Neo: The World Ends With You Review – A Catchy But Familiar Refrain

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix

July 27, 2021
(PlayStation 4,
Switch), 2021 (PC)

Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: Switch
Also on:
PlayStation 4, PC

14 years ago, The World Ends With You hit the Nintendo DS and was praised for its style and innovation. It had an electrifying soundtrack, an exciting battle system that utilized the DS’ touchscreen, and the undeniable hook of exploring Shibuya, Tokyo. There was nothing like it on the market. Neo: The World Ends With You doesn’t make the same grand entrance; instead, it’s content to embrace the first game’s strengths and even some of its faults. What that leaves is an experience that’s still engaging and intriguing, but it doesn’t create a lasting impression like the original.

Neo: The World Ends With You brings in a brand-new cast and the start of a new Reapers’ Game, where players must fight to win or face erasure from the world. Protagonist Rindo gets randomly caught up in the competition when a psychic battle breaks out in front of him and his buddy Fret in the middle of Shibuya. From here, they learn they’ve been transported into the deadly game and must face its stakes: compete against other teams in various challenges around the city if they ever want to return home to the real world or die trying.

This time around, the narrative focuses more on how the places we come to love are shaped by the people with whom we experience them. It’s not quite as dark as the original, and I didn’t experience the same emotional pull, but I still liked the overall message and found the characters endearing. While the narrative is a slow-burn, the plot has compelling revelations and twists, especially how it connects to the first game’s events. If you haven’t played the original, you aren’t likely to feel the impact of reuniting with beloved characters and seeing loose threads tied up. Those aspects are where I felt the most payoff and enjoyment, especially in the finale.

That being said, the new cast quickly won me over. As a cautious and compassionate leader, Rindo is a likable protagonist. It’s refreshing to see someone who genuinely puts others before themselves, even when they disagree with them. His buddy Fret starts out very happy-go-lucky, but then his character develops wonderfully beyond just being Rindo’s lighthearted friend, and we learn why he avoids serious conversations. I also really enjoyed the awkward-yet-perceptive Nagi, who takes her video game fandom very seriously. Many characters come in and out of the story, almost to a fault, so be prepared to have a lot of faces to keep track of throughout the journey. At times, I found this overwhelming and felt it didn’t allow me to form strong attachments to non-party characters, but I also liked the feeling of a large group coming together for the good of Shibuya. 

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Like the first game, you can expect fast-paced combat that rewards you for chaining combos with team members to eventually “drop the beat” for devastating specials. The game still centers on “pins” to customize your abilities in battles. You can equip these on every character for their main battle ability; each pin has a specific ability on a cooldown tied to a particular button input. Not relying on a touchscreen like the first game, this works better than I expected, but I still found it challenging to keep track of all the chaos on-screen at times. Trying to play characters’ abilities using multiple buttons at a time, the combat demands you multitask, making it easy to slip up.

I loved the variety of the different pins and enjoyed experimenting to see which ones worked best together. I had abilities that unleashed giant volcanoes, let me put down minefields, and hurl vehicles at enemies. Finding a new pin and seeing how it changes your play style is a thrill. I constantly shuffled mine up and appreciated how they made me feel my growing power and helped keep combat fresh. When you’re firing on all cylinders and watching your groove rise due to your intelligent pin combinations, the battle system is extremely rewarding. 

A big focus is finding abilities that complement each other, which requires some trial and error. Sometimes it’s easy to figure out, like having a tripwire ability so you can ensure an enemy can’t escape a bomb explosion. Other times, changing one pin can mean life or death in a boss battle, and you won’t know this until you’ve played – and failed – the lengthy encounter. The bosses themselves are fantastic and a highlight of the experience. Every big bad has a cool enemy design and keeps you on your toes in different ways, like having you dodge multiple lasers or finding weak points to break through. 

Click here to watch embedded media

Unfortunately, some of the enjoyment I had with the combat was brought down by another issue: subpar difficulty balancing. For a good chunk of my adventure, things would often be ridiculously easy, and then I’d hit a huge difficulty spike out of nowhere where I’d barely survive. You can adjust the difficulty at any time, but I shouldn’t have to shuffle difficulty to make a fight feel satisfying. 

Another area that falters is the game’s repetitive nature. Like its predecessor, Neo is structured around the Reapers’ Game, which is a blessing and a curse. I love the chaos and frenzy of having to complete the game’s challenges, like defeating a certain number of enemies or solving riddles, but they start to feel like a laundry list of things to do. The game plays out in days, and with each day comes new tasks to reach the top of the game rankings. During this time, you can eat at various restaurants for stat boosts or buy new clothes for your equipment. 

The game has a comfortable rhythm which hooked me at the onset, but the repetitive structure and lack of variety in the tasks really grated. I was excited when the new turf wars, called Scramble Slams, were introduced, until I realized they played out in the most uninteresting way. You’re just killing a certain amount of enemies in each area then a boss to take it over. These can be lengthy affairs and show up on multiple occasions during the game. 

It doesn’t help that the characters’ special abilities to use within the world also feed into this repetition. For instance, Rindo can turn back time once a day, which functions as part of the overall story. I hated this, as it felt tedious and like it just prolonged every day by making you revisit the same scenes and places while sometimes fighting the same enemies again. Nagi has a “dive” ability, which lets her get to the root of people’s complicated emotions; this overused power means you’re battling more enemies to smack some sense into people. Fret can make people recall memories by tilting the left and right sticks in to complete a picture. Unfortunately, I liked Fret’s ability the least, as it requires more precision than I expected. I played on Switch, and using the Pro Controller fared better for me than the Joy-Cons. Unfortunately, the Switch version proved unstable; the game crashed several times. Even after downloading the day-one patch, the issue persisted. 

In some ways, it’s disheartening that Neo: The World Ends With You doesn’t evolve much from its predecessor. It may even feel like a step back, but there’s still a fun game here that I had trouble putting down. The world draws you in, the boss battles provide a worthy challenge, and I loved watching the relationships between characters grow. There’s also some excellent payoff for fans of the first game. Exploring Shibuya and dropping the beat is still a delight, and the music captivates you in the best way. 

Score: 8

Summary: Neo: The World Ends With You faithfully mirrors its predecessor – for better or worse.

Concept: Bring back the Reapers’ Game, where players must fight for their lives, with new characters and events that tie into the original game

Graphics: The comic-inspired dialogue sequences look great, as do the detailed cutscenes, but the environments aren’t all that impressive

Sound: Composer Takeharu Ishimoto is back and delights with catchy tunes that capture the city’s style and essence. The beats are so infectious they stay in your head long after powering the game down

Playability: The mechanics are easy to grasp but can take some time to master. The controls have you focusing on a lot of button inputs in the heat of battle, which can be difficult to keep track of

Entertainment: Neo: The World Ends With You faithfully mirrors its predecessor, offering entertaining combat, endearing characters, and a fabulous world to explore

Replay: Moderate

Click to Purchase


Here’s A Real-Life Version Of Pokémon Red And Blue’s Bicycle

One of the best moments of Pokémon Red and Blue is finally obtaining the bicycle. Quickly speeding across the world you spent hours trudging across on foot feels liberating and you appreciate it as much as any of your pocket monsters. Well, what if I told you that The Pokémon Company is giving away a real-life version of that bike? That’s right it could be yours … as long as you live in Japan.

As spotted by Kotaku, The Pokémon Company is celebrating reaching one million Twitter followers by creating a replica of Generation 1’s bicycle. While garnering a million fans is a big deal, that number has dual significance. It directly references the in-game price tag of the bike, which fans likely remember stood at 1,000,000 Poké-monies (or whatever Pokémon currency is called). Since players’ wallets were capped at 999,999, it was literally impossible to purchase and could only be obtained by trading a bike voucher earned earlier in the game.

Click image thumbnails to view larger version



Before you get too excited about recreating your Kanto adventure in real life, you can’t actually ride this bike. You’ll notice it lacks a bike chain and is purely meant to be displayed. The bike also isn’t for sale and will be given away to one lucky fan that follows the @poke_times Twitter account and retweets ポケモンの100万円じてんしゃ which translates to “# Pokémon’s 1 million yen bicycle”. Anyone can enter but The Pokémon Company states that the bike will only be shipped domestically in Japan. 

The giveaway begins today and runs until August 3. If you reside in Japan or at least have an address there the bike can be sent to, may the odds be ever in your favor. If you’re like those of us who are not in Japan, we’ll continue to jealously admire the craftsmanship and fun attention to detail in the photos. 

For a Pokémon thing you can more easily access, check out our review of Pokémon Unite

[Source: The Pokémon Company via Kotaku]

So, any of you living in Japan planning to enter the giveaway? Let us know in the comments!


The Forgotten City Review – A Narrative Masterpiece

Publisher: Dear Villagers
Developer: Modern Storyteller

July 28, 2021
(PlayStation 5,
PlayStation 4,
Xbox Series X/S,
Xbox One,
PC), 2021 (Switch)

Rating: Teen
Reviewed on: PC
Also on:
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch

A Roman city resides within a large mountain, hidden from light and prying eyes. Only 23 people call this secret society home, and they appear to live harmoniously together, but looks can be deceiving. Time has taken its toll on each soul, but they can never leave, and more pressing yet, cannot sin, for even the most minor white lie or act of theft will steal the life from everyone. An angry god lords over this cave, and any misgiving will trigger a curse called “The Golden Rule.” The offenses of previous generations can be seen across this city – grim reminders not to sin, no matter where you are or what you are doing. These people need your help, and they somehow summon you from 2,000 years into the future.

Equipped with technologies they’ve never seen before (like a flashlight), you are now a part of their world – a newcomer that these people don’t seem to fear or question. But why? The Forgotten City skillfully plays up this mystery through a beautifully penned story loaded with meaningful player choice, making you feel like you are genuinely sculpting your path as the plot unfolds.

The name “The Forgotten City” may seem familiar to Skyrim players, as it’s the title of one of that game’s most popular mods, downloaded more than 3 million times, and so successful in its storytelling that it won an Australian Writer’s Guild award. The creator of that mod is Nick Pearce, and he’s taking a second spin with his time-traveling concepts in this excellent standalone game of the same name. While shedding Skyrim’s dark fantasy setting for a brighter aesthetic, it still clings tightly to the Elder Scrolls formula. That’s perfectly fine, as Pearce and his development team at Modern Storyteller play it like a beloved fiddle to bring the characters, their world, and your exploration within it to life in fascinating ways, even if the tech behind it all feels a little dated.

When you step foot in this hidden Roman world, you’ll see it has everything the people need: gardens, water, extravagant homes, yet no way to leave. You arrive via a wormhole and quickly find that your first motivation is to get to know all residents. This task unfolds through extensive conversations that almost always give you numerous questions to ask. Most of The Forgotten City’s gameplay consists of conversations. Thanks to the excellent writing, you walk away from most of these chats with a better understanding of the characters, their motivations, and what they may be up to – not to mention being intrigued by the large narrative that unfolds around it. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot or mystery at hand, but many conversations initiate quests (both critical path and optional) that you can activate and pursue. Most are of the simple variety of locating someone, questioning someone else, or perhaps even setting a trap, but most add up in significant ways when it comes to gaining leads.

The Golden Rule these people are governed by also applies to you, and you may be tempted to break it from time to time in conversations or as you explore the city. A lie could get you an answer, or you could steal a potion you need to heal someone’s illness, but these acts may doom everyone in the process. Doing these things may seem foolish, but here’s where things get interesting: As the people lose their lives, you need to race back to the wormhole to reset time. If you make it, you retain the knowledge you’ve gained and any items you grabbed, but the society resets to square one. You now have information that will help you solve the riddles faster. You can also use the information you learned about people against them, as they are taken aback by the knowledge you are weaponizing.

Time travel is used in awesome ways, and much like the film Groundhog Day, you make parts of the same day different each time you reset it. Modern Storyteller knows people won’t like redoing the same things over and over and found a few solutions to speed up events that you should be repeating. Depending on how you play your hand, you can reach four different endings. A few come up quickly, but the true ending takes about 10 to 15 hours to reach. I managed to see two of these endings (and a timeline shows where the others I missed take place in the larger narrative). Both of my conclusions were somewhat shocking in their setup but satisfying in how they closed the door for the society and my time traveler.

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As the story unfolds, some quests focus intently on a blend of combat and environmental navigation. The combat and jumping mechanics are a little rough (feeling just like Skyrim). Still, these sections remain fun, spin the larger mystery on its head, and above all else, give you a nice break from the conversations at the right times to keep the experience from getting too repetitive.

The Forgotten City does a great job making you feel like a skillful sleuth, pushing you to run across town with sizzling leads. The only downfall to this excitement is some of the more significant moments come up short in visualization. If characters are doing anything other than talking, they often move in strange ways, and the environmental events (like falling debris) are quite janky. You also won’t learn much from facial expressions or body language, as characters are all primarily expressionless, yet are thankfully saved by exceptional voice work and writing.

Regardless of the visual shortcomings, The Forgotten City stands tall as a unique game that pulls you in with its world and words. I got a huge kick using time travel as a detective tool and found many of the characters to be delightful to chat with (even if they hold many dark secrets). If you are in the market for a different type of game that pushes you to stitch together a story in different ways than you would expect, don’t sleep on this inventive experience. It’s one that you won’t soon forget.

Score: 9

Summary: Extensive player choice fuels a mystery that pays off in big ways.

Concept: Time travel and player choice are put to excellent use in a thrilling story

Graphics: The Forgotten City’s roots stretch back to Skyrim, and it still holds those old-school visual traits in the character animations. The world is beautifully conceived and easy to navigate

Sound: The voice cast makes up for the robotic character movements and delivers the emotion you need to make determinations. The score fits the mood nicely

Playability: The writing is so good you look forward to the long conversations

Entertainment: One of the better choice-driven games in recent memory that makes you feel like you have ownership over your actions and the narrative flow

Replay: High

Click to Purchase


The Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters Are Awesome

It’s been a few days since the first three Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters hit Steam and mobile devices, and I’ve had a chance to play through the first title – and I’m absolutely going to be hitting the others. Yes, even 2. While they’re not perfect, they are vastly superior to most of the options that players had to go back and play these classics, and they may eventually be regarded as the definitive editions. Yes, the font is a little off-putting at first, but that can be swapped out in about three seconds, and I also found that I just got used to it after a few hours.

Click here to watch embedded media

In the case of Final Fantasy 1, it’s quite faithful to the original game with some alterations here and there. Sure, you can get ethers so if you want to play a magic-centric party you won’t find yourself out of spells when you hit a critical boss or you’re tackling an extended dungeon crawl. Yeah, the big bad at the end is definitely not the NES version. And there are various tweaks and foibles throughout, but at the end of the day, it feels adherent to the original experience I had on a crummy TV decades ago, while at the same time serving up some minor quality of life upgrades. Perhaps the best thing about this entire series of remasters so far is the absolutely incredible music.

Nobuo Uematsu’s remastered and rearranged musical tracks from these games are worth the ticket of admission alone, in my opinion. While these tunes were always iconic, they absolutely slam with incredible instrumentals now, from the basic battle theme to the banging sounds of the Chaos Shrine. If there is any singular element that makes these games worth going back to and exploring today, these tracks are breathtaking and astonishing in their modern incarnations. You very well may find yourself stepping back from the controller and taking them in. I know I have.

Other small elements include an auto-battle function to help grind out those extra levels for taking on tough bosses with fun party compositions like 4 monks or 4 white mages. There’s also a super handy minimap. sprinting, and a bestiary, but it’s also kind of sad that the bonus content featured in some of the other remasters isn’t around. Still, it’s a wonderful return to some more simplistic games that laid the foundation for one of the most important RPG series of all time.

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While these first three titles are important, the next three are far more so. Final Fantasy 6 is often regarded as the best title in the entire franchise. 4 is my personal favorite, and 5 is actually quite brilliant as you see the job systems come into their full potential. The promise for these already highly-regarded titles with the remaster treatment is incredible, and I can’t wait to head to the moon and beyond again.

Obviously, one of the major concerns right now is that there has been no console announcement for these remasters. It seems a little strange that these new games would be limited to mobile and PC, so I’m hoping that we’ll hear about a bundled package for consoles after all the titles have been completed and released.

Final Fantasy still rocks, so many years later. Grab a fighter, a thief, a white mage, and a black mage and go explore the world. Or ya know, 4 black mages. Whatever you feel like!


Halo Infinite Gameplay Flight Test Footage – Game Informer Live

It’s Halo time, baby! The first Halo Infinite Flight Test is now live, and we’ve got that Spartan spirit! We are ready to rock out with our new Pulse Carbines out. To kick off the testing period for Master Chief’s latest adventure, we here at Game Informer are diving all in to make the Halo community proud. Join us, won’t you, for a special two-hour stream while we dive right into some multiplayer action. 

The Halo Infinite Flight Test is the first of several early access periods 343 is hosting before the game’s launch later this year. This particular testing period offers a first look at multiplayer with just one map. Unfortunately, it’s against bots, which would make us losing all the more embarrassing. Which, really, if you think about it, just gives you more reason to watch! Make fun of us, cheer us on, dealer’s choice. 

Join Alex Stadnik, John Carson, and Liana Ruppert as they check out Halo Infinite for the first time. You can find us on our YouTube and Twitch channels to join in on the fun live starting at 2 p.m. CT. Join in on the conversation, talk about your favorite Master Chief moments, where you want to see the franchise go next, and show Craig the Brute some mad love. Just remember: this is a multiplayer-only Flight Test, so we won’t be streaming any of the story, but we will be talking about the unique weapons that the new game brings, so if you’re interested – all are welcome! 

Also included in the Flight Test is the ability to play around with the Battle Pass a little bit. The Battle Pass is optional and will, like most, include cosmetic options. That being said, 343 has confirmed that it will only offer cosmetic options and nothing that could be interpreted as supporting a pay-to-win model. Unlike most, however, it won’t be a time-sensitive feature. For example, like Destiny 2’s, others are only available for a limited-time-only, which means the cosmetic options available disappear in the void; Infinite’s never expires. Players can take as much time as they want on each Battle Pass, even purchasing older ones if they come into the game early. While you can only progress through one Battle Pass at a time, there is not a time limit placed upon them. 

To learn more about the upcoming 343 Industries shooter, check out our dedicated Halo Infinite hub here. We’ve got gameplay, updates, and incredible inside looks from the studio itself. 


Halo Infinite Multiplayer Technical Preview – New Gameplay Today

Click to watch embedded media

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Developer: 343 Industries


Rating: Teen
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC

Halo Infinite has been in the crosshairs of the gaming community since it was announced at E3 2018. Originally set to release last November alongside the launch of the Xbox Series X and S, growing concerns about the game following an extended look at the campaign caused 343 Industries and Microsoft to reconsider when Infinite was ready for prime time.

Now, almost exactly a year since gameplay was first shown, we’re finally getting hands-on time with Halo Infinite in a technical multiplayer beta. Join Alex Stadnik, Liana Ruppert, and John Carson as they share their first impressions of the game and give a look at Halo Infinite multiplayer in action. How does it look? What’s new and different compared to previous entries? Does it live up to the grandiose reputation of Microsoft’s first-person juggernaut? We cover those questions and more in this episode of New Gameplay Today.

This technical flight for Halo Infinite is currently limited to folks who signed up for, and were chosen through, the Halo Waypoint website. Multiplayer is one of two modes found within this test, alongside the Academy, a series of gun-specific challenges which lets the player loose at a firing range to rack up high scores. Currently, the multiplayer matches are 4v4 Slayer matches on the new map called Live Fire. It’s a condensed battleground that keeps the action fast and consistent, while retaining many paths for getting around the map. Matches during this test consist of matchmade human teams warring against AI driven bots. While we’d prefer to go head-to-head against real people and really put these Spartans through their paces, that experience will have to wait for another time.

Halo Infinite is set to release on an undisclosed date later this year for Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. How do you think Infinite is shaping up? Which weapons are you looking to know more about in this technical flight?


Marvel’s Avengers’ War For Wakanda Begins In August

War for Wakanda is easily the most exciting expansion to hit Marvel’s Avengers, and we finally know when it’s coming. On August 17, players will get to take control of Black Panther to explore a brand new story serving as the game’s largest content update yet. 

In addition to adding a Christopher Judge-voiced T’Challa to the roster of heroes, the free expansion (yes expansion and not an Operation like with Kate Bishop and Hawkeye) introduces new enemy types and two supervillains, one of which is Klaw. Black Panther’s long-time nemesis has teamed up with AIM to invade Wakanda to steal its precious vibranium. 

Wakanda, with its futuristic Royal Palace and surrounding jungles, offer a vibrant new biome to explore that contains the Birnin Zana Outpost, the laboratory of T’Challa’s brilliant sister, Shuri, and other locations. There’s also a new drop zone for solo or team play. In addition to the story quests, players can engage in new threat sector missions and other superheroic activities. Of course, you can also expect plenty of new hero outfits as well as a power level increase. 

Marvel's Avengers

For a deep dive into what War for Wakanda entails, Crystal Dynamics will stream an Avengers War Table on its Twitch channel on August 16 at 10 a.m PT. The presentation will share additional details and show off new footage of the expansion in action.

If you love you some Black Panther but are on the fence about Marvel’s Avengers as a whole, you can play the entire game for free thanks to an all-access period running now until August 1 for the PlayStation, PC, and Stadia versions of the game. During this time Marvel’s Avengers is available at a 40% discount should you decide to buy, and your progress will carry over as well. There’s also a 400% XP gain in effect and 50% off sale for the in-game store. The Tachyon Anomaly event also makes a return. For Xbox players, Crystal Dynamics promises a similar all-access period will come to those platforms in the coming months. 

Marvel’s Avengers is currently available for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC. 


Report: Horizon Forbidden West Delayed To 2022

Earlier this year, Sony shared an extensive look at Aloy’s continued story with Horizon Forbidden West, but the lack of a release window had many wondering if we would see the sequel this year. Following the rumors that followed said speculation, Horizon Forbidden West has officially been delayed to 2022. 

According to a new report from Bloombergthe open-world story of Aloy is set to continue some time in the first quarter of 2022, though an exact date has not been revealed at this time. The news broke via a “person familiar with the matter,” according to the site following PlayStation’s Hermen Hulst’s previous statements that the game was still on track for a holiday release back in June. While Hulst sounded hopeful that the release progress would remain on course, he did mention that nothing was “quite certain” yet, leaving wiggle room in case a delay was inevitable. 

Game Informer has reached out to Sony, though no comment has been made at the time this article was written. 

When Horizon Zero Dawn was first released on PlayStation 4, it was an instant hit with the PS community. The franchise’s dual-nature setting with futuristic technology in a more tribal society made the parallels between the two worlds a unique one for the game’s narrative. With Forbidden West promising even more adventures, a larger world to get lost in, and new ways to master combat and hone Aloy’s skills, the upcoming journey from Guerrilla Games aims to take what so many loved from the first adventure and make it even better. 

To learn more about the game thus far, including more footage, behind-the-scenes looks, and special interviews with the team at Guerilla Games, check out our dedicated game hub here


Halo Infinite Gameplay Flight Test Footage – Game Informer Live

It’s Halo time, baby! The first Halo Infinite Flight Test is now live, and we’ve got that Spartan spirit, and we are ready to rock out with our new Pulse Carbines out. To kick off the testing period for Master Chief’s latest adventure, we here at Game Informer are diving all in to make the Halo community proud. Join us, won’t you, for a special two-hour stream while we dive right into some multiplayer action. 

The Halo Infinite Flight Test is the first of several early access periods 343 is hosting before the game’s launch later this year. This particular testing period offers a first look at multiplayer with just one map. Unfortunately, it’s against bots, which would make us losing all the more embarrassing. Which, really, if you think about it, just gives you more reason to watch! Make fun of us, cheer us on, dealer’s choice. 

Join Alex Stadnik, John Carson, and Liana Ruppert as they check out Halo Infinite for the first time. You can find us on our YouTube and Twitch channels to join in on the fun live starting at 2 p.m. CT. Join in on the conversation, talk about your favorite Master Chief moments, where you want to see the franchise go next, and show Craig the Brute some mad love. Just remember: this is a multiplayer-only Flight Test, so we won’t be streaming any of the story, but we will be talking about the unique weapons that the new game brings, so if you’re interested – all are welcome! 

Also included in the Flight Test is the ability to play around with the Battle Pass a little bit. The Battle Pass is optional and will, like most, include cosmetic options. That being said, 343 has confirmed that it will only offer cosmetic options and nothing that could be interpreted as supporting a pay-to-win model. Unlike most, however, it won’t be a time-sensitive feature. For example, like Destiny 2’s, others are only available for a limited-time-only, which means the cosmetic options available disappear in the void; Infinite’s never expires. Players can take as much time as they want on each Battle Pass, even purchasing older ones if they come into the game early. While you can only progress through one Battle Pass at a time, there is not a time limit placed upon them. 

To learn more about the upcoming 343 Industries shooter, check out our dedicated Halo Infinite hub here. We’ve got gameplay, updates, and incredible inside looks from the studio itself. 


Sonic Team Looks Back At The Blue Blur’s First 30 Years

Earlier this summer, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise turned 30 years old. Sega marked the occasion by holding a Sonic Central stream that teased three new projects (Sonic Colors: Ultimate, Sonic Origins, and an untitled mainline Sonic game) in May, followed by a special 30th-anniversary concert featuring an orchestra playing classic Sonic music.

With the bulk of the celebrations in the rear-view mirror, we caught up with five longtime developers from Sonic Team. Ranging from directors and producers to composers and artists, we covered the spectrum to learn about each individual’s unique experiences with the franchise, as well as what 30 years of Sonic means to them. 

What is your first memory of working on the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise?
Takashi Iizuka, creative officer, head of Sonic Team:
Moving to America and living there for a year and a half to develop Sonic 3 is my first memory. For someone like me who had never experienced being in a foreign country before, it was an exciting and fresh experience.

Hiroshi Nishiyama, art director: Being responsible for creating the 3D Sonic World in Sonic Jam. It was really hard doing texture design with the new shapes and models, but because of that I was able to really make things shine in Sonic Adventure, so that is a great memory.

Kazuyuki Hoshino, creative director: I joined Sega in 1991 and my first memory was going to a game show with [co-creator of Sonic the Hedgehog Naoto] Ohshima-san and at the show getting introduced to [co-creator Yuji] Naka-san who had just gotten back from America. It all started from there.

Yuji Uekawa, character designer: Sonic Jam was the first Sonic title I worked on, and was the first game in the series that used 3D polygons for the characters and environments, so everything felt fresh and it seemed like anything was possible.

Jun Senoue, sound director, guitarist of Crush 40: My first memory was about the process for selecting music on Sonic 3 when development was happening over in America. On the Japan side we would create a demo tape of all the tracks we created, then send that tape to America via boat, and the comments we would get back after the team in America reviewed the tape all came by fax!

Do you have a specific moment you remember when you realized just how big the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and character had become?
There have been many moments over the years where I have felt just how big the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise has become. The first time was in 1993 with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then again in 1998 when we had over 10,000 people show up for the big event where Sonic Adventure was first announced, and even just last year in 2020 when the Hollywood movie was released.

Nishiyama: For me it was the big Sonic Adventure title reveal event in 1998 and the release of the Hollywood movie in 2020. Even to this day, I will never forget seeing just how excited the fans were.

Hoshino: Hmm, every time I meet up with all of our fans I get that feeling, but if I exclude that I would say a couple of years ago when some characters that looked a lot like Sonic and Knuckles took over the internet as a viral meme, maybe?

Uekawa: It’s not too surprising when it happens in the the game industry, but once we started having collaboration with other strong IPs from comics and movies and moving across different media was definitely a moment, also the reality of where we stand now that we have tons of licensed Sonic product being sold all over the world would be another moment for me.

Senoue: The fact that he is widely recognized by so many people is what gets me. Whenever you say the name “Sonic” it doesn’t matter if the person is young or old or male or female, they always say “Oh, yeah, I know Sonic!” and a blue hedgehog pops to their mind. And, of course, having a major Hollywood movie come out in 2020 really expanding the franchise is another great reason why so many people know him.

What was your favorite Sonic game to work on?
It was Sonic Adventure 2, and we had all of the development team move out to America to make it there. It was a small development team so we were able to condense all the good elements from the previous game, and deliver a story and game that was satisfying to players everywhere.

Nishiyama: It was when we moved out to America to develop Sonic Adventure 2. I had a lot of new ideas for the game because of all the new stimulus and experiences I got by living in America and was able to make a game with a lot of great moments together with the other members.

Hoshino: On Shadow the Hedgehog I had a lot of fun as a character designer. It wasn’t only the robots that Eggman created, but also human soldiers, and weapons and vehicles from an alien civilization – I really threw myself into making a game that was totally different from what the normal conventions of what a game was thought to be was back in the day. Did everyone enjoy it?

Uekawa: It was Sonic Adventure, where I was the character designer and also had to make the models and animations for the characters. I also made all of the artwork used for publicity for the title, so it is a game that has a lot of meaning for me personally.

Senoue: It was making Sonic Adventure 2 in America with the small development team there locally. This new environment everyone from the team was in creating a very stimulating experience, so we had a lot of fun while also stoically developing the game.

Sonic Mania

What is your favorite Sonic the Hedgehog game to play?
The first title I would recommend is Sonic Mania because it condenses all the fun of the classic Sonic titles into one experience. For those that like the 3D Sonic games I would recommend Sonic Colors: Ultimate because of the variety of play styles.

Nishiyama: Sonic Heroes was a title I worked on that had a lot of variety in the world, needing to strategically use the unique skills of each character to play the game with a high level of teamwork, so I really like that.

Hoshino: Sonic Heroes is a game I had a lot of fun playing with my friends because we would be strategizing as a team while we played. Each team has its own finishing move, so it was always so fun matching up each member’s unique abilities.

Uekawa: I would say the original Sonic the Hedgehog. It has simple controls, vivid graphics, and very pure gameplay.

Senoue: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on the Genesis. I enjoyed playing the first Sonic the Hedgehog, but in such a short amount of time we got this new title that was powered up and had a variety of new things added to it, and it was such a fun game to experience. As a fan, this was one of those titles I really got into and was impressed by.

Who is your favorite Sonic the Hedgehog character other than Sonic?
It would have to be Shadow. One reason why I have this affinity is probably because I helped create and form the character, but I also really like his backstory as a dark hero.

Nishiyama: Back before I joined Sega and was playing Sonic games I would have to say Knuckles from Sonic 3. I liked the mysterious background, how he was all alone guarding the Master Emerald. When I joined the team I helped create Shadow, so he is another character I really like.

Hoshino: I think the passion Dr. Eggman has for constantly creating things no matter what challenged he faces is amazing. I really wonder how many hours he works every day to make all that stuff?

Uekawa: I am one of those people who really like Big the Cat. I appreciate his casual and relaxed attitude towards a slow life, which is in contrast to Sonic who is always so busy.

Senoue: Shadow. Part of the reason why is because I was a part of the team that created him, but I also like his dialogue (especially in Japanese), as well as the color combination of black and red.

Sonic Forces

When you started working on the series, did you ever think it would reach the 30th anniversary and still be going strong?
I first started working on the series when I was 21, so I had never even thought about 30 years into the future. But at the time I did have that desire to want to keep making Sonic games forever.

Nishiyama: I was just focused on giving my best effort on what I had to do right in the moment, so I wasn’t really thinking about the future. I do remember having a really strong impression that Sonic was cool and the gameplay was really fun as we were developing things.

Hoshino: After the world really expanded for the Sonic characters with Sonic Adventure, I really felt there were still a lot of stories to tell and a lot of challenges to face with the series. As long as that stays true, Sonic will continue.

Uekawa: To be honest, I didn’t even think of what the next couple of years would be like. Part of that was because we just continued making games and doing more licensing and the Sonic IP just never seemed to stop. It feels like, because we kept moving forward, as a result, we are here now 30 years later.

Senoue: When I was in my early 20s there was no way I could even imagine myself in my 50s, so in a similar way I was unable to even imagine what Sonic would be 30 years in the future. From the beginning, Sonic started us on this amazing adventure and here we are now 30 years later getting to celebrate this milestone.

Sonic Colors: Ultimate

What does the franchise reaching the 30th anniversary mean to you?
I am so happy to have been able to bring fun and excitement to people around the world through the 30 years of our team’s efforts at work. I am also very happy Sonic has gotten so much support from our fans over the past 30 years.

Nishiyama: I am happy to know that after 30 years of fun Sonic has left an indelible mark on the lives of our fans. I am also looking forward to delivering some more fun games to people in the near future.

Hoshino: My career in this industry is also hitting 30 years. Turning around and looking back at things makes me realize just how far we have come. I look forward to thinking of new ways to entertain our fans for the next 30 years to come!

Uekaya: 30 years is a long time, but I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that the support for Sonic is a testament to all of the members of the team. I look forward to sharing the NOW with our fans, and together with the fans sharing the fun times in the future.

Senoue: I believe the past 30 years have been built alongside our fans, so I would really like to celebrate with everyone for making this happen. Happy 30th Anniversary Sonic!!

For more on the 30th anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog, check out our interview with Takashi Iizuka about all of the announcements the team made during the Sonic Central presentation in May here. You can also watch the full Sonic Symphony performance (at the end of which Jun Senoue and Crush 40 performed) here. Finally, if you’d like more historical looks at the Sonic series, including why the series experienced such a downturn, why Sonic 2 was Sega’s great hope, and how Sonic made the leap to Nintendo platforms after the Dreamcast was discontinued, check out the articles listed below:


PS5 Abandoned Game Speculation Continues When Another Tie To Konami Was Spotted

BlueBox Game Studios can’t seem to escape the rumors that the PS5 game Abandoned is actually a Silent Hill adventure in disguise. There have been many theories about what Abandoned would be, but one of the most prevalent rumors links it back to being a Silent Hill project that Hideo Kojima is keeping hidden. Studio head Hasan Kahraman has plainly stated in the past that Abandoned is its own game, in no way related to Kojima, Konami, or Silent Hill. However, that wasn’t enough to assuage fan theories because an additional Konami link has been discovered, kicking the proverbial hornet nest once more. 

Kahraman recently appeared on a podcast to promote the mysterious PlayStation 5 game. As with anything Abandoned-related, the internet immediately assumed a sleuth position and found out that the podcast called Al Hub is actually sponsored by Konami. When Al Hub tweeted out its interview with Kahraman, intrigued mystery lovers got to work. In the original findings, the podcast shared that Konami was sponsoring the interview, then it was taken down and replaced with Bloober Team (a studio also rumored to be working on Silent Hill). The third time was the charm because a third edit reposted Konami as a sponsor alongside Bloober. 

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Though Kahraman has point blank denied that Abandoned is related to Kojima or Konami, a recent teaser from just this week seems to contradict that directly. At least if you read into the comment section. BlueBox tweeted a new image for Abandoned with a blurred background of an older man with an eyepatch, not unlike in a certain Metal Gear series, with blurred text in the background that many believe reads “Welcome to Silent Hill.” If you missed it, you could catch up on the latest puzzle piece with our previous coverage here

Abandoned is certainly one of the greatest mysteries in gaming right now, but this entire situation does bring up a concern. Abandoned seems to be promising a lot with such a small team and a team that we don’t really have any history with for comparison. Where my concern comes in is that the speculation-driven hype surrounding the elusive PS5 game will place deep-rooted expectations on what Abandoned even is, and these expectations will likely be impossible to reach because the very experience itself isn’t what people are assuming. It will be interesting to see what the road to launch looks like, especially if the past month is any indicator. 


Pokémon Unite Review – A Thunder Shock To The System

pokémon unite review

Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Developer: Tencent Games

July 21, 2021

Rating: Everyone
Reviewed on: Switch

The MOBA genre is a competitive space, as it typically features robust rulesets, requires team cooperation, and has a high skill ceiling that doesn’t always welcome new players. Games like League of Legends and Dota 2 continually change their gameplay meta with the release of new characters, which is a hurdle for fledgling players. Newcomers have much to digest, but if you put in the effort, you’re rewarded with loveable characters, strategic battles, and interesting gameplay mechanics. Pokémon Unite distills the genre’s characteristics into an easy-to-understand format and brings its beloved pocket monsters into the fold, resulting in a genuinely fun and approachable MOBA, albeit with a flawed microtransaction system. 

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Unite’s Standard Battle mode is the centerpiece of the experience, featuring battles between two teams of five Pokémon. After selecting characters, consumable battle items, and stat-boosting held items, each team starts the match on opposite ends of the map. Experience points are earned by eliminating smaller Pokémon, destroying enemy goal zones, and defeating other players. You slowly unlock new abilities throughout the match, and after enough experience, fully evolve your Pokémon into their final form. I like that Unite doesn’t shake up the mold, because the series’ loveable monsters and flashy powers are a perfect fit with this format.

Unite features over 20 playable characters, ranging from fan favorites like Pikachu and Venusaur to lesser-known Pokémon like Cramorant and Crustle. There’s a nice range of Pokémon including originals from Red and Blue all the way up to popular monsters from Sword and Shield, though strangely there isn’t a single Pokémon included from the series’ second generation, Gold and Silver. Each character is grouped into one of five battle classes: All-Rounder, Attacker, Defender, Speedster, and Supporter. While characters don’t have elemental weaknesses like in mainline Pokémon games, each critter has unique stats, ability trees, and Unite Moves that make them distinct from one another. This is where Unite shines.

Pokémon Unite

Each Pokémon’s moveset remains faithful to the franchise but also makes sense in the context of a MOBA, and I love experimenting with different ability loadouts with each Pokémon. Sometimes I pick abilities like Flamethrower and Fire Blast that allow Charizard to be a spellcaster, and in other games, I focus on melee fights by unlocking Fire Punch or Flare Blitz. Charizard’s Unite Move, Seismic Slam, is pure spectacle, as he jumps into the air and soars above the map, spewing molten flames onto enemies below. At the end of his Unite Move, he picks up the nearest enemy Pokémon and slams them back into the pavement. When I’m not playing as an All-Rounder like Charizard, I prefer to play as Crustle, who has a completely different role. As a Defender, this crustacean assists the team by stunning enemies, tanking damage, and blocking paths with his Rock Tomb ability. I love partnering with an attack-focused Pokémon and working together to lock down and isolate enemies from their team.

Each path on the map is populated with goal zones teams must attack or defend by obtaining Aeos Energy. Players collect Aeos by defeating wild Pokémon near the path, and then slam-dunking that energy into enemy goal zones. After depositing enough Aeos energy, a goal zone is destroyed, opening the next part of the lane. After 10 minutes, the team with the most deposited points wins the match; these short time limits make losses easier to swallow and help to cultivate an online environment that focuses on fun.

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Matches are full of additional objectives to conquer, like Zapdos, that pop up throughout the match. Zapdos, in particular, is incredibly powerful and doesn’t spawn until the last two minutes of the match. The team that successfully defeats the Legendary bird is rewarded with an enormous goal-scoring buff that can potentially change the tide of battle. While I really like the catch-up potential this brings to the game, there’s nothing more frustrating than playing strategically for the majority of the match and losing Zapdos because one teammate isn’t paying attention. But to be fair, that’s part of what makes MOBAs so exciting. On the top path, players can battle and escort the electrically charged Rotom to leave enemy goal zones vulnerable. Meanwhile, Drednaw resides on the bottom path and grants a shield buff to whichever team successfully defeats him first. These Pokémon are fun to hunt and have my imagination racing with ideas for other characters they could swap in during future events.

Pokémon Unite’s microtransaction systems let you purchase a battle pass and all sorts of fashionable cosmetics for your trainer and Pokémon. This is standard fare for free-to-play games. Unfortunately, Unite drops the ball by allowing players to purchase item enhancers that can level up a Pokémon’s held items and boost their stats. Players can obtain these item enhancers for free by simply playing the game, but it takes weeks to fully upgrade an item to its level cap. I haven’t experienced a tangible disadvantage playing the game without purchasing microtransactions, but this system’s pay-to-win potential certainly diminishes its long-term competitive integrity.

Pokémon Unite is a fun way to spend your time despite these frustrations. The game eats away the hours of my day as I reassuringly say to myself, “Just one more match.” Battles play out with the spectacle that the Pokémon series is known for, and with so many abilities to choose from, no match feels the same as the last. The game’s simple mechanics and recognizable characters make for an approachable MOBA experience; and with a potential catalog of nearly 900 Pokémon to pick from, my hopes are high for the future of Pokémon Unite.

Score: 8

Summary: This Pokémon MOBA is an exciting interpretation of the franchise with flawed microtransaction systems.

Concept: Duke it out with your favorite Pocket Monsters in a 5v5 online multiplayer arena

Graphics: Pokémon are faithfully rendered in 3D and their ability animations make battles even more satisfying

Sound: Orchestral horns, bombastic drums, and electric guitars imitate classic battle themes and fill me with nostalgia

Playability: Certain Pokémon have lower difficulty tiers with approachable mechanics while others provide a high skill ceiling with context-sensitive abilities

Entertainment: Recognizable Pokémon, distinct movesets, stylish animations, and easy-to-understand objectives make this a good introduction to the MOBA genre

Replay: High

Click to Purchase


Ubisoft Employees Say CEO Yves Guillemot “Sidelined” Demands In Activision Blizzard Open Letter

Earlier this week, over one thousand Ubisoft employees, both current and former, penned an open letter to executives, including CEO Yves Guillemot, demanding change in relation to workplace abuse allegations. The open letter was also drawn up in support of the Activision Blizzard walkout that occurred earlier this week in protest of a similar issue after details of an ongoing lawsuit against the company were made public. Now, the group behind the letter says that despite public statements being made by leadership, the reported behavior behind the scenes does not match what is being said on the surface. 

Following the open letter to leadership, Guillemot responded with an internal email to all Ubisoft staff. Game Informer was able to confirm the contents of the letter, first shared by Axios’ Stephen Totilo. The most recent email, much like previous statements against the allegations of sexual misconduct and workplace abuse, claims to be working towards making Ubisoft a better environment to be in and has “made important progress over the year.” It also talked about how meaningful change takes time, but previous reports earlier this Summer allege that nothing has been done save the first wave of public firings of high-level executives and one member of HR. 

The initial email from Guillemot also included plans to continue investigating the matters at hand in Q3 and will share an “HR roadmap” during that time. Shortly after the internal email went public, the group that organized the first open letter told that the demands of the initial correspondence were “sidelined” and that only “a few” points in their expressed memo were even addressed. “We are aware that the company has made some improvements, and we are happy to hear that Yves and the leadership team agree that it is not enough,” a Ubisoft employee told the site in relation to the letter. “However, Ubisoft continues to protect and promote known offenders and their allies. We see management continuing to avoid this issue. It is also worth clarifying that an invitation to reach out to company management personally is not the same as having a collective seat at the table.”

It was said that the group hopes that the rest of the demands and points made are addressed in a “full response,” calling for an industry-wide effort to combat what is becoming an apparent widespread issue. This group reiterated the purpose of seeing “real, fundamental change” not only at Ubisoft but everywhere in the gaming industry. For this to happen, honest conversations need to be had, and leadership not involved in the alleged discrimination and misconduct needs to step up and swiftly act to correct these internal issues. This includes toxic workplace culture that is detailed in the “cubicle crawls” detailed in the Activision Blizzard lawsuit, it includes pay discrimination based on gender. The details alleged in the lawsuit show a reported increase in negligence and harmful behavior against women of color, in particular.

The statement from the Ubisoft group pushing for change ended, saying: “It’s exhausting, frustrating, and it counters the messaging they give us. We cannot be happy or satisfied with this hypocrisy. For the one person who signed, there are countless others who simply were too terrified. Do better or keep losing good people.”


Pokémon Unite Review, Early Looks At Tales of Arise And Darkest Dungeon II – GI Show

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In this week’s episode of The Game Informer Show, we discuss a handful of games we’ve been digging recently, including Pokémon Unite, Wildermyth, Genshin Impact 2.0, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, Neo: The World Ends with You, and Tribes of Midgard. We also talk about our newest Game Informer cover story: Tales of Arise. Then Dan describes his time talking to Red Hook Studios about Darkest Dungeon II.

Pokémon Unite has been one of the bigger surprises and might be a good breakout MOBA for a lot of people. Alex says he “can’t put this damn game down. It’s a genuinely fun MOBA with a pocket monster twist, and it’s probably better than you think.” Wildermyth is an indie strategy game that shouldn’t be overlooked. We were a little late to the review party, but in his review, Dan said, “If you’ve always wanted a fantasy Dungeons & Dragons stylized XCOM game, Wildermyth might be exactly what you’re looking for.” Meanwhile, Neo: The World Ends With You is the long-awaited sequel to the beloved JRPG The World End With You. Kim said, “It captures the magic of what made the first game so special, but it also retains some of its bigger issues and frustrations with difficulty balancing and the repetition of tedious tasks.”

It’s a full show, but we make time for another fantastic round of community emails. So please join Dan Tack (@dantack), Jill Grodt (@Finruin), Alex Van Aken (@itsVanAken), Kimberley Wallace (@kstar1785), and Ben Reeves (@Benjaminreeves) for a new wild and ever-entertaining episode!

Thanks for listening! Please make sure to leave feedback below and share the episode if you enjoyed it. You can watch the video above, subscribe and listen to the audio on iTunes or Google Playlisten on SoundCloudstream it on Spotify, or download the MP3 at the bottom of the page. Also, be sure to send your questions to for a chance to have them answered on the show!

Our thanks to The Rapture Twins for The Game Informer Show’s intro song. You can hear more of their music on their website.

To jump to a particular point in the discussion, check out the time stamps below:

00:00:00 – Introduction

00:02:34 – Neo: The World Ends With You

00:14:56 – Great Ace Attorney Chronicles

00:22:49 –  Wildermyth

00:27:50: Genshin Impact 2.0

00:31:51: Pokémon Unite 

00:41:45: Tribes of Midgard

00:50:18: Tales of Arise Cover Reveal Discussion

01:02:43: Darkest Dungeon II

01:09:36: Community Emails


Rounding Up Everything In Today’s Annapurna Interactive Showcase

A month after the flurry of events surrounding E3 week back in June, indie publisher Annapurna Interactive put on a gaming showcase of its own. The company’s debut presentation was filled with fun game announcements, release date reveals, and a few surprises.

We were excited to see more of several Annapurna titles going into the show and we were not disappointed. Stray, Solar Ash, The Artful Escape, and Neon White, among others, all took the spotlight today with fresh trailers and exciting news to share.  The show even revealed a handful of new indie projects and we may have to update our list of indie games to watch.

If you missed the Annapurna Interactive Showcase, don’t worry. We have rounded up all the exciting games and announcements from the show for you. 

The Artful Escape

Kicking off Annapurna’s presentation with a bang was The Artful Escape. It’s been a long journey for Beethoven and Dinosaur’s rock adventure, but The Artful Escape finally has a release date and an impressive, star-filled, cast. Some of the actors lending their voices to the title include Lena Headey, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Strong, and Carl Weathers. The Artful Escape jams out on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox Game Pass, and PC on Sept 9.

Neon White

The creator behind Donut County, Ben Esposito, decided to shake things up for Neon White. Instead of raccoons, you’ll find demon assassins taking the stage in this first-person shooter with card mechanics. The main character, White, has days to clear all the other demons from Heaven. If he is successful, he might just get to stay up in the clouds. The new trailer in today’s presentation showed off the game’s gunplay and relationship system.

A Memoir Blue

Reality and reveries blend together in A Memoir Blue, a new, aquatically-inspired game by Cloisters Interactive. The reveal trailer features a series of recollections that play out in front of Miriam, a champion swimmer. Her childhood memories of one special day with her mother manifest in the game as wonderful, hand-drawn art. These memories blur the line between the character’s thoughts and the world around her.


One of the most unique announcements of the presentation, Storyteller challenges its players to create literary masterpieces. This puzzle game will start you off with primary figures of the story, a fitting place for the action, and important themes. It is your task to successfully weave all these elements together.

Solar Ash

Solar Ash is coming out on October 26 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC. The cherry-on-top date reveal came after an epic trailer showcasing the game’s stunning landscape, intimidating monsters, and speedy traversal. As the second project from the developers behind Hyper Light Drifter, we have some big expectations for this game and Solar Ash’s launch is only months away.

Annapurna Interactive Teams Up With Studios For Unannounced Projects

Some exciting things are coming down the pipe from developer Jessica Mak (Everyday Shooter and Sound Shapes), the creators at No Code (Observation) and Outerloop Games (Falcon Age), and brand-new studio Ivy Road lead by Davey Wreden and Karla Zimonja. We don’t get to know what the projects are just yet, but you may want to bookmark these names for the future.

Skin Deep

The Annapurna Interactive Showcase gave us a look at Skin Deep’s personality-filled gameplay. In Skin Deep, you play as an insurance agent, the kind of insurance agent that shoots guns and hunts space pirates. Stuck aboard a starship filling up with hostile invaders, it is your job to ensure the insurance corporations’ valuables are protected.

Platform Updates

Heads up, Gorogoa and Telling Lies are coming to Xbox Game Pass some time in the near future. The Pathless’ Steam release is on November 16, and What Remains of Edith Finch is heading to the App store on August 16. Last but not least, I Am Dead launches on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Xbox on August 9, just a few weeks away.


Stray is set to launch early next year and the team’s personalized tour through the game’s worn streets will give us plenty to think about in the meantime. BlueTwelve Studio confirmed you will be taking control of the titular stray cat, before offering up a few more hints about the story and gameplay. We don’t know what happened to the humans in Stray’s setting, but we do know that a helpful drone will join you on your quest to escape the city and rejoin your feline family.

Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye

The final surprise of Annapurna Interactive’s presentation turned out to be an Outer Wilds DLC. Called Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye, the game’s first and only expansion, will be ready for lift-off on September 28. Today’s minute-long trailer sets a creepy mood but doesn’t reveal much about what to expect. The DLC is just around the corner, so hopefully, we see more it Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye before launch.


Exploring The Opening Hours Of Final Fantasy III Pixel Remaster – GI Live

All of you lucky Game Informer readers and stream viewers have quite the treat today. Shortly after Dan Tack and Alex Stadnik wrap up watching the Annapurna Interactive 2021 Showcase today, we’re going live yet again to play one of this week’s big releases: Final Fantasy III Pixel Remaster. At around 3 p.m. CT, Associate Editor John Carson and PC Editor Dan Tack will be partying up and venturing forth onto Twitch to show off this classic the way we never got to see in North America.

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Originally released in Japan for the NES on April 27, 1990, Final Fantasy III did not receive a release outside of Japan for over a decade. 1994’s Final Fantasy VI on SNES was released in the United States under the name of Final Fantasy III because it technically was the third game in the series to be localized. However, after years of being passed up for re-releases and ports, the true Final Fantasy III was completely remade on Nintendo DS with all-new 3D graphics. This version was ported to PC and Mobile and has been the prevalent version of this game for years. That is until Square Enix announced the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster Series.

These remastered versions of the first three Final Fantasy games are currently available on PC, iOS, and Android devices with IV through VI coming at a later date. Featuring all-new sprite art, remastered music, filters, and more, the original FF adventures can be experienced by old and new fans alike. And because the NES game is the source of Final Fantasy III’s remaster, we get to play the game closer to the way it was released back in 1990.

For more on the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series, we recorded an episode of New Gameplay Today which you can watch right here. If you like hanging out with us and our community, please consider joining our brand new Discord server which is currently exclusive to subscribers of our Twitch channel


Outer Wilds DLC Revealed With New Echoes Of The Eye Trailer

Outer Wilds from Mobius Digital is a phenomenal space program adventure that was met with positive reviews and excitement for the future of indies. The universe is constantly evolving, changing, and every mystery reveals ten more just beyond it. Because of this freedom, this exploratory wonder, a new Outer Wilds experience is on the way. During the Annapurna Interactive showcase, a first for the publisher, new Outer Wilds DLC has been revealed called Echoes of the Eye. 

The newest adventure begins with a strange satellite photo that can’t be explained and a question emerges: is it better to uncover all of the mysteries that the universe holds, are is some knowledge better left alone? Secrets like who build the alien ruins on the moon and what secrets does the ominous Dark Bramble old. The Echoes of the Eye expansion takes that adventure one step further when the Hearthian space program finds an anomaly that has no tangible traces to the galaxy we know, something new entirely. 

See what Echoes of the Eye has in store with the reveal trailer below: 

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Interested but haven’t delved into the Outer Wilds experience yet? “At the end of it all, I admire a lot about Outer Wilds,” reads our full review. “The entire world operating on that 20-minute timer is a fascinating theatrical accomplishment of craftsmanship, but I find it more fun to think about than to play. A lot of ideas linger here, some of them beautifully executed, others slipshod and pushing against each other. I love roaming inside the bellies of mysterious planets, but don’t like how the urgency of the timer undercuts my exploration. I have left Outer Wilds’ galaxy feeling as much exhaustion as satisfaction, but also with a list of several enchanting interstellar moments.”

Echoes of the Eye is expected to launch on September 28, 2021 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC players through Steam and Epic Games Store. 


Stray Trailer Shares New Gameplay Details And Slight Delay

BlueTwelve Studio walked us through its cat-centric game, Stray, during the Annapurna Interactive Showcase today. The new trailer focuses on the game’s protagonist and world, including a look at one friendly little drone, and breaks the news that Stray will now launch in early 2022 on PlayStation 5, Playstation 4, and PC.

Though the game seems poised to become an indie darling, probably fueled by the internet’s well-documented love of cats, we didn’t know much about Stray before today. First shown at Sony’s PlayStation event last summer, Stray’s announcement trailer communicated two things very well. One, Stray has a cat in it – that sometimes wears a tiny backpack. Two, the game’s fearless feline inhabits a grim cityscape populated by mechanical beings. Humanity, it seems – if several graffiti messages in the trailer are any indication – has met with some unkind end. Between the game’s intriguing, though foreboding, world and its adorable character, we were eager to see more.

Luckily, today’s showcase was happy to oblige. Stray’s new trailer explains the game’s lead has been separated from its family. Lost and hurt, it makes its way through a hostile and unfamiliar metropolis just trying to survive. The player will experience this through the cat’s eyes. Whether it’s crossing a lake of toxic sludge or finding a way past whirling fan blades of death, it looks for a while like you’ll be left alone to fend for yourself. Until B-12 appears.

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B-12 is a small drone that will let you interact with the mysterious city around you and communicate with the locals. Hovering helpfully above the ground, the drone will aid you with everything from picking up objects to fighting.  Apart from introducing B-12, the trailer shows off a few of the game’s puzzles and some rooftop action, giving us a better idea of Stray’s moment-to-moment gameplay. We are also introduced to Doc, a handy-looking robot occupied by thoughts of his son, that might have an important role to play in your adventure.

Stray’s new 2022 release window is announced near the end of the video. This is a bit disappointing considering the game’s initial trailer said Stray would be out in 2021. However, it is not the first game to get pushed out of 2021, and it probably won’t be the last. 


Interview: Skin Deep Offers A Weird FPS Experience Where Cats Are In Charge

What do you get when you have a team that just really wants to make a really weird shooter? A really weird shooter where cats are in charge. That’s exactly what the team over at Blendo Games is doing, under the publishing umbrella of Annapurna Interactive, with its newest title called Skin Deep. There’s sneezing, there is getting weird stuff stuck to the bottom of your feet, and there is the need to survive while trying to escape a group of pirates after being frozen on a cargo ship by an insurance firm run by … cats. Yeah. 

We sat down with Brendon Chung, the head of Blendo Games, to talk more about the studio’s latest title. Coming off of creating some wild experiences like Atom Zombie Smasher, Thirty Flights of Loving, and more, Skin Deep fits right into the growing library of oddball experiences that are just about having fun. Not every game has to have a billion subplots, not everything needs to be super complicated to be enjoyed. With Skin Deep, it’s about having fun, the thrill of a shootout, and not taking life too seriously. 

So what is Skin Deep? It’s a world where insurance corporations keep valuables safe, including people, they free you and store you into cargo starships. That’s you. You’re frozen. Everything is fine and dandy until a group of pirates decide to board the ship and throw everything into mayhem. It’s up to you as the player to unthaw and throw yourself into the chaos using weapons and good ‘ol fashioned stealth to try to survive in this sandbox. It’s goofy but also challenging, providing the perfect blend of gameplay styles to make Skin Deep stand out. 

So where does inspiration like this come from? “I grew up playing a lot of FPS games,” Chung tells us. “I got my start making a game by doing maps for like Doom, Quake, Half-Life – things like that. So I’ve done a lot of FPS stuff, story games like Gravity Bone, but I haven’t done anything where you just straight-up shoot people. A traditional FPS game and I love this genre, so I wanted to make it, and I did.”

Chung continues, saying, “For me, I am a big Far Cry 2 booster, I just like how games like that play. I kept thinking this is like, playing an FPS for the first time. This is great stuff. So I kind of wanted to play with different ideas of like, what FPS could do like what I’ve always wanted to see an FPS and like, what are things we could do with a player body? And what are the things that a player’s body can be and do and smell like? I just wanted to play with those ideas with questions like ‘What are they? What do they felt like this?'”

He also adds that there is one additional component that he hopes players enjoy: “Oh, you can smell those games, which we’re very proud of. We have tech that lets you climb into a trash chute and get ejected into outer space. And then when you kind of float out of space and climb back into the ship, there’s a big message it says you are smelly, and then you will waft out green smell clouds from your body. And bad guys will smell you and they will track you down by your green smell clouds. And we have different systems for getting yourself clean again. So we’re very excited to let people play with this.”

The smell component is just one of the many oddities this game has, including the “sneeze system” that builds up when crawling through ventilation shops in an effort to play around with all of the things a body can do in-game. It’s pretty interesting, and definitely a unique venture! Check it out in the trailer below to see for yourself how it all works: 

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With Annapurna, as a publisher, doing so much to increase visibility for indies in the gaming space, I wanted to find out exactly how Chung feels about the current spotlight given to independent studios. “I used to work in the AAA space for about five years,” he tells Game Informer.  “And then in 2010, I went independent. And I think from my experience, I always feel that whenever I release anything, is just a giant crapshoot. I think sometimes things catch on, sometimes things don’t. Like, sometimes I’ll play a game that’s like, really, really good. And then I’ll read a report later that, like, this game didn’t really sell very well. I’m like, what:? How did this happen? And I’m gonna be honest, I don’t fully understand. I mean, I think part of it is just that there are just so many games out there. And, there’s so much free stuff now.  I couldn’t play this, this incredibly well-made game that’s totally free, and I don’t need to pay any money for it.”

He adds, “There are a lot of new things happening. There are lots of like, free stuff for game pass stuff or whatever. So I think there’s definitely a lot of things to figure out. I think my general approach to making stuff is that some things catch on, some things don’t. And because there’s just so much stuff out there. Sometimes things just kind of get lost in the wind. I think we’re making something really cool. So I’m hoping I think the best I can hope for usually is like I hope this finds the audience of people that like this kind of thing. That was something like funny and lighter and like plays with ideas. But I think beyond that there are some things are sometimes like out of our control, which is a bummer, but I don’t know.”

We don’t mean to alarm you, dear reader, but games are – in fact – hard to make. I know! Crazy, right? But they are! And that’s something Chung talks about, as well. “I think that one thing that sometimes doesn’t always get through [to people] is that games are hard to make and that when you want to make a game, you have to create each bit, you have to make all the parts of it. I think it can sometimes feel to some people that like, oh, you think I could just make this game in three months and it actually will take you two years, or whatever. But I think sometimes it’s hard to understand that. It’s not just like putting a puzzle where you put the pieces down, it’s more of you don’t know where the straight line goes, if it’s even a straight line. It’s more like a very, very squiggly line of like, ‘ok, let’s try this.’ So it’s a lot of different ideas that you first have to try and fail. And then you find the thing that works. And I think when people say yeah, I can make this in three months they might not be wrong, but coming up with all of these ideas and making them work takes a lot longer than that.”

Skin Deep will be on Steam only, though future platform releases are being considered. 


Solar Ash Release Date Revealed In Annapurna Showcase

It’s been a little over a year since Heart Machine’s second project, Solar Ash was unveiled during Sony’s PlayStation 5 reveal event, but the wait for this fast-paced, interstellar adventure is almost over. The game’s eagerly awaited release date was officially announced today during the Annapurna Interactive Showcase, and it’s only a few months away.

Solar Ash’s trailer didn’t reveal many more details about the game’s world or its story but did include one piece of information we’ve been waiting for all year, the launch day. You’ll be able to grapple, weave, and fight your way through the cosmos when Solar Ash comes to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on October 26.

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Heart Machine’s anticipated title was only one highlight of the indie publisher’s show today, which overflowed with gorgeous games. Among the visually stunning participants were games like The Artful Escape, a soul-searching rock experience where you play as a musician hoping to make a name for himself despite feeling overshadowed by his famous uncle’s legacy. Neon White, a game from Donut County creator Ben Esposito introduced earlier this year, also made a welcome appearance. The first-person shooter meets card game follows the story of a demon assassin plying his deadly trade in an attempt to secure a place in heaven.

If you have missed the latest news on Heart Machine’s upcoming title, we last saw Solar Ash back in June at the Summer Game Fest. The footage showed off more of the game’s signature skating traversal and some serious combat. June’s trailer features a massive, flying example of the world’s largest enemies, Remnants, which Rei takes down by rapidly gliding from one weak point to the next. In her quest to save her home from the world-swallowing danger of the Ultravoid, Rei – the game’s intrepid voidrunner – will face several of these titanic foes.

Still haven’t got your fill of Solar Ash? We have you covered with this look at the game which came out of Sony’s State of Play earlier this year. Solar Ash is out October 26 for PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4.


Storyteller And The Vulnerabilities That Come With Being An Indie Developer

Daniel Benmergui of Ludomancy is an Argentinian independent game designer that I’ve respected for a long time because his approach to creation is so unique and explosive in its intent. He has been behind some incredible thought-provoking games like Today I Die and I Wish I Were the Moon, and with today’s Annapurna Showcase, he showed off Storyteller, a game that made its first debut back in 2008 but is now ready to be shared with the world. 

Storyteller is a creative spin on the puzzle genre where players have the complete freedom to tell a story of their choosing. Whether it be a comedy or a heartbreaking tragedy, players are given a toolbox filled with characters, settings, and emotions to craft a narrative that can inspire love, revenge, and resonate with the deeper depths of our emotions. Twist a supernatural tale, if that’s your fancy, or go the more Shakespearean route; the choice is yours. 

Sitting down with Benmergui, he opens up to us about the more vulnerable side of being a game developer, especially with a tale such as this. There’s a lot of himself in this game and with so many years building up towards its release, he admits that the thought of launch day scares him a little. “In the case of [Storyteller], it was very ambitious,” he says. “Why don’t you make a game about people making stories? It’s very difficult to relate it to other things we’ve done.” 

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With the game having been revealed years ago, the buildup towards launch is a double-edged sword. It’s exciting, but it has also opened up a few fears regarding the public’s reaction, doubly so with him putting so much of himself into the story, creatively speaking. “One of my fears is you,” he says. “Was it worth the wait? I don’t know, because most people are going to go into the story never having seen a game like this before. So I don’t know what’s going to happen, and yeah. That scares me.”

He also opens up that it’s difficult to not put yourself into the things you create as a creator and that the difference between being a AAA dev versus an independent developer gives more edge to that innate fear. “I come from a AAA background and then, if we ship something and people react badly, we can just push that blame up to the top. As an independent creator, that blame falls on me. It’s about being extra exposed, you’re going to be judged on everything. As an independent creator, you’re going t be judged on everything. You have more freedom, yes, but that in itself is also kind of scary, it’s like a freefall. I had a team that supported me, but what if that doesn’t come across?” 

The vulnerability expressed adds to the emotional depth of the upcoming game. It’s personal, it’s rooted in majesty and realism in equal measure. It’s honest. Storyteller is about telling your own story. We’ve all had our moments of triumph. Of love and loss. Of fear and victory. Of doubt and contentment. Storyteller allows players to control the narrative, to put themselves into the story much like the dev team did. With the amount of care and passion this team has, including Benmergui himself, I have no doubt that Storyteller will continue on the studio’s excellent track record of incredible tales. 


Ben Esposito On Neon White: “If This Is For You, It’s Your Favorite Game”

Ben Esposito is not making Neon White for everyone – in fact, even though he admits it’s probably not the best marketing move, he says he’s trying to make a cult game. He wants Neon White to find players that love it the way he loves the cult games that influenced him, like God Hand, Danganronpa, and El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.

Put another way, as Esposito said in the game’s most recent trailer, Neon White is a game made for “freaks.”

On Thursday, during the Annapurna Interactive Showcase, Neon White made its latest showing after being announced back in February. But this time we have a better idea of the game itself; how it’s played and a bit of the story. You can see its latest trailer below:

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The game centers around the aptly named White, an assassin from Hell fighting demons in an attempt for a new life in Heaven. While on the surface the gameplay looks like an anime-inspired Quake or other similar first-person shooter jump map homage, Neon White’s hook and complexity come from its card system and how it affects combat. 

In Neon White, cards are weapons or guns. Depending on what card you have, that’s what gun you’re using; if you have the pistol card, you’re shooting a pistol, and so on. “However, before it’s been used up of all its weapon magic, let’s say – this is so silly,” Esposito admits, laughing. “Before it’s used up all its weapon magic, I can at any time choose to discard it actively, which will get rid of the card but instantly I’ll be able to do a movement ability. So like the pistol, for instance, lets me kind of do a double jump in the air. The rifle lets me dash forward and kill anything in my path. And so on and so forth. So it’s kind of like you’re always making that choice, like, ‘Do I want this gun? Or is it better for me to move faster here?'”

There’s an emphasis on speedrunning in Neon White, and players are encouraged to fight for the best times on the game’s global leaderboard. The result, at least judging by the trailer, is a tense game of juggling priorities and quick thinking as you jump around each level blasting enemies. Admittedly, it looks a bit too intense for standard controls and more suited for a keyboard and mouse setup. It’ll be interesting to see how and if it works better on one versus the other when the game is released. 

Most people likely caught wind of Esposito from his previous project, Donut County – a cute, relaxing game about a mischievous raccoon. Visually, Neon White stands in stark contrast, borrowing amply from anime (Esposito cites Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, and Black Lagoon, specifically) but also Japanese games we just don’t see as much of anymore – smaller, weirder, and more experimental titles. Shinji Mikami’s work in the 2000s, like the aforementioned God Hand and his sci-fi shooter Vanquish, is a big inspiration, Esposito says. He also cites games by Goichi “Suda51” Suda, such as Killer7 and No More Heroes. Neon White’s life-sim aspects pull  from the Persona and Danganronpa series, as well as Fire Emblem: Three Houses. All of this is on top of hero shooter elements informed by games such as Team Fortress 2. 

It’s an interesting, albeit bizarre at times, hodgepodge of different influences all coming together in a game that looks visually distinct from other games in 2021, while also feeling and sounding nostalgic for fans of Japan’s early-to-mid 2000s video game output. And, of course, that’s the point. Neon White looks like a game made for that specific audience, even if it’s not the biggest in the world.

“Yeah, so I don’t know if everyone else involved likes to hear that I want to make a cult game, because financially making a cult game isn’t a great idea,” Esposito says, laughing. “But I will say, the way I love those games is pretty unique, I think, to games in general. Like, I don’t love really perfect games the way I love a weird kind of broken cult game. And what I wanted to do with Neon White was make it so this game is not trying to be for everyone. It’s trying to be a game for really specific people. And if it does hit correctly, for those people, it will be their favorite game. That’s really what I’m trying to do.”

Neon White is set to be released sometime this winter for Switch and PC.


SPONSORED: HyperX Cloud Core 7.1 Delivers Beefy Surround Sound For Gaming Enthusiasts On A Budget

Money is tight these days, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on high-end personal audio features such as fantastic 7.1 surround sound for your favorite games, or exquisite headphone comfort courtesy of HyperX’s very own signature memory foam. The HyperX Cloud Core 7.1 is a breathtakingly good deal for its performance, giving you many high-end features for the comparatively low price of $69.99. Needless to say, this headset is an incredible bargain, especially if you’re looking to fully immerse yourself in the latest releases like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart or Scarlet Nexus.

There are several core features that make the HyperX Cloud Core 7.1 better than its similarly-priced counterparts, and they’re pretty easy to spot! After all, the HyperX Cloud core 7.1 is a super straightforward piece of equipment; what you see is exactly what you get, and what you’re getting here is a fantastic piece of gear for gaming enthusiasts on a budget.

It features Virtual 7.1 surround sound, which allows you to experience games with the sheer intensity afforded by 7.1 channels of breathtaking audio. Basically, plugging in a Virtual 7.1 surround sound headset like the HyperX Cloud Core 7.1 is like listening to audio in a movie theatre. The regular set of left and right channels that you’d normally hear in a stereo headset are bolstered by left and right surround channels as well as an additional LFE channel for bassy sounds like explosions and engine revs, meaning that sounds can zoom past you from every direction, including above and underneath you.

This places you directly into the game or movie of your choice. But since everything happens in your headphones, you can enjoy your favorite games and movies in peace – without bothering your neighbors (or your parents!) That makes the HyperX Cloud Core 7.1 perfect to bring with you on airplanes, public transportation, or even your own bed. All you need to do is plug your HyperX headset into the provided USB control box, activate the 7.1 surround sound mode, and boot up your game or movie to experience rich audio, including rich positional audio in competitive games where hearing enemy footsteps can mean the difference between life or death!

The HyperX Cloud Core ensures that you get an Immersive Audio experience with its over-the-ear form factor, closed cans, leatherette earpads for comfort and sound quality, and two whopping 53mm drivers. You’re practically ensured fantastic sound isolation that makes outside noises less invasive (I’m looking at you, babies on a plane), and you can bet that you’re gonna feel the kick of those drivers when you wade into an action-packed scene in your favorite movie or game. If listening to music is more your style, you’re in for a treat; those 53mm drivers add up to a much richer and fuller sound, making this the headset to beat. And for $69.99, you’re hard-pressed to find another headset that’s as jam-packed with high-quality parts



Annapurna Interactive Showcase 2021 Watch Along With Game Informer

While it may not have the AAA-clout of a Microsoft or Sony, publisher Annapurna Interactive has been able to translate its understanding of storytelling in cinema and convert it for a more interactive audience. Whether you’ve realized it or not, the group is responsible for arguably some of the best indie games of the last few years, including Florence, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Kentucky Route Zero, to name a few. But now it feels like the publisher is just getting started with a very exciting slate of new indies just around the corner.

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This brings us to today. Annapurna Interactive is hosting its 2021 digital showcase, and we’re going to be there with you live! The show kicks off at 2 p.m. CT, but we’ll be starting the fun 15 minutes earlier to discuss what we’re excited to see from the day’s announcements and trailers. But who’s we, and why should you tune in? We’ve assembled an exciting duo of Alex Stadnik and Dan Tack for the day’s festivities, so we hope you’ll join us over on Twitch!

In a refreshing change of pace, we do know some of the games we’ll be seeing today. Stray, the game where you play as an adorable cat in a cybernetic city, is finally set to make another appearance, and we can’t wait to find out what exactly this game is. Developer Heart Machine has also tweeted that fans of the upcoming Solar Ash won’t want to miss today’s showcase, so it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing more from one of my most anticipated indies of the year. Combine those games with looks at Neon White, The Artful Escape, and hopefully some surprises on the way, and we should be in for one hell of an exciting ride. 

Excited about today’s showcase? If you love all things Annapurna, we have you covered, as our own Liana Ruppert recently reviewed the publisher’s latest title, Last Stop. If that’s your jam, she also wrote a companion piece discussing the philosophy behind the game that shouldn’t be missed for those interested in diving in.


Stardew Valley And Death’s Door: Listening To Games That Take Their Jobs Seriously

I write for Game Informer.

It’s a simple sentence, but I’m still wrapping my brain around it. Go back a few years and I would have laughed in your face if you had told me, sitting in my cubicle plastered with video game posters, this is where I would be today. Fittingly, it’s a video game that is helping me get used to my new position, the same way it was a video game that helped me start the journey towards it.

Death’s Door came out my first week as an associate editor. It had been on my radar, and everyone playing it in the office seemed so excited that I booted it up the night it came out. Late at night the day it came out. It was probably ill-advised for me, a new employee, to stay up playing video games, but I figured my bosses would understand. I was ready for a door, I was ready for death, but I wasn’t prepared to be confronted by an eerily accurate depiction of my first career.

The protagonist of Death’s Door, a sword-wielding crow, heads into work. He steps off his bus and passes through security on the way to a large room filled with several rows of desks to get his first, soul-fetching assignment. I had never played Death’s Door before, but I was already deeply familiar with that commute on public transit, that walk past bored security personnel. I knew that large, desk-filled space with shining stone floors. I even recognized Chandler the Handler’s failed attempt at humor. Rather than an action-packed brawl against impossible odds, Death’s Door begins with a startling depiction of the office jobs I walked away from.

For nearly a decade before becoming a video game journalist, I worked in various roles across several museums. Not as anything interesting – most of my jobs were either customer-facing or administrative – but I appreciated the work, and every position had its perks. I can only imagine what my family thought when I told them I was going to leave my steady job with benefits to write about video games.

I came to that decision for a variety of reasons, but Stardew Valley wasn’t the least of them. Eric Barone’s stellar indie hit came out in 2016. As I’m sure many people remember, most of the game takes place on your farm – a piece of overgrown land left to you by your grandfather which you eventually transform into a thriving oasis for crops and livestock. The short narrative at the beginning of the game, however, sees you working for the JoJa Corporation.

Workers type away at their keyboards, packed into their sardine can-like spaces, as you realize you have had enough. You open the mysterious note your grandfather pushed into your hands before his death which turns out to be a lifeline to a new life. Playing Stardew Valley, and watching that scene, I realized I needed a note like that, too. Of course, I wouldn’t leave my real-life office job for a few more years, but that’s not the point.

The point is video games can be both a reflection of our lives and an inspiration to change them. The ones that really matter, that stick with me like Stardew Valley and – though I’ve barely started it – Death’s Door, let me hide from the world and come to terms with it. So, with a nudge from the virtual realm, I became a video games journalist.

Now, I write for Game Informer.


This Destiny 2 Cosplayer Shares Her Titan Cosplay That Would Have Shaxx Cheering ‘YESSSSSSSSS’

It’s no secret that I have a special place in my heart for the Destiny franchise and that of cosplay, so when those two worlds collided with an impressive Titan cosplay, I didn’t need much convincing to share this find with the world. One Destiny 2 cosplayer shared her epic Titan cosplay in a women’s group I’m in dedicated to the Bungie game, and the moment I saw it I knew Shaxx would be proud. 

The cosplayer in question is Lauren Moolman, but she goes by Loz_Coz. A self-proclaimed wine lover (my kind of girl!), she debuted her most recent cosplay take with one of my favorite weapons: Outbreak Perfected. From the iconic shield that Titans love to the heftiness of the armor itself, her Destiny cosplay is too incredible not to share: 





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A post shared by Lauren Moolman (@loz_cos)

You can see the style options she chose with the various poses, but the lighting in the photos also helps to elevate her cosplay even more. 





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A post shared by Lauren Moolman (@loz_cos)

Big crayon go “swoosh” with her Ult: 





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A post shared by Lauren Moolman (@loz_cos)

She has other amazing Destiny cosplays, as well, including showing some Hunter love with the Mythoclast I still can’t get to drop despite over 50 runs of Vault of Glass (I am salty, leave me be): 





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A post shared by Lauren Moolman (@loz_cos)

It’s pretty incredible to see the level of talent the gaming community has, especially when it comes to bringing their favorite characters to life. With so much going on right now concerning Savathun and Osiris acting super sus, this community tribute is a breath of fresh air before the panic resumes about where the heck season 15 is going to take us


Apex Legends Season 10: Seer’s Abilities Explained

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We’ve been talking about Apex Legends Season 10 and its new character, Seer, since earlier this month. We’ve seen a bevy of trailers that delve into his backstory as a cursed child as well as gameplay footage that shows some of his mystical powers in action. But what can Seer actually do; what is his passive, tactical, and ultimate? Respawn’s latest character-focused trailer finally gave us the answers to these questions. Here is Seer’s kit explained:

Heartseeker (Passive)

Seer is joining a small selection of recon legends that include Bloodhound, Pathfinder, Crypto, and Valkyrie. What separates the newest character from his contemporaries is how effective he emerges as a tracker. While aiming, Seer can actively see and hear the heartbeats of his enemies within a 75m radius. Like Bloodhound’s scan, opponents can be seen through walls and other structures. So be sure to watch your corners as you traverse compounds; Seer could be waiting around the corner with a pre-aimed Mastiff shotgun.

Focus of Attention (Tactical)

Tactical abilities have never been known to outright kill adversaries, but their moment-to-moment implementation in heady firefights can easily create win conditions when used at opportune times. Seer’s Focus of Attention is particularly devastating. It might not damage health pools, but it can override actions like healing yourself and reviving downed teammates which, arguably, is just as terrifying. Drones emerge from the heart-shaped jewel lodged in Seer’s chest and blasts all other teams in the vicinity, revealing and interrupting them.  

Exhibit (Ultimate)

We’ve seen this in action countless times, but now we know exactly what Seer’s ultimate, Exhibit, does. A large holographic bubble is cast – it seems as if this might have the potential to completely blanket an entire point of interest – and all players that move “heavily” through it (e.g., sprinting) are immediately highlighted for Seer and his team. Can you imagine what kind of chaos could be catalyzed in final circles with Exhibit activated? Only time will tell how Seer fits into the current meta and if his presence might become a common occurrence in public as well as ranked matches. 

Now that we have names and direct explanations for Seer’s kit, what do you think about Apex Legends’ 18th character? 


Everything We Know About Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Developer: Ilca, Game Freak

November 19, 2021

Platform: Switch

We’re deep into the 25th anniversary of Pokémon and have an entirely new adventure from Game Freak on the horizon with Pokémon Legends: Arceus coming in January of next year. But before that even releases, The Pokémon Company is releasing remakes to the popular DS games Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.

While we’ve played these games in the past, what should we expect from the remakes for Nintendo Switch? Here’s what we know about the Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl so far:

Which studio is developing these remakes?

Game Freak is known to work on multiple games at the same time, but in this case, it’s only handing the development of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. In Game Freak’s stead, ILCA is taking the reins in developing these remakes. Never heard of them before? ILCA is best know to Pokémon fans as the creators of Pokémon Home, the current storage and self-trading solution for all of the Pokémon games available on Switch and 3DS. The studio has also worked on Nier: Automata and Replicant, Code Vein, and Dragon Quest XI.

Where do these games take place?

Diamond and Pearl introduced the region of Sinnoh, a landmass based on the Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido. Along a trainer’s journey, they will travel all over the island to collect Gym badges in order to take on the challenge of the Pokémon League and face the Elite Four, a highly skilled group of Pokémon trainers. A defining feature of the region is Mt. Coronet, a mountain range which bisects the island from south to north. Your story begins in Twinleaf Town, where you and a rival receive your first Pokémon. From there, you’ll end up in places like the mining city Oreburgh, the series’ original wintery area surrounding Snowpoint City, Sinnoh’s largest town Jubilife City, and the historic Eterna City.

Which starter Pokémon can I choose from and what should I expect in the Pokédex?

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl features Piplup, Chimchar, and Turtwig as choices for starter Pokémon, the same three as the original Diamond and Pearl releases. Trailers and screenshots have shown a handful of Pokémon to battle against and catch, all of which already exist within Sinnoh’s original Pokédex and National Dex. Monsters shown so far include fan favorites Lucario and Garchomp, along with regional newcomers Kricketune, Shinx, and Starly. Of course, the Dialga and Palkia, the legendary dragons of time and space, are in the game as well.

Sinnoh’s original Pokédex included 151 Pokémon, with the post-game National Dex adding even more, including new evolutions of Pokémon from Red and Blue. With eight generations to pull from, there’s no telling how many Pokémon we might see in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

Why were Diamond and Pearl chosen to be remade?

Up to this point, all previous generations of Pokémon have been remade on Nintendo’s handheld consoles. Fire Red and Leaf Green reimagined the original games on Game Boy Advance, Heart Gold and Soul Silver made a big impact on DS, and Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire hit 3DS in 2014. Diamond and Pearl have been next in line for a while, and now 7 years after the previous remakes, will finally be in the spotlight again.

Where does Platinum fit in?

We don’t know yet. Pokémon Platinum was the third game of the fourth generation and an upgraded version of Diamond and Pearl. It brought along an expanded Pokedex, new story elements, and a new legendary dragon, Giratina, which is featured on the box art. Given the footage shown at the time of the games’ announcement, only Pokémon from Diamond and Pearl have been revealed.

How different are these remakes from the originals?

Content-wise, that answer is up in the air. Don’t expect the remakes to stray too far off the path of Diamond and Pearl. According to the games’ eShop listing, “the original story and the scale of the Sinnoh region’s towns and routes have been faithfully reproduced.” Visually, both games are getting a graphical facelift. Walking around the routes and towns in Sinnoh aren’t going to look like Pokémon Sword and Shield, instead sticking with the top-down camera that Diamond and Pearl were presented in. Originally, these games were build using 2D sprites and had environments using some 3D assets. In the remakes, however, ILCA opted to keep a similar art style of the classic games and translated everything to polygonal models. Characters in the field are small and have a chibi look, but when in battle, trainers and Pokémon are full-sized, detailed models complete with contemporary attack animations.

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When will these remakes be available?

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will launch on Switch November 19 for $59.99 each. Preorders are available at retailers as well as the Nintendo eShop right now.


You Can Pre-Order A Playdate Beginning Today

Today marks the day you can reserve a Playdate, the strange yet cute handheld by Firewatch and Untitled Goose Game publisher, Panic. If the device has garnered both your curiosity and your attention, make sure to have your wallet ready in a couple of hours.

Pre-orders are set to begin at 10:00 am PT on the Playdate’s website. The system costs $179 and includes the handheld, the first batch of 24 downloadable games (delivered weekly), and a USB-C to USB-A cable. You can also reserve the Playdate covering case for $29 or purchase a bundle with both the case and the handheld for $199.

If you can’t be there right when the gates open, don’t worry. Panic has already assured customers that it will continue taking pre-orders after today. Those who reserve sooner will get their devices earlier is all. Panic has not yet revealed the Playdate launch date but it’s tentatively scheduled to begin shipping later this year. 

If you missed out on Panic’s deep dive presentation last month, here’s what the Playdate entails in a nutshell. The small device allows players to play simple, downloadable only games on a black and white screen. It sports a familiar button layout as well as a big crank that serves as a form of analog stick. Batches of games, labeled seasons, download automatically to the device at two games per week with 24 original titles in Season One. The titles themselves come from indie developers big and small, with Return of the Obra Dinn creator Lucas Pope working on an original Playdate title.

The Playdate serves as a boutique item meant to offer more novel experiences as opposed to being a “premium” handheld in the vein of, say, the 3DS. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs and, of course, how the games themselves turn out. 

Will you be picking up a Playdate? Let us know in the comments!


I Still Haven’t Played Mass Effect Legendary Edition Because I Fear Change

“I can’t wait to be an a**hole!” I gleefully thought to myself when Mass Effect Legendary Edition was announced. Bioware’s sci-fi series ranks as arguably my favorite video game trilogy ever; however, I’ve only played through the saga once. I rarely replay games, especially those as beefy as Mass Effect. The larger reason for that, though, is that I consider my single playthrough sacred and the canonical version of the Mass Effect story.

I’m a generally good human being, so I role-played Shepard as if I was in his shoes. I cured the genophage. All of my crewmates survived the suicide run (which I’m still surprised by). I romanced good-girl Tali over that harpy Miranda. If there was an option to talk the Reapers into surrendering peacefully and joining us for a picnic instead, I probably would have chosen it. 

Still, I acknowledge that there’s a wealth of renegade content I’ve never seen, so determining how to approach a return trip was easy. Everything I did before, I’d simply do the hard opposite. Reporters would be punched, friends would perish without a second thought, and somehow, I’d still be the savior of the galaxy despite literally being the worst person. “Excellent,” I said in my best Mr. Burns impersonation. 

But as I read feature articles and opinion pieces that reminded me of the amazing character moments I’d largely forgotten about, my tune changed. Memories of my crewmates’ wonderful personalities and characterization came flooding back. My heart began to melt, and the realization set in that I will undoubtedly fall in love with these guys all over again and fall back into my goodie two-shoes routine.

But to keep my promise of having a fresh experience, I’d have to shove them to the floor, point and laugh at their misery, and dance on their graves when they bite the dust. I want to do that. Hell, if I’m investing 100 or so hours into replaying a trilogy, I need it to be substantially different for me to justify it. Setting aside all that time just to retread familiar ground feels like a colossal waste of time in my mind. 

But I really like Garrus and don’t think I can pull the trigger on being a monster to him. 

So here we are, months after the launch of Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and I’ve been at an impasse. On one hand, I genuinely want to see what a renegade playthrough looks like (and no, I’m not watching hours of YouTube videos to see it). On the other hand, I don’t trust myself to not want to turn this into a reunion tour of my previous playthrough because Bioware made its cast too endearing to turn on. 

I do, however, have zero qualms about saving Kaidan instead of Ashley this time around regardless of the route I choose so there’s that at least.

Since, again, I don’t often replay games, this is the issue I’ve grappled with while contemplating revisiting stories with narrative branches. Is it more valuable to relive cherished memories or to create new ones within the same experience? There’s also the pressure of knowing that whatever I choose will form my predominant memory of the series, likely forever. Or until Bioware does a true ground-up remake for Mass Effect’s 25th anniversary or something. 

Movies and TV shows are easy to revisit because it’s always the same and, thus, will never challenge my comfort zone. Avatar: The Last Airbender, for example, will forever be one of the greatest stories to grace television (in my humble opinion). But if you gave me the choice to have Aang, say, murder Zuko while rejecting Katara? I’d be curious to see it for the sake of getting something different, but the original plotline is just too good to pass up even if I’ve already seen it. 

Maybe the problem for me is that some stories are too good to want to mess with, even if you can. I know I wouldn’t give a crap about doing things differently if something like Saints Row: The Third had branching narratives (not throwing shade to Saints Row’s storytelling … but it’s Saint’s Row). But the same hesitation arises when I think about replaying Red Dead Redemption II, another story I absolutely adore, and changing things up. Arthur was also a saint in my original playthrough meaning he, too, would have to fall to the dark side if I want to really see how different things can turn out. I feel yucky just thinking about that.

I don’t really have a resolution to this conundrum so sorry if you were hoping for my decision at the end of this. I’m also not suggesting studios make their stories less phenomenal or find new ways of enticing me to play under different conditions. I’m clearly immune to the latter anyway. But since you’re still here, I would like to know if you’ve experienced the same conflict and how you’ve chosen to address it. What pushes you to mix things up during a replay or to re-do everything as you did previously. Maybe your responses can help get me over this mental block. In the meantime, I’ll keep salivating over the atrocities my future FemShep could potentially commit while also weeping about the consequences.


Why Mass Effect Andromeda Is A Better Game Than You Think

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Mass Effect Andromeda took BioWare’s space adventure to a brand new galaxy with a fresh protagonist, new alien races, and completely revamped gameplay mechanics. Ryder was just a kid trying to do what was right after the entire world collapsed around them, kind of figuring out things as they go. Unfortunately, the road leading up to launch was rough and an Early Access period, terrible resource allocation, and poor animations at release set the stage for a halt to Andromeda’s growth. That being said, it will have some ties into the next Mass Effect, which we’ve broken down extensively in the past. With Mass Effect Legendary Edition opening up a ton of new players to the BioWare sci-fi RPG, we thought we’d break down some of the overlooked aspects of Andromeda and why you should give it a second chance. 

When people start to talk about Andromeda, a common thing I hear is “it doesn’t compare to the trilogy.” That’s fair, but comparing the entire world scope of a trilogy versus Andromeda – which was just one game that could have been its own trilogy with time to flesh out the world Andromeda built – is not fair.  Andromeda was about laying the groundwork, creating a believable universe that players would want to explore. Pacing issues with Eos and the launch issues were enough to put some off from exploring beyond the first world, taking away the chance to meet some of the more nuanced aspects of what this game had to offer. Hidden gems about the trilogy throughout the whole game, seeing Ryder go from self-doubting dork to major badass, learning the origins of a new species and what that means for life as we know it, that special tie-in with the Memory Trigger sequence, and seeing faces from the original trilogy again? There was a lot more to love than many saw at first glance.

That’s where we come in.

So join Alex Stadnik and Liana Ruppert as we dive into the reasons why you should give Andromeda a second chance, especially with all of our Mass Effect Legendary Edition coverage recently. If you’re interested in learning more about our deep dive into the trilogy, Andromeda, and the road ahead, be sure to mosey on over to our previous analysis here. After watching some of our highlights that we feel were massively overlooked, sound off in the comments below and tell us all of your Andromeda takes! 


Free New Pokémon Snap Update Adds Three New Areas And Even More Pokémon To Discover

The Pokémon Company has just announced a free update for New Pokémon Snap which gives players even more areas to explore and pocket monsters to discover. For those anxious to dive back behind the camera’s lens, the new update is slated to arrive on August 3. Here’s what you need to know! 

First things first: new stomping grounds. The coming update will add three new areas for Pokémon to explore, all with the continued Night and Day cycles. The first area is called the Secret Side Path where players will actually shrink inside of the NEO-ONE in order to explore this adventurous location. Since you and the NEO-ONE are smaller, all of the Pokémon in this area will look massive. So massive, that you’ll be able to hear their footsteps and their breathing for a more immersive exploratory experience. 

The second new location is the Mightywide River, a water source that provides Belusylva Island with the necessary sustenance to thrive, allowing for a new location for Pokémon to trudge through and giving players more snapshot opportunities. 

The final new location is called the Barren Badlands, a much less cheery sounding place when compared to the above two new additions. The Badlands are a part of Voluca Island and as you may have already guessed, it’s a desert that is absent of anything lush. This location is unique because of the danger it poses, including gushing geysers and poisonous swamps. Because of the danger, the Pokémon found here may be a little tricky, some even hiding underground to keep safe. If you’re hunting for that perfect shot here, you’ll definitely need to be on your guard. 

In addition to the three new locations, 20 more Pokémon are also joining the roster, which you can see in the trailer below: 

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Our own Brian Shea loved his time with New Pokémon Snap, giving the latest iteration an 8.5 out of 10. “New Pokémon Snap delivers an experience similar to that of the original while expanding on the formula in ways that prolong the appeal of the expedition,” he said in his full review. “In the two decades since the first game’s release, the Pokémon world has changed in innumerable ways, but the simple appeal of immersing yourself in this universe and taking pictures has remained unchanged.”

Ready to dive in? The new Pokémon Snap update will arrive exclusively on Nintendo Switch on August 3. Happy hunting! 


The Ascent Review – Mindless Mechanical Mayhem

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Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: Neon Giant

July 29, 2021

Rating: Mature
Reviewed on: PC
Also on:
Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One

From the iconic works of Philip K. Dick to the seminal table-top RPG by Mike Pondsmith, fans of the cyberpunk genre are familiar with the theme of characters in search of an identity and purpose. The Ascent suffers from a similar identity crisis in its attempts to pull from dungeon-crawling RPGs and twin-stick shooters, but it never ascends to the heights of either genre. This mindlessly fun co-op experience features bombastic gunplay, engaging cybernetic abilities, and a visually impressive world to wreak havoc in.

The Ascent takes place in the tech-obsessed world of Veles, controlled by maniacal corporations, and players control an indentured laborer who becomes wrapped up in a mystery as they battle for their freedom. While I enjoy the cyberpunk genre, The Ascent’s grating narrative contains all my least favorite tropes: incessant expletives, human rights abominations, and a profoundly bleak world. Those tropes aren’t inherently bad when handled with nuance, but the main story never dives into anything of substance, making those dark themes more set dressing than meaningful commentary. Combine that with a lot of confusing jargon and lore, and I found myself wanting to skip through dialogue to get back to what the game does best: turning you into a cybernetic warrior.

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Combat is The Ascent’s main strength. The moment-to-moment gunplay is exhilarating, with waves of varied baddies headed your way at virtually every moment. Developer Neon Giant also ups the fun with a diverse inventory of weapons and some truly fantastic augmentations and tactical weapons that can send enemies flying. Some of my favorite moments included blowing away corporate goons with a rocket-spitting Gatling gun then finishing them off with a devastating energy punch.

While most of the fights left me satisfied (if not overwhelmed, but more on that later), the combat grows slightly monotonous as the game goes on. Through an upgrade vendor, I started to find my favorite weapons and boost them, which outpowered most loot drops, making them largely irrelevant. That lack of variation also extends to your armor as well.

The Ascent is a shallow RPG experience, with stats that don’t always feel purposeful. I was always thankful to have points to boost my health and energy levels, but I found some of the other categories and even the armor inconsequential outside of the generic protection buffs. It’s hard to know what specific attacks you’re even trying to protect against. I seldom paid attention to attributes such as fire protection because I could usually blaze through enemies with the right tactics and augmentations. That was especially true when playing with others when the onscreen tumult becomes extremely difficult to track.

The Ascent is best experienced in co-op. Up to four players can enjoyably play the majority of The Ascent’s 15-20 hour story. The bombastic fights are more manageable with a team alongside you, and the combat starts to sing when you’re synched with explosive weaponry and chaotic augmentations.

While co-op is the highlight, co-op play still has a plethora of annoyances. A limited pool of health drops aided in my team’s demise, as the number of HP pickups doesn’t seem to scale to the greater player count. It is also hard to find your partners in the world as player indicators blend in with the rest of the map. That problem is exacerbated thanks to a surprisingly large play space. My other complaint is how progress is handled. I jumped into a coworker’s game for a few hours, only to find my progress was utterly gone because I wasn’t hosting the match.

Co-op is the main draw, but solo players shouldn’t despair. Half of my time was spent on my own, and I still enjoyed the experience with some caveats. Picking up health is easier alone, but I grew frustrated in many encounters as I was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies ­– it seems that the game was balanced with co-op in mind. These encounters aren’t impossible, but you’ll have to play smarter and plan your augmentations instead of the normal running and gunning.

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The game’s other great strength lies within its presentation. Neon Giant has crammed a staggering amount of detail into the world. Each corner of Veles is disgusting in the best sort of way, with its denizens throwing garbage onto the dilapidated metal plates of the sprawling megacity. The game’s lighting is equally beautiful if, at times, a little bit of a neon-soaked strain on the eyes. The camera work is also impressive and moves in cinematic and engaging ways. Finally, the music hits a high mark, with clear callbacks to iconic sci-fi fiction of the past, such as Vangelis’ work on the original Blade Runner film.

The world of Veles is worth exploring, but doing so can also be a hassle. I was grateful for the fast travel points, but it still takes too long to get from point to point. I also found my co-op partners and I sometimes had the same objective, but our tracker would occasionally take us in entirely different directions. It also didn’t help that we’d consistently run into groups of overpowered baddies that would instantly shred us. Neon Giant does a great job of rewarding curiosity with loot, but I found myself exploring less out of fear of another ambush and a game over screen as time went on.

The Ascent has issues, but those issues don’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the game. I won’t write my thesis on its commentary on capitalism, but I’ll fondly remember my co-op sessions where I tore through this cyberpunk world. That being said, the shallow RPG elements, lack of meaningful narrative, and exploration frustration were constants that really dragged the experience down. Neon Giant has made a solid foundation to build on, and I hope we can see future installments grow into something truly worthy of ascension.

Score: 7.25

Summary: The Ascent delivers mindless co-op fun in a beautiful cyberpunk world that ends up emphasizing style over substance.

Concept: Command a cybernetic warrior through the cyberpunk streets of this twin-stick shooter/RPG hybrid

Graphics: The neon-clad lighting, the sheer amount of detail, and overall visual fidelity is wildly impressive, especially when combined with some beautiful cinematic camera movements

Sound: The soundtrack is a highlight, with clear inspiration from some of the most iconic sci-fi scores in entertainment

Playability: Blasting cybernetic baddies feels excellent when combined with exciting augmentations that can obliterate your enemies in the blink of an eye

Entertainment: The Ascent is a mindlessly fun co-op experience that is easy to pick up and play with an emphasis on quick-hitting gunfights and enjoyable cybernetic abilities

Replay: Moderate

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Beta PS5 Update Adds M.2 SSD Support, 3D Audio Sound For TV Speakers, New Trophy Trackers, And More

Sony’s first beta program for the PS5 begins today and brings with it a few key changes to this generation’s system that are for the better. Including in the first update is the highly requested M.2 SSD slot as well as a few select UX enhancements, different customization options, and even a new Trophy tracker. The beta firmware update is available for a select group only, including PlayStation players from the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. 

The company notes in its latest update that players only used a supported M.2 to expand the PS5’s storage. The requirements for that can be found here. For those that may be a little confused on what an M.2 SSD even is, Sony describes it as a device that is “a high-speed solid state drive medium that PS5 beta users can install to upgrade the storage capacity of their PS5 console or PS5 Digital Edition console (separate purchase required). We recommend verifying that you’ve received a beta invitation before purchasing a new M.2 SSD.”

There is one thing to note, however, and that is that using the M.2 does have the potential to overheat a PS5. According to the requirement update, “Using an M.2 SSD with your PS5 console requires effective heat dissipation with a cooling structure, such as a heatsink. You can attach one to your M.2 SSD yourself, either in a single-sided format, or double-sided format.”

Also included in the beta update is 3D audio support specifically for native TV speakers, which will utilize the system’s DualSense controller in order to determine the area of impact regarding 3D sound regulation.

Sony is also ensuring that games ont he PlayStation Store and in the in-console library clearly distinct which titles are for PS5 and which ones are for the PS4. The Control Center is also seeing some tweaks, including more ways to personalize controls and message friends from the Game Base. The Friends tab in the Game Base is also getting a few UX tweaks, making it easier to see who is online. 

Regarding the new Trophy tracker, the added change here is that players can immediately access up to five Trophies via the Control Center per game. The latest update is a substantial one, but it won’t be available for all. For instructions on how to see if you qualify and to learn how to make sure everything is properly updated, check out the full FAQ sheet from Sony here


Kena: Bridge of Spirits Release Date Slips Into September

Kena: Bridge of Spirits has been one of the most exciting PlayStation console exclusives since the debut of the console itself. It was originally supposed to launch during the 2020 holiday season before it slipped into this year with a new August 24 date. Unfortunately, developer Ember Labs needs a few more weeks to bring it home.

As such, Kena will now launch September 21. The team posted a tweet explaining that they simply want to give each version of the game those final spitshines of polish.   

“The team has been working extremely hard and we feel the extra time is critical to ensure the best experience possible. We know many of you are eager to play and we appreciate your patience as the team continues to work on delivering the best version of Kena,” reads the message. 

Kena tells the tale of a young spirit guide who helps shepherd wayward souls into the afterlife. Kena finds herself in a land overtaken by a corrupted blight that only she can stop. She gains tiny helping hands in the Rot, cute little critters that decompose life and follow Kena around to assist in both combat and puzzle-solving. You can learn more about the game’s creation and design by visiting our coverage hub

Delays can be a gut-punch but I’m sure most of us realize that they’re usually necessary to ensure a better product. If nothing else, this gets Kena away from the particularly stacked month of August and into the … perhaps busier month of September. Well, at least it’s not launching a day before Psychonauts 2 anymore. 

Kena: Bridge of Spirits is slated to launch on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC via the Epic Games Store. 

Bummed out by Kena’s delay or are you okay with waiting for another few weeks? Let us know in the comments! 


Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster – New Gameplay Today

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Publisher: Square Enix

July 29, 2021

Platform: PC, iOS, Android

Few game series have the longevity of Square Enix’s crown jewel Final Fantasy. For 24 years, it has grown and changed with each entry, starting with an ambitious open world adventure on NES. Now, going into its sixteenth numbered title and countless side stories, it’s time to look back at where it all began.

Announced at E3 this year, the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series gives players a chance to experience the first six Final Fantasy games with updated pixel art that keep the look and feel of playing the original versions of these classics, but with some modern sensibilities. Not only are the visuals updated with new character sprites and world map overhauls, but the soundtracks have been enhanced with beautiful remastered tunes.

As of today, we’re able to get our hands on the first three of these Pixel Remasters: Final Fantasy I, II, and III. Join our tour guide Dan Tack as he gives Alex Stadnik, and John Carson a look at these reworked relics. Our adventure begins in the first Final Fantasy where we witness some of the updated artwork, ogle at the water, and talk about how this maiden voyage differs from the games it precedes. We also take a quick look into Final Fantasy III which showcases updated battle animations and transitions, as well as the CRT filter which players can apply for a more authentic NES-era experience.

Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters for Final Fantasy I, II, and III are available now for PC, iOS, and Android with IV, V, and VI coming later. These aren’t the only remakes Square Enix has been releasing in the past year. Check out our New Gameplay Today on Final Fantasy VII Remake here, and read our review of Final Fantasy VII Remake Intermission, the expansion released alongside an upgraded version for PlayStation 5.


Hundreds Of Ubisoft Employees Support Activision Blizzard Colleagues With Letter Demanding Accountability

As more and more details surface about the California lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over workplace harassment and sexual misconduct, many at Ubisoft are standing in solidarity with their colleagues in an open letter demanding accountability.  

In an open letter, Ubisoft alum are organizing efforts to support Activision Blizzard workers, criticizing how the company is handling sexual misconduct, both at Ubisoft and at Activision Blizzard. Organizers say that signatures include many from the Asia, Europe, and North American offices, with a call for accountability from leadership, including demanding accountability from Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. “It should no longer be a surprise to anyone: employees, executives, journalists, or fans that these heinous acts are going on,” reads a part of the letter obtained by Axios. “It is time to stop being shocked. We must demand real steps be taken to prevent them. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.”

Why is Ubisoft’s added voice so important? Summer 2020 marked a massive shift in the gaming industry, particularly those who have suffered sexual misconduct and abusive leadership. After numerous reports regarding abuse, misconduct, and power corruption led to several high-profile execs being fired at Ubisoft, the investigations into the underbelly of this studio’s culture continue. Investigations revealed that over 25 percent of employees experienced, or witnessed, workplace misconduct. While several notable executive roles became vacant due to these investigations, including Ashraf Ismail, Tommy Francois, and Maxime Beland, a new report shares that many employees feel unheard after numerous managers reported for misconduct remain in their leadership positions. Now, Activision Blizzard is under a similar microscope, and many around the industry, including Ubisoft, are rallying to support those in the thick of things. 

“We have stood by and watched as you fired only the most public offenders,” the letter continues. “You let the rest either resign or worse, promoted them, moved them from studio to studio, team to team, giving them second chance after second chance with no repercussions. This cycle needs to stop.”

While several notable names were fired from Ubisoft following the events of last year, a new report that broke earlier this Summer shows that not much else has been done and that much of the behavior reported is still allegedly widespread. 

Concerning Activision Blizzard, a walkout protest has been scheduled for today, following a public message to Activision Blizzard leadership that has amassed over 1,500 signatures. A/B CEO Bobby Kotick has also responded with special attention to rebuking an earlier statement made by the company against the allegations. To learn more, you can find our previous coverage here


New Activision Blizzard Lawsuit Details Reveal The Culture Behind ‘Bill Cosby’ Suite

Over the past week, new details have been uncovered following a lawsuit filed by the State of California against Activision Blizzard. The suit centers around allegations that focus on workplace harassment, sexual misconduct, and various other labor law infringements. Now, a new report shows off more about what the reported “frat-boy culture” refers to, this time surrounding what is being dubbed the Bill Cosby suite. 

Detailed in a new report from Kotakuthere is photographed documentation of the Cosby Suite that is named in the lawsuit. In the social media posts obtained by the site, it is further supported that more than just the named Alex Afrasiabi was involved in the alleged workplace behavior, though Afrasiabi remains front and center in the latest findings. 

The suite wasn’t just a name. The developers seen in the obtained images show the men involved posing with pictures of Bill Cosby alongside the presence of alcohol. Alcohol during industry events is nothing new. However, this particular suite reportedly took things to the next level, not only drawing inspiration from Cosby, but one caption by a person involved proclaiming the suite to be a place of “gathering hot chixx for the Coz” when talking about potential hookups. 

“Bring ’em,” the site notes was Afrasiabi’s reply. “You can’t marry ALL of them Alex,” former Blizzard designer David Kosak said. “I can, I’m middle eastern,” responded Afrasiabi. Jesse McCree, a lead game designer at Blizzard responded, saying: “You misspelled f****.”

via Kotaku

The site notes that another lead designer, Cory Stockton, was an active participant in a group chat with the images, as well as Greg Street, who is now at Riot Games. A member of HR was also reportedly a part of the images shown, which may shed some light on the lawsuit plaintiff’s claims attempts to go to HR for help being reportedly rebuffed. 

According to social media posts made by those involved, the Cosby Suite was what Afrasiabi’s BlizzCon 2013’s hotel room was called in reference to the actor Bill Cosby, who was convicted of rape, before his conviction was overturned on a technicality earlier in 2021. Afrasiabi, alongside Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, was explicitly named in the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard. “During a company event (an annual convention called Blizz Con [sic]) Afrasiabi would hit on female employees, telling him [sic] he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting his arms around them,” reads the complaint. “This was in plain view of other male employees, including supervisors, who had to intervene and pull him off female employees. Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the ‘Crosby Suite’ [sic] after alleged rapist Bill Crosby [sic].”

One source told the site that when the suite began its connotation, it was in relation to Cosby’s “ugly sweaters” and not the rape allegations against him in 2013, but that later it transformed into a focus on more sexualized context. Another source said that the ugly connection, aesthetically speaking, was also a jab at an “ugly boardroom back at Blizzard’s main office” with outdated designs; like Cosby’s sweater. Kotaku notes that this justification doesn’t quite line up with the images presented, where the walls were bare and without design.

Another image showed a woman sitting on a bed in the room whilst holding a portrait of Cosby with another woman holding someone else’s breast. Male colleagues cheered on the action, calling it “Coz Approved,” which sources say is indicative of Afrasiabi’s alleged “predatory behavior.” 

Another source told the site that while Kosak was involved, he was one of the few that would step in when things were taken too far, including protecting colleagues when sexual harassment was apparent. To read the full report, and see more images obtained by the site, you can see Kotaku’s full report right here. You can also learn more about everything going on currently, including Bobby Kotick’s statement, the planned walkout, and more, here.


Xbox Is Getting Over 75 New Games This Summer For Spotlight Event

The Xbox Summer Spotlight has been around for seven years. Each event comes with dozens of new Xbox games to close out the summer. 2021 is the biggest yet, with the announcement that over 75 new titles are joining Xbox’s already expansive catalog. Between July 27 and September 6, you can hop into numerous new game worlds. Of course, there’s more than just that. You could be eligible to receive prizes too when partaking in the gaming festivities.

According to a post that was uploaded on the official Xbox website, Microsoft Rewards and Gift Card combo are returning to this year’s Summer Spotlight, “The Microsoft Rewards and Gift Card combo was so popular last year that we decided to bring the offer back for buying Summer Spotlight titles, which will also include some popular selections from Microsoft Movies & TV,” the article reads. “As an added bonus, spend $50 on eligible titles and you will receive 5,000 Microsoft Rewards points and a $5 gift card. The deal gets even better for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members who will receive a $10 gift card.”

While a large majority of the incoming games are still relatively unknown, here are a few that are already out or launching soon that you should be aware of:

Death’s Door

Death’s Door is an action-adventure game with gorgeous art and fun gameplay. Our very own Marcus Stewart reviewed the game and gave it a 9, “Death’s Door is more lighthearted than it looks, and that’s to its benefit. These amusing moments complement weightier themes about respecting the dead (no matter how terrible they were in life), the fear of death’s inevitability, and whether anything we accomplish truly matters when our time is limited.”

You can download Death’s Door right now!


Hades is an incredible isometric rogue-like from the minds behind Bastion and Transistor. It was also my Game of the Year in 2020. Matt Miller enjoyed his time with it and stated, “Supergiant’s latest opus is a beautiful and thoughtful twist on Greek mythology, flipping these old stories on their head and transforming them into commentaries on modern relationships. High-octane action gameplay may pull you into hell for the first time, but I suspect you’ll stay to find out about this eccentric and fascinating family.”

Hades launches on August 13.

Other titles, like The Ascent, 12 Minutes, The Forgotten City, and Aliens: Fireteam Elite are slated to come out this and next month. 

Are you planning on entering the Summer Spotlight sweepstakes? What games have you kept on your radar all this time?


Free PS Plus August 2021 Games Revealed

Microsoft just revealed its Xbox Games With Gold lineup for August, and now it’s time for PlayStation to show off its lineup. Where Xbox is leaning into that Lost Planet love, PlayStation is going in a different direction with Hunter’s Arena: Legends and some Tennis-inspired adventures. 

Just like every month, the new lineup is yours to keep as long as a PlayStation Plus membership is active. 

PS Plus Free Games For August 2021 

  • Hunter’s Arena: Legends
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville
  • Tennis World Tour  2

I don’t have any experience with Tennis World Tour 2, personally, so I can’t recommend that but Plants vs. Zombies is a fun little adventure if you’re looking for something a little more light-hearted. Plus, all three games are free, so if you don’t like them? Simply uninstall! Easy peasy. 

For those that haven’t scooped up the current month’s lineup, it is not too late to grab July’s free games, which you can find here. Just remember that an active PS Plus membership is required for all of the aforementioned titles. Sony’s online services membership includes free games each month, exclusive sales on select titles, and more. The free games downloaded due to the PS Plus service remain yours to keep unless you cancel your membership. 

Thoughts on the free PS Plus August 2021 games lineup? What do you hope gets added into the freebie lineup next? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below!