Five Things We Want From Diablo IV

Over the weekend, Blizzard finally revealed the latest chapter of its Diablo series with the long-awaited Diablo IV. It was an announcement that was reportedly set for last year, but the company apparently changed their minds at the last minute, opting to speak about Diablo Immortal for mobile instead. This year, though, was all about the sequel.

After presenting a new cinematic trailer, introducing the powerful Lilith into the fold, Blizzard provided a sneak peek into the gameplay. Though it’s still a work in progress, it does look like a promising evolution from Diablo III and its Eternal Collection add-ons.

Even with everything that was revealed over the weekend, there are still a few questions left about the experience that the game will bring. With that, we’ve gathered a few queries that we wouldn’t mind getting answered, though it’ll likely be a bit before Blizzard provides answers. Still, there’s always room for more information to circle around next year, right?

Let’s get started with a good one.

What other classes could come to the world of Diablo IV?

So far, three classes have been revealed for Diablo IV. There’s the Sorceress, who utilizes magical abilities and can combine them together to take down enemies, including lightning, fire and more. There’s the Barbarian, who utilizes a number of weapons to smash enemies, as well as quick, brutal strength to make his attacks count. Finally the Druid, who can not only summon special attacks from the elements (different from the Sorceress), but also transform into powerful animals, such as a bear or a wolf.

These are great classes that show off some of Diablo IV’s diverse gameplay, but it makes us wonder what others Blizzard could have in store for the game. Obviously it’s not saying yet, but keep in mind that it added new classes to Diablo III as time went on, including the Necromancer and Crusader.

So what possibilities are there? A number, actually. Along with the possible return of the Necromancer, there’s also the Paladin, the Amazon and the Monk. And they don’t all have to be entirely action oriented, either. Someone like the Witch Doctor would probably be a greatly balanced character here.

More than likely, we won’t find out who else will join this party until sometime in 2020, as the game gets closer to completion. Blizzard did say it was a long way off, but the idea that the cast can really get “out there” with a number of key additions has us hungry for more.

Will Diablo IV ever shift away to an offline world?

Previous Diablo games usually provided the option to play with others offline, though the appeal of joining an online group is always there. But with Diablo IV, the developers are taking a different route. Though you still have the option to play on your own if you prefer, you’ll need to have a consistent online connection in order to take part in the game’s experience.

Whether this will remain permanent, no one’s for sure. But it sounds like that’s the mantra Blizzard is going for, so others can join in the experience at any time — if you prefer, that is.

During the BlizzCon panel that took place during the show, lead designer Angela Del Priore made it clear why this choice was made.

“We are not going to support an offline mode. But, as I said before, nothing in Diablo IV is going to require partying up. You can play solo and dungeons are private. Campaign quest areas will (also) remain private.”

So that about covers that. It won’t be an option unless Blizzard’s team changes its mind in the future. But at least the ability to play on your own will still be there, so the Diablo world will still be your oyster. Just make sure you have a strong enough connection to keep up with this world, yeah?

How much will the open-world design affect Diablo fans?

In the past, Diablo players usually had to follow a structure with acts in order to make progress within each game. However, the team felt that Diablo IV should come with the changes needed to become more effective. As a result, there’s more of an open-world structure.

The designers call this a “contiguous” open-world, as the five regions within the world will remain fully connected to one another. This time around, the players can explore them however they see fit, having to deal with everything from varying weather effects to exploring the “hundreds” of dungeons that are available within the game.

Players can take on the content any way they see fit, or they can also go through the story in a general manner, which will suit some Diablo fans. It’s nice to have options for those that will tackle it.

For open-world, could it be too much for Diablo fans to bear? The answer is no, as the game is designed to take advantage of it, rather than making it a drag-out affair like some games that call for a grind. There are still towns to visit, which double as social hubs, and world events will pop up, with you (and potentially other players) taking on viable threats that (almost) appear out of nowhere. There’s also PvP, for players who prefer good old-fashioned combat.

So Diablo IV will retain something old, but also something new — which should cover the bases for fans, newcomers and even MMO lovers alike. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how it all unfolds once the game is done with development.

Will the game feature any kind of crossplay support?

Blizzard surprisingly announced that Diablo IV isn’t just coming to the PC front. It’s also coming to consoles, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 confirmed for the time being. That means console and laptop/desktop owners alike will be able to enjoy everything that the game has to offer.

There’s still a question regarding its support of cross-play. After all, more and more titles are doing it now, such as the just-released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, as well as other hits like Rocket League. Being able to play with others, regardless of platform, would be a real trip for players. Alas, Blizzard had to let them down lightly. At least, for the moment.

When asked about the possibility, lead lighting artist Sean Murphy explained during the recent BlizzCon panel, “We have nothing to announce with cross-play, but that is a topic we are interested in.”

So the team didn’t entirely brush it off the table, but there’s nothing set yet. More than likely, Blizzard is interested in just getting the game done first, then considering what it’ll do in terms of online support. At the very least, PC owners will be able to connect with one another; and subscribers to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network can do the same with their respective consoles as well.

It’s a big task. Considering that Diablo IV is put together with a massive open-world structure, creating an online universe that caters to all consoles and PC’s, connected together, is a lot to ask. The possibility is there, and the team will likely look into all options before it confirms the best way to go with it.

For now, it never hurts to keep a good, steady friend list of Diablo devotees on hand. Who knows, they’re probably still playing Eternal Collection as you read this.

How will players be able to skill up properly in Diablo IV?

Both skills and talents will play a huge part in the world of Diablo IV, and players can actually decide how these all come together as they gain experience.

First up, each class once again comes with six different skill types. As before with Diablo III, you can actually choose multiple skills of the same type, rather than having to divvy them up into groups based on different types. You can still level up individual skills however you see fit, making them more powerful or potent, depending on how effectively you hit enemies. It’s a pretty sweet way to go, with a number of possibilities depending on class and the abilities you want to rank up.

As for the talent trees for each individual class, they’re huge. With each tier that you unlock, you’re able to acquire one or more talents, diversifying your character’s abilities in a number of ways. For instance, with the Barbarian, you can increase his speed to make him more effective with quick attacks; or try out Concussion and boost damage on certain foes. Those are just two of the options available; and there are less limitations here, as you can choose how you rank up accordingly. No more having to start at the top and whittle away — the choices appear to be much better with Diablo IV.

There are also Legendary items that play a part as well, and though Blizzard didn’t break these down entirely just yet, they sound like they could mix things up even further, keeping leveling up much more interesting and not so much a “grind” to make progress.

It all sounds a bit elaborate, but once you choose a class and really open up what you can do with your character, it’ll make more sense. You’ll be able to build a true bad-ass that might be able to stand up against Lilith in the long run, depending on your choices, obviously.

Bonus Question: Is there a release date?

Now comes the million dollar question — when will players be able to enjoy Diablo IV for themselves? Well, not for some time.

Like the also-announced Overwatch 2, Blizzard didn’t have a specific release date for the newest chapter of the series. They noted that it’s still “currently in development,” though fans that went hands-on with the game were pleased by the progress being made on it so far. So, at the very least, the team is deep in development, indicating that it may be further along than they’re letting on.

The platforms that were confirmed indicates that it may not be too far off for this generation. PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC were all confirmed for Diablo IV, and not a word was said about the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Scarlett, both of which will make their way to market sometime in holiday 2020. So we could see the game release in 2020, though that’s not near final.

Regarding the potential of next-gen consoles, executive producer Allen Adham noted, “We don’t have anything specific to announce with regards to next-gen consoles right now, but you bet we have our eye on them.”

Diablo has taken the multi-console release before. Both Diablo III and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls made their way to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, before the experience eventually came to Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch with the Eternal Collection. So a possible repeat instance could happen here, with XB1 and PS4 getting ports of the game at first, but then Xbox Scarlett and PS5 getting a “definitive edition” down the road, with all their content included in one convenient package.

So, for the moment, fans are waiting. And they’ll likely continue to do so over the next few months, as development moves on with Diablo IV. But it has made progress; and its announced platforms indicate that it may not be too far off when it comes to release. We’ll just have to wait and see what Blizzard has in mind once the project gets close to completion. Hopefully, it won’t be BlizzCon 2020 when we find out its fate. Fingers crossed.

What questions do you have regarding the next chapter in the Diablo franchise? Let us know!

 

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Metal Revolution Preview: Them Fighting Robots

Back in August, I reviewed a fighting game called Fantasy Strike. It’s an old-school type of brawler from the team at Sirlin Games. Even though it doesn’t quite possess the pizzazz of other top-notch fighting games on the market, such as Dragon Ball FighterZ or Tekken 7, it has its own sense of appeal between its old-school style controls and cast of characters. That same niche was present when I tried out NEXT Studios’ Metal Revolution, which is set to trade paint on consoles and PC sometime next year.

The developers let me dig in for a few matches, and I was quite impressed by what I came across. Let’s break down what makes the game tick so far…

A Unique Batch of Robo-Characters

Like the fan favorite Rising Thunder before it, Metal Revolution thrives with a cast of (mostly) robotic characters, including some that bring entirely unique personas and attack styles to the game.

For instance, there’s Miyamoto Ren, a robot that’s dressed in a 1930’s style hat, shirt and tie. However, he’s built with a very agile frame, and also wields a samurai sword. The combination of his smooth physique and sharp blade provide a combination that some players are sure to love.

Those who prefer something a little on the “big and burly” side may want to see what Ted Graham brings to the table. This robot features a build that’s like a combination of a football player and a knight, complete with a helmet with a grill covering its face. Its large frame makes it slightly slower than the smaller characters, but all the more powerful.

On top of that, there are some other oddball characters that stand out in this group. There’s a Monkey King-style robot that’s quite agile and able to perform devastating maneuvers with its staff, an insect-style bot that can use its arms to carve up the competition with combos, and even a nun. That’s right, a heavily armed nun that doesn’t look like she’ll be sitting down to take confessions anytime soon. Sadly, we weren’t able to see her in action yet, but she probably has an interesting story that’ll intrigue a few fighting fans out there.

Overall, the cast has about ten characters, though there’s a possibility that more will be added to the game, depending on its popularity. These characters bring different weapons and attack methods with them, making each one a treat to perfect. Hopefully, NEXT will give us a taste of what’s to come with a demo before the game’s release.

Characters and Modes For Everyone

With each combatant in Metal Revolution, NEXT Studios maintains a proper balance across six key areas – power, range, health, technique, mobility and energy break. Though some may be lacking in certain areas, they make up for it in others, forcing the player to perfect what they can do in order to properly score a victory with the fight.

Fortunately, the gameplay that this game possesses allows that with ease. A training mode enables the player to learn the ropes with each of the systems, which we’ll break down a little further below. But once they’re set to go, a number of options are available.

For those who  prefer a good solo battle, there’s Arcade Mode. Here, you’ll test out a string of opponents before finally completing your journey. Anyone that plays fighting games should instantly see what this mode is about.

On top of that, there’s also Friend mode and local mode. These two are perfect for offline battles, and a nice feature to dig into when you want to take on a buddy on the couch. Here, you can just hop into a fight and see how you fare against others. There’s also an option to use your precious fighting controllers, if you have a special one you yearn to use.

Then we get to the real thick of the action, which are Metal Revolution’s online offerings. Here, you can choose from a number of available modes and see how you fare against others. There’s Quick Match, which is simply hopping into the next available fight that’s on hand. This is ideal for those that don’t want to worry about ranking or anything like that, and just want a brawl-a-thon, so to speak.

Then there’s Arena. This is probably the most fulfilling mode of the game thus far. It’s a “ranked” mode, so there’s a certain challenge to overcome opponents. However, if you’re game to do so and manage to score a victory, you’ll earn a number of bonuses. NEXT didn’t break these down yet, but more than likely, they’ll be skins or other goodies that you can use over your next fights. No, nothing that will give you a huge advantage – but at the very least, you’ll look cool.

So between the online and offline stuff, Metal Revolution has a whole lot to offer players. Whether more modes will be added as the game goes on isn’t confirmed just yet, but we can totally see NEXT stacking this deck as, again, the game grows within the fighting community.

 

A Combat System You Can Build Upon

Like Fighting Strike before it, Metal Revolution builds upon a very effective fighting system, one that stands out from the Tekkens and Mortal Kombats of the world. Players of all skill sets can dig in and find lots of good stuff here, no matter which character they end up using. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable with a few things.

First, there’s a jump button, but combined with the rest of the control scheme, this actually works in the game’s favor. Instead of having to worry about regulating the move to an analog stick and putting yourself in an odd position, you can simply tap the button and prepare for an incoming attack – or guard, just in case your opponent has something vicious planned once you land.

That leads us to the combat. This is relatively easy to get into, thanks to Metal Revolution’s control scheme. It’s simple to put together combos with your strike moves, no matter your skill set. I was able to chain together a couple of good ones with Miyamoto Ren by the time my second match rolled around. That shows how you can get in right off the bat, even if you’re a player that’s not entirely skilled.

As you dig deeper into Metal Revolution, some cool new systems come into play. For instance, blocking actually goes the extra mile. Rather than just protecting you from incoming hits, you can actually turn it around into a parry and land one of several defensive moves on an opponent. This could turn around the tempo of the match almost instantly, depending if you can catch someone on guard quickly enough.

This is a system that may take a little patience. I was walked through it by one of NEXT’s reps, and I didn’t necessarily “nail” it the first time. However, by my second match, again, I was able to adapt, and soon we were turning reversals on one another back and forth. It’s a terrific game of “give and take,” if you will, and well worth practicing if you’ve got the endurance to stick it out.

Like any good fighting game, Metal Revolution also comes with Ultimates. Here, you can charge up a super attack and, provided you hit your opponent in just the right spot, unleash a devastating finisher that can easily leave them laying. They’re not fatalities, mind you, but they are cool little moves that unfold in a blinding flash, adding some flair to the proceedings. So time these just right and watch the sparks fly. Literally.

Don’t Be Fooled, This Revolution Looks Good

Even though Metal Revolution isn’t quite considered a AAA brawler, like SoulCalibur VI, there’s no question that NEXT Studios is putting together quite an effort with it. As you can see from the trailer below, the robots look impressive when it comes to their animations; and even the backgrounds have a certain flair to them, from an underground robot fighting club  to a cool city scape, where the lights actually dim as you or your opponent land a brutal Ultimate.

There are also some terrific lighting effects that align with the system. For instance, when you’re successfully blocking an opponent, you’ll see a blue glow around your character with each hit that bounces off. However, when you parry, the light suddenly turns green, giving you an indication that it’s time to hit back. These little things can make quite a difference in the heat of combat, so pay close attention. They might just turn the tide for you.

 

What’s On the Horizon

Along with a large cast of characters, strong gameplay system and unlockable goods, NEXT has promised that it will add more battle modes in the future. It hasn’t detailed what these are just yet, but don’t be surprised if variations of other modes from other hit fighting games make their debut.

For that matter, additional skins are in the works, along with more stages for players to check out. It’s up in the air whether or not new characters will join the party. It totally depends how well received the current ones are. Keep in mind these aren’t just pretty robot faces. They all have a fascinating back-story, as players can see how they connect with one another and what drives them to be in this fighting tournament. Tell you what, I want to learn more about that fighting nun.

Robot Fightin’ Stars Next Year

Metal Revolution is still in development over at NEXT, set for an unspecified release sometime in 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. The studio will announce when it’s ready to go, but judging by my time with it thus far, they’ve got something decidedly old-school on their hands and there are going to be a lot of people that will get into that.

We’ll check back in as progress is made, but in the meantime, keep an eye on these guys. They’re ready for the Revolution to be televised.

 

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Predator: Hunting Grounds Hands-On – If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It

Multiplayer games based on thriller franchises are gaining all sorts of traction lately. Dead by Daylight has seen everyone from Evil Dead’s Ash to Scream’s Ghost Killer to Halloween’s Michael Myers enter the fray. Let’s also not forget about Friday the 13th: The Game, which recently debuted on the Nintendo Switch with solid results. Now the team behind that latter effort, Illfonic, is hard at work on its next cinematic multiplayer title based on the Predator franchise.

Well, let’s be more specific here. Predator: Hunting Grounds isn’t based on the entire franchise, since it has nothing to do with Predator 2 or, thankfully, the latest entry in the series, The Predator. Instead, it focuses more on basics, with a set-up akin to the original 1987 film that started it all: John McTiernan’s Predator. Instead of simply making it a solo affair where players can hunt down soldiers with ease, Illfonic has a four-on-one multiplayer approach in mind.

Sony recently provided me the chance to go hands-on with the game, to get an idea of what it’s like. There are two sides to the story here: the Predator, and the poor (yet well-armed) mercenaries that are assigned with the near-impossible task of taking him down.

Setting the Stage

While Predator: Hunting Grounds is inspired by the classic film, it doesn’t take place in the same timeline. Yes, your group is in the jungle and the hunting rules apply. However, it’s set more with modern weaponry, including a number of rifles and other tools you can use to your credit on the human side.

Where the Predator game differs from others is with its pacing. There are some scary moments, like when the Predator eventually collects his “trophies” after cleaning house on a team, but this is more of an Evolve sort of affair rather than the previously mentioned survival games. The Fire Team – four soldiers each with their own roles – find themselves pitted against the intergalactic warrior.

The Mercenary Side

Now, when you’re playing as one of the four human mercenaries, you’ll not just have to contend with the Predator. As you start your mission, it revolves around enemy soldiers in a nearby camp, who will stop at nothing to defend their ground. So your team will begin by taking down these soldiers. By doing this, you’ll alert the Predator to your position and the hunt will essentially begin as a result.

There are a number of objectives that become available with each new start of the game. This includes securing Intel from certain areas of the camp or disabling equipment to avoid back-up being called in. These goals change frequently with each new match, so players won’t simply depend on going to the same spots to get missions completed. That randomization can make all the difference, mixing things up rather nicely.

What’s more, each character seems to have a special role on the human side, including CQB, assault, scout and sharpshooter. Along with certain aspects to each one, this also includes watching the backs of other teammates and getting to a crucial mission point while the others clean house on the AI soldiers. This is a good opportunity to work together as a team and take out the other elements that prove to be threats, before focusing on the real endgame with the Predator.

When it comes to controls, Predator handles like a typical first person shooter. Players can rank up, even as they fail to take down the creature in a tight spot. As a result, you’re able to rank up with weapons, and change your loadout however you see fit. Sometimes different tools may work better, so it doesn’t hurt to experiment. Just don’t dilly-dally too long, or the Predator track you down and take advantage of said distraction.

Enter the Predator

Then there’s the other part of the game, where you get to play as the legendary intergalactic Predator. This feels like a completely different part of Hunting Grounds, thanks to its own unique control set-up and the variety of items available to you.

This portion of the game feels a bit like Assassin’s Creed or Shadow of Mordor. You can keep track of your Predator on-screen at all times and also have a number of options when it comes to hunting down prey. This includes the thermal vision, a trademark from the film, to follow their trail and then turning on invisibility as you’re in hot pursuit. This leaves behind a very faint invisibility figure when you move, making it tougher for the on-ground mercenaries to kill you. It’s still possible for players to make a mistake as the Predator, so maybe watch your step as you keep track of things. Don’t turn off the cloak, stay out of sight, keep tabs, and find your moment to strike within the proper time frame allotted for the match.

There’s something about being able to see what’s happening from a third-person perspective with the Predator. You get a better idea of your surroundings; and what’s more, your aiming system seems a little more open than that of a first-person perspective.

This brings us to the weapons. The Plasmacaster is a great way to blast someone from afar, though it’s likely to give away your position if you fire off too many shots in a stretch. Fortunately, you can also use stealth with your cloaking device and make the kill personal with your wrist blade, which can stab someone and take them down very quickly and quietly, unless they notify their teammates of your position while they go down.

For each kill you score, you’ll earn a skull that you’ll be able to place on your belt. This is a great way to amass a reputation with other players online, but don’t think you’re invincible, because you’re not. As the title mentions above, the Predator can bleed, and it lets out a glowing green ooze that makes it fairly easy for mercenaries to track. If you take damage while playing as this creature, you’ll want to learn how to throw your adversaries off your trail long enough to recover and get back into the killing spirit.

Ah, but then there’s the “one last gasp” approach. Once defeated – or put into a state where the player decides it’s time to die – the mini-nuke can be activated. Like the film, it covers a great distance with a huge explosion, killing the Predator and anyone unfortunate enough to be near it. On a whim, players can set this off if they feel like they’re losing the match, and (provided they can take out the mercenaries that have been hunting after him) they could end up winning after all. There’s a certain blast zone to get out of. So, once activated, anyone playing as the human soldiers needs to run for their lives.

So Which Side Is Better Thus Far?

There’s something to be said about having a good four-player squad hunt after the Predator in Hunting Grounds. If you can work together as a tightly-knit group and figure out your strategies, that means you’ll stand a chance of surviving better and figuring out where to go next, blood trail and all. However, if you’re trying to play the game as a free-for-all, the Predator thrives on that. So maybe watch your step and don’t wander too far from the rest of the group.

As for the Predator, the gameplay feels much better. Instead of first-person controls, you have better adaptability in terms of what you can do with your character. Yes, we love what you can do with the “toys,” from the mini-nuke to the Plasmacaster, but personally, it’s those up-close kills with the wrist-blade that are the best. Assassin’s Creed fans will easily relate to that.

There’s also better opportunity to observe as the Predator while the human soldiers wipe out the dullard AI camps. Not only does this distract them as the Predator tries to figure out the layout, but it also alerts the Predator to where they are, so they can start planning where to attack. Just like in the movie. It’s actually pretty neat, especially if you’re a fan of its approach.

Is It Just the Forest You Battle In?

The one level I got to try out with my hands-on time with Hunting Grounds put me in what was called the “ancient forest.” It’s a terrain that matches that of the original film, so I was happy to see it included. Thus far, Illfonic is doing great stuff with the rendering and animations, not to mention the bloodshed. Considering that these guys took care of Friday the 13th a while back, I knew they wouldn’t hold back on the red stuff.

This is just the beginning. The team explained that a number of maps are available within the game, so there’s a possibility it’ll step outside of the forest. That’s not to confirm whether we’ll see a city level akin to where Predator 2 took place, but it’d be nice to throw in some new territory that poses a challenge to soldiers and the Predator alike. Hopefully we’ll see more of this as the game continues development.

Nailing the Predator

The cool thing about Predator: Hunting Grounds is that, although it’s more fun to play as the hunter in general, it’s cool how tension really builds with a good match. The mercenaries scamper for survival and use whatever weapons and tactics they have on hand to stay in one piece. In turn, the Predator skillfully sets up his attacks, and then finds a way to win the match, even if he’s near death.

That doesn’t mean the team at Illfonic doesn’t know how to have fun with it. The developers captured a good portion of the humor that was included in the 1987 film, including winks to the crowd that remember that piece of film history. Just take a good look at the cassette tape that plays in the “choppa” while the soldiers make their way to the camp, and you’ll get a good idea of what I mean.

Despite the setting sticking close to the first film, Illfonic has promised that it’s working closely with Fox to keep everything canon with the series in general. We’re not sure if that includes The Predator or not, but more than likely, we’ll see even more references to the series. That could possibly include designs of maps that have yet to be introduced, as well as possible characters from the franchise coming back.

Hunting Grounds still has a ways to go before it arrives, but PlayStation owners can expect it sometime in 2020, since it’ll be a published Sony exclusive. It’s still too early to tell just how deep into the lore the Predator game will go, but more than likely, Illfonic will hit on all the right nerves and make it a treat, no matter which side you play on.

For now, this looks to be another fun multiplayer romp. We’ll see how it shapes up over the next few months. In the meantime…maybe watch your step the next time you’re in a jungle, yeah? Who knows what kind of fierce creature could be watching from that tree branch above.

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Interview: Elder Scrolls Online’s Creative Director Talks About What’s Next

This coming winter, the current Season of the Dragon taking place in The Elder Scrolls Online will come to its conclusion with the Dragonhold expansion. Recently, Bethesda offered us a chance to get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of its current Elsweyr chapter, and a hint of things to come with the concluding expansion.

Elsweyr introduces a whole new zone for players to explore, along with a questline jam-packed with main and side missions and a number of new challenges. Additional mechanics will also be introduced. On top of that, players will also get to experience a new update to the general game before Dragonhold arrives, filled with fixes and Twitch Drops for consoles.

To get a better idea of what’s happening with the new Elsweyr add-on, and a bit of Dragonhold, we got a chance to sit down with the game’s creative director, Rich Lambert, during a recent stop at Bethesda’s presentation at PAX West.

First off, he had some sage advice for those that are hopping into this world, since there’s a lot to explore here. “With Elsweyr specifically, we have a brand new zone. It is northern Elsweyr, which is focused on Khajiit and their culture. There’s a brand new class in the Necromancer, and then, dragons – that’s the big one. Fight and kill dragons.”

He then talked about the effort that the team puts into adding additional content into an already overflowing game like Elder Scrolls, between Elsweyr and Dragonhold. “One of the first things that (game director) Matt and I do, we sit down and we talk about, you know, where haven’t we been, where we would like to go, what types of stories we want to tell. We settle in on kind of one word to help reinforce to the team what it is we’re looking for. 

“So, with Elsweyr in particular, the word we chose was ‘revenge.’ So this whole year of story content that we’re telling is all around ‘revenge.’ It starts with the big bad dragon getting his revenge for being locked up in the Halls of Colossus.”

Lambert then touched upon the latest class to be introduced into the world of Elder Scrolls Online. “The Necromancer is centered around the manipulation of mortal souls,” he explained. “So that’s their thing, raising the undead, you know, using kind of blood magic, that kind of stuff. And they’re different than our other classes, because they’re focused on kind of being a battlefield commander. 

“They get powered up by using corpses, so their style of gameplay is not just you and your target; it’s you, your target and the environment around there, and how you can position your target next to a corpse to get more power.”

Then we got into the Dragonhold expansion, which we were able to catch a quick glimpse of with some gameplay. We didn’t get a chance to kill a dragon during that time, but Lambert told us not to feel bad about it – apparently there’s a lot of work that goes into taking one down. This isn’t Skyrim.

Lambert said, “That’s one of the biggest things we tried to do in terms of differentiating us from Skyrim. So in Skyrim, you were the Dovahkiin. You had this tool set to be able to go one-on-one against a dragon. In our timeline, in Elder Scrolls Online, there is no Dovahkiin. We don’t have that toolset; and so, you have to rely on your friends to help you take these things down.”

He recommends making sure such friends are in place, as this won’t be a conquerable fight by yourself. “It’s very difficult to solo,” Lambert said with a laugh.

Then he talked about a “big” feature that will be coming later in the year to Elder Scrolls Online. “With Dragonhold, that is the southern portion of Elsweyr. The storyline is focused on the Dragonguard, and kind of putting the band back together. The Dragonguard are the precursor to the Blades, so they are an elite force of dragon hunters.

“The storyline is focused on a dragon cult and this prophecy that they’re trying to fulfill,” Lambert continued. “And, if you complete that content, and you complete the Elsweyr content and unlock a series of quests that allow you to kind of put a cap on the entire year and the story that we’ve been telling.” In other words, the more of the game you complete, the closer you get to the endgame that the team is going for.

It sounds like fans of Elder Scrolls are in for a treat this year, and Lambert took a moment to thank them. “That’s the goal, our community is a huge part of what we do,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t get to do what we do, so events like this is our way of bringing them in, getting them down, getting to spend some one-on-one time with them, and saying, ‘Hey, we’re here, we love you all.”

Elsweyr officially launched back in June, and players can explore its world now. As for the Dragonhold update, it’ll arrive sometime later this year, though a date hasn’t been given yet.

Elder Scrolls Online is available now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Big thanks to Bethesda for having us down at the event!

The post Interview: Elder Scrolls Online’s Creative Director Talks About What’s Next appeared first on MMOGames.com.

Destiny’s Sword Hands-On: A Certain Balance To the Universe

If you’re a fan of games that take a unique turn in storytelling, chances are you might have heard of 2Dogs Games’ Destiny’s Sword. We profiled the game back in April when we spoke with the company’s CEO, Ken Hall, about what made its approach so different from the others. A majority of that comes down to feeling.

It’s not just a matter of how a character is enraged in battle but instead how emotions can actually play a part in victory or defeat. At the time, Hall explained that characters can “suffer PTSD, anxiety, depression or addiction depending upon what happens in combat and on their unique background and personalities.” That can make a difference on the battlefield, because if someone enters in a bad state, it’s going to show with his or her actions. And that’s bad news if you’re already overwhelmed with enemies.

To give us a better idea of how this plays out over the course of the game, Hall and his team invited us to go hands-on with a new demo of Destiny’s Sword during PAX West 2019. Needless to say, there are layers to this game that fans are sure to appreciate, provided they take the time to dig deep and actually make a difference for their squad. If “instant action” is for you, then this game may not be a fit. However, if you’re looking to push the emotional gamut and watch its effects over the course of this adventure, this will suit you.

 

The Nature of Tactics

We’ll get to balancing squads in a moment. But in general, Destiny’s Sword is built upon the general rules of tactical combat. You’ll enter into a fight against a number of opponents, with your team on one side and theirs on another. It’s up to you to decide how you want attacks to go down, both with your general abilities on your team and a series of special cards, which appear at the bottom of the screen.

These skill cards are random, but each of them has different effects, depending how they play out. For instance, there are some heals that can be useful when your squad is running low on energy, even if it costs you a crucial turn as a result. There are also offense-based cards that you can use, like a burst damage strike that sends a laser firing down within the range of certain enemies. If you’re sharp enough with your aim, you can hit multiple foes at once with this and really make a difference.

You’ll want to use these cards sparingly, as their effects can make all the difference between victory and defeat. Keeping tabs on how your team’s energy lies can really be crucial here. But just understand, you’re going to face defeat at times. Situations sometimes have you overwhelmed by a tougher squad, and sometimes you can’t help that. That said, you can make decisions to try and make things up for the next time around. And that’s where the next factor of gameplay comes in.

 

Taking Care of Your Team

Destiny’s Sword has an emotional layer that few games don’t dare to touch, mainly because they’re so concerned with how the results will play out with some characters. However, 2Dogs has a system that plays out remarkably, at least based on the time we spent with the demo.

There are conversations you’ll have with crew mates over the course of the game. They won’t stay with you forever. They’ll last several battles before deciding to call it quits, either to move on to better things or simply having enough with losing, depending how you let things play out. It’s up to you to try and keep up their morale in a number of ways.

For example, I came across a very bad loss against a much superior team early on in the game. As a result, my team was crushed, with the captain accepting most of the blame. He proposed throwing a party to let people know how important they are, even though there was a slight risk when it came to letting it get out of hand. He assures that it won’t, but it’s totally up to you whether you want to play a hard-ass and say no, or simply let the crew have their fun. But keep in mind that even a small decision like this can have consequences you may not see coming.

Being the fun-loving guy that I am (I don’t care what anyone says, I am, damn it), I decided to let the party commence. Everyone loosened up and, thankfully, things didn’t get out of hand. The next day, morale did see a slight boost, but not everyone was perfect.

As the main captain of the team, you can talk to various teammates and see where their emotions lie, based on a chart that sits in the lower left hand corner of the screen. You can see where their feelings convey here, and try to zero in on certain problems if you feel compelled. You can choose to ignore them if you really don’t feel like being “chatty” and want to move on with the mission; but, again, consequences can rear their ugly head.

There’s also a Knowledge Inventory that you can utilize for each crew member. It’s located in the top left portion of the screen, and you can use it to find out more background on the crew member, should you feel compelled to learn more about them. You can see what kind of fights they got into with teammates, what kind of relationship or family problems they’re having, or even see how the last battle affected them personally. Each member is different from the last, making Destiny’s Sword a much heavier experience than the usual strategy title.

Talk To Me

Now let’s get down to conversations. As a crew member enters your circle, you can choose how you want the talk to go. You can dismiss it, as I mentioned, or you’re able to dig a little and find out what the problem is. They may be feeling trauma from the battle, or a personal loss with someone that died over the course of the last fight. You can assure them that they have someone to talk to and increase their confidence, which will make a difference in your next encounter – or the one you just lost, should you feel you’re ready to tackle it again.

Just remember – not every conversation has to happen. Some of your members may be a bit on the confrontational side, and better left to not have their hearts poured out. It can be a slight gamble, but sometimes having them on edge will give you the push you need to win your next match-up. Sometimes nurturing isn’t always the way to go – it just depends on the crew member.

There’s a delicate balance to Destiny’s Sword’s conversations that’s really something, and will keep players busy for hours on end. I didn’t see anything that would introduce any kind of relationship angle, but that could change before the game’s introduction next year. It would certainly introduce a fun complication that could anger a few other staff members on board, ready to accuse you of favoritism. Let’s see what 2Dogs has planned.

 

Enter the Boss Battle

After you get done with your conversations, you can choose to go back into action and see how you fare against the opponents. This is where your work into balancing your team pays off, as their performance improves. You still need to play cards properly and time the attacks just right so you can wipe out enemies without losing it.

That’s where Hall and company introduced us to the new boss battle in the game, against a well-armed Ravager. It’s here we faced off against a much strengthened adversary that wasn’t afraid to unleash devastating attacks on my squad. Fortunately, I was more than ready, as I had talked to two of them well before the fight. After a few rounds, I was able to take on this skirmish with ease, and even score some precious loot to help them out the next time around, including a few extra skill cards. Just make sure to save them for the right time, or you’ve had it.

Something For Everyone

Along with a single player campaign that involves you taking care of others on your ship and engaging in a number of battles, Destiny’s Sword will also come with multiplayer features. In that, players will be able to take on one another in a PvP-based war setting, in which factions go at it for all out supremacy. More than likely, this will be a “quick” set-up where players can just get into a skirmish without talking about their feelings. It’s sure to be fun and give those experienced with the system something to do when they’re tired of making decisions with their own squad. Plus think of the loot you’ll be able to snag as well.

In addition, more missions will also be added over the course of the game, though 2Dogs is still laying out the groundwork for the open beta, which is set to kick off sometime next year. They didn’t provide specific dates just yet, but Hall and the team assured that it’s moving right along.

 

A Solid Presentation For a New Indie Fave

Considering that Destiny’s Sword doesn’t have a AAA budget on hand, 2Dogs has done a splendid job with the game’s presentation thus far. The 3D battles look nifty and have a great sci-fi based flair to them, and the attacks shine when it comes to execution. What’s more, it’s easy to see what’s happening from the perspective that’s given, so you don’t miss a single hit.

As for the gameplay, it definitely leans on the tactical side of things, but it’s fairly simple to see what abilities you have available, and how long they may be in “cooldown” phase after you’ve unleashed them. The cards, again, are scattered across the bottom of the page, and are simple to pick and choose from. Just try not to play too much of your hand too soon – you’ve got to save some of these for later on in the battle.

As for the sequences involving your teammates, these play out in a cinematic style fashion. They’re not highly animated, nor do they need to be. Your team members enter the frame, and you’re able to see just what kind of condition they’re in. Some are battle scarred, licking their wounds and just trying to stand. Others, however, don’t make it so easy to see what’s happening. They’ll hide behind a brave face and require a bit of shell cracking to dig deeper into the problem. Combine that with the emotional readouts that appear on the side of the screen, and you have a system that works beautifully, without needing any over-the-top animations to give it heft.

 

Plans For the Future

At the moment, the open beta is currently only planned for PC next year, but Hall made it clear that “crossplay is a big part of our vision” when we spoke to him previously, and that we should “expect to see us on the consoles not too long after we get the PC version up and running!”

With so many staff members to balance, battles to take part in, cards to play and decisions to make, Destiny’s Sword may be a little top-heavy for some when it comes to keeping things from getting out of hand. It’s with this approach that 2Dogs could very well have a winner, based upon what it’s put into development thus far.

The hands-on left a very good impression on me, even if I didn’t always make the right decisions; and the mere depth of missions and team conversations you can have means hours worth of gameplay, with a number of new complications to face around every corner. That, combined with a multiplayer PvP mode, should keep players coming back for more.

We’ll see how Destiny’s Sword fares when it launches into beta over the next few months! In the meantime, be sure to check out our interview with Ken Hall here!

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Marvel’s Avengers: Learning More About the Story, The Structure and What’s To Come

By now you’ve probably seen our hands-on impressions for Square Enix’s upcoming Marvel’s Avengers. Take a good look, because they actually provide a little more nuance to the gameplay that made its premiere at Gamescom a little while back. The game feels really good as far as how each of the characters play, particularly Thor and Hulk. That’s just one part of the picture. After our gameplay demo, Crystal Dynamics walked us through other portions of the game, giving us an idea of what to expect when it makes its way to release in May 2020.

So let’s break down each of the components and get a good idea of what this game is all about. We’ll start with the very thing that brings all the Avengers together in the first place – the story.

Marvel's Avengers

Taking A.I.M.

As you might have seen from the gameplay footage, things aren’t going so well for the Avengers. Following the opening of a new San Francisco headquarters, a terrorist attack breaks out. The heroes manage to thwart it and stop the evil Taskmaster but at a price. A massive explosion tears apart San Francisco, and possibly kills Captain America in the process. As a result, the heroes are devastated, and eventually blamed for the devastation.

“Following the events of A-Day, the Avengers disbanded,” the developer explained. “In their absence, a new organization rose to power in their place – Advanced Intelligent Mechanics, also known as A.I.M. 

“A.I.M. believes that science will save the world, not superheroes,” they continued. “(But) five years after A-Day, the world is a very different place than it was beforehand. Superheroes are now outlawed and have been replaced by A.I.M. and their advanced synthoid AI. 

“A.I.M. wants to redefine all of mankind’s future through logic and reason and science. So they build a force to protect the rest of us from the superpowered individuals. And you can probably see where this is going to go.”

As a result, the remaining Avengers now have to re-assemble, as it were, and try to take back each part of the world from the forces of A.I.M., using their unique powers. That means Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow have to work together with whatever resources they have to save the day.

Marvel's Avengers

Getting Powered Up With the Avengers

When the group does come back together, they turn to a downed helicarrier in the middle of nowhere as their homebase. It’s here that players can get a look at the open world hub, which shows the available missions that are on hand for them to take on.

There are two types of missions that are available in Marvel’s Avengers. The first are Hero missions, which are meant for single players and move forward the storyline, giving them control of select heroes over the course of each one.

The second are WarZone missions. Here, players can work together in up to four-player co-op, working alongside one another to push the narrative forward and collectively take down enemies both large and small alike. These missions can also be taken on in single player, if you don’t have buddies that can join you in an online session at the time.

As you complete missions over the course of Marvel’s Avengers, more missions and areas become available. Soon, you’ll come face to face with tougher A.I.M. enemies, and eventually turn the tide back in the favor of the Avengers. Who knows, maybe Captain America could resurface. We did see his character in concept art, and he is quite playable in the beginning. So anything’s possible.

 “The more you play both WarZone and Hero missions, the more stuff populates in the world,” Crystal Dynamics explained during its presentation. That means the more you do, the more the world opens up.

You also get to unlock some content, which we’ll cover in the next paragraph.

Marvel's Avengers

Did Someone Say New Content?

Everyone likes collectible gear, and Marvel’s Avengers will have no shortage of it. Over the course of the game, as you play in both Hero and WarZone missions, you’ll have the option to earn new outfit and gear for characters within the game. In addition, some outfits will also be available for purchase via Microtransactions.

Now, keep in mind that these are the only Microtransactions within the game. These are for special outfits that pay tribute to the Avengers with some of their best goods. These include Black Widow’s original costume, Hulk’s Mr. Fixit zoot suit, and Thor’s classic Lord of Asgard suit, among others. They’re completely optional and aren’t required to unlock anything in the game.

Otherwise, you’ll earn lots of suits as you battle your way through the missions, and be able to equip these outfits on your characters at any time. Though Crystal Dynamics didn’t really have too many to show off during the demo, expect quite a bit of variety for the long haul.

Speaking of long haul, Marvel’s Avengers certainly has a lot of, ahem, “endgame” content in mind. Crystal Dynamics has already promised that the game will be supported for years to come, with a number of new heroes and WarZone missions, as well as some pushes to the narrative. It didn’t break down who was coming to the game just yet, though we did see a hint of Ms. Marvel in the opening gameplay trailer, as well as Ant-Man. There’s also no word as to what kind of new villains could enter the picture alongside Taskmaster and a teased Abomination, but the door’s wide open for some of Marvel’s worst to walk on through and wreak havoc.

On top of that, the developer also promised that this content will be free. The rest will be included within the game’s price, and there will be a lot of it. Square Enix is building the game for the long-term alongside Marvel, and it sounds very promising, provided it can live up to what the opening gameplay demo provided.

 

Push Your Character To New Heights

The Avengers characters start out nicely powered up enough, with a number of abilities and special skills to activate once you build up the proper level of energy. However, like all great superhero games, it helps to make enough progress to unlock new abilities. Fortunately, Marvel’s Avengers will provide the option to do that.

As you make progress across both Hero and WarZone missions, you’ll be able to unlock new powers for each of your characters, depending on what you want to do with them. We didn’t see all the ones that are available throughout the game, but did get a taste of some of Iron Man’s. This includes a pair of lasers that can cut through enemies very quickly as well as some cool punching abilities. These skill trees will open up quite a bit, making your heroes even more powerful as you go along.

“As you play these heroes and you level them up, you’ll get skill points that you can invest in each hero’s individual skill tree. All heroes’ skill trees are unique, they all have sets of skills that they have to go through, and you can choose how you want to spend your skill points, and where you want to go deeper, so your hero can be customized the way you want to play.” Some even involve “classic” moves taken straight from the classic comic books, which the game was inspired by. There are original ones to boot as well.

There are also perks that tie together with certain costumes within the game. “Gear can modify directly how your hero plays,” Crystal Dynamics explained during their presentation. “The higher the rating the gear, the better the perks, sometimes even the more perks you get.” They then pointed out how one piece of gear had higher stats than another piece of gear, with an increased power level. They can vary depending on what you use. Synergies and boosts can play a part, particularly with Iron Man’s tool set. But they’re all great to mess around with, if only to see how your performance changes up with each character.

Marvel's Avengers

More Ground To Cover

Crystal Dynamics has hinted that there’s even more territory that will be covered with Marvel’s Avengers in the months ahead and not just with the heroes and storylines to come. It noted that even more systems could deepen the game even further, revolving around the characters. This will likely be with the WarZone missions, as we’ll likely get a look at just how well multiplayer will work somewhere to closer in the year.

This, combined with what we’ve managed to learn over the weekend at PAX West, really paints a different side to Marvel’s Avengers. There was a great deal of skepticism about the game during its initial introduction at E3. Crystal Dynamics, aided by the developers at Eidos Montreal, is assuring that they’re making a superhero game that lives up to the legacy of the superhero franchise, even if it is somewhat different from the Marvel Studios film property. It still has a ways to go before it finishes its trip to retail, but thus far, it’s definitely making a heroic journey.

Marvel’s Avengers releases on May 15, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

(Square Enix invited us to a suite to play the game and speak with Crystal Dynamics during our trip to PAX West. We thank them for accommodating us!)

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Marvel’s Avengers Hands-On Preview

After several years of working behind-the-scenes on the franchise, Square Enix finally lifted the veil off Marvel’s Avengers. The company initially revealed a trailer for the upcoming action/adventure title from Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics back at E3 2019 earlier this year.

There were some who felt mixed about it. Taking control of Earth’s greatest heroes seems to be a dream come true for some players, but there are others that have come up with complaints. For instance, the character models being somewhat unfamiliar compared with those from the Marvel Studios films. Keep in mind that the game property is different than the films, despite the similarity in tone. Then there’s the concern about the first pieces of gameplay, which make the action seem more straightforward and potentially limited.

However, the publisher wanted to answer these questions properly. During our recent trip to PAX West this past weekend, it invited us to go hands-on with the game for the very first time, following a gameplay showcase the week beforehand from Gamescom. Even though there wasn’t anything new present in the demo – it was the same opening level that was previously shown – it does feel like Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal have something special here. In fact, it might just go its own way when it comes to establishing a superhero hit for the teams, outside of what Insomniac Games has done with its Spider-Man property.

Avengers Day Is Cut Short

The game begins with the celebration of Avengers Day, with Tony Stark and company opening a new headquarters in San Francisco. However, it isn’t long before a terrorist attack takes place, with a mysterious benefactor looking to destroy the team with his well-armed soldiers. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Bruce Banner and Black Widow set out to stop them, by whatever means necessary.

It’s here that the game begins to rotate through each of the available characters, giving players a good idea of what they’re capable of doing in Marvel’s Avengers. Surprisingly, there’s a heaping amount of variance for an action/adventure game, instead of the usual tap-tap combo business.

It Must Be Thor’s Day

First up is Thor, complete with Mjolnir in hand. He comes crashing down onto the scene with a powerful lightning strike, as soldiers continue to be dumb enough to move in on him. It’s here that we learn about the combo system that Crystal Dynamics has implemented with the character into the game, as he’s capable of quite a bit.

For instance, he can use Mjolnir to smack a few folks around up close, and he can also break through barriers to get to other parts of the stage as needed, once he’s cleared the area of certain enemies.

The real treat here is being able to throw his hammer at foes from afar. It’s great being able to guide it just as Chris Hemsworth’s character has done in the movies. Not only are you able to hit someone as you hurl it towards them, but you can also do damage as it comes flying back. Sometimes it automatically recalls, so you’re able to continue delivering smooth combos at enemies that get close to you.

Let’s Build an Iron Man Suit

Next up is Iron Man. His gameplay segment starts pretty nicely, as he flies through the sky and shoots enemies that fly within his range with their own rocket packs. Taking them down is fairly easy, though you do have maneuvers where you can dodge incoming attacks should the need arise. This feels like a cool flight sim that puts the older Sega Iron Man game to shame, and that’s with just a few seconds of gameplay.

Once that’s done, Stark can land on the ground and deliver some punishing blows with his suit, mainly with lasers that he can fire at adversaries. For good measure, he can also fire a repulsor beam for several seconds, doing damage to tanks and other well-shielded foes with no problem whatsoever. It does need to charge, so don’t expect to use it all the time.

Overall, Stark’s got some great stuff with his toys here, and from the looks of it, you can unlock new abilities as well.

Smash…

And as you might guess, Marvel’s Avengers indeed has a Hulk. Bruce Banner enters the scene as his usual calm self, but it isn’t long before Black Widow sends him flying onto the scene as the Golden Gate Bridge starts coming apart from attacks.

It’s here that he transforms into Hulk mid-air and lands on the ground. As adversaries get close to him, he can deliver a number of strikes that can make quick work of them, while taking the least amount of damage out of the characters included within the game. What’s more, he can also pick up enemies and slam them down in a number of innovative, and fun, ways.

There’s also some platforming with Hulk, though this can take some getting used to, mainly due to his size. He’s a big, lumbering guy, so it might take a bit to handle his jumping capabilities across limited platforms. Fortunately, they’re clearly marked to show where they begin or end, so you can proceed to the next section. You can land with precision with the help of his ground smash – which can also take out some unfortunate saps on the ground for good measure.

Hulk can also grab onto some sections of the stage to temporarily gain some leverage, and maybe even do a quick wall jump to another part. Again, it takes some practice, but it shows off his versatility, even for a big dude his size. It’s really cool to watch him play, and even kick some poor idiot that comes flying out of a tank that he just flipped on its head. T Thunderclap is included as a special “cinematic attack” of sorts, as you can clear the area of most foes once you utilize it.

Hulk is probably my second favorite of the bunch behind Thor…but don’t tell him I said that. I don’t need to get punched in the face.

Captain America Needs Your Help

We’ve all seen the gameplay footage by now that shows poor Captain America meeting his fate in the Helicarrier once it’s destroyed. However, before that, we get a great idea of the fighting style he possesses within the game, when he’s available for use.

First off, you can throw his shield, similarly to how Thor throws his hammer. It’s a great tool for taking down an opponent from afar or even messing up someone long enough to land a combo strike on them. His combat style is very cool, filled with all sorts of dynamic moves and suave acrobatics, just like his big-screen counterpart in a way. His shield is also handy for occasional defensive techniques, should his health need a little bit of saving. Overall, he’s a good character, but his opening segment was cut a bit short.

Don’t Mess With the Widow

Last but not least, we get a taste of what Black Widow can do. She uses stun batons and her firearms to take down enemies, along with her quick grab movements. These especially come in handy for the boss battle that takes place at the end of the level, where we’re introduced to Taskmaster.

The former colleague of Natalya pops up and introduces a “sonic bomb” that could easily tear the city apart. As the other Avengers try to keep the bridge from completely collapsing, Black Widow takes it upon herself to take on Taskmaster and stop him from detonating it.

At first, the segment is a quick-time event scene, in which Widow punches her foe in mid-air. Then it settles into a full-on brawl on the ground. She can counter and roll out of the way, and then hit back with her own techniques to throw him off. It’s a boss battle that does pretty well, to say the least, and hopefully sets the tone for other encounters with Marvel enemies later on in the adventure.

There’s one other great segment where Taskmaster comes flying in, forcing Natalya to do quick damage to him with each swoop before he lands on the ground to do one-on-one battle. She can also temporarily turn invisible, as she does in the demo, to throw him off. This adds a neat twist that we wish we had seen more of with other characters, and it’s a great way to tie up the demo overall.

A Smooth Flow, But Merely a Taste

There’s still some questions as to what’s coming with Marvel’s Avengers content following its release, but the opening demo seems to take on a whole new life once you actually take control of it. Sure, some questions could be asked about the character models, and what really happened to Captain America following the events that unfolded on Avengers Day. However, the game just feels naturally cool, giving each character a degree that we didn’t expect from a title on this level.

Thor probably relates closest to Kratos from God of War here, being able to kick opponent’s butts with majesty and grace, while still generating enough lighting and cool Mjolnir throws to barely break a sweat. I also have to give a nod to Hulk, who is just as enjoyable to play here as he was in his classic adventures, namely with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction from the PlayStation 2 and GameCube days. Granted, the chaos doesn’t get that far out of hand, but you can feel the sheer joy of smashing and having a field day with it.

The other characters have their balance as well. Iron Man is an outstanding hero both on the ground and in the air, and it looks like the final game will offer more than enough opportunities to try both, across single player and multiplayer. 

Black Widow is cool as a cucumber here, and her boss battle with Taskmaster shows that she shouldn’t be messed with. My fingers are crossed that we see other weapons introduced over the course of the game.

Again, though, I would’ve liked more Captain America. I can understand why his role was diminished, but something tells me we haven’t seen the last of him here. He’s an iconic character, and there’s something that Crystal Dynamics in store that’s likely to throw us for a loop. The co-developer did note that we could see new heroes enter the fray, and that leaves lots of room for either the Winter Soldier or the successor to the shield, the Falcon.

The Heroes We Need

For now, though, I feel a lot better about where Marvel’s Avengers is heading. The gameplay really has that click that fits in with the visuals that we got a taste of a little while back; and the content that the developers have in mind make this sound very promising.

Also, keep in mind that it took a while for Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man to build up as well. So there’s potential here for Marvel and Square Enix to strike gold again, this time with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

They’ve still got time to get it right, since the game doesn’t ship until May 15, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Plenty of time to assure that it’s got the polish it needs to truly do these heroes…justice?

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World of Warships Legends Interview: Bringing the Hit Game To the Console Front

At this point, players have gotten a chance to dig into World of Warships on the console front with World of Warships Legends, Wargaming’s free-to-play version with modified controls. While a bit different from its PC brethren, it’s just as exciting, and offers up an abundant amount of content, including an exciting Hunt For Tirpitz campaign.

For those unfamiliar with the game, we decided to dive a little deeper and speak with Player Interactions Manager Filipp Glushakov, who’s also known in the community under the name “Philigula.” 

First, after having the beta in testing for the past few months, Glushakov talked about the feedback that came from it.

World of Warships Legends

“(It’s been) mostly positive,” he explained. “Whatever players have not liked yet, we’ve been pretty quick to fix or offer them something else. We were very tight knit with the community right from the very early alpha, when it was like a hundred people. And the beta was a couple of thousand. And now we have the live server, we have testers, we listen to feedback and collect every day, and I have documents to prove it.” He added a smile at the end.

Next, we discussed the changes that were made to allow World of Warships to run properly on the console front. There were some tweaks when it came to the player count, going down from 12 vs. 12 (the PC standard) to 9 vs. 9; and also some modifications to the controls so that they would operate with an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller. We asked Glushakov how the team went into these changes, and if everything went through as planned, or if more work is intending to be done.

“Most definitely, we did make all the changes to make the game work,” he said. “I guess the scaling back of the teams for the purpose of perfect matchmaking is just what needed to be done simply because we have two platforms (Xbox One and PlayStation 4). And no matter what expectations we had, we needed to account for that, because it is a niche game. Just naval combat. I mean, ask your friends how many of them know about such a thing.

“So, thankfully, our scaling back did not impact anything and we have more folks than we expected.”

Then he got into a rather interesting factor about the game that could really play a factor with a future update. “Plus, we’re thinking about cross play (between the two platforms). That’s going to be helpful, I’m sure.”

World of Warships Legends

For the time being, though, “When you go to match nowadays, one platform at a time, Tier III to Tier VII, you should find one pretty much instantly and with full teams and have all the fun you can or just yellow, I’ve seen them do it a couple of times.”

For those jumping into the game for the first time, Glushakov provided a quick rundown.

“We have 15 maps, over 70 units of warships currently, spread across four nations, and I’m sure there will be one more nation before the end of the year,” he explained. “I can’t quite unveil what that will be (just yet). We’ll have several thematic events, we have campaigns in every update, which are essentially a set of tasks that you go through to complete that can earn you rewards. And you can double, triple those as well. 

The game is free-to-play, but he also talked slightly about Microtransactions. “If you invest a little bit in doubloons – it’s 2500 for a full campaign pass, so to speak, we call it Admiral’s Backing.”

But it’s completely optional. “If you’re willing to invest time, you can be rewarded handsomely for that time. Not only will you gain rewards, but how your skill will grow, how many different ships you will have, different nations and different classes, and so on and so forth. And, finally, Commander roster, yeah. You’re going to have quite a few of those. It’s now at 30.”

And don’t worry, “noobs.” If you’re a newcomer to the World of Warships saga, there’s no danger to giving the game a try. While the higher-up Tiers are best recommended to those that are seasoned with the game, there’s a good starting ground for you to learn what it has to offer, according to Glushakov.

“The rules are pretty simple, but sometimes you can get a little overwhelmed if you try to start it at hard tiers,” he noted. “But if you just follow initial progression of the game, you should be like a fish in water.”

He then talked a little bit about customization. While there aren’t too many full-blown features with this available in Legends just yet, there are things that players will be able to modify that they can have fun with.

Glushakov explained, “You can install upgrades on your ships, which will tweak their performance. When it comes to visuals, we have flags, both historical and we’ll have some flags for fun coming soon. We have different camos, again, something more based on history, and, I believe in the future, we might have something bright and in your face. But, of course you would be able to disable it.”

As for the future, “I dunno about any decals or anything like that, so for now it’s just the flags and the camo.”

So, no pink camos. “No,” laughed Glushakov. “Outside of the realm of possibility, I doubt it.”

However, he did bring up another fun factor. “But players ask me about giving names to their ships…we’re probably not gonna do that either. Because an Iowa is an Iowa is an Iowa.”

World of Warships Legends

World of Warships Legends is available now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It’s free-to-play with optional microtransaction purchases.

(Wargaming did fly us down to the event to try the game out and speak to developers. We thank them for their hospitality!)

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Path of Exile: Chris Wilson Discusses The Blight Expansion

Ever since its initial release on PC in October 2013, followed by its arrival on Xbox One in 2017 and PlayStation 4 earlier this year, Path of Exile has become a monumental success for Grinding Gear Games. The company has noted that audiences have doubled since launch on console, while the team continues to make changes with new additions and tweaks to keep the game’s consistency up to date.

Path of Exile Blight

That means big updates every now and again, including one set to take place this September that brings a big Blight change to the fold. Don’t worry; nothing big enough to change the way you play will take place. Some tweaks will help keep things going in a big way, and should bring some new players into the fold as the fall season comes around as the forthcoming ExileCon prepares to make its debut this November in Auckland, New Zealand.

With that, let’s get started on what players can expect from this new update!

 

The Players Rise – and the New Expansion

With the game’s debut on consoles, concurrent users for Path of Exile continues to grow monumentally. With the latest 3.7.0 update, according to Grinding Gears’ Chris Wilson, the game has seen just under 225,000 concurrent users. That’s a steady high considering it was just around 110,000 with the 3.1.0 update not too long ago. This is a truly impressive rise for a game that’s just gotten past its fifth anniversary.

Now comes the Blight expansion, which will be broken down into many components. The first comes with the Blight challenge league, as well as three revamped balance archetypes with additional skills and support gems. Through these, players will have the opportunity to pick up an abundant amount of new items to add to their collection. 

In addition, two older leagues will be making their return, but with a better focus for players to take appreciation of.

In the Blight, a character by the name of Sister Cassia will take focus. According to Wilson, she’s a new non-playable character that will lead you to a number of Fungal Growths that pop up throughout the world of Wraeclast. These are pretty hard to miss, as they look like large flowers that appear ready to burst at any given moment, with devastating ground tendrils that pretty much leak out everywhere within a certain radius.

This area has some importance to the Fungal Growths. Any monsters in it are automatically under their control, and come to defend it right off the bat. It’s up to the player to fight off the monsters while working with Cassia to destroy the Fungal Growth. It’s a bit more challenging than you might think, especially as you come across new Growths. They grow greater armies as you go along, meaning you’ll have to use more tactics in order to keep them off Cassia and cut them down.

As Wilson explained over the course of the demo, the player is responsible for wiping out the enemy forces. The game does have a tactical tower defense-like system, but you don’t necessarily have tools that kill the opponents automatically. Instead, it slows them long enough for you to move in and make the kill. Wilson notes there’s a better satisfaction to it, and based on the footage we saw in the demo, he’s got a good point. With the moves each character class has, it’s not like it’s a struggle to bring down the monsters while Cassia drains the necessary ichor to defeat the Growths.

In his post-demo notes Wilson said, “Our goal was to combine this popular genre of game with Path of Exile‘s action combat and to make it a bite-sized experience that lets you test your character in new ways, earn some cool rewards, and then get on with killing monsters.” Getting the hands-on approach is definitely the better way to go, he feels.

Path of Exile Blight

There are general monsters that are easy to kill, but Wilson also warns to keep an eye out for the “infected” ones. These creatures are a lot tougher, which means you’ll need to build additional defensive towers to slow them even further, so that no harm will come to your player or Cassia long enough for you to deliver the fatal blow. Finding the right weakness may take some practice, but you have enough tools in your arsenal to chip away at them.

And this practice will certainly pay off. Once you clear out enough lanes for each of these Growths, you’ll be rewarded with a Chest, packed with goodies inside.

Over the course of the game, Wilson explained that you’ll be able to “buff other towers” for additional strength as well as spawn minions. These become quite useful over the course of the game, as they’ll attack other enemies almost instantly, doing the “dirty work” for you.

“It’s quite important to read the lanes to work out what types of monsters are coming and to strategize accordingly. Tower placement is also important, so that your towers affect as much of a lane as possible and slow down the enemies while you deal with them,” Wilson explained in his notes. Again, practice makes perfect.

 

Rewards Aplenty

And what are part of these rewards? That includes Oils. You’ll run across different ones that you can actually combine together to add properties to certain items over the course of the game. For instance, Sister Cassia can show you what some of these Oils can do for her, like combining them with her Rings or Amulets.

You can try out different pairings in whatever order you’d like (it doesn’t really matter, Wilson explains). 12 tiers of Oils available in all, with rarer types available over the course of the game, you’re sure to find some that will give you something powerful for your next encounter with monsters.

Once you add these Oils to a Ring or Amulet, you’ll come up with enchantments. These are new to Path of Exile, and add new properties that can stack value to the item. This can be quite a game-changer for some so don’t be afraid to experiment a little!

Wilson explained that “two oils can anoint a ring,” which can add an enchantment to modify the functionality of your tower. You can equip more than one at a time, but if you have three oils, you can “anoint an amulet.” This is even more powerful, as you are able to grant the “full properties of a Notable passive skill on the passive skill tree,” per Wilson.

“Each combination of three oils (where order doesn’t matter) grants a different notable passive skill, and some are a lot rarer and more powerful than others,” he explains.

Blighted Maps are also added over the course of the game. They take you to a new area that features a giant Blight encounter, but without any general monsters to take on. These are incredibly difficult and pack a dangerous challenge, but as a result you’ll earn some special items for your collection, so they’re well worth the risk.

Four Blight uniques are also available, set to be “anointed” by Cassia. We took a look at a couple of these during the demo, such as the Triad Grip gloves. They fit particularly with different elements for characters, such as the Necromancer, and give you control over what damage can be converted based on the colors of the sockets of the item.

Path of Exile Blight

Give These Archetypes a Try

Speaking of the Necromancer, this Archetype has gone through some revamping with its reintroduction into Path of Exile, but Wilson notes it’s for the better.

With this character, the minions can now be better under your control with the help of three support gems. They’ll act more aggressively, as you can guide them towards specific targets, depending on the gem you’re using. As you level up, they become more of a primary “meat shield” of sorts, so that you stand less of a chance of getting hit, even as tougher enemies enter the fray. “This leaves the player room to choose how to specialize their minions in a way that is different from other players,” Wilson notes.

There’s also been a slight bit of redesign when it comes to the effects of the Necromancer, with more minion types that can be used overall. The Carrion Golem can also be used for buffing purposes, both for you and your minions. Once utilized, you can use a wand, available in most Atlas map areas, which can use minion properties once applied.

That leads to the other Archetype revamp joining the game – the Poison Assassin. Wilson explained this was once removed from Path of Exile because it was simply far too powerful, but thanks to some balancing, it’s bound to be more players’ speed this time around. 

He noted “seriously broken critical strike math” being the big problem with the character, with large amounts of poison damage crippling foes. “We eventually had to fix this system to act more reasonably, and that reduced the character down to just another fair build that was semi-popular but not one of the top ways to play any more. Players have asked for a return to the glory days, and we believe we have a way to achieve this without being quite so unstoppable,” he said.

With that, the character now has five new skills, along with a new support gem that adapts to this play style. One particular move that players should enjoy is the Cobra Lash. This actually throws out a copy of the current weapon that chains out onto enemies, combo-style, creating a poison effect. It’s not nearly as overpowering as the “broken critical” strikes, but is still highly effective.

What’s more, a new buff called Elusive can be applied across the Ascendancy tree. With it, Wilson explained, defense and mobility become more of a factor for the Poison Assassin. It lasts for a short while, but doesn’t turn off right away once its effects are done. Instead, it weakens a little bit, giving the player more of a chance so they can prepare defensively for when it’s gone.

Wilson also made note that the Assassin’s Ascendancy tree has gone through minor changes, with additional options for critical strikes and poison. Players should have a lot more fun with this Archetype once it’s available.

Then there’s the Saboteur. This seems to be an old-school explosive Archetype that some players will enjoy. It has an Ascendancy option for the Shadow class, which sets off traps and explosives that can be chained together. There are some adjusted mechanics, as mines can now be thrown at range, with much more expediency. You can also set them off in sequence, if you feel like timing should be on your side. You do need to set aside mana to utilize them, though.

Stormblast Mine is a low-level mine skill that players should enjoy, as it opens up some nearby enemies to damage, while setting up shockwaves for other blasts from other mines.

Three new Mine skills are also included, along with minor changes to the Notable passives.

Path of Exile Blight

Ready For the Endgame?

Finally, Wilson addressed the Atlas of Worlds endgame, in which the player comes across the five Masters and the missions they demand of them. Wilson did note some issues with this particular set-up though.

“This system had two problems. The first was that players felt that being surprised with a substantial and time-consuming mission made them feel forced to do it right then or miss out, when they potentially weren’t keen or ready to spend a lot of time on that content immediately,” he said. “The other issue was that taking advantage of the random occurrences on Atlas maps required quite a large amount of trading for maps as they came up, which was also very time-consuming.”

So what to do? Why, fix both of course which lead Grinding Gears to change the system. Now the encounters will be deferred, with the game keeping track of missions and the difficulty they’re completed on. What’s more, the Masters can be spoken to within the hideout, and you can apply the maps at any time, instead of just getting random ones that pop up. Two master missions will also be added to your total with each day, so something will be available for each session you log into.

 

This One’s For the Old League Players!

In addition, Wilson also made note about changes to the Old League content:

First up, for the Betrayal League, the Mastermind encounter will now provide a reward room for each member of the Immortal Syndicate, instead of just the ones in that branch. You can also share your Syndicate state across all characters in the current league, so you don’t have to worry about restarting the game if you begin a new one.

As for Delve league, there’s rebalancing, so Path of Exile isn’t such a struggle as you get deeper into the game. 69 fewer depths and lesser rare Delve encounters will take effect, and you can also expect a higher diversity of encounters and reward types. All your characters will have Sulphite in the league as well.

When Will All This Take Effect?

As for when the update will take place, it’ll hit the PC version of Path of Exile first on September 6th. Don’t worry console owners, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions wont be far behind  and will get it on September 9th.

As for the future of the game, that’ll be discussed at ExileCon in November. Expect some big changes in the future, but for now enjoy the Blight, if you survive that is!

Thanks to Chris Wilson at Grinding Gear Games for talking to us! Path of Exile is available now!

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Remnant: From the Ashes Now Available For Consoles and PC

Gunfire Games has already put themselves on the map with last year’s Darksiders III. Now the developer has a new experience that’s sure to thrill co-op gaming fans, especially with its open-ended replayability. Prepare yourselves for Remnant: From the Ashes!

Perfect World Entertainment, Inc. has announced the release of the survival-action third-person shooter, which is available now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as PC on both Steam and Arc. The game takes place in the post-apocalyptic future, where players will have to fight across dynamically-generated worlds with fellow survivors, collecting gear and utilizing whatever weapons they come across. They’ll take on the devastating Root forces while trying to discover their dangerous secrets.

The game supports up to three players in co-op, so you and two friends co work together. It also features a dynamic gear-based progression system, along with a number of endless challenges for you to rank up with. And what’s more, with World Stone checkpoints spread out, you can always save your progress and come back at any time – no need to grind yourself into a corner!

“We wanted to expand on our signature sci-fi fantasy meets post-apocalyptic style, building a game around adventure, exploration and co-op,” said Gunfire Games co-founder and president, David Adams. “Remnant: From the Ashes is our passion project. Through our innovative dynamic generation tech, the game offers a fresh adventure each time you jump in. We hope players enjoy our re-imagination of ‘endless adventure’ as much as we do.”

“Gunfire Games has created a unique gameplay experience that exhibits the studio’s creativity, ambition and expertise,” said Yoon Im, COO of Perfect World Entertainment. “We jumped at the opportunity to help bring their vision to life and are proud of what the studio has accomplished. We know Remnant: From the Ashes will thrill challenge-seekers and surprise players looking for their next co-op adventure to share with friends. It’s time to fight the Root of all evil!”

The game is going for $39.99, and you can watch the launch trailer below. We actually reviewed the game earlier today and found it to be an engaging experience. Alexkayl said, “Remnant turned out to be an amazing achievement and a game that can proudly stand as a great Souls-like, despite having its own identity and focus. Everything about it works almost flawlessly, from its combat mechanics to the way that the procedurally generated world offers fresh trials without feeling hastily stitched together. If there is one challenge that you need this year, that challenge is fighting the Root in Remnant: From the Ashes.”

Step up and check out Remnant today!

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