Category Archives: Video Games

Injustice 2 Trailer – “The Lines are Redrawn”

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Entertainment today revealed the Official Injustice 2 Story Trailer – “The Lines are Redrawn.” Witness the story set in motion in Injustice: Gods Among Us as new DC characters join the fight and shape the actions that unfold in the upcoming sequel.  Injustice 2 will release for the PlayStation 4 computer entertainment system and Xbox One beginning May 16, 2017.

Injustice 2 is NetherRealm Studios’ super-powered sequel to the hit game Injustice: Gods Among Us that allows players to build and power up the ultimate version of their favorite DC characters. Featuring a massive selection of DC Super Heroes and Super-Villains,  Injustice 2 continues the epic cinematic story introduced in Injustice: Gods Among Us as Batman and his allies work towards putting the pieces of society back together while struggling against those who want to restore Superman’s regime.  In the midst of the chaos, a new threat appears that will put Earth’s existence at risk.

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Dark Horse Reveals Limited Edition of The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts

In late 2016, Dark Horse announced the next installment in their legendary partnership with Nintendo would be The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts. Today, Dark Horse is excited to reveal a limited edition of The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts!

Fans who purchase The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts limited edition will experience the thrill of finding and unsheathing the Master Sword! The cover features a 3D embossed sword hilt sculpt with a metallic foil finish. The sword hilt is life size to give the reader the satisfaction of unsheathing the very realistic sword from the acetate sleeve that encases the book. The cover’s background features the Lost Woods (a maze of mystifying forests that has appeared throughout the franchise) in a custom-mixed deep purple ink with a soft-touch lamination and spot-gloss UV, framed with metallic foil. The book’s pages are gilded as well.

Both the regular and limited editions of The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts have over 400 pages of fully realized artistic masterpieces, exclusive interviews with the artists behind the beloved video game franchise, the official pixel art of the early series, and rare promotional art never before published in this format.

The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts limited edition is available for preorder from Amazon, Penguin Random House, Things From Another World, and more. The limited edition retails for $79.99 and goes on sale February 21, 2017.

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6 Flawed Video Games for a Flawed 2016

It’s been a year.

I’m struggling to find a way to even begin to pithily encapsulate 2016 in a sentence or two, and I’m not alone. America elected a president who campaigned on a platform of white supremacy, set against a backdrop of a world that’s increasingly turning to strongmen and parties embracing authoritarianism, hatred, and the far-right wing. We witnessed horrors across the globe and lost too many voices who’ve been pillars of our community. We’ve almost unanimously declared 2016 a terrible year, and are definitely ready to move on.

But before we do, I want to pause and reflect on 2016 for a second, specifically from the perspective of video games. This isn’t a top ten list (a la most outlets), or an opinions battle royale (a la Giant Bomb), or a video-game-high-school-superlative-and-fanfiction-yearbook (a la Waypoint), although maybe I can convince Graphic Policy to do something like the latter next year.

No, this is a list of games I played this past year. All of them are flawed (some of them deeply), like the year itself. They range in scale from the biggest-budget mainstream titles to small, quiet independent games. And hell, many of them didn’t even come out in 2016.

But all of them made me think about myself and this world in different ways. And for that I’m grateful. So here’s a set of games that had an impact on me this year.

The “Insidious Structural Oppression” Award: Dragon Age: Inquisition

dragon-age-inquisitionOh Dragon Age. You’re such a weird franchise. You splattered blood all over my face constantly in Dragon Age: Origins, gave me plenty of choices that all seemed wrong in Dragon Age II and suggested plenty of romantic options in both games that didn’t quite feel right.

And then along came Dragon Age: Inquisition.

There’s an entire article I’ll write at some point about this game, but let me for now just say that Dragon Age: Inquisition tells a captivating narrative that’s full of hard choices and political intrigue. Tensions between liberalism and authoritarianism, faith and freedom are commonplace; these conflicts aren’t new to the Dragon Age series. What is new is that the world feels more real and, well, heavier than ever before. The game is full of covert and overt prejudice (e.g. characters called my elven character “knife-ears” throughout the entire story), and forces the player to choose how they’re going to deal with it (or to simply ignore it). I certainly tend to see things through a lens of power and privilege, but I’m far from alone in seeing how unique Inquisition is in confronting these ugly realities compared to the first two games in the series. Inquisition made me interrogate my own beliefs and perspective in a way that games almost never do, especially games as popular and mainstream as the Dragon Age series.

Also, there’s a mission called “Oh, Shit,” so this game should be on everyone’s award list.

The “2016-est Game of 2016” Award: XCOM 2

xcom-2The first XCOM was a gritty, difficult tactical game where you built a multinational military squad to fight off an alien invasion. You, as their trusted Commander, built up a base of operations, directed research and construction, and commanded your squad in the field. As you grew with your team, they became like family–they developed skills, they got nicknames, they suffered horrifying wounds and maybe, slowly got better. And every time a soldier fell in battle, it was jarring and upsetting, as one of XCOM’s defining features was permadeath: no coming back for any fallen member of the team. If one of your favorite squaddies perished, that was that.

The second XCOM utilizes a very similar set of gameplay mechanics, and it ups the oppressive feeling by starting from a surprising story premise: humanity lost. The alien invasion was successful, and we now live under the dominion of a seemingly invincible alien legion. From the very beginning to the very end, this is a game about a desperate, nearly hopeless resistance. Not only does each decision and sacrifice feel difficult, but the backdrop isn’t “be careful, there’s aliens out there!”, it’s “each time you mess up, we’re inching closer and closer to the end of humanity as we know it.” These kinds of absurd stakes are commonplace in video games, but the notion somehow feels real and earned in XCOM 2. In a country and world that feels increasingly on the brink, XCOM 2 feels downright portentous in its mood, if not the actual events of the story.

Yes, it has crushing technical problems and load times that are beyond absurd (for the record, repeatedly pressing CAPS LOCK may speed up your load time; it may also extremely crash your computer, so, great), but it also has a soulful darkness that makes it even more compelling than the first game.

The “Fond Memories of AIM” Award: Cibele

cibeleCibele is a game that resists easy description and categorization. Cibele is Nina Freeman’s introspective, raw memory of growing up in the early days of the internet. Even articulating the gameplay gives away the discovery of the experience, so I’ll only draw a slight note: despite a few not-amazing control and interactive design choices, Cibele is an enrapturing game about emotion, sex, communication, and technology, and it achieves this goal even though you’re not really playing that much.

And kudos to Nina Freeman for not only showing the vulnerability to conceive of and develop this game but the courage to also star in the cinematic sequences that occur throughout the story.

The “If It Ain’t Broke, Change it Completely” Award: Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

civilization_vi_cover_artI never liked the music of Civilization V.

I know that’s weird to fixate on–the storied empire-building franchise that began 25 (!) years ago is about so much more than its soundtrack–but the music plays a big role in drawing me into the world and gameplay of Civilization. For me, the changes in Civilization V were sweeping and wonderful, but the music felt distant and aloof; it was like a constant feeling that someone I didn’t like very much was selecting the playlist and smirking at me all the while. That feeling, unfortunately, translated to how I felt as I played the game.

So when I launched Civilization VI for the first time and wanted to start humming along to the epic main menu music, I crossed my fingers. Maybe this was my year.

It was my year.

The new and different features are myriad: the introduction of the district system (in an almost Endless-Legend-like way), a totally revamped culture system, a substantially different art style, gameplay achievement-like boosts, and customized music for nearly every civilization–this is a game that takes bold risks, and nearly all of them succeed.

It has some kinks to iron out–the religious system and religious victory are annoying and extraneous, the barbarians are hilariously powerful (as they should be?), and the game mechanics lend themselves to overwhelming micromanagement on anything but the smallest maps–but make no mistake, Civilization VI is a triumph.

And yes, I have the soundtrack.

The “I Never Play Online Multiplayer Games, But I Played This Online Multiplayer Game” Award: Overwatch

Cheers, love! The cavalry’s here!

The “Evie is a Really Cool Name” Award: Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

assassins-creed-syndicateI’m almost an Assassin’s Creed apologist.

I know, I know. They’ve made 400 games in the space of a few years, the stories are often cookie-cutter and their self-seriousness is whimsical considering the absurdity of the overarching universe. I get it. But at their best, they tackle real issues about power, choice, the role of government, the responsibility we have to each other, and so much more.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is a fun romp through a London going through the Industrial Revolution, following Evie and Jacob Frye, an Assassin sister-brother duo aiming to topple the choking vice-grip that Templars have on their city. You’ll free child laborers, apprehend criminals, and of course, assassinate all the time. Along the way, you befriend Dickens and Darwin, and an optional DLC takes you up against Jack the Ripper himself.

Ubisoft has made small changes that really improve the gameplay flow of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate and the ability to play as Evie or Jacob at almost any point is fun and varied (although they play nearly identically). The game wants to focus on class and even lightly touches on issues like British colonialism, which is great to see in a game that could’ve just been enjoyable accents and carriages.

As with all games, there are problems here and there; one small annoyance is that the game’s internal logic feels twisted in more than a few occasions. Your adversaries (conveniently dressed in red), for example, fight you at every turn, are connected to the Templars, and you battle and kill them often. But as soon as you take over a territory, you watch a canned cutscene where Evie and Jacob look out amongst a crowd of red-dressed hooligans and say “You work for us now!” and then after the cheers subside…they work for you now. Seriously? It doesn’t break the game, but this to-and-fro of somewhat-adroit awareness and feckless dimwittedness is unfortunately, a regular occurrence throughout the main campaign.

But set aside the ramblings of a man that’s obsessed with internal logic, and grab your stovepipe hat and wrist blade and have a blast in not-quite-steampunk London.

The “Low Chaos, Low Fun” Award: Dishonored 2

dishonored_2_cover_artDishonored 2 wasn’t fun.

My hours and hours sneaking through the game as a supposed stealth and combat master were mostly spent dying in spectacularly embarrassing ways. Teleport next to this guard…oops, she saw me. Reload my quicksave. Okay, go around the other side, hit the button–wait, why isn’t the button wor… Reload my quicksave.

Dishonored 2 gives you a few more options to deal with your adversaries in nonlethal ways, but this is still a game that focuses on giving you creative ways to murder people. So when I tried to (both from a roleplaying and from a moral perspective) go about the game trying to kill absolutely no one, I didn’t get much help from the game’s user interface, controls, or (ugh) load times. There’s a lot more that the game could do to make this more accessible–provide more nonlethal open combat options, make more of the weapons stun instead of kill, provide an on-screen notification of when you’ve gone from sneaky protagonist to killer–but on the other hand, it’s probably not supposed to be easy. The “good” path in real life (to the extent such a thing even exists) isn’t easy either. So maybe being “good” should correlate to the difficult path, as you see (to a degree) in games like the Fable series.

But there’s the problem–Dishonored 2, like the first game, doesn’t have a morality system a la Knights of the Old Republic or Mass Effect. The notion of morality in the Dishonored universe is referred to as Chaos, and Chaos is measured only by the number of human lives you take. While I like the idea of challenging silly binaries of morality (remember a decade or so ago, when “choice in games” meant selecting either “save the orphanage” or “burn down the orphanage”), the idea that the body count is the only important metric is a bizarre decision at best.

One example of this questionable approach to good and evil is with the main objective in each mission: your “assassination target.” In Dishonored 2 (and the first game), for every target, there’s a nonlethal option. But sometimes, the nonlethal option feels even more ruthless than killing the target outright–outcomes range from a lifetime working in the mines with one’s tongue cut out to forcing a target to live out the rest of her days with her stalker/attacker. These are horrifying fates to subject someone to, but the game is smart enough only for the equation that nonlethal equals good.

So when I’m praised at the end for the judicious and good-hearted way that I completed the story’s objectives (floweringly called the “Low Chaos” end), it doesn’t just feel weird, it feels wrong.

But the world of Dishonored 2 is a fascinating one, worthy of exploration, and although its morality may not line up with your own, it’s worth your time to dive in and take the game’s odd choices as a discussion starter, and not a final conclusion.


John Brougher is an actor and filmmaker out of the Los Angeles area, as well as the Chief Operating Officer of the progressive consulting firm ShareProgress. He likes narrative-driven games, dance movies, and people who self-identify as Hufflepuffs.

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III Gets a Comic Tie-In

Prepare for a new dawn! In celebration of the upcoming and highly anticipated Dawn of War III real-time strategy game, Titan Comics and Games Workshop join forces to deliver a brand-new four issue comic mini-series in April 2017. Titan’s brand-new Dawn of War III comic mini-series comes hot on the heels of the phenomenal Warhammer 40,000: Will of Iron ongoing series, which launched earlier this year.

Written by Ryan O’Sullivan and illustrated by Daniel Indro, the Dawn of War III mini-series will tie-in to the colossal Dawn of War real-time-strategy games, produced by Relic Entertainment with Sega and Games Workshop, in which players command armies of the Space Marines, Orks, and the Eldar to dominate the battlefield!

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War was a critical and commercial hit in 2005, followed by the release of Dawn of War II: Retribution in 2009.

Titan’s Dawn of War III comic series tells an all-new tale in parallel to that of the video game story, which sees three factions – the Blood Ravens Space Marines, the Eldar, and a fearsome Ork horde – converging on a planet where a weapon of devastating power has been unearthed. .

Titan’s Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III mini-series will be available for pre-order in February’s Diamond PREVIEWS catalogue.

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Brianna Wu is Planning a Run for Congress

brianna-wuThe 2016 elections were a little over a month ago but folks are already thinking about and preparing for the 2018 midterm elections (and don’t forget to vote in local elections in 2017 for those that have them!). Game developer Brianna Wu is one of those people and has decided to run for U.S. House of Representatives. Though she hasn’t officially announced (and may never actually do so) she posted the picture to the left on her Facebook page and confirmed her intentions to Venture Beat.

Wu runs the Giant Spacekat indie game studio with Amanda Warner in the Boston area and has been very outspoken when it comes to sexual harassment, harassment in general, gender rights, and Black Lives Mater. She has been the target of death threats and harassment herself standing up to it and the GamerGate community.

Wu, a Democrat, plans to run in Massachusetts and is currently assembling her campaign team but it is being reported that Cory Doctorow will be advising.

“My main agenda will be economic. Here in Massachusetts, taxpayers spend an amazing amount on subsidizing education – particularly with infrastructure. But then students and entrepreneurs take that investment by our state to San Francisco or Austin,” she said. “I think we can do a much better job keeping startups here in our state. Also, look at the game industry, which has been devastated here in Boston with the loss of Irrational and others.

“I’d hope to serve on the House technology subcommittee. It was very disturbing to me to see members of the House tie the Mirai botnet (malware that hijacks computers) to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), simply parroting special interests. It’s an example of how our tech policy doesn’t serve the American people. We need people making policy that actually understand technology, that understand the assault on our privacy. It’s a national security issue, and we’re failing badly.”

I will be adding legal experts on cyber-bullying and revenge porn to my advising team soon,” she said. “The reason I decided to run is simple: [President-elect Donald] Trump is terrifyingly now in the White House. I can’t sit by making pleasant video game distractions for the next four years while the constitution is under assault. Hillary [Clinton] ran a brave marathon, and now it’s time for women of my generation to pick up that baton and commit to public service.

The other reason I’m running is because I’m ready for a bolder Democratic Party. I didn’t personally support Sanders in the primary, but he tapped into a very powerful disconnect between our party’s leadership and our base. We want leaders that will fight for us, and all too often the Democrats don’t stand up to the fringe extreme of the Republican Party. I’ve been called a lot of names over my career, but I’ve never been told I’m scared of a fight. You know just how passionate I am about women in tech. But I believe we’ve hit an asymptote with what activism in tech can accomplish. People are aware of the problem, but all that’s getting done is window dressing. We don’t need more catered women in tech lunches, we don’t need speeches – we need structural bias against us to stop. And I think women in tech serving in the legislative branch is the next step forward.

It’s unknown what district she’ll be running in if she decides to take the official plunge. The current nine member delegation is all of the Democratic party so she’d have to challenge someone in the primary, a difficult task. Of the nine, two are women. Congresswomen Katherine Clark has been outspoken on some of the issues Wu brings up. Clark, who represents the fifth district, even introduced legislation addressing swatting, doxxing, and cybercrime and is a member of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, and Subcommittee on Research and Technology.

We’ll absolutely be covering this as it develops.

 

The Watchmen Game That Almost Happened

Unseen64 has a new video exploring a video game for The Watchmen that we almost got. Developed by Bottlerocket Entertainment the game was planned for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii with a mix of various gameplay styles.

Funcom’s Exclusive Conan Exiles Digital Comic and Live Gameplay Stream this Friday

Funcom and Dark Horse Comics are thrilled to announce that creative teams in both companies are now working on a new Conan Exiles digital comic book that will be made available in January. Conan Exiles is an open-world survival game set in the brutal lands of Conan the Barbarian. By reading the comic, fans will get a unique glimpse into the events that take place in the savage exiled lands. The creative team includes Michael Moreci, José Luis, and Andy Owens, as well as Gavin Whelan, and Anders Finér on the Funcom team.

Funcom and Dark Horse previously worked together on the exclusive digital comic book for Funcom’s 2008 massive multiplayer game, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. The comic book was distributed to gamers and Conan fans worldwide and was a key piece in the company’s marketing campaign for the 2008 best-selling game.

Funcom is also excited to announce that the studio will do a live gameplay stream on Twitch.tv/Funcom this Friday, December 16. Creative director Joel Bylos and community manager Jens Erik Vaaler will show the unique thrall gameplay live for the first time. Players will be able to capture enemy bandits, drag them back to their camp, and crush their will in the Wheel of Pain. Players can then place the thralls as guards, archers, and even special blacksmiths, tanners, and other craftsmen to unlock unique new recipes.

Conan Exiles is an open-world survival game set in the brutal lands of Conan the Barbarian, the world’s greatest fantasy hero. The game can be played on private and public servers, in either multiplayer or local single player. In the world of Conan Exiles, survival is more than tracking down food and water. Journey through a vast, seamless world filled with the ruins of ancient civilizations, uncovering its dark history and buried secrets as you seek to conquer and dominate the exiled lands. Start with nothing but your bare hands and forge the legacy of your clan, from simple tools and weapons to gigantic fortresses and entire cities. Enslave the bandits of the exiled lands to do your bidding by breaking them on the grueling Wheel of Pain. Sacrifice the beating hearts of your enemies on the blood-soiled altars of your deity to seize true power and glory. Summon the colossal avatar of your god and see it lay waste to your enemies and their homes. Conan Exiles will be released into Early Access on the PC on January 31, 2017, and will hit the Xbox One Game Preview Program in spring 2017.

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Valiant and Big Viking Games Team Up for Mobile Gaming

big-viking-games_logoBig Viking Games, a leader in HTML5 mobile instant games, and Valiant Entertainment, the award-winning comic book publisher with a library of more than 2,000 characters, including X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbinger, Shadowman, Archer & Armstrong and more, today announced a five-year mobile content partnership that will convert Valiant’s massive library of characters and stories into mobile instant gaming experiences focused on new gaming platforms such as the recently launched Facebook Messenger.

Starting today, Valiant and Big Viking will combine Valiant’s best-selling collection of superheroes and their associated storylines with Big Viking’s industry leading HTML5 development and publishing ability to deliver the Valiant Universe to fans and new players alike through a completely new medium. The companies intend to release numerous HTML5 titles with a focus on messengers and social networks as distribution.

In addition to today’s announcement, Big Viking recently revealed a $21.75 million funding round to continue expansion of their HTML5 mobile instant gaming division and the creation of a $10 million publishing fund to develop and distribute third-party content for messengers in HTML5. Additionally, last year Valiant announced a five-film deal with Sony Pictures to bring both Bloodshot and Harbinger franchises to life on the big screen.

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Launch Trailer

When family is all you have left… how far will you go to protect it? Years after society was ripped apart by undead hands, pockets of civilization emerge from the chaos. But at what cost? Can the living be trusted on this new frontier?

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is Returning!

With the news of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, it was missed by a few that Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is returning! Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is being re-released for current generation systems; the PlayStation 4 digital download version is available now and the Xbox One and Windows PC versions coming in March 2017!

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