Friday, August 17, 2018

Overwatch Match Highlights 21 - Mama

In today's episode - a fun rivalry with a crackshot Widow on Numbani.

It really was a good game.  No awesome Pulse Bombs, no huge multikills - I just focused the Widow and things worked out.

Oh, also!  Some folks far better at making vids than I am decided to recreate the experience of playing a Souls game in Overwatch.  It's actually pretty damn good.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Diablo III is officially coming to Switch with all the bells and all the whistles

After a tease and a leak, it was finally confirmed today.  Blizzard's Diablo III, with all its extra content - the Reaper of Souls expansion and the Necromancer DLC, and every addition and improvement (like adventure mode) that's been added to the game over the years - is coming to Nintendo Switch "this fall."

That's a bit too imprecise for my liking.  Anything coming out "this fall" should goddamn well have a release date by now - I'm lookin' at you, Hyper Light Drifter and Mark of the Ninja Remastered - but what's most important is Diablo III is gonna' be playable on a handheld. 

At 60FPS, they assure us.  Hot dawg

If you have a negative opinion of Diablo III, rest assured that is (likely) a product of the game's spectacularly rocky PC launch way way back in the long long ago of 2012, when the game required you to be always online and all the best gear could pretty-much only be obtained through its real-money auction house.  All that shit's gone, now.  Nowadays, Diablo III is a smooth-as-silk action RPG that's been polished and polished and buffed again until you can see your reflection in its mirror sheen, and it's fucking awesome

It'll be full price - $60 US - but I don't care.  This is exactly the kinda' game I'm gonna' love (again) on my Switch. 

You're no good

heart breaker
you're a liar
and you're a cheat
I don't know why
I let you do these things to me

my friends keep tellin' me
that you ain't no good
oh oh
but they don't know
that I'd leave you if I could

I guess I'm uptight
and I'm stuck like glue
'cause ain't I never
I ain't never no no
loved a man
the way that I
I love you

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Chamberlain & Chance 133 - Just the three of us

Wiiith Alex!  Alex thisChamberlain that podcast on iTunespodcast on Google Play!

Chamberlain and Chance - Just the three of us

  • Chamberlain
  • has
  • returrrned!
  • But what video games have the boys been playing? And what do they think of them?!
You'll have to tune in to find out!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It only took a decade for Valkyria Chronicles to get an Actual Sequel

Valkyria Chronicles (2008 - PS3)

Let’s start by saying I love Valkyria Chronicles.  A turn-based tactical JRPG where every single one of your troops has a defined personality, likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, set in a fictional version of World War II-era Europe (here called “Europa”), where black-haired Darcsens stand in for the Jewish people and weapons of mass destruction are beautiful ladies with glowing hair, brought to life with a remarkable engine that created hand-drawn-looking effects on a moving image – making the game look less like an anime than a manga that started to move.

More than that, I love Valkyria Chronicles in a weird, evangelical way – I made it my Internet Mission for like a year to spread the gospel of VC.  I neededpeople to know about it because I was certain that not enough people did, and they had to see the truth of it.  I still remember, way back in 2008, playing that demo – a demo that released at the exact same time as the BioShock demo for PS3, nestled among major, hugely original fall releases like Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space

That demo blew my fucking mind.  I played the BioShock demo twice, and then checked out the one for Valkyria Chronicles.  And then I played it again and again and again and again and again and went to the Penny Arcade forums and was like “okay, have you guys seen this?  Am I crazy for thinking this is absolutely spectacular?”

“No, it’s really damn good, but no one knows about it.”

We have to tell them!”

Valkyria Chronicles remains one of my favorite games of all time.  It’s a war epic, a silly anime, an awesome tactics game and a beautiful, romantic world packed full of charming characters you really grow to love. 

Valkyria Chronicles 2 (2010 - PSP)

I liked Valkyria Chronicles 2 on PSP, but it was not without flaws.  Its story was some inane schlock, compared to the thoughtful PG-rated, character-driven reflections on war that the original game offered.  The maps were tiny, repeated ad nauseam, and the graphics were… a pale reflection of the glorious presentation of the original game.  Valkyria Chronicles 2 was more Valkyria Chronicles, but it didn’t really meet the level of consistent quality of its progenitor.  It was basically Harry Potter: World War II, following a trio of irrepressible youths through their years at a military academy that saw real action.  I didn’t love these characters like I did the OG cast, I didn’t thrill to the presentation and the gameplay… well, the kinda’-real-time-but-basically-a-turn-based-tactical-RPG gameplay remained absolutely wonderful – though some of its new systems for developing your soldiers relied on infuriating random number generated drops. 

Valkyria Chronicles 3, also for the PSP, was never localized in North America, but it at least returned to the somewhat grimmer tone of the first game.  Still, another VC for Sony’s underpowered little handheld was a disappointment.  Would we never get another high-production-value, console release Valkyria Chronicles?

Sega tested the waters to determine the franchise’s sway over the paying public – they re-released the original game on PC via Steam, and remastered it for PS4 and Xbox One (an up-port is also due for Switch, at some point).  Then, they took the franchise out back and shot it in the head by way of Valkyria Revolution, an abysmal action-RPG that currently maintains a Metacritic score of 54

And now, the release of Valkyria Chronicles 4 is upon us.  It’ll drop on September 25th for PS4, Switch, Xbox One and PC, and its demo became available on the Switch around the same time Dead Cells launched.  I’d ignored said demo, in favor of the groovy Rougevania – until last night.  Last night I fought The Hand of the King in Dead Cells, said “fuck this” and turned on the demo for Valkyria Chronicles 4.  And this is what I think of it:

Playing this demo makes me feel… or perhaps reminds me that I've always felt, or perhaps places a megaphone up to the lips of that niggling thought in the back of my mind that we never really got a sequel to one of my favorite games of all time.  Valkyria Chronicles 2 and 3 on the PSP weren’t proper sequels.  They were unambitious, safe, cheap-to-produce side-stories that were reflections of that incredible game without ever really offering the same complete package of wonderful production values, rich, high-quality storytelling and world-building, charming characters and chess game tactics that made you feel like a genius when you knocked it out of the park. 

If this demo is any indication, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the sequel to Valkyria Chronicles that I’ve been waiting ten years for – and it is a hell of a demo, compared to the original game’s, which offered (as I recall) a single battle to fight through.  There are a ton of story beats along with four or more big missions in this demo – I haven’t finished it yet! – in addition to skirmishes that you can grind to level up your troops and buy new gear.  Progress carries over to the full game.  

These are all direct-capture screens from my Switch in handheld mode.

Seeing the “PLAYER PHASE” splash come up on the screen with those almost-forgotten but affectionately familiar horns is somehow moving, after this great distance from the original game.  It feels like coming home. 

The heroes, here, aren’t as immediately endearing as the bookish Welkin Gunther and spitfire Alicia Melchiott, but they’re already butting heads and bringing up old wounds and I get the sense I’m going to be quite fond of all of them, by the time we’re done or they’re dead. 

It’s already throwing new, interesting tactics at me – the new Grenadier class has been introduced and put to work solving an otherwise impossible situation, the new squad is already showing a huge amount of character.  There’s a girl Shocktrooper (low-mobility, but has a machine gun) with blond pigtails popping out from beneath a big iron mask she never takes off.  She’s got some issues.  There’s a Scout who gets the job done, but complains every time he’s called upon to do it (he shoots better when surrounded by women), and a middle-aged lady with a bunch of quirks related to motherhood who hates getting dirty, so her defense drops when I make her crawl through tall grass.

The Grenadier character will get post-traumatic flashbacks if a mortar lands near her, lowering her attack power.  It’s been a long, long time, but Valkyria Chronicles finally has a real sequel.  September 25th can’t come soon enough.

Oh, and I don't wanna' suggest that this is gonna' be the bestest most awesomest game evarrr, but there is a refrain I repeated, over and over - an earnest plea, if you will - in 2008 and beyond.  

Try this demo. 

Try this demo. 

Try this demo.  

Please, just try the demo.  You might discover something you never knew was missing.  

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Hype List - Fall 2018.

Fall is fast approaching, and with it the sweetest plums of game development rear their beautiful heads.  This year’s list is pretty short – I like to think that everyone is just slowly backing away from October in particular, where Rockstar will drop their latest open-world magnum opus – but there are still some smaller triple-As, a double-A or two and some hot hot indies to keep me hyped. 

Oh, and I should point out, this is my list.  There won’t be any Maddens or Call of Battlefields or any Xbox-exclusive titles, because I don’t care about sports and Duties and I don’t own an Xbox.  All good?  Good.  So let’s break it down. 

Heheh.  Duties.

Guacamelee 2 – August 21
Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t paid much attention to media coming out for Guacamelee 2, but I have a good reason – I don’t need to.  Guacamelee 2 is gonna’ be awesome.  I love 2D platformers, I love brawlers, I love metroidvanias and I love games with expressive, lovely 2D presentation.   It’s gonna’ be fun and explosively colorful and funny and an absolute pleasure to play – I can assure you of that without reservation, as everything Drinkbox Studios makes can be described as such.  Guacamelee, in particular, was one of the best (and most successful!) games the studio ever made, and they are very aware how hyped their fans are for the sequel.  I will be shocked if this game turns out to be any less wonderful than the original – and that guarantees us an immensely good time. 

Little Dragons Café – August 24
Hype-O-Meter : Keeping an eye on it.

A surprising entry, I’ll admit.  Little Dragons Café is the next thing from Harvest Moon creator Yasuhiro Wada.  I’ve never played a Harvest Moon, but I’ve heard adorable things.  A chillaxing, slice-of-life cuteness engine in which you and your sibling inherit a defunct café and a dragon’s egg, Little Dragons Café has somehow piqued my interest.  I’m not sure if I’ll get it and if I did I can’t be sure I’d enjoy it, but after hearing people gush about Harvest Moon games for a decade plus, I’ll look to like – if looking liking move. 

Dragon Quest XI : Echoes of an Elusive Age – September 4 (on PS4)
Hype-O-Meter : This looks so pretty.

Like Little Dragons Cafe, I’ve never played a Dragon Quest game.  Partly because the things are almost-never released in North America and partly because I dislike JRPGs as a general rule (with a few notable exceptions).  Why would I want to check this out?  Reputation.  Dragon Quest is bigger than Jesus in Japan – a game’s launch is treated as an unofficial national holiday, according to rumors – and I’m sorry to be shallow about it, but its screenshots are mad sexy. 

Spider-Man – September 7
Hype-O-Meter : Probably a day-one.

I don’t trust Insomniac, any more.  Ratchet & Clank for PS4 was pretty damned great (with a few terrible choices), but it felt like the outlier from a developer who’s warbled from not-quite-great (Sunset Overdrive) to abysmal (Fuse, all the R&C spinoff games – literally every single one) since they walked out of Sony’s stable at the end of the last gen.  Insomniac can do incredible stuff, but – like Ubisoft – they can’t be relied upon to be consistently incredible.  So Spider-Man may not be as awesome as it looks.

Additionally, I don’t much care about Spider-Man.  I’m not big on any super hero (I certainly have a soft spot for Batman and related Bat-things), but Spider-Man’s really on the bottom of my list… and yet, here the game is, on my hype list.  Why?

Because web-swinging my way through Insomniac’s rendition of New York looks fun.  Media folks who’ve gone hands-on with it suggest that just swinging around the city is meditative and engaging and fun enough to make the act of locomotion, alone, worth the price of entry.  That sounds awesome.  That, to me, smacks of the most pleasing pleasures of games like inFamous, Gravity Rush, Sly Cooper and Galak-Z – a game with a fun movement system, alone, tends to be one of my favorite games. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider – September 14
Hype-O-Meter : Nah, I’m good.

I’m… probably not going to get Shadow of the Tomb Raider.  Lara Croft has become the grimdark Nathan Drake, and while she’s enjoyed better platforming than her masculine usurper of late, Naughty Dog has moved on to The Last of Us because the whole design schtick of these games has grown a bit long in the tooth.   Loved the first entry in this reboot, enjoyed the second but couldn’t bring myself to finish it, and this one… I’ll just let this one lay. 

Maybe I’ll give it a second look, if it gets supersexy swingin’ reviews. 

Valkyria Chronicles 4 – September 25
Hype-O-Meter : I want you back.  Day One.

Valkyria Chronicles was one of my favorite video game franchises for years.  The original PS3 title was a standout in a year of standout games, offering super-satisfying tactical combat with a smidge of real-time action, a story that blindsided you with how thoughtful and emotionally effective it managed to be and absolutely gorgeous presentation – leaning in to the anime aesthetic of most JRPGs until it surpassed it and presented something more akin to the pages of a manga coming alive.

It had one pretty-good and one excellent-but-not-localized sequel for PSP, and then SEGA almost flushed the entire franchise with the abysmal action-JRPG variant Valkyria: Azure Revolution.  I’d love to chill out with my old friend VC for a while, but SEGA, like Insomniac, cannot be implicitly trusted, any more. 

Luckily, there’s a demo available on all major platforms to check out – a sure sign of confidence – and once I give that a spin on my Switch I suspect I’ll be locked into a course, one way or the other.   …once Dead Cells releases me from its delicious, cruel embrace…

UPDATE: I have played the demo.  Day.  One.  UPDATE!

Dark Souls Remastered (Switch) – October 19
Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

When will I stop buying ports of old games for my Switch?  I like to think I'll stop when there are no more masterpieces being made available to play on a fucking handheld system.  

Dark Souls is indeed a masterpiece - though, granted, just one masterpiece in a series of them by From Software - and the thought of a genuine Souls game playable, in a handheld, is an incredibly appetizing thought.  I'll keep an eye out for Digital Foundry's analysis of this - Dark Souls could chug even on its original PS3 release, specifically in Blighttown - but barring any significant warnings, it's a day-one.  

Red Dead Redemption 2 – October 26
Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

If there is one single game coming out this fall that I can point to and assure you of its quality – a masterwork, a pinnacle of design by which all other pretenders are measured – it is Mark of the Ninja Remastered, the up-port and re-release of one of the greatest action stealth games of all time.  But if there are two, the second is Red Dead Redemption 2.  Because Rockstar don’t do half-measures. 

RDR 2 is gonna’ land in October like a belly-flopping blue whale, shoving everything else aside to make way for its colossal size and sublime production values.  This doesn’t really need to be mentioned, but Rockstar Games are the undisputed kings of open-world action, and there’s no reason to think RDR2 will be anything but another masterpiece.  The studio is worth untold millions, and they always pour a similarly gargantuan budget into their next game – this is probably going to be a billion- dollar-plus launch, if we combine development costs with advertising.  If there’s any part of you that still romanticizes a lone outlaw in a wide-brimmed hat astride a handsome horse, riding towards a setting sun, you are gonna’ love this

No one can match what Rockstar does, and Red Dead Redemption 2 is gonna’ be God-damned spectacular. 

Fallout 76 – November 14
Hype-O-Meter : You just keep back ‘till I’ve read like, a ton of reviews.  Thank you. 

There are too many questions surrounding Bethesda’s multiplayer-centric spin on their hugely important, core RPG franchise.  It sounds like too much of a departure from the classic Bethesda-Fallout formula, with no interactive NPCs and weird quests that only come from computer terminals.  And it’s built from the ground up for co-op and competitive multiplayer, but you don’t have to play multiplayer if you don’t want to and VATS doesn’t work like it did in Fallout 3 or 4 but it’s still there and why is it there if it doesn’t even let you target body parts? 

I don’t know.  No one knows, but I like to think Bethesda wouldn’t pull a Valkyria: Azure Revolution or Metal Gear Survive with one of their two golden geese.  Bethesda knows how important this franchise is, and I can’t imagine they’d shove a lame duck game out the door just ‘cause it’s finished – so Fallout 76 may be as huge and wonderful as Fallout 3, New Vegas and 4

…but there are a lotta’ questions… So many, in fact, that I’m quite content to wait for reviews that I intend to read with a very critical eye. 

Darksiders III – November 27
Hype-O-Meter : Please don’t suck.

Darksiders, like Valkyria Chronicles, is a franchise very dear to my heart.  A gory, melodramatic riff on The Legend of Zelda with streamlined, simplified and accessible Devil May Cry-esque combat, the brutal finishers and lovely animation of God of War and the aesthetic of chunky, crazy 90s fantasy comics, Darksiders was a double-A game that was way, way better than it had any right to be.  Darksiders 2 was more ambitious and just as imperfect, but still a fun ride all the way through (it added the platforming of Prince of Persia to the mix), but Darksiders 3

Okay, quick history lesson.  Darksiders and its sequel were made by Vigil Games – a studio under the umbrella of publisher THQ, led by comics artist Joe Madureira.  THQ went backrupt years ago, and sold off its properties.  Members of Vigil Games scattered to the wind, with many of the principals landing at Airship Syndicate (Battlechasers: Nightwar.)   Darksiders and other IPs were picked up by Nordic Games – a relative unknown, at the time – who also went ahead and acquired the name THQ, rebranding themselves as THQ Nordic to… trick us into thinking they’re actually THQ, I guess? 

There are some of the original Vigil Games crew at THQ’s Gunfire Games – but not all, and not the really important folks, as far as I know.  What’s been shown of Darksiders 3 warbles back and forth between not-nearly-good-enough and somewhat-promising, but it never looks as awesome as anything in the first two games.  I worry this is going to be the Sly 4: Thieves In time of the Darksiders franchise.

I love Darksiders.  I really, really want Darksiders 3 to simply be as good as the last two games – which weren’t triple-A by a wide margin to begin with – but I’m so consistently-unimpressed by what we’ve seen of so far that I’m gonna’ have to wait for reviews. 

Mark of the Ninja Remastered – Fall 2018
Hype-O-Meter – Day One. 

To me, 2012’s Mark of the Ninja marks the end of an era at Vancouver’s Klei Entertainment – a studio that began with the gloriously violent interactive cartoon Shank.  Shank 2 was one of the best (and best-looking) 2D brawlers I’d ever played, and they followed it up with 2D stealth/platformer Mark of the Ninja – console exclusive on Xbox 360 – before the studio moved on to more cerebral stuff with the Roguelikes Don’t Starve, Invisible Inc. and Oxygen Not Included.

I can like or love Roguelikes, but I unequivocally love 2D action-platformers and stealth games, and as much as I adore Don’t Starve and Invisible, Inc., I’m honestly pretty sad that Klei are unlikely to return to 2D action – because Mark of the Ninja in particular is an unrivaled masterpiece, in every direction.  Incredible presentation, razor-sharp gameplay and controls and most of all brilliant, inspired game design.  This is, in my opinion, the single best stealth game ever made – with due considerations made towards genre luminaries Thief: The Dark Project, Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin andMetal Gear Solid V.   Mark of the Ninja stands atop them all.

Remastered is the original game with all its DLC – plus a few new bells and whistles, I suspect – coming at some point this fall to PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC.  Day one. 

Day one on PS4, day one on Switch. The game so nice I bought it twice.  And then two more times because they remastered it. 

Hyper Light Drifter (Switch) – Fall 2018
Hype-O-Meter : Day One. 

Hyper Light Drifter is one of the best games of the last few years (it originally launched in 2016), and it ranks among other instant-classic indies like Hollow Knight and Darkest Dungeon, in my book.  It’s a 9/10 from every angle. A top-down action-adventure, it feels (slightly) like an OG Zelda, but quickly reveals itself to be all about challenging, lightspeed-fast combat and exploration of a beautiful, mysterious, ruined world. 

It offers a mournful land slowly recovering from an ancient catastrophe that no one remembers, and you can tackle the first three of its four major zones in any order you wish.  Similarly, unlocking new skills and abilities for the titular Drifter is entirely at the player’s discretion – there are no skill trees to max out before you can unlock that all-important chain-dash, for example.  It lets you do what you want, but for my money the most important aspect is that Hyper Light Drifter is one of these games that is consistently, constantly just fun to play. 

The act of exploring and getting rewarded for your curiosity is always satisfying.  Reflecting a massive throwing star with your hard-light sword and sending it back into the face of a leaping frog-ninja-thing is never less than sublime. 

It’s beautiful, generous in content, excellent in execution, and one of the best games of the last half-decade.  Oh, and the Switch version is gonna’ have new weapons and areas and such. 

Watch the trailer for Gris.

Watch iiiit.  

This reminds me very much of - weirdly enough - Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, back on the Xbox 360.  This game doesn't look particularly fun to play, but it also looks absolutely gorgeous - so it's worth keeping on my radar, at the very least. 

Here's the deets:

"Gris is a hopeful young girl lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life. Her journey through sorrow is manifested in her dress, which grants new abilities to better navigate her faded reality. As the story unfolds, Gris will grow emotionally and see her world in a different way, revealing new paths to explore using her new abilities.

GRIS is a serene and evocative experience, free of danger, frustration or death. Players will explore a meticulous designed world brought to life with delicate art, detailed animation, and an elegant original score. Through the game light puzzles, platforming sequences, and optional skill-based challenges will reveal themselves as more of Gris’s world becomes accessible."
It's due out for PC and Switch this December. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Chance & The Kraken 4 - Yes, Dead Cells is Awesome

Wiiith Alex!  Alex thisChamberlain that podcast on iTunespodcast on Google Play!

Chamberlain and Chance - Chance & The Kraken 4 - Yes Dead Cells Is Awesome

  • Alex and Chance are both wallowing in the masochistic pleasures of Dead Cells!
  • Fallout: New Vegas is evergreen!
  • Chance insists Chasm is a 7 out of 10 at best!
  • And how much did God of War sell?
You'll have to tune in to find out!

Good News, Everyone - DOOM: Eternal Is Everything You Wanted

Bad news, everyone - Bethesda showed three separate, awesome chunks of gameplay at QuakeCon's keynote today, but they haven't actually uploaded just those three vids - at the moment I can only find them (direct-feed) within the hour-and-forty-minute keynote vid.

But it's worth it.  It's so worth it.  This embed should start at 1:16:20, right when The Good Shit begins:

So there's a ton to unpack, here. 

  • Gore kills remain in all their glory, but they don't seem to reward ammo and health like they did in DOOM 2016. 
  • You've got a cool extendo-blade on your left gauntlet and an awesome Predator-style shoulder-mounted cannon that seems to be customizable - we see it acting as a flame thrower in one sequence, and a grenade launcher in another. 
  • The weapons all have cool customized modes - the single-shot shotgun can be upgraded to a rotating-barrel shotgun-chaingun that tears everything to shreds, along with your ammo stock. 
  • The Doom Slayer is even more mobile - vertically and horizontally - than he was in 2016, with side-dashes and double-jumps. 
  • They've attached a frickin' grappling claw to the end of the double-barreled shotgun that can latch on to enemies and pull you to them, allowing even more crazy mobility.  Like I can see myself blowing chunks out of a Cacodemon, latching on with the grapple, flying above them and blasting them from above before finishing them off with a gore kill.  
  • Only one really new weapon was shown off - at the very end of the last of the three vids.
  • Part of the game takes place on Earth, and Phobos was shown off.  (The Phobos Anomaly was one of the chapters of the original DOOM, and was where the original hell gate was created.)
  • They've put in a system where you literally blow chunks off the demons, and their model changes in real-time with a bunch of pre-set damage indicators (blowing off a dude's pectoral muscle shows the bone beneath, et cetera). 
  • Other players can "invade" games as demons - no word on whether or not they'll have beefier stats or something.  
  • The final vid begins with seeing a bunch of normal humans meeting the Slayer, and their reaction is wonderful. 
  • Oh, and it's gonna' get a Switch port (which I'll pass on 'cause the thing's analog sticks fucking suck.
But the most important stuff is all the stuff that's not different. This is a fast-paced, gory, crazy, liquid-smooth single-player game with the gigantic, sprawling levels begging for exploration that were so wonderful in the last game.  

I want it, I want it, I want it and I want it NAO. 

Rage 2 - extended gameplay trailer from Quake Con.

Looks pretty okay! 

But where is my DOOM GAMEPLAY?!

That's all I want outta' you, Bethesda.