Street Fighter’s Chun-Li And Ryu Coming To Fortnite Soon

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Fortnite has been embracing crossover character skins for ages now, and two big names are about to join the cast! More information is dropping tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time via official Epic channels, but for now we've got a spiffy new reveal trailer showcasing Ryu and Chun-Li from the Street Fighter franchise. After Master Chief, Kratos, and many others have entered the Fortnite universe as skins, this is hardly surprising, but it's always great to see additional faces from other games come into the universe! Check out their debut trailer above!

Ryu's penchant for Hadoukens and Chun-Li's furious flurry of kicks have been staples of the fighting game scene from when we would gather around the one arcade unit in the Walmart mini-arcades and stack quarters on the side of the machine, eager to dragon punch and kick our enemies into oblivion while the crane game chirped noisily in the background. While those days can never return, we can now play as some of our favorite Street Fighters in Fortnite. At this point, I don't think any crossover could surprise me, with myriad names and faces joining Epic's free-to-play foray on a regular basis.

Game Informer reviewed Fortnite back in 2018, and while many things have changed, the core battle royale experience stands strong. "The sheer replayability of Fortnite Battle Royale is one of its greatest strengths. Despite there only being one map, nothing ever plays out the same from game to game. Your learned experience about chest spawns, terrain, and weapon functionality carries over, but how these aspects intersect is fresh every time," I said in my review. "Maybe you land with 10 other players in the middle of a house, forcing you to decide whether to book it to the next area or go Rambo, hoping to reap the rewards as the lone survivor of a grim melee. Maybe you get a great weapon right away, but wander into the middle of a skirmish between two snipers. Like Dota 2 or League of Legends, despite the single primary playspace, the rest of the variables mean that one map is more than enough."

Are you planning to pick up the Ryu or Chun-Li skins? What do you think about the deluge of crossover skins? Let us know in the comments!

What Is Valheim And Why Is Everyone Playing It?

Over the weekend, Viking survival game Valheim crested to a concurrent player peak of over 360,000 players on Steam. While Steam and other game storefronts are inundated with survival titles to choose from, ranging from Minecraft (and its many assorted mods) to Ark to Terraria to Rust, the new early access title from Iron Gate AB is barging its way onto the scene. From a core list of features and mechanics, Valheim may not appear different at all from many other survival titles. So what separates Valheim from any of the other survival titles out there? Should you give it a try? Here are a few key takeaways that help explain Valheim’s rise through the ranks…

Two Distinctly Different Speeds

You can explore the world of Valheim by yourself or with 9 other friends, on dedicated servers or just by joining your friend’s world. While the single-player experience is fundamentally the same game, it plays much differently. Alone, the game is more of a Zen garden of sorts, allowing you to take each day at your own pace, enjoying every little piece of cooked grub and being the sole owner of every exploration, every triumph, and every discovery. Pacing as a solo player is much slower, and becomes a sort of survival meditation as you plan each day and overprepare for every step outside your door. After all, there’s no one to help you out should you get killed and need to perform a dreaded corpse run to get your gear.

Multiplayer is more traditional survival as players work together to craft multiple bases and take on the challenges of building, gearing, exploring and boss-slaying together. Some players shy away from this style of play, as not logging into the game for even a single day can have profound effects on what tier the server is at (We’ve all started Terraria worlds, left for a day, and come back to our friends zipping around in the sky with laser guns as we hold up our little baby wooden pickaxe…). But after around a week of diving into Valheim, the co-op multiplayer is the best way to play. Meeting up with your friends and bonding over a raft ride in a storm or just heading out to mine some copper together is a blast.

In fact, you can resummon big bosses and they have multiple spawn locations per world, so if you did want to play independently but still have a support group on a server, that's an option as well. If your crew is anything like mine, players will naturally fill the archetypal buckets of builder, explorer, fighter, and more, making for a fun time whenever you log in. If you choose to go the multiplayer route, I highly recommend forking out the cash for a dedicated server so you and your friends can come and go as you please instead of having to wait for a friend to set up the world every time you want to play. While I think the multiplayer is vastly superior and teamwork makes the dream work, the solo game is an enjoyable, albeit incredibly different, activity in which you’re sure to enjoy every discovery yourself.

Of additional note, the barebones PvP is entirely opt in and pretty much just for fun, making the multiplayer aspect of Valheim completely co-op. This (almost) eliminates the griefer vibe that can permeate some other survival games. Yes, theoretically someone could come into your game and smash your house down if you open your world up to the public, so try to play with people you know!

Simplicity Is Key

Valheim’s structure is immediately discernible and understandable even for players far removed from the survival genre. Essentially, each biome is a tier and ruled by a boss. Farm the zone for resources, make new gear and recipes, kill the boss, rinse and repeat with tools to tackle the next zone via the boss drops. The boss battles create server-gathering events for you and your friends, and if you’re playing with a particularly inquisitive or adventurous group there are creative ways to sequence break the natural order of progression. The key here really is that the game is understandable from the get go, with a helpful crow giving players tutorial steps. You don’t need to worry about making fifty other items to craft a single item or complex multifaceted crafting schools, it’s just get up and go and start making progress in your world.

Conquering the Meadow is a breeze, the Black Forest offers a significant bump up in exploration and challenges, and things get considerably more intense in the Swamp, Plains, and Mountains. And Valheim has optional secrets to discover as well that exist outside the biome hierarchy that can greatly enhance your options and progress, like the merchant and a certain sea creature I won’t spoil. There’s something to be said that you aren’t tasked with trying to cobble together thirty different types of resources just to get things going, wood and stone is enough. Survival titles are somewhat inherently intimidating by genre, and Valheim is surprisingly welcoming for a game where vikings battle werewolves in the snow.

Rewards Instead Of Punishment

Yes, Valheim has some fairly hardcore consequences for death in that you need to run back to your body to recover your gear and items, but you can prepare for it quite well. Outside of that though, Valheim rewards you for interacting with survival mechanics rather than punishing you for failing to do so. Eating food makes you much harder to kill, providing hit point regeneration, stamina, and other bonuses but you won’t die from not eating. You’re incentivized to find shelter and warmth from the cold and wet conditions, but these things won’t kill or damage you either. From a gameplay standpoint, this makes dealing with the world a lot easier. You know that if you’re going to be doing any difficult task like forging ahead into a new biome or taking on a boss you’re going to want to be fully rested with hearty meals in your belly, but you are not constantly nagged to death by hunger, thirst, or weather meters. This design shift is highly significant for alleviating excess player frustration in a hostile world.

Punctuated, Powerful Discovery

Most survival games have meaningful discoveries, and Valheim puts an exclamation mark on them with sparse musical notes and well-utilized effects. Valheim’s world is surprisingly beautiful at times, with impressive lighting and weather adding accents to the action. Rainstorms. Lightning. Blizzard whiteouts. The first time comes at you while you climb up the frozen slopes of the Mountains, your first journey on the sea where you run into the great , and summoning your first boss are just a few examples of momentous moments that you’ll have, by yourself or with your Viking crew. While much of the fare in Valheim is in fact featured in other survival games too, Valheim nails the discovery aspect, filling players with equal parts trepidation and exhilaration as they wander into new areas for the first time. Finding some of the optional discoveries lends much to the standard Biome > Boss > Biome recipe that might otherwise render the journey rote, and hearing the horn the first time you set sail on the sea is something you simply can’t find anywhere else. 

Coming Back To Reality

Yes, there's also the COVID-19 factor that is shining the spotlight on gaming experiences both solitary and social, but it would be dismissive and wrong to attribute Valheim's success to that aspect alone. I’m happy that Valheim is seeing a ton of early access success, and I hope it means the team can eventually push out an amazing final product. The realities of the situation are that because it is early access and only about half the content is there worldwise, there’s going to be an inevitable fall-off as players hit the end of the current content offerings. Many will likely wait until the full version is available rather than tackling every patch on the roadmap. While this is perfectly normal and expected, expect plenty of cries from the peanut gallery that Valheim is a “Two-week game” or “Lol dead game!” as the playerbase trickles out after the initial surge.  Valheim is looking great as an approachable, intriguing, and flavorful world. You should probably take a look. 

Nioh 2 Remastered – New Gameplay Today Live

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Nioh 2: The Complete Edition is available now. You can snag the samurai slasher on PlayStation 5 or PC, and as part of the big The Nioh Collection package. If you've been waiting to play Nioh 2, now is definitely the time, as the complete edition comes with all of the DLC content, adding on to the already meaty game. To say you could easily spend 100 hours on the game isn't embellishing things at all, and even then there are still always more weapons, builds, and set bonuses to try. If you like smashing (and getting smashed) by giant demons, Nioh 2 offers an immense surplus of treats for you to enjoy.  

So, we're going to stream some Nioh 2: The Complete Edition today! I'll be piloting our scrappy samurai warrior through some levels, taking on some deadly bosses, and inevitably dying a bunch of times over the course of today's show, where I'll be answering your big questions about Nioh 2, souls-likes, and the mysteries of life. While I can't pretend to be an expert with every build, weapon, and burst counter, I can offer a lot of general tips and suggestions and help you determine if Team Ninja's dark, punishing adventure is the right fit for you.

One big question I can answer right here that I get often about the Nioh games, especially in light of both Nioh and Nioh 2 being available in one complete set, is... Should you play Nioh before Nioh 2? My answer is no, as Nioh 2 expands and polishes many aspects of the original. Story and lore hounds should in fact play Nioh first as there is some shared narrative DNA between the games, but I have never found the story in these titles captivating in the slightest. These games are all about gameplay, mechanics, and combat. And that's pretty awesome!

Join me today at 3:30 CST for a look at Nioh 2: The Complete Edition!

What It Would Really Take To Get Me Back Into Pokémon

The greatest trick I repeatedly pull is convincing myself I’ll play the latest Pokémon title, but then never actually doing it. Like many kids of the ‘90s, I fell in love with Game Freak's lovable Pocket Monsters when they initially took the U.S. by storm. I lost countless hours playing Red, Blue, and Yellow multiple times, invested just as much time in the anime, and collected way too many cards. I was a certified Poké-maniac. 

When Generation 2 rolled around, I was eager catch some new monsters, but a series of unfortunate events pushed me away from the series for good. First, my Game Boy Advance was stolen with my copy of Pokémon Gold inside (which I’ve never completed to this day). Then the anime let me down for the final time when Ash lost the Johto League finals even after defeating Gary, cementing Ash as a choke artist I could no longer get behind. My enthusiasm for the franchise simply vanished after that. Outside of a brief, random return with Pokémon Platinum and partaking in the beautiful phenomenon of Pokémon Go’s early days, I haven’t touched the series since. Still, I kept an ear to the ground for every subsequent release, secretly hoping for an irresistible new feature that would lure me back. 

Over the years, I imagined what the series would need to do to draw me in again, but the goalposts moved every time they were met. I said I wanted an entry with full 3D graphics. Then X&Y happened, and I never touched it. I said I wanted a mainline console RPG. Then Let’s Go and Sword & Shield release – and I haven’t played them. I said an MMO would be cool. Then someone made TemTem and ... well, I’ll get back to you on that when it hits consoles. The point is: What does this series really have to do to get me interested again? With the Pokémon’s 25th anniversary in full swing, I took time to really consider what it would take for me to dust off the old Pokédex one more time. 

A Story-Driven RPG Starring Team Rocket

Pokémon protagonists are about as interesting as catching a Pidgey. They’re all chipper-yet-bland avatars devoid of personality outside of a love of capturing helpless critters and forcing them to fight. Give me protagonists with pizzazz, charisma, and moxie. Give me Team Rocket!

By that, I mean Jessie, James, and Meowth, the bumbling goofs who are usually the highlight of most episodes of the anime. They’re hilarious personalities that I’d love to see get a full, dedicated game. Let me try to abduct Ash’s Pikachu or, better yet, have the trio embark on their own zany adventure away from the series’ typical heroes. Games that put bad guys front and center can be a novel experience, and few villains are as entertaining or endearing as these three knuckleheads. 

Wacky, Absurd Side Quests

The Pokémon anime is bursting with strange side characters, and the games have apparently failed to fully capture that charm so far. While there are some colorful personalities, they’re typically the main or supporting cast. Many of the people you meet regularly are “cheerful lass looking to battle #3.” I’d love it if the side activities took a page from the Yakuza series and dialed the silliness all the way up.  

The sub stories in Yakuza are ridiculous and endearing; they’re a delight I regularly go out of my way to seek out. If Pokémon took a similar approach (or ripped it off wholesale) by offering some truly far-out sidequests, I’d be inclined to not avoid the vision cone of every passerby I see. For example, one of my favorite quests in Yakuza: Like a Dragon involves preventing the last persimmon from falling out of a tree from a sumo wrestler, a wannabe sniper, and a high school occultist. And Yakuza is supposed to based on real-life! The humans in Pokémon share a planet with three-headed birds, sentient garbage piles, and a living mystical alphabet. The comedic gold is sitting there, waiting to be mined. 

Eliminate Random Encounters Forever

For years, Pokémon has maintained a stubborn reliance on random encounters. Sword & Shield got halfway there by having some Pokémon appear in the overworld and Wild Area, but I’ve been playing a lot of Bugsnax recently, and that game nails what I’d like to see from Pokémon going forward: a world teeming with bizarre wildlife as far as the eye can see. I want to look up and admire Ho-Oh soaring across the horizon the way Ash did in the anime’s pilot episode or feel a stronger sense of disappointment when a Rattata approaches me. Random encounters are old hat in standard RPGs, but seeing them remain a near constant in Pokémon feels more and more like a disservice to the franchise in terms of what it could do for wonder and immersion. 

Ditch The Turn-Based Combat

I grew up playing RPGs, so turn-based combat will always have a place in my heart, but I’m also ready to move on. One of the things I love most about Final Fantasy is its willingness to reinvent its battle system with each entry, and it ditched traditional turn-based combat long ago (frankly, for the better). I don’t know how you do that using the usual Pokémon template, but that’s what makes the possibilities exciting. 

Maybe take a page from the Final Fantasy VII Remake playbook and blend pure action with RPG elements on the edges. Perhaps let players control Pokémon directly instead of just issuing commands to them? Having a party of six creatures with an array of unique abilities allows for some exciting ideas that feel constrained within the current, well-worn battle template. Give me something fundamentally different and you’ll not only have my curiosity, but my interest as well.

Release It As One Version

I’ve never really understood the appeal behind Pokémon’s two-version approach. Sure, it’s great for lining Game Freak and Nintendo’s pockets, but I’ve always felt a lingering anxiety with the idea of buying a game knowing some of the monsters are locked away in its counterpart. For players, what’s the actual good reason for doing this other than “Well, that’s just how it’s always been done”? Dropping another $60 for the opportunity to catch the other Legendary Pokémon stinks, as does having to do the work of trading to fill missing Pokédex entries. 

It’s hard enough deciding whether or not to buy a new Pokémon game at all, so removing the added pressure of deciding which Legendary looks cooler/less silly would help me pull the trigger a lot faster.  

Add Settlement Building

Whether it’s the Assassin’s Creed series, Spiritfarer, or even the recently released Olija, I’m becoming more and more of a sucker for building up home bases. The mechanic can often provide a compelling incentive for collecting money and resources during exploration, plus it feels rewarding to turn a patch of dirt into a sprawling headquarters. This could apply to the Pokémon template too.

Instead of just sending extra Pokémon to Professor “Some Dumb Tree Name” what if you could build and upgrade your own Pokémon ranch of sorts? Maybe I can construct an aquarium for my water-types to hang in or maintain a ranch of Tauros like Ash had for some reason. It’d be fun in a similar manner to filling Blather’s museum in Animal Crossing. Given the various biomes Pokémon can inhabit, this HQ could get real wacky real quick in terms of its diversity, and it’d add another fun element to raising Pokémon, namely the ones you have no intention of engaging with on the battlefield.

Make The Pokémon Say Their Names!

Look, I know this is minor but darn it, the fact that Pokémon don’t say their names in-game has always irrationally bugged me. I know some of the reason has to do with translation, but that’s not my problem. Plus, Pikachu gets to do it, apparently. Give me that cute Squirtle voice instead of his upsetting digital battle cry of “bla7m#fpowr7@*!!!” Be honest, wouldn’t you rather hear Charizard proudly proclaim...okay, he doesn’t actually say his name in the show (which is a whole other can of worms), but you get the idea. If not that, go all the way and just put subtitles on the Pokémon's speech, like that one really cool episode of the anime. You know the one. 

I like to think that these idea would rope me back in, but I'm not sure I can trust myself anymore so who knows. I guess Game Freak will just have to implement all of my ideas to bring me back! Because that's what they're focused on, of course: winning me back specifically. Anyways, if you're a lapsed fan like me, what would it take for you to get back into the series? Let me know in the comments. 

What Is Olija And Why You Should You Try It?

January is almost over, and as usual, the big releases slowed down after the busy holiday season. Hitman 3 was excellent, but other anticipated games like The Medium and Cyber Shadow didn't totally deliver. But sometimes a game can come out of nowhere and impress you, and that's why I'm excited about Olija by Skeleton Crew Studios. It just launched this week, and I’ve had a great time with it so far; it blends fast-paced combat, an atmospheric and alluring world, and engaging settlement-building to create one of the year's first big surprises. Here's why you should check it out.

Story And Presentation

I haven’t finished Olija, so I can’t speak to the whole story’s overall quality. However, I am deeply intrigued. The game opens with protagonist Lord Faraday getting shipwrecked among the islands of Terraphage while on a mission to bring treasure and resources back to his struggling village. His crew gets scattered to various isles, so it becomes something of a rescue mission as he explores creepy dungeons in search of them. Before long he encounters creepy, shape-shifting monsters and other hostile foes, as well as the mysterious Lady Olija. I’m not sure what to make of Olija herself yet, but I’m curious to see what her agenda is as Faraday tries to recover his crew and get the heck out of Terraphage. 

If you watch Olija’s animated launch trailer, it’s easy to feel slighted by its in-game presentation. Sure, it’s not a stylish animated epic, but the pixel art is smoothly animated in a way that feels like a modern take on the original Prince of Persia. Cutscenes make the most of this with dramatic camera angles and copious abrupt cuts to black. In short, Olija has style. There’s also plenty of disturbing moments, usually involving the brutal manner Terraphage’s monstrosites murder or transform their victims. The ominous soundtrack creates a constant sense of eerie unease, which is appropriate given you’re facing bizarre supernatural forces. 

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Combat

At a glance you might not guess Olija’s combat would be as fun as it is, but it’s a stylish treat. The core of the experience is a magic harpoon used to impale enemies and objects, which you can then use as an anchor to teleport towards them. It feels great, and is supremely useful both as a platforming tool and for closing the gap against ranged based foes. Plus, recalling the harpoon hits anyone caught in its path, similar to recalling Kratos’ axe in 2018’s God of War, creating additional strategy in setting up enemies. 

A variety of sub weapons are fun in their own right. Right now I have a rapier that complements the heavier harpoon with rapid melee strikes. A crossbow deals rapid fire bolts and a shotgun-esque musket fires powerful spreading shots. Sub-weapons can be swapped on the fly, making it a cinch to change combat styles in the heat of battle. 

All of this leads to combat that is surprisingly fluid and fast-paced with an emphasis on combos. It almost feels like a heavily pixelated Devil May Cry at points, especially since you can launch enemies and juggle them in mid-air. You can also knock enemies into walls or pits. Special hats lend supplementary abilities such as allowing players to spin the harpoon like a propeller or firing feather daggers while performing dodge rolls. Combat feels great and is probably Olija’s strongest aspect. 

Exploration

Olija isn’t quite a Metroidvania, but the dungeons do feature a handful of paths that often require puzzle-solving and light backtracking. There are no level maps (at least none that I’ve found yet), and that might annoy some players. However, while levels have multiple paths, they’re still small enough where I could pretty easily remember where I’d gone.  Teleporting around with the harpoon is fun, as is using it to find secret areas hiding collectible bottled ships. There’s also some neat variety, such as one area that requires full stealth to get through. So far, I haven’t seen any other area that called for that, so it’s cool to see one-off mechanics like this. Traps and various obstacles are fun to overcome, and there’s even a couple of cool setpiece moments I won’t spoil. 

Settlement-Building

Settlement-building feels all the rage suddenly, and Olija hops on the trend with its own take. Between missions players return to Oaktide, a port that’s initially in terrible disrepair. As players locate and rescue their displaced crewmates, Oaktide grows into a bustling port. Eventually players obtain a potion seeker who can increase maximum health and order a ship to search for treasure, which you’ll collect upon your next visit. Given the game’s overall dark tone, it feels good to see some hope by bringing crewmate after crewmate back to Oaktide. I’m a sucker for building up a home base in games, and while Olija’s isn’t the deepest example of it, it’s still engrossing.  

So far Olija’s my favorite game of 2021, and I can’t wait to dive back in and see how the mystery unfolds. If you want to give a shot, it’s available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC for $14.99. Watch us play some of the game's early hours in this episode of New Gameplay Today

Microsoft Not Changing Xbox Live Gold Pricing, Free-to-Play Games Unlocked

Microsoft has announced that it is reversing its decision and will not change Xbox Live Gold pricing. Furthermore, free-to-play games will no longer require an Xbox Live Gold membership to play on Xbox consoles.

Upcoming Games Starring Protagonists Of Color

As a black man with a lifelong obsession with games, I’ve either heard or been asked this question many times in my life: What games let you play as black characters? My answer is usually pretty short. Anyone paid attention knows that games have predominantly featured white protagonists for decades. There are plenty of great-looking games on the horizon, but finding titles starring heroes that resemble the people in marginalized communities can be like finding a needle in a haystack. That's unfortunate because no matter the shape or size of a game, it's always a powerful feeling to see a character that looks like you. 

So, I’d like to prepare an answer for people who are regularly asked the same question and for those who ask it themselves. I’ve compiled this list of upcoming games featuring protagonists who are black, brown, or just non-white in general. To that end, this list excludes games with user-created protagonists. Character creators are great and all, but they also put the responsibility of diversity onto the players, rather than developers taking the initiative themselves. Now, let’s take a look at the coolest-looking games starring protagonists of color. 

Season  

Developer: Scavengers Studio
Release Date: TBA

Season is a gorgeous-looking adventure game about a woman who leaves her remote village to explore the world on her bike. Along the way, she documents her discoveries through the lens of her camera, capturing the final moments of various fictional cultures before an impending cataclysm befalls the world. The game showcases a diverse cast of characters who occupy a strange version of Earth; in it, modern human progress has remained stagnant despite thousands of years passing. Season comes from Scavengers Studios and is fascinating departure from its previous game, the survival battle royale The Darwin Project.

 

Deathloop 

Developer: Arkane Studios
Release Date: May 21

With quality games like Dishonored and Prey in Arkane Studios’ history, excitement for Death Loop is sky-high. The games pits two legendary assassins, Colt and Julianna, against each other on the island of Blackreef. Players control Colt, who not only must survive being hunted by Julianna and the island’s inhabitants, but also find a way to break a mysterious time loop engulfing the island. The goal is to assassinate eight targets in the span of a single night, otherwise the cycle begins anew.  I pray Deathloop sticks to its May release date because I can’t wait to get my hands on one of 2021’s most inventive-looking titles. 

 

ValiDate: Struggling Singles in Your Area

Developer: Veritable Joy Studios 
Release Date: Spring

This quirky visual novel stars 12 struggling singles living in Jercy City (yes, Jercy). They are looking for love while also trying to, according to the game’s website, “overcome the harsh realities of capitalism" while also dealing with the everyday grind. ValiDate boasts over 30 story routes for these flawed 20-somethings who range from a professional cosplayer, a wedding counselor, a food scientist, and a manager at “Bopeyes”. Dating is the name of the game, of course, as you make a series of choices to (hopefully) romance the single of your choice. Veritable Joy Studios says ValiDate’s writing is handled with “empathy and self-indulgence” and comes from an all-POC writing team. Look for ValiDate when it launches this spring, or you can try a free demo on itch.io now.

 

Tchia

Developer: Awaceb
Release Date: TBA

Tchia recently premiered during the pre-show of The Game Awards, and draws inspiration for its world and cast from New Caledonia, a Pacific Island east of Australia. Players control the titular Tchia, a girl with special abilities who sets sail on her makeshift raft in a physics-driven sandbox. Tchia has the power to take control of any animal or object, which includes a bird and even a coconut, as seen in the debut trailer. Exploration combines climbing, gliding, and sailing, drawing on elements of Zelda games like Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker. With a vibrant color palette and heartwarming vibe, Tchia is a gem to keep an eye on. 

 

Far Cry 6

Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: 2021

The Far Cry series isn’t always stellar about handling its cultural themes beyond simple stereotypes, but here’s hoping that changes with Far Cry 6. Set in the Cuba-inspired island of Yara, players control Dani Rojos (who can be male or female), a local that gets swept up in a revolution against the country’s brutal dictator, Antón Castillo (played by Giancarlo Esposito of The Mandalorian and Breaking Bad fame). We don’t know much about the plot, but the debut trailer revealed a fascinating relationship between Castillo and his young son, Diego, who he wants to mold in his image. How Dani fits into this father/son story isn’t clear, but it’s safe to expect the high-octane gameplay Far Cry is known for.

 

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield

Developer: Aerial_Knight
Release Date: Early 2021

Coming to you from a single developer, Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is a stylish auto-runner set in a Tokyo-flavored, futuristic Detroit. Wally is a cool kid with a robotic leg seeking to uncover the truth about his past. However, he discovers darker evidence that could affect the future of his entire city. Players must run, jump, and slide past enemies and obstacles in an experience that caters speedrunners and casual players alike. This game bleeds Detroit, including a soundtrack composed by local artist Danime-Sama, as well as contributions from black artists across the globe. Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is slated to be released in early 2021, so, like Wally himself, it looks like the game is coming in hot. 

 

She Dreams Elsewhere

Developer: Studio Zevere
Release Date: 2021

She Dreams Elsewhere is a surreal RPG about a comatose woman struggling with anxiety who must discover the cause of her condition by literally confronting the demons within her. The game’s old-school aesthetic and turn-based combat evokes RPGs of old, but is layered with an ethereal, lo-fi vibe from the soundtrack to the trippy effects. A connection system lets players bond with their party members who have their own narrative threads, or customize their playstyles using the charm system. She Dreams Elsewhere is coming to PC sometime this year, and you can download a demo on Steam right now.

 

As Dusk Falls

Developer: Interior/Night
Release Date: 2021 

As Dusk Falls is an interactive drama with a fascinating hook. In 1999, two families were caught up in a hostage situation gone wrong. Over the course of the next 30 years, players see how it's affected the lives of all who were involved. We don’t know much about the game other than it stars a mixed-race protagonist, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you controlled other characters, such as the boy turned young adult shown in the debut trailer. As Dusk Falls is the first game from newly formed studio Interior/Night, led by Quantic Dream alum Caroline Marcha. The game currently has no release window, but since it’s being published by Xbox Game Studios, you can expect it to hit Game Pass on console and PC on launch day. 

 

Unknown 9: Awakening

Developer: Reflector
Release Date: TBA

This mysterious sci-fi title centers on Haroona, a young girl from Kolkata, India who discovers she’s imbued with a mysterious power that allows her to access a secret dimension known as The Fold. Haroona eventually encounters a mentor who teaches her how to hone this power to uncover the secrets behind this dimension as well as her abilities. We still know little about the game other than it’s a third-person action/adventure title set in the Unknown 9 universe, which is a multimedia sci-fi franchise spanning multiple books, comics, and podcasts. Though I’m not familiar with the broader series, I am intrigued to see what lies ahead for Haroona in the game. 

 

Dustborn

Developer: Red Thread Games
Release Date: TBA

Dustborn is a story-focused action/adventure game about a band of misfits on a dangerous road trip. Steering the narrative is Pax, a con artist and ex-convict who recruits a motley crew of allies to help her transport a mysterious package across the America Republic, a fractured version of the former USA. Your crew (or “Fam”) sport their own unique abilities as well as colorful personalities and backstories, which you learn more about through a deep dialogue system. The comic-inspired art direction gives the game a loud personality, especially the use of onomatopoeias. With both the government and fanatical puritans in hot pursuit of our not-heroes, Dustborn looks to be a wild and exciting road trip. 

 

The Gunk

Developer: Thunderful/Image & Form Games
Release Date: 2021

The team behind the beloved SteamWorld franchise tackles something totally new in The Gunk. This Xbox exclusive stars two astronauts who happen upon a planet teeming with life and valuable resources. Only one problem: The world is being overtaken by a corruptive, parasitic goo. Exploration requires using the protagonist’s power glove to suck up the gunk to clear paths and uncover valuable artifacts. You also need it to combat slime-corrupted monsters. Ridding zones of the malevolent substance opens larger areas containing more clues of the planet’s past. What is the gunk? Where did it come from? We’ll have to wait until sometime later this year to find out. 

 

Tunche

Developer: Leap Game Studios
Release Date: 2021

I’m a sucker for a good beat ‘em up, and Tunche taps into the innate fun of punching bad guys in the face while its roguelite structure keeps players on their toes. The map and enemies change with each playthrough, meaning you and up to four friends never know what to expect with each go-around. A tight, fast-paced combat system allows players to decimate monster hordes with juggling air combos while evading with an air-dash, among other abilities. Tunche is also easy on the eyes thanks to its hand-drawn cartoon art that breathes life into the game’s Amazon rainforest setting. Don’t take my word for it, though. Download the game’s free demo on Steam and see for yourself. 

 

We Are The Caretakers

Developer: Heart Shaped Games
Release Date: Q1 2021

Described as an “afrofuturist squad management RPG,” We Are the Caretakers is all about defending endangered alien animals from extinction. Using systems inspired by games such as Ogre Battle, Darkest Dungeon, and XCOM, players assemble an arcane team of anti-poaching protectors to engage in tactical battles in procedurally generated campaigns. The game sports a full job system as well as a reputation mechanic where your actions affect how the world views your team. That includes managing international relationships by meeting with world leaders and balancing their demands. We Are the Caretakers sounds like a fun and robust game with a good conversationalist message in the middle of it all. 

New Gameplay Today – Monster Hunter Rise Demo

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Monster Hunter is coming back to the Nintendo Switch in an all-new entry, Monster Hunter Rise. It contains some of the new features introduced in Monster Hunter: World, such as seamless transitions between zones, while also delivering its own slate of unique features. Make room, Palico friends, it's time to meet the new Palamute companions.

As Alex Stadnik shows in this new footage from the Switch demo, players can use their new canine-ish companion as a mount. In battle, the animal can help out alongside your catlike Palico. They seem to get along fine, which is ultimately all that matters. We also get to see a new Wirebug that lets players grapple onto objects in a similar way to Iceborne's Clutch Claw, as well as the top-notch speedrunning mindset that only Alex S. can provide. 

Alex and I are joined by fellow Monster Hunter fans Dan and Jay, so get ready for some Very Smart questions and observations. Monster Hunter Rise is coming to the Switch on March 26.

Top 10 Worst Best Games Of 2020

Games at the end of a console generation are supposed to demonstrate the outgoing systems’ true power – the culmination of developers’ years of practice and technical expertise. But I guess sometimes that doesn’t work out, and studios just need to push whatever they have out the door so they can start working on better things. That was clearly the case in 2020, which gave us a truly disappointing barrage of mediocre titles. Of course, that doesn’t stop some people from wrongly saying they are great – which is why I’m here to correctly call out the worst so-called “best” games of the year.

10

Astro's Playroom

We don’t see a lot of traditional 3D platformers anymore, and Astro’s Playroom shows us why. It uses a design template from the late ‘90s based solely on collecting doo-dads, but then adds a bunch of cheap gimmicks to show off what the DualSense controller can do (it vibrates). Did no one tell Sony that this game would come preinstalled on every PlayStation 5? Because it feels like Astro’s Playroom is trying really hard to sell me something I already bought. 

9

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Imagine that an evil wizard is holding you captive in a tower, and every day for many years, you are fed only bread and water. Then, one day, the evil wizard gives you bread and apple juice instead. After doing the same boring thing for so long, does this evil wizard deserve your praise and gratitude for finally changing things up a little bit? No, but gamers are too stupid to see that. Instead, they love Like a Dragon because it has a new hero, city, and battle system. In other words, it finally tries something slightly different after more than a decade of delivering the same old slop.

8

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Oh, look, I obtained the secret pitch for Final Fantasy VII Remake. It says, “We need a remake doomed to exist in the shadow of its original form from 20 years ago. But here’s the twist: We’ll only retell the first four hours of that game, stretched and padded beyond recognition to justify full retail price. Then we can ruin the story at the very end after people have already played the whole game.” Okay, I lied. That is not the real pitch document. But things don’t need to be real to be true, you know?

7

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

After so many years of iteration, I can’t even tell the Assassin’s Creed games apart anymore. Each one is more like a greatest hits album from some old band, mixing and matching previous successes instead of creating something new. Let’s face it, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla may as well be called “The Essential Assassin’s Creed Compilation.” It takes some base-building from one entry, sailing from another, and then borrows light RPG systems to hold it all together. Sure, it has a new Viking setting, but that’s basically the video game equivalent of “lovingly remastered tracks” anyway.

6

Ghost of Tsushima

Many people complain that all open-world games feel the same now, just giving players a bunch of different icons to chase on a big map. Ghost of Tsushima proves them wrong, because this time, the map is in JAPAN. That obviously makes a huge difference, because running after dumb foxes and liberating countless indistinguishable farmsteads suddenly becomes awesome and fun when you are doing it with a katana … apparently.

5

Among Us

I hate to be a stickler here (not really), but Among Us does not qualify to be one of the best games of 2020. I ask that you stop enjoying it immediately. I don’t care how fun it is to play. I don’t care how well the development team has supported it. The fact is this: Among Us came out in 2018, and therefore cannot be a good game that you played in 2020. Sorry, but that’s just pure mathematics.

4

Hades

Okay, full disclosure: I didn't even play Hades. I just know I won't like it, because the people who do like it are very annoying online. From what I can gather, Hades is a dating simulator about hooking up with hot gods, and maybe it has a combat system. Whatever it is, I’m comfortable saying that Hades is overrated garbage, because people use the word “roguelike” to describe it, so I automatically know everything I need to. I’ve basically already finished the game without playing a single second, and it left me disappointed.

3

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

Ugh, can everyone just please stop talking about 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim already!? I don’t know what sort of conspiracy or media bias is at work here, but it seems like everywhere I look, this game is getting another award or being streamed by some big-time influencer or member of Congress. Granted, 13 Sentinels has a clever narrative with some cool sci-fi inspirations – but how many people are going to see through the hype and see it for what it is? This is a textbook case of mainstream overexposure creating too much noise and unrealistic expectations.

2

The Last of Us Part II

A thing happened in this story that I did NOT want to happen, making this one of the absolute worst games ever made.

1

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Playing video games is supposed to be an escape – something people can do when they are tired of paying off loans, pulling weeds, and managing the escalating insecurities of their friends. Animal Crossing: New Horizons wants to steal that from you. This insidious ploy from Nintendo is designed to transmute your entertainment into work and replace your real-life anxieties with virtual analogs. Everyone blames the worldwide pandemic for how awful 2020 was, but I’m just saying: Things only got really bad about the same time Animal Crossing: New Horizons released.

The Next Mass Effect And What A Tale Of Two Galaxies Could Mean

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During The Game Awards, a Mass Effect trailer was shown that seemed to say a lot and very little at the same time. A lot of keen-eyed fans have offered their own theories, so I wanted to contribute my own - including how Andromeda and the Trilogy could collide. As someone that has over 30 playthroughs of the original trilogy, 7 playthroughs of Andromeda (despite its flaws), and has read all of the comics and novels several times over, I wanted to put some of that experience to good use with a good 'ol fashioned deep dive. So here we go! 

As a disclaimer, a disclaimer I put on any piece I write about Dragon Age or Mass Effect: I'm incredibly transparent with my love for this game. Does that mean I can't be critical of it or the studio culture around the BioWare name? Absolutely not, that's my job (and is evident by my previous critiques of Andromeda and Dragon Age 2 in the past, despite my personal enjoyment), but I like to be honest by letting readers know that I do have a personal connection to these stories for 100% transparency. 

Moving on, let's break the trailer seen at the top of the article down. 

In the opening sequence of the trailer (at which point we didn't even know this was tied to Mass Effect), we see the two galaxies that have dominated this franchise's lore: the Milky Way, which is seen in the front, and Andromeda, which is seen in the background. While many didn't seem to enjoy Andromeda due to its very different flavor and a wide variety of launch issues (faces were tired, you know the drill), others did relish in the younger and much dorkier Ryder tale. Much like the Geth weren't the true enemy in the first game of the trilogy, the Kett weren't the true enemy in Andromeda, a complexity that held so much potential for the expected sequel. Then launch happened and DLC plans were canceled, effectively killing any hope that the Quarians would make it safely and we'd get a resolution to the major epiphany revealed at Andromeda's end. That hope was killed until now, because the parallels seen in the beginning of the trailer paired with the implications of the ending scene could mean a crossover of epic proportions. 

The trailer then continues into the Milky Way that begins a journey through time itself with a voice from the Apollo 11 moon landing saying "Eagle, Houston. You're a go for landing, over." Being a journey, the trailer continues through time into an area where a cylindric structure can be seen. Some have speculated that it could be remnants of the Collector Base that was shot to hell in Mass Effect 2 (which I don't think so given the next sequence of events), while others think that this could be a structural graveyard seen in the wake of Reaper destruction from cycles past. It could also be the remnants of the battle with the Quarians on their way to Andromeda, which will be explored a little further down. Regardless, it is connected to the Omega Nebula, which has its own connection via a Mass Relay within the Mass Effect world. 

The next sequence seen is what makes me think it's not the Collector Base because the next shot directly references the First Contact War when humanity stumbled upon the Mass Relays and joined the wider galaxy only to jump into a vicious war against Turians that begun in 2157. This connection was fairly clear-cut with the voice that says "Arcturus Station, unknown vessel approaching, we need first contact protocols." For those that may not know, Arcturus is the headquarters for humanity's System Alliance that was established in 2156, a military and political power structure that is heavily prevalent in the trilogy and associated printed media. 

In Andromeda, fans were shocked to see that most races were represented in the move between galaxies, but some were missing. The Hanar, Elcor, Drell, and Quarians were the most notable, with the ending of the fourth Mass Effect game revealing that the Quarians' ark never made it safely, revealing an ominous distress call that was later explored through a spin-off novel (not DLC, as was reportedly planned). The trailer's sequence continues, saying "Ark 6 is away, godspeed," which is the Quarian ark Keelah Si'yah. The above broken cylindric structure could be related to the failed ark arrival, which could be the loophole needed with the time sequence given the passage of time that it takes to make it from the Milky Way to Andromeda (roughly 600 years). The reason that I think this could be related to the previous trailer sequence is that the ark launched from the Hephaestus Station, which is connected to the Omega Nebula within the Caleston Rift. 

During this next sequence is where I got chills because this is the first time we hear the Reaper's war call once more, the haunting boom that plagued the trilogy's third entry. As the video progresses into an abundant amount of wreckage within a broken Mass Relay, a distress call can be heard - only to be cut off by the Reaper's telltale sound - saying "Got to take down the dreadnought. Going critical. Abandon ship!"  

This wreckage was the reality for millions of lives. With every fleet desperately trying to beat back Reaper forces, a force so far advanced it seemed hopeless, countless lives were lost. Many battles were seemingly for nothing, and entire races were completely obliterated in previous cycles. We learned quite a bit about how other cycles worked with the "harvest" thanks to Mass Effect 3's inclusion of the last surviving Prothean: Javik. 

This hopelessness carried into the next sequence where a voice can be heard saying "Is anyone receiving this? We've lost contact." This part could take place at any time during Mass Effect 3 because many stations were lost with Mass Relay manipulation and Reaper obstruction, but if all contact was lost it's possible that this could be a post-ME3 moment when all of the Mass Relays were destroyed after Shepard's sacrifice. While the Control and Synthesis endings did eventually repair that damage, all endings resulted in that initial destruction. After the initial blast and Mass Relays shut down, the entire Milky Way was thrust into its own Dark Age pre-technologically-driven travel.

The trailer isn't done yet, the next step takes us into territory that I think could be easily dismissed as nothing, but keen-eyed fans know that BioWare is the king of hiding some of its most important details in plain sight. "Humanity is all that we have left" can be heard with a hybrid mashup of voices. Broken communication continues but it sounds like "the reason" can be heard at the very end. What that portends to is anyone's guess, but when looking at what happens next, it could be a much bigger clue than we realize. 

The video continues with the ship that we saw during N7 day with concept art make its landing on a planet rife with ice set with a tone of bleakness (it's not the earth, several moons can be seen). It's there that we see a shrouded figure make their way up an incline - a figure later revealed to be Liara (we're getting there, be patient). Many think this is a mountain, which definitely looks to be that way but to me? To me, I think this could be a derelict Reaper that she's scaling. A big reason for that is the previous frame directly references the Reaper's destruction and since this is a journey through time, the connection that the Reapers were once where this ship lands is definitely there. The fact that she bends down to pick up an N7 helmet, possibly Shepard's helmet, really lends to my thinking this is a fallen Reaper given the nature of the Commander's own fall (we're ignoring the breath of life seen at the end with the patched in the extended cut, you can @ me on Twitter if you want to know why, I have a very specific reason for doing so). 

Edit to this: BioWare's own Mike Gamble confirmed that it was a fallen Reaper Liara was climbing. Two points to Griffindor! 

Up until this point, we don't know who the shrouded figure is, but eventually, she looks up and towards the horizon and it's there that we can clearly see it is an Asari. The freckles, face shape, and that little smirk is obviously Liara (though some outlets reported that it was a Quarian in their initial coverage, I'm going to go ahead and chalk that up to them being rushed to get the news out during the Awards, which was a rapid-fire of new announcements that it was quite hard to keep up). That's Liara. Don't believe me? I confirmed it with two BioWare devs; that's Liara. 

The trailer then ends with her looking off into the distance where the ship that landed can be seen with the shapes of three figures in the background (would you look at that, the same number of companions you can bring with you into battle during the games!). One is obviously a Krogan with the far left being a Salarian. The middle person looks like a human, but could also easily be a Drell. My gut says human and since this is an opinion piece, I'm going to be frank and say that's where I'm personally leaning. 

But wait, does this mean Shepard is coming back? 

Obviously, I can't eschew anything officially because we all saw the same trailer, but I'm going to say no for a few reasons. The first being that Shepard was always canonically meant to be a trilogy. They were meant to be the martyr. Unless Miranda was back with another go at the Lazarus Project, I think it's best to start re-saying those goodbyes once more if that's what you're hoping for. 

The second reason is that it takes centuries to make it from the Milky Way to Andromeda. So how does that explain Liara? Easy! Asari have incredibly long lifespans. In the third game, Liara was just over 100 years old, which is basically considered a teenager in Asari culture. Asari can live to be over one thousand, so a 600-year jump wouldn't be an entire life cycle for her. The fact that her face can be seen with fine lines of a more mature Matriarch, the years lend themselves to my theory that we're going back to Andromeda but it will be more integrated with the trilogy than previously planned. 

TLDR: Andromeda hasn't abandoned the trilogy and the trilogy still has long-standing consequences to future life that we have yet to experience. I think the next step in the Mass Effect franchise will obviously take place hundreds of years post-ME3. I also think that this will make the Destroy ending canon, the ending that was highly sought after and incentivized throughout the progression of the third game. Since there is no evidence that Liara has been synthesized with that ending and there aren't any living Reapers seen, it looks like the Destroy ending will be paramount for the future of the games. Could Mass Effect pull a Dragon Age Keep where you can input your own choices of games past to dictate how the premise is set up for the new adventure? Absolutely a possibility, but that's not something we'll learn about until we are much closer to launch. 

At the end of the day, I'm excited. I touched on this with my previous piece talking about possible expansions of the Mass Effect universe, but there are so many unexplored stories left to tell. From the First Contact War to everything that happened in between the Trilogy and Andromeda, the narrative grounds are beyond fertile. 

If you're interested in learning more about the lore beyond the games, I can't recommend the books and comics enough. Even the movie Paragon's Lost, which dives into what happened to Vega pre-Shepard, offers unique perspectives into the games. From the moments in between the first Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, to how Liara got ahold of Shepard's body to begin with; there is so much more to explore out there and every bit of it offers small pieces to a much larger puzzle that is the future of Mass Effect.