Impressions & Previews Category

Hands-on, first impressions, and preview coverage. [Follow this category’s RSS feed]

PAX West 2017: Life and death in Digital Extremes’ new MMO Survived By

While there were plenty of established games on hand at PAX West 2017, there were also a few new ones offering players a taste of the future. Survived By by Digital Extremes is one of those new games. Announced just two days before PAX began, it had stations set up allowing players to dive right into a dungeon and experience the 2-D pixel game. And that’s exactly what I did while talking to Producer Ryan Jackson about permadeath, classes, crafting, and the story.

Jackson told me that the game is actually set in a cross section of the world tree. The tree is sick, however, and can’t seem to heal itself anymore, and it’s being invaded. He said that the mystery of what is happening is what DE wants players to unravel as they play in the first act of the game. Closed alpha will be starting soon, and folks can sign up for it on the official site. I actually can’t wait to get back in!

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PAX West 2017: Ashes of Creation’s combat, crowdfunding, characters, and the infamous hat

You don’t have to be a massive MMO studio to have a big showing at PAX West – Intrepid Studios proved that. The indie studio developing Ashes of Creation had a large booth with a giant TV broadcasting videos, hands-on demos for players to see what the game is about, a merchandise counter (which appeared to be doing good business), plenty of devs on hand to answer questions, and a full panel to discuss the game’s progress and plans to a large audience. And Founder and Creative Director Steven Sharif was on hand the whole time to talk about his game with everyone who came by. As he told me, “That’s our job here today, to expose more people to [AoC’s] potential.” He wants players to know that it isn’t about promises without delivery

Between a demo and a couple of interviews, I had the opportunity to chat with Sharif about the game a few different times. We talked about classes, crowdfunding, and character customization. I also got to team up with a group and run through a short PvE adventure narrated by a dev, testing out skills and exploring a few features. Then I delved into a PvP match. And yes, we also discussed the red hat controversy.

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PAX West 2017: Playing Kritika Online’s upcoming Psion class in Shattered Table

En Masse recently introduced the newest class coming to Kritika Online, and while visiting the studio’s offices during PAX West 2017, I was able to dive in and play it. This Psion class — a combination of swordsman and mage —  generates psychic swords to slice, dice, and generally Ginsu her enemies to pieces. One skill even allows her to throw her blades, which combined with her guns (bound to right click) gives her good ranged options during battle. As I am not the biggest fan of in-your-face combat, I appreciated having options to move me outside of melee range and keep attacking.

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PAX West 2017: Taking ‘control’ of TERA on console

It’s all about the controller: My En Masse Entertainment PAX West office visit last weekend included a hands-on with TERA on console.

Now, I have played TERA before, and it isn’t a game I have returned to with regularity, though I do still return and dabble. Interestingly enough, after this experience, I learned that things might have been different had I been playing the game on console.

As much as I didn’t really like and wasn’t used to movement (I didn’t get the hang of looking the direction I wanted to), I really enjoyed the combat with the controller during my demo. I discovered actually preferred TERA’s combat on the controller than on the keyboard, so I agree the dev’s words: “It’s TERA’s true action combat that makes it such a great fit for consoles and game pad controls.”

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PAX West 2017: Dual Universe demos its persistent, seamless, sandbox universe

If you were hoping that another title would pick up the idea of a voxel world and run with it, you’re getting your wish. I met with Jean-Christophe Baillie, the president and founder of NovaQuark, at PAX West. He showed off the pre-alpha build of his company’s voxel sandbox, Dual Universe. After zooming across the planet, building a ship, terraforming, and then blasting off to the moon to do it all again, I believe this subscription-based game (which begins its pre-alpha for backers on September 30th) may very well be the home that players who’ve been wishing for a voxel-based world have waited for.

Baillie defines Dual Universe: “We give more creativity freedom to the players: They can build the ships they want, the environment they want, the houses they want. It’s about freedon to create anything you like.”

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PAX West 2017: Rend expands world size, adds more MMO elements

Wondering what happened to Rend since its big debut at PAX East? Frostkeep Studios went decidedly quiet over the summer after the three-faction sandbox’s first alpha. Did something happen in that alpha that made the devs change their minds about creating the survival game? After meeting with Jeremy Wood, Co-founder, and Jordan Leithart, developer, at this weekend’s PAX West 2017, I learned that Rend very much is still a thing; in fact, now it’s a even bigger thing. The devs didn’t change their minds about making the game — they’ve increased the scope.

Wood noted that after fan reactions, the team knew it had something good, “something people were excited about. In order to do that justice, then we needed to expand our vision a little bit.” He said the game was too contrictive — it “needed more.” So more it is. Rend is making some big changes, from dramatically increasing the size of the map to adding in more MMO elements to the game. And after checking out these chances, I am more excited to jump in the game myself when it is expected to reopen its doors to testing this fall.

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The Walking Dead IP is getting a new augmented reality game, like Pokemon Go but maybe better

Next Games, the company behind The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, recently announced an AR game based on the Walking Dead IP.

What’s interesting is that unlike Pokemon Go, the Walking Dead’s AR seems to be a key feature of gameplay, not an add-on, and it’s being marketed as such. Players will need to follow AR clues to find survivors and physically move around to find and combat zombies which may surround them. While that does seem highly engaging, I know I’ll have to worry about non-gamers reacting to AR weirdness in meat space, sort of like in Pokemon GO raiding situations in high-traffic areas.

In addition, comparing the demographics of The Walking Dead TV series to Pokemon GO player demographics reveals quite the overlap in terms of gender and age. Both have nearly equal appeal between the genders and primarily seem to attract people in their 20s and 30s. This means Niantic might actually have competition from another AR game based on a strong IP. It’ll be interesting to see how the community responds once The Walking Dead: Our World arrives.

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Hyperspace Beacon: Impressions of SWTOR’s Crisis on Umbara update

I questioned BioWare‘s delay of the latest update for Star Wars: The Old Republic. According to a post on the official forums, the team decided to delay the launch of Crisis on Umbara because of a bug that could “prevent a substantial amount of gameplay when a player experiences it, from not playing the intro cinematic to not allowing re-entry into the instance.” Before reading the explanation, I joked to friends about the delay, saying that something must have happened to break the cash shop, otherwise, BioWare would never delay an update. It would just be released and fix it later in a patch.

But since it was delayed for legitimate reasons, the update should be bug-free, right? We will talk about that in a bit.

BioWare did eventually release the update on Thursday morning, actually. And I spent all of yesterday playing through the instance on different classes in story and veteran mode. It wasn’t too bad, and it’s certainly worth tossing a few bucks at BioWare if you like a little bit of group activity in SWTOR. Let’s break that down.

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Touring Trove’s new Eclipse expansion with the Trion team

The big solar eclipse may have been yesterday, but today marks the beginning of Trove’s Eclipse! And luckily, this one will last much more than a couple of minutes. Today’s the launch day for the pixel game’s big expansion that devs have been showing off on streams throughout the month. If you’ve been following the news, you know that there will be some exciting editions to Trove once those expansion doors open. I sat down with Trion Producer Rick White, Senior Animator Ted Sanger, and Art Lead Robin Luera to talk more about these changes that White noted will offer something for everyone.

“For the Eclipse expansion,” he said, “we really tried to push adding new content for our three different segments of players: our beginning players, our mid-ranged players, and our power users and endgame players.” These new features include subclasses, a gem forging system, an expanded Shadow Tower, and the worlds atlas. Let’s dig in!

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Guild Wars 2 Elite Specialization preview weekend impressions

Over the weekend Guild Wars 2 players had the chance to get to grips with the new Path of Fire elite specializations in a PvP setting, so I, of course, jumped in with both feet and tried out some of the specializations for myself.

You’ll know already if you’re familiar with my ramblings that PvP isn’t a massive love of mine, but I simply couldn’t resist giving it a go for the sake of the elite specializations. I didn’t get to sample each one for myself because I had some key family events that fell over the weekend too, but I’ve been sure to provide a brief as-I-saw-it summary of the elite specializations I didn’t get to spend time actively playing.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’ll share my thoughts on my preview time spent playing around with the Weaver, Holosmith, Mirage, Scourge, and Spellbreaker and watching the work of the other elite specializations. These are simply rapid-fire impressions — I had to be brief to fit them all into the span of one column — but they should nevertheless be helpful to those who didn’t get hands-on over the weekend.

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Deep-diving Gloria Victis’ swordplay and siege warfare

We’re in the midst of a sort of sandbox renaissance, with numerous sandbox titles under development and more seeming to scuttle out of the woodwork on a regular basis, all vying for the attention of the masses of gamers weary of the World-of-Warcraft-inspired theme park formula that has dominated the market for so long. Among these contenders is Gloria Victis from indie developer Black Eye Games, a medieval, low-fantasy title that aims to meld an open-world sandbox MMO with the frantic swordplay action popularized by games like Mount and Blade and Chivalry.

Gloria Victis, like many of its compatriots in this new wave of sandbox MMOs, is still in development, but players can get a look at the current state of the game through Steam’s Early Access program. But if you’re one of the many who are (justifiably) wary of dropping money on unreleased games, don’t fret: I’ve taken the plunge in your stead to take a look at how things are shaping up.

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Flameseeker Chronicles: Impressions of Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire preview weekend experience

I’m delighted to have found a moment to bring you an extra edition of Flameseeker Chronicles that outlines my thoughts on the first Guild Wars 2Path of Fire preview weekend. From last Friday until Sunday, every player was invited along to take some tentative steps into the Crystal Desert and get to grips with the raptor mount. We were also treated to a little bit of introductory story that ties the new zone directly to the Living World Season 3 finale without missing a beat.

So today, I will break down my preview experience into the main points, including my highlights and unfortunately ending on a pretty crummy negative. I’m hoping that further development based on the feedback from this weekend will help to lessen or negate my issue though, so I won’t be frowning for very long! Note that this article will contain some spoilers regarding the introductory story, so it’s best avoided if you are waiting until September to find out more on that front.

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Interview: Daybreak’s Just Survive drops H1Z1 branding for massive revamp and relaunch today

Remember the survival version of H1Z1? If not, we can’t say that we blame you: Since Daybreak split the game in two, the bulk of development and attention has gone to the last-man standing tournament mode. Just check out how many patches and tournaments H1Z1: King of the Kill has seen! Those wanting to focus on the survival side of things were just out of luck as those servers seriously languished.

But all that changes today. No longer will H1Z1 Just Survive be lost in its sibling’s shadow; from here on out, Just Survive is its own game. And the name isn’t the only thing changing; beyond a rebranding, the entire game has gotten quite an overhaul.

I sat down with Creative Director Ben Jones for a tour of the many changes that go live today. We traveled the new map, investigated new POIs, visited the new safe zone respawn points (a few times!), met NPCs, checked out the new economy, and peeked at the new stronghold system. Jones also assured me that with its own development team, Just Survive will be receiving regular updates going forward. Will it be enough to bring players back? It worked for me. I had stopped playing the title quite a while ago (as I had no interest in KotK), but what I’ve seen now has me excited to give it another go.

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