Ahead of an expected official reveal at Gamescom 2017 next week, a trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront II has leaked. It shows off the game's space battles, one of the most anticipated elements of the sequel. What you're seeing is not gameplay but was captured in-engine, so keep that in mind when looking at the impressive-looking footage.
Also, Yoda as a fighter pilot? This looks great.
You can find the video on the internet (via Eurogamer), and when the official version is released next week, we'll post it on GameSpot.
Battlefront II's space battles are being made by Burnout developer Criterion. Other EA-owned studios DICE and Motive are also working on the game. Unlike the 2015 original, Battlefront II has a campaign, which Motive is developing.
EA will host a live demonstration of Battlefront II's Starfighter Assault mode during Gamescom on August 21.
This week on Replay, we take a look at Turok, though it might not be the one you remember.
Most think of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for the Nintendo 64 when they hear the name Turok. In 2008, however, developer Propaganda Games and publisher Touchstone Games (which is affiliated with Disney Interactive Studios, strangely) tried to reboot the series with a game clearly inspired Aliens that throws in some dinosaurs and recognizable voice actors for good measure.
Andrew Reiner, the voice of Leo Vader, and I are joined this week by someone you don't hear too often. Creative director Jeff Akervik (last seen/heard here) joins us for a look at, hopefully, not the last time a developer tries to make a Turok game. For part two, we do one of my favorite things, which is to go in with zero expectations and discover a bizarre gem.
It's worth noting that there were some gameplay audio recording issues with these games, so if you're not hearing all the sound effects, that's why. Apologies!
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The annual Pokemon World Championships are being held in Anaheim, CA this weekend, and for Pokemon fans, that means a chance to see the best strategies players can come up with. The top players in both the trading card game and the video game compete for over $500,000 in prizes, and some of the matches can get pretty intense.
You can watch all the events now on Pokemon's official World Championships livestream. While the competitive TCG follows most of the usual rules you might be familiar with if you've played recently--and the casters explain complex strategies and unique cards if you aren't up to speed--the competitive video game involves rules and strategies you probably wouldn't use (or even know about) while playing the games normally. This is what you need to know to watch the best Pokemon video game playing you'll see all year.
All competitive battles are double battles, meaning each player has two Pokemon out on the field at one time. Additionally, they're required to register a "battle team" of four to six Pokemon at the beginning of any given VGC event and can't change it, so they have to come prepared.
Before every battle, each player is given a 90-second preview of their opponent's battle team. Based on that preview, they then pick the four Pokemon from their team that they think will best counter their opponent's Pokemon. If all your Pokemon faint, you lose. Ties at the end of the time limit are broken based on how much HP each player's Pokemon have left.
The main difference with this year's competitive series is the omission of Mega Evolution, which is replaced with Sun and Moon's superpowered Z-Moves. These moves can be used once per battle, and the Pokemon has to be holding a Z-Crystal for it to work. One other change is the introduction of Legendary Pokemon Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu, and Tapu Fini changes strategies, but we'll get to that a bit later.
Much of what goes into competitive Pokemon happens before the battles themselves. Players spend a lot of time crafting teams that work well together--Pokemon that can effectively combo off of each other, counter popular Pokemon, and represent a variety of types and purposes. Rather than just use a bunch of strong attacks, VGC battles involve a lot of status and support moves that enhance the performance of already strong Pokemon. Usually, teams will be a mix of strong offensive Pokemon and support Pokemon with less-than-stellar stats but access to important moves or abilities.
For example, the move Trick Room reverses the priority on the field for five turns, meaning the slowest Pokemon move first. Attacking first can make or break a battle, and it's a great option for Pokemon with high attack or special attack stats but poor speed. If you're going to use Trick Room, you'd want most of the Pokemon you use to be on the slower side so that the team is compatible. On top of that, you wouldn't want your main attacker to use Trick Room; you'd teach Trick Room to a support Pokemon instead, since its purpose is to provide setups for stronger Pokemon to capitalize on.
In order to build these teams, pro players look at semi-hidden stats called individual values (IVs). IVs are assigned to Pokemon when they're caught or hatched from an egg, and they determine the max growth of each of their stats (HP, attack, defense, special attack, special defense, and speed). Players breed Pokemon to get the IVs that will work best for them, usually the highest IV in most stats. For the Trick Room example, though, breeding a Pokemon with the lowest possible speed IV would help ensure that it will be the slowest Pokemon on the field and therefore benefit from the effects of Trick Room.
Players also breed Pokemon to get specific natures, which increase the growth of one stat and decrease the growth of another. For the slow Pokemon, you might want a Brave nature, which increases attack and lowers speed. That way, you're making sure this Pokemon is really slow, but you're also giving it a boost so it can hit harder.
When breeding, players also look for the right ability--most Pokemon have two or three possible abilities, each with different benefits. Whimsicott, for example, is a support Pokemon that has access to Trick Room but a high speed stat, which normally wouldn't be ideal on a Trick Room team. However, one of its abilities is Prankster, which gives non-damaging moves priority. When up against a similarly slow team, that priority can often allow it to move first even under Trick Room, and it can then continue to provide support with its wide pool of non-damaging and status moves. You might decide that's too risky, though, and opt for Tailwind as a form of speed control instead--rather than reversing priority, it just increases priority on your side of the field.
Finally, after breeding the perfect Pokemon, players train them with a focus on effort values (EVs). You can get EVs in several ways, including battling, using items, and training in Poke Pelago. A limited number of EVs can be "invested" in a Pokemon's stats to increase growth for that stat. For the slow attacker, you'd invest the maximum EVs in its attack stat while making sure it doesn't have any EVs in speed.
After a pro player has caught, bred, and trained all their Pokemon, it's time to practice with that team and tweak it until the competition!
Once you understand everything that goes into building a team, it becomes a lot easier to follow battles. Competitors aren't just trying to hit the hardest; they're trying to gain supremacy over the field in a number of ways, including speed control, weather, and generally making it difficult for the other player to execute their desired strategy. The fight for control is what makes championship-level battles so exciting.
One big component of control in this year's series is terrain. Legendaries Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu, and Tapu Fini have abilities that change the terrain when they enter the field, and each of the four types of terrain (electric, grassy, misty, and psychic) have certain effects. For example, Electric Terrain increases the power of electric-type moves and prevents sleep, and the popular Tapu Koko's Electric Surge ability introduces it. One way to counter it would be to send out another Tapu and introduce a different terrain. You'll definitely see plenty of Tapus when watching competitive Sun and Moon, so if you see a player switching their Tapu in and out, they're most likely trying to get the upper hand on the terrain.
Going back to the speed control example, someone using Whimsicott would lead with it in order to set up Trick Room or Tailwind and use Whimsicott's other support moves to disrupt the opponent's plan. VGC players often run Encore on Whimsicott, for example, which causes the target to repeat the last move it used for three turns. If the player can predict what that Pokemon might use--something like Protect, which isn't reliable when used multiple turns in a row--Encore can seriously hinder the opposing player's ability to do any damage or impose a strategy of their own.
At last year's World Championships, there was one battle toward the end of the weekend between two identical teams. This isn't uncommon in the VGC, in which only a select number of the 700-plus eligible Pokemon are considered "viable." Knowing how to effectively play those Pokemon gives players the edge, and throwing in a curveball Pokemon with a unique use or running uncommon moves on common Pokemon is another way to avoid being predictable.
When watching the official Pokemon VGC streams, you'll get some context from commentators about what's going on and which Pokemon are surprising or especially effective. For more details on which teams are most successful and why, you can check out the official Pokemon website. If you're interested in trying out competitive battles for yourself, Smogon is a great resource for movesets and team tips.
The Pokemon World Championships run until midday Sunday, August 20.
Like most major releases nowadays, Dissidia Final Fantasy NT will launch in several different editions. The standard game retails for $60, but those who pre-order it from participating retailers will receive one of three limited steelbook cases selected at random, which feature different Final Fantasy heroes and villains on the front and back covers. You can see a photo of the three steelbook cases below.
Fans who'd prefer to download the game can purchase a digital copy for $60. Everyone who pre-orders this version from the PlayStation Store will receive a mini soundtrack that consists of five songs, as well as the "Nameless Warrior" skin for the Warrior of Light. In addition to that, Square Enix is offering an $85 Digital Deluxe Edition that also includes the game's season pass.
The most extravagant version is the Ultimate Collector's Edition. This set can only be purchased from Square Enix's online store and runs for $190. It includes a Warrior of Light bust figure, 15-song soundtrack, hardcover art book, the game's season pass, and a unique steelbook case all housed in a collector's box featuring Final Fantasy characters. The season pass will give players access to six DLC characters and other post-release content. You can see a photo of the Ultimate Collector's Edition below.
Players who'd like to try the game early still have a chance to sign up for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT's closed beta. Registration ends on Sunday, August 20. Players can sign up on Square Enix's website, though only a select number will be chosen to participate. The game's closed beta kicks off on August 25 and runs until September 3.
After the marathon that was Shenmue II, Andrew Reiner and I decided it was time to play something that didn't require quite so much long-term commitment. We wanted something that felt closer to a walk in the park, or a leisurely ride through a park, which is how we landed on Pokémon Snap. The Nintendo 64 favorite offered Pokémon fans their first look at their favorite creatures in 3D and, for our purposes, doesn't tell an elongated story about revenge.
Despite our intentions to play something a little less intense, we still want to make sure we get a photo of every Pokémon in the game. We will also be passing the sticks in order to foster some competition. At the end of every episode we will make sure to check and see who took the best photo.
Enjoy the episodes, and leave comments! We plan on reading them out loud during the episodes just like we did with our last few two-person Super Replays.
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Head here to watch this episode on YouTube!
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Head here to watch this episode on YouTube!
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Head here to watch this episode on YouTube!
Much as it did last year, Best Buy will host a special 50-hour sale this weekend. Whereas last year's was meant to celebrate the company's 50-year anniversary, this one is apparently just an excuse to sneak in another big sale between its Black Friday in July promotion and Black Friday proper.
Amazingly, this one is not dubbed Summer Is Almost Over So Let's Black Friday or anything else involving that magical term, though the store does describe it as offering "Black Friday-like deals." At this point, most of the sale remains a mystery, though we know select MacBooks, LG 4K TVs, and gaming PCs and monitors are all set to be included. Here's what Best Buy has shared so far:
The 50-hour sale begins later today, August 18, at 8 PM PT / 11 PM ET and wraps up Sunday night, at 10 PM PT / 1 AM ET. "Nearly all" deals will be available both online and in-stores, with some promotions getting even better if you're a member of the student deals program.
Blizzard has announced a series of big changes to StarCraft II's multiplayer mode. Just as it did with the big 3.8 update last year, it's outlining many of those now in preparation for a long period of testing.
These adjustments were outlined in a new post on Blizzard's website, though the developer describes this as only an "initial list of changes," which are merely being "proposed" at this point. One big tweak concerns a change made with Legacy of the Void that was meant to prevent players from turtling up and playing defensively. Blizzard thinks this went too far and wants to encourage comebacks from players who can't establish more than a couple bases. To facilitate that, it's increasing the amount of resources available from large mineral nodes and Vespene geysers (small mineral nodes will stay as-is).
The bulk of the changes concern specific units. MULEs can now harvest Vespene gas but bring in fewer minerals than before, and if more than one MULE is working at a refinery, it will be less effective. The Raven loses some of its abilities but gains new ones: Scrambler Missile temporarily knocks out weapons and unit abilities, Repair Drone restores nearby mechanic units' health, and Shredder Missile deals damage in an area and temporarily decreases armor. The Infestor is being adjusted so that it operates differently on and off of Creep. The Mothership Core is being removed altogether and changes are being made to the Nexus--Blizzard acknowledges this is a big change and will be watched carefully.
Blizzard outlines these and many other changes, along with the thought process behind them, here. You can check them out for yourself in-game now through StarCraft II's testing section, but you'll likely have to wait a few months to see them arrive in the live game.
"As with last year, this design patch will require a large amount of testing, feedback, and revision before it can go live for everyone to enjoy, so we wanted to get it into your hands for testing as fast as possible," Blizzard said. "The changes in this blog are live on the Testing section of StarCraft II Multiplayer, and we would like to release the final changes after this year’s tournament season concludes in November."
Earlier this week, Blizzard launched StarCraft Remastered. Next week, it has a series of announcements planned for Gamescom. While a new Overwatch map reveal is arguably the biggest, we know StarCraft II will get at least some attention with the unveiling of a new co-op commander.
Nintendo has released a new trailer for Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, the upcoming alternate versions to last year's installments. While brief, the video showcases some of the differences that await players in this version of the Alola region.
Among the changes highlighted in the trailer are the games' avatars, who sport a new look for these installments. The video also gives players a closer look at Dusk Form Lycanroc, the recently revealed new form of the wolf Pokemon. It reiterates that only special Rockruff will be able to evolve into Dusk Form Lycanroc; everyone who picks up a copy of the game before January 10 will receive one such Rockruff as a free DLC gift.
Most interesting, however, are the changes that have been made to the region itself. The map of Alola looks a bit different than it did in Sun and Moon; the game's official website says "ominous clouds are spreading in the sky" above the region and players will encounter "new buildings and landscapes" that weren't around in its previous incarnation.
The trailer also teases that "new secrets of the Alola region will be revealed," which will presumably relate to the Ultra Beast Necrozma. The mysterious Pokemon will play a much more prominent role in these installments, and some secrets about the monster that were "undisclosed in the previous games" will be revealed in Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon.
While it wasn't touched on in the trailer, the games' website reveals that Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon will feature new Z-Moves as well. According to the site, players will acquire a Z-Power Ring that allows them to unleash "even more varieties of Z-Moves" than they could in Sun/Moon. The Pokemon Company revealed one of the new attacks at the 2017 Pokemon World Championships: Clangorous Soulblaze, an exclusive Z-Move for Kommo-o. This powerful attack deals damage to both opponent Pokemon in Double Battles and increases each of Kommo-o's stats.
Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon release for 3DS on November 17. Before then, players will be able to revisit the series' second-generation installments, Pokemon Gold and Silver, which will be released in the 3DS Eshop on September 22. Players in Europe will be able to pick up boxed release of those games that contain a download code for their respective versions.
This story has been updated.
Believe it or not, we at Game Informer struggle with the same problem that all gamers do: finding time to play games as much as we'd like to. Everyone thinks that being a games journalist means sitting around and playing games all day (at least that's what every forced small-talk conversation about my job has led me to believe), but in reality we spend 90 percent of our time writing about games. I can say without a doubt that I played way more video games before I started working at G.I., just by virtue of not having a full-time job; turns out you can get a lot of screen time in when the only appointment in your daily planner is, "Save Hyrule in your underwear."
Now when I get home from the office, life takes on the characteristics of a farming sim – i.e., trying to get as much done as humanly possible before the sun sets and I involuntarily pass out wherever I happen to be at that moment. Most of my evening activities involve boring chores like doing the laundry or mowing the lawn, but my video game to-do list is a bit more epic. As we speak, Morgan Yu is patiently sitting in some corner of her inkblot-alien-infested space station, waiting for me to hatch a daring escape plan. I've also got an intergalactic ranch full of slimes who are plorting themselves for their next meal. New heroes have entered the Overwatch arena, and a smattering of intriguing indie games are downloaded and primed to whisk me away on new adventures. And yet when I do get the chance to play video games, all I want to play is more Diablo.
I'm setting out with the goal of writing a shorter column this week, because the more time I spend writing about Diablo III, the less time I have to play it. That's still not going to be easy, however, because I could wax poetic about this game for days on end. I wrote a loving ode to blowing sh-- up in video games in one of last year's Funnies To A Point*, but if there's any modern game that deserves its own lavish praise, it's Diablo III.
As a console gamer, I've had only a passing interest in the Diablo series over the years ("PC gamers have an endless dungeon crawler to be excited about? Hoo-ray for them..."), but all that changed when Joe dropped the last-gen port of Diablo III in my lap back in 2013 (sometimes we do get to play games at work all day). I was a bit wary of reviewing a game with such a long legacy on "the other" platform, not to mention the ear-popping depth of content Diablo offers. But Joe was looking for a newcomer's perspective for the review, and I apparently looked like enough of a golly-gee country bumpkin to fit that bill (to be fair, we hadn't hired Kyle yet).
I spent a few afternoons with Diablo III on PC to get acclimated to the game, as I knew the biggest question to address in the review was going to be whether Blizzard could pull off the transition to console and controller. The answer was evident before my female barbarian even equipped her first legendary bikini – not only was all the depth and complexity still intact, but having direct control over your character transformed the game from a glorified spreadsheet clicker to a real hack-and-slash action game. I wasted no time in calling the PS3/Xbox 360 version the best incarnation of the game, knowing full well the PC crowd would scoff at the claim. I stand by it (well, technically the PS4/Xbox One versions now, but whatevs) – and I also enjoyed watching the mental contortions PC players went through when Blizzard started implementing console decisions into the PC version ("Removing the real-money auction house totally breaks the economy! What? Blizzard is removing it from the PC version too, you say? We told you the auction house was a terrible idea!").
I didn't continue playing Diablo III long after my initial review, but when I returned to it for the current-gen launches, I was amazed by how much had changed. Sure, the campaign still featured the same boilerplate, good-versus-evil story conveyed via conversations and audio diaries that you tap through as quickly as possible so you can get back to pulverizing endless hordes of enemies. But the new adventure mode and rifts provided compelling new avenues for hoarding precious loot (sadly, it took me another three or four story run-throughs before I realized you could jump straight into the new adventure mode – I still lament the time I wasted re-saving Diabloland** a half dozen times over).
Diablo III's use of procedural generation also helps keep things fresh. Procedural generation gets a bad rap because other games have screwed it up, but thanks to its use in Diablo, randomized dungeons fork and sprawl out in unpredictable ways, loot drops with a tantalizingly infinite array of stats and effects, and enemies swarm in with different combinations of abilities (though they all still blow up the same, thankfully). Diablo III's procedural generation provides just enough variation to keep the dungeon crawling from feeling repetitive, even though you are doing the same thing for hours on end. Each session feels new and old at the same time – kind of like Schrodinger's Cat, only you're left with a Smaug-like pile of treasure at the end of the night instead of a stupid undead cat in a box.
Diablo III's steady stream of mindless-but-rewarding action is the perfect game to zone out to. Sometimes too perfect; all of my recent sessions have ended with me falling asleep while playing the game, only to wake up to an exploded character whose armor has been completely trashed. It's an inglorious end for a hero, but from an emergent-story perspective I love the idea of a fearsome narcoleptic warrior who positively decimates his enemies, but is prone to falling asleep in the heat of battle from time to time.
That sense of amazement over how much Diablo III changes every time I revisit it has become a common, Memento-esque revelation over the years. My lengthiest hiatus just came to an end a few weeks ago, and the game I returned to has become utterly unintelligible. Getting back into the swing of a years-old build is hard enough as it is, without all the added layers of new crafting materials and transmogrifying mystics and that weird magic cube that changes all your gear if you can find it during the one random chapter in the game.
Jeff Cork is our resident Diablo III expert, and has done an admirable job catching me up to speed. Every morning we convene at the metaphorical watercooler*** so that I can report my daily progress and he can explain what the hell to do next – while hounding me to play co-op with him even though he goes to bed at 4:00 in the afternoon and I still stick to the vampiric gaming hours of my college years, even if I'm now unconscious for most of them.
Blizzard has added so much new stuff to the game that now I feel a little nostalgic when I recognize a familiar enemy. Oh look! It's the weird goat-men! And the bloated corpses that spew eels when they die – my favorite type of exploding fatty in video games! Diablo III features so many twisted new monstrosities that my first night of playing again felt like I was jumping into H.R. Giger's mind (minus all the phalluses). Every character build I've ever attempted has felt new and unique, but all delivered the same classic gameplay beats – the slow-and-steady incremental climb in gear and abilities; the otherworldly pleasure of chewing a path through a screen full of enemies like you're slowly sinking into a hot tub; the mad rush when you spot a treasure goblin and forsake whatever is actually attacking you in order to pound that walking lootbag as hard and fast as possible. The only thing I don't like about Diablo III is my inability to acquire a freaking pet, which Cork says are easy to find while doing bounties, though I suspect that might just be another ploy to get me to play with him.
The impetus behind my latest return to Diablo was the recent launch of Seasons on consoles, and the new mode provides exactly what the game needed – another new excuse to keep playing! Each season you create new characters from scratch and speed-level them for exclusive treasure sets. I started this season with the newly released necromancer (best job title ever), and found myself once again delighted at all the new, game-breaking abilities at my disposal. Barbarians and demon hunters are cool and all, but they're missing one key attribute: the ability to summon an undead army to fight for you until their corpses slump to the ground and then you explode their corpses which kills more enemies and then you explode their corpses too until you have an ever-powerful corpse-explosion-chain that tears through the entire dungeon leaving the halls glittering with sweet loot. Granted that's a very specific attribute that seems unfairly catered to the necromancer, but who said Diabloland**** was fair?
Controlling your own massive skeleton army ain't bad either
The truth is every character class in Diablo III has their own amazing abilities and combinations that make you feel infinitely powerful, despite the fact that you're also somehow constantly improving. You can't overstate how many great design decisions Blizzard has made – most of them post-launch, no less. When I first logged in last week, the opening scroll of the "What's New" patch notes was as long as the average game's EULA agreement – only I actually felt compelled to read it! Entire systems have been revamped, arbitrary limits have been expanded or done away with entirely, and a staggering amount of new content has been added. The option to select any combination of abilities (you were originally restricted by categories) remains the biggest game changer, and blows the doors wide open for creating unstoppable demigods. In fact, Blizzard's best design decision has been not caring when they break the game – everything has become so extremely overpowered that you're decimating crowds of enemies before your character's level even reaches the double digits. Instead of trying to rein in the experience and keep everything balanced, Blizzard has just added a dozen or so different "Torment" difficulty levels, which in turn dole out more loot! Everybody wins from this fun-first approach – well, except the millions of doomed minions you'll be effortlessly pounding into the ground.
When in doubt, add more Torments!
Ultimately, the biggest foe in Diablo III is the addiction it fosters. There's always more rifts to run, more bosses to slay, more legendary armor sets and weapons to collect, and more pets to never find (seriously, where the hell are they?). I'm not convinced it's a completely unintended irony on Blizzard's part that in a game whose core narrative boils down to "Good versus Evil," you transform into a walking tank of destruction that mindlessly slaughters every moving creature you happen upon in the pursuit of an endless pile of treasure. Who is the real diablo in that scenario? I'm sure there's a thought-provoking opinion piece to be written on what Diablo says about capitalism – but I'm too damn busy enjoying the game to write it myself.
As a games journalist, I always try to remain objective when it comes to games and developers. But as a gamer, it's hard not to love Blizzard – the studio has spent years expanding and improving upon Diablo III (admittedly in part because they screwed the pooch so bad at launch), and besides the two new character classes, all the additional content has been free. Diablo III was one of my favorite games last generation, and it's one of my favorite games this generation as well – and probably still will be when we're all frying our brains on Microsony's Neuro-Play Network. Blizzard has gone above and beyond to make Diablo III a game that you can sink hundreds of hours into. The only thing missing are the actual hours to play it.*****
So much loot, so little time...
*I still don't know how to pluralize this damn thing. (back to top)
**I realize the game world is actually called Sanctuary, but you gotta admit Diabloland has a nice ring to it. (back to top)
***Our desks are adjacent to one another so there's no need to be so formal or cliché. (back to top)
****"Diabloland" is growing on you, isn't it? (back to top)
*****And my damn pets. (back to top)