will see progress between runs to help do things like forge and create better baseball bats to have less reliance on the randomness of mutations.

One side effect of the DNA blending machine the teenager becomes is that, as they traverse the wasteland, grass grows under their feet Okami-style. The grass stays on the ground for the entire floor, meaning you can always tell where you have been without having to memorize each procedurally-generated map. The grass also helps in battle ? the teenagers move faster when walking on grass, which means that you need to move and strafe around enemies rather than stay in one place.

Rad has an immediate and obvious 1980s rock ?n? roll style, aggressively bouncing between Mad Max and Heavy Metal in its influences. Director Lee Petty explained that he simply loves that style and era and it definitely fits with the aesthetic of a radioactive wasteland. According to Petty, the game also has a bit of a message about the older generation sacrificing the younger one for their own mistakes with society and the environment. While it?s relevant in modern times, Petty points out that it was relevant in the 1980s, too. It is the kind of trope that unfortunately never really goes out of style.

Over the course of the game, the environments will vary, so you won?t just me crossing the desert for the entire journey. While I didn?t get a chance to see the other biomes, Double Fine explained that venturing further into the game will start revealing lore about the game?s prior two apocalypses. A mysterious teenage girl narrates your expedition, which will also be explained more as you proceed to unlock respirators.

Much like the player backtracking over the grass trail behind them, Double Fine?s Rad is certainly not reinventing anything in the genre. It is very much in the same vein as games like Binding of Isaac or Dead Cells, but with enough personality that it will probably keep players interested for the length of the adventure. It won?t be long until everyone can find out how rad it is for themselves when Rad releases this summer on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.

An Early Look At The Upcoming Multiplayer Shooter

Developer: Blind Squirrel Games
Release: 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Even three years after release, Overwatch is still regularly adding new characters and drawing huge crowds, so players are clearly interested in well-made, character-driven shooters. Drifters is being developed by Blind Squirrel, a studio that has previously worked on ports for several popular triple-A games like the BioShock Collection and Prey. Its first original game, Drifters, is a free-to-play hero shooter that is hoping to mesh the serious competitive nature of Overwatch with the more arcadey experience of Super Smash Bros.

A 5v5 team game, Drifters is all about knowing your roles. The goofy loot-hungry marauders you play as all have their own strengths, weaknesses, and playstyles that are important to understand if you want your team to make off with the biggest haul at the end of a match. You?ll have characters that run the usual gamut of classes: tank, healer, assault, sniper, and support.

Much of the game?s charm lies with its characters. Five were on display, but three more are still being added. All the heroes look diverse and interesting: 

  • Sumo is your tank ? a large fish with a wrecking ball for an arm. He gets in close with his shotgun and keeps enemies at bay with his AOE ultimate that has him swinging his wrecking ball and knocking players around like pinballs.
  • Ziggy is a cartoonish purple wisp whose ultimate rains down lightning blasts from the sky in an overhead strike. He likes to hang back and pick people off from a distance with his sniper rifle.
  • Zola, a healer, wields a burst-fire energy weapon and can see enemies through walls when she stands still. Her ultimate removes that restriction and gives you free rein of her abilities to make quick work of unsuspecting foes.
  • Magne is all about crowd-control, armed with saw blades and turrets that work great in tandem. The blades magnetize the enemies and the turrets home in on the magnetic targets. Magne?s ultimate whips up an AOE vortex of magnetic energy.
  • Resistor is a punk-rock robot with a rocket strapped to his back. He is all about controlled chaos. His shots tend to scatter and only hit the general area you?re aiming at, but he can be deadly in the right hands. He puts that rocket to good use for his ultimate where you get to control it in flight to find a target on the other team.

We only had the chance to see these five characters, but eight will be available at the game?s launch. The characters all had a fun, irreverent charm, and they mesh well with the spacey environments reminiscent of Insomniac?s Ratchet & Clank series.

With a rogues gallery of characters to choose from, the game has plenty of variety. They might not necessarily have deep lore guiding them like in Overwatch, which speaks to Drifters? Smash Bros. inspirations, but those inspirations extend beyond its characters.

?The thing we like about Super Smash Bros. is how the characters react to the action? says creative director Haydn Dalton. ?We have a lot of stuff that either knocks you back, causes you to skid out of control, or sends you 40 or 50 meters away. Players can use their jetpacks to recover and do all these acrobatic feats, and when you knock people into walls you really feel it. There?s almost a cartoony aspect to it. We want to make sure there is a little bit of comedy to the game.?

Drifter?s mobility is its hook ? quite literally. Characters come equipped with a grappling hook and jetpack that lets them not only close the gap between players but also make a swift getaway. Grappling seems useful for getting around quickly when you need to get across the map to a new objective or to get into the firefight, and the jetpack, as you?d expect, is good for giving you that little extra distance when you?re trying to make a jump. It?s also good for simply getting a new vantage point on the opposing team. This added momentum looks to bring a fresh approach to the hero shooter.

The map we saw was a large space freighter floating through an asteroid field, and it looked fairly expansive, but not so large that navigation was a burden. One fun feature of the game was that every time you respawn, instead of being plopped down somewhere in the level, you are loaded into a cannon on a nearby ship, and you aim at the level to pick where you?d like to launch yourself. It was silly, but in keeping with Drifters? attitude.

Drifters will feature five different game modes at launch including variations on the standard deathmatch, king of the hill, and capture the flag. The mode we saw, Plunder, was a twist on capture-the-flag. You are tasked with exploring the map to locate treasure hidden in breakable objects littering the area, which, once captured, must be deposited at a drop point. You then need to hold off the other team before your ?plunder? is cashed in. The first team to manage this five times wins the match.

Speaking of loot, when you successfully airlift your cargo, your team members are all rewarded with small cosmetic bonuses after the match. You can also unlock different loadouts for the characters that don?t necessarily make you stronger, but do alter the play style. Characters have different attacks and weapons with their own strengths and weaknesses that you can tailor to your preferences along individual skill trees.

?There will be some vanity stuff in there, but we?re actually going to focus on a tech tree-style upgrade system, so you can invest in the way each character?s guns work,? says Dalton. ?For example, you can change what type of shotgun your character carries. Guns will all ultimately do the same amount of damage, but they will deal it out in different ways, which might fit your play style. So, some shotguns might blast wider but not as far, and some might do a little less damage but fire faster.?

The world of Drifters is rich with detail, and to support that world, Blind Squirrel has teamed with Vault Comics to flesh out the characters in a tie-in comic series. This frees up the team to focus on creating characters with cool abilities that are first and foremost fun to play. If the setting has you wanting more, then the comic can fill in the blanks.

Drifters will have three maps (Blind Squirrel aims to roll out more if the game does well) and five game modes. The game shows a lot of promise; the characters were visually distinctive and the action looked frenzied and fun. Blind Squirrel is still looking for a publisher, so much of this game is subject to change by the time the game finds its way out on PS4, Xbox One, and PC by the end of the year.

Cadence Of Hyrule, A Rhythm-Based Legend Of Zelda Title, Announced

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Brace Yourself Games
Release: Spring
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: Switch

Today at the Nindies showcase, Nintendo revealed a semi-sequel/spinoff to the indie hit Crypt of the Necrodancer set in The Legend of Zelda universe. Titled the incredibly wordy Cadence of Hyrule ? Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda, the game takes Necrodancer's gameplay and puts a Legend of Zelda skin over it in terms of music, monsters, and graphics in general.

Click here to watch embedded media

Not a whole lot was shown of the game, but it does appear to star Cadence from the original game with Link and Zelda as separate playable characters. Cadence has been transported to the unfamiliar land of Hyrule, but there are still some familiar people and mechanics for her even in the new kingdom. Both the new title and the original Necodancer are developed by Brace Yourself Games.

Necrodancer's gameplay puts the player in a procedurally-generated dungeon that they have to explore by moving and attacking at the beat of the music. The game has been fairly popular on PC and even got a Switch version fairly recently, which Switch owners can check out if they're curious how this new Zelda-themed spinoff is going to play.

Cadence of Hyrule ? Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring the Legend of Zelda releases on Switch this Spring.

Launch Trailer Highlights The Desperate Struggle Against The Machines

Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Avalanche Studios
Release:
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Generation Zero, the open-world cooperative shooter set in 1980s Sweden, launches next week. As players gear up to take back the countryside from the mysterious mechanical invaders, developer Avalanche Studios has released a launch trailer highlighting some of the intense firefights you can expect when the game launches.

Set in the 1980s, you and your group of friends return to your quiet countryside hometown in Sweden to find that everyone is gone and giant robots have taken over. Your mission is to fight back alongside up to three friends to not only take back your home, but also discover what has happened.

You can see the trailer below.

Click here to watch embedded media

Generation Zero hits PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 26.

The Wonderfully Weird Fiction Of Control

Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Release:
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Control is set in an ever-shifting environment rife with mysteries, which makes it a fascinating backdrop for a story. Storytelling is far from a new beast for Remedy, who have dabbled in intertwining different mediums like TV into interactive tales. During our cover story trip, the team went in-depth with us about how they are approaching story this time by breaking the fourth wall, building a David Lynch-style world with questions that don?t always have answers, and finding new ways to explore transmedia approaches while also taking ?reasonable steps back? in comparison to Quantum Break. 

Remedy considers Control to be part of the New Weird genre, a take on science fiction and fantasy that contradicts conventions, putting emphasis on the bizarre. According to narrative designer Brooke Maggs, the team took inspiration from Jeff VanderMeer?s novel Annihilation, as well as Mr. Robot, Inception, and Legion. Maggs explains that voiceover narration for protagonist Jesse plays a big role in Control, just like it did in Max Payne, but things are a bit different this time.

?It's less of a self-narration and more what's going on in her mind, like what she's thinking to herself,? Maggs says. ?We?ve tried to cut back on the amount of times it does that and being really strategic about it. We get a lot of insight into Jesse's character that way, because she's learned to be quite closed down and keep a lot of things close to her chest.?

?Sometimes when you are having a conversation with another character, it?s almost like there are three people present in the room,? creative director Sam Lake says. ?We have Jesse who says things out loud, we have the other character replying, and then we have Jesse on the level of VO commenting or revealing to us how she really feels if she is saying something different.?

Lake hinted that breaking the fourth wall may happen occasionally. Sometimes it will seem like Jesse is talking directly to the player, but it may not ever be completely clear.

Hearing Jesse?s thoughts can go a long way in Control, helping us piece together a narrative from her perspective. This is especially important since the game has an enigmatic story that doesn?t always give answers; it leaves breadcrumbs and conclusions up to the player?s interpretation. 

?I personally like mysteries,? Lake says. ?I like not having all the answers given to me, because that?s an active state and you are thinking about it and joining in.?

However, finding a balance between offering truths and keeping the mystery can be difficult, and Remedy doesn?t want to leave players frustrated.

?The challenge of that is to have that not feel cheap,? Maggs says. ?The New Weird genre is defined by the fact that it's bewilderment and the desire to know what is behind a door is another door, [and then] another door. You want to encourage people to want to uncover these mysteries but also keep giving them mysteries.?

Maggs says she hopes players will feel like they ?got an answer but also want to know more.? Lore plays a major role in Control, and you can expect to find audio logs, video logs, and documents to read as you explore The Oldest House. The team is aware that Quantum Break had a lot of text to rummage through, so Remedy is planning to cut back for Control.

The same can be said for live-action segments. Since Max Payne, Remedy has flirted with meshing other mediums like TV with gameplay, and this continues in Control, but in a more condensed form.

?[We?re] trying to find methods for using these different mediums more as part of inside the world,? Lake says. ?This is unlike Quantum Break, where we took you out of the game and into the show, but here we are using them inside the world.?

One of Control?s characters, Doctor Casper Darling, appears through short live-action segments viewed on monitors throughout The Oldest House. Darling is played by Matthew Porretta, the voice actor for Alan Wake. As head of research, Darling?s eccentric decades-old videos have helped current staff stay alive against an otherworldly threat known as The Hiss.

?We wanted to make [the videos] slightly crude, clumsy, amateurish by design, because it?s meant to be that Bureau communication department has created these videos for internal communication,? Lake says. ?So it?s meant to be slightly awkward and clumsy. These guys aren?t professionals for media presentations.?

Live action is also used for a deceased character, Zachariah Trench, who appears to Jesse through ghostly apparitions. He is the former director of the Bureau, and we find out early on that he?s been killed. As you lead Jesse through her journey, you attempt to find ways to connect with Trench better, since his messages to you from beyond the grave come out as fragmented and difficult to understand. Lake hints that there are ?mysterious devices? around The Oldest House that can help. 

?We are actually using a combination of in-engine elements and live-action material, so those silhouettes of him appearing that you might have seen, that?s shot in live-action, but then we are putting that in weird layers into the game engine so it feels strange,? Lake says.

It's clear Remedy is putting a lot of effort into Control?s story and hasn?t lost its ambition of attempting creative ways to tackle it. Maggs likens The Oldest House to a ?narrative wonderland,? and so far, we couldn?t agree more.

Click the banner below to visit our coverage hub for Control, which will be updated throughout the month with exclusive interviews, features, videos, and more.

Anthem Increases Drop Rate For Endgame Weapons

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: BioWare
Release:
Rating: Teen
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

The latest update for Anthem is now live and, thanks to the patch notes, Bioware has confirmed that they have made some changes to the game's criticized loot table to better emphasize endgame weapons when you're actually in the endgame. You might ask why it was different before this update and it seems like Bioware also agrees.

The new update is server-side, which means you don't need to actually download anything for it to take effect. On the grandmaster 2 and 3 difficulty levels, the drop rate for Masterwork & Legendary items has been increased. Masterwork & Legendary drop rates have also been increased for tougher enemies at all difficulty levels in general.

The changes come fairly soon after Bioware community manager Jesse Anderson wrote an extensive and lengthy response on the game's subreddit to player concerns. Anderson explained why Anthem differed between pre-launch and the final product, how reactive Bioware is to feedback, and strongly insisted that "Anthem is here to stay."

Anthem is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. You can find our review of the game right here

Uncovering The Mysteries Of Control's The Oldest House

Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Release:
Rating: Rating Pending
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Control invites players to explore The Oldest House, a mysterious building located in Manhattan. Just because the events of the game take place within a single location doesn?t mean you should expect a lack of diversity in the environments. I not only had the chance to explore a small section of The Oldest House, but also chat with the team at Remedy Entertainment to see what we could learn about Control?s enigmatic setting.

The Oldest House serves as the headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), a government agency that investigates the unexplainable. The Bureau discovered The Oldest House in the 1960s while looking into Altered World Events, different supernatural phenomena they?re tasked with researching. After discovering the shifting Place of Power hidden beneath the New York subway, the Bureau decided to make it its headquarters.

Being a Place of Power means it can hold Objects of Power, items that grant protagonist Jesse Faden additional abilities, but that?s not all. Places of Power have unique logic to them, and they operate under their own rules. The Oldest House shifts and transforms in unexpected ways as you move through it. The Bureau calls The Oldest House home, but an unexplainable threat known as The Hiss has invaded, corrupting or killing employees and infecting The Oldest House.

The Oldest House features Brutalist architecture, with hard, sharp cement lines showcasing function over form. Control is a game about contrasts. Just as the realistic look of the game contrasts with the supernatural happenings throughout, the clean, grounded design of The Oldest House is also contrasted by the fluid, mysterious entity of The Hiss.

The shifting nature of The Oldest House also contrasts with the sturdy look of the building. As I explored the cement hallways of the building in my hands-on demo, I stumbled upon a maze that felt ripped right out of the 1950s. As Jesse walks toward walls, they fold away like paper to reveal openings, which lead her either toward the end or back to the beginning. 

In addition, various locales feature drastically different design. From a basement overrun by plants and fungal-looking enemies to an area full of overlapping cement blocks with a menacing red light serving as the backdrop ? perhaps a sign of heavy Hiss corruption ? players can expect a high degree of diversity throughout The Oldest House.

The biggest departure from the lobby of The Oldest House came with a dive into the Black Rock Quarry. Black Rock is a mineral discovered by the FBC that dampens supernatural and paranormal forces. Because of this, the Bureau devotes effort to mining it. The quarry itself is beautiful, with a gorgeous star-filled night sky obscured only by mining equipment that casts silhouettes resembling a city skyline. While none of the activities in the area were set up as I explored the Black Rock Quarry, the diversity of design made me excited to see what other unique locations we?ll uncover during a full playthrough of Control.

Being a Place of Power has made The Oldest House a perfect target for The Hiss, as the strange entity is seemingly interested in power, whether that be powerful people or powerful places. Much like Eastern medicine?s philosophy of qi or energy channels throughout the human body, The Oldest House also has locations called ?Control Points? that are more powerful or important that The Hiss target. 

?These are the spots that the Bureau harmonized so they stabilized, so the shifting of the place actually stopped,? game director Mikael Kasurinen says. ?Then what happens with The Hiss, it?s akin to a disease hitting the human body that affects those points and corrupts and twists them like cancer, if you will. That?s what?s occurring with the transformation in the building. It affects humans as well. We call it resonance, but not resonance in the sense of audio, but more like dimensional resonance. Resonance through reality that starts to affect you and change you. There are pretty extreme transformations you?ll see as well, but in the building and the humans.?

Part of Jesse?s mission in Control is to cleanse The Oldest House and its inhabitants of this corruption. As you cleanse Control Points, you unlock that spot for fast travel throughout the building.

Though I saw hours of gameplay, there are still so many mysteries to uncover within The Oldest House and the world of Control. While it?s the only Place of Power we visit in Control, Remedy teases that The Oldest House is not the only Place of Power that exists in this world. We?ll have to wait and see what else we learn about Control?s mysterious setting when it releases this summer.

Click the banner below to visit our coverage hub for Control, which will be updated throughout the month with exclusive interviews, features, videos, and more.

Hello Games Announces No Man's Sky Online As An Update

Publisher: Hello Games
Developer: Hello Games
Release:
Rating: Teen
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC

After a bumpy and controversial launch, No Man's Sky has steadily improved over the years, culminating with a massive expansion in the form of No Man's Sky Next last year. Now Hello Games is announcing the next step in No Man's Sky's direction with what they're calling No Man's Sky Beyond. The first part of that that is No Man's Sky Online, which is a massive push for a social online experience.

Check out a very, very short teaser for Beyond below.

Click here to watch embedded media

In terms of No Man's Sky Online, Hello Games is eager to emphasize the ways people have been playing the game since Next.

"No Man's Sky Online includes a radical new social and multiplayer experience which empowers players everywhere in the universe to meet and play together," Hello Games wrote in a release. "Whilst this brings people together like never before, and has many recognizable online elements, we don?t consider No Man?s Sky to be an MMO - it won't require a subscription, won?t contain microtransactions, and will be free for all existing players."

Hello Games say it will offer more details about No Man's Sky Online and the other aspects of Beyond soon, but for right now, fans can look forward to more No Man's Sky in the future.

Jump Force's DLC Roadmap Announced

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

Bandai Namco has announced Jump Force's slate of DLC through August ? featuring nine characters, including Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh! ? with more to come.

Kaiba and two other characters (TBA) are part of May's paid DLC component, and while three more are coming in August, it looks like the final trio won't come out until some time after that.

These fighters can be bought individually, and they are included in the game's Fighters Pass. The DLC also includes free content such as events, costumes, and a new stage: Valley of the End.

Here's the list direct from publisher Bandai Namco.

April

Free Update

  • Clan feature
  • Vertex event
  • New avatar costumes

May

Free Update

  • Online Link Mission
  • Raid Boss Event
  • New stage: World Tournament Stage

Paid DLC

  • Seto Kaiba and two other playable characters
  • Avatar costumes and skills

June

Free Update

  • Arena event
  • New avatar costumes

July

Free Update

  • Tournament event
  • New avatar costumes

August

Free Update

  • New avatar costumes
  • New stage: Valley of the End

Paid DLC

  • Three new playable characters
  • Avatar costumes and skills

We Didn't Start The Fire

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: DICE
Release:
Rating: Mature
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

When Battlefield V was first revealed Battlefield V, they announced a new mode called Firestorm, but was ultimately DICE's take on the Battle Royale genre. The studio said they were big fans of the genre and wanted to do one internally, but it couldn't make it in time for launch. Now, five months after launch, and six months from the original intended release, the mode is finally getting an official reveal in the form of a cinematic.

You can check out the reveal trailer for Firestorm below.

Click here to watch embedded media

There's parts of the trailer that kind of feel like Bad Company, which I'm into, but there's not a lot to glean from it right now. Actual gameplay won't be coming for another week or so, but until then, at least we have a sense of its tone. The full mode will release on March 25.

You can find our review of Battlefield V right here.

Photographs From The Creator Of 1000000 And You Must Build A Boat Releases In April

Click here to watch embedded media

Publisher: EightyEight Games
Developer: EightyEight Games
Release:
Platform: PC, iOS, Android

The next game from Luca Redwood, the creator of 10000000 and You Must Build a Boat, has a release date. Photographs is coming to mobile devices and PC on April 3.

Photographs is a narrative driven puzzle game that features a handful of tragic short stories that each has a distinct puzzle mechanic attached to it. For more on Photographs, you can read about why we're excited for it right here.