Tuesday, May 26
ArenaNet is certainly keeping the Guild Wars 2 Gem Store stocked. A Chain-Whip Sword and Mad Scientist Outfit have been added to the game's cash shop, because apparently someone up in Seattle loves Soul Calibur.
The Chain-Whip Sword is a cosmetic skin for swords, in case the above screenshot left some confusion. Player testimonials claim the flexible blade doesn't actually lash out in fights, but will drag behind their characters when sheathed. It also looks better on some classes than others, so you might want to check out a preview or see the skin on someone else's toon before dropping 600 Gems on one for yourself.
For 700 Gems, players can grab the new Mad Scientist Outift from the Gem Store. This getup actually doesn't look too bad, but being an outfit, its customizable options are pretty limited. Engineers might especially appreciate this steampunk-ish addition.
Seriously though, how many more sword skins are we going to see when everyone carries a greatsword anyway?
At least it isn't an HD updated Umbrella Chronicles
After Capcom's not so surprising success with the HD rerelease of the Resident Evil HD remaster, because who would have thought game players were excited for classic Resident Evil Action, Capcom's doubling down on nostalgia. That's right folk, we're going back to that retro age of the... Gamecube? And remastering that other Resident Evil classic... Resident Evil 0? Yes, Capcom has brought back original director of Resident Evil 0 Koji Oda, also known for directing... 2014's Strider? Koji Oda and his team at Capcom will bring Resident Evil 0 HD to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC in early 2016.
At this point, if anyone is much like myself, folk are probably wondering why Capcom isn't updating some of the more meaningful Resident Evil classics including Resident Evil 2, Nemesis, or Code: Veronica. In the grand scheme of Resident Evil, it was was 0 that marked the decline's worst moment before reinventing itself with Resident Evil 4. Obviously things have gone worse in recent years, but if Capcom was trying to rediscover their Resident Evil mojo then it seems logical that they'd go further back, right?
Then all the lights line up and everything clicks. Oh, so this isn't a move by Capcom to revisit the classic days of Resident Evil, thereby reinvigorating both developer and fan excitement for the franchise. This is just Capcom updating post-2002 GameCube Resident Evil titles because they're simple to retexture without having to do much behind-the-scenes work.Oh. I guess that means it's more likely that after Resident Evil 0 is released we'll see Capcom revisit Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One before they go back to those PlayStation-era classics. Weskeeeeeeeeer!
Perhaps I give Resident Evil 0 too hard of a time, though. After all, it did introduce us to playable tiny Bravo Team cop with anime eyes, Rebecca Chambers, and American convict that is oddly more like a Japanese high-school thug, Billy Coen. And of course they both went on to star in, err, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. Okay, that's enough of this. You made me mention Umbrella Chronicles after I told myself I'd never do that again. Congratulations, Capcom.
Resident Evil 0 HD is being remastered for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC for release in early 2016. Expect more information in the months ahead.
Thursday, May 21
Net Articles Summary
Pikachu and friends have been hiding in those dungeons for three long years
Three years, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon! It has been three years since Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity was released in North America and there hasn't been a peep about the franchise since. Then, as exciting as it is to hear that Nintendo's now working on a sequel, the announcement doesn't come with any screenshots, trailers or gameplay information. At least we have a title -- Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon. "Super" in any sort of Nintendo title could imply many things, but with so very little information at this point it's anyone's guess. We do know, however, that Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is planned for release this winter.
Want to know what Nintendo had to reveal about Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon? Here's what was provided with the announcement:
"Players can look forward to even greater, randomly created dungeons that change each time they enter. In Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, players will battle alongside Legendary and Mythical Pokémon to save the world in a sweeping tale of adventure and mystery."
All we can do for now is wait to find out more. E3 is on the horizon, so it's probably a good bet to guess that Nintendo will reveal more about Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon there. However, we're also getting this announcement at the same time as Japan. Never before has a North American version of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon been released at the same time as its Japanese version. So my thoughts on the matter are that we're getting an announcement for both regions here and now so the game can be shown at E3, but a North American localization is still quite a long ways off. They simply don't have anything to show beyond what they work to get together for E3.
Considering that Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is planned for release later this year, however, it means they must be pretty far along on the Japanese version. Maybe? Ah, who knows with Nintendo these days. Let's look forward to more information in the weeks and months ahead. Hooray for more Pokemon dungeon crawling!
After a lengthy wait, which I suppose is the status quo for Telltale these days, Game of Thrones -- Episode 4: Sons of Winter now has a release date. Pick up the fourth of six episodes starting on May 26, or over the next few days depending on your platform. Conflict is coming to a head for House Forrestor's inheritors and it seems like Episode 4 will see many of our protagonists committing themselves to large events decisions which will either end in their ruin or glory. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen don't mess around, especially when the Wall and dragons are concerned.
In Episode 4, Rodrik will struggle to free Ironrath, Gared ventures beyond the wall, Mira is near drowning in the game of thrones, while Asher takes orders from Daenerys herself. No one is safe, but inaction is deadlier than the risks they face otherwise. And hey, Telltale doesn't tease or imply any sort of nudity or sexual controversy at all, which puts them a grade or fifty above their television show licensee.
It seemed like there for a while Telltale was trying to speed up its process to get Game of Thrones out faster to players. After a two month span between the first and second episode, the third was closer to a month and a half. Yet here we are again seeing Telltale pushing Episode 4 back to two months post-Episode 3 -- from March 24 to May 26. It sucks, really, because while Telltale's quality writing and narrative structure continues to deliver, it's so difficult to maintain hype for any of their individual series when they can't put out chapters monthly. Hell, monthly is even slow than I'd want if I could get my way. But two months? Maybe Telltale will reach a point of comfort eventually where they can finish a game before starting to release episodes, so they might hammer out a schedule of their own choosing.
As with all Game of Thrones episodes, due largely to their digital nature and how quickly Telltale pushes them live after finishing them, not all platforms will get Episode 4 on the same day. It will arrive on PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 3 on May 26. Xbox One and Xbox 360 will pick it up on May 27, with iOS and Android cleaning up on May 28.
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Need for Speed returns Fall 2015, teaser cinematic and screenshots definitely feels like Underground
EA and Ghost Games have officially revealed the new 2015 Need for Speed today, complete with a teaser cinematic and screenshots. We don't have too many details right now regarding gameplay, but the atmosphere certainly seems indicative of an Underground renaissance.
Ghost Games is the European studio that previously worked on the well-received Need for Speed Rivals, and EA now has them working on this year's installment. The assets so far are little more than some close-up shots of modified vehicles, but the entire tone has fans hopeful for a return to the series' golden age. The name does appear to be final, and this appropriation of the franchise's name as a game title might suggest a reboot of sorts for the greater Need for Speed series. A sign of greater things to come, we hope.
Publisher EA isn't ready to do a full reveal today but emphasized an expansive customization system, "authentic urban car culture, a nocturnal open world," and a full narrative. Those keywords seem to be enough for long-time fans to draw hope from. As for the Speedhunters tease from earlier this week, that appears to be some kind of community forum encompassing EA's racing genre.
No doubt EA has more planned in the weeks leading up to E3. For now, expect Need for Speed to arrive Fall 2015 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
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We have more League of Legends splash art today, featuring three upcoming skins. Order of the Lotus Irelia, Nightmare Tryndamere, and Knockout Lee Sin have made their way to the PBE and will soon be available to all at varying prices.
First, Irelia will be joining Karma in the Order of the Lotus with her new pink-tastic outfit, pictured above. The skin itself is quite lovely and affordable at 750 RP, but the artwork does leave something to be desired. While overall fine at first glance, some of the more technical details come out sloppy and reminiscent of the older League splash art.
The other 750 RP skin is Nightmare Tryndamere, making us all question why Riot is still releasing skins for Trynda. Still, the skin is pretty nice, and the artwork looks pretty amazing. Creepy, even. Fiddlesticks would be proud.
Knockout Lee Sin is the third skin to join the latest wave on the PBE. He's not quite as affordable as the previous two, coming in at 1350 RP. As such, he comes with slightly more noticeable changes to his animations and recall.
Seriously, does Lee Sin really need a new skin when he got a new Chroma Pack recently too? Riot believes so.
Click here to see more images
EA is just about to reveal its next Need for Speed game and released a teaser image featuring a car. Not particularly shocking, though the more interesting detail might be the "Speedhunters" shown.
Teasers have been popping on the official Need for Speed Facebook since Monday of this week, and early rumors are pointing to a possible revival of the Underground era.
Today's image might lead to the same conclusion for hopeful fans, though it's certainly not a definitive confirmation. With E3 just on the horizon, however, an answer will come soon enough. As for which studio EA has on the project, your guess is as good as mine.
The image is shown below with the following tweet:
Wednesday, May 20
Net Articles Summary
2012's long lost Korean MMO has finally found its way westward
Blade & Soul was originally launched in South Korea starting in June of 2012. Since then the MMO has expanded to China (November, 2013), Japan (May, 2014), and Taiwan (November 2014). While subscription numbers are difficult to translate, let alone acquire in the first place, in 2014 concurrent users were purportedly measured at over 1.5 million. Add in an anime and manga series that were both relatively popular in 2014 one question should grow increasingly apparent. How has this game not been localized for North America yet? And the reality is that there's no obvious or simple answer. A North American team was quite clearly working on the game as early as 2012, as the game's official website and various social media accounts have a number of posts from the team between the months of September and December. Afterwards? Silence.
Yet here we are in 2015 and only now is Blade & Soul localization is finally becoming a reality. NCsoft visited Los Angeles and connected us directly to the internal, pre-alpha servers for brief run-through of the MMO's tutorial era and then a jump into some more complex level 20 action. The game itself was as polished as one would expect from a game that's been available for some years in multiple different regions, but it also must be said that localization is at a stage where it hasn't really come together just yet. Considering the brief amount of time I spent with the game and its beta state I'll only be speaking in generalities while avoiding specifics that dedicated Blade & Soul fans are likely hungering for after such a long wait. Sorry, guys. Just know that NCsoft is hard at work localizing the game with western ideals like grind-fatigue in mind, but they're dedicated to providing an authentic experience as well.
Stylistically, western audiences will be most comfortable comparing Blade & Soul to other Korean imports including TERA and NCsoft's own Aion, though TERA is a much closer fit. The world is bright, colorful and painfully inspired by anime much like most modern MMOs from the region. The developers would likely try and clarify here that Blade & Soul is thematically inspired by "wuxia," Chinese martial arts which have inspired films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. The MMO's story, told through structured quests and cinematics, and the world at large work to maintain these themes, but through the lens of young-adult fiction and the relatable anime stylings they're comfortable with. It's rather hyper-sexualized and campy beyond belief, but it's inarguably pervasive in Asian MMO gaming culture. The leather-clad, Bayonetta-esque women with physics-enabled breast jiggling, pre-teen cat-girls and androgynous, thin, yet surprisingly thick-muscled boys aren't as popular in western games -- at least not in 3D. Perhaps it's just a niche that needs scratching, however.
I'm admittedly not a fan of many aspects of this style. The breast physics, the child-like Lyn race which can dress as sexualized as any other, and the blatant fan-servicing (an up-skirt shot of a dying friend falling from being stabbed mid-cinematic was particularly egregious) are disgusting and add nothing material to the experience beyond what any teenager can find on cable television these days. When I hear from a developer that I should expect themes akin to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and then get breast physics and up-skirts, I reserve the right to be a bit offended. To be fair, Blade & Soul does seem to be less excessive in its fan-servicing than TERA, but I definitely expect some similar amount of self-censorship. Especially in regards to armor for the Lyn race.
Other aspects of Blade & Soul are worth praising, even for a three-year old MMO. The world is large, open and filled with rich detail. I contribute a lot of this to the verticality of the world, encouraged by gliding (not full flying) features and something called "Dragon Streams" which are like fast-travel points that can quickly take a player short distances quite fast. These Dragon Stream transitions are all cinematic, showing the player character leaping and flipping from cliff to archway and on. I think these sorts of fast-travel help encourage a flowing environment where every piece of land is intentionally placed and sculpted for at least some purpose. Where other MMOs may have a few vistas designed specifically for looking out over a zone, Blade & Soul environments could be considered zone-wide vistas. Yes, the textures, the models themselves and the tech behind it all does feel a tad dated, especially compared to more modern Asian MMOs like Black Desert and Final Fantasy XIV, but it's still quite sharp and even beautiful at times.
This includes the spell effects and combat animations in Blade & Soul. The exaggerated body movements combined with the bright, screen-filling colors of a spell, kick or punch are quite striking. Even as a spectator, it's fun to see how each action translate into an animation and an overall effect. Tripping a dinosaur never grows tiresome. As a new player, I'll admit it was all quite a bit overwhelming when in combat. The flashes and exaggerated movements were difficult to tie to button presses after just a scant few minutes with the game, but over time it grew more comfortable and the idea of combat becoming less of a fireworks show and more of a very flashy dance. Very flashy.
Which is a huge credit to the team behind Blade & Soul, I suppose. Their combat is meant to be extravagant, yet measured. Where action-MMOs like TERA thrive on frantic, positional combat with skill shots, Blade & Soul focuses in on well-timed combination attacks, reactionary abilities, and timing interrupting attacks and dodges. Where TERA encourages chaotic action, Blade & Soul seems aims for tempered, strategic play. It's a type of combat where those with both quick reactions and game knowledge will find the most success. Being aware of how each class matches up to another will be the difference between a win or a loss. Of course, sometimes just pressing the damn buttons makes the biggest difference. I tried to counter and outplay my co-worker, but was overwhelmed by her willingness to press whatever skill was off cooldown. I lost, and so I live on in shame.
Other aspects of the game we were told about, but not shown include faction PvP, structured PvP meant for high competition, dungeons which are mostly for 6-man parties, but also include 4-man and 2-man options, or any story beyond the tutorial. We got the briefest of glances at armor and weaponry systems, including how Blade & Soul allows players to "feed" looted weapons to their own in order to level it, or how armor is stat-agnostic. Look how you like and deal with "armor" stats separately. These are clever systems which at least on paper deal with ideas like growing tired of looting items with no benefit, or being able to customize a character without worrying that new loot will alter your look. Their practicality in-game is questionable, as they can also be abused to add more layers of grind to an online game. Systems which can abused with microtransactions, too.
Such are my overall impressions of Blade & Soul -- wary, but hopeful. How NCsoft balances the grind, adapts the end-game systems to western ideals, and tones down some of more provocative and rather tasteless aspects of the game will make all of the difference. Yet even should they find that balance, Blade & Soul has work to do. Two and a half years is a long time in MMOs, so Blade & Soul has a lot to prove to western audiences. Luckily, the current MMO landscape is open for something like Blade & Soul. There are a few free-to-play transitions, an expansion or two, and very few eastern localizations even being scoped out for a 2015 launch, so maybe Blade & Soul is exactly what gamers might want from an MMO right now. NCsoft will just have to prove they're the MMO to watch out for. Add it to the already long list of things to do.
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First came Korea, then cake China, Japan and Taiwan, but now Blade & Soul is finally gearing up for western release. It's the wuxia-inspired martial arts MMO that put the rest to the shame, but somehow it grew lost in localization for the past two and a half years. Currently the in-localization MMO is being worked on in strictly internal testing, but in fall later this year NCsoft will move it into closed beta followed by a full launch in winter. That's for both North America and Europe (English, German and French), with full voice-over as well -- no easy (or fast) task.
John Burns, senior vice president at NCsoft West, offered this prepared statement regarding Blade & Soul's newly planned localization:
"Blade & Soul is one of the most anticipated online games by Western consumers. This is a tremendous opportunity to bring one of the most successful and fun online games in Asia to our Western audience this winter and we can’t wait to deliver this extraordinary and distinct gaming experience to millions of new players across North America and Europe."
And Burns isn't kidding. Blade & Soul, since its launch in 2012, has proven one of the most popular online games in Korea barring certain other NCsoft MMOs like Lineage and Aion. Yet Blade & Soul has proven a growing success in other Asian regions as well. Last year saw the game reach peak concurrency of over 1.5 million users, but that's just with the scant information made available.
Blade & Soul may have been released in 2012, but it's still a unique take on action-based combat that encourages tempered, strategic play over more frantic systems. With its "wuxia" inspired style, Blade & Soul focuses on combo-centric, timing-based attacks mixed with reactive abilities that reward quick reflexes and preparedness. Knowing what attacks are coming when will always give a player an advantage. Add in some great "windwalking" traversal mechanics, a class system that deprioritizes healing and the holy MMO class trinity and Blade & Soul aims to be something different in a 2015 MMO scene where players aren't sure what to expect.
Expect more information on Blade & Soul in the months to come, as we approach a closed beta hopefully this fall. Excited fans don't have to wait too long for new information, however, as NCsoft will be holding a livestream on Thursday, May 21 at 10:00am PDT, or by checking out any of the game's newly reinvigorated social media channels on Twitter or Facebook. In the mean time, rush over to the official site and register for the closed beta test.
Tuesday, May 19
Net Articles Summary
Cities: Skylines 1.1.0 patch live, adds European-style buildings with wall-to-wall support and tunnels
Recreate London, or just cover some land in fog and pretend it's London
Another day, another batch of completely free content for Cities: Skylines. Today Colossal Order released the 1.1.0 patch for Cities: Skylines, providing players with exciting content including European-styled building and tunnel support among plenty of other awesome things. Let me reiterate that the 1.1.0 patch is available right now and yes, it is completely free to all Cities: Skylines players. Just another reason why Cities: Skylines is the new favorite city-building simulation game in the industry. Recall that SimCity offered British, French, and German DLC packs for $9.99 apiece.
To focus in on some of these 1.1.0 feature additions in a little more detail, let's start with the European buildings. It starts with 72 brand new European-style buildings. There's no readily available list of what buildings are offered that I was able to find, but I'm sure the community has something like it somewhere. That's not even the best part of the European content though, because it also includes a feature addition allowing for these buildings to be built wall-to-wall. It's an aesthetic touch that's absolutely required to recreate a lot of European cities, thematically. Also maybe San Francisco. There's also a change for corner buildings which isn't as readily noticeable.
Why stop there when it's also important to demo this awesome new European content in-action. The 1.1.0 patch will also include three new maps, each with a European theme. No, they're not London, Paris and Berlin, but hopefully with Cliffside Bay, Foggy Hills and Grand River players will be able to create their own versions of these cities. The Eiffel Tower was already included in the game's digital collector's edition and I'm sure there's probably a mod for Big Ben out there somewhere. Yes, yes a 5s Google search found that right quick.
There's plenty more in the Cities: Skylines 1.1.0 features list to be excited about, of course:
- European theme added
- 72 European buildings in the European theme
- Support for corner and adjacent buildings in the European theme
- 3 maps added with European theme (Cliffside Bay, Foggy Hills and Grand River)
- Tunnels for roads and rail added
- Metro tunnels can be built at different levels
- V sync option added
- Invert Y mouse axis added
There are plenty more patch notes, including some pretty major additions for the editor, but these are the main features of 1.1.0.
Obviously there's much more to come in Cities: Skylines. 1.1.0 is a pretty significant milestone for the game, however, which makes me wonder how long is left before the game will launch its first major premium DLC expansion. The publisher, Paradox, has always promised that Cities: Skylines would have premium expansions in the same way that Crusader Kings does. With 1.1.0 going out and E3 approaching, I wouldn't be surprised to hear some sort of announcement soon. What might Colossal Order have in store? How can they improve on Cities: Skylines aleady amazing launch sales?
- LEGO Worlds, a Minecraft inspired open world with brick building, is now on Steam Early Access 
- League of Legends to release Prehistoric skins, including a new dinosaur version of Anivia 
- Firaxis rearms with XCOM 2, 20 years after humanity lost to the aliens 
- Rise of the Tomb Raider CG trailer makes Lara Croft into a rising legend 
- CD Projekt isn't ditching The Witcher yet and will focus on franchise for the next year, not Cyberpunk 
- More free The Witcher 3 DLC out this week, 'Contract: Missing Miners' and a Yennefer outfit 
- Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Goku and Vegeta DLC for Dragon Ball Xenoverse coming soon 
- Mad Max game's story trailer drops the fury, takes on the 'Savage Road'