Successful movies based on video games are few and far between but hop over to Netflix and you will soon be swamped by animated adaptions. Tomb Raider is the latest of which, a new anime series which will follow on from the end of the current rebooted video game trilogy.
The series will be created by Legendary, the people behind the upcoming Godzilla Vs. Kong.
The most iconic heroine in video games is jumping to animation! Tomb Raider is a new anime series from @Legendary following Lara Croft after the events of the video-game reboot trilogy.
— NX (@NXOnNetflix) January 27, 2021
A sequel to the recent Tomb Raider movie was set to release on March 19th 2021 but that looks highly unlikely now, although there has been no announcement of a new date. Alicia Vikander is back as Lara but director Roar Uthaug – who is an actual director and not a character in Skyrim – has been dumped in favour of Ben Wheatley.
Dragons Dogma and Castlevania are already available as animated series on Netflix and they will also be joined by Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, a CG anime series expected to launch in 2021. . Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness instead will be similar in execution to the the latest Dragon's Dogma series, though with more CG than hand drawn animations. You can watch the teaser trailer for Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness below.
Alongside that, Ubisoft are teaming up with Netflix for multiple projects based on Assassin's Creed. The main live-action show to be joined by an animated and an anime adaptation of the franchise, Netflix are currently looking for some showrunners to manage these, but Ubisoft Film & Television's Jason Altman and Danielle Kreinik will be executive producers.
There's also The Witcher: Blood Origin, a live action Resident Evil series, a Cuphead animated series, a live action movie based on The Division, and a Beyond Good and Evil animated movie all in production for the streaming service.
Vancouver, already home to many EA development teams, has just got another one as EA have created Full Circle, a team dedicated to developing Skate 4. Daniel McCulloch, former general manager of Xbox Live and producer of Forza games, is leading the team.
"The fans wished Skate back into existence and we want them to feel involved in the process from development to game launch and beyond. We want them to feel like they are a part of Full Circle," McCulloch said in a press release. "We're all about having fun and making great games that people want to play with their friends. And, we're looking for more developers to help us build compelling worlds for players to explore."
Deran Chun and Chris "Cuz" Parry are heading up the creative team, both of them have worked on previous iterations of the franchise.
While there have been some pretenders to the throne over the last couple of years, with Session and Skate XL two ambitious skateboarding games currently in Steam Early Access, it seems that all they managed to do was convince EA that it might be worth greenlighting a new skateboarding game of their own.
Our excitement peaked a couple of years ago when the Skate 3 servers were turned back on and we got to wondering about whether we would see more from the series, but the obvious answer was that the game had recently become backwards compatible on Xbox One. Even so, the player base will have been incredibly small and seemed a weird one to justify the cost of turning the servers back on. Perhaps it was all in the hope of keeping the Skate community happy until they could set out the next step in the franchise, and that day has finally come.
Skate 3 was released over ten whole years ago and our beloved Blair didn't really enjoy it, scoring it just 6/10 and saying "There really isn't much depth to be found with Skate 3, due to the short career mode and lacking extra features. Thankfully, the simplistic yet effective controls and the fun to be found in some of the challenges help somewhat. With Skate 3, we see that innovation can only last so long before it becomes uninspired and stale."
EA will be hoping to prove Blair wrong when they return with the Skate franchise, sometime in the future
Your February PlayStation Plus have been announced and they are Control: Ultimate Edition, Concrete Genie, and Destruction AllStars! That's not a bad line up at all, Destruction AllStars is brand new for PlayStation 5 and the PS5 version of Control is also included. PlayStation VR owners also get an extra treat as Concrete Genie has a PSVR mode.
Here's Sony with more details on the games…
Destruction AllStars (PS5)
Entertain the crowds by bringing controlled chaos to the vehicular combat arena of this metal-crunching multiplayer game*. Pick one of 16 superstar competitors, then leap into four game modes, using timing, tactics and skills to cause carnage behind the wheel or create havoc with your parkour skills. Perfect your character's abilities – including a hero vehicle unique to them – to give you the edge in free-for-all battles or team challenges and become Global Destruction Federation Champion. The game also supports PS5's Game Help feature, giving you hints and tips to become the ultimate destructive machine without the need to leave the game.
Control: Ultimate Edition (PS5 and PS4)
Master supernatural abilities and wield a shape-shifting sidearm in this third-person action-adventure from Remedy Entertainment (Max Payne, Alan Wake). Take on the role of Jesse Faden, Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, whose New York headquarters are breached by an ominous enemy. Despite outward appearances, the skyscraper's interior is vast and ever-shifting. You'll need to explore – and weaponize – this unpredictable environment to clean house and repel the invaders.
The Ultimate Edition includes the base game as well as The Foundation and AWE expansions.
And on PS5 console, use the console's Game Help feature for hints and walkthroughs to help you solve puzzles and overcome challenges as you explore the Oldest House.
Concrete Genie (PS4)
Pick up a magic paintbrush and return the polluted town of Denska to its former bright and bustling seaside self in this touching and multi-award winning action-adventure. Cleanse streets and alleyways, then use your Living Paint to create mischievous Genies whose magical powers will aid you in overcoming puzzles and seeing off bullies who pursue you. The game also includes two additional modes built especially for PS VR to let you further unleash your creativity.
The Medium developer Bloober Team has made a name for themselves over the past five years with a series of interesting, if flawed, entries into the horror genre. Leaning towards the more psychological end of horror rather than action packed gore, titles such as Layers of Fear and Blair Witch have demonstrated that the Polish team are well versed in getting under players' skin.
The Medium is by far their most ambitious and high profile game so far, especially as it's one of the earliest Xbox Series X|S exclusives and the innovative way it looks to take advantage of the added oomph of processors and the benefits of SSD storage. Reviewing the game on PC, and testing both a standard HDD and an SSD, the latter is essential to get the best performance.
Having originally been conceived at a time where it would have been set to release on Wii U and the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles, The Medium has certainly come a long way from its earliest origins. The unique selling point of the dual reality perspective is perhaps the most obvious aspect that requires the increased power of contemporary technology, but the graphical fidelity and motion capture quality also clearly benefit from the later release date. The game also features important performances from Silent Hill veterans, with the ubiquitous Troy Baker putting on a supremely creepy performance as the terrifying Maw, and composer Akira Yamaoka bringing his personal brand of eerie to the score, ably supported by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn's vocals on several truly haunting folk style ballads. It should be clear from this that The Medium is heavily influenced by Silent Hill, whilst also offering an interesting East European perspective on the genre.
Set in late 1990s Poland, The Medium features Marianne, a young woman with a mysterious ability to speak to the dead. It's a unique skill that is initially presented in a highly intimate and emotional opening that also provides an excellent introduction into the world of The Medium, setting the scene well for the far darker storyline that will develop. An almost melancholic atmosphere of personal loss and bereavement permeates the game throughout and makes it a far cry from the usual horror affair. That being said, there are certainly still the requisite jump scares and action sequences to complement this atmosphere.
Following the low-key opening, Marianne finds herself lured to the abandoned Hotel Niwa complex in search of a mysterious man who claims to know the secrets behind her abilities. It soon becomes clear that this hotel is itself haunted by past tragedy and Marianne is caught up in a nightmarish world of trauma, ghostly apparations, and a deadly demonic secret. In order to combat the perils that this situation produces, she must discern information from objects by tapping into their psychic auras, recalling the echoes of conversations, tracing hidden paths and, most importantly, interacting with the environment through an alternate reality. Here, Marianne is presented almost as a negative version of her normal self, with bright white hair.
Unlike many other games that have employed the alternative reality trope – and they are far too numerous examples to mention here – The Medium offers the potential to see and move around both versions simultaneously, splitting the screen vertically or horizontally depending on the scene. This effect isn't constant throughout the game but is embedded into a good two thirds of the playing time.
General exploration is carried out in the normal world, whilst you will also sometimes need to spirit walk in out of body experiences that only involve the alternative world. These sections are timed as your body eerily fades away the longer you remain out of contact with your physical self. This results in some fairly familiar puzzles, but the world traversal effect helps to cover up the otherwise formulaic structure of finding items in one version that are necessary to progress in the other. This sense of the style being a smokescreen for some traditional gameplay continues throughout and may lead to some disappointment for players looking for greater innovation.
Whilst in the alternate world, you will be attacked by eerie clouds of moths that can swiftly kill you, as well as the larger and more threatening enemies such as The Maw (I'm not going to spoil any of this aspect though). To defend yourself you must find sources of energy which Marianne's alternate version can use to form barriers or to power up mechanisms that are locked in the normal realm. Again this mechanic boils down to something surprisingly familiar, but I was taken in enough by the overall setting and narrative to forgive such gameplay. While very different in terms of moment to moment action, the role of wider world building and atmosphere reminded me of Remedy's Control.
As you would hope of a game looking to justify its Xbox Series X|S exclusivity, the graphics of The Medium are mostly excellent. The visual design, both of the rundown Polish buildings and the shadowy other realm, are superb, with the latter in particular having a look and feel that manages to both show its influences from the aforementioned Silent Hill (and Stranger Things) whilst also having a feel all of its own. I often found myself stopping to admire the strange decaying environments, with some having a weird sense of beauty. Facial design and motion capture are effective, but the running animation of the central character feels oddly stilted and dated, almost as if it's a deliberate nod to the likes of Silent Hill.
The contrast between environments enabled by the dual perspectives is hugely effective, helping to draw attention to details that might otherwise be overlooked, however that effect has come with a cost to game performance. Reviewing on a PC with a Ryzen 3600 and RTX 2060, I was between the recommended specs for 1080p30 and 1440p30 at High settings. While that's lower than my PC can typically produce in other games (with a single perspective, it must be said), it's exactly what I saw. You can forget about ray tracing at this level, but it's fair to say that an SSD feels almost essential, playing from a regular HDD dropping performance down to the mid-20s. Of course, you can lower settings to Medium (ha!), which helps and doesn't impact image quality too heavily.
The music is great throughout the game, and whilst much of it is more about atmosphere than memorable tunes, the standout songs featuring McGlynn's haunting vocals (and a hidden one seeing Baker duet with her) are spine tingling in their emotional and narrative effects. Having played many horror games with bad voiceovers, the quality of the acting here is particularly welcome, with Baker in particular carrying off a demonic performance that is unlike anything I have heard from him before.
Super Mario 3D World is probably the Wii U game I've been most excited to revisit on Nintendo Switch. That's not just since its port was announced; I always thought that this game was wildly underrated, in fact, I'd go so far as saying it's one of the best Mario games of all-time, but it was held back by the console it was on. From what I've played of the Switch version, I'm feeling pretty vindicated so far.
The thing that makes Super Mario 3D World so enjoyable is that each level feels as though it's been designed as a way to show off what Mario games could do. Each one feels like it's an example of some alternate universe Mario game where the weird and wild concepts hold all of the power.
Take Shadow-Play Alley, which has sections entirely played by looking at the shadows on the wall (not a parable, thankfully), which means you have to gauge depth without really know where anything is. If that's not your thing, then how about Plessie's Plunging Falls, which has you trying to control a tiny loch ness monster through an obstacle course. That one's particularly entertaining in a group because the controls are basically democratic, and we all know how well that works out.
It's not just the level design that's great, the new powerups are great too, whether you're multiplying recklessly using the Double Cherries, which give you a new version of yourself to control every time you pick one up (I've managed five Fire Flower-infused Marios so far, but am well up for aiming higher) or just becoming an anime hero with the Super Bell. These were available in the original version of the game as well, but given that it was on the Wii U, it's likely that a lot of people will be discovering these for the first time.
Then you've got the little overworld to explore and loads of mini-games to find as you dash from level to level, as well as the odd secret if you're willing to snoop around a bit. Of all of these, it's very hard to top the Captain Toad levels in terms of the ingenious design they bring to the experience, as well as a very nice change of pace. Also, Captain Toad about jumps as often as most of us do in real life, which is not at all. That's just nice because Mario can be a little too energetic to relate to, despite his dad bod.
Each world is topped off with a boss battle reminiscent of the old games, where you have to battle through a scrolling level filled to the brim with enemies, cannons, and secrets that you have to have a keen eye to spot. Each of these is then capped off with a boss battle that, once again, will induce as much nostalgia as your ageing heart can muster for jumping on one of Bowser's kids three times. Of course, we know Bowser Jr. exists now, and I kind of feel bad for the Koopalings as a result. There's no way Bowser Jr. isn't the favourite child here.
Speaking of which, that leads nicely into the completely new content in this game as we've also got the Bowser's Fury adventure.
I'm not sure what I was expecting from Bowser's Fury, but I do know it wasn't this. It's like some weird genetic experiment where they attempted to splice Odyssey, Sunshine, and 64 together. That sounds incredibly messy, but the end result is actually an incredibly focussed open-world adventure that has you taking on short three-minute obstacle courses multiple times to try and get your hands on Cat Shines, which you need to collect to further your progress in the mode.
You do all of this to allow Mario to turn into a Super Saiyan cat in order to battle Fury Bowser, who I can only assume is as angry as he is because Bowser Jr's cutting out his nap and it's making him into a little monkey in the late afternoon. Bowser, I appreciate it's a frustrating time in your life, but it's nobody else's fault that you taught the little tyke how to skoot around in your weird Clown Head machine, is it?
Anyway, I can't say too much about the mode just yet, but I'm looking forward to continuing my journey in it and finding out how it develops. I've got high hopes for it, and it feels as though it could be a tease for a future style of Mario game. Either way though, it certainly seems to add in enough new stuff to make the package worth the while of those who already finished 3D World on Wii U.
"I've just seen a news story you might enjoy though," says they Editor In Chief, "It's in the newspool". "Oh," says I, "Which story cou… ah, there's one with knob innuendo in the title"
Yes indeed, the smuttily named Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town will be splooshing on to Nintendo Switch screens everywhere sometime before the end of March, following on from the PC launch last year.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town is described as a "a modern take on side-scrolling adventure game classics such as Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island", a point and click adventure but with "contemporary mechanics", which could mean it has modern game design or maybe it features people who fix cars using computer diagnostics, it's unclear to me at this point.
Here's some official blurb which has no innuendo in it all, and neither has the game. None. Not a smidgen. You've got Willy and Bone in the title of your game, what are you playing at VLG Publishing?
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town offers a modern take on point-and-click adventure games by having players collect clues and solve puzzles in a computerized 3D pirate themed world. As Willy uncovers details regarding his father's mysterious disappearance, fans of all ages are able to enjoy hilarious dialogue, whimsical characters and charming cartoon graphics. Old school fans of the genre can appreciate easter eggs that reference iconic titles they grew up with during the good old days of gaming.
10 years have passed since the mysterious disappearance of Willy's father, the famous archaeologist Henry Morgan. After Willy receives a strange letter containing a cryptic message he heads on a perilous adventure to Bone Town, an unconventional place full of pirates and shady characters, to once and for all uncover the truth behind what happened to his father.
Source: Press release
The Division 2's next-gen upgrade is coming next week in Title Update 12.1, bringing 4K and 60fps graphics to the game when played on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X from Tuesday 2nd February.
The news comes from Ubisoft Community Developer Johan, replying to a query about a new State of the Game blog post:
No State of the Game tomorrow.
TU12.1 releases on Feb 2nd with the Resident Evil Apparel Event, a rebalance of the Optimization Station cost as well as 4K 60 FPS support for next gen consoles.
— Johan (@JohanLnh) January 26, 2021
TU 12.1 is otherwise a relatively focussed update, with the only other elements being a rebalance of the Optimization Station costs and the start of the Resident Evil 25th Anniversary crossover event. Full patch notes will be released on Monday, just ahead of TU 12.1's release.
The Division 2 X Resident Evil event will run until 15th February. It's largely focussed on cosmetics instead of a barmy gameplay event, but you'll be able to collect iconic Resident Evil outfits, weapon skins and more as you play. In fact, you can snag a Leon Kennedy RPG outfit just by logging in.
Next-gen support was confirmed back in December, with Ubisoft having committed to similar updates for other live games, For Honor and Rainbow Six Siege. Even without the update, The Division 2 has been able to benefit greatly from the improved loading times granted by the PS5 and Xbox Series X SSDs, letting players rapidly hop around Washington D.C. and New York City. Playing at 60fps will be a welcome boost to game performance, even if a cover shooter like The Division is well suited to 30fps play.
There's been some decent content updates to the game in the last year or so. In September, Ubisoft added a new PvE mode called The Summit, which tasked you and your team with battling through a 100-story skyscraper, while Season 4 kicked off with Title Update 12 in December, making tweaks to The Summit and its challenges, and reintroducing the Optimization Station.
What's less clear is what the future holds for the game. Massive Entertainment are working on two further franchises, both licensed games for the Avatar and Star Wars universes, and it's not clear who will really be taking charge of the game and the series' future. Even in the shorter term, will there be a new expansion to kick off the year and introduce a new story arc, similar to Warlords of New York?
For now we'll just have to wait and see.
When it kicks off next week on 2nd February, Apex Legends Season 8 is going to once again make some sweeping changes to Kings Canyon, the original map from the game.
Having illustrated this with an explosive cinematic trailer last week, Respawn have now detailed exactly what's new and different.
The goal with the changes was to open up a new area of the map to explore (done by exploding and crashing a ship into the map!), make the north west more attractive as a drop point with better rotations through those northern areas, remove some obvious 3rd partying chokes, and also add some new high-ground opportunities.
The new area is Crash Site which, as you might've guessed, is where the ship has crashed up in a previously inaccessible part of the map. It can be reached through the throughly destroyed Artillery area, while the tunnel to the side of Artillery has been breached to allow for another access point.
All of this feeds into Spotted Lakes, an area that replaces Slum Lakes which was wiped out by flooded, contaminated waters from the crash. ECHO camps have been set up to thematically clean up the fuel that spots this water, and it looks like a more cohesive, less slap-dash area. Another route to this area has been opened from The Pit, while a more sheltered path now exists to get you to Runoff and Airbase behind some giant bones uncovered by the attack on the region.
ECHO camps have also been set up down the central river through the map, which feature four observation towers that will provide ideal sniping vantage points, while Explosive Holds replace Season 5's bunkers to give looting opportunities – though they'll make plenty of noise as you blow them open!
Respawn have also sought to reduce some of the 'sweatier' play through the map, simply removing the Farm from the map as one of the main culprits.
There appear to be many leaky ships on the seas of videogaming these days with people releasing information all over the shop. The latest comes from the ResetEra forums where the user Navtra has suggested that an enhanced version of Death Stranding will be heading to PlayStation 5.
"If you're interested in Death Stranding but haven't played it yet, it might be worth it to wait a lil bit", Navtra said. They then went on to suggest the game will have new story content although I doubt it would be substantial, Kojima's story is intricately woven it would very hard to slot in anything new so it may just be some extra side missions that do not affect the main story.
They also suggested that this may be paid content, even if if you already own the PS4 version. I'd take that with a pinch of salt, we've seen how badly gamers react to paid upgrades, only Call of Duty has got away with it so far. They have also said a patch for The Last Of Us 2 was in the works for PlayStation 5, that seems a given especially as Naughty Dog are still working on the multiplayer side of the game which will no doubt ship with a PS5 version from day one.
Navtra has had previous form correctly predicting exclusivity deals and event reveals so has some form, but please treat these revelations as rumours for now. However, last year Hideo Kojima has tweeted that he is hard at work on what we presumed was his next game and included a couple of pictures as a tease. Here's the first one in which he describes what he is listening too.
Working on the concept with listening to "OASIS" by Kitaro I recently bought. I(I used to have the vinyl) Love the illustration by Shusei Nagaoka. pic.twitter.com/hRLyZmnhe5
— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) June 27, 2020
The interesting part here is the sketch of the of a vehicle, the posters over at ResetEra have noticed if you zoom in closely and flip the image you can read the text, 'Bridges'.
Those who have played Death Stranding will know bridges, both real and metaphorical, are core to the story of the game. They will also know there are no flying vehicles in the the world of Death Stranding as the goopy whalesquids have stopped all air transport but this image is labelled "Landing ship". There is a ship the game, a conventional water based one, but looks nothing like the image above. Kojima also tweeted a second image which includes a BB out of his protective casing, so perhaps these were teases for the PlayStation 5 version of the game rather than a sequel.
Here's my way of designing new title w/Yoji. 1st we discuss the setting for each character, the background, the world, the color, the characteristics, the roles, the images, ideas and keyword going back&forth via E-mail. WFH & 20 mins direct discussion. Mostly texting via iPhone. pic.twitter.com/XCYpFwsQ6U
— HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) June 26, 2020
The future-racing genre has had a few notable jumpstarts over the last few years, with Redout sitting heavily amongst the frontrunners. Its fantastically realised visuals, exceptional music and breakneck sense of futuristic speed meant that it carried on Wipeout's legacy while bringing its own sense of style to proceedings. The folks at 34BigThings decided that the Redout universe was so strong in fact that they would create an arcade space shooting prequel.
Having appeared first on Apple Arcade, Redout: Space Assault is now making the jump to console and PC, and while it doesn't revolutionise its new franchise genre, there's enough fun to be found here for fans short on rail shooters.
You're Leon, an ace fighter pilot in Bravo Squad, wrapped up in the tumultuous events surrounding the colonisation of Mars. As a tool of the Poseidon Security Forces you're tasked with protecting the interests of the corporation, but unlike most arcade shooters there's been some actual thought and attention given to the characterisation and storyline that takes it beyond the 'fly here, shoot that' setup we've seen so often before.
Redout: Space Assault has two primary gameplay modes. The first, combat missions, play out as an on-the-rails shooter in the loving vein of Space Harrier or Panzer Dragoon. With a knowing nod to Sega's template, holding the fire button down allows you to lock onto multiple enemies, while you can tap the shoulder buttons to barrel roll your way out of danger. You're able to gain a regular blaster too, as well as a host of other weapons, though you disappointingly don't have direct control over it and simply have to line your ship up with something to shoot at for it to kick in.
The second of Redout: Space Assault's gameplay modes allows you to freely move in 3D space, exploring meteors and space stations alike, while searching for various mission sensitive pick-ups and blasting the occasional bad guy. These sections take off the leash and let you taste full control of your craft, but there's very little of the dog-fighting potential fulfilled, neutering the obvious potential that the game has. I'd have loved to see it flip between on-rail and large scale open combat, but that was seemingly beyond the scope of what the team at 34BigThings were looking to create.
As arcade shooters go, Space Assault's visuals really sell the fiction, with cool, stylised spaceship designs – you can choose from a batch of different skins for your own ship – and you get a genuine sense of the technology of the time. There's also the expected nods here and there to the tech that evolved into Redout's vehicles and futuristic architecture, and it all hangs together really well, just as you'd expect for a world that's already been thoroughly designed. Redout was a looker, and Space Assault is similarly pleasing to the eye.
There's the nagging feeling that this is a mobile game that's made the jump to home platforms, and it is. However, this doesn't feel like an utterly meaningless cash grab. Firstly, it's available digitally for £9.99, which feels fair, and I've had slightly more fun with it than the recent Panzer Dragoon remake – as a long time Sega Saturn fan that causes me actual pain to say. Secondly, the on-rail shooter is a genre that rarely shows its face these days, and while we wait for the Panzer Dragoon Zwei remake, Space Assault is a suitable little timesink for fans.
It's not without a few nagging problems though, and you'll discover them soon enough. Whether it's the short mobile-oriented missions, the inability to completely stop your ship – which routinely leads to unavoidable collisions and death – or some odd difficulty spikes which feel designed to get you to grind out a few more upgrades, there's just a few elements that mean that Redout: Space Assault feels a touch underdone.
There's a slightly unnecessary card-based boon system that lets you pick a sub-system to boost, as well as an upgrade tree that sees you spending your earned currency on improved shields, health, missiles or weaponry. Those upgrades do initially give you some obvious improvements to your craft, but there's a diminishing return for your currency as you progress. If you're a veteran of the genre you'll likely find that you can blast your way through much of it as well until you hit one of those difficulty spikes.
It wouldn't be a Redout game if the music wasn't up to scratch and there's some brilliant synth-led sci-fi tones to massage your ears with, stretching out into exceedingly cool rock riffs, and beyond. The audio definitely added to my enjoyment of the game, almost diminishing some of the more obvious issues.
This morning EPOS hosted their "Power of Audio" virtual media event, giving us a deep dive into what they are looking to achieve with their gaming range, and how decades of engineering experience is aiding them in this venture.
Of course, as part of the event, EPOS teased us with a look at what products they will be launching in the near future. They revealed to us their "next generation" gaming headset that will offer a "360 degree" upgrade as EPOS continue to pursue audio perfection, improving comfort, mic pickup, and of course, overall sound quality, as well sourcing the best build materials. They even teased the possibility of a removable boom arm.
- EPOS GSP 670 Wireless Headset Review
- EPOS GSP 370 Wireless Headset Review
- EPOS GSP 300 Gaming Headset Review
- EPOS GSX 300 DAC Review
Empowering content creators is another pillar of the EPOS future strategy, the company also unveiling a microphone built with video production/broadcasting in mind. Although we can't share images, we can tell you this is embodies the signature EPOS approach to design aesthetic, compatible with desk stands and boom arms. It will also offer an accompanying app which will help streamers tailor their audio.
It's no secret that audio can be just as effective at engaging players than cutting edge visuals and this is where EPOS are looking to innovate, deepening that sense of immersion through a growing arsenal of high-end headsets and other premium audio equipment.
Amidst a crash course on the science of human hearing EPOS VP of Research and Development, Jesper Kock, elaborated on the intensely technical design behind the EPOS range and its emphasis on perfect sound reproduction, spatial orientation, and eliminating noise disturbance.
Having sampled a handful of the latest headsets in the EPOS range, we can definitely vouch for their quality. We recently reviewed the EPOS GSP 370 wireless headset, the more robust EPOS GSP 670 wireless headset, and the EPOS GSP 300.
Each one has passed with flying colours and although they come at a slightly higher price than most gaming headsets, they definitely earn their reputation for being considered high-end from their comfort and sound quality down to their class-leading design and robust feature sets.
The Game Bakers have announced that Haven will be gliding onto PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and into the Epic Games Store next week on 4th February.
The game is already available for PS5 – buying the game on PS4 will allow free PS5 upgrades, and vice versa – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC via Steam, GOG and the Windows Store, but this will see them spread their adventure of love further, and just in time for Valentine's Day!
Haven launched in December, the second game from indie developer The Game Bakers, it marked a major departure from the boss rush bullet hell hybrid of their first game Furi.
The game sees two lovers on the run and trying to settle on the planet of Source, an uninhabited world shattered into floating islands. The pair must travel these lands using Flow bridges, combatting the corrupting Rust that is spreading across it and make a home for themselves. It's an intriguing adventure that can be played solo or in local co-op, depicting the maturing bond between these to young people.
The game garnered a fair bit of praise at its launch for the relationship it depicts, the positive tone of its story, its visual style and superb soundtrack from Danger – in fact, this won Best Original Soundtrack in our 2020 Game of the Year awards.
In our Haven review, Aran wrote:
Haven is an uplifting and positive tale of a young couple setting out to make an alien planet their home. Yu and Kay are a likeable pair as you watch their relationship strengthen, the world of Source is a gorgeous place to explore, and the soundtrack is great as well. While the overarching story could be deeper and battles could be streamlined further, Haven is a game that offers a chilled out escape.
Source: press release
Indie hit Among Us has a new PC mod that adds an extra twist to the game. The Sheriff assigns one player the role of a Sheriff who's sole task is to hunt the imposter, but they have the additional ability to kill a crew member if they think they have found the correct player. The twist is that if the Sheriff kills the wrong player, both the player and the Sheriff die, making it easier for the Imposter.
You can get the mod from GitHub.
Microsoft and developer Innersloth have confirmed that Among Us will be coming to Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S this year and it will be part of Xbox Game Pass for console when it arrives.
HEY UH YEAH SO
xbox, we cannot wait for you all to join us as crewmates. you can hold our hand as we go into electrical together.
— Among Us (@AmongUsGame) December 17, 2020
There's no word about PlayStation at the moment, but surely it's only a matter of time before it arrives on Sony's platform as well. Of course, there could be a timed exclusivity deal in effect here, but there's no mention of exclusivity either.
Among Us has been one of the indie hits of the summer, despite actually having released all the way back in 2018. The game was discovered by Twitch streamers, with its paranoia-infused multiplayer making for a lot of fun and plenty of cross-channel collaborations. It helps that the game's really cheap at just £4.
The game is built for 4-10 players, with one or more players being an "imposter", and alien interloper who has to try and murder their way through the other players as they try to complete tasks. As murdered bodies are discovered, players report them and call a group meeting to bicker, accuse, and potentially kick someone out of an airlock.
We dove into the Nintendo Switch release, pondering what it could mean for the game's future and the problems that Innersloth need to figure out before they can really bring the game to PlayStation or Xbox consoles.
Given how much buzz there is surrounding Among Us, it's no surprise that Innersloth have sought to bring it to console, and Nintendo Switch is by far and away the most logical first platform for them to tackle. That said, they've clearly got their work cut out for them to make it truly feel like a first class citizen on the platform, ironing out the kinks and figuring out how best to translate the game to PlayStation and Xbox.
The live-action Borderlands movie has picked up another big name with Kevin Hart set to play Roland, joining Hollywood superstar Cate Blanchett who will be playing Lilith, a character who appeared in the very first game, with Eli Roth is directing the movie. He has previously worked with the actress in the film "The House With a Clock in Its Walls."
If you're expecting another jape filled adventure now that Kevin Hart has joined the cast then prepare for a shock, according to The Hollywood Reporter this will be a "serious acting turn for the star."
"I'm thrilled to be working with Kevin," said Roth in a statement to THR. "Borderlands is a different kind of role for him, and we are excited to thrill audiences with a side of Kevin they've never seen before. He's going to be an amazing Roland."
"Kevin has been behind some of the world's biggest blockbusters, and our source material is inspired by one of the world's best-selling video games. We love the way our filmmaking team has adapted this story, and we couldn't be in better creative hands," adds Nathan Kahane, president of the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group.
Back in June 2019 Full Circle reported that Lilith will be the main protagonist in the movie but it's unlikely Kevin Hart will be taking a backseat. A plot summary was also released last year.
The movie will find Lilith in the Atlas Corporation space prison when the CEO gives her the chance to earn her freedom by rescuing his daughter, the foul-mouthed Tiny Tina, on the planet Pandora. The mission takes an unexpected turn when it becomes clear that the little girl is the key to unlocking a valuable alien vault that Atlas wants all for itself.
Joining her on the adventure is the previously mentioned Claptrap, Tina's bodyguard Krieg, and a group of vault hunters (it is unclear if they will be established game characters).
The film has been in development for a good few years and was announced way a back in 2015.
Another delay I am afraid, this time for The Lord of the Rings: Gollum which was meant to land in late 2021 but has now slipped to an unspecified date in 2022. The news came as NACON and Daedalic Entertainment announced joint publishing duties on the game.
"The two companies decided to join forces to ensure that the game will meet the expectations of fans of The Lord of the Rings and fully leverage the power of the new generation of consoles," reads the press release, "The universe will be faithfully represented thanks to the partnership with Middle-earth Enterprises, the company that holds the adaptation rights to the novel series by J.R.R. Tolkien."
The game was announced in 2019 but precious – see what I did there – little information has been released since then. We do know it is a story-driven action adventure in which you play as Gollum who is hunting the ring again. "Gollum is skillful and sly, but also torn by his split personality. It is up to you to decide whether the darker side of Gollum takes over or if there is a spark of reason left in what once was Sméagol," say Daedalic Entertainment.
Dialogue will play a big role in the story, as you play out the inner conflict with a mini-game that presents to you the multiple sides of the character's current thoughts and you have to decide which ones are Gollum or Smeagol. Not only that, but the options will fly around on the screen, potentially landing you in a spot of bother with an ill-timed outburst.
The game will have both familiar locations from the fantasy world, such as the Barad-Dur outskirt where war preparations are going on.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is coming to both current and next gen systems, so PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and quite surprisingly, Nintendo Switch as well.
Source: Press release
Microsoft's quarterly financial report revealed plenty of good news for the company's gaming business, as CEO Satya Nadella touted an Xbox console launch for Xbox Series X|S with "the most devices ever sold in a launch month," alongside impressive levels of engagement with Xbox services. A big part of that is further growth for their Xbox Game Pass service, which has to 18 million subscribers.
That figure is up 3 million on the 15 million users reported back in September, coming after heavy investment in the subscription service.
Xbox Game Pass is available in three forms: Game Pass for Console for $9.99, Game Pass for PC for $9.99, and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $14.99, which includes access to both Console and PC libraries (with Android streaming support), as well bundling in Xbox Live Gold for online gaming on Xbox.
Microsoft have continued to rotate new games in and out of the service as usual, such as Among Us, Yakuza Remastered, Control and much, much more, but has also made significant strides forward by incorporating EA Play (EA's own subscription service) into Game Pass for Xbox last November – the PC roll out is delayed until sometime this year – as well as announcing an acquisition of Bethesda parent company ZeniMax for $8 billion, which will see all of their games added to the service as first party exclusives.
However, even with 18 million subscribers, there will be inevitable question marks over the service's profitability. Microsoft typically run a promotion for a first month for $1. Part of the allure is that taking up this offer also allows you to convert any existing Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass subscription to Game Pass Ultimate with a 1:1 conversion rate. It offers a huge saving compared to Game Pass Ultimate's $14.99 price point.
Microsoft have previously admitted that Game Pass is not a terribly profitable part of their business right now, and the trials and conversions will be a part of that, but are committed to putting more and more resources into making it a long term success. They're certainly keen for more users to sign up, and it's widely thought that this was the reasoning behind last week's poorly judged attempt to raise the price on Xbox Live Gold (which would have doubled the yearly cost of simple online play). Following an intense backlash, Microsoft cancelled the change, keeping Xbox Live Gold prices the same and even reversed a long-time policy to make free-to-play games no longer require a Live Gold subscription for multiplayer.
Back to Microsoft's gaming business as a whole, this was one of several areas of major growth for Microsoft through 2020 as the world adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last quarter saw year on year growth of 40% through "Xbox content and services", and while Microsoft have avoided going into specific sales numbers, there was also an 86% increase in Xbox hardware sales, spurred on by the launch of its next-gen consoles, Xbox Series X|S in November.
As mischievous kidnapping magicians go, Balan seems pretty alright. Sure, he lures Leo and Emma, our sad-looking protagonists down slightly dodgy alleyways and into derelict theatres, but once they get there they're swept up in the moment and sucked into a whole dreamworld of brightly coloured platforming. Look, Balan's probably going to end up in handcuffs for this (which he'll promptly Houdini his way out of), but can this game Stockholm Syndrome its way into our hearts?
I dove into the Balan Wonderworld demo to find out, ahead of its public release on Thursday 28th January.
From its gorgeously produced opening cinematic, Balan Wonderworld's demo opens on the Island of Tims, a floating rock filled with the cute fluffy birds from the intro and your hub world for the game. From here you can only see the first world, but two more acts from later worlds unlock over the course of the demo.
The first world – curiously titled 'The Man Who Rages Against the Storm' – is colourfully farm themed, so you can expect pitchforks, giant corn, and scarecrows (but not the scary kind). What we have here is a collectathon, of sorts. You explore the 3D environments of each themed world, looking for different coloured crystals, Balan statues, and a Golden Hat. There's a few combat encounters sprinkled throughout and a few light puzzles to solve which mix things up a little, but the game is mostly incredibly straightforward, with jumping across the various themed worlds as the order of the day.
Throughout the levels are multiple transformations that can be unlocked with keys to give your character new abilities. These can simply give you a new attack to dispatch enemies and break boxes, or allow you to interact with elements of the levels. This is where a lot of the variety in the gameplay comes in, and some of these transformations control in a wildly different fashion. Jackrabbit, as one example, gives you a flutter jump to get across long gaps, while Tornado Wolf turns your jump into a spinning attack that can deflect tornados and break boxes to reach new areas.
As you scour each level, you will likely find that the transformations you come across in the level you're exploring might not suffice in getting all of the collectables in that area. What's a completionist to do? Well the game thankfully allows you to change your costume loadout at the beginning of each level and each checkpoint you cross. This means that so long as you have at least one in storage, you can use any transformation in any level going forward.
One last little shake up of the gameplay is the Balan's Bout mini-game that appears in the levels themselves. By picking up the Golden Hat, you're transported into a NiGHTS-like piece of flying nonsense, complete with a big band playing in the background. These require precise timing to match Balan's mirror image to themselves, and are pretty fun palette cleansers to be fair. Furthermore, they don't outstay their welcome, and get you a Balan statue if you do well.
There's plenty to love about Balan Wonderworld, but this demo it isn't flawless by any means. The biggest issue right now are the controls, which are tremendously slippery in movement and floaty in jumps. If you think of the abominable controls in modern 3D Sonic games, you're pretty much on the money. The frustrating thing about this is the lack of consistency for players. With all of the transformations feeling different, this sometimes isn't an issue, only for switching costumes to suddenly make simple jumps far more difficult than they need to be.
Also, as a slight warning about the two levels of the first world, it's designed as if the player is running around the inside of a sphere. This is a neat idea and plays really well into several of the puzzles in these levels, with moving around giant balls to open doors and such, but it is disorienting almost the point of queasiness, especially when paired with the camera.
It is however a beautiful world that's bright and colourful and filled with adorable characters. All of the character transformations are varied and distinctive while never landing on the side of being "too cutesy". Also, the music is so tremendously catchy that I'm still sitting here singing the music from the first two levels as I write this preview, if that's a testament to how good the music is.
As I played through the demo, I initially wondered to myself if the moment-to-moment gameplay would prove to be enjoyable in the long term. However, after more than two hours, I'm left wanting more from it. There's more areas in the levels that the transformations in the demo can't reach, Balan statues that I've left unfound, and obviously just many more chapters and acts that I'll have to wait until the final game to play.
Honestly, I just want more of Balan Wonderworld, and look forward to seeing the remainder of the game when it lands in March. The demo is out tomorrow on Thursday 28th January, should you wish to give it a try yourself – it will definitely let you know whether or not you will enjoy the full game.
Fatshark have launched a new title update for Warhammer: Vermintide 2, offering "a slew of fixes and a couple of tweaks".
The focus here is mainly on fixes specific issues surrounding certain character classes while patching up a handful of Vermintide 2 levels including Dark Omens, Garden of Morr, Old Haunts, and War Camp. For more details, see the patch notes below.
As Vermintide fans will know, there's typically a delay between PC and console updates. Fatshark are currently testing a new update for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One which will introduce the Outcast Engineer class.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Update 4.1 Patch Notes
FIXES & TWEAKS
Fixed the Grail Knight talent "Virtue of Knightly Temper" not giving temporary health when using "Lady's Wrath" when triggering an insta kill.
Fixed the Piston Power buff sticking around after swapping out the talent in the Keep.
Fixed a visual bug where it didn't look like players got all experience they should.
Fixed a visual bug where it looks like you gain extra levels quicker than you actually do.
Fixed the "Have at thee Varlet!" challenge not being able to be progressed without owning the Grail Knight DLC.
Fixed a glitch on the first frame of the Crossbow 'on-wield reload' animation.
Fixed an animation bug for the Repeating Handgun when reloading while firing the first quick shot.
Fixed an interaction between Bardin's Ale and Speed Potion's that could cause attack speed to be increased indefinitely.
Fixed crash on first startup for some players.
Fixed crash when client gets disconnected while being affected by a buff that grants invisibility.
Fixed Outcast Engineer's 'cranking talents' not being removed while swapping talents of the same row.
Fixed Grail Knight bots sometimes getting stuck in an ability stance when he tries to use it while players are disengaging from enemies.
Fixed some situations where the bullet trails from Outcast Engineer would originate from a fixed position in an environment and not from the player.
Fixed the fire rate of the Crank Gun ramping up if you quickly released the fire button on first shot and hold again.
Fixed the Masterwork Pistol triggering reload animations when picking up ammo.
Fixed the reload animation not playing if a ranged weapon is wielded with an empty clip.
Fixed the required number of headshots needed for Outcast Engineer's "Targeting Array" challenge. Previously this was 5 but is now 20 as intended.
Made Sienna's Abandon talent not be affected by damage reduction.
Fixed various miscellaneous crashes.
Fixed a spot where Bardin could space program his way out of the map.
Fixed an issue where players could spawn behind a point of no return.
We've added a failsafe so additional standard bearers will spawn if existing ones are killed before planting their banners until the requisite number of banners has been destroyed.
GARDEN OF MORR
Fixed a placement issue with a few enemy spawners.
Fixed a spot where bots had a tendency to yeet themselves off the map.
Fixed an out of bounds exploit.
Fixed so that Grandmother's Zingler's Bones is interactable in situations where it wasn't previously.
Fixed a softlock if you killed the Chaos Warrior prior to him opening the gate in the Gargoyle room. If this happens, the gates will open automatically after a short time.
Fixed a spot at the church where enemy pathing was squiffy.
Fixed a spot where bots could get stuck.
Added more spawners for hordes to spawn from.
Fixed a spot that bots would not traverse.
Fixed a spot that enemies would not navigate correctly.
Fixed a spot where players could get stuck.
Fixed a tent with no collision.
Fixed an out of bounds exploit.
Fixed some AI pathing issues.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 struck true in our review, scoring an 8 out of 10. Here's what Tef had to say:
Vermintide 2's co-op battling is nice step forward over the original. It's gruelling at times, and that can sap the fun out when you're failing missions and not making progress, with the weighty combat, the additional sub-classes and a long and deep progression of difficulty and loot, there's plenty here for those that want to be in for the long haul.
We'll continue to see more Vermintide updates in future though Fatshark are now turning their focus towards the studio's upcoming game, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide.
THQ Nordic have at long last announced a hard release date for Biomutant, their long in development kung fu-infused action RPG. The game will be out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on 25th May 2021. There's no bespoke support for next gen, it seems, but the game will obviously be supported on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S via each consoles built-in backward compatibility.
The game is an intriguing premise, set in a post-apocalyptic world where several animalistic tribes vie for supremacy as the Tree of Life starts to bleed from its roots and a plague ravages the lands. It's up to you to unite them or crush them, and you'll do so by taking your character and mutating them on the fly with attributes like Turtleform and Mucusbubble to help survive the dangers of the open world.
You will be guided through the world by a Storyteller that narrates the journey, but you will ultimately define how the story unfolds, and how you play and fight with the game's Kung Fu combat.
Announced back at Gamescom 2017 – THQ acquiring developer Experiment 101 shortly after – Biomutant has slipped off the radar several times over the three and a half years since then, briefly reappearing with some hint of news, only to disappear again for several more months or even a whole year.
Three versions of the game will be available, with the standard edition accompanies by two special editions. The Atomic Edition features the game with a steelbook case, a 60x25x30cm diorama, a t-shirt, oversized 80x35cm mousepad, A1 size artwork on fabric, soundtrack and box. It will set you back an eye-watering £349.99 / €399.99.
The slightly more frugal among you might prefer the £109.99 /€119.99 Collector's Edition, which features the game, a figurine of the hero, and the same A1 artwork on fabric and soundtrack.
Source: press release
Another free update is coming out for Animal Crossing: New Horizons on 28th January, bringing with it a bunch of new content, including the annual Festivale celebration.
Festivale takes place on 15th January, with Pavé the peacock turning up and bringing a new challenge to take on and set of rewards for you to earn.
Pavé will be boogieing away at your island's plaza come 15th January, and as with this event in previous games, will task you with running around the island and catching colourful features. You'll need to try and collect different colour features, sending Pavé into a manic dance-powered fugue state (and rewarding you with a bunch of new items to collect, including sparkly dresses and outfits, and some new bits and bobs with which to decorate your island and home.
But what's that? Another update is coming in March? And there's a Super Mario mushroom and star on the title card? It would seem that Nintendo are bringing their Mario 35th anniversary celebrations into Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Nintendo have been celebrating this anniversary since September last year, launching Mario games and holding Mario-based events up until 31st March 2021.
It's also worth remembering that March will mark the one year anniversary since Animal Crossing: New Horizons' own launch, with the game having been a simply huge escapist hit for Nintendo and the Switch during the first few months of the Covid-19 lockdowns last spring. Nintendo could easily commemorate that success on 20th March, but we'll have to wait and see what they have planned.
- Daisy Mae and the Stalk Market guide
- Change up your appearance and outfit
- How to use Amiibo with the Campsite & Photopia
- The 10 best new island names for Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- How to import custom clothes & art with NookLink QR Codes
- Nature Day and hedges guide
- Leif's Garden Shop and how to plant shrubs and bushes
- Quick start guide to your new island life
- Bringing Isabelle to your island and upgrade the Resident Services Building
- Blathers and Museum opening guide
- How to help Gulliver find his communicator parts
Several months after its release, Supermassive Games have released an update for their narrative horror game The Dark Pictures: LIttle Hope, hoping to smooth out some of the minor rough edges affecting some players.
The first official patch, it bumps the version number up to 1.04 on Steam, 1.05 on PlayStation and 1.0.05 on Xbox.
The general improvements look to improve character interactions and controls, and players with save data from Man of Medan will now have a different welcome from the Curator as well. However, the most entertaining bug fixed revolves around stopping the player from falling out of the world.
Personally, I'd have simply called that a feature, not a bug. I'm sure everyone has had a nightmare where they have the sensation of endlessly falling, so what would be more apt for a video game that seeks to tap into some of your more primal fears? Maybe Supermassive are just going to hold onto that one for a future VR project? Who knows!
Here's the full patch notes:
- General improvements to character-object interaction
- General improvements to character controls
- General multiplayer stability fixes
- Additional missing audio in localized voice-over
- Players with a save data for Man of Medan will be welcomed differently by the Curator
- Fixes issues where the player appears to fall out of the world
We had a great time playing through this spooky tale last year, with Tuffcub writing in out Little Hope Review:
If there was ever a time to sit down with some friends and play a scary game, it's Halloween 2020. Little Hope fits the bill perfectly. The annoyances found in Man of Medan have been almost completely removed leaving a spooky tale with jump scares to giggle about, heart racing action, and tonnes of atmosphere. For £25 Little Hope is an absolute steal and highly recommended.
Source: Bandai Namco
Scavengers Studio, the company behind the now defunct battle royale Darwin Project and the upcoming PlayStatiion 5 exclusive Season, has had to respond today to allegations of abuse lodged against co-founder Simon Darveau (formerly of Spearhead Games and Ubisoft), and the toxic atmosphere enabled by co-founder Amélie Lamarche.
GamesIndustry.biz has reported on the allegations of nine current and former employees of the Montreal-based studio. A "boys' club" culture was permitted, with women saying they were degraded, infantilised and belittled by some of the male employees, including by Darveau, and sexist remarks being used to undercut their role in the studio. This included a ridiculous put down that a proposed feature to have Abby, the protagonist in Season, be able to play guitar "wasn't realistic" because it was too complicated for a woman. Whoever that was can just get in the bin.
This boiled over at a company party in January 2019, where Darveau was especially drunk and was seen inappropriately touching and groping at women employees. Two of these women left shortly afterwards, and it did prompt the studio to take action, bringing in an investigator (whose report wasn't made clear to employees), and deciding that alcohol at work events would be reduced, and Darveau would no longer be drinking at these events. He remains as co-owner and creative director at the studio, though the role of CEO has been handed to co-founder Amélie Lamarche.
In a statement to these allegations, Scavengers Studio said:
"Scavengers Studio appreciates that there have been situations during its rapid growth and takes the position that any type of harassment is unwelcomed and unacceptable and takes any complaints in this respect very seriously. You should note that Scavengers Studio has taken positive steps to look into its culture to see what aspects need to be adjusted.
"In early 2019, Simon Darveau was replaced as CEO by Lamarche who took full control of the company. As a new female CEO, Lamarche started to build a mid-management team composed of competent team members to continue to lead the company in its mission of creating new gaming experiences with very strong and innovative empathetic twists. The new management team has since then recreated a sense of calm and happiness in the workplace where talents are gathered around interesting and dynamic projects and where differences are embraced."
So let's talk about Lamarche, who is implicated through enabling this continuing toxicity. She founded the studio with Darveau, who was her romantic partner at the time. While there have been some HR hires in recent years, they have since left and Lamarche always had final say on how to deal with any issues and complaints. Obviously with many of the complaints sure to target Darveau or those he enables, there's a serious conflict of interest.
One damning quote said, "She gives this vibe of, 'I support women in games,' …but it's really not the case. There were a lot of circumstances at work where she should've said something and should've done something, like when Simon would make inappropriate jokes or yell at people, but she didn't."
Things did marginally improve following the events of early 2019, and they did put forth an anti-harassment policy – though apparently it's effectively a copy and paste of the standard Quebec government model and there's still some of the "boys' club" atmosphere that goes unchallenged.
In general there's also just plain toxicity with employees being taken into side-rooms to be shouted at (which the rest of the studio would hear), and now with working from home and conference calling the norm, shouting and arguments taking place in front of the assembled studio on the call.
As the studio has shifted focus from Darwin Project to Season, Darveau has now taken over the lead of the latter, apparently over the objections of those who laid the foundations for the project in pre-production, using the exclusivity deal struck with Sony to implement his vision for the game, and promising certain features like a larger world, quests and objective markers, which weren't in the game's design spec at the time.
"Now I don't even know what's been announced because it's so different from what we had planned," one person said. "I don't even recognize the game."
All told, it's another hugely disappointing tale to hear about a game studio where abuse and toxicity seems rife, especially when the next game their creating seems to be so very open-minded and progressive.
We get it, everyone likes free stuff. Especially when that happens to be a complimentary copy of Star Wars Battlefront 2 with no strings attached (and the Celebration Edition, no less!).
Still, no one could have predicted just how many would jump on Epic's Battlefront 2 giveaway. According to the game's publisher EA, more than 19 million claimed a free copy between January 14th and January 21st.
More than 19M PLAYERS got #StarWarsBattlefrontII from the Epic Game Store promo!Thank you so much for the continued support, even after our final content drop! We'll watch your careers with great interest! May the Force be with you, troopers! pic.twitter.com/fC4A92HLNN
— EA Star Wars (@EAStarWars) January 25, 2021
It's a landmark feat to say the least. A month after the game's launch back in November 2017, EA reported that the sequel had sold 9 million copies, falling short of their 10 million forecast.
Epic's seven day giveaway offered a free copy of the game to anyone via the Epic Games Store. Although 19 million is a lot of copies, we don't have exact figures to indicate Star Wars Battlefront 2's online player count and how that has been effected. That said, the influx of new players forced EA and DICE to take the game down for maintenance as they fought to increase server capacity.
Last year, Star Wars Battlefront 2 saw a major content drop with its Scarif update in April. This followed the previous Age of Rebellion update as well as cosmetic DLC for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Scarif was confirmed to be the game's final expansion. EA and DICE will continue to support the sequel through regular community events though fans shouldn't expect to see any new maps, modes, or playable characters added.
In other Star Wars gaming news, Ubisoft and Massive Entertainment (The Division) are working on Star Wars game after EA gave up exclusive rights to the license. Meanwhile, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order finally got a technical upgrade for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. We also received word of a Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic sequel, too.
In 2019, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout started a strong new chapter in the decades-running alchemy-themed Atelier JRPG series. A new creative team brought a fresh approach to the series, with Atelier Ryza introducing a charming new protagonist, a renewed narrative focus, and one of the most inventive RPG battle systems I've ever experienced. Atelier Ryza broke ground for the series in a lot of ways, and the changes paid off – it outsold every other entry in the series.
Typically, a new year brings us a new Atelier title with a completely different protagonist and setting that are only loosely tied to the events of the previous game. For the first time in series history, though, we've got a returning protagonist and a direct sequel in the form of this year's Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy.
A lot of what made the first Atelier Ryza so memorable was the all-too-relatable story of a group of young friends each trying to find themselves and discover their passions in life. Atelier Ryza 2 takes place three years after Ryza and her friends have wrapped up their soul-searching adventure, but this time the driving force behind Ryzas journey is just as relatable: stagnation. While most of her pals ended up leaving their small island home to pursue bigger and better things, Ryza stayed behind to continue training in alchemy. After years of the same small-town routine, though, she feels stuck. With no clear path forward, an opportunity presents itself as a local resident asks Ryza to investigate a strange gemstone that's been in his family for generations.
So Ryza sets out to the massive royal capital Ashra-am Baird to reunite with her friends and begin searching for answers to this gemstone mystery, while also grappling with how different life is in the big city. The Atelier series has often explored the idea of leaving familiar surroundings for new and incredibly unfamiliar ones, but Atelier Ryza 2 once again manages to mingle its anime fantasy story with all too realistic parallels to everyday life that make it so much more engaging. Ryza and her friends learn that money makes moves in the big city, and while a change of scenery can provide freedom and new experiences, it's also a test of who you are as a person and how you tackle being responsible for yourself for the first time ever.
Of course, mixed in with these realistic themes are the typical mystical mysteries and alchemic adventures the series is known for. Ryza and her friend Tao discover a handful of ancient ruins in the surrounding areas, with plenty of secrets to uncover within them. Hunting down these ancient mysteries is actually incorporated into the overworld exploration with a refreshing new Compass of Recollection tool. As you explore ruins, fighting enemies and gathering alchemy materials, you can also discover things like Memory Vestiges and Ruin Fragments that, when properly pieced together in your journal, will divulge information on what went down in each of these abandoned areas.
Hunting for memories adds a fresh new layer to environment exploration, but there are even more layers thanks to new environment exploration tools you can craft. Ropes that let you swing across gaps, underwater breathing devices, and even rideable creatures that let you dig for new types of materials all help Atelier Ryza 2 feel like a major step up from its predecessors. There was a taste of this in the previous game, when harvesting tools like axes and sickles allowed you to reap new types of materials from familiar harvesting spots, but hunting for ancient memories adds an archaeological spin to exploration that is so unlike anything else in the series. The new environment exploration tools help make every environment feel even more natural and fully realised.
You aren't just grabbing flowers and reading ghost diaries when you're out and about, you'll also be encountering plenty of enemies, and when you do, you're in for one of the most exciting forms of RPG combat I've ever experienced. Atelier Ryza introduced a fast and frenetic combat system that kept you on your toes at all times and things haven't changed much in the sequel.
Every character and creature in a battle acts as soon as their turn comes up in the progress bar, and as time rolls on or your team perform attacks, you accumulate AP that you can spend to dish out special attacks. You can swap between characters at will and, if you time things and save AP wisely, chain together lengthy onslaughts of attacks and abilities that leave your enemy absolutely flattened. It's not a significant change over the last game, but there are some slight improvements to how equipped items work, as well as a new system that lets you chain together special attacks if you have enough AP.
Alchemy in Atelier Ryza 2 also works similar to how it did in the previous game. Crafting a new item sees you plugging materials into a grid of connected spheres, with each sphere feeding into a certain property of the item and, if you explore far enough into the grid, unlocking new kinds of item recipes for you. There's a new skill point system that lets you spend points earned from alchemizing to unlock familiar recipes from the last game, but the recipe tree exploration will be how you unlock many new items in the end-game. For players who only engage with the alchemy moderately, it's a fluid and interesting experience, but the minor qualms and clunkiness that affected advanced alchemy from the first game persist in the sequel.
While combat and alchemy are pretty familiar and recognizable, it's worth mentioning the impressively updated visuals of Atelier Ryza 2. A lot of characters and environments, especially protagonist Ryza, sport sharper textures and softer shadows that are an impressive jump forward, even on PS4. Improved lighting effects, rippling surface water, and more environmental details add an astounding amount of depth to the experience that really stands out when you compare it to how the previous game looked. Of the many visual upgrades, the constant use of depth-of-field ends up being the only misfire – at times it adds some beauty to the scene, but it often ends up obscuring your surroundings a bit too much.
Are you one of the four people on the planet as ferociously invested in cult PS1 classic Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain as I? If so, I have riotous, alarming news: exploring the first few hours of King Arthur: Knight's Tale took me right back to those blocky, sprite-laden days in some very exciting ways.
There's a few immediate parallels. The isometric perspective, the dank crypts, the bloody swordplay. All superb, no doubt, but none baked my nostalgia muffins at such a scarily perfect temperature as Knight's Tale's voice acting and script. Just like Blood Omen, The tone is thick with fancy lad gloom and baroque, tights-wearing dread. Just like Blood Omen, endearing delivery and deft penmanship make it all very entertaining.
We'll start with the protagonist, Sir Mordred, whose chunky, spiked armour makes him look somewhere between a chaos space marine and a Todd McFarlane action figure. I watched the luxurious, dark fantasy intro cinematic, and I was 100% prepared for Mordred to choke a painfully edgy soliloquy out of a hideously scarred voicebox.
But no! He's well spoken and actually a bit sassy too. He calls the first enemy he meets "lad", which pleased me a great deal. He's not even particularly aggressive, just a bit sadistic and disdainful. He has a whiff of the stoic turbowanker about him, but he's eloquent about it. He's Kain, basically, but he's actually on my screen, rather than being lost to the deepest pits of development hell.
I am, admittedly, being unduly selfish with my praise here. King Arthur: Knight's Tale has more going for it than just appealing to own very specific personal nostalgia. The meat of the experience is turn-based combat which is more reminiscent of Divinity: Original Sin 2 to me. There's back stabs and opportunity attacks, armour points with squishy flesh health points underneath, and action points that can either be spent or converted for the next term. There's also a melee overwatch system which is, dare I say, neato.
It's solid enough, basically. It's made better by some Goldilocks-length attack animations that don't sacrifice any of their chunkiness either. So many turn based systems seem to overlook the importance of keeping things moving at a steady clip, and Knight's Tale really shines here. You can also fast forward through most of the animations, if you're a caffeine-addled hooligan with no appreciation for the finer things, like a big axe hitting a big man in big armour.
The game currently caps your party at level four, so even though the foundations are solid, there's no telling if and how the combat will evolve into something that stays entertaining for the long haul. We've seen games like Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and Gears Tactics upend genre conventions in some fantastic ways, so I'm hoping the later stages of Knight's Tale throws some curve balls. You recruit a lady archer early on who looks like she's got the sort of abilities that let her chain kills together, so the foundations may well be there for some more complex action-chains later on. We'll see!
Missions themselves are CRPG-type isometric affairs where you bumble through maps, find treasure, trigger party conversations, and fight battles. Sometimes you find shrines that either help or hinder your party. There are also bonfires scattered about that restore health and armour. You can take a few healing items with you, but they're initially very limited and expensive, so managing party health over the course of an entire map is another concern.
Perhaps the aspect least explored in the current build is the town management, which lets you use the resources you get from missions to rebuild Camelot. Think Darkest Dungeon, with healers, shops, taverns and the like. There are some roguelike elements that aren't properly explained – permadeath and lack of manual save – and you seem to be able to use these buildings to heal wounded party members and recruit new ones. Again, the current build doesn't really do a great job of laying this out for you.
There's also a morality system which, at the risk of sounding like a broken record – or, uh, a ferociously mauled bard – is another victim of the vertical slice-nature of the current build. It's hard to get a real feel for how it affects things. The choices themselves seem fairly telegraphed, but there's also the option to roleplay through in-mission dialogue trees. The few decisions I made were relatively binary, but the writing seems to work hard to justify both paths, so it gets a nice biscuit anyway.
So, praise all around then, and I guess that means you should purchase it immediately, right? Well, maybe not. It took me a fair few restarts to actually make any progress, during which time I suffered a broken camera, broken progression, treasure chests not opening properly, and a few more bushels of assorted Early Access jank. When things did get going, it was generally smooth, but I can't fully recommend jumping in until the first round of big patches get rolled out. I also had some save issues, and I'm not sure how much this was down to intentional roguelike restrictions, and how much was just bugs and glitches. So, proceed with caution.
That aside though, did I mention how much King Arthur: Knight's Tale reminded me of PS1 classic Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain? Did I also mention that I love PS1 classic Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain? I might just end up loving King Arthur: Knight's Tale too.
Our biggest gripe with Hitman 3 (and the reboot trilogy in general) is the need to connect to the game's online servers to access a number of key features.
During Hitman 3's launch week, players have experienced frustrating connection failed messages with servers occasionally going offline. Sadly, it's a common occurrence when it come to releasing a game that feature online multiplayer or requires an online connection.
If you've been playing Hitman 3 then there's a good chance you've been stopped in the middle of mission, an in-game notification informing you that you've been disconnected from the servers. Can you still play Hitman 3 offline? The short answer is yes, though it comes with a number of compromises. In a nutshell you can still play through every main mission though any career progress won't be saved.
Firstly, you won't receive a mission score when completing a level in Hitman. The summary screen won't display a star rating for your performance, nor will you earn any experience points.
Perhaps more crucially, playing offline will prevent you from completing challenges. This effectively stops you from gaining Mastery XP and means you won't be able to unlock new loadout options such as weapons, tools, hidden stashes, agency pickups, and starting locations.
When the Hitman 3 servers are offline, you also lose access to three of its biggest game modes. Sniper Assassin missions are unplayable, as are player-made Contracts. Although IO Interactive have yet to add any Elusive Targets to the game, these will also disappear if you encounter a connection failure.
Thankfully, going offline doesn't restrict your access to content from both Hitman and Hitman 2. You'll still be able to play any story mission and location from the trilogy (as long as you've already redeemed them in Hitman 3).
Hopefully IO Interactive will one day update Hitman 3 with a workaround though it seems unlikely for now.
Hitman 3 Guides & more from TheSixthAxis
- Hitman 3 Review
- Hitman 3 Guide – best loadout options
- Hitman 3 Guide – 10 essential tips you need to know
- Hitman 3 Mastery unlocks guide
What makes the best in Hitman 3 loadout ultimately depends on what you are trying to achieve in a mission. Certain challenges will be much easier to complete if you bring the correct tools for the job with some gear/weapon combos being ideal for speed runs or attempting to clear a mission with a Silent Assassin ranking.
It's worth noting that there are some items that can only be accessed by adding them to your inventory during the planning phase of a mission. Many of these are weapons or pieces of gear are awarded to players for achieving a certain Mastery Rank in a location. It goes without saying that some of the Hitman trilogy's best loadout options require some Mastery grinding.
We've listed our go-to loadout options for playing Hitman 3, what they do, and where to unlock them.
Hitman 3 – best loadout options
Available straight off the bat and essential for your first run of a new location. Eliminates the time spent searching a map for keys or stealing them from unconscious guards. Using a lockpick is an illegal action so make sure no one's looking during the act.
Where to unlock: Paris, Bangkok, Colorado, Hokkaido, Mumbai, Dartmoor, Berlin, Mendoza, Carpathian Mountains
Next to Agent 47's Fiber Wire, the Silverballer silenced pistol is another series icon. In the Hitman World of Assassination trilogy there are plenty of alternatives available and you'll want to unlock as soon as possible, preferably with the Steady Aim perk for improved accuracy.
Where to unlock: Paris, Marrakesh, Colorado, Hawke's Bay, Mumbai, Whittleton Creek, Berlin
There are several different flavours of explosive found throughout each level in the Hitman trilogy though remote explosives are the most reliable. Unlike environmental explosives such as canisters, you don't need to shoot them, only activate them with a trigger when a target is in range. Most explosive devices will cause alarm if they are spotted so hide them carefully, or use an alternate gadget such as the unsuspecting ICA Explosive Phone found in Bangkok. You can also get your hands on an RFID Triggered Explosive in Santa Fortuna. This will only explode when a tagged individual comes within range.
Where to unlock: Miami, Santa Fortuna
Extremely useful, though only in very specific circumstances. Can be used as a convenient way of knocking out guards from a distance but is primarily used for quick electrocution kills – all you need to do is toss it into a pool of water where your target is standing. There are proximity taser devices also available.
Silent Sniper Rifle
Where to unlock: Colorado, Hokkaido, Isle of Sgail, Haven Island, Chongqing
The Hitman trilogy offers a wide arsenal of sniper rifles but to achieve the best results you'll likely warm towards those which have an attached suppressor. This may reduce the rifle's overall range but is essential for staying undetected. There are a handful of suppressed snipers up for grabs though the Hackl Leviathan is easily the best. Unlocked by hitting Mastery Rank 20 in Chongqing, it has five perks including bullet piercing, being able to slow time, a variable scope, and subsonic noise reduction.
There are three types of poison found in Hitman 3 and previous games, though emetic poison is our favourite. This allows you to manipulate the behaviour of any character, forcing them to locate the nearest bathroom or an isolated space for them to vomit. Ideal for singling out targets, disrupting guard patrols, or removing bodyguards. Poisoning a target will require patience, either tampering with food/drink or administering it via syringe. Unless you happen to have one of the following items in your loadout…
Where to unlock: Haven Island
If you want the best Hitman 3 loadout then you'll need to book a trip to Haven Island. This idyllic resort one of the two DLC locations for Hitman 2 and aside from being a fantastic level, it comes tagged with some brilliant Mastery unlocks. The first of these is the Sieker 1, a pistol that can fire emetic poison darts. You only have a couple of shots though this is the easiest way of poisoning a target discreetly at range. Note that pistols can even be used while scaling ledges, making the Sieker 1 even more versatile.
Remote Emetic Gas Device
Where to unlock: Haven Island
With this device you can poison multiple targets at once which can be extremely useful. Detonated from afar using a trigger device, it will emit a cloud of gas, causing the same effect as your normal emetic poison. However, using this device will require practice. Not only will you need to learn its area of effect, you'll have to be smart when placing it as the gadget will draw attention from guards and other NPCs.
Where to unlock: Colorado, Mumbai, Isle of Sgail, Chongqing
Certain locations (such as Hokkaido) will feature doors that have electronic locks. A key hacker, EMP device, or disposable scrambler can make short work of these without having to hunt around for the correct key cards or security clearance.
Where to unlock: Whittleton Creek
This one's pretty self-explanatory. Loading into a mission with a crowbar already in-hand can save you time searching for one. However, in levels where you already know the layout and item placements well, choose a different tool or weapon for this loadout slot.
Where to unlock: Mendoza
Another fairly straightforward additional to Agent 47's arsenal. A tranquiliser pistol that can put a target to sleep at medium range.
Hitman 3 Guides & more from TheSixthAxis
Brawl Chess sounds like it should be an aggressive take on the everlasting strategy classic, maybe filled with interactive cutscenes where a Bishop smashes the Queen to bits with his sceptre like it's the end of a Harry Potter film. Sadly, that's not the case. No offence to chess, but this is just chess and nothing more.
I think the main issue here is the marketing. The game is marketed as a kid friendly introduction into the world of chess, but the first thing I noticed was the complete lack of tutorials. For people that know how to play, this is obviously going to be fine. For newcomers, not so much. Imagine, an eight years old browsing the Switch store and coming across the cute cartoony graphics of Brawl Chess, or perhaps a parent seeing the same thing and figure it's a perfect introduction to game for their kid, only for them to get into it and be very confused as to how the game works.
You could argue that it's an opportunity for a parent to engage with their child over learning the game, but it remains a really strange omission when something like 51 Worldwide Games manages to include introductory videos and rules explanations for, well… 51 games, and has tutorials to explain chess in particular.
One thing that is handy is that when you select a piece, markers will appear telling you where you can move to. Despite being a solid inclusion, this doesn't make up for a lack of a proper tutorial for a game you really need to understand to be good at. If you already know chess, there's nothing new to learn in Brawl Chess, which is one saving grace, I suppose.
That said, there are some annoying restrictions in place that will hamper some of the veteran players out there. One example is managing to get a Pawn to the other side of the battlefield, seeing that Pawn automatically transformed into a Queen. This is fine in theory, because who doesn't want to do that? But certain specific scenarios can only be won with other promotions, so it would just be nice to have the option to turn it into a Knight, Rook or Bishop instead. The lack of advanced options here is an oversight.
The AI is at least consistent. There are five difficulty levels to choose from with 1 being the recommended level for beginners, and 5 for those who fancy a bit of The Queen's Gambit action.
If the AI is too much for you, there's the option for local multiplayer, which I'm always a champion of. Even better is the fact that it's simply done by detaching the Joy-Con, and away you go. There are different characters you can choose from, however, all but two are locked behind microtransactions, which is one of the most bizarre thing about Brawl Chess. Choosing a different character has no effect on the game whatsoever, they literally just serve as avatars that sit there while you play, and they don't come with any additional chess piece designs or unique mechanics. Sure, it would be controversial to fiddle with the rules of chess, but at the same time, it's poor form to charge for something that would be an unlockable in the vast majority of games.
The game is lacking in content as it is. Aside from just playing a game of chess there is nothing else which is really frustrating. A puzzle mode featuring a number of brain-teasing scenarios is fairly standard for chess video games, and can be found in rivals like Chess Ultra. There's also no online multiplayer option.
Really, the main selling point for Brawl Chess comes down to its cartoon aesthetic. Each piece has a quirky design which is fun to look at, and will help newcomers tell the difference between pieces, some light animation and cartoon fight clouds as one piece takes another. At the same time I can't help but feel this is sending mixed messages, once again, trying to appeal to a younger audience, but doing nothing to help them truly understand the game. If you want a more 'standard' chess experience, you can switch over to a classic look for your pieces, but then there's better options out there if that's what you want.
A remake of Knights of the Old Republic, one of the most celebrated games that has been created in the Star Wars universe, is reportedly in the works. Multiple sources have confirmed this to Star Wars podcast Bespin Bulletin, as well as being corroborated by Bloomberg's Jason Schreier.
Knights of the Old Republic was a hit RPG, set 4,000 years before the events of the Star Wars film series, depicting another galactic war between the Jedi and the Sith.
However, it's not known who is actually making the game. Bespin Bulletin said, "Amongst my digging, I heard there is a Knights of the Old Republic project in development somewhere. I talked to a couple of people, and I also found out that Jason Schreier said that it's not with EA, and we'll 'never guess' who the studio is that's making this game."
Following on from the resurrection of the Lucasfilm Games brand earlier this month, and the beginning of the end for EA's exclusive Star Wars licensing deal (due to conclude in 2023), we've seen a smattering of Lucasfilm-related announcements. First there was Bethesda teasing that Wolfenstein series developer MachineGames is developing an Indiana Jones game, and then it was announced that Ubisoft's Massive Entertainment, the creators of The Division, are working on a new Star Wars game.
Schreier's comments would seemingly rule out a revival at the series' original developer, BioWare – EA acquired BioWare in 2007, a few years after KOTOR was released in 2003. In fairness, BioWare is a very different company now to 18 years ago, and has an uphill struggle to restore their reputation with the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, after the high-profile disappointments of Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem. A third game would be pushing the studio's resources quite far.
Obsidian Entertainment created a well-received sequel, KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords, in 2004, and would surely be a fan favourite studio to handle a reboot, but now being owned by Microsoft and the exclusivity that would entail might be undesirable to Lucasfilm Games, especially when there's already the same question hanging over the Indiana Jones game given Bethesda's pending acquisition by Microsoft.
So who else would have the RPG chops to take on such a task? Well, while it would be a step outside their usual genre, I think the only logical candidate is another former Star Wars game developer: Rovio Entertainment of Angry Birds Star Wars fame.
(My actual guess is Larian Studios, BTW)
The past year has been particularly busy for video games. With a new console generation, countless triple-A releases and the endless ongoing churn of games as a services releases, it can be hard for smaller, independent releases to stand out. Fortunately, every now and again a game like Carto comes along with a genuinely original concept that compels me to check it out.
Carto is a colourful, puzzle adventure game that tasks players with altering the world around them by changing a magical map. Playing as Carto, you travel the world and unlock new pathways by discovering new map pieces and arranging them in the correct order. This fantastic mechanic is backed up by a gorgeous world that sees protagonist Carto visit a number of unique islands.
The main bulk of gameplay is spent figuring out how to traverse the islands that Carto and her travelling companion visit. Using a map based on square grids, you can change and move blocks of the world to create new paths or layouts. Characters within the game world will provide hints on the whereabouts of items or people of interest you need to find, but then it's on you to figure out which way the map should sit.
You can unlock new areas of the map by placing your current tiles in the correct layout, or you can find new map pieces throughout the world. The act of placing the tiles and figuring out which way unlocks the path forward is a lot of fun. It's a simple mechanic that's executed masterfully.
What makes Carto's mechanic so fantastic is how it encourages players to make logical conclusions. One puzzle early on had me trying to make a forest out of three tiles using the outskirts of wooded areas on them. Place them correctly and you will unlock the woods at their centre. The game is filled with these great moments and it really makes you feel like you've been a bit of a clever clogs for solving them.
I've also got to commend the team for how well the mechanic fits in with gameplay. Switching from exploration to the map and back out feels seamless, especially considering you are often completely changing the layout of the world. I'd have liked to see a little more integration with the characters of the world, as they mostly seem pretty oblivious to their surroundings constantly changing places.
Visually Carto has a scrapbook-esque vibe to it with a pastel themed colour palette. Its bold visual design fits the cartography mechanic incredibly well, bringing each island you visit to life. There's also some brilliant visual design elements in Carto as well, with sounds visually represented on screen during puzzles and in-game events. It's a small touch that not only brings you closer to the world, but it's also a significant move for accessibility. The character designs are all colourful and cute, with sprites having an almost Pixar look about them.
It's just a disappointment that the narrative doesn't do more with the mechanic. While the character's and places you visit look great, it doesn't really explore how Carto's map could have affected these people. The narrative simply doesn't match up to the excellent world-shifting mechanic, which is a shame as an equally fantastic story would have elevated Carto into something really special. The game does also suffer with some repetititon in later areas, as it never fully explores the map shifting mechanics to their full potential.