PaxSouth is a hub for intriguing and inventive games, and the first two video games from movie studio, Annapurna Pictures, are no exception.
Gorogoa caught my eye because of the art. It looked like a coloring book brought to life, like a dream you could wade through via computer. I spent a solid half hour diving into the story, figuring out some puzzles with lightning speed and stumbling through others while feeling judged by the character when I got stuck. That said, I can’t wait to get my hands on the entire game!
Designed, developed, and illustrated by Jason Roberts, Gorogoa is a completely unique game. The overall story is equal parts myth and magic as a boy sees a colossal monstrosity in his city and decides to unlock the secrets to finding it. Each gorgeous scene is split into four panels that you can explore through a simple point and click mechanic. Solving each puzzle reveals more of the story. Elegantly simple and perfect for fans enamored of lovely storytelling.
Gorogoa is scheduled to hit mobile devices and Steam in Spring 2017.
What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of short tales about a family in Washington state. As Edith, the player will explore the colossal Finch house, searching for stories. Each story you find lets you experience the life of a new family member on the day of their death, with stories ranging from the distant past to the present day, and culminating with that family member’s death.
In the 20 minute demo, we experienced the final moments of two different family members. The macabre interactive narrative is completely fresh in its storytelling and the attention to detail reminds the player that this title isn’t suited to the run-and-gun. I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you picking it up, but prepare yourself for some feelings. Oh, and remember to breathe.
What Remains of Edith Finch is due out Spring 2017 on Steam and PS4. Check back here, because this is the standout title that we absolutely cannot wait to get our grubby little hands on and review in depth!
Want more PAX South 2017 coverage? All you had to do was ask!
Death Squared, a cooperative puzzle game where players guide defenseless robots through a series of mazes filled with deadly traps, will come to PlayStation 4 in 2017 simultaneously alongside the previously-announced Xbox One and PC versions.
The PlayStation 4 version will receive exclusive levels, robot skins and silly controller features to distinguish itself from the Xbox One release, which will have exclusive levels of its own.
Danger lurks around every corner in Death Squared‘s series of intricate puzzles. Teams of two or four simultaneously and individually guide robots to their respective color-coded waypoints, and all must reach the end for the group to achieve victory.
At its core, Death Squared is about communication and experimentation. One false move can trigger hidden hazards and the fun is learning each stage’s “rules” through trial, error and cooperation. Instantaneous respawns help players put newly-gained knowledge about a level’s pitfalls to quick use.
With an emphasis on teamwork, Death Squared is best enjoyed as a multiplayer experience. Solo players and parties of two can play through the story mode, while more chaotic stages await groups of four with specially-designed “party chaos” challenges unseen in the main campaign.
“The reception to Death Squared has been amazing from groups of all sizes and skill levels,” said Patrick Cook, lead designer, SMG Studio. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch the many different groups of players approach our puzzles. Every team has its own dynamic. Strangers at conventions start high-fiving, couples have an equal share in a level’s success. I think everyone can get behind comradery in the face of adversity.”
Death Squared will be at RTX Sydney for hands-on sessions with all-new stages. The game will also be playable at PAX South, where SMG Studio will debut PlayStation 4 and Xbox One-exclusive levels, as well as story sequences featuring the vocal talents of Mick Lauer.
Abzu derives form the ancient words, Ab, for “ocean,” and Zu, which means “to know.” Developers over at Giant Squid intended the interpretation of the title to read as, “ocean of wisdom.” On surface level, it seems as if Abzu is a game similar in style to Journey, but underwater instead of in the desert. While that is not far from the truth, I feel that the creator Matt Nava took the great model that is Journey, and created a very refreshing and meditative experience in Abzu.
What is immediately apparent in Abzu is the art style and choice of color. This may easily be one of the most beautiful games on the market right now. While it does not have the production value of an Uncharted 4 or The Order:1886; Abzu itself has an art style that puts vibrant colors on blast as you watch seaweed dance to and fro in the ocean currents and the cornucopia of different colored fish swimming in schools of its brethren as they swirl around you in ways that are graphically appealing. So, sure, it may not have the best graphics on the market, but it has an art style that will leave a bigger impact on you than either of the games listed above.
While the visuals are breathtaking, the real thing that will stick with you well past the game’s playtime is the musical score. Just like Journey, the music is composed by Austin Wintory. Wintory’s work on Journey won a Grammy back at the game’s launch, making it the first game to ever get such an accolade. While Journey’s musical score was beyond memorable, Abzu one ups it in every way imaginable. The score swells up in all the right moments, while taking more somber approaches at other times. More than once I found myself setting the controller down simply to take in the amazing score. Eye bleeding visuals elevate the music in ways that are appealing to all of the senses. Nearly one month later after launch and it is still high on my list of go-to tunes when I am at work.
The controls themselves are simple and practical. You will find yourself lackadaisically exploring each area as you discover new fish and take in the beautiful scenery. Rocks are placed so that your character can meditate which gives you a nice view of the area you occupy. The player can hitch a ride on large animals, locate quick moving sea currents, as well as breach out of the water like a whale. There are small narrative moments where the player discovers old tech that can be re-programmed with the intent to follow you from place to place. Additionally, the game adds ancient murals and hieroglyphics that tell a story – if you can put the pieces together.
Much like Journey, the story itself is in the journey you are taking. Piecing together out of context murals and relationships you build with other sea life is just the tip of the iceberg. Come the game’s end, you will have many questions and be left with a plethora of thoughts as to what exactly you just experienced. While it doesn’t have the emotional resonance as Journey, the ending did have a smile breach across my face. It was a grin so wide that it is hard to even claim that the game did not have some sort of impact on me.
Abzu is a beautiful game, with a wonderful score, and is filled with smile inducing moments. If you enjoy these art based, short experiences, I highly recommend you give this one a try. While it may feel like a beat for beat retread of Matt Nava’s previous work, the game speaks for itself as a brand new experience. Ideas are taken from Journey and utilized in brilliant way to create a new experience that still feels familiar in all the right ways. Do yourself a favor and get lost in the world of Abzu.
Possibly the biggest Final Fantasy event of all time just concluded, so let’s go over the insanity.
Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV
Brotherhood Final Fantasy XV is an anime prequel for Final Fantasy XV. The series is set to have 5 episodes and to be released on YouTube for free. The first episode comes out later tonight with the remaining 4 following on the coming months, and a final, exclusive sixth episode available in the Ultimate Edition. Here’s a trailer:
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV is a movie companion to Final Fantasy XV. Whereas the game takes place following Noctis on the road, the movie follows the king, Noctis’s betrothed Lunafreya and Nyx, a member of an elite task force. The movie is fully CG and is of feature film length. There’s not much details on the plot, but the voice cast features the likes of Sean Bean, Leena Headey, and Aaron Paul. Give the trailer a watch here:
There’s a new FFXV demo out tonight too! Instead of being a piece of the game cut out to be standalone, it’s a whole new experience following Noctis as a child palling around with the cutest Carbuncle you ever did see. It’s designed to not be intimidating for people new to the FF franchise, but to give you a sense of how the combat and mechanics work. It’s also got a child Noctis using a squeaky hammer. Can’t get much better than that. Lookit this gameplay:
Justice Monsters 5
It wouldn’t be a Final Fantasy game without a minigame people sink hours of their time in to. This time it’s Justice Monsters 5, which looks to be a combination of pachinko, pinball, arkanoid, and an RPG. It’ll also be coming out for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone later this year! It’s a bit hard to explain this game, just let this trailer do the work for me:
Final Fantasy XV
We got 2 new trailers tonight as well as a firm release date — September 30, 2016! That’s only six months from now! And in that time, we get an anime series, a full length movie, a mobile game, and a demo made entirely of new content. Square is really quadrupling down on Final Fantasy XV, making it more like the Marvel Cinematic Universe in scale and it looks like it’s paying off. Check out the latest trailer here:
Eagerly anticipating the final episode of Telltale’s Game Of Thrones? Or have you been waiting for a physical copy to pop in your console so that you can binge the entire series at once? You don’t have to wait much longer.
The final of six episodes in the season, ‘The Ice Dragon’ will be available starting Tuesday, November 17th on PC/Mac from the Telltale Online Store, Steam, and other digital distribution services, the PlayStation®Network for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 in North America (SCEA) and Europe (SCEE), the Xbox Games Store for Xbox One® and Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, and on compatible iOS and Android-based devices. This marks the first time in Telltale’s release history that a finale will be available to download simultaneously across all console, PC/Mac and mobile platforms, day and date, worldwide.
Based on the award-winning HBO television drama series, Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series tells the story of House Forrester. Caught up in the events of The War of the Five Kings, they are placed in a precarious position where members of the household must do everything they can to prevent the house from meeting its doom. Your story is about to come to an epic conclusion. With House Whitehill tightening its grip on Ironrath at the behest of Ramsay Bolton, the remaining Forresters must give their all to save the family, whether through diplomacy, subterfuge, or violent force. In the frozen wilds beyond The Wall, Gared learns the secrets of the mysterious North Grove, and Mira discovers that political games in a King’s Landing controlled by Cersei Lannister often involve the highest stakes of all.
The game series is based on the world, characters and events seen in HBO’s TV show, which in turn is based on George R. R. Martin’s books (A Song of Ice and Fire). The events in the game series begin towards the end of Season Three of the series, and end right before the beginning of Season Five. Players will visit familiar locations such as King’s Landing and The Wall, as well as unfamiliar locations such as Ironrath, the home of House Forrester.
The game is played from five different points of view. Each is a member of House Forrester; either a direct family member, or a person in service to the House. Scattered across Westeros and Essos, each will play their part in seeking to save House Forrester from destruction.
The season will also debut on disc at retailers in North America beginning November 17th on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 for the suggested retail price of $29.99 USD or equivalent; and beginning November 20th in Europe on these consoles as well as for PC.
When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. Your choices, your story: you decide.
It’s 2006, and Square Enix has big plans. Big plans, I tells ya! After riding high on the wave of high grossing mediocrity that was Compilation of Final Fantasy VII, the development company decided to keep going with this series thing. They announced Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy, a fancy way of saying Three Kinda Related Final Fantasies. The idea was simple — three games taking place in distinct worlds, but sharing a common mythos of powerful crystals tied to deities. When it was originally announced, the three games to be in this series were Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and Final Fantasy Type-0.
Of the three, Final Fantasy Versus XIII held the most promise. It was headed by Tetsuya Nomura, the designer behind Final Fantasy VII and lead behind Kingdom Hearts, the gameplay team was to be the one that worked on Kingdom Hearts II, and the cinematics team was to be the one behind Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. It was like a super group of game development rock stars!
But as the years wore on, we got very few confirmations that the game was still in progress. Besides a few screen shots here and there, the project was all but slated as vaporware. But then in the summer of 2013, Square Enix showed off new footage of the game. It looked slick, the gameplay was unique from any other Final Fantasy, and the graphics were gorgeous. And at the end, the title Final Fantasy Versus XIII gave way to its new moniker Final Fantasy XV.
They then announced that Final Fantasy Type-0, the bloody, more mature entry in the Three Kinda Related Final Fantasies series was getting an HD remake on PS4. And if opening cut scenes of people actually dying (with actual blood) wasn’t enough to get you hyped, a preorder of the game included a demo of Final Fantasy XV called Final Fantasy XV Episode Duscae.
Not only was this a genius marketing move to try and garner more sales for Type-0 HD, but it ties back in to the Fabula Nova Crystallis series nicely and give the development team an insight in to what works and doesn’t work about this radical departure from the classic JRPG series.
I told you that story to tell you this story.
So far, what we know about Final Fantasy XV you play as a prince named Noctis who’s on a road trip with his friends Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus. I’m assuming the world is ending or something and they’re going to go save it, since that’s the plot of every Final Fantasy, but the other title of this game could be Four Buddies Take a Road Trip for as much as we know.
This demo is an example of how to do a demo right. We’ve been given a part of the game that has nothing to do with the story, featuring all the things we wanted to know about like combat, leveling, and quest systems, set in a humongous map. By my estimates, you can spend well over six hours just finding stuff to do, exploring new areas, or challenging monsters. I know full games that aren’t this detailed or extensive, and this came free with another game!
In this demo, we find out friendly foursome with a broken down car trying to find ways to earn the money to get it fixed so they can keep getting Slurpees and playing punch buggy. The first thing you’ll notice about this game is how Final Fantasy it both is and isn’t. The clothes and hair of the protagonists are a little out there, but not overly strange. They look like you could reasonably see one of them and think, “That guy’s dressing really flashy” instead of, “That guy loves LARPing.” This vibe carries over to their interactions with one another. They don’t yell things at each other like “WE’RE FRIENDS, SO THAT’S WHY I’M HERE TO PROTECT YOU!” or “WE’RE GOING TO SHOW THE EMPIRE WHAT WE’RE MADE OF!” They talk to each other like a group of adults, and that’s so terrifically refreshing for a series that’s notorious for its overacting. There’s very little over the top gestures or snarky one liners to nobody in particular. It actually feels as if Square Enix had some tact with this one. Either that, or their English voice cast is pulling a lot of weight. Trust me, it’s a lot better than the trailers.
And now we dive in to the big differences. The ways in which you’ll think “Did they really just make a Final Fantasy game with Kingdom Hearts gameplay?”
Yes. Yes they did. And here’s why that’s not bad.
A lot of people enjoy turn based RPGs. My most favorite games of all time are turn based RPGs. Hell, one of Square Enix’s bestselling RPGs in years, Bravely Default, was a turn based RPG. And of course you’d expect Final Fantasy to follow suit. But just like a favorite pair of underwear, that formula has worn too thin. Final Fantasy has almost been a joke the past eight or so years. The series that refused to push itself in to new areas. The company who found a formula that worked on NES and thought it’d keep working all the way to Playstation 3. Sure, combat systems had been updated a little here and there. Attempts were made to conceal its turn-based nature behind moving characters or MMO-esque battle systems. But at its core, Final Fantasy remained a game about a group of ragtag adventurers going up against impossible odds to do something (likely with crystals) to save the world by beating the crap out of enemies, waiting until they took a turn or two, then beating them up again.
Conversely, Final Fantasy XV is about motion and fluidity. The four face buttons are mapped to attack, special, jump, and warp. You can customize your attack patterns within a menu and your special is selectable on the fly during battle, allowing for change of strategy where needed. Noctis has a couple of special things about him. For whatever reason, he materializes different weapons to fight will at will. This ability means you can lead off your attack with a powerful greatsword attack to break their defense, follow it up with quick successive shots with a short sword to get in multiple hits, and then finish them off with a pike to push them away, all in the same combo. And the weapons seem tied to him somehow, so if he materializes a sword somewhere far away, he’ll warp to that sword. Using warp, you can quickly attack enemies that are far away, transport yourself out of battle quickly, or even use it to dodge. Holding L1 will keep Noctis dodging for as long as he has MP to spare, which is an invaluable tool if your teammates are healing up while you distract the enemy.
Speaking of your teammates, one of my favorite features is what happens when you’re KO’d. Once your health gets to 0, you can no longer attack and enter a kind of emergency mode. Your life bar fills red and if you continue taking damage until you’re at 0 again, you get a game over. However, in that time, your teammates can come by and rescue you, bringing your health back up and putting you back in the fight. And don’t worry, if they’re all incapacitated too, you’ll come back to life after enough time has passed anyway. It’s similar to Army of Two or Call of Duty in that you have to rely on your teammates to bail you out if you get overwhelmed and make a bad combat decision.
So what’s the common theme here? It’s all radically different from every other Final Fantasy. You can exit fights without entering in commands, you can dodge if you’re fast enough, your attacks depend more on speed and reaction than planning, and you have to rely on AI to do the right thing because you’re too busy trying to stay live yourself. The common thread?
In games like Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy, or most other RPGs, you’re not acting dynamically. You’re telling your characters what to do and watching them do it. There’s no opportunity to change strategies in the middle of an execution because you’ve already written the script of how this is going to happen. And that’s a completely valid formula, one that’s worked for many years, and one that a lot of people enjoy. However, by doing a more dynamic combat system, you’re not telling characters to do things, you’re doing them. If in the middle of what you think is going to be a barrage and the boss does that one move that you hate, you can change your strategy simply by no longer pressing attack. If one of your teammates crits and knocks the boss in to a prone position or stops them when you weren’t expecting, you can let loose your techniques, attack as hard and fast as you can, then warp away when he realizes you’re the one who’s been stabbing his butt when he couldn’t fight back. At every point during combat, you’re engaged, and that’s not something Final Fantasy has seen in some time.
The demo takes place in a huge, continuous area that seems to maybe have other areas connected to it that you could access through certain points, but can’t because of the limits of the demo. Think Borderlands. You could easily spend upwards of six hours just exploring the whole map. There are main quests highlighted on the map and side quests that you can pick up by being in proximity to the quest start, incentivizing exploration by rewarding you with the chance to get more loot or experience.
You can camp overnight at any of the campgrounds around the map, get in a good dinner and replenish your health. Campsites also act as areas to use the levels you’ve gotten throughout the day to get different abilities or choose how your character will grow through their system. The meals you eat also give you slight buffs for the next day. All the meals I’ve eaten so far look like they came out of a restaurant, I’ve been getting some nice buffs. But you can imagine a situation in which the Friendly Foursome are in some desolate area eating bread and drinking water, so there aren’t any buffs, or maybe there are even debuffs.
As with all demos, there are some issues. At one point during a mission, I got on to a platform I shouldn’t have been able to get on and into an area I wasn’t meant to be in yet. The result meant that I actually had to die and redo the whole area before being able progress. I’ve also found issues running in to trees and not being able to get around them effectively, having my teammates ignore me when I was dying, or not facing the right way and attacking nothing because the camera was being weird. All these things can be improved by the time the game is released next year.
If you haven’t gotten your hands on Type-0 HD yet, hope you can get a Day One copy of it so you can get this demo. I didn’t think I could get more excited for this game, but after this, I’m actually confident in the next game. I don’t have to say things like “Well, let’s hope the next one is okay.” Because the next one is going to kick ass. So much ass.
If you don’t have a PS4, I’ll be streaming the game later on this week, so keep an eye on our social media pages for when that’ll be up. Trust me, you’re going to want to see this.