Warframe Empyrean Update Now Available

For those of you that were looking for more Warframe to play over the holiday season, you’re about to get your wish. During tonight’s broadcast of The Game Awards 2019, Digital Extremes announced that the latest update for the game, Empyrean, has officially gone live.

In this new four-player co-op battleship experience, the Tenno have managed to get their hands on an ancient Orokin technology, along with a deadly weapon — a star-bound battleship. That ties in with the all-new environments that you’ll visit within the game. These include Earth, Saturn and Veil Proxima, so you’d better get ready for travel.

As you journey in the future-tech Railjack battleship, clans will come across the hostile Grineer forces, taking them on in fast-paced, real-time battles. You’ll need to use whatever tactics you can come across in order to stay in one piece.

Along with the planets to visit, players will also be able to upgrade a number of new systems. These include Intrinsics, Avionics, Components and Armaments. Across all of these, they’ll become more powerful, becoming a threat against the Grineer forces that await.

That said, console owners won’t be left out in the cold. While it’ll still be a bit longer before they get their hands on Empyrean, they will be able to enjoy the Rising Tide update, which is available now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Tenno can download this update right off the bat, and begin their research into building the Dry Docks and the Railjacks, in the hopes of being ready for the next confrontation that lies ahead.

 


 

 

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Kartrider: Drift Preview – Chasing Mario Kart

Kartrider: Drift is Nexon’s answer to Mario Kart, Nintendo’s uncontested leader of the kart racer genre. However, this would be belittling the legacy of Crazyracing Kartrider, the 2004 game that kickstarted what we can now rightfully call a full-fledged franchise. The colossal success in Korea and China prompted the studio to take the series to the next stage, with a global release that spares no expenses.

A quick look at Kartrider: Drift’s bullet points shows some intriguing ambition and the determination to go against some of the current tendencies. A PC and Xbox One cross-platform game running on Unreal Engine 4, with no mobile version in sight? To some extent, that is daring in our times. The disappointing lack of a fun free-to-play racing game with high production values also reinforces the notion that Kartrider: Drift may be here to fill that void.

Kartrider Drift Preview Ramp

All is Fair in Kart Racing | Kartrider: Drift Preview

The first Kartrider: Drift closed beta revealed a surprisingly player-friendly game with no cash shop in sight. This will surely make an appearance later, as any game with a free-to-play business model needs to be sustainable, but right now it was nice to browse the available customization options without stumbling upon locked drivers or karts.

There were eight karts available during the beta, most of them based on their real counterparts, but three are animal themed. You have monkey, bunny, and tortoise karts, boasting a much more radical design that adds some interesting diversity to the selection. You can’t just rely on looks, however, as each kart is designed around four characteristics: speed, handling, drift, and boost. While a couple of vehicles seem to be slightly more balanced than the rest, there is no way that you can pick one of them and take the victory for granted.

Kart parts are bound to be a vital mechanic in Kartrider: Drift, with items that are predictably unlocked as you gain experience levels. You can customize your kart with your preferred pieces of different tiers, including the front, side, rear, wheels, and booster. These parts seem purely cosmetic for now, and let’s hope they stay that way. The other aspect of kart customization is a lick of paint, with a few preset spots that you can dye to your liking. In the future there will be custom wraps to add to the kart body, taking personal customization a step further.

Kartrider Drift Preview Drifting Items

Those karts won’t drive themselves, so you must pick a driver to embody your persona. The three measly characters aren’t likely to rock your world, and their design is probably going to be one of the more divisive points of the game – this is no Mario and friends for sure. Dao, the poster boy for the game, looks like an exile from Katamari Damacy, although his alternative baseball skin is a bit more agreeable. Bazzi is a boy wearing a teddy bear costume, and Brodi is a mysterious factory foreman. The graphics and animations are beyond criticism, but the cast lacks charisma, and there is a lot of room for improvement here. Nexon may not have a legacy to rival with Blizzard or Nintendo, but it could add a few guest drivers from some of its famous games, including but not limited to Dungeon Fighter Online, MapleStory, and Vindictus. Either that or add charming characters with a distinct identity that really stands out.

Racing is fun and frantic as it should be. Controls can make or break a game such as this one and thankfully Nexon has mostly nailed the feel of an arcade racer. It’s incredibly simple to drive and use the items, but you need to master the drifting mechanic if you want to reach the finish line ahead of the pack. It requires a delicate balance as you drift to fill your turbo meter, avoiding the track barriers by the skin of your teeth. The technique here is to start drifting as soon as you have triggered the turbo so that you keep that momentum going, but it’s easier said than done. You gain experience not just by winning races or placing on the top spots, you also earn points for actions such as drifting, passes, attacks landed, and attacks blocked. Take more than 10 seconds to finish the race after the winner and you’ll be retired, with your experience taking a hit in the process.

Kartrider Drift Preview Item Attack

Boosts are the central gimmick of the Speed mode, but Kartrider: Drift also comes with the Item mode. These are two separate experiences that you can play solo, in duos, or in squads, but you need to choose one mode over the other. Currently, there is no league mode of sorts to participate in, something that is sorely lacking but is certainly in the works. It is essential to give the game a long-lasting appeal because this kind of multiplayer racing may be fun, but it will only hold your attention for so long.

The Item mode makes the races look and feel akin to Mario Kart, as you randomly collect power-ups in certain locations of the track. You may get a useful booster, but there are quite a few attack and defense items as well. There is a shield to protect you from enemy attacks for a brief time, the mandatory banana to make the rival slip, barriers to make your chasers crash, a magnet to pull yourself closer to a driver in front of you, among others. The items add an element of surprise to the races and the winner isn’t always the best driver, but this mode surely boosts the fun factor in ways that the Speed mode isn’t capable of.

Currently there are nine tracks available, set in diverse environments including forests, glaciers, graveyards, and villages. The track design pulls all the punches in order to keep races frantic, with ramps, shortcuts, and long straight roads to make the most out of the turbo.

Kartrider Drift Preview Race Start

Kartrider: Drift makes good use of Unreal Engine 4, delivering some pleasant sights and colorful tracks. The lighting effects and reflections are top-notch, and the game conveys an accomplished cartoon mood capable of entertaining kids and adults alike.

The closed beta is a nice presentation card for Kartrider: Drift. The core mechanics are in place and it just needs more: more drivers, more tracks, more features to keep you coming back for another race. Nexon seems to be committed to its game and it might as well be – it may be no Mario Kart beater, but it sure is nice to welcome a serious contender to the genre.

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Path of Exile Conquerors of the Atlas Preview

Grinding Gear Games is in a tough spot right now. Don’t take this the wrong way; the New Zealand-based games developer isn’t going through some drama or afflictive times, quite on the contrary. The tricky issue here is that the first ever ExileCon delivered in spades, and it’s not easy to see how the next edition will manage to live up to such high standards.

The announcement of Path of Exile 2 was the uncontested highlight of the convention. This nearly groundbreaking but probably not quite beast of a game defies description, being some sort of radical hybrid sitting between huge expansion and spectacular sequel. Path of Exile Mobile deserves an honorable mention as well; the earnest and slightly awkward way that Grinding Gear Games’ co-founder and managing director Chris Wilson and his team introduced the game is obvious proof that they are doing this with sheer respect for Path of Exile, instead of pushing for a quick cash grab that would end up damaging the nearly stellar reputation of the franchise.

Franchise. Until a few days ago, it would be a delusion to say something like that about Path of Exile. But now, Grinding Gear Games is finally putting the “S” in games. So is Riot Games, with its recent announcement of a League of Legends fighting game, a FPS, and a few other games. Maybe it’s something in the water.

Before Path of Exile 2, we’re getting a few expansions starting with the massive 3.9 update, officially titled Conquerors of the Atlas. The announcement trailer spawned a mix of excited and shocked reactions, and quite understandably so – after all, it’s not every day that you are your most dangerous threat.

Path of Exile Conquerors of the Atlas Preview Conqueror

You Versus You | Conquerors of the Atlas Preview

According to Chris Wilson, Conquerors of the Atlas is designed to reinvigorate Path of Exile’s endgame, a couple of years after the War for the Atlas expansion brought the Shaper and the Elder influence mechanics, and the brand-new story follows those events. Admitting that the endgame was getting “a bit stale,” Wilson is adamant that the new expansion is going to change that, adding to the flexibility and bringing some exciting fights and rewards, without compromising what fans love so much about the Atlas gameplay.

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” These famous words uttered by Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight seem like a perfect fit for your role in Conquerors of the Atlas. In the trailer, Zana describes her tale of bravery in face of an overwhelming evil, and how she ended up sealing these threats in the Atlas. The five bosses that you must face can be briefly seen in their human form, and a glimpse of them as the Conquerors reveal their evolved and threatening nature, which is based off real player builds. This is a remarkable way to seamlessly bind lore and grind, in a metagame of sorts that comes as a shocking revelation to all but the most perceptive players – the Exiles are their own worst enemy. You can almost taste the bittersweet irony behind it all.

One of the most noticeable changes is straight up visible when you open the Atlas. You no longer start your quest in the corners, instead starting near the center of the map, and working out your way toward the corners. This is a change that should add more freedom to the way that you choose to explore the regions. The map is divided into eight regions, something that you’ll verify by the yellow borders. In the beginning, there are 19 maps visible to the players, and you must unlock the rest by leveling up regions of the Atlas through defeating Conquerors and earning watchstones, which you can socket to increase the tier of the maps within that region. Fully upgrading a region will reveal more maps and raise each one within to tier 14-16. You can repeatedly target Conquerors in case you want to earn more watchstones and have all eight regions at max level.

Path of Exile Conquerors of the Atlas Preview Map

With the new expansion, sextants can be applied to watchstones and affect an entire region, instead of a single map as they previously would. This gives you up to four sextants for each region, and you can unsocket watchstones between regions as you wish. Another change is that Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Cartographer sextants now come with unique modifiers.

The support gem plus system is another feature coming with the new expansion. These gems are “very high level, super powerful versions” of the support gems that you can already find in the game. This priceless loot drops from Conquerors and there are around 35 in Conquerors of the Atlas. Wilson talked about a couple of them, Fork Plus and Ancestral Call Plus, proceeding to a short demonstration where chaos ensued, and an appropriate “RIP graphics card” comment stole a legitimate laugh from the audience.

With Conquerors of the Atlas changing the endgame and shifting the focus from the Shaper and Elder, what will happen to those items that you fought so hard for? You can rest assured that these aren’t going away, and Zana’s missions will give you Shaper and Elder guardian maps. The goal here is to keep that part of the content accessible, in case you need an item as a specific part of your build, although the focus isn’t on this system anymore.

Four new influence types named after four of the five Conquerors will provide you with new ways to change your build: Warlord, Hunter, Crusader, and Adjudicator. I feel sorry for the remaining guy, but he’s being left out because his name probably isn’t quite as catchy as the others – maybe he’s called Blayde or something? These mod pools are based on older mods but also include new additions. Conquerors may also drop orbs that enables you to enchant a rare item with a unique modifier.

Path of Exile Conquerors of the Atlas Preview Conqueror Battle

Previous Path of Exile expansions improved on various aspects of the game. Spellcasting, melee, summoning and mines were topics that deserved exceptional attention from the development team, and the 3.9 update is enhancing bows and ranged attack totems.

Ranged attack totems are now called ballistas, and you can place three of them at once even faster than before. New support gems provide additional ways of shooting arrows, with the artillery ballista shooting fiery arrows up in the air to rain down on enemies, working as a very efficient way to clear spread out enemies. The other support gem is the shrapnel ballista, which fires limited-range projectiles at your foes.

The bow is a popular weapon in more ways than one, and it saw the introduction of new skills and support gems. The Ensnaring Arrow utility skill increases ranged attack damage and restrains movement of the affected targets; the Barrage support is a treasured skill that receives a new gem allowing you to fire several arrows in sequence; finally, the Nova support gem allows you to fire an arrow into the air, which lands at a remote location and splits into a swarm of arrows that lay waste to enemies everywhere. On the other hand, you can say goodbye to the Tornado shot, which was nerfed and was “far too good for far too long”.

Path of Exile Conquerors of the Atlas Preview Bow

DIY Metamorph | Conquerors of the Atlas Preview

As if drastically changing the endgame and giving the grind a consistent reason that perfectly ties with the existing lore wasn’t enough, there is a new league coming with this update. The Metamorph league is the 28th league in Path of Exile and launches alongside Conquerors of the Atlas on December 13. Another spectacular trailer introduces the new league, ostensibly basking in its ominous atmosphere and the narration of an obsessed and scary persona. It stars a new NPC, Tane Octavius, a master alchemist that was exiled to Wraeclast for killing his teacher and is now vying to use his expertise to find the “the intrinsic darkness.” This, of course, involves a lot of killing.

As you kill monsters in each area, you collect samples from some of the corpses. The samples represent the personification of each creature’s skills, and combining five of them will result in the creation of a metamorph. When you have enough skills, you can summon Tane so that he helps you to create a metamorph. You possess certain control over the genesis of this boss, as you carefully select the five samples that blend into a menacing foe.

The resulting metamorph is a vicious boss that swiftly changes shape and offers a remarkable and unpredictable challenge. The more powerful the metamorph is, the better the rewards, so there is a clear risk/reward factor that you must consider when mixing the samples.

Path of Exile Conquerors of the Atlas Preview Conqueror Battle 3

In the Metamorph endgame, you can collect samples from map bosses and combine them to form even more lethal metamorphs. The blend of powers, difficulty, and rewards of multiple bosses yields the definitive challenge for league players. The Conquerors of the Atlas expansion brings 16 new items, four exclusive to the Metamorph league, and the rest of them will drop as you defeat the Conquerors.

Conquerors of the Atlas turns Path of Exile’s endgame on its head and is set to deliver a bold and unabashed foundation for what 2020 will bring. With a few expansions yet to release in the lead-up to 4.0, which you know by Path of Exile 2 by now, fighting former Exiles sounds like a way to close the year on a very interesting note.

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Logitech G Introduces Adaptive Gaming Kit For Those With Accessibility Needs

Last year, Microsoft created a bold new peripheral called the Xbox Adaptive Controller, allowing those with accessibility needs to get in on the gaming action. To further build on that, Logitech G is getting into the game.

Logitech G Introduces Adaptive Gaming Kit_2

The company has announced the Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit, which is available for purchase here for $99.99. It works with the Xbox controller with a “large assortment of buttons and triggers with gaming-grade components,” according to the press release.

Logitech worked alongside the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab and a number of accessibility groups on the kit, including AbleGamers and SpecialEffect.

“The Xbox Adaptive Controller opened up gaming to people with disabilities all around the world,” said Jenny Lay-Flurrie, chief accessibility officer at Microsoft. “With the addition of Logitech G’s Adaptive Gaming Kit, we’re excited to see that impact continue to grow. It’s never been more important to design through the lens of disability and push the boundaries of what technology can do to be inclusive of everyone around the world.”

The kit comes with three small buttons and three large buttons, along with four light touch buttons, two variable trigger controls, configurable game mats with a hook and loop system, and custom labels and velcro ties.

“The Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit is designed to be the perfect companion to the Xbox Adaptive Controller, giving gamers the necessary tools they need at a more affordable price point,” said Ujesh Desai, vice president and general manager of Logitech Gaming. “It also supports our commitment to inclusivity and diversity in gaming, because fundamentally we believe that life is more fun when you play, and everyone should be able to experience the joys of play.”

Steven Spohn, chief operating officer for AbleGamers, also commented on its accessibility. ““The goal of AbleGamers is to find a way for people with varying abilities to play video games. Everyone’s needs are different, and the Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit delivers a wide range of configuration options to make gaming a possibility for all. We appreciated the opportunity to work closely with Logitech G on the design of this kit and look forward to continuing our partnership in the future.” 

Check out this video to see how the kit came together. Those interested in buying it can do so over on Logitech’s page. It will also be available at Microsoft stores and other locations later this month.

 

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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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Gears 5: Getting the Most Out of the Multiplayer Modes

Microsoft and The Coalition have truly delivered on the latest game in the Gears of War franchise, the simply named Gears 5. Not only does its single-player campaign deliver in spades, but it also has multiplayer that’s built to last. Between traditional content, new DLC that adds a promotional boost to the game, and some new modes, there’s a lot here for players to uncover.

In fact, it might be too much for some, as Gears 5’s general multiplayer is definitely on the competitive side. Chances are that you will die a few times before you get the hang of it. Not to worry, we’re here to help! We’ve broken down the three general components of multiplayer below, along with some tips that will help you come out on top, or at the very least help your side win a few battles. Dig in!

Horde Mode Gets a Makeover

The classic Horde Mode makes a return with Gears 5, but not quite in the way that you’d expect. While the general rules are still the same – survive waves of enemies that come at you – The Coalition has tweaked things a bit to make it more character-based than ever.

Gears 5 supports up to five people in a group, which gives you a bit of balance when it comes to covering the bases against incoming enemies. You’ll want to work closely with your team. If one member goes down, you’ll want to quickly revive them because you’re going to need every bit of firepower you can get your hands on.

As enemies are defeated in this mode, they’ll drop Power. You’ll want to pick this up, as it will help your character with upgrades and additional items. These include helpful defensive tools such as machine gun turrets and barriers laden with spikes. There are also secondary weapons you can pick up as well.

You’ll want to pile these on, as each tenth wave brings a new boss to battle. They’re going to take a lot of firepower, so the best thing we can suggest with this is to take cover often and set up your shots. They’re going to get tougher from here, so make sure you find whatever to keep yourself safe from incoming fire.

Going back to Power, you’ll want to keep an eye on the Power Tap. It can be located on the map with each wave. You’ll need to capture and defend this point to the best of your ability, as it will grant you extra Power to buy more goods.Don’t worry about a majority of Power going to another player; it’s divided up equally, so loot fiends don’t get everything to themselves.

Finally, each character actually has different attributes that can lend themselves to battle. This kind of takes the Overwatch approach, but it’s neat regardless. Kait Diaz, for example, can turn invisible and get the jump on opponents. Marcus Fenix can automatically land headshots for a limited time, mowing down incoming enemies, and JD Fenix can use an artillery strike to rain fire on unsuspecting foes. These abilities can only be used sparingly, but they’re excellent when you’re in a pinch or about to be overwhelmed.

Someone can even play as Jack if they prefer. He’s actually a great robotic character, as he can take out marked enemies and even hijack certain ones to do his bidding for a short while. Don’t let his small size fool you – he’s devastating.

Don’t forget you can pick up on Perks and Skill Cards as well. These will give you additional boosts over the course of your battle, combined with your Power. Up to four can be stored in all, and the more the merrier, especially when you’ve got adversaries that are coming at you non-stop.

Skill cards are a great booster in themselves, as you can increase certain things with your character, from melee damage to a speed push. And if you have duplicates, they can actually be given to other cards to help them along.

Overall, Horde has gone through some major upgrades, and is well worth playing, even if you think you’ve “conquered” it before. There’s a lot of great additions that both die-hard fans and newcomers will want to check out. Just make sure you have a good team on hand – you’re going to need it.

Come With Me and Escape

Speaking of a survival-based mode, it’s time to look at the latest addition to the Gears franchise: the Escape Mode. This was hinted at a few months ago, when Microsoft and The Coalition were building hype for the game.

It’s the opposite of the Horde mode. Instead of waiting for enemies to come to you, you go through their base, cleaning them out and working together as a team to blow it sky high and escape in one piece. It provides a nice twist on the proceedings, and is well worth putting a squad together for.

However, you don’t have five players to lean on here. Instead, Escape only comes with three. That means you’ll have to work more tightly with your group to keep them in one piece. If one goes down from damage, you’ll need to work much more quickly to revive them, lest you’re left behind with one less soldier and a whole bunch of foes that are angry at you for being in their house. Granted, you can find a Swarm pod and bring them back into battle – provided you can make it there. It’s nice to have an opportunity to save them the second time around, just in case you miss out.

Like Horde, Escape Mode has its own set of skills via ability cards. These become available as you level up your character, and you can fit them into slots to utilize them. The harder the difficulty you play at, the better the cards get. However, if you’re just getting started, you’ll have your hands on some good ones, such as Crazy Tough (increasing your strength for a limited time) and Bloody Shot (a nice taste of explosive firepower).

Each character also has their own perks, like Horde, but they tend to lean more towards helping the team out. For instance, take Lahni. They can push towards their foes with more attitude than other characters, giving them a boost over the competition for a limited time. Others, however, can help heal a team and even a little bit of ammunition. Take a look at the available selection and see which ones are best for you.

When you do get into battle, don’t waste ammo. You’re going to run low, along with your team, so make sure to snag whatever you can get your hands on. Some weapons work better than others for certain soldiers, so see which ones will work properly for you.

Finally, when it comes to getting the high score on the leaderboard, keep in mind that all kinds of dedicated players are getting into this Gears 5 mode. Don’t push yourself or your team too hard. Just keep at it with your headshots and “skillful” skills to get that score climbing, and find that right synchronicity as a team before you attempt to tackle the higher difficulty settings. Remember, you want your team to work with you, not against you. Jump in and give it a shot!

Traditional Multiplayer

Finally, there’s the gamut of traditional multiplayer mode, which will no doubt be the most popular among the Gears elite. There’s a lot to dig into here, particularly with the “bonus” characters. Those who pre-ordered the game will gain access to the Halo: Reach pack, as well as the Terminator: Dark Fate pack, with Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor and a T-800 to boot. Yes, Dave Bautista, the wrestler-turned-actor, is a playable character as well. So you’ve got a lot to choose from when it comes to jumping into battle.

As usual, we’re reintroduced to modes like Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Escalation and Guardian, which are mainstays for this series. Then there’s Arcade, which provides a fun little twist on things, actually making the game somewhat easier for those that aren’t used to jumping into such a mode. It’s a splendid way for them to be introduced to it, should the other modes be too much to bear.

As for how to survive in multiplayer, there are a few general rules to keep in mind. These will make all the difference between life and death, particularly with the close-range fire that the series has become known for.

First off, you’ll want to master the movement of your character. This means using the defensive roll to get out of harm’s way quickly, as well as scrambling to cover. The cover mechanic is more crucial than ever in a game like this, especially with those that are trying to fire at you from a distance. Remember, you can “hug” the walls if you need to find a new vantage point, or jump over from one cover point to another if you feel like it’s getting a little too hot for its own good.

Just don’t stand in place. This is likely to be a fool’s mistake because it makes you an easy target for cannon fire. Instead, use running to your advantage and put yourself in a spot where you can set up shots without making yourself a simple target to mow down. It’ll take practice, but Arcade Mode is a wondrous place to start if you want to get the hang of things.

You may also notice that you now have Active Reload. This lets you reload your weapon at any time, even if you think you already have a full clip. As with before, Gears 5 utilizes a double-touch system. You start the reload by pressing the button, but then you’ll want to hit it again while the cursor is in the white zone, so you can finish it quickly. If you don’t, you’re going to be stuck for a couple of seconds completing the reload, and that’s a real difference maker when you’ve got someone coming at you with Gnasher.

Along with movements and reloads, you’ll also want to get the hang of sticking very closely with your team. Wandering away will make you an easy target to enemies, especially if you’re got two or more coming at you. By staying together as a squad, you stand a better chance of survival, since someone can easily “get your back” while you reload, or you can set up some kind of ambush, with someone coming around the other side. 

You’re also able to “mark” certain enemies or objects, in case you want to shot off something significant to your teammates in the team of battle. Not everyone can shout out an enemy location, but marking it makes it simpler to see where they need to go, or where a threat could be lying.

Blindfire can make a difference as well. While in cover, you have the option to fire without sticking your head out. Half the time, you may not hit anything, since it’s not the most accurate. However, blindfire can serve other purposes, like doing some damage to an enemy if they’re within your range, or perhaps even distracting someone long enough for one of your teammates to come running around to clean house.

Finally, don’t be afraid to use other weapons besides your guns. We’ve discovered that the Lancer is ideal for sawing someone in half, provided you aren’t charging at someone to the point they’re clearly seeing it. If you’re able to gain an advantage to where someone can’t see you coming, then sure, activate your Lancer and go nuts (you can also blast with a Gnasher, it’s up to you, but there’s something rad about nailing that melee kill).

For that matter, grenades are awesome. They deliver a bigger bang than in previous games and with a decent amount of range. If you’ve got a couple, go ahead and hurl them out when you think you’ve got your enemies pinned. At the very least, if you don’t get them with the explosion, they’ll roll out of the way long enough to put them within firing range.

These general tips should help you get accustomed to the multiplayer modes that are featured in Gears 5. You’ll still need to apply plenty of skill to get the most out of it, but you’ve got ways to build up in Horde and Escape. Arcade Mode will also help you get accustomed to the multiplayer like never before. Give it a shot!

Gears 5 is available now for Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.

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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!

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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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