With the head start of the relaunch of The Secret World into the new Free-to-Play Secret World Legends happening on Friday, June 23rd, and the official launch of Secret World Legends happening on the 26th, there isn’t much time left. Anticipation levels are running quite high as Funcom has been relatively tight lipped for the past couple months on complete details on the new game, including keeping beta testers under NDA up until launch and eschewing an open beta entirely. Still, in true Secret World fashion, a new ARG has come into play as a lead into Secret World Legends’ launch entitled “Kiss of the Revenant”.
If you’ve never played The Secret World then let me be the first to tell you about the game’s famed ‘investigation missions’. They are on a complete other level of devious. You think you’ve encountered tricky puzzles in other games, have you? Have those puzzles needed you to translate Morse Code from flashing headlights, research passages in the Vulgate Bible, or brush up on your Romanian? Didn’t think so. Solving these puzzles is a complete head rush, and the sense of accomplishment is like no other. Sure, you could just look up the answers, but you’d be shorting yourself of one of the best experiences in gaming today.
With that sort of history to live up to, this lead up has to be smart. To that effect, Funcom had the makers of one of the game’s previous tie-in ARGs, Alice & Smith of The Black Watchmen fame, set to work creating a new ARG to celebrate the release. According to a June 16th press release from Funcom, Kiss of the Revenant will have participants “Focusing on the solving of intricate puzzles and mysteries” where an “unsettling storyteller invites players to take a second look at a tragic love story on the Savage Coast”, the second zone of the game, which is also the location of The Secret World spin-off The Park. “Players will be challenged to decipher and perform a ritual that crafts an exclusive set of weapons for use in ‘Secret World Legends’.”
The ARG is currently up and running with participants helping to unlock milestones to release further content as the game progresses. It will run up to the launch of Secret World Legends on June 26th, 2017, and is free to participate. Just head to www.KissoftheRevenant.com to join. Also, be sure to check out the relaunch of Secret World Legends, starting Monday, June 26th, 2017. Details can be found at www.SecretWorldLegends.com. I know I’ll be checking it out and streaming it often as it has been hands-down my favorite MMO to date, and I can’t wait to see where the story will finally lead, to Tokyo and beyond.
Sidenote: Come check out the premier Secret World podcast Beyond the Veil’s live broadcast this Thursday, June 22nd, on Twitch. The show’s hosts, including myself, will be interviewing Andrea Doyon from Alice & Smith as well as Romain Amiel, Game Director of The Secret World and Secret World Legends.
Prisma & The Masquerade Menace
Prisma & The Masquerade Menace is in the early stages of development, so early in fact that it’s not even on Kickstarter yet. That didn’t stop the developer from having a fully playable level from the demo at PAX South.
It’s got some rough edges, but it’s already rather polished. At its core, it’s a platformer game in which you take control of Ray, a girl who can switch between different colored dimensions to make objects appear or disappear. Each of these dimensions also gives her abilities like high jumping, fast running, and block destroying. Once you get used to switching between dimensions, it becomes much more like a Sonic game in which you feel compelled to go as fast as possible, switching dimensions quickly and trying to think on your feet.
Prisma is still in its early stages, but give their Kickstarter a look when it goes live later this month!
Sundered is a game that leaps out at you from a sea of titles at a gaming convention. It’s art style has a way of pulling you in, making you want more.
Sundered is a Metroidvania style platformer/exploration game in which you take control of Eshe, a wanderer exploring seemingly endless, always changing caverns filled with eldritch horrors. The controls solid and responsive and the game’s difficulty is a little more than Super Metroid (we died 3 times in the demo), making it feel like a substantial single player experience. Details like the hand drawn art and pencil marks when the camera is really zoomed in all combine to make this a visual feast that also delivers on a tight experience.
Sundered is coming out to PS4 and PC in July but you can Kickstart it right now here!
In RiME, you play a boy exploring a strange island trying to work your way to a pillar in its center. Along the way, you’ll solve puzzles, meet a super cute fox, and try to figure out the mysteries of your surroundings and what could have happened to make it the way it is now.
RiME feels a lot like Zelda mixed with Journey in the best possible way. The art style is stark and gorgeous, varying dramatically for different areas in the game. The world is all laid out in a way that’s easy to understand visually, which is a good thing since the game features no dialog or text, so you’re relying on just trying things out and being observant to solve puzzles.
RiME is due out summer 2017 on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Want more PAX South 2017 coverage? All you had to do was ask!
Monster Boy, Warlock’s Tower, and Has Been Heroes
Minit, Beat Cop, and Strikers Edge
Arms, Splatoon 2, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Monster Boy started as a Kickstarter project called “Flying Hamster.” Since then, the team welcomed Ryuichi Nishizawa and turned the game into Monster Boy, based off the Wonder Boy in Monster World, a mashup between the Wonder Boy and Monster World series. Please go look those up if you have no idea what we’re talking about.
The player takes control of Jin, a boy who can transform into five different monsters to solve puzzles and take down enemies with a variety of abilities. This platformer hearkens back to old school platformers in the 80s and 90s — simple gameplay, peppy music, bright visuals. Like a Saturday morning cartoon video game that you set your alarm for.
Monster Boy is simultaneously releasing on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One later this year.
Some game developers try to emulate the style of classic pixel games and achieve something between nostalgia and amusement. Then you have a game like Warlock’s Tower, which just looks like it’s always been a Gameboy game and dares you to tell it otherwise.
The graphics of Warlock’s Tower look exactly like an original Gameboy game being played on the Super Gameboy player, complete with being able to change main color from green to orange yellow. All of that helps Warlock’s Tower in the charming area, but the underlying gameplay is really cool, too.
At it’s core, Warlock’s Tower is a puzzle game in which you take control of a mailman trying to avoid monsters and deliver a letter to the warlock of the titular tower. Each move you make takes away one life, but there are tokens on each floor to increase the number of lives you have. It’s a puzzle to be able to figure out which tokens to get at what time and using what directions. The game even has Twitch integration so you can interact with your chat while you play.
Warlock’s Tower is out now for PC.
Has Been Heroes
Has Been Heroes is a Roguelike inspired by Plants Vs. Zombies.
Oh, what, you need more?
In the game, you’ll take control of three characters, each with their own lane. Each character has a different number of attacks, attack power, and control of spells. It’s up to the player to time their attacks accurately, swap characters, and utilize spells cleverly to fight back hoards of enemies.
At first, it takes a bit to get used with character switching and the concept of enemies having points with which to block your attacks, but very quickly, you’re pausing the game less, attacking with one character, swapping another in after the shield is broken to follow up with a health attack, and using spells on the fly. It’s satisfying to feel in control, but also like your heart is in your throat trying to figure out if your abilities will be off cooldown before the next enemy reaches you.
Has Been Heroes comes out March 28th for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Want more PAX South 2017 coverage? All you had to do was ask!
In the TV series Lost, we see a character named Desmond Hume residing in an underground facility, driven borderline insane by the monotony of his daily routine. Desmond is required to regularly enter a series of numbers on a computer every 108 minutes. While nothing as redundant occurs in The Bunker, the game’s tone, setting, and non-linear storytelling feel directly inspired by a show like Lost.
The Bunker, developed by Slendy Interactive in partnership with Wales Interactive, begins in a post-nuclear war era with the birth of our protagonist, John. He’s born in an underground shelter that houses less than 60 people. However, we quickly flash forward 30 years later to find John alone with his mother. Thus the central mystery reveals itself: what happened to everyone else?
An Alarm Sounds
What separates Slendy Interactive’s first outing from other titles is its aesthetics: everything is live-action. With a runtime of roughly 90 plus minutes, you essentially have yourself a movie. Now the industry hasn’t mastered manipulating a real human being completely. The Bunker is simply a point-and-click thriller, but is still impressive for a developer’s debut game. Unless you’re slow to select the next location and make John stand around looking clueless, the gaming experience itself doesn’t distract from the cinematic quality.
In the midst of John’s daily routine, an error message indicates a system failure somewhere in the facility. This is where the conflict and John’s unease begins. He hasn’t traversed from his floor with his mother much, if ever. Visiting other floors to resolve a mechanical problem sets his nerves off. Actor Adam Brown‘s performance, especially his facial expressions, effectively communicate John’s dread with his predicament.
As you take John along on his mission to repair the electrical and air filter systems, Brown moves timidly along each darkened hallway. With each floor you explore, a seemingly repressed memory rears its ugly head. We begin to see what unfolds with the shelter’s previous occupants via flashback, culminated in the game’s final moments. It’s as disturbing as it is gratifying.
Actress Sarah Greene plays John’s mother and she covers every range of human emotion fathomable by the game’s end. However, I’m intent on avoiding spoilers, so I’ll reference these specifics no further. If you ever throw up your hands during The Bunker‘s story, which can take a stretch to get into, be assured there’s absolutely a pay-off.
Outside of our two leads, the minor characters deliver their lines in a most uncomfortably wooden fashion. Then at certain points where John is simply standing in a hallway, the musical score swells as if hinting at a big reveal or jump scare, but nothing comes.
Mechanically speaking, the game is ultimately not intended to be any sort of challenge. It’s rather unfortunate though, as glimmers of a Quick Time Event (QTE) appear all-too briefly. However, the average gamer will pass these QTEs with flying colors and then some.
Despite any criticisms I levy against The Bunker, the story and high production value compel you to forgive them. This feels like a full-fledged Hollywood production but occasionally the actors arbitrarily stop and wait for a button click. They even filmed this in a real decommissioned bunker. This pays off as it makes your environment feel legitimately previously occupied.
It might be too early for declarations, but I’m predicting this title could see the same success as last year’s live-action mystery game Her Story.
The Mafia series has always been remembered for its amazingly constructed stories. The focus points have always been characters and narrative, and Mafia III continues this trend. Despite an early exposed gameplay loop and some slight graphical issues, I never found myself bored with this seemingly polarizing game.
I grew up with family in New Orleans so the setting of Mafia III, New Bordeaux, really speaks to me. The roaring late 60’s jams gives me vibes of old car trips with my parents and the music of their generation.This game brought up a bunch of old memories that were more than welcomed, so you’ll forgive any bias you pick up while reading the review of how fantastic I found this game.
There is no fast travel, which has been bothering some, but I never use fast travel in any game because I feel it is immersion breaking.Trust me; there is nothing quite like driving through the murky bayous while listening to Credence Clearwater Revival on the radio and singing the song “Born on the Bayou.” With over one hundred licensed tracks from artists like Jimmie Hendrix, Bobby Fuller, and The Troggs, I never found myself hating the long rides to and from mission locations. If I were really these characters in this game, I would have to actually drive the distance, and I think it’s fortunate to have such amazing music to keep you company.
Speaking of the characters, this game is filled with well thought out and written characters. Lincoln Clay is your avatar, and by the end of the journey you will truly feel like you are embodying the man.
Former Black Ops commando Lincoln returns from Vietnam and wages war on the mafia across New Bordeaux when he comes back home to his old crime family to see they have fallen on hard times. Lincoln Clay is more than willing to align himself with unsavory types as he expands his bloody services across the city’s districts. Lincoln will do anything to ensure that the men responsible for atrocities committed in the fantastic opening sct in this game, pay for it.
As you free up certain districts, you will attract one of three underbosses, who come from different backgrounds and walks of life. Lincoln teams up with a female Haitian crime lord, a down on his luck Irish mod boss, and a chastised OG Italian mobster from up north. Among this colorful class is my personal favorite character, Donovan, a crooked federal agent who acts as
And Mafia III’s vengeance-soaked story-line definitely deserves the rank of classic; its performances and narrative could rival those of TV’s and film’s best dramas. The game constantly had me thinking of last generation’s Spec Ops: The Line, one of the best written narratives in the whole medium.
The game weaves multiple timelines together to tell the story. While the actual gameplay occurs within 1968 New Bordeaux, the cut scenes flash forward via a documentary-stylized film. In these scenes, people from Lincoln’s life talk about the man and the legend himself, as these scenes unfold in an interview like manner as they reminisce about all that transpired during the Fall of 1968. One character in these scenes is Father James, who is slowly coming to terms that he helped and aided a friend, Lincoln, who had become a monster. The emotional weight is heavy and rewarding. Other scenes play out in a court room where Donovan is giving a disposition on what transpired in New Bordeaux, and they are equally as well performed. These cut scenes sometimes foreshadow events that are about to transpire. The board of men discussing the debriefing of the events that happened in this game will allude to large chaotic events that happen, and then the game will shift back to 1968 where you assume control as Lincoln Clay and play out those events. This is utilized throughout the game in extremely effective ways.
The gameplay seems to be the polarizing part of Mafia III. The gameplay loop exposes itself very early and never deviates. You get some info from Donovan, head to the district in question, begin to dismantle all the rackets in the region, which then exposes the area’s crime lord, which naturally leads to your assassination of the target. This loop repeats for about 30-40 hours in every district of the city. While I never tired of taking over rackets, distributing power to my underbosses, or doing execution kills on crime grunts, I have heard many say they felt bored with this loop, but this was not my experience at all. There are so many ways to go about taking over rackets and completing standard missions. You can go all stealth (which at times is overly simple, but still satisfying) or you could go full-out lead and just blow everybody apart with the game’s pretty standard but robust weapon system. Also the big story missions, where you are taking down the crime boss for the area, are innovative, fresh, and have great map designs that seem handcrafted and catered to slaying as many gun-wielding goons as possible.
I enjoyed giving properties to my underbosses as they pitched why they felt they deserved the rackets and areas. If you focus too much on one underboss, the others will get mad and leave you in which case you will have to hunt them down and kill them. This made me feel like I was actually running an up-and-coming empire. It added that extra weight to every decision.
The journey itself is filled with an exposed game play loop, standard open world activities, and serviceable mechanics. If you like open world games, this is an easy recommend. The game does suffer from some pretty substantial graphical problems, poor lightning, and botched animations…but a few updates from now these will be none issues. However, there are flaws and I feel obligated to point them out. At no point did I ever feel aggravated to the point of quitting because of these technical contention but I did suffer a few hard game crashes.
If you can stick it out to the end, you will be rewarded with one of the most satisfying
I readily admit my American ignorance when it comes to international history. More specifically, my familiarity with the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was minimal. Then you encounter a developer like iNK Studios with a brave director like Navid Khonsari to provide you that much-needed history lesson with 1979 Revolution: Black Friday.
As a video game, 1979 Revolution is a lesser Telltale Games experience, mechanically-speaking. This is expected when a developer doesn’t possess as many resources as a juggernaut like Telltale. However, the story has all of the gravitas and emotion as any Telltale title. Instead of a full-fledged review, I felt it more necessary to discuss the game’s importance in storytelling.
Before we dive too deep, historical background is essential for this discussion. For those that might need the information, the Iranian Revolution stems from the civilian population’s frustration with the sitting regime’s corrupt and oppressive actions. The end result of the revolution isn’t the focus of the game, but be assured the Shah and his aforementioned regime was subsequently replaced.
Instead, 1979 Revolution centers on the experiences of an aspiring photojournalist, Reza Shirazi. Reza returns home to Iran to find his home country on the brink of a civil war. Reza’s friends and family already chose sides, which forces Reza into compromising moral dilemmas. Thus we have the basis of the entire gaming experience Revolution offers.
Hopelessness is a recurring motif of Revolution. When a tyrannical government is this powerful, you start sensing your choices matter less and less as the outcome is inevitable. “They” have armies, other countries, and even a few groups of citizens backing them. “You” have your ideals and the ability to organize protests. In the context of the game alone, the conclusion seems predestined based on the lop-sided battlefield.
Although, this absence of hope isn’t just a numbers game, but a moral struggle. A prime example involves when Reza returns home for a family dinner with his parents and his brother (who works for the current regime in law enforcement). Reza’s Dad sympathizes with the protesters’ cause, while Reza’s mother questions why things should ever change. Considering his occupation, Reza’s brother is of course pro-Shah.
Needless to say, none of your dialogue selections in this awkward scene feel right. For Reza, this is his family who he loves unconditionally, yet people are dying on the streets for merely speaking freely. This dinner scene along with the ending scene (which I won’t spoil) are the best illustrations of helpless despair during this tumultuous period in Iranian history.
The Risks Involved
Outside of the gameplay, the developers and lead director at iNK Studios took a gamble in even telling this story. Director Navid Khonsari lived in Iran during the revolution as a child but left shortly after its ending. He used what he saw with his own eyes as a template for many sequences in 1979 Revolution. The team also interviewed about 40 Iranians who resided in Tehran during this era, and gathered as many images and sounds as possible from related documentaries, speeches, and press clippings.
Regardless of this hard work, a conservative movement in Iran still exists that condemned this title. After Khonsari was accused of espionage, he deemed it too risky to even return to his home country. Other members of the development team also either fled Iran for their safety or now use aliases. When 1979 Revolution approached release this year, Iran’s National Foundation for Computer Games banned the game’s distribution and sale, declaring the content a poison on the minds of today’s youth.
Even in reality, this recurring motif of hopelessness is mirrored. Fortunately, we gamers in other countries have the privilege to play this title and to educate ourselves in the process, which I highly recommend you do at your earliest convenience.
1979 Revolution: Black Friday is now available on PC, Android, and iOS devices.