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Imagine, you’re just chilling in your village. Then, all of a sudden, you’re told to go to the town hall for something stupid that you did. You and a lot of people are then told: “You are all hereby banished from the village!” It comes as an unexpected surprise to you, and you do not know how to react.  If this situation happened in real life, it would be more likely for one to get the ultimate punishment instead.  Banishment still is a bummer, though. Try as you and the others might, you cannot escape your fate. So, all of you must gather the little items that you have and go out into the world, knowing that you can never return. Meh, it was a crappy village anyway (yeah your village sucks).

Here seems good

Banished is a build simulation game, where a bunch of banished folks have to build a brand new village in the middle of nowhere. Doesn’t sound too complicated right? You also need to keep an eye on a few things. These include but are not limited to: Hunger, Freezing, Population Loss, Population Growth, Fire, Natural Disasters, Disease, Accidents, Homelessness, and Aging. Most, if not all, of these can result in certain death.

The village is based on the number of citizens and jobs. These jobs start off small, like gathering resources and buildings. Once you build a certain building of sorts, you then assign much more important tasks. These tasks range from wood chopping, keeping the village warm, farming, fishing, gathering, and hunting to keep your village fed. Since your resources and people are limited, you must decide on which job is most important for you to assign to your citizens.

Always keep an eye out on your population. You might end up with a bunch of builders with no resources because all of your resource gathers died, and you forgot to assign some builders to gather or vice versa. You might also end up with less people then you started with because single people don’t have enough homes in which to get married and start a family in, or all of the population is too old to start a family. At this point, you just watch as the remaining population dies out. After your third attempt, you might get it right (goes to the corner in shame).

I call thee..Home

Banished has a sense of gameplay that immerses you by watching the village, that you took the time to grow and nurture, unfold before your very eyes. The sounds, graphics, and gameplay coincide together to bring you a world you can spend hours playing. It may take some time and practice, but eventually, you do get a village in which you are proud of.

You can find Banished on Steam and Windows.

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Thunder Lotus Games, creators of Jotun, recently put up a kickstarter for their next game. Sundered is, “A horrifying fight for survival and sanity.” The gorgeous action platformer reached its goal in only 6 hours. With the developers’ original goal of $18,796, the Sundered kickstarter is now sitting at over $50,000. With that kind of response, people must be expecting Sundered to be a fantastic game. I think they’re right.

First Impressions and Gameplay Mechanics

I got the chance to play a pre-alpha version of the game, and it really is a sight. The controls are simple, the music is great, the art is beautiful, and you get a really awesome blaster. What more could a girl ask for? I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the game was complete and functional on a pre-alpha version, and it makes me confident that the finalized version will be great.

It begins as kind of a quiet game.  I started in the hub, where the skill tree is located. From there, I ventured west, breaking pots and jumping around. The movement, jumping, and attacking were already polished with no issues. When the character you play as was jumping, it felt perfectly fluid.

The monsters looked awesome too. As I explored, I suddenly got swarmed, and since I had unfortunately wasted all my blaster shots because I thought they looked cool, I fought with a knife and took them out fairly quickly. I can only wonder if the enemies get harder or if you just get larger and larger swarms of them. I really hope I’ll get to find out. With the rest of development being focused on polishing the complex systems, balancing, and adding more skills and perks, I imagine the game is going to get 10 times better than the pre-alpha already is.

Courtesy of http://www.play3.de/2016/09/27/sundered-handgemalter-action-plattformer-fuer-ps4-angekuendigt/

Thunder Lotus Games’s Goals and My Final thoughts

One thing many backers seem to be wondering about is stretch goals since Thunder Lotus reached their goal so quickly. So far, they seem to be against adding extras. Personally, I approve of their decision to keep away from them for now. Feature creep is a real issue, especially with kickstarter games trying to gain hype. Also, I appreciate that they’re more invested in making the core gameplay the best it can be. Adding extras isn’t necessary at this point. Besides, the game already seems to have enough hype considering how many people are backing it.

If I wasn’t already waiting anxiously for summer to come now that classes are back in session, the July release date for Sundered is making me want it to come even faster. Their plan is to use the kickstarter funds to extend production until June so they can have beta testers play the game to make it as polished as possible. Thunder Lotus Games did this with Jotun as well, and it seems like a good idea considering how popular Jotun ended up being. Games like Sundered are making me believe this might really be the year of kickstarter games. With the creation and success of Fig, I think we’ll be seeing a lot of crowdfunded games this year.

Have any thoughts on Sundered? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to post a comment below.

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[Just a warning to anyone reading this that some spoilers for episode one and two are present beyond this point. Read at your own risk.]

The Walking Dead is arguably one of Telltale’s most popular series to date, coming out with a third season just recently. Telltale games are episodic and released separately. Though, Telltale gave us a little bonus and released the first two parts for our enjoyment. The first thing I want to get out there is that you do not need to have played the other games in the series to understand what is happening in season three. Telltale does an excellent job making Clementine, the female protagonist, stand out all on her own. Now, that’s not to say I think you should skip out on the previous games. I’d recommend starting with season one because it’s just a generally good game. You’ll also understand what shaped Clementine’s motivations and attitude.

Narrative

Season 3 is interesting because the first protagonist we meet is a new face. Javier, known affectionately as Javi by others in the game, is a former baseball star who was kicked off the team for a gambling scandal. We don’t find out this piece of information until a bit later. In fact, I feel like we’re thrust too quickly into Javier’s life with little to no explanation at all. Episode one starts off, before the zombie outbreak, with him arriving just a few minutes after his father passes away. He exchanges some heated words with his brother before going in to see how his mother is doing. I wonder why Telltale decided to go so far back, especially since we’ve already had an introduction to the phenomenon with Lee, the protagonist from season one, when the police car he’s in crashes into a forest of zombies.

Telltale gives a glimpse of Javier’s family life before their first encounter with a zombie, and eventually, as the story progresses, we see him on the road with the remaining survivors in his group.  I will say that Telltale has created a unique group of characters this time. For starters, Javier is Hispanic so from time to time he’ll speak Spanish which I think is awesome because it feels more realistic. He’s with his brother’s wife, Kate, and her two step kids, Mariana and Gabriel. They meet others along the way, including Clementine.

Speaking of Clementine, why isn’t she the sole protagonist? While Javi is very likable, Clem feels like family. We’ve been with her for two full games already. I understand that we needed Lee to help Clementine grow, but we saw how capable she was on her own in season two, and Season three is no different. The last game’s endings made it completely possible to give Clementine full reign of the story. Especially, since at times, the game feels like Clementine tells Javier what to do anyway. I can’t really complain since Telltale did a great job at writing Javier’s character. I like him, and I am attracted to the fact that he used to be famous. It goes to show how easily someone’s status can change.

Flashbacks were a big plot device this season. As we get to certain plot points, flashback scenes trigger. I both love and hate it. I want to know what happened to Clementine and A.J, but if we don’t have flashbacks in place, we lose Javier’s functionality. The story is then solely Clementine’s. Javier’s flashbacks are less frustrating because I get to learn more about his past. But, I also feel like there are choices (such as kissing Kate when Javi reunites with her at the junkyard) that I would have made differently if I knew what had happened in the past first.

Clementine and Javier are dual protagonists, but the ratio of playability is unequal. We control Javier through most of episode one and two.  Unfortunately, because of this, the player has a few smaller choices when playing as Clementine. Ultimately, the choices we make don’t seem to matter since Telltale did establish Clem’s past from previous seasons.  My last gripe with the story is continuation from season two’s ending.  There were multiple endings a player could get, but it felt like no matter what you chose, the journey for Clementine would ultimately be the same.  I hope this is explored in later episodes.

Despite all this, the story isn’t bad at all. There is a central conflict that saved the narrative from being predictable because of the twist at the end of episode two. Telltale knows just how to keep us on the edge of our seats. The ending of episode one was very shocking, and Episode two’s ending had me anxious to play the next part too. I cannot wait to see what happens next. I’m willing to overlook some plot holes in hope that they may be fixed in later episodes.

Gameplay

One positive is that Telltale has implemented more interactivity than simple text choices in their games. Using the back button to speed up walking is a nice touch. It doesn’t do much, since most of the time you won’t be moving your character, but it’s nice to know the option is there. Aiming seems to be a bit off. I can have my optical aimed away from the zombie.  However, if it’s close enough to the rim, pressing the back button will still work. This was something I noticed in Telltale’s Batman game as well. It seemed almost impossible to lose, even if you didn’t hit the right button. That feels cheap to me. If you’re going to add more gameplay, make it functional and meaningful.  Telltale should not simply make their game seem like it’s more advanced. At times, it just feels like extra and unnecessary gameplay interaction.

There are a lot of choices. I can’t say if any are meaningful just yet since the season hasn’t ended, but I do appreciate having an abundance of them to shape Javier and Clementine as I imagine them. Also, another thing I noticed was the length of each episode. Episode one felt much longer than episode two, which isn’t surprising coming from a Telltale game. What was surprising was how short the episodes felt in comparison to other Telltale series. The first episode of Batman took me nearly two hours to complete. It felt like I spent less time in episode 1 of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier and even less than that in episode 2. This was a bit disappointing considering The Walking Dead is one of their more anticipated titles.

The most disappointing part about The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is that it feels as if your decisions from past seasons do not affect the game in any significant way. The game says right in the beginning that your choices from past games affect the ones in this season. I started with a new game, as I played the past two games on my PS4 and this on PC. Still, I haven’t noticed any references to the prior seasons that aren’t generic. It’d be nice to see this functionality grow in the future, having games where choices do affect gameplay in future releases, like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. However, there is an option to allow you to recreate the past decisions.  The issue is that it’s unclear  how this will  happen.

 

Verdict

I feel as if it’s unfair to give a score to a game that only has two episodes out. That being said, there are some cons to the game that are disappointing, but they’re not a deal breaker for me. Clementine kicking Zombies as Jade taught her to is enough nostalgia to keep me invested in her character. Javier’s personality is helping too! Plus, we do have crowd play which allows multiple people to vote on decisions in a local game, which is a plus for someone like me who likes to play with larger groups. I’d recommend picking this game up anyway, as it looks like it’ll tell a promising story in future chapters.

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clockwork

Gamesoft’s debut title Clockwork is finally coming to PC next month! It will be available on the Steam Store worldwide on October 10, 2016 with the Mac OS release to follow shortly after. It will be available for $14.99, with an additional 20% launch week discount to reward fans for their continued patience and support during the development process.

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It has been 6 years since the release of Limbo, the game that had me reevaluating and thinking differently about video games. It was such a unique experience that I have been in much anticipation for Playdead’s follow up game and they did not disappoint. Inside is breathtakingly beautiful, memorable, and most of all, thought provoking.

What I love most about gaming is when a game comes out and it’s so much of what I wanted – and I just didn’t know it yet. I have had the privilege of having that experience again while playing Furi over the past weekend and I’m hooked! I have a backlog I had planned on starting and its going further into the backseat because all I want to do now is play Furi. Because I haven’t had enough time to beat Furi (and I’m too stubborn to lower the difficulty in order to hurry up the process), I have been only able to fight 5 bosses so far, along with some quality time in the practice mode to understand the ins and outs of these bosses even further. I wanted to go ahead and give my first impressions based on my experience thus far and in a nutshell, Furi is a total sleeper hit.

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A couple of weeks ago, The Witcher series was on sale on both Steam and Origin. With the enhanced edition of The Witcher at the low price of $1.50 and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings at $2.29, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to finally play one of the most talked about story driven games. I’ve heard great things about the game, some people even comparing it to the Dragon Age series (which I adore). Now, I’m not one to pass up a good story, especially one with choices, but something seems to be stopping me from actually starting the game up. Believe it or not, it has a lot to do with the lack of character creation.

In The Witcher, you play as Geralt of Rivia. Apparently, he’s a bad ass monster hunter for hire. But, like I said, I haven’t actually played the game yet. I’ve been spoiled by games like The Sims, Dragon Age, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim where character creation was pivotal. In The Witcher’s defense, those are all games whose story is all about the character the player wants to be. The Witcher is like some other games in which the character is given to you. You can make choices, but at the end of the day, you are playing as Geralt and experiencing his story.

Witcher1

This unwillingness to play may also have something to do with my life, because who isn’t burned out after a long day of work or school? Regardless, it got me thinking, how important is character creation in a game? Often times, people ask me what my fascination with video games is. My answer to them is always the same, interactivity. A story is being told, and I am an active (rather than passive) participant of it.  We can break down the interactivity of storytelling in games even further. There is the kinetic story, which follows a strict linear story line, games that have none, like the Sims, or games such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect which allow the story to change depending on the choices you make.

When character creation is implemented, it allows the player to further immerse him or her self into the game. You create the character that you see on screen, and this doesn’t just regard full character creation but customization as well like in The Division. Being able to change a companion’s clothes, regardless of changing their features, also gives the player added control of the story. This is because the player tweaks the aesthetics to fit their vision of the world within the game. I’ve concluded that character creation’s vitality is dependent on the game that you’re playing.

Take a game like WWE 2K16. It has a host of real wrestlers from the television show to choose from. You can be anyone from Andre the Giant to John Cena. A high appeal to the game is the creation features. Throughout the series, there have been many opportunities for the player to create their own wrestler, entrance video and music, way their wrestler walks out on to the ring, and even the arena they wrestle in. The character that I make can interact with very real characters that I watch on television. I can even go as far as creating my own match cards and manipulating what happens. In this game, character creation is not vital but it enhances the experience. You can very well play with the characters and arenas already given to you.

Ribbet collage

What about the Sims? Character creation is the selling point for The Sims 4. EA has boasted that you can change the features of your sim by dragging body parts, unlike any of the other games in the series. You even have control over how they walk, sound, and the way their family looks as well. In a game like this, character creation is vital. You have full control over the character (or characters) that you want to play, the town that they live in, the people they meet, and how they interact with the world around them.  Its appeal comes from the fact that it’s a platform for the player to create their own story, rather than giving them one. Therefore, the character creation cannot be substituted for a pre-made character, without hindering the player’s experience.

These are just two examples of games that utilize extensive customization and character creation assets. A series like Uncharted does not need character creation, because the story lines are linear. If we take out Nathan Drake, we don’t have the same iconic series. Therefore, I’ve determined that character creation is a necessity in certain kinds of games. Customization is a different story entirely. It should be utilized in more games. In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning’s outfit changes depending on what armor you equip. This is limiting (of course) because you can’t have both your favorite looks and best stats. For example, I hated the dress that Lightning had to wear for one armor, but I needed it because it was resistant to fire. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction.

I don’t see how customization can hamper the intended story for a game. In the zombie mode for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, the game takes place in the 1920s. Obviously, it’d be strange to have a character wearing Google Glass. To keep the feel of the game, the developer can limit the customization options to clothes of that period. If a character would wear only certain types of clothes, the developer can lay out a few templates for the player to choose from. It is this added interactivity that allows us to relate to the world of video games, while still being able to make it on our own.

 

 

Having a bad day

Imagine being accepted to work on the Aurora, an enormous ship for data collection. You are super excited for this opportunity to be able to work and live on this amazing vessel. Once on board you probably are having the time of your life or not.

It was just another day onboard the Aurora when all of a sudden something goes terrible wrong. The Aurora begins to crash into an unknown planet. You quickly follow the emergence evocation procedure to the life pods on the ship. As you jump into a life pod and begin evacuation, an expulsion causes you to black out.

After regaining consciousness you open your life pod and find yourself on an unknown planet. Not just any planet, but one that is surrounded by nothing but water for miles. This is just the beginning of your new life in Subnautica.

Water: It’s everywhere, try not to drown

Subnautica is an early access survival game that takes place underwater. The main objective is not only to survive, but to explore all that there is in this alien ocean. Let’s start with trying to survive. We need to keep an eye on our health, food, water, and most important air.

Air and health are easy to look after, or so you may think. Sometimes when you go exploring you may forget you need to breath every once and a while and…. (Blop Blop Blop), so be very careful. You may be able to extend your air by crafting air tanks. This will help to explore deeper terrain and biomes in Subnautica.

Food and water are also relatively easy to watch. When you start off with just the basics you will have some food and water on hand in your life pod, however you might want to start trying the local “cuisine” as soon as possible. Air-sack anyone? How about laser Pepper? And my personal favorite, Remington mixed with Hoverfish (just kidding, you can’t mix the fish….yet). For water you can use a certain type fauna to filter water into drinking water. Eventually you will be able to craft water from other materials other than that fauna.

Wonderful game and awesome when finished

Subnautica so far is shaping to be an excellent and exciting game to play. The way that the creatures interact throughout the game is very interesting and will have you searching for certain types of creatures to see if they like you, mind you, or want to eat you. The main gameplay is to explore.

There are some many things to explore in Subnautica, from the different types of biomes to explore to the amazing fauna all around. Be careful however as there are some fauna that are very dangerous to be around. Some of them are mild and annoying, but some of them are huge and deadly and not all of the fauna are implemented in the game yet. There is also the aspect of finding out what happened to the Aurora crew you were with, but it seems not all of it has been implemented yet as well.

This game, when finished will become an amazing adventure to go on. I can’t wait for the developers to finish, but in the mean time I will continue to explore the game as it updates. Also keep in mind when you play this game that your saved game will become obsolete with each update, so play at your own risk.

gamers

On this episode of E-I-C Speaks, Nia discusses the current state of gaming in relevance to the jaded and confrontational stance of many gamers in today’s modern gaming climate. In a world full of higher-than-before development costs and diminishing returns, it only makes sense that the medium of gaming would turn much more into a business than a labor of love as it once was in the golden age. The biggest concern though, is is this new trend affecting the way that gamers consume and perceive the products that we have been given – more specifically up to this point in generation 8? Or is it also possible that since gaming is becoming significantly more mainstream and accessible that most genres and play styles have already been explored? Long gone are the days of large graphical jumps between consoles and new genres being created. These days many games are a hodge-podge of ideas we’ve likely already been exposed to. For some, unless you experience the warmth of niche, more artistic games, you’re bound to run into that ceiling where you question the quality of the product or even your own prolonged interest in gaming.