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19th October 2017
Hands-On With Star Wars Battlefront II's Single-Player Campaign

Hands-On With Star Wars Battlefront II’s Single-Player Campaign

Few series have lineages as storied as Star Wars, which can be a burden for every new project that attempts to pull from its universe. For decades, Star Wars games have tried to retell the stories from the movies or diversify and explore the outside periphery of the galaxy far, far away. The story campaign of Star Wars Battlefront II charts a middle ground between the two, teetering on the edge of the movies we know and love without being directly involved.

The last Battlefront game that released in 2015 alongside The Force Awakens was a multiplayer-only affair that focused on back-and-forth battles across Star Wars history. However, one of the major complaints from fans was the lack of a single-player campaign, prompting EA to bring a high-budget campaign for the sequel.

Developed by EA Motive, the studio headed by former Assassin’s Creed producer Jade Raymond, the campaign puts the player in the shoes of Iden Versio. As a lifelong servant of the Empire, she has dedicated to the cause of wiping out the Rebel Alliance as commander of the Inferno Team. When the game starts, Iden is captured by the enemy and has to remotely control her backpack droid to free her. From there, she’s one blaster rifle and a hundred Rebels away from escaping the ship.

The prologue mission introduces you to all the basic game mechanics. Iden can use her droid to zap enemies into unconsciousness, which is good for stealth approaches. This skill requires a cooldown that can be lessened by killing enemies or making headshots, so Iden can’t avoid fighting for long.

After she makes her escape from the rebel frigate, Iden meets with her team to discuss the Empire’s counter-offensive on Endor. The then game leaps into the future to the forest moon just before the climactic moment where the Millennium Falcon blows up the Death Star as Iden and the rest of the Inferno Team try to fight their way back to their command post. Interestingly, some of the firefights here can be skipped, if you are feeling too moral to shoot some celebrating Rebels from the grassy knoll.

While the larger space of Endor does not quite have a Halo-like quality of tackling encounters any way you see fit, there is a lot less linearity to the level design than in the cramped hallways of the prologue chapter. You can sneak around the enemy, attack from behind, or lead a group of pursuers into a small enough space where you can take them all out with a grenade.

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Iden commandeers a TIE Fighter and heads into space, looking for her Admiral and father to reconvene. She finds his ship being bombarded by Y-Wings, forcing her into a space battle. The full space battles lack the strategic element of 1994’s TIE Fighter, but they are as fast and frantic as you would hope. Chasing an X-Wing through the remains of exploded Death Star as you both weave through debris is exciting and leaves you gasping at every near miss.

The chapter ends with Iden receiving posthumous orders from the Emperor, who left one final mission for his subordinates and was maybe better at predicting the future than people gave him credit for. The goals of the mission aren’t clear, but the objectives are, and Iden is more than willing to rebuild the empire that she believes is a force of good in the world.

The third chapter starts with a slightly more involved space battle, allowing Iden to dock into enemy ships, shoot up their bay, and then proceed to their main computers on foot.

Battlefront II’s story campaign is likely the best Star Wars has ever looked in video game form. During some moments I squinted and was unable to tell the difference between the game’s cutscenes and the movies themselves. Space battles are visual treats, and I occasionally found myself being so distracted by what I saw that I crashed into the broad side of a Star Destroyer.

I ultimately walked away from Battlefront II wanting to play more of the campaign, but also hoping that the rest of it becomes more interesting. I worry that Iden’s story will follow too many familiar tropes of confusion, redemption, and eventually rebellion, which would be disappointing if it does not subvert expectations. The gaming landscape has had Titanfall II and Doom’s campaigns since the last Battlefront released, so Battlefront II's campaign has big shoes to fill if it wants to impress when it releases on November 17.

18th October 2017
Everything We Know About Android 21 (So Far) In Dragon Ball FighterZ

Everything We Know About Android 21 (So Far) In Dragon Ball FighterZ

Every character shown for Dragon Ball FighterZ to date – even the ones who are not fighters like Bulma – have been familiar characters from the anime and manga. The one exception is Android 21. She is a brand new, original character to the Dragon Ball universe and she is making her debut in FighterZ. We still don't know a lot about her, but gathered below is everything we do know so far, which should give us plenty of ammunition to theorize about her in the comments.

She is a researcher
After her reveal, Bandai Namco released a small follow-up trailer showing a cutscene featuring 21. In it, she seems like a good guy, and implies that she can help Android 18 who has been injured. She calls herself a researcher in the scene. Separately, FighterZ producer Tomoko Hiroki used a different term to describe her profession, saying, "And because she herself is a scientist of the Red Ribbon Army, you can guess that she also has a connection with the Androids.”

She is affiliated with the Red Ribbon Army
Which brings us to another element of her character: She is part of, or at least affiliated with, the Red Ribbon army. Bandai Namco has made no attempt to hide this fact with the logo appearing on her lab coat and the device she is holding in her reveal trailer, and she herself also says she was a researcher employed by the Red Ribbon army.

If you're unfamiliar, the Red Ribbon army served as an antagonist for Goku in the original Dragon Ball, and later re-appeared in Dragon Ball Z as the organization behind the Androids and Cell. After Goku defeated them in Dragon Ball, their numbers dwindled significantly, and Dr. Gero, the inventor of the Androids, was one of the few remaining members. Hiroki was vague about the relationship, but told us that Android 21 has ties to Dr. Gero and is very smart. Hiroki hinted she may even be smarter than Dr. Gero.

She was designed by Akira Toriyama*
This fact is a little tricky, but it might all boil down to a matter of semantics. While visiting Bandai Namco and Arc System Works for our cover story, both the game's publisher and developer were explicit in saying that Akira Toriyama designed Android 21. However, a recent trailer used the wording, "Original character supervised by Akira Toriyama," which implies that while maybe he didn't draw her, he has undoubtedly been involved in her visual direction.

We know what she will sound like
21's voice is not a mystery. Her Japanese voice was showcased in recent trailers, but we recently also learned who will provide her English voice. While speaking with Christopher R. Sabat, the voice of Vegeta, Yamcha, and about a dozen other anime characters, we learned that Jeannie Tirado will be voicing Android 21, a fact she later confirmed on twitter.

Tirado has worked on a handful of anime and has the vague "additional voices" credit on shows like Dragon Ball Z Kai and Attack on Titan, but her most notable role is likely that of Koala from the recent movie One Piece Film: Gold.

She has mysterious ties to Android 16
Between the Red Ribbon army, the name Android 21, and Hiroki's comments, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Android 21 has something to do with the Androids of the appropriately titled Android Saga. A teased relationship you may have overlooked, however, are ties to Android 16 specifically. Nearly every time she has been shown, Android 16 has been nearby. You can see him in the image above, as well as in the image at the top of this page, but you can also see him with his back to 21 in the fourth image on this story.

Many have pointed out a similarity in hair color theorizing the two may have familial ties to one another, which is certainly a valid theory. However, the colors are not exact, and Android 16 is entirely mechanical, unlike his "siblings" Android 17 and 18 who were humans at one point until Dr. Gero turned them into Cyborgs.

What do you think of Android 21? Who is she? And how will she play into the game's story? Share your ideas and theories in the comments below.

For more from our month of Dragon Ball coverage, including new details for FighterZ, click the banner below.

17th October 2017
Wildlands' PvP Based Ghost War Mode Carves Its Own Niche

Wildlands’ PvP Based Ghost War Mode Carves Its Own Niche

Seven months after Ghost Recon Wildlands’ debut, the popular open-world cooperative shooter finally has a competitive mode. On October 10, Ubisoft officially launched the free Ghost War update, which pits two teams of four ghosts armed with all the latest Ghost gadgetry against each another at various locations around Bolivia.

Like Rainbow Six Siege before it, Ghost War only has one multiplayer mode with a unique set of rules. The best-of-three-round battles have no other primary objective than neutralize the opposing team. The setup sounds basic, but the interesting rules of engagement and class system help Ghost Wars feel unlike any other competitive experience out there.

Each round starts with teams spawning at opposite ends of the map, which range from dense forests and logging sites to coca farms and quarries. The mode only has eight maps, but variations like weather and time of day inject more variety into the experience. No matter the weather report, taking a cautious approach is critical while getting the lay of the land. The environments are small enough to traverse into hot zones quickly, but large enough to create an element of uncertainty as to what the other team is doing. Did they set up along the perimeter, hoping to get the drop on you from afar? Are they rushing toward the buildings that frequently sit at the center of a map?

Players choose their role from variants based on four classes: marksman (snipers), assault, support (drone operators), and the all-purpose “multiclass.” Each role has a different special ability, and perks that you unlock along the progression scale add further customization. The wide variety of special abilities demands tactical considerations during team composition, not unlike Siege. Do want to create a team built for stealth and diversions, or trust in your shooting skills by taking more offensive-focused roles that neutralize the enemy technology? Customization fans should be happy that you can tweak the look of each class, effectively giving you four distinct visual styles to choose from for each match, but I wish they weren’t class dependent so you could pick your look based on the map/time of day you’re playing.

The Ghost War gunfights have no player respawns, but come with the caveat that you’re never truly dead (just potentially left for dead). At any given point during the skirmish, a teammate can revive you. This leads to interesting scenarios where teams may try to use a downed player as a trap to lure other enemies to their crosshairs (or a strategically placed mine). Downed players can ping areas on the map from the perspective of their fellow teammates, so even if you are incapacitated you can still help your team identify threats. 

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I love the pacing of these matches. After a slow and tense build up where teams creep into position, searching for one another with drones and setting up countermeasures, eventually the bullet volleys begin. Sometimes the battles end up being close-quarters, with suppression playing a key role to staying alive. If a hail of bullets is flying your way, only a few select classes can return fire effectively while suppressed, so oftentimes it’s better to head for cover and regroup. Other battles became hide-and-go-seek long-distance firefights. As the rosters dwindle and it becomes harder to locate the enemy position, you can run for a radio tower in the center of the map that reveals the location of all the remaining threats. This location provides minimal cover and everyone on the map sees an indicator that someone is accessing the tower, so activating it requires you expose yourself to gunfire. The rush to reveal the enemy positions is always nerve-wracking. 

Sound plays a key role to staying alive in Ghost War. Unless you have a class equipped with a silencer, each time you fire your gun a sound indicator reveals your general position to the opposition. Dense, lush grass fields or forest vegetation can obfuscate your view while you’re trying to shake a marker, making listening for encroaching footsteps a key to survival. 

Ghost War is largely a success, but does have some trouble spots. Matchmaking can be problematic, pairing several low-ranking players against veterans. Host migration disrupts the flow of play, and far too many people drop out after only one round with no penalty. The thermal optics are also too powerful, allowing players who equip the perk to easily track enemies through foliage with no real penalty. My other minor gripe is inherent to third-person shooters – players hiding in building doorways can manipulate the camera to get an unrealistic jump on incoming attackers. 

As one of the best-selling games of the year, Ghost Recon Wildlands has had a great run already. The addition of Ghost Wars to the mix provides a great incentive to return for those who have already powered through the cooperative campaign and DLC. It doesn’t hurt that the update is free, either.

16th October 2017
Bigger, Longer, And Improved

Bigger, Longer, And Improved

Since it began airing in 1997, South Park has challenged what a television show should be. It killed a recurring character every episode during its early years, and had a series retrospective clip show episode in the middle of its second season. Series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone looked at the animated television medium and said, “We’re going to do something different.” For 2015’s The Stick of Truth, they took a similar approach, poking fun at video game tropes all while showing a clear appreciation for the medium. Parker and Stone continue with this idea in The Fractured but Whole, a sequel that parodies video games while telling a new story and making smart modifications to improve the overall experience.

The biggest change between Stick of Truth and Fractured but Whole (other than its development studio) is the combat. The Stick of Truth followed in Paper Mario’s footsteps, while the sequel has concocted its own system that finds a middle ground between turn-based combat and grid-based tactics. Attacks are still selected from a menu and can be augmented with a timed button press, but you move your team around on a small grid, and every action conforms to a specific pattern. For example, using attacks to push enemies to either side of a party member who can attack in two directions at once is always satisfying. The use of the grid makes individual encounters more thoughtful, and having full control of the kids as you set up each attack gives you a greater sense of agency over the fight. You’re not just standing still selecting from a menu – you’re moving around and lining things up. The end result is a more engaging combat system than Stick of Truth’s.

With the direct involvement of its creators, Fractured but Whole’s story is unsurprisingly a full-on South Park story in all the right ways. Nearly all of its plot devices revolve around farts, making it juvenile and disgusting. But moments of thought-provoking commentary surround South Park’s racist police force and the mayoral election. It even pulls off heartfelt moments in the midst of its cavalcade of offensive jokes, with a few quiet moments reflecting on the difficulty of being a new kid in a new town with troubled parents. Though playing the previous game is not a requirement, the story picks up nearly where Stick of Truth left off, with Cartman arbitrarily deciding it’s time to play super heroes instead of fantasy. From there, the town destroys itself around the children as they maintain their pretend world and rules.

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South Park the show, for better and worse, sometimes goes too far off the rails and collapses under its own absurdity. This story, however, wraps up in a satisfying way while still breaking off into the right amount of absurd. The humor plays with video game tropes in smart ways, like how the Okama Game Sphere console in your room is stuck updating throughout the course of the game. The writers also take plenty of time to make fun of celebrity culture and the current political atmosphere. I didn’t fall into any gigantic fits of laughter at big punchlines, but I was usually chuckling or smiling at something happening on screen.

Social media is also among Fractured but Whole’s parody targets, and it is implemented well into the story and gameplay with selfies and followers being a major form of leveling. Tracking down all the familiar characters of South Park and solving small puzzles or performing tasks to convince them to take a selfie with you became one of my favorite side quests, and it all pays off in the finale.

Crafting is another new addition, and while I enjoyed finding ingredients to concoct story-specific items, the economy of found objects is strangely balanced. I had way too much of nearly everything, but was always short a tortilla or bottle to make health-restoring items. The necessity of having to buy those two items made it feel like I was just going to an in-game store to buy the items pre-made. In that sense, crafting feels like an extra barrier to receiving items instead of a fun place to experiment with the overflowing inventory.

The Fractured but Whole is a welcome sequel, maintaining the standard of quality set by the previous game and, in a broader sense, all of Parker and Stone’s work. Every aspect is overloaded with both smart and immature jokes, the combat is an improvement, the game is bigger and longer, and the sneaky moments of sincerity make you recall the charm of childhood in surprising ways – just like the show.

15th October 2017
Comical Live Action Trailer Invites You To Reassemble Your Squad

Comical Live Action Trailer Invites You To Reassemble Your Squad

Activision released three new trailers today for the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII. Instead of teasing in-game footage or revealing a cinematic trailer, the video is a lighthearted live action trailer that invites players to reassemble their group of friends to prepare for the game's release.

Three teasers were revealed for different regions: US, France, and UK. Each are slightly different with varying actors, but all have a similar amusing tone and message. You can view them all below:

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For more on Call of Duty: WWII, you can take a look at our cover story hub that includes exclusive videos, interviews, and more. Call of Duty: WWII releases on November 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

12th October 2017
From Payday To Mayday

From Payday To Mayday

As games like Destiny, Borderlands and Left 4 Dead have proven, gamers gravitate to well-designed cooperative shooters in droves. Starbreeze Studios tapped into that success with the popular Payday franchise, allowing four players to team up and attempt daring heists while gunning down a precinct’s worth of police officers and SWAT teams. Raid: World War II attempts to build off the success of Payday, using much of the same infrastructure for an Inglorious Basterds-inspired experience. But unlike the game and film developer Lion Game Lion tries so hard to emulate, Raid fails more than it succeeds thanks to its dated foundation and sloppy execution. 

Raid: World War II welcomes players into the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. Facing insurmountable odds in the face of Hitler’s Wehrmacht, Winston Churchill commissions one of his underlings (played by Monthy Python legend John Cleese) to explore unconventional warfare. His solution? Enlist a deadly group of thieves, renegades, and deserters and tell them throw out the rules of engagement, smoking out the Germans in any way these dastardly agents see fit. If some of Hitler’s gold happens to go missing in the process, so be it. Each mission concludes with a goofy full-motion-video Hitler skit showing the Führer boiling over with rage, angsty defeat, or resignation as you pluck away at his army. These attempts at levity fall flat more often than they hit the mark. 

Choosing from one of four characters and classes, you set up base in a shelled church behind enemy lines. From these modest digs, you can choose from a dozen or so missions that range from derailing trains filled with gold to infiltrating well-fortified Nazi strongholds to take out SS scientists. Players can use any currency they confiscate on these raids to upgrade their digs from a decrepit hovel to an impressive headquarters filled with luxury furniture and expensive paintings. Missions also earn XP that funnels into a basic progression system similar to Payday’s skill trees. These upgrades impart modest stat boosts and quality-of-life boosts like being able to move more quickly when carry heavy items, but don’t give you any game-changing new abilities to look forward to. Each class has a special ability, called a war cry, that gives the squad boosts of various styles at critical junctures, but these don’t change significantly as you level up, either.

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The Payday influence carries into the combat as well. As each mission starts, you have the option of going stealth to get a jump on the Nazi enemies. This rudimentary system is still crude, with no stealth-killing animations or ways to manipulate the environment to stay undercover. Inevitably, the soldiers spot you and begin the lengthy lead volleys that comprise the vast majority of the Raid experience. 

During WWII, the German military developed the renowned Blitzkrieg strategy, which called for attacking with heavy concentration of tanks, planes, and artillery to overwhelm opposing forces quickly and cause disorder among its ranks. The A.I. employed by Raid also delivers a heavy concentration of troops, but brings its own disorganization to the battlefield. These untrained dolts swarm like insects on your location, pouring over walls and through any opening in the vicinity. What they do once they get there would cause any general to resign in shame. They frequently charge right at you in single file, as if auditioning for an extra role as Decapitated Headshot Enemy #1.  The lack of enemy variety outside of snipers and flamethrowers also hurts the combat. Occasionally, the enemy marks your position with a flare for an artillery attack or a tank rolls into the scene, but you just need to fire blindly into the poorly spaced bullet fodder coming your way.  Their poor marksmanship makes it easy to run straight across the hot zone toward objectives in the open on lower difficulties as well, so I recommend moving straight to the harder settings once you have your bearings. 

Offline players don’t get much support from the squad A.I., either. These wingmen handle themselves admirably during firefights, and will even resurrect downed teammates. But requesting any help beyond that is a bridge too far for these divas. That means you have to carry out the heavy gold crates and AA shells one at a time all by yourself, as well as escort POWs one by one to the extraction zone. These frustrating and repetitive experiences killed any desire to play solo. 

Those who want a longer, more diverse experiences can tackle one of the two Operations. These six-part missions take you out of the normal rotation of raids and into the streets surrounding your church base, and are a welcome addition to the Payday formula the game otherwise follows so closely. These segments introduce driving to the mix, but given the horrible controls, I wonder why the developer even bothered.  

Instead of investing resources in introducing driving controls, the studio could have used it to address Raid’s myriad technical glitches. With underpopulated server lists that don’t reflect the full player pool, objective markers failing to appear or failing to disappear once you complete them, and abrupt slowdowns when new players join, Raid feels more like an early access game than a retail release.

Building off the success of Payday is a decent premise for Starbreeze to explore. Raid: World War II does not successfully lead a winning campaign, however. The poor A.I., repetitive design, and technical problems had me waving a white flag long before the war should have been over. If Starbreeze plans to turn this into a long-running service game, it has a lot of work to do.

10th October 2017
15 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Shadow Of War

15 Tips To Get The Most Out Of Shadow Of War

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is one of the bigger games of 2017 in both anticipation and sheer scope. From the moment you drop into the new and improved version of Mordor, you are given a high degree of freedom in approaching the game the way you want to. While this is awesome for players who know what they want to experience, it can also be a tad overwhelming in the beginning.

Shadow of War does an exemplary job of explaining each of its intricate systems to the player, but there are so many that it's easy to forget or neglect them as you play on. Below you'll find some tips we feel are the best way to not only hit the ground running, but also keep enjoying for the duration of Talion's conquest.

Get The Lay of the Land

Because Shadow of War gives you so much to do, it's important to understand where the activities you want to complete and the collectibles you want to gather are located on the map. This is why the first thing you should do when you reach a new region is purify all of the Haedir towers. Not only will doing this grant you additional skill points and open up much-needed fast-travel points, but you also enter a first-person perspective atop the tower to scope out where collectibles like Gondorian artifacts, Shelob Memories, and Ithildin words are located. This is essential for enabling you to do what you want to do in the game.

Learn the Layout of Caves

While Middle-earth: Shadow of War does an excellent job of showing you where to go on the map to complete your desired activity, it can be difficult to find certain objectives that are housed inside of the sometimes elaborate caves. Thankfully, if you hover over an icon that is within the cavern depths, the map illuminates the entire cave network, giving you an idea of the best points of entry to reach where you want to go.

Speed Is King

Each of the five regions are not only bigger than either of the regions in Shadow of Mordor, but they're more densely packed with things to do and enemies just waiting to distract you from your main objective. Because of this, if you want to play the game with any level of efficiency, it's important to use the tools the developers provide you with in order to expedite your traversal. Fast travel is the most obvious way to get from point-A to point-B the fastest; in addition to the Haedir Towers, you can eventually reach any discovered Barrows and any conquered forts. But if you would like to at least take in some of the sights along the way, Monolith also gives you several other options. The elven traversal upgrades like Elven Agility (gives you faster climbing and added foot-speed) and the focus sprint (clicking the right stick while holding the run button) are excellent ways to move about the world as Talion, and you should get used to using them as early as you can. However, you shouldn't neglect your mounts, as caragors are speedier than Talion, and drakes are not only a blast to fly around on, but can get you to your objective in no time flat once you unlock the ability to mount them.

Vary Your Attacks

It's easy to fall into the same pattern of attacks when something is working, but the enemies in Shadow of War are smarter than that. Enemies (captains in particular) can adapt to your style of play and defend against your typical attacks. This means that if I go into an encounter with an orc captain and continually vault over him to attack his backside, he will potentially learn my tactics and adapt to the point that he'll stuff any future vault attempts. To prevent this from happening, it's important to not rely on the same tricks. Talion has a ton of great moves to take advantage of, so using them all and switching your tactics out on the fly shouldn't be a problem. Between executions, vaults, pins, elf-shot, stuns, elven light, environmental attacks, and more, you shouldn't have a problem diversifying your approach in any given standoff. Varying your combat moves is also a lot more fun than relying on the same tricks for the whole game.

Find Arrows on your Minimap

Among all of Talion's combat options, his elf-shot bow is one of his most valuable. Not only are most captains damaged by it, but you can also target explosive environmental items to wipe out waves of enemies in one shot. Unfortunately, you run out of arrows really fast, and it always seems to be at the most inopportune times. Luckily, elf-shot ammo is marked on your minimap, so if you ever find yourself with your back to the wall in an encounter and you're out of arrows, use your map and make a beeline for the nearest ammo supply.

Run for Your Life

Talion is undoubtedly a powerful character, but it's important to know when you're in trouble. While you probably already know the value of keeping an eye on your health, knowing when to flee a battle is crucial. Not only does your death typically make your assailant more powerful, but it can also end your fortress assault pretty quick. Just because you're running doesn't mean you're quitting the battle, though. Whether you're dashing away to find more arrows or trying to find an isolated enemy that you can drain health from, running from the action is an important strategy to implement as you get later in the game and foes get more powerful and numerous. Green-iconed worm enemies and rats are particularly valuable sources of health, as you can drain them quickly before your more powerful foes catch you.

Utilize the Summon System

Throughout most of Shadow of War, Talion is typically a solitary figure who faces hordes of orcs alone. One of the more powerful abilities Talion can unlock is the ability to summon spiders to fight for him or orcs to battle by his side. Not only can you designate orc followers to join you, but also a mounted beast. Evening the odds in a fight with a war chief by bringing your follower into the mix can do wonders, but nothing can quite turn the tide of battle in your favor like calling in a dire caragor to help annihilate your enemies. The ability has a long cooldown, but not so long that you should neglect it when you need it.

Diversify Your Elements

As you encounter the hundreds of captains you can fight in Shadow of War, you'll notice that they each have their distinct vulnerabilities and immunities. That means that if you rely too heavily on fire attacks, you could be in serious trouble if you encounter an orc captain who is completely invulnerable to flame attacks. Because of this, it's a good idea to make a habit of upgrading different skills with different effects. For example, you could upgrade your Mighty Shot to do fire damage, while your Elven Light shockwave stun can do poison. That way, you can take advantage of your foes' various weaknesses no matter what you encounter.

Unlock the "Treasure Hunter" Skill ASAP

As you take down hordes of orcs, you'll notice that they drop items like weapons, gear, and gems. At first, you need to approach the drop and press the right bumper in order to pick them up, which becomes annoying. Thankfully, the fifth ability you can unlock in the "Wraith" skill tree is "Treasure Hunter," which automatically picks up drops as you pass by them. It's an invaluable skill that not only makes gear collection much more efficient, but also easier in the heat of battle. Unfortunately, since it is the final base skill in that section, you need to unlock the other four skills prior to being able to unlock that one.

Keep Your Inventory Clean

As your gear and weapons accumulate, you'll inevitably outgrow your favorite sword or dagger and replace it with a higher level version with new perks. As you progress past the point of these old weapons' usefulness, there's little reason to keep them in your inventory. The good news is that you can break them down and earn the in-game currency, Mirian. While you can probably break down rare and epic loot without losing any sleep, you should probably hold on to any legendary (purple) weapons and gear you encounter, as those can grant really awesome bonuses. Thankfully, the inventory screen keeps legendary gear in a separate box to help avoid accidental discarding.

Take Advantage of the Gem System

Once you have the Mirian, we recommend that you unlock all six gem slots on the inventory screen immediately. As you unlock the slots, make sure you place gems in them right away. These gems do everything from adding increased damage to earning extra money and experience, so they are incredibly valuable to speeding up your progress and making Talion more powerful. In addition, as you collect more of the same gem, you can combine them to make a higher level gem. For example, three level-one green gems can be combined to make one level-two green gem, then three level-two green gems can be combined to make one level-three green gem. When you go in to combine gems, you may wish to unequip certain gems before doing so in order to have all of your gems at your leveling disposal; just make sure you end up with six useful gems at the end of the process -- one for each slot. Once you're finished with all your forging and combining, always equip the highest level gems immediately.

Customize Your U.I.

Shadow of War does a good job of telling you where you should go, what is going on around you, what moves you have at your disposal, and other vital information for keeping Talion alive. However, if you find the user interface to ever be a bit overwhelming or annoying, you can toggle the various elements. For example, if you don't want the game to continually throw tips about moves Talion has in your face, you can switch that off for a less clogged screen.

Shadow Strike the Night Away

Talion is almost always outnumbered on the battlefield, so proper utilization of his available skills is crucial. One of his most powerful abilities is the Shadow Strike, which allows the ranger to teleport to the position of his target and kill, stun, or even dominate his foes in one swift motion. This is a great move for both stealthy approaches and simply moving around the battlefield. If you're trying to travel throughout an outpost, it's also a handy way to cover great distances without giving away your position – just make sure you don't Shadow Strike right into an archer's line-of-sight!

Fully Embrace the Nemesis System

One of the best parts of Shadow of War is the improved Nemesis system. While we won't tell you precisely how to interact with it (finding your own ways to explore the system is most of the fun), there is value in fully exploring the options at your disposal. So as you approach your playthrough, go into the experience ready to mess around with the various Nemesis missions. Dominate orc captains to become your disciples. Level up some orcs in the fighting pits. Decide your approach when assaulting a fort; do you want to have your operatives infiltrate the fortress ahead of time to make it so they basically open the doors for you, or do you want it to be a climactic battle where all of your followers are on your assault team? The possibilities are seemingly innumerable and worthy of exploration.

Play Your Way

Regardless of any tips we give you, to get the most out of Shadow of War, it's important to play your way. Approach the Nemesis system how you see fit, attack the fortresses the way you want, and complete the various story-based missions (which we totally recommend you do at some point) when you feel like it. Shadow of War is remarkably adaptable to your playstyle and it's a good idea to not get too bogged down in the details. Daring players will get the best experience in Shadow of War, even in failure, as that just allows the Nemesis system to further tailor the experience to your unique playthrough. It's best to simply wander around Mordor, take on tasks that seem compelling to you in that moment, and in so doing, gradually progress all the collections, mission threads, and conquests.


For more on Middle-earth: Shadow of War, check out our review. If you want to dive deeper into the development of the game, check out our exclusive coverage hub.

9th October 2017
Suda51 Discusses His Strange Approach To Game Development And The 25th Ward: The Silver Case Remake

Suda51 Discusses His Strange Approach To Game Development And The 25th Ward: The Silver Case Remake

Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) has made a name for himself with surreal games such as Killer7 and The No More Heroes series. He also created a slew of smaller novel experiences from Flower, Sun, and Rain to The Silver Case. The latter received a remaster last year with some new content, and now he's giving its sequel, The 25th Ward, similar treatment. The upcoming remake features completely rebuilt HD graphics and new content.

The game, which is due out sometime in 2018, takes place five years after the events of the original, when a woman's murder sets off a chain of strange events. The tale will bridge across multiple protagonists, including The Silver Case's Tokio Morishima. To find out more about The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, we chatted with writer Suda and director Nobutaka Ichiki.

When you set out to remake The Silver Case, how likely were the prospects of The 25th Ward also making it stateside? Was The 25th Ward remaster contingent on The Silver Case doing well?

Suda: Basically, it was like you said, it has to succeed in order to move on to the next one. However, one of the really good characteristics of this project was that right when the team working on the development of The Silver Case finished, they were all still together. Usually, in development situations, the team will break up after the project is completed. NIS America had contacted them and said, "Come on, let's do The 25th Ward, too." So the timing worked out really well for that; the team didn't have to disband, they could stay where they are and just start working on The 25th Ward. Another thing that makes The 25th Ward a little different from Silver Case is that this time, Grasshopper has actually sent over three people, including Mr. Nobutaka Ichiki to work directly with the development team and really make sure it turns out the way we want it to.

Had you considered bundling in the first game for people who haven't played it?

Suda: Well, partially. One thing we always have to be cognizant of is the publishers and thinking about how they want to do things, too. But I thought that it would be good to do [release them] separately. And for those players who maybe have not had a chance to play The Silver Case, we actually added a little bit of scenario at the beginning of The 25th Ward [for them] to be able to understand what happened in that game. Both ideas are really valid ideas for how to release the game, but in this case, I thought that this would work out a little bit better.

[Editor's Note: you can purchase a limited-edition bundle, which has both games, from NISA's store]

This was originally a mobile game that came out over a decade ago. How much of it did you have to change in order to update it for modern screens and the modern generation?

Suda: The story hasn't changed – we haven't changed a thing. But the approach to actually making the game is the same as making a new game; starting from scratch and just going from there and completely doing it.

Are there any enhancements for this?

Ichiki: One thing that we carried over from The Silver Case is that there's something called The Film Window Engine, which is how the game is displayed when you're playing it. So you've got that window and then you've got other windows [like the command window], and they kind of overlap and interact with one another. Because we were able to work on The 25th Ward, we wanted to use that system as well. That's part of how the gameplay has changed from the original. The one thing that this contributed to was allowing the player to really insert themselves into this world, because that's not something you can really do on a tiny cellphone screen. I feel that we really accomplished that. And again, because we have the engine from The Silver Case, we're able to use that as a base and then just kind of put things on top of it to keep that going.

What can we expect from the new chapters in The 25th Ward? The Silver Case had ties to The 25th Ward and elsewhere. Will these tie into something larger?

Suda: Like you said, the parts that were added before kind of led into this, and then the new stuff is kind of opening up to other stuff as well. But I don't know about the size yet; I'm actually still working on it, so I don't know how big it's going to be. However, whether the new stuff will lead into something bigger, that's what I'm still thinking about. What we're working on right now is just kind of getting that link between the two games really well, so obviously I'm working on a part. The other side of the story, the Placebo side, that's a different writer, and it's always been a different writer, Mr. Oka. He's working on that, so what we're working on now is really making that transition between the two very seamless.

How is it to revisit games you made years ago in order to try and remake them, while also adding new content at the same time?

Suda: It is difficult. It's like rehabilitation to get back into, "What is The Silver Case? What is this world? What's going on here?" I definitely had to take the time to do that for myself, to get back in that mode. However, the process of that rehabilitation put me in the mode to be able to write something new, and the cool thing is that now I do get to write something new and it's going to be matched up with this current time that we're living in. I haven't written it yet but I, myself, am excited to see what I'm going to write and what's going to come out of this.

How well did The Silver Case do sales-wise? Does it make you hopeful for The 25th Ward, or was this more a matter of preserving history?

Suda: It's a little bit of both. Obviously, you know, the sales of one kind of impact my outlook for the sales of the other. But there's also definitely that feeling of preservation and wanting to keep something that I created and [make sure it's] able to be played afterwards. It probably leans a little bit more to that latter; however, it is important that I preserve this work. There's also the other feeling of expectancy for the future of The Silver Case overall. I don't necessarily assume it's becoming a yearly, episodic series or something like that, but maybe in a few years, I'll have a really cool announcement to make about this world and the future of what's going to happen.

Click to the next page to see why Suda compares The 25th Ward to a bowel movement coming out of his mouth...

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9th October 2017
Suda51 Discusses His Strange Approach To Game Development And The 25th Ward Remake

Suda51 Discusses His Strange Approach To Game Development And The 25th Ward Remake

Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) has made a name for himself with surreal games such as Killer7 and The No More Heroes series. He also created a slew of smaller novel experiences from Flower, Sun, and Rain to The Silver Case. The latter received a remaster last year with some new content, and now he's giving its sequel, The 25th Ward, similar treatment. The upcoming remake features completely rebuilt HD graphics and new content.

The game, which is due out sometime in 2018, takes place five years after the events of the original, when a woman's murder sets off a chain of strange events. The tale will bridge across multiple protagonists, including The Silver Case's Tokio Morishima. To find out more about The 25th Ward: The Silver Case, we chatted with writer Suda and director Nobutaka Ichiki.

When you set out to remake The Silver Case, how likely were the prospects of The 25th Ward also making it stateside? Was The 25th Ward remaster contingent on The Silver Case doing well?

Suda: Basically, it was like you said, it has to succeed in order to move on to the next one. However, one of the really good characteristics of this project was that right when the team working on the development of The Silver Case finished, they were all still together. Usually, in development situations, the team will break up after the project is completed. NIS America had contacted them and said, "Come on, let's do The 25th Ward, too." So the timing worked out really well for that; the team didn't have to disband, they could stay where they are and just start working on The 25th Ward. Another thing that makes The 25th Ward a little different from Silver Case is that this time, Grasshopper has actually sent over three people, including Mr. Nobutaka Ichiki to work directly with the development team and really make sure it turns out the way we want it to.

Had you considered bundling in the first game for people who haven't played it?

Suda: Well, partially. One thing we always have to be cognizant of is the publishers and thinking about how they want to do things, too. But I thought that it would be good to do [release them] separately. And for those players who maybe have not had a chance to play The Silver Case, we actually added a little bit of scenario at the beginning of The 25th Ward [for them] to be able to understand what happened in that game. Both ideas are really valid ideas for how to release the game, but in this case, I thought that this would work out a little bit better.

[Editor's Note: you can purchase a limited-edition bundle, which has both games, from NISA's store]

This was originally a mobile game that came out over a decade ago. How much of it did you have to change in order to update it for modern screens and the modern generation?

Suda: The story hasn't changed – we haven't changed a thing. But the approach to actually making the game is the same as making a new game; starting from scratch and just going from there and completely doing it.

Are there any enhancements for this?

Ichiki: One thing that we carried over from The Silver Case is that there's something called The Film Window Engine, which is how the game is displayed when you're playing it. So you've got that window and then you've got other windows [like the command window], and they kind of overlap and interact with one another. Because we were able to work on The 25th Ward, we wanted to use that system as well. That's part of how the gameplay has changed from the original. The one thing that this contributed to was allowing the player to really insert themselves into this world, because that's not something you can really do on a tiny cellphone screen. I feel that we really accomplished that. And again, because we have the engine from The Silver Case, we're able to use that as a base and then just kind of put things on top of it to keep that going.

What can we expect from the new chapters in The 25th Ward? The Silver Case had ties to The 25th Ward and elsewhere. Will these tie into something larger?

Suda: Like you said, the parts that were added before kind of led into this, and then the new stuff is kind of opening up to other stuff as well. But I don't know about the size yet; I'm actually still working on it, so I don't know how big it's going to be. However, whether the new stuff will lead into something bigger, that's what I'm still thinking about. What we're working on right now is just kind of getting that link between the two games really well, so obviously I'm working on a part. The other side of the story, the Placebo side, that's a different writer, and it's always been a different writer, Mr. Oka. He's working on that, so what we're working on now is really making that transition between the two very seamless.

How is it to revisit games you made years ago in order to try and remake them, while also adding new content at the same time?

Suda: It is difficult. It's like rehabilitation to get back into, "What is The Silver Case? What is this world? What's going on here?" I definitely had to take the time to do that for myself, to get back in that mode. However, the process of that rehabilitation put me in the mode to be able to write something new, and the cool thing is that now I do get to write something new and it's going to be matched up with this current time that we're living in. I haven't written it yet but I, myself, am excited to see what I'm going to write and what's going to come out of this.

How well did The Silver Case do sales-wise? Does it make you hopeful for The 25th Ward, or was this more a matter of preserving history?

Suda: It's a little bit of both. Obviously, you know, the sales of one kind of impact my outlook for the sales of the other. But there's also definitely that feeling of preservation and wanting to keep something that I created and [make sure it's] able to be played afterwards. It probably leans a little bit more to that latter; however, it is important that I preserve this work. There's also the other feeling of expectancy for the future of The Silver Case overall. I don't necessarily assume it's becoming a yearly, episodic series or something like that, but maybe in a few years, I'll have a really cool announcement to make about this world and the future of what's going to happen.

Click to the next page to see why Suda compares The 25th Ward to a bowel movement coming out of his mouth...

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