07 May 2015
07 May 2015
07 May 2015
07 May 2015
07 May 2015
07 May 2015
07 May 2015
05 May 2015
The stage is set with a scene of isolation. Stowed away in a castle is a lilac-skinned girl with eyes of mismatched colors, absent a voice but masterful with an acoustic instrument that she can summon from thin air. She's alone and seems to have been that way for some time, but that changes once she's mysteriously freed from her prison and runs into a brash, out-of-sorts mage, quick to make friends. Unfortunately, the girl cannot speak to the nature of the castle (or speak at all, for that matter), so the couple must explore its many corridors to discover their purpose for being there and, more importantly, how to escape.The game plays out in a window--and a tiny one at that.
Learning both characters' connections to the castle can be interesting, but Remnants of Isolation runs just shy of three hours. That gives these two strangers a remarkably short window to get to know each other, let alone foster any sort of tender relationship. Additionally--and I'll continue to press this issue--the female lead is mute. Maybe it's her prolonged confinement that's kept her silent, but robbing such a substantial character of opinions, personality, and any opportunity to connect with the player at a deeper level is a missed opportunity. The text boxes are dominated by the hero, Melchior, who alternates between exposition-heavy blurbs and uncomfortable romantic gestures that he often retracts in embarrassment. The scattered notes that provide context for your environment tend to be well-written and mostly interesting, but the dialogue leads to more eyes rolled than hearts warmed.
The link that the duo shares during battle is much more substantive. Along with a standard physical attack, each character can launch either an "innate" ability or a spell. Using your fire, ice, or lightning magic on its own doles out significant damage, but leading with one character's innate ability and following with the other's spell produces a combination attack that might do double damage, hit multiple targets, or cause myriad status effects. As you gain levels and acquire new abilities, your arsenal of offensive and defensive maneuvers expands, and you often need to experiment mid-battle to come up with combos that hit the hardest.
For a two-character, turn-based system, there's plenty of strategy here. Both players start each battle with just three MP--gaining two additional points per turn--so it's critical to balance your attacks and not lean too heavily on a single spell or character, lest you run your MP dry. The enemies you run into don't go down easy, either, and the creatures you encounter don't often respawn after being defeated. Grinding out levels and currency isn't a viable option, so Remnants of Isolation trusts you to fight the fights presented and choose well-timed techniques over brute force.Made from Forgiveness Wax, presumably.
Creating new gear and optimizing your characters is rewarding, but the game's linearity and brief runtime don't allow for much variability in how you outfit your party. You earn souls from each battle, and this currency is used to create weapons, armor, and items. If there were a deeper weapons cache--multiple status effects tied to specific items or armor that heavily favored magic defense over physical defense--this system might be more interesting. There's an optimal permutation for each character, and as long as you engage in most battles and smartly spend your souls, you'll easily maximize your gear before the final encounter.
The most emotionally resonant aspect of Remnants of Isolation might just be its sound design. The sweet, soft soundtrack is expertly accented by the satisfying pings and hums associated with even the most ordinary actions. Opening chests and surfing through menus just sounds good, but the visual counterpart does little to complement the sound. Remnants of Isolation was crafted in RPG Maker, so its familiar assets and a run-of-the-mill fantasy aesthetic make for an uneven visual package, and being forced to play in windowed mode doesn't exactly benefit the experience, either.
It just doesn't strike as many chords or hit as many notes as it should. Remnants of Isolation is a truncated RPG that never allows its story or progression system to properly develop, and while the focus on a pair instead of a full party pays off in combat, the woefully undercooked bond between the protagonists never does enough to make you care about any of the three possible endings. It can be sweet, but Remnants of Isolation has far too many potholes to be worth its notably short ride.
As part of the process, the company revealed plans to lay off about 18 percent of its current global workforce.
A total of 364 people are losing their jobs. Zynga estimates that the layoffs will be completed by the end of its fiscal year and should result in about $45 million in annualized savings.
In addition, Zynga's restructuring process includes "additional cost reduction measures, including lowering costs and eliminating spend on outside and centralized services." This move, which should be completed by the third quarter of 2016, is expected to result in another $55 million in savings, the company said.
Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, who stepped into the role just last month after former Xbox boss Don Mattrick left, released a statement on the changes.
"For our people, we need to create an empowered, entrepreneurial culture that fosters more creativity and innovation," he said. "Over the years we've seen that tighter, more nimble teams can drive faster innovation and deliver more player value. As a result, today we announced a cost reduction program to focus, simplify and align us against our most promising opportunities."
"This was a hard but necessary decision and I believe this plan puts us in the best long term position for success."
The cost-saving plan was announced Wednesday as part of Zynga's latest earnings report for the quarter ended March 31. It was tough quarter, as the FarmVille company posted another net loss. On a GAAP basis, Zynga lost $46.5 million, while the non-GAAP loss was $7 million. Meanwhile, Zynga monthly unique payers, daily active users, monthly active users, and monthly unique users all fell year-over-year.
However, total Zynga revenue rose 9 percent to $183 million during the quarter.
Investors are responding positively to Zynga's cost-saving moves, as shares of the company are trending upwards in after-hours trading.
Another recent Zynga milestone was the release of the mobile version of Empires & Allies this week. For lots more on the free RTS, check out GameSpot's interview with Zynga game chief Mark Skaggs.
The content, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg said, is being designed to appeal to not only fans of the series, but people who have never even played Destiny before.
"We have a very robust content plan for Destiny starting with our second major expansion pack, House of Wolves, and then you'll also see content being dropped throughout the summer," Hirshberg said. "And then in the fall we will have a major release, which will be the biggest addition to the Destiny universe yet, across all modes of play. Unfortunately, I don't have more details than that today, but we're confident it's going to be incredibly appealing, not just to our current fans, but also to people who haven't yet joined the Destiny universe; it's going to be that big of an expansion."
Overall, Hirshberg said having a "constant stream of robust" content for Destiny is a key component of Activision's plan for the sci-fi series.
It's not much of a surprise that Activision would be planning to support Destiny for a long, long time, given the company's sizable investment in the series. On top of that, Bungie has itself spoken previously of having a 10-year, Lord of the Rings-sized vision for the game.
Interestingly, just recently, Bungie trademarked the name "The Taken King." The attorney on file for the trademark is the same attorney listed on The Dark Below and House of Wolves.
On Destiny's immediate horizon is House of Wolves, which we learned a lot more about today. Check out GameSpot's in-depth House of Wolves roundup for everything you need to know.
With today's reveal of the Prison of Elders and other House of of Wolves details, we talked with Bungie developers in both a roundtable and one-on-one interviews about how the new content will tie into the game's story.
Bungied creative director Matt Sammons said that House of Wolves will tell its own story in multiple ways. "From a high-level perspective, there are two big categories of content that you get in a story. There are the quests that take you throughout the world, the backbone of the story that has you chasing down Skolas. And then there are these wanted Fallen bounties. You'll notice when you're roaming around the world, we have specific named enemies all over the place, and among various destinations. Petra's bounties, not the quests, but the bounties, those are meant to send you out to go hunt those Fallen down."
Lead designer Christopher Barrett expanded on that point: "We absolutely want to sell that idea, give players that fantasy of hunting down bad guys, killing them, getting lots of loot, that real bounty hunter kind of feel of the 'Pirates of the Reef.' That outlaw feel."
Overall, Sammons said he wanted House of Wolves to have a "coherent, clear, thematically consistent story." That story is told through the dialogue and narration of story missions, but also by more "compelling and interesting characters." Sammson said, "You'll meet Petra and Variks; the Fallen characters will be your guides through the missions. There's some really interesting interactions that we get to have because Variks can speak Fallen, so you get to translate some of the stuff that the enemies are saying. You get a little bit of a deeper lore of the Fallen through that."
Sammons calls it an "evolution" from the previous Dark Below expansion. "We looked at what the Dark Below accomplished in terms of story, how that involved the Destiny formula. We really liked Eris Morn, and the voice that she gave to the Guardians struggle against the Hive, and talking a little bit more about the Hive in depth. We looked at that and said, 'What would be the next step past that?' Having two characters with different perspectives that can talk to one another mid-mission. Variks understands the story a little bit better, and Petra understands the Awoken side. We just think that fleshes out the world."
Barrett added that, "The sounds of any space, and the dialogue of the different vendors, can really help fill the blanks of some of the story. One important thing that we didn't have in the Dark Below was the introductory cinematic, which sets up the state of the world. It very quickly tells you what's going on, why it's important to you, and what you have to do next. That was one of the goals of the star map cinematic."
While it may not answer all of the lingering question that Destiny players have about the Destiny's mysterious world, it sounds like House of Wolves is primed to add some amount of additional depth to explore. For even more details check out the video embedded at the top of this story. And catch up on everything new for House of Wolves in our information round-up here.
The Devil Survivor games are strategy RPGs with a twist. Like many games of this sort, you move characters around a grid-based map, carefully utilizing turns and positioning to gain a tactical advantage over your foes. However, Devil Survivor adds another layer to this. Instead of just controlling a squad of individual units, each unit represents a team of three characters. When combat is initiated, the view switches to a battle screen where you choose commands for all of your characters. By cleverly exploiting enemy weaknesses and targeting vital parts of teams, you can earn extra combat turns to perform additional actions. But the enemies can also do the same to you, which can be devastating when you encounter hordes of fiercer foes.
Careful decision-making is a must at all times. Do you target the weaknesses of the flanking troops to get extra turns or go for the tougher leader to take down the whole squad at once? Will attacking an easy mark put you in range of something more dangerous? Should you substitute in weaker demon companions to earn bonuses like added range and movement? There’s a tremendous amount of depth to the combat, and it’s put to the test in some of the best boss fights of the genre. In these battles, you’re faced with terrifying, all-powerful beings who possess attacks that can absolutely decimate you--fierce long-range fire cannons, repeated multi-hitting strikes, multiple parts that regenerate after a set amount of turns--and you truly have to use your wits to figure out just how to take them down. Fortunately, you can use an infinite number of free battles to strengthen your team, along with access to an auction site for demon contracts and a function to fuse demons into even stronger forms. You need to make heavy use of these to succeed.
The game is split into two scenarios: the Septentriones and the Triangulum. You choose the scenario you want when you start the game. The Septentriones scenario is essentially the entire original game, tasking you and your friends in Tokyo with surviving and quelling a world-rending disaster with the aid of a mysterious demon-summoning phone app. The Triangulum scenario picks up after the end of the Septentriones story, restarting the cycle of destruction, despair, and chaos with a new set of cosmic invaders in a world that’s been transformed in some very significant ways. What is the meaning of the almighty beings and the all-consuming forces attacking mankind? Can the seemingly endless cycle of destruction ever be halted? You must answer those questions during these two quests.
Because the original game is more than three years old at this point, you’ll probably want to jump into the Septentriones scenario first if you haven’t played it for a while--or at all. Veterans will immediately see some significant changes here. The first is the difficulty selection, which offers you both easy (“Blessed”) and hard (“Apocalypse”) settings. (The original game only had a single difficulty setting, which roughly corresponds with Record Breaker’s Apocalypse setting.) You can switch difficulty levels on the fly, which is a nice touch--this allows you to do things like grind easy optional battles to build up your demon army’s skills while saving the big challenges for the crucial story fights. The other major addition is full voice-over for nearly every line in the game that’s not spoken by the lead (whose words you always control via a menu during conversations). Devil Survivor 2 may have the most voicework I’ve yet heard in a 3DS game, and it’s very impressive, with some standout performances for characters like the hero’s awkward, uneasy BFF Daichi and egalitarian organizer Ronaldo.
The Septentriones scenario itself is lengthy, taking around 50 hours to complete--and that doesn’t take into account the four different endings you can acquire by making different choices and taking sides with certain characters. It’s familiar territory if you’ve played Devil Survivor before, but the big draw in Record Breaker--the Triangulum scenario--is not just a tacked-on afterstory. Taking place after the “true ending” of Devil Survivor 2, it’s both a direct follow-up and an alternate universe story to the Septentriones plotline (given what happens at the end of that particular scenario). The cast of heroes reunites to face an all-new threat in a world that is both the same and very different: characters have different backgrounds, someone very important is missing, and a strange new person has taken their place. On top of that, your companions have recurring nightmares about pasts they don’t quite remember and visions of strange things happening to the hero’s body. While it’s not quite as long as the original quest, it’s still quite lengthy--I clocked in at about 35 hours on my Triangulum playthrough. Much like the Septentriones quest, there are also three possible endings, so you’ll be playing for a while if you want to see everything.
There’s a tremendous amount of depth to the combat, and it’s put to the test in some of the best boss fights of the genre.
The addition of the Triangulum story elevates Record Breaker from the rest of the intergeneration re-releases that have become popular in the market as of late. While most games are content to offer just an HD (or, in this case, a 3D) upscale, the developers of Record Breaker created what’s essentially an entire second game for this package. While that’s impressive and commendable, it’s brought down a bit by the fact that there’s not really much new in terms of gameplay in the second half--you’re controlling (mostly) the same cast with the same traits, fusing similar demons to what you had before, and fighting similar enemies. There are a few new bosses, which offer some exceptionally challenging and satisfying fights, but for the most part, it’s just more Devil Survivor 2. That’s not a terrible thing, given that the core game is so solid, but it’s still a smidge disappointing given just how much went into creating a whole new story for the game.
The other major issue is that the requirements for getting the “true endings” are too obtuse in both scenarios. While a few very clear paths lead to obvious conclusions, just getting the option to see the “best” endings requires you to make a lot of correct choices and talk to the right people at the right times. If you mess up just once, sorry buddy, better luck next time. The presence of only five save slots doesn’t really help either, especially if you want to run both scenarios. By the time I understood the requirements for getting the true ending in the Triangulum story, every save I had was at a point where it was impossible to go back.
When it comes down to it, though, these complaints seem relatively minor. Devil Survivor 2, in both the original and Record Breaker incarnations, is a great strategy RPG, delivering a potent mix of intense, brilliantly designed combat and a fantastic, endearing cast of fellow survivors. If you missed out the first time around, you should absolutely hop on board for this extended trip to the Apocalypse. If you’re coming back for seconds, you’ll have a terrific time welcoming our new Triangulum overlords with Megido blasts right to their stupid geometric faces.
Earlier today, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt developer CD Projekt RED said that a deal on Green Man Gaming that's selling codes of the game for $40 (down from $60) is coming from an "unknown source." It said that as such, none of the revenue from Green Man Gaming's current Witcher 3 promotion will go to CD Projekt Red.
In a statement to GameSpot, Green Man Gaming CEO Paul Sulyok explained that it tried to work with CD Projekt Red, but the developer chose to focus on its own platform, GOG.com, rather than give players more options for where they can buy the game.
"Following a six-month dialogue with [CD Projekt RED] about the launch of The Witcher 3, we were disappointed that despite the offer of significant cash advances, and other opportunities to officially work together, (we even offered to fly to Poland to discuss in detail how we could and wanted to support this launch), CDPR chose not to engage with a number of significant, reputable, and successful retailers, including ourselves, as they instead focused on supporting their own platform GOG. " Sulyok said.
"We, like millions of customers, are huge fans of The Witcher series, and have been eager for the launch of this amazing title. We believe that CDPR’s desire to support their own platform by working with retail outlets that would not conflict with their own is greater than that of meeting the demands of their audience, therefore we made the decision to indirectly secure the product and deliver it to our customers."
Sulyok explains that GMG chose to essentially go around CD Projekt RED by acquiring digital copies of the game from third parties and retailers that were approved by CD Projekt RED. According to Sulyok, this means that CD Projekt RED is getting the revenue from sales of these games, and that any additional discount is absorbed by GMG. Earlier today, CD Projekt RED told GameSpot it was getting "zero" revenue from these sales.
"We would heartily welcome a renewed dialogue with CDPR, and are keen to continue to not only support the launch of The Witcher 3, but to keep celebrating and bringing the whole catalogue of CDPR titles to a worldwide audience, as we have done since 2011," Sulyok said.
We've reached out to CD Project RED and will update this story with anything we hear back.
For the quarter ended March 31, World of Warcraft had 7.1 million subscribers, down 2.9 million from the 10 million subscribers it had at the end of 2014.
Although subscriber numbers are falling, Activision Blizzard notes that World of Warcraft remains the top subscription-based MMO in the world.
What's more, the publisher explained that things like price increases in select regions and "strong uptake of value added service" partially offset subscriber declines in terms of total revenue derived from the game.
Activision Blizzard is currently holding an earnings call to discuss its earnings and answer analyst questions. If the company provides more insight into World of Warcraft's subscriber downturn, we'll add that information here.
Some other highlights from Activision Blizzard's earnings report today:
Financial highlights for the quarter ended March 31:
Destiny is getting a new weapon type, sidearms, developer Bungie announced during today's Prison of the Elders livestream.
Siderarms will act as secondary weapons that add elemental damage and a very high rate of fire.
As you can see in the image above, the Vestian Dynasty sidearm, for example, also has high stability and reload stats.
Bungie today released tons of new details about Destiny's new Prison of Elders co-op arena that's included with the upcoming House of Wolves expansion.
JumpJet Rex brings back that delightful concept of a cutesy setup being used as a vessel for diabolical evil. In it, the dinosaurs were advanced enough to master space travel, sending up a lone, rocket boot-wearing T-rex to go explore the galaxy. While he's up there, mission control finds out that an asteroid--the asteroid--is on its way, and sends Rex to the outer reaches to go destroy it. Oh, and to explore a couple dozen random planetoids along the way.
One small step for dinosaurs, one giant leap to probably get shot by lasers.Do you wanna fight a snowman? C'mon, let's make him pay...
The planets are perfect tile-based approximations of 8-bit pixels, albeit with huge, widescreen playing fields. The environments, sadly, are limited, recycling the same four space base/ice level/plant world/stone temples throughout. Though the enemies get annoyingly diverse later--more on that soon--the levels lose their luster by the end. They are, undoubtedly, on the appealingly colorful side; the ice levels beautifully depict Hoth-like conditions in which to zoom around, and a lightning effect on the later space stages make them look particularly animated and dangerous. The accompanying chiptune soundtrack doesn't take full advantage of the NES's jerry-rigged range of instrumentation, but it's fun, catchy stuff to putter around the galaxy to.
Movement is pleasantly free-flowing. Having rocket boots means that you have an infinite jump, the ability to blast yourself left and right, and lift off vertically, and a tiny blast is given off in your wake that can actually do damage to enemies. Using these abilities, your mission in each stage is to pass through a specified number of gates to open up the finish line, where you earn a star. Like in Super Mario 64, you need a certain number of stars to open up each stage, but you can earn additional stars per stage by getting through without dying and by beating the stage time record.
Sounds easy. It is decidedly not.
Early stages are a delight, with Rex blasting through coins, squeezing through tight corridors, and making split-second maneuvers to dodge lasers or avoid the walls. You're dead in one hit, so that old tension is here, keeping your reflexes sharp; It's challenging, but fun all the same. After the first boss, however, the difficulty spikes hard and fast. The game gets projectile-happy in a hurry, where tracking lasers and fire-spewing plants line every surface or are set up just past the outer limits of the screen where you can't see them, seemingly just begging you to try using your rockets. Tight squeezes are now less a matter of having a few tiles to move around but a scant few pixels. Boss fights aren't necessarily hard but tedious, with every hit doing minor chip damage at best. Around halfway through, the game ceases to be fun. It becomes a chore. Difficulty isn't a negative in and of itself, but its merits can be measured in a simple question: “Is it my fault I'm dying?” “Is there a flaw in my own skills that could prevent this?”If you only have 3 fingers, is this a peace sign, or “Live long and prosper”?
Increasingly, the game sits on the bad side of that question, where obstacles are surmountable seemingly by sheer luck more than skill. The game puts import on being able to nab more than one star from a stage to advance, but the time trial records are ludicrous, and dying becomes more and more a certainty; it is a recipe for seething hate. Your rewards for success often come down to little more than the money you've collected, which can be traded for insanely overpriced cosmetic items. In one of the stores you open early on, every item costs $100,000 coins. By the time I reached the final boss, I had $78,000. Troublesome economy aside, technical hitches are common, even on fairly straightforward stages and bosses, with the frame rate tanking and button presses ceasing to register when things get too busy.
Just like the most aggravating NES games, it's frustrating because there's fun to be had, and had often, in JumpJet Rex. It feels great to play, the aerial trickery is gratifying, and it's got a lot of goofy charm, but all of this is unfortunately buried under an inexplicable need to test players beyond what should be necessary in a galaxy where you tool around as a T-rex wearing sunglasses.