BlizzCon 2018: Ashe is the 29th Overwatch Hero and here is her story

BlizzCon’s Overwatch segment from the opening ceremony had a superb animated short focussed on McCree that introduced us to Ashe. Ashe is the 29th hero in Overwatch.

Watch the short below titled ‘Reunion’ :

Ashe joins Overwatch to deal damage with her rifle that also has aim down sights. Her ultimate lets her call B.O.B. for some help. Her abilities include The Viper, Dynamite, Coach Gun, and of course B.O.B. for her ultimate. Watch a video showcasing Ashe below:

Blizzard also released an origin story video for Ashe which you can watch below:

Blizzard also partnered with Kellogg’s to bring out Lucio-Oh’s bringing Lucio’s spray to real life through cereal. This is releasing beginning next month only in the USA right now.

Overwatch is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The Game of the Year Edition recently released on consoles and PC in India while there even is a Legendary Edition available for PC that includes legendary and epic skins.

BlizzCon 2018: Warcraft III: Reforged is a reimagining of the original releasing in 2019

Last night’s BlizzCon 2018 opening ceremony had loads of announcements and updates for various Blizzard and even one Activision title. One of the highlights of the show is most definitively Warcraft III: Reforged set for PC release in 2019. Watch the cinematic reveal trailer below:

Warcraft III: Reforged is a reimagining of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne. Reforged has been built from the ground up for modern systems and includes Blizzard Battle.net support, an upgraded World Editor, 4K support, and more. Watch some gameplay for it below:

Warcraft III: Reforged has two editions. The base game costs $29.99 and the Spoils of War Edition costs $39.99. This includes the base game, unique skins for four hero units, in game bonuses for other Blizzard games.

Warcraft III: Reforged releases in 2019.

Review: Diablo III: Eternal Collection for Nintendo Switch

When it comes to games “perfect” for the Switch that haven’t seen ports yet, very few games remain at this stage. Spelunky is probably on the top of my list but Diablo III was pretty far up. Overwatch and Diablo III both seemed like games I’d love to play on Switch given how much I’ve played them on other platforms but no one really expected anything until speculation began when the Diablo Twitter account posted that image that seemed like a tease for a Switch port. Thankfully Diablo III on Switch is real and spectacular. This release is the Eternal Collection with a few Switch exclusives.

Diablo III: Eternal Collection on Switch includes the base game, the Reaper of Souls expansion, the Rise of the Necromancer DLC all on the cartridge from the get go. The Switch version will be the first time this is releasing at retail in India as well since the PS4 and Xbox One versions never made it here officially. It also includes updates bringing it up to speed with other consoles and Adventure Mode is unlocked from the get go which is always great.

Most delayed ports on Switch have some exclusives. While there are already loads of exclusives in sheer co-op possibilities through local wireless that isn’t possible on other platforms, the Switch version of Diablo III has a few cosmetic extras like a cosmetic armor set based on Ganondorf, a Triforce frame, a Cucco pet, and more from The Legend of Zelda franchise.

Online co-op gave me a ton of trouble on PS4 when the Ultimate Evil Edition launched. The Switch version in its current state is like a whole other game. I managed connecting to a friend’s game almost instantly. The real draw of the Switch version is the local co-op options. You can play on a single Switch with a single Joy-Con alongside a friend or connect locally through wireless to play with a friend on another console. With all these options to play with friends and the port being this good, Diablo III on Switch is my favourite console version of the game by far after owning it on both PS4 and Xbox One before this.

Visually, I’m super impressed with the port in handheld mode. Diablo III uses some scaling in both handheld and docked modes but it is a little less noticeable in handheld mode given the screen size. The important thing is performance almost never falters. Iron Galaxy already did a great job with Skyrim. This is probably their best port yet. The framerate even held up with same screen handheld co-op with a single Joy-Con each. Having to flick to roll with the lack of a second analog stick isn’t fun though so I’d recommend having a set of two Joy-Cons each or a Pro controller. When you go docked, things are a bit different. Diablo III on Switch isn’t as sharp as other consoles docked and the adaptive resolution scaling is a bit more noticeable. This price is still worth it for that smooth performance.

Diablo III’s music is pretty great even though I don’t really listen to it outside the game but I had one concern about the audio in general. Dark Souls: Remastered has horrible audio if you play with headphones or docked for that matter. Diablo III thankfully sounds great. Blizzard did say you will need an additional download for other languages if you want more than English.

Diablo III on Switch has one annoying problem. The B and A inconsistency. To talk to people you press one button and need to press the other to advance conversations. This affects Dark Souls: Remastered on Switch as well but that port has a lot more issues than just this. I hope a future patch addresses this in Diablo III because it is annoying. The Switch uses A to confirm on a system level and that is what Diablo III should use to advance dialogue and to interact with things. The lack of any touchscreen use while expected is a bit disappointing. Being able to tap the map or pan around the map would have been useful with touch. The final annoyance is one that most people won’t care about. I love good game interfaces and icons. Diablo III’s icon is pretty terrible.

Overall, Diablo III: Eternal Collection is not just a fantastic value proposition but a near perfect conversion for the Switch. Diablo III on consoles has always been a superb pickup and play and co-op experience. That is magnified by how well the Switch handles all the combinations for online and co-op. This is easily one of the best conversions the Switch has seen ever. Iron Galaxy and Blizzard have done an excellent job. I hope the button inconsistencies and the icon are addressed soon because this has very little holding it back from perfection.

HITMAN 2 Mumbai Level Announced, Gold Edition Pricing Confirmed for India

Earlier this week, IO Interactive revealed all the locations for HITMAN 2 including a Mumbai level. The video below showcases all the revealed locations confirmed for the base game.

HITMAN 2 is the follow up to the excellent HITMAN that was published by Square Enix. HITMAN 2 is being published by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment. It releases next month for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

The Mumbai level will feature Bollywood movie locations and slums in addition to loads of secrets.

HITMAN 2 for PS4 and Xbox One is priced at Rs. 3499. The GOLD Edition which includes a SteelBook, 2 expansions, exclusive items, HITMAN Sniper Assassin (available immediately), and early access. It is unclear if the India release of the Gold Edition will be available earlier like other countries. The GOLD Edition is only releasing on PS4 at retail for Rs. 6999. It will be available digitally on all platforms.

HITMAN 2 releases on November 13 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC platforms.

Diablo III: Eternal Collection India release confirmed for Nintendo Switch

Diablo III: Eternal Collection is releasing in India for Nintendo Switch on November 2nd.

The retail version includes the base game, the Reaper of Souls expansion, the Rise of the Necromancer DLC, and Nintendo Switch exclusive content. This version is fully supported with Seasonal updates with rewards, challenges, leaderboards, and more. The Switch exclusive content is below:

  • Ganondorf transmog armor
  • Companion Cucco pet
  • “Echoes of the Mask” Wings
  • Golden Triforce Portrait Frame
  • Support for local offline co-op or single console single Joy-Con co-op
  • The Eternal Collection did not release here on PS4 or Xbox One. The Switch version that is available for $59.99 in North America will cost Rs. 3999 in India. It is currently available for preorder with a release scheduled for November 2nd.

    Review: Fire Pro Wrestling World

    When Spike Chunsoft announced Fire Pro was returning on Steam Early Access, it was the first time I had heard of the franchise. It is pretty crazy that I’ve played almost every wrestling game since the PS1 era and never been exposed to Fire Pro Wrestling in any form. Fast forward to today, it has been over a month since Fire Pro Wrestling World has released on PS4 and I’ve been playing and enjoying it daily. Having never played the franchise before, it is mindblowing how well certain things play out here and how deep the customization is in Spike Chunsoft’s new Fire Pro game.

    While WWE 2K19 is a welcome step in the right direction and is a great game if you’re a WWE fan, wrestling fans have been wanting more from a game for ages. In fact, the WWE games have had no real competition until now. While Fire Pro will likely not even make a dent in the sales for WWE 2K19, I’m glad there finally is a wrestling game catering to old school fans and fans of wrestling games who want gameplay that has a lot of depth as opposed to just a huge roster and improved visuals.

    At first, Fire Pro will take you a while to get used to. The interface in matches is minimal. Everything is about timing. Grappling is a very important part of the gameplay here. While it may initially seem barebones, there’s a lot going on. The flow of a wrestling match feels like it does when you’re watching a good one on TV. The moveset available to you changes over time. You can’t just hit a finisher right from the start like you could in some older WWE games. Thankfully there’s a great tutorial in Mission Mode that gets your into the action quickly.

    Out of all the wrestling games I’ve played ECW Anarchy Rulz was my favourite for customisation options. That title now belongs to Fire Pro Wrestling World. The options are nearly endless and if you aren’t a fan of spending time to make the characters you want to play as, there’s a simple solution available at firepro-w.com. This website lets you link your PSN account and then search the plethora of creations available online that have been done by other players worldwide. You can subscribe to creations and then they get downloaded when you boot up the game next. I had no trouble finding very well done versions (even with taunts in some cases) of the likes of Stone Cold, Asuka, The Rock, and more. Outside of customising and creating wrestlers, you can even do referees, teams, rings, belts, and more. It is very well done.

    Visuals are not the strongest part of Fire Pro. The menus are clunky in some areas and the visuals are not what you’d call current generation by any means. Thankfully, the art style works well during matches and performance has been great on PS4 Pro. It is hard to talk about Fire Pro without mentioning older wrestling games and I mean that in the best way. Even the visuals remind me of older games but with a modern feel. One aspect that feels like a breath of fresh air is the AI here. With how well thought out the match flow is, even watching the CPU fight against CPU is great.

    Fire Pro isn’t perfect. While I cannot fault the core gameplay at all, the initial roster is lacking. Sure, the create and edit modes can rectify this to some extent, but the initial roster is pretty lacking compared to earlier games in the franchise. For what is basically a game that introduces a new generation (and a much larger audience) to Fire Pro, Spike Chunsoft should’ve had a better showing here. The other area that needs work is the music. There are too few tracks and while I’m not expecting a big name licensed soundtrack like the WWE 2K games, Spike Chunsoft needs to add in more original tracks.

    Overall, Fire Pro Wrestling World is definitely the best wrestling game on current generation systems and one of the best wrestling games since the PS2 era. If you’re a fan of wrestling, you owe it to yourself to play this. The customisation options are endless and there’s a ton of fun to have here. The presentation lacks the bells and whistles seen in the WWE 2K games but this is as close as you will get to the golden era of wrestling games. My biggest regret is not getting into the series sooner.

    Review: WWE 2K19

    Each year, 2K has a new WWE 2K entry and after playing every wrestling game in the last few years including the fantastic Fire Pro Wrestling World, I’ve been a bit skeptical of the newest WWE 2K entry for a variety of reasons. While last year’s 2K18 served as a nice base with a visual upgrade, it was lacking in modes and had a few other issues. After playing an earlier build for 2K19 at a preview event, things were looking a lot better for this year’s WWE game but I was still unsure how the final game would fare. Thankfully Visual Concepts, Yuke’s, and 2K have delivered a great wrestling game here. It is superb to see a WWE 2K game that has actually improved in so many aspects while adding new modes and mechanics that make for a better experience overall.

    WWE 2K18 was the first WWE 2K game this generation that dropped support for previous consoles to be fully current generation. It did get a release on the Switch but that was a terrible release overall. This year, there is no Switch version but WWE 2K19 is a more polished and basically more fun wrestling game across the board while still retaining everything the team has slowly been introducing over past entries. In a lot of ways, this finally feels like Yuke’s and Visual Concepts first true current generation wrestling game. It runs great, looks great (for the most part), and is an absolute joy to play with new modes, some old modes making a return, and others seeing enhancements.

    Gameplay is more responsive now. The game runs beautifully in almost every game mode. The only situation where the frame rate takes a hit is backstage brawl when both superstars move far away to trigger the splitscreen. Instead of focussing on the simulation aspect, 2K has definitely added a nice serving of the arcade feel that made so many people fans of the games in the first place. Reversing is still something you will need to get used to but it never feels unfair. Each strike feels like it makes a difference. When it comes to improvements to the various match types, Hell in a Cell is actually worth playing once again. You can even break the top and drop opponents back into the ring. The Steel Cage match feels like it was rebuilt from the ground up. 5 Man matches are a new addition and some other tag modes make a return after years. The number of game modes for offline play is pretty insane.

    2K Showcase mode makes a return here. I was a bit skeptical of this because I was hoping Showcase would focus on someone I was a big fan of but it made me a Daniel Bryan fan by the end of it. The staples like the match objectives are in and I love the Daniel Bryan video clips where he explains how his career progressed with each of the key matches featured here. When I spoke to Mark Little, he mentioned how much the team had worked on making MyCareer mode feel more immersive with voice acting and a great story mode. The end result is actually really good. You start out in the independent scene here and then work your way up. The voice acting addition is great but there are a few instances where the delivery feels pretty phoned in. I look forward to how next year’s release pushes things even further.

    The new Tower mode that feels influenced by Mortal Kombat is a great addition. In addition to the ones available from the get go, there are new challenge ones that are added over time. The big new gameplay mechanic is the Payback system. This gives you a sort of last resort option when your opponent has the upper hand. You have 2 abilities that let you do various things like hit a low blow. This is another addition that shows how 2K has finally been able to listen to fans to make this a better release overall.

    WWE 2K19 feels like a polished release when it comes to visuals for the most part. There are a few areas where clipping occurs and the odd low resolution texture here and there but the visuals are definitely improved here. A lot of the wrestlers look fantastic. The issue of some superstars looking better than others sadly seems like it will never go away. Performance is great on the PS4 Pro. I had no frame drops in even an 8 man match which is great.

    On the audio side of things, the commentary is a bit better but instead of sounding too vague, I ran into issues where it was delayed. In an 8 man tag match it felt like the commentary was about 20 seconds behind at one point. It feels like the commentary is improving at a snail’s pace. I wonder if we will ever reach the stage where it is comparable to the fantastic commentary 2K has for the NBA 2K games. Other than that, the inclusion of Spit Out the Bone is great and it is the only song I left in the jukebox playlist alongside some superstar music.

    The biggest flaw in WWE 2K19 is how painfully bad the online has been for me since launch. When I tried online games the day the Deluxe Edition released, it was a laggy mess. I thought things would improve when the game released to more people on PS4 but the situation is still pretty bad. I would skip this release if you are only going to play online. The offline modes are fantastic but the online needs a lot of work. There are a few visual issues with hair clipping and the ropes clipping a few times. Hopefully next year’s release can see 60fps backstage brawls as well because the framerate drop when the screen splits is jarring.

    Overall, WWE 2K19 does a lot to rectify issues from past games. 2K19 brings back old fan favourite modes and has a few noteworthy additions like the Towers mode. The updated animations and game performance bump are welcome enhancements this year. While the online mode has been plain bad and there are a few visual issues, WWE 2K19 is the best wrestling game in years. It is one I can safely recommend to old time fans and newcomers to the WWE which is something that hasn’t been possible for a long time.

    Review: Mega Man 11

    With so many collections of old games hitting modern platforms from Capcom, a new Mega Man entry getting announced should’ve been something fans expected but it still shocked most of the gaming world. Mega Man 11 is a new numbered entry that has a simultaneous release on every current platform from Capcom and it is yet another great release from Capcom who is having a superb generation so far with Monster Hunter: World, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, Resident Evil VII, and more.

    Mega Man 11 is an action platformer with 3D characters in 2D environments resulting in a 2.5D visual style that is accompanied by some great art across the board. You play as Mega Man trying to stop Dr Wily from the Double Gear system as you face off against the likes of Impact Man, Tundra Man (best music in the game), Bounce Man, Torch Man, and more. You can approach the stages in any order and earn new weapons from defeating each of the levels’ end bosses. The new Double Gear system adds an interesting layer. You can slow down time or get a boost in power. These last for a short duration and overheat if you use them too much.

    Mega Man games have always had a distinct aesthetic. I was initially a bit skeptical of the visual style here but Capcom has done a great job with blending the well detailed 3D models in gorgeous 2D levels. The environmental art is very nice and the animations are slick across the board. The visuals could use a bit more polish while docked but thankfully everything is great handheld. When it comes to performance, it has been rock solid all the way. Many Switch ports of current generation games suffer when it comes to performance but it definitely feels like Mega Man 11 was built keeping Switch in mind from the start. There’s great use of HD Rumble as well for feedback when you take damage. Music in Mega Man games is another important aspect since the franchise has such a brilliant set of tunes. Mega Man 11’s soundtrack is almost perfect. There are a few tracks that would fit right at home on a best of franchise collection.

    While the Mega Man games are notorious for difficulty, the collections have been adding a few modern conveniences. Mega Man 11 turns that up a notch with multiple difficulty options ranging from a super easy one for newcomers to action games to something for veterans of the franchise. Capcom definitely went all out to make sure this entry is not only great for casual fans but also the people who have been with the series from the start.

    There are a few issues with the release. Some of the stages feel a bit too long. The checkpoint system is forgiving but trimming down some of the fat from a few of the stages would’ve made for a much more focused experience. The Switch version looks and runs great in handheld mode. I had no performance issues at all even while playing docked but visually it needs a bit more polish when played docked on Switch. The lack of antialiasing is a problem that affects almost every Nintendo Switch release.

    Overall, Mega Man 11 is not just a great Mega Man game but also a superb entry point into the franchise. While the collections that have released across PS4, Xbox One, and Switch serve as lovely sets of history with modern conveniences in some cases, Mega Man 11 is a great way to get into one of Capcom’s most beloved franchises. While the stages could be a bit shorter and the music could’ve been a bit better, this is a superb action platformer and one worthy of the Mega Man name. Mega Man 11 almost feels like a Sonic Mania like moment for the franchise and I mean that in the best way possible.

    Fortnite is heading to retail in India in November on Switch, PS4, and Xbox One

    Warner Brothers just announced a retail boxed release of Fortnite for North America and European territories. This release includes Fortnite and in game content for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

    For those who don’t want to buy the retail release, the Deep Freeze Bundle will also be available digitally. It includes the following:

  • Fortnite Battle Royale game
  • Frostbite Outfit
  • Cold Front Glider
  • Chill-Axe Pickaxe
  • Freezing Point Back Bling
  • 1,000 V-Bucks which can be used to purchase in-game items, such as outfits and the Premium Battle Pass
  • This has been confirmed to release on November 16 worldwide including India. The price has not been confirmed but expect it to be between Rs. 2499 and Rs. 2999 depending on the platform. It remains to be seen whether the Xbox One version releases here considering Fortnite is not available for India on Xbox One.

    Fortnite is available on iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC platforms.

    Assassin’s Creed Odyssey: Editions, PC requirements, Pricing, Nintendo Switch version, and Everything Else You Need to Know

    Assassin’s Creed Odyssey from Ubisoft is just a few days away or available now depending on which edition you’re interested in. As with most big AAA releases, there are various editions to keep track of and many regions don’t get every edition. If you’re looking forward to playing this on PC, this post has you covered on pricing on Steam and even the system requirements. If you’re on Nintendo Switch, there’s something for you as well here. Here is everything you need to know about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey:

    What platforms is it releasing on?

    Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is releasing on PS4, Xbox One, and PC with full support for PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.

    What about the Nintendo Switch version?

    If you’re in Japan or have a Japanese eShop account, you can try out the Cloud Version of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey On the eShop. This will be streamed to your Switch using the Internet in a similar manner as Resident Evil VII. As of now, there are no details on whether this will be playable in English or even release outside Japan.

    What is the release date?

    Assassin’s Creed Odyssey releases on October 5th worldwide unless you buy the Gold or higher tier edition in which case it released on October 2nd.

    What editions will be available in India?

    At retail, there are four editions for India. The Medusa and Gold Editions are available now at retailers offline and online although the Medusa edition is likely sold out by now. October 5th is the actual release date for the standard and Omega editions. Here is a breakdown of what is included in the editions making their way to India at retail:

    Standard Edition – Includes the base game

    Omega Edition – Includes the base game, a map, and a 32 page artbook

    Gold Edition – Includes the base game and the Season Pass

    Medusa Edition – This includes both physical and digital extras.
    The physical content in the Medusa Edition is as follows –
    The Fallen Gorgon statue (height: 33cm) – By Ubicollectibles.
    The Assassin’s Creed® Odyssey game.
    A 64 page Artbook: Featuring the artworks from Ubisoft Quebec artists that led to the creation of the game.
    The world map: Explore the world of Assassin’s Creed® Odyssey with this hand-drawn artistic representation.
    The Selected Game Soundtrack: A selection of the best music from Assassin’s Creed® Odyssey.
    The digital content in the Medusa Edition is as follows –
    An additional mission: The blind King. Meet a mysterious traveller that will prove to be much more than he appears as his past is revealed.
    The Kronos Pack (Including 5 epic pieces of armour, 1 epic weapon, 1 epic mount).
    Time is of the essence when you put yourself at the service of Kronos.
    1 Temporary XP Boost.
    1 Temporary Drachmae Boost.

    Are there Digital exclusive editions?

    The Deluxe Edition and Ultimate Editions are digital only. The Ultimate Edition merges the Deluxe and Gold Editions. The Deluxe Edition includes the following:

    The Ultimate Edition includes the following:

    What does the Season Pass include?

    The Season Pass has two sets of episodic content rolling out beginning December 2018 and both Assassin’s Creed III and Liberation Remastered. While this is included in the Gold and Ultimate Editions, you could buy PSN credit to pick it up later on and get the Omega Edition now.

    How big is the download?

    Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s download size is about 46GB across all platforms. This will likely increase with patches for launch.

    What are the PC version requirements?

    Minimum Requirements
    OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)\
    Processor: AMD FX 6300 @ 3.8 GHz, Ryzen 3 – 1200, Intel Core i5 2400 @ 3.1 GHz
    Video: AMD Radeon R9 285 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 (2GB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0)
    Memory: 8GB RAM
    Resolution: 720p
    Targeted framerate: 30 FPS
    Video Preset: Low
    Storage: 46GB available hard drive space
    DirectX: DirectX June 2010 Redistributable
    Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card with latest drivers

    Recommended Specification
    OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
    Processor: AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz, Ryzen 5 – 1400, Intel Core i7-3770 @ 3.5 GHz
    Video: AMD Radeon R9 290 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 (4GB VRAM or more with Shader Model 5.0) or better – See supported list*
    Memory: 8GB RAM
    Resolution: 1080p
    Targeted framerate: 30 FPS
    Video Preset: High
    Storage: 46GB available hard drive space
    DirectX: DirectX June 2010 Redistributable
    Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card with latest drivers

    Recommended 4K Configuration
    OS: Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
    Processor: AMD Ryzen 1700X @ 3.8 GHz, Intel Core i7 7700 @ 4.2 GHz
    Video: AMD Vega 64, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0)
    Memory: 16GB RAM
    Resolution: 4K
    Targeted framerate: 30 FPS
    Video Preset: High
    Storage: 46GB available hard drive space
    DirectX: DirectX June 2010 Redistributable
    Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card with latest drivers

    How is the game?

    Read our full review here.

    Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay video part 2 showcased

    Rockstar Games just showcased the second part of the gameplay video for Red Dead Redemption 2. This part showcases rival gangs, roberies, and a lot more activities you can expect in Red Dead Redemption 2. Watch the full video for part 2 below:

    If you missed the first part, watch it below:

    Red Dead Redemption 2 releases on October 26th for PS4 and Xbox One platforms. Here are the editions releasing in India.

    Review: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

    After the mostly well received Assassin’s Creed Origins last year, Ubisoft returns with a new entry in the massive Assassin’s Creed franchise with Odyssey this year which promises to build on the excellent foundation laid by Origins. I’ve been playing it over the last week or so for review after trying out a preview build earlier last month and the end result has been mostly great.

    Just like Origins, Odyssey is an action RPG. Whenever big franchises or games see a reboot, the first game to see big changes is usually very good but the follow up to that is even better. This holds true for Odyssey as well. While Origins was really good in almost every way, Odyssey has it beat out across the board and feels better designed overall. Many mechanics have gone through changes and enhancements here to make for a better experience.

    While Origins was already chronologically set before other entries, Odyssey goes back further. It is set 400 years prior to Origins and tells the story of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece. You plan as Kassandra or Alexios, a mercenary looking for various answers. Kassandra is a fantastic protagonist and her voice actress does a superb job across the board. Origins was basically an action RPG in a lot of areas and Odyssey extends this further. This is true for the story, combat, exploration, and even quests. As a setting, I love Ancient Greece a lot more than Egypt and even some previous Assassin’s Creed game settings.

    Exploration and combat are what you will be spending a large portion of your time in here for sure. Ubisoft has a new exploration mode that turns off most markers and help for a more immersive experience. This sounds great on paper but it still feels like the game was built for the regular or “Guided” mode given how vague some of the objectives are even in Guided mode. I did switch between both often during my time in Odyssey. Make sure you explore a lot because there is a lot hidden off the beaten path. This applies to smaller islands as well as various things on larger ones. Ikaros is more of a necessity than an aid in these situations.

    I love how you’re thrown straight into the action with a very memorable opening segment. If you watched 300, you will probably feel right at home. In fact if you enjoyed 300, this is likely your dream game. While Odyssey might begin with some moments that don’t pull you in right away story wise, things get very interesting hours into it. Even the prologue area is superbly designed and gives you a nice sample of what to expect in the world. I even managed skipping one whole portion of a quest thanks to exploring with Ikaros in some areas further away.

    Level plays a big part here as it did in Origins. The world scales with your level as well for the most part which is nice. An enemy or quest being a few levels above you is most definitely a sign that you should stay away. Thankfully the various side quests and locations you find with enemies while exploring give you a good amount of experience. Some of the side quests are pretty fleshed out as well which is something you don’t really expect these days.

    Origins had some really nice and weighty combat but the improvements in Odyssey make it hard to go back. You have a skill tree that allows for three distinct combat styles or a mix of all. While there are passive abilities that help out a lot, the active ones make the combat sublime. Doing a Spartan Kick on a bear will never get old. You can focus your ability points on hunter abilities that are ranged attacks, warrior abilities that are melee focussed, or assassin abilities that are stealth focussed. The poison based abilities were super useful early along alongside the Spartan Kick that can knock enemies off of ledges or even break their shield guard. The only place combat falters is when you deal with a large group of enemies. There are means to deal with people one by one but things feel clunky when there are more than 3 people attacking you.

    A lot of the new features are great additions to the base of Origins. I say base of Origins because it was already a very good RPG overall and the additions here make this even better. Naval combat and exploration is a joy. You have a crew that sings sea shanties while sailing and combat that is a ton of fun. I spent a ton of time just exploring the open seas to find loot and even take down various ships just for the heck of it. There are a lot of secrets and various hidden treasures for you to uncover underwater. I did run into a few performance issues during sea exploration though. The other big addition outside of the combat enhancements is the mercenary system. While this is a true open world game where you can go almost anywhere and do almost anything, there are consequences. Killing NPCs or stealing from people when you get spotted will have mercenaries come after you through bounties. You can pay this off but the real fun is preparing well and then defeating the mercenary to get great loot.

    There are two big issues with Odyssey in its current state. The first is load times. You use Ikaros (your eagle) a lot to scout locations for enemies and treasure. In most cases, straying too far from Kassandra will have you waiting for a good amount of time thanks to loading. There are long load times even for fast travelling which is sort of expected but they still feel far too long. The second issue is visual glitches. I’ve had NPCs glitch out and walk jerkily and even some that judder during cutscenes behind Kassandra. Hopefully the glitches get addressed in patches soon.

    The preview build I played on Xbox One X was gorgeous. I’ve played Odyssey for review on PS4 Pro and almost everything looks stunning. Even small villages are rich and detailed. The art direction is definitely a step above Origins here. Some of the moments with sunlight and thick grass reminded me of Horizon Zero Dawn which is something few games manage when it comes to visuals. I can’t wait for the discovery mode to get added here just to be able to explore the vast areas without worrying about the main story or any quests. You will end up using the photo mode a lot.

    Voice acting is pretty fantastic across the board. Everyone from major NPCs to your crew on the ship singing sea shanties sounds great. The atmospheric music and reactive nature of it in combat and exploration is great as well. This may have the best Assassin’s Creed soundtrack.

    Overall, Odyssey is a fantastic action RPG. If you liked Origins, you will love this. If you skipped Origins, this is definitely a great game to jump back into the franchise with. I look forward to playing it through the rest of the year for the platinum trophy.

    Review: Forza Horizon 4

    Forza Horizon 2 was a game I was beyond hyped to play before I got an Xbox One and I still consider it one of my favourite games of all time. I was a bit skeptical whether Playground Games would be able to put out something as good but they blew me away with Forza Horizon 3. Two years later, they aim to improve on the fantastic Forza Horizon 3 with a interesting take on their tried and tested festival setting in Horizon 4 and the end result is almost perfect.

    It is always interesting when a spinoff franchise basically overshadows the mainline series but that is exactly what happened with Forza. The mainline Motorsport games have been ranging from good to disappointing with the last few entries but Horizon has consistently been beyond fantastic. After putting out games set in the US, Europe, and finally Australia, Playground Games takes you to the UK for Forza Horizon 4. I was a bit concerned about the setting, but the fictional recreation with some choice monuments has been a blast to play through. Locations are varied and stunning almost all the way.

    Forza Horizon 4 adds to every aspect of previous releases and you notice this immediately with customisation. Instead of offering players an option of picking one of many pre created characters, you can now follow that up with various cosmetics like headgear, gloves, watches, glasses, and even a golden moustache. A lot of these items are unlocked through fulfilling in game requirements or through wheelspins. Wheelspins are now split up into Super Wheelspins that are basically three at once and normal Wheelspins and you earn them both at a steady pace while completing the various campaigns here.

    If you’re new to Forza Horizon, your aim is to explore a gorgeous open world to partake in multiple races and events ranging from dirt races to danger sign jumps and set piece filled races called Showcase events. In addition to those, Horizon 4 has its own set of more story filled campaign that are basically like mini campaigns you play through at your own pace whenever you want to and these are spread across the map and have their own levelling system with rewards that complement the main levelling up system.

    Forza Horizon 4 has a very interesting way of bringing the player into the “real game”. While the opening moments are always beyond epic, I’m a big fan of how things play out for the opening section here. Seasons are a big focus for Horizon 4 and the opening race segment lets you experience all four seasons in a single section. This follows up with you learning the ropes and experiencing more in depth weather and race conditions in each season as you try and unlock more events through earning influence. Influence is a big part of the experience here and you use it to progress things initially. Influence is earned through race completion, skills, Barn Finds, and more.

    One of the bigger additions is Houses. You can now buy houses across the map and each house includes various perks and rewards ranging from giving you a few wheelspins to one that unlocks free fast travel everywhere. The concept of houses in an open world game is great but the implementation could be better. You can’t fast travel for free to your home which makes buying most houses pretty pointless outside of the few rewards you get. One change that has been done well is the per car skill point system. You now earn skill points and have a specific skill tree for each car. This encourages you to shake things up and try out more cars rather than getting through as much as you can with a single car. You earn skill points pretty easily so this never felt remotely grindy.

    The Horizon games have always had excellent visuals across the board and while earlier games have resorted to expansions for extreme weather, seasons now offer that in the base game. Car models are superb and the skyboxes are as beautiful as ever. The recreation of Britain here is pretty great as well with everything looking good across all times of the day. On the Xbox One S, I ran into a few visual issues. Some situations have some really bad pop in more so than Forza Horizon 3. While the racing performance was consistent, the menus feel like they could be a bit more responsive. In fact a low end gaming laptop from a few years ago had the menus much more responsive than the Xbox One S.

    Ever since Horizon 2, I’ve been discovering some great music through Horizon Pulse specifically and with both Forza Horizon 3 and 4, I didn’t really wait for the game before getting into the music through playlists on streaming services. Horizon Pulse is probably the best licensed music radio station in gaming ever and it is even better in Horizon 4 thanks to the host making a not so subtle Allo Allo reference while discussing an in game event. The rest of the audio is as good as it ever was with nice voice acting and great car audio.

    Outside of the visual issues, the only real problems Horizon 4 suffers from are from the showcase events being a bit weak or losing their wow factor a few games into the franchise and the poorly implemented houses mechanic. Everything else here is a step up from previous games but things are definitely starting to feel evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

    Forza Horizon 4 is an essential game for any racing game fans with its superlative production values, brilliant gameplay, great implementation of seasons, and how it manages to make things feel fresh dozens of hours in. While some aspects of it may seem a bit evolutionary, this is still an essential racing game and one you need to play if you have an Xbox One or Windows 10 PC.

    Interview: WWE 2K19 Executive Producer Mark Little on 2K Showcase mode returning, framerate, PC version, ECW, and more

    Just like last year, I spoke to Executive Producer Mark Little about various things relating to WWE 2K19 including development, addressing the multiple consoles, ECW, and more. If you missed it, I wrote about my time spent playing a near final build of WWE 2K19 here.

    What would you say, off the top of your head is the biggest gameplay change for 2K19 compared to 2K18?
    Specifically with gameplay, there are two real things that will jump out and it depends on how familiar you are with the game. We spent a lot of time on 2K19 working on the fluidity and the smoothness of the gameplay and its responsiveness overall. If you’ve been a longtime fan of WWE 2K games, you will really notice the difference when you pick up the controller and play. You will notice how much more fluid the animations are and how much more responsive the controls feel this year. Overall, this provides a greater sense of control in gameplay. If you’re new to the franchise, something that we are very happy about is the new Payback system that we implemented this year. It is very interesting because we designed that system with both our hardcore and also our casual users in mind. At its core, it gives the player the ability to gain back momentum during the match with various options. It keeps the more casual players engaged as they are learning the controls but for the more experienced players, it is another level of strategy to keep in mind. You’re always wondering when your opponent is going to bust out that Payback and how they will leverage that to their advantage. It has allowed us to add more personality and variation in how even the superstars play. For instance, we gave Nakamura the low blow payback since he’s been doing that often and this is something you wouldn’t usually see our AI do but with the payback system we are able to give him a bit more flair of personality.

    Have there been any improvements to the commentary and crowd this year?
    We always look at all parts of the game when we try and improve things. With the crowd, it is probably more refinement than large scale changes. With commentary, it is the same thing. We went back and recorded tens of thousands of lines with the commentary team, and I think you will really notice the new commentary in the game. In situations like the entrances, you will hear the difference when the commentators make interesting comments about superstars and their history. During the matches, you will hear them talk a lot more about the background of the different wrestlers and they might get interrupted because something interesting happened during the match but they will return back to that story and talk about it more as the match continues. This is new for 2K19.

    WWE 2K18 was the first WWE game built for current generation hardware and you dropped support for the PS3 and Xbox 360 with it. Since this is the second game built only for current generation systems, what visual fidelity and performance improvements can people expect for consoles?
    That’s definitely something we worked on very hard This year. I would say in all but very unusual situations, the game holds 60fps. That is something that we are very happy about. We were also able to increase some of the visual fidelity while we were improving framerate. While it is sad to say goodbye to the older generation hardware, when all your focus in on new hardware, you can make strides ahead. I continue to expect us to improve visuals in the game. I think we have gotten to the point where the visuals are very good. The changes might be smaller with each year. We took a pretty big bump in quality of the visuals overall. Now that we have improved the framerate, I think we will be able to do more at that same level of quality which is also exciting.

    So we can expect 60fps on even the PS4 Slim and the Xbox One S?
    Yes. Like I said, there are moments where there is a lot of crazy stuff happening where it won’t be but in most matches and most scenarios, absolutely.

    How has MyCareer changed this year and what can fans who buy every game expect with this mode?
    The entire MyCareer story is completely different in 2K19. We are using a different style of storytelling. We were actually able to go and record the superstars’ voices so as you play through the story, they are actually the ones talking to you and narrating. It is a much more immersive style than we had in the past. Because we were able to get to that level, the style of story that we have written for this year that you will playthrough is a much more narrative heavy experience. It is more about your journey from the indies into the WWE and through the rest of your career. I can tell you that there is a lot of really interesting plot points with twists and turns in this year’s mode. It is a little over 12 hours of play experience for most people. It is a good and meaty experience.

    2K Showcase mode makes a return in 2K19. What made the team focus on Daniel Bryan for the return of 2K Showcase?
    It was something that we had been thinking about for a while. The showcases are challenging for us because we need to be able to plan a path through history that we can tell. There are lots of parts of WWE history we really can’t tell effectively anymore because of things like the superstars not being available. Daniel Bryan was one that for us, he is still present of mind for WWE fans. We felt that a lot of the fans of him didn’t really understand what he went through in the early days To get into the WWE. A lot of Daniel Bryan fans are fans of his modern persona. We thought it would be interesting to tell his story of how he started out And how he struggled to be successful. Just the very interesting path he took to get there all the way to the pinnacle of the WWE with winning the championships and then retiring to give it all up but of course then returning. It is a very timely story to tell for us as well. We thought it held a very good message with the “Never Say Never” tagline. Keep your mind at something and you can achieve anything. We thought there were a lot of positives in the story and obviously it was a great story to tell the fans.

    This year’s collector’s edition (WWE 2K19 Wooooo! Edition) has a focus on Ric Flair. What can Ric Flair fans expect in the game?
    The collector’s edition revolves largely around the physical merchandise that comes with it. Some of it is pretty sweet. That ring is pretty nice. It is my favourite part. Obviously there are also the playable versions of Ric Flair in the game and some of his wackier attire. If you’re a fan of Ric Flair, you will appreciate some of the different attire we put in and the different versions of Ric Flair we added into the game.

    This year’s release hits PS4, PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, Xbox One, and PC on the same day. Has the team started building for the highest spec and scaling down or is the game still built for lower end first?
    We are still undergoing change with that but in general, the way most games handle it these days is they do design it more like the way we would build a pure PC game where you build it to the max and then you scale back as you go. It is much easier to build for the highest spec and then scale back than it is to try and bolt things on architecturally. In general, yes that is kind of the direction we had where we built for the best of the hardware and as we find ways to turn things off. The interesting part with that is that we have very smart engineers. Sometimes when we have done something with the really high end version of it, we try and find a cheat way to maybe not get it quite as good, but get 80% of the same result on the lower end hardware. That is something we challenge our engineers with every year.

    Shane McMahon did motion capture for 2K18 last year. Was any more of that done with other superstars?
    This year we didn’t end up with any WWE Superstars coming into our motion capture facility. We were trying for a couple of different groups but you know how their schedules are like. I will say injuries and other life things happened and it didn’t work out. It is something that both the WWE and us try and make happen on an annual basis. But with their and our schedule, it isn’t always possible.

    Towers mode is the newest addition. What was the inspiration for that? People are comparing it to the mode in Mortal Kombat games.
    We have towers in two parts of the game. We have towers under 2K Central which you can use the general roster and also your created superstars. That is also where the Million Dollar AJ tower lives. We also have towers inside MyPlayer that are specific to your MyPlayer. Like Road to Glory, that is an evergreen living place. We will be delivering daily, weekly, monthly challenge towers in the MyPlayer section.

    Have there been any improvements to netcode for online play?
    We continue to work on it. I would say our game is challenged more with the online than some other games specifically because our fanbase is worldwide and very distributed. Quite often when you connect to someone it is someone much farther away than you you think you are. We do our best to try and optimise it. We feel like we have made some strides with the matchmaking and consistency and speed at which we find matches for people. It is something we will continue to work on for the next couple of years. Really refining the online code and finding ways to optimise it so we can completely eliminate latency and lag in the game. That is the ultimate goal.

    During the preview, it was mentioned that you can use Loot Packs to use customisations. Can Loot Packs be bought with real money? Can you buy in game currency to buy loot packs or is it just through stuff earned in game?
    Just like last year, it is still just earned through the game. It is all in game so no microtransactions in WWE.

    What does a day in your life look like at this time of the year?
    I’ve been enjoying myself for the last few days in Madrid. This time of the year is usually very chaotic for myself and our team. There is a lot of focus on finishing and refining and perfecting 2K19 but in the same breath, I’m also working with some of our core design team on ideas for next year already. As soon as we can, we start working on the next year’s title to give ourselves as much runway as we can So we can do bigger and better things. It is kind of wearing lots of different hats right now and jumping in between them. Let’s think of all the cool ideas we could possibly ever do and then lets tune this better. It is a little bit of a schizophrenic world for us right now. It is very exciting because this is the time of the year where we finally get to see other people outside of our team play our game. we get to watch them have fun and take in feedback so we really do enjoy that part of they ear.

    What do you think of the ECW Era with weapons and barbed wire among other things?
    I would not subject my body to that. That was a very interesting experiment in what can we do that is even more fantastical to drive eyeballs to our show. That was back in the Ratings War Era where there were competing brands out to get eyeballs. I think that ECW took a path that was very different compared to everybody else. You either loved it or you were like “Oh dear god that is too brutal”. Obviously that’s not the core of the WWE experience today, thankfully for the superstars. I’ve talked to some of the old superstars who were in ECW about the tables and thumbtacks matches. You always hear that things are fake but most of that stuff isn’t like they literally have thumbtacks on tables and they have to pull them out of their backs through the night. While it was interesting to watch as a gruesome spectacle, I’m kind of glad that they are not doing it anymore. Now that i have a lot of wrestlers that are friends that would not be good.

    Review: Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle

    Capcom has been doing some great things in recent years with retro collections for fans like the multiple Mega Man collections and also The Disney Afternoon Collection. Nintendo’s recently aired Direct had a surprise announcement from Capcom with the Beat ‘Em Up Bundle for all platforms. This collection features seven of Capcom’s beat ‘em up games in a single collection that released digitally across all current platforms including the Nintendo Switch last week. This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version.

    The Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle includes Final Fight that introduced us to Cody and Poison among others, The King of Dragons, Warriors of Fate, and Knights of the Round. The big draw outside of Final Fight for me is the inclusion of Armored Warriors and Battle Circuit which have never been released officially outside arcades until now. Outside of Final Fight, I definitely had the most fun playing Knights of the Round and Battle Circuit. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of games in this genre.

    Having only played a few of these games before, it has been great seeing some of the games beat ‘em up fans consider essentials. It has always been easy to play Streets of Rage through various releases and ports but games like Battle Circuit and Armored Warriors are completely new to me and to home releases in general. While the emulation itself is very good, I was hoping to have some visual options like filters or even scanlines. In its current state, you can only change the border art or disable that completely. The screen size is also sadly locked with no way to adjust it like in other collections.

    Another disappointing omission is the lack of a music player. While there is a gallery for concept and character art, having a section for the music like in the other collections or even a video player for the old school commercials would have been a nice addition for fans of the games and for newcomers to see how these games were showcased a long time ago. The audio and music in game are both very good.

    One of the big draws of this release is the online mode. While the Switch version offers a local wireless option which is always great to have and something I consider essential for Switch ports, the online mode has been pretty terrible. I haven’t been able to get a single lag free game even connecting to people nearby online. I had no trouble with the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection online but this is plain bad. I hope they fix this because as of now, I’d consider this collection unplayable if you’re only buying it for online.

    Overall, this collections is great value for fans of beat ‘em up games with an interesting selection of titles. The online mode in its current state is very disappointing on Switch and I hope this gets addressed in a patch soon. If you aren’t a fan of old school beat ‘em ups, there are a lot of tweaks available to make this more approachable but the core gameplay will still remain the same.

    Preview: WWE 2K19

    As with WWE 2K18, Express Interactive and 2K had a preview event for WWE 2K19 ahead of its release next month. The event was yesterday and in addition to playing a near final build of the game on a PS4 Pro, I interviewed Mark Little once again about my experience playing the game, changes, additions, and what to expect in the future. Look out for the interview in a day or two.

    WWE 2K19 is the second game to be made only for current generation systems and while there definitely were some teething issues with 2K18, the team has definitely been able to further polish the game with 2K19. This year’s release has more modes, more wrestlers, and improvements across the board alongside the return of Showcase mode but what has really been interesting is how much better the core gameplay and interface has been in my time playing WWE 2K19.

    On first booting it up, you’re greeted with a much better designed menu and interface that is bringing WWE another step closer to the polish we get in NBA 2K games. Small things like the superstar select have been given an overhaul. The superstar select now uses a stylised version of each superstar rather than their character model which looked bad last year. Visually, this definitely feels a lot better than 2K18 so far.

    The actual wrestling in and outside the ring is better as well. This is partly due to much better performance almost all the way and better animations. One of the new features I got to try was the Payback system. This reminds me a bit of how some fighting games give you a boost to some ability when your health is low as a last resort action. Over here you can choose from various things like Poison Mist to a Low Blow as a last resort attempt to turn the tide of the match. Commentary in game felt a bit better and less irrelevant than it usually is which is always nice.

    Visually, there were a few inconsistencies in this build. While some wrestlers will always look better than others thanks to facial capture not being available for all due to a variety of reasons, the difference in many cases is pretty staggering. It almost feels like some wrestlers’ character models are from a few years ago. This extends to costumes and the interaction between various cosmetics like hats and the opponent or the turnbuckle. The backstage brawl had performance trouble as well when the two superstars move too far away from each other causing the splitscreen mode to get triggered. Performance outside the Backstage Brawl match was good. This even carried over into a Hell in a Cell match that is a lot better than last year’s version.

    As with each new entry, 2K19 boasts the largest roster with more than 200 superstars from various WWE eras to satiate fans from across the board. Since the showcase this year makes a comeback with Daniel Bryan, there are multiple variants for his superstar. It is good to see 2K and WWE still include the American Badass variant for The Undertaker. I still remember that Judgement Day match where he returned from an extended break in a new avatar.

    Overall, WWE 2K19 being the second game built for current generation systems only definitely shows. It feels more polished across the board. I hope some of the visual issues are addressed because we are getting closer to getting a WWE game from 2K that is actually comparable to their NBA 2K games and a fun WWE experience overall. I’m definitely looking forward to playing the full game closer to release. 

    Review: Valkyria Chronicles 4

    The PS3 and 360 era was a very interesting time for Japanese developers. The home consoles didn’t really see many great games from Japan compared to the PS2 era but there were a few true gems. While many developers at the time were either doing multi platform or Xbox 360 only games, SEGA brought out Valkyria Chronicles for the PS3 which was a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. The tactical RPG had a gorgeous art style and was full of well written and designed characters alongside are very good combat system. The series went on to see a PC port and eventually get a proper release once again with Valkyria Chronicles Remastered on PS4. While the games that followed the original were either not well received or unlocalised, SEGA has brought it back in the best way possible.

    Valkyria Chronicles 4 is a new numbered entry in the franchise that is a proper follow up to the original Valkyria Chronicles by doing everything I wanted from a new entry and surpassing expectations. Don’t let the number in the name push you away. Valkyria Chronicles 4 can be played and enjoyed as your first entry into this fantastic franchise.

    This game takes place at the same time as the original Valkyria Chronicles and Valkyria Chronicles 3 but is based on Squad E. The second Europa war is on between the Atlantic Federation and the Eastern Imperial Alliance. Unlike most war story games, the focus on characters and world building here is second to none. The only game based on a war that has managed to surpass that in a Valkyria Chronicles release is Valiant Hearts. You will definitely be attached to Claude, Kai, and more right from the get go. Squad E is a fantastic cast. The localisation is also pretty great overall with appropriately chosen voice actors.

    While this release isn’t a huge step forward from the original in gameplay, there are some great changes and additions. The battle system is enhanced and maps are much bigger. There is a new Grenadier class as well. Combat in general is full of risk reward scenarios. While the AI can be a bit daft at times, there are many situations where not thinking things through will result in you needing to replay missions. If you’re new to Valkyria Chronicles, combat is like a mix between a real time third person shooter and a turn based game.

    An interesting and unique aesthetic is always important for games and while the one on display here is a more refined version of what we had 10 years ago, it still holds up very well. The good thing about the pencil drawn painting style here is that it is timeless. A lot of games from the PS1 and N64 era look pretty terrible today but SEGA’s CANVAS Engine is still great.

    I’ve played Valkyria Chronicles 4 on the Switch in both handheld and docked modes for this review. The Switch version is pretty damn amazing in both modes. When docked, there are a few aspects that could be a bit sharper but performance is solid and the aesthetic can hide some of the fidelity drawbacks. On handheld, this plays and looks even better. I always enjoy playing strategy games on portable devices and it is good to see SEGA putting out such a high quality port when other publishers push out ports that barely run on the Switch. I’d go so far as to say the Switch version is the best version because the performance and visual difference between the other consoles isn’t as drastic as it is for games like DOOM or even the LEGO games.

    I haven’t been able to check the Japanese voice acting yet as it is available as free DLC day one but the English voice acting is great. While I did enjoy the soundtrack in Valkyria Revolution quite a bit (Yasunori Mitsuda can do no wrong), it is great to see Hitoshi Sakamoto return for Valkyria Chronicles 4. The entire project feels like a love letter to fans of the first game and it is something no one ever expected from SEGA.

    As with the original, my only real complaint is the difficulty spikes. Some mid game battles are quite hard but thankfully things get better near the end of the game. You will get used to coasting through battles initially but suddenly have things take a turn for the worst. The problem with a lot of these missions is you can just replay them after planning better once you know the gimmick per say.

    Overall, Valkyria Chronicles 4 is an essential purchase for any tactical RPG fans. It plays brilliantly on the Switch in both modes and SEGA released this on everything including Xbox One with full dual audio support day one. If you’ve been waiting for a true follow up to the amazing Valkyria Chronicles, we finally have it 10 years later on all platforms. It is rare to see a franchise have such a great return to form. We’ve definitely come a long way from an unlocalised PSP mainline entry to one that not only releases on all consoles day one but also happens to be fantastic.

    Review: Hearthstone: The Boomsday Project

    While most people’s first experience with Blizzard was through Diablo or World of Warcraft, mine was through Hearthstone. Blizzard and Hearthstone have come a long way since its debut in 2014 and things have mostly changed for the better across multiple expansions each year and loads of quality of life improvements. Hearthstone expansions used to be either card based or adventure based but things changed with the Journey to Un’Goro release that saw Blizzard only do card based expansions while still doing some single player content. The Boomsday Project arrived in two parts beginning early last month with the cards and at the end of the month with The Puzzle Lab.

    This expansion’s new cards come under a few new mechanics or flavour text. The Magnetic mechanic is by far the weakest of the new ones and it lets you use magnetic minions to fuse with other mechs to create super powerful ones. This mechanic feels a bit tacked on and doesn’t really suit the game’s other well thought out ones. The Omega cards on the other hand are nice because while they have below average stats normally, playing them when you have 10 mana will grant you a lovely bonus. The most interesting mechanic of the expansion is Projects. These cards let you and your opponent gain a bonus in some form.

    The biggest task for developers of collectible card games isn’t pumping out new content for old players but to allow the game evolve and be welcoming to new players. Hearthstone has slowly been improving by retiring certain cards and expansions from Standard play. When Hearthstone originally launched, there was no Standard or Wild. That was already a step in the right direction but Blizzard make things better by putting some cards into the Hall of Fame from the original Classic Set. It has been a month since the expansion launched and little over a week since The Puzzle Lab launched and for the first time in a few expansions, the meta online is actually interesting. Even similar decks have some interesting new additions from The Boomsday Project and things still feel fresh after more than 4 years of Hearthstone.

    Just like Dungeon Run, The Puzzle Lab is a solo experience but is probably one of the best things Blizzard has done for new and returning players in Hearthstone in a long time. Unlike other quests or solo content that requires you to defeat enemies, The Puzzle Lab is full of various levels of increasing difficulties split up into multiple categories. The Mirror challenge set has you using a few cards in your turn to create a board state that has both sides perfect mirrors of each other. The Board Clear one gives you a set of cards to allow you to clear the board through any means necessary. The Survival set has you trying to restore your health to survive a near lethal attack while the Lethal set has you trying to take down your opponent in a single turn with the cards available to you. While the only downside here is the lack of replay value, these puzzles are brilliantly designed and longtime Hearthstone players will find tons of enjoyment here.

    Over the last few months, Blizzard has also improved the mobile client quite a bit. It now has iPhone X support and can even download data in the background when patches are pushed live. I’m pretty surprised that Blizzard still hasn’t supported split view on newer iPads considering how popular the combination of playing Hearthstone while watching something is on PC. In a perfect world, you would be able to watch YouTube or Twitch in split view while playing Hearthstone but Blizzard doesn’t seem to have any intention of adding this.

    Overall, this expansion is great for longtime players and newcomers. While the new card sets still have the issue of requiring a big time and money commitment from players to find a viable deck for ranked mode, The Puzzle Lab which is free for everyone makes up for a lot of shortcomings. Blizzard has also been giving away free packs for logging in during certain weeks which is always good for newer players. If you’ve been playing Hearthstone on and off for a while, this is the expansion to come back to the game for. Newcomers might find things still a bit too daunting but sticking with the game for a few months will be worth it just for the single player content available now and the occasional Arena run.

    Review: Marvel’s Spider-Man

    Ever since it was first revealed back at E3 2016, Marvel’s Spider-Man has consistently had great showings across different events for little over two years at this point. Fans have had to wait through multiple trailers but with Insomniac Games at the helm, expectations are pretty high. Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank PS4 game is a fantastic game and tech showcase for the console but Spider-Man is a whole other beast (or arachnid) in terms of its scope. Thankfully, outside of one annoyance, Marvel’s Spider-Man is brilliant.

    Unlike most reboot or new superhero games, Marvel’s Spider-Man isn’t an origin story or anything. Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) is struggling with adulthood. He has his own things going on with his day job, managing time across various people in his life in addition to fighting crime. This is a sharp contrast to the Arkham games, as it feels more grounded. You get a window into the human side of Peter through the opening moments of the game and his interactions with Mary Jane and Aunt May. When it comes to the story here, there’s a lot to love with tons of surprises and some great cameos. Having J Jonah Jameson peppering in his thoughts and commentary on various situations through the radio that you hear as Spider-Man is an excellent touch. Things start out with you going straight into the action and while you can put the main story on hold for the plethora of side activities available, it never holds back. Without getting into any spoilers, the way the various villains shown off come together and how their motives are revealed is excellent and there are loads of surprises.

    While the opening story moments are action packed, I found myself spending far too much time (in a good way) just exploring the city and slinging all over the place. The traversal is that damn good. You eventually unlock a fast travel option but I never used that until nearing the end of the game because the movement feels superb.  You can zip all over the place with your web and boost a few times before losing momentum. There’s always the option to wall-run across the massive skyscrapers in the city. You can even unlock an ability to do tricks to earn a bit of experience. If you’re up to it, you can go all over and unlock the full map. While you can explore as you please, you unlock the map in a similar way to any other recent open world game through towers. Unlocking one of these reveals the area’s map and lets you see the various collectibles and side activities available.

    I was a bit concerned about how it would overwhelm with icons but as soon as you unlock a few of the different activities or collectibles, you get an option to tweak the map display as you please so it doesn’t feel like one of those open world games where there are more icons than there were dollars invested in the making of said game. Each collectible helps you unlock more suits and various tools that help you out. Combat draws inspiration from recent Arkham games but the great thing about Spider-Man combat is how dynamic it is. You can take out a whole group of varied enemies by just pulling them up into the air one by one and throwing out combos or you can do the whole thing grounded by using the environment to your advantage. There’s a lot of combat here through the main story missions and even the various activities in the map but it never got boring.

    While you start out with a single suit, you slowly get the ability to unlock more and each suit is usually accompanied by a suit power. These range from being able to throw out an area of effect web attack on everyone near you, use the power of punk rock (not joking), and even gain invincibility for a limited time. The best part about Insomniac’s implementation of these suits is that you can use any power with any suit. The actual suit visual is just a cosmetic that appears in every single story moment and cutscene in addition to gameplay. Spider-Man also has loads of gadgets in addition to his web shooter like a drone that helps you out in combat to more powerful impact webshots. As you finish story and side content, levelling up rewards you with a skill point and boost to damage and speed depending on the level. There are three skill trees for you to unlock skills with and this will allow for some interesting combinations when it comes to exploration and combat abilities.

    Outside the main story missions, the side quests are very nice and fleshed out. You even end up unlocking some suits and a lot of experience through side quests and activities. Peter has backpacks scattered all over the map and locating these nets you backpack tokens which you can use to unlock suits. Each side activity has its own currency which can be used to unlock more suits and various skills for suits and gadgets.

    The one big concern I’ve had about the visuals here is not about resolution or performance but the draw distance and pop-in that might be concerning. Thankfully, I had no issues with either of those in my 30 plus hours spent here. Performance was almost flawless with minor slowdown in one particular scene towards the end. Everything else played and looked great. You will be giving the share button on your controller a workout here for sure. The suits are varied and very detailed. The city looks stunning across different weather conditions and times of the day as well. The big photo mode is coming in the day one update and that will be the perfect excuse for me to come back here.

    While there sadly is no Sum 41 music, the use of licensed music here is great. The non licensed aspect isn’t even some generic superhero nonsense but some great compositions across the board. The music that plays when you’re flying across buildings in particular is great. Overall, the audio is pretty damn great when it comes to sound effects for combat and voice acting. Bystanders and pedestrians across the city will often react to you when you’re nearby either praising you or doing things like asking you for an autograph.

    The big annoyance for me in my time is definitely the stealth aspect. There are a few stealth missions spread across the main story and while they are important to the actual plot, the stealth implementation is annoying. Instead of being punished for being spotted with a penalty somewhere, you straight up have to replay the segment after a checkpoint. They aren’t difficult but one of them is very vague and basically breaks the otherwise great pacing of the main story. It is almost as bad and out of place as the one stealth mission in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

    Overall, Marvel’s Spider-Man is yet another fantastic addition to the PS4 library. 2018 has been amazing for PS4 exclusives with God of War, Yakuza 6, Yakuza Kiwami 2, Shadow of the Colossus, and now Spider-Man. While it may not push the boundaries of open world games, Spider-Man gets almost everything right and is a damn fine game that every PS4 owner needs to experience. I can’t wait for the DLC.

    PlayStation Store prepaid cards are finally available in India

    Sony finally brings PlayStation Store cards to India. PlayStation gamers have been wanting ways to buy games digitally without linking any card to PSN.

    Right now, PSN cards are available at Games the Shop. The cards will be available for full game downloads like Marvel’s Spider-Man, DLC like Horizon Zero Dawn’s The Frozen Wilds, top up credit (Rs. 500 up to Rs. 4500) and PS+ subscriptions. These are only for use on the India PSN store and can be used for buying games on PS4, PS3, and PS Vita. Gadgets360 reports that even the upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man DLC and FIFA 19 FUT microtransactions will be made available.

    PS+ subscriptions were already available for 3 months at Rs. 1869 and 12 months at Rs. 4439 but consumers here can finally get DLC alongside games or even buy credit in stores to go all digital.

    [Via Gadgets360]

    Review: Blade Strangers

    Ever since the Nintendo Switch hit the market, loads of smaller publishers have been finding a ton of success on the platform but the biggest supporter overall has easily been Nicalis through publishing other titles and physical releases.  Nicalis has teamed up with Studio Saizensen to release a 2D crossover fighting game that is now available on PS4, Switch, and PC platforms in the form of Blade Strangers and I’ve been playing it for the last few weeks on both PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

    The fighting game genre is stronger than it has been in years with both big and small fighters finding success on multiple platforms. While the bigger ones like DRAGON BALL FighterZ and Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition will always be at the forefront of the competitive scene, smaller ones have been impressing many people with my current favourite fighter being Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]. I loved BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and when Nicalis announced a crossover fighter with characters from Nicalis, Studio Saizensen, and other smaller games coming together, they had my attention. There are a few things that I look for in fighters outside of the usual modes and the most important one for brand new fighters is good tutorial and training modes. Thankfully Blade Strangers delivers in spades here.

    Blade Strangers is a very well designed and accessible fighting game that gets a lot of things right. It doesn’t push the envelope but manages to bring together various characters from franchises you never thought would ever interact in a meaningful manner. I never expected to see Shovel Knight introduce himself in Japanese before proceeding to get beaten up by Isaac in a game but here we are. Each character plays differently as well with specials that would feel right at home in the source games when it comes to animations and sounds.

    Unlike Tekken 7 or even Street Fighter V at launch, Blade Strangers is fully featured from the get go with loads of modes both offline and online. The Story mode is a bit weak with interactions between the various casts. There are differences when you replay it as different characters but I was hoping for something better. I would’ve preferred one single playthrough that covered all the characters. After two or three playthroughs, you will probably end up skipping dialogue to just complete each character’s story.

    The Tutorial is excellent here and well worth your time. It always baffles me how the smaller tier developers manage to craft fantastic tutorials for fighting games while the bigger ones just assume you will spend time learning on your own. There is also a traditional Arcade mode and a survival mode. If you’re on the Switch, the control scheme is simple enough to support single Joy-Con play and you can setup a co-op game on a single Switch with no extra hardware needed. For Online, there’s a Stealth mode that lets you play online without any info being visible. The Casual mode lets you play without rank being affected but your information is visible to the opponent. There is a League mode that is basically ranked mode. I’ve managed finding online matches pretty quickly on Switch over the last few days as well which is always nice for a fighting game since so many of them end up with no one playing after a few days.

    Crossover fighters are built around fanservice and Blade Strangers while being great on its own right as a fighter, has some lovely music from the various franchises included. If you’ve played the source games for characters here, you will find a lot to love. The Isaac music remix is especially nice. This carries over to stages as well.

    The biggest complaint I have is with the visuals. While a lot of the character sprites look nice, some look bad even on the smaller Switch screen. The stages are quite bland as well. Thankfully performance on both platforms has been good both online and offline. When developers use lower resolution sprites, a smoothening filter is often used to make things easier on your eyes like with Cross Tag Battle on PS4 but Blade Strangers doesn’t bother doing anything on either platform so the sprites can look fuzzy. Thankfully the animations are all slick and play out without a hitch on either platform. Character portraits and the story mode dialogue sections look great and it is always good to see some of these characters get new portraits for high resolution displays. If you’re conflicted on which version to get, I’d go with Switch since the visual difference isn’t much between both and the Switch version runs great even in handheld mode.

    Overall, Blade Strangers is a very good fighter that is accessible to newcomers to the genre and worth it for veterans. This is a great gateway game to the world of fighters if you’re a fan of the characters like Shovel Knight, Isaac, Solange, and more featured here but have never played a fighting game before. Hopefully Nicalis can put out a patch to address some of the visual issues in the future and supports this with DLC going forward because there are loads of characters they could add like Commander Video.

    Review: Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate

    After enjoying lots of success on the 3DS with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and then Generations which were both designed from the ground up for the 3DS family of systems, Capcom pulled out all the stops for Monster Hunter: World to bring the franchise to the largest audience possible. This meant the franchise would finally hit home consoles and PC and it worked out well. World happens to be Capcom’s best selling game ever but Nintendo Switch owners have had to wait for an entry to show up in English. A year after the Japanese release, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is finally available exclusively on the Switch and while it is a fantastic game packed with tons of content, there are some things to keep in mind going into it if you got into the franchise through Monster Hunter: World.

    If you aren’t sure what this game is, Generations Ultimate is a Switch port of the enhanced version of Monster Hunter Generations which released only in Japan as Double Cross. That saw a Switch port last year in Japan and we finally have it in English as of today in the form of Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. It is by far the most content packed and feature complete traditional Monster Hunter game ever. With the amount of free DLC coming and the content at launch, this maybe one of the most content packed releases ever.

    Monster Hunter Generations on the 3DS brought loads of new features to the traditional Monster Hunter experience like Hunting Styles and the mode that lets you play as a Palico but it still is an old school Monster Hunter experience. This carries into the user interface, the zone split for the map and various other areas. There’s a lot working against this game when you come into it from World but the area it excels in is the sheer volume of quality content. Comparing it to what you get in World, Generations Ultimate offers nearly three times as much content across the board. If you played the original Generations on 3DS, you can even import your save here.

    While you do get everything Generations had, the new G Rank content and other additions from Double Cross on 3DS make this well worth revisiting even for fans who put in hundreds of hours into Generations. The ergonomics of the Switch and the massive boost in image quality are worth the upgrade already and the added content is icing on the cake. Capcom even made decent use of HD Rumble here.

    Multiplayer has always been a big draw for the franchise and in addition to much better organised multiplayer for online here, you get the ability to play on local wireless with anyone nearby on a Switch. The multiplayer here isn’t seamless like World where you can do quests with others or solo but it is a whole other set of quests. Regardless of whether you’re hunting solo or with friends or other people online or locally, the gameplay loop is as addictive as ever. In my testing both locally and online, the experience is lag free and pretty fantastic.

    This is a 3DS game that was ported to the Switch so while it does look really nice in many areas, the roots are pretty evident with small zones and loading screens in between them. A lot of the textures are also pretty bad in some areas. Thankfully the monsters and animations are great. In fact when it comes to performance, Generations Ultimate is rock solid which is something not even the PS4 Pro or Xbox One X managed to do with World. I know those are different games but it is disappointing that there’s still no rock solid performance mode on consoles for that game.

    The lack of a proper story will be a turn off for many people here. Sure, veterans will feel right at home but newcomers or fans of the franchise coming in from World will not be happy with this aspect. The other big issue stems from the fact that going back to Generations Ultimate after World is difficult thanks to a lot of the UI and quality of life enhancements not being present here. If you’ve played and enjoyed the 3DS entries, this will feel like a big upgrade and it is in almost all aspects but there is a lot that feels archaic after the modern conveniences in World.

    Overall, the lack of quality of life improvements seen in World is probably the only thing holding this back from something I can recommend to all fans of the franchise. If you skipped Monster Hunter: World for a portable experience, this is beyond worth your time and money. It has the potential to be your most played game on the system alongside the likes of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Octopath Traveler. There’s definitely room for both a traditional and a modern Monster Hunter experience today but the release timing is definitely not doing this game any favours thanks to a more modern franchise entry being available on other platforms.

    Review: Yakuza Kiwami 2

    Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the fourth Yakuza game we are seeing on PS4 after what felt like a period where the franchise had no future in the West. Yakuza 0 is one of the best games this generation and the subsequent two releases in the form of Yakuza Kiwami and Yakuza 6 have been excellent but the magic from 0 was missing. Fast forward to today and Yakuza Kiwami 2 is nearly available to everyone on PS4 and this is everything I’ve wanted in a Yakuza game since 0 blew me away. I wrote about my initial impressions of the first four chapters here and having completed the game and spent a good amount of time exploring and doing extra side content, I can safely say that this is a game of the year contender.

    Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a full remake of the PlayStation 2 entry that followed the original Yakuza that saw its own remake in the form of Yakuza Kiwami last year on PS4. The difference is Kiwami 2 is a full remake in the stunning new Dragon Engine built for PS4 and Yakuza 6 and not a cross generation one that we saw in 0 and Kiwami. While 6 had some performance and visual issues, I’m glad to see the team has nailed the visuals and performance here. The content additions and enhancements across the board make this the most gorgeous Yakuza game ever that also happens to play brilliantly.

    After a nice recap of the events of Kiwami (you can still play this without any prior Yakuza game experience), Kiryu finds himself back in the fray despite wanting out with a war brewing. The Omi Alliance and Tojo Clan are nearing an alliance until the antagonist of Kiwami 2 and one of the best written antagonists in recent times Ryuji Goda makes his presence felt. Even their first encounter together is fantastic. Without getting into any spoilers, the overall pacing and plot are both excellent. The only annoyances in the main story come from a few missions that feel tacked on mechanically. Kamurocho and Sotenbori are beyond stunning with a ton of things to do across various minigames and side activities. Outside of Kiryu’s story, Yakuza 0 fans will have a lot to love with the new Majima story that unlocks as you play the main game. This is a prequel that showcases how Goro Majima ended up where he is in Kiwami 2 and has a few superb moments for fans of his character. I wish there was more of this.

    While Yakuza 6 made combat feel a bit more intimate and removed the extra combat styles leading to some disappointment for fans, Kiwami 2 adds a new mechanic that keeps things fresh. Armour and weapons are important here and play a big part in some boss fights. You find weapons scattered across some areas and can now store a few for easy access with the dpad in combat. Some boss battles got over much faster thanks to me having a few good weapons stocked up for when I needed them. There are now heat actions with weapons that are triggered through NPCs which are hilarious. Majima has his own brilliant heat action and animation with his weapon in his story. When you’re fighting alongside someone else as Kiryu, the dual heat actions are a sight to behold.

    As Kiryu, you raise stats through missions and side activities but can still enjoy gaining various points through beverages and food across both locales. Walking seamlessly into a restaurant to eat and then exiting after gaining some stats never gets old. Exploration feels so much better here with a more stable frame rate and no screen tearing. Locker keys scattered around help you with some good armour, weapons, or items you can sell.

    Minigames and substories are always a highlight for me in Yakuza games. Kiwami 2 goes above and beyond here. While I will never stop lamenting the disco minigame going away (I know time periods and all), you will never be board of stuff to do outside the main story. There are 76 substories going by the completion list and after 43 hours of game time I’ve only managed doing 30 of them. The one where you get photographed in an office room will never stop being funny. One substory had someone get beat up over a car while another had a guitarist on a bridge who wanted tissues for his cold. There’s just too much good stuff in these side quests that make exploring and interacting work worth your time.

    Visually, the dragon engine has never looked this good before. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is the best looking SEGA game by far and the attention to detail in the various narrow streets, food joints, and minigame locations is amazing. Gone are the screen tearing and minor stutter seen in some areas on both PS4 consoles in Yakuza 6. Kiwami 2 is a super polished experience when it comes to visuals and character modes. Watching some PS2 gameplay footage after playing this has been crazy. Kiwami 2 feels like the Shadow of the Colossus PS4 remake but with a lot more new content and enhancements.

    I usually discuss how good the battle themes and karaoke songs are here but the highlight for me with Kiwami 2 is SEGA finally licensing the main theme and ending credits music for a Yakuza game. “Bubble” being removed from 0 and “Atom no Ko” being removed from Yakuza 6 were disappointing. I’m glad to see SiM’s songs present as the main theme and the ending credits music for Kiwami 2. I bought the single on iTunes almost instantly after seeing the credits roll. Without going into spoilers, the final boss theme is emotional and it reminded me of a moment from Metal Gear Solid 3.

    The one thing I didn’t like here is the design for a few of the missions. Yakuza 6 had the annoying baby mission and Kiwami 2 has a few missions where you have to either walk wounded or carry someone with the health bar depleting and basically try and avoid people and enemies. These few missions are the only real blemish on this superlative game.

    Overall Yakuza Kiwami 2 is a stunning game with an unforgettable story. If you’ve been waiting for a game to live up to your high expectations from Yakuza 0, this is it. It is still beyond crazy that this is the fourth Yakuza game in less than 2 years and we have a fifth game from the same developers in Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise coming to PS4 in October. With Kiwami 2 SEGA gets everything right and they have definitely learned from the last few games in the franchise for this gorgeous remake.

    PUBG for Xbox One hits 1.0 on September 4th, Limited Edition controller releases October 30th

    Microsoft and PUBG Corp. finally revealed the 1.0 date for PUBG on Xbox One. It hit early access through Game Preview on Xbox One in December. Read our thoughts on that Game Preview release here.

    The full launch next month is accompanied by a retail disc release as well. The box art for it is below:

    The 1.0 release includes War Mode, the Sanhok map, improvements across the board, and more additions including the Event Pass and more cosmetics. October 30th will see a limited edition PUBG controller as well.

    Inside Xbox also had a video segment for it which you can watch below:

    PUBG is available on PC and Xbox One.