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14th December 2017
Rare Details Trading Companies And Player Progression System

Rare Details Trading Companies And Player Progression System

The world of Sea of Thieves has players sailing the high seas and collecting booty, but the game is about connecting with friends, and Rare makes that clear in its newest developer video.

In a recent design video, Design Director Mike Chapman says the company isn’t looking to wall players off from each other with disruptive power progression mechanics, “We wanted to build a game where the value of sharing a rich and diverse world with other players is much more meaningful than ever increasing stats."

To do this, Rare doesn’t have any barriers preventing players of different levels from playing together. Players can purchase voyages, or quests, and then all crewmembers vote on which of their voyages they want to tackle together. Majority wins in Sea of Thieves’ voting system, so no random drawing from player choices here. This system allows players who have advanced in the game to go on voyages even with the newest of players.

Voyages are sold by a number of trading companies found in outposts throughout the world, and will award gold, titles, ranks, and cosmetic items to those skillful enough to complete them. These rewards, which are split evenly across a crew, are a part of Sea of Thieves' progression system. Players can unlock customization options and show off to friends by completing voyages, but the company isn't ready to go into much detail about other ways to unlock rewards, such as microtransactions.

"We’re currently focusing on talking about our progression systems, the trading companies and the goal of becoming a Pirate Legend," says executive producer Joe Neate. "We will talk about our business model early in the new year."

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The trading companies each have different focuses, such as the Gold Hoarders’ desire for treasure. This trading company has a stash of keys, and will pay players to help them find the chests that belong to them, or may send them to solve riddles that require knowledge of the world’s islands.

The Merchant Alliance Trading Company desires to control trade in the sea, and will pay pirates to transport items ranging from wild animals to explosive barrels. There are a number of challenges facing pirates as they try to ferry these resources, such as lightning, leaky ships, time limits, and other pirates who may want to steal the cargo.

The last trading company Rare talks about is The Order of Souls, whose members can capture magic from the skulls of fallen pirates, and are happy to reward those who bring the skulls to them. This trading company’s voyages are more combat oriented, pitting players against skeleton crews (literal skeletons, not ships with few enemies), or sending them to attack one of the world’s many forts.

Players can rank up in each of these trading companies by purchasing and completing voyages offered by them. The more of the trading company’s voyages you complete, the more difficult and rewarding the offered voyages become. Eventually, players will achieve the status of Pirate Legend and have access to new voyages and rewards.

Rare is really focusing on player cooperation with Sea of Thieves, so it’s nice to know I’ll never be blocked from playing with my friends, no matter how far ahead (or behind) I get in the game. You can look forward to sailing the high seas with your friends on Xbox One and PC March 20, but in the meantime check out how Rare went about starting work on Sea of Thieves, and how feedback and data from the alpha tests changed the course of the game.

13th December 2017
Blending A Comic Book Look With Tactical Gameplay

Blending A Comic Book Look With Tactical Gameplay

We've seen a resurgence of isometric RPGs in the last few years, such as Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity and Larian Studios' Divinity: Original Sin series. Sword Legacy: Omen is the newest to join this trend, which blends a unique art style with tactical, turn-based gameplay. 

Sword Legacy: Omen is an RPG set in Broken Britannia, a realm that the developers describe as "candlepunk," where futuristic technology and medieval aesthetics meet. In the story, this is mostly represented through how alchemy and science are used to make technologically advanced machinery. The plot is also a reimagining of the King Arthur mythos, where a group of misfits embark on a journey to find the long lost sword Excalibur. You play as Uther, the leader of your party, who is accompanied by seven companions. However, you can only bring four at at a time with you. 

Gameplay feels similar to the likes of XCOM and The Banner Saga, where you only have so many moves. Strategy is entwined with how you plan out these maneuvers. When it's your turn, the ground lights up into squares, showing you possible paths for different characters. Certain moves can benefit the whole party, such as the protagonist's melee attack giving all allies a willpower point, which can be used to gain more AP. Other moves, such as moving too quickly toward foes instead of letting them come to you, can put you in harm's way.

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Members of your party have mostly archetypal skills, such as a thief being able to pick locks so you can loot treasure and a mage with basic magical powers. The mage, named Merlin, can shoot fireballs toward barrels which creates explosions that hurt everyone in proximity. This is just one example of how you can use the environment to your advantage, adding a layer of fun. Your party members have over 70 skills to unlock, which includes powers like creating a decoy or teleporting.

In Sword Legacy: Omen, your party members don't respawn after battle. If they collapse, they only return once you've completed the map, which can make for challenging encounters. This proved difficult when I had a downed party member during a tough fight. Much of Sword Legacy: Omen's gameplay doesn't feel that distinct or different, instead feeling similar to most other isometric RPGs I've played. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but hopefully its story and world can help it stand out.

During the demo I played, it was difficult to get a good sense of the story, since it included some placeholder dialogue and voice acting. Some of these were still written or voiced in Portuguese, since the development team is from Brazil. With isometric RPGs in particular, I've always enjoyed seeing how my choices play out or how deep mechanics can go when it comes to managing your party's skillsets. This felt like a missing component in Sword Legacy: Omen, where I didn't find story and gameplay affected one another in a compelling way.

Probably the most unique quality of Sword Legacy: Omen is its art style, which blends vibrant, colorful environments with a cartoonish aesthetic. Characters have a glossy, painted look to them, as if they came out of a graphic novel. When they speak, dialogue appears in comic book speech bubbles. These visuals really drew me in, making the world seem enticing and fun to explore. Originally, the game had a more Disney-like aesthetic, but the team opted for a darker and more gothic tone as development went on. 

Sword Legacy: Omen has some interesting themes, but as it stands, the gameplay lacks innovation and with placeholder dialogue here and there, it's hard to tell how strong a story it tells. With its candlepunk world and an original take on the classic King Arthur mythos, there's still promise that Sword Legacy: Omen can impress as the team continues to tinker. We'll see when it releases in early 2018 for PC.

13th December 2017
The Single-Player Campaign Focuses On Survival Over Stealth

The Single-Player Campaign Focuses On Survival Over Stealth

The Metal Gear series has always been about great story-based, single-player experiences, which is why Konami's decision to make Metal Gear into a co-op survival experience with Metal gear Survive was concerning. Today Konami released a trailer with an extensive look at Metal Gear Survive's single-player campaign and, unsurprisingly, it's all about survival.

Yuji Korekado, a producer on Metal Gear Survive, opens the video by explaining that Metal Gear Survive, a spin-off from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, will take place in an alternate timeline from the mainline Metal Gear games. The survival spinoff starts where Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes ended, with the destruction of Mother Base by the villainous XOF organization. Just as the base is destroyed, a wormhole opens up and sucks in debris and soldiers alike into an alternate world. As a Mother Base soldier, players narrowly escape this fate, but several months later they are tasked with entering the wormhole and establishing a forward operating base by a mysterious organization.

After this wacky setup, the campaign quickly sets up Metal Gear Survive's resource harvesting and base-building mechanics. True to its name, Metal Gear Survive features a lot of elements taken from the survival genre. You'll have to hunt animals, cook food, gather resources, and build defenses like electric fences and turrets in order to survive against wanderers, the crystal-headed definitely-not-zombies that occupy this alternate world. 

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There are main missions and side missions in the single player campaign, however Korekado focuses much more on the Base Camp, Metal Gear Survive's version of Mother Base. The Base Camp will be your home and throughout both the multiplayer and single player you'll be able to add defenses, farm crops, and create resource development facilities in order to increase its strength. Much like in the Phantom Pain, you'll also be able to recruit people and assign them to different teams within your base to increase its capabilities.

The trailer also notes that single player will be inextricably linked with multiplayer in several ways. Ammo is scarce, which means there is an increased focus on melee weapons and bows. Many of these weapons, including a flaming baseball bat, can be crafted using recipes, which can only be accessed through the co-op multiplayer portion of the game. The hardest enemies and missions can only be tackled in multiplayer. Any resources gathered in multiplayer can be used to build your personal Base Camp.

Metal Gear Survive might have the Phantom Pain's combat and visuals, but it's clearly a different beast. We still have yet to see how the survival elements and multiplayer-focused design will pan out, but we'll see if Metal Gear Survive is a worthwhile game in its own right when it launches on February 20.

If you're curious or excited to get your hands on Metal Gear Survive, you can try the beta when it launches in January.

12th December 2017
A Feel-Good Friendship Simulator

A Feel-Good Friendship Simulator

In an increasingly darker world, games like Wattam emit a powerful light to brighten your day.

At PlayStation Experience, we got a chance to play the newest build of Keita Takahashi's quirky and unique project. Takahashi, who previously created the Katamari Damacy series on the PlayStation 2, introduced Wattam to the world at the very first PlayStation Experience in 2014. At the time, the game was being co-developed by Sony Santa Monica and published by Sony itself. After Sony dropped the game, Takahashi and Funomena studio took the project to Annapurna and redesigned the game in the process.

The new Wattam still focuses on Takahashi's vision of toys making friends by solving puzzles. The game starts with the cubic mustachioed Mayor sitting at the edge of the universe and lamenting his isolation when the universe sees fit to give life to a tiny rock. The mayor makes friends with the rock by holding its hand. To add to the fun, the mayor lifts up his hat and reveals a harmless bomb that blasts everyone into the sky for a chorus of laughing fits.

After the little rock is happy, the bigger rock also comes to life and wants to play, followed by a flowers, followed by an acorn that plants itself in the ground to birth a tree, which creates fruits, which are then eaten and become poop. When enough of the characters are poop, the toilet world latches on to the Mayor's cube and the Toilet friends join in.

The toilets scoop up enough of the poop running around and clean them to a golden shine that further friends come who have their own puzzle to solve to draw in new friends. This is the gameplay loop of Wattam, ultimately culminating in a puzzle that requires all the new friends to wrap up the level. 

It is pure joy in such a strange package, an entirely separate but natural follow up to Katamari Damacy. When Takahashi originally retired from video games, he said he was going to design playgrounds for children, which is exactly what Wattam feels like. The controls are slightly awkward and the interactions limited to what the game designs, but Wattam 

Wattam is scheduled for 2018 on PlayStation 4.

11th December 2017
A New Character Appears

A New Character Appears

Overkill, the team behind the cooperative heist shoot 'em up Payday, announced back in 2014 that it would be working on a Walking Dead game. We haven't heard much about it since then, but today we got a first glimpse at one of the characters we'll be playing as in this four player co-op shooter courtesy of a new trailer. 

The trailer focuses on Aidan, a man living in Washington D.C. and dealing with his daily responsibilities about as well as most of do. The trailer then cuts to Aidan walking around a post-apocalyptic D.C. strewn with "dead" bodies and taking on a group of zombies with a club. He seems to enjoys this a lot more than his life before the zombie apocalypse.

Overkill's The Walking Dead will feature a mix of first person shooter and survival gameplay, as players work together to fight zombies and humans. The trailer confirms the game's D.C. setting and a fall 2018 release date.

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For more on Overkill's The Walking Dead, check out our previous coverage.

11th December 2017
New Trailer Reveals Release Date

New Trailer Reveals Release Date

Conan Exiles has been available for early access on Xbox One and PC for awhile now, but the title finally has a full release date.

Conan the Barbarian and the open world survival game he’s in will fully release May 8 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game has fared well in early access so far, having released new content throughout the year.

The release date was accompanied by a new trailer for the game.

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For more on Conan Exiles, check out our previous coverage here.

11th December 2017
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT's 28 Characters & 7 Summons At Launch

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT’s 28 Characters & 7 Summons At Launch

Square Enix has released the launch day fighter roster for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT on the PS4 via a trailer, which also showcases seven summons.

The title's season pass includes a further six characters as well as post-launch content. The developers say they hope to include more than 50 characters for the Japanese arcade version, but whether these will ever come to the console version is unknown.

For more on the game, check out its opening cinematic and this trailer on its gameplay systems.

Dissidia Final Fantasy NT comes out for the PS4 on January 30.

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[Source: Square Enix] 

11th December 2017
Iffy Dialogue Makes For An Uneven Experience

Iffy Dialogue Makes For An Uneven Experience

Detroit: Become Human seems to invite concern with every stage showing over the past few years, stemming from an overall fear writer and director David Cage does not possess the chops for the subject matter he likes to tackle in his games. With Detroit, Cage is pursuing the worn foundation of Androids, commonly used in fiction as a springboard for metaphors about race, identity, paranoia, and secondhand citizenship. It is, if nothing else, an opportunity for Cage and Quantic Dream to prove their vocal critics wrong.

We played the Detroid: Become Human demo at PlayStation Experience 2017. The demo contained two scenarios, the first being the hostage situation that was first shown on stage to demonstrate the branching paths the game's narrative could take and again shown at Sony's PlayStation Experience presentation. In this scene, Android hostage negotiator Conner is tasked with defusing a hostage situation wherein an out-of-control Android has kidnapped a little girl and is holding her hostage after murdering her father. Connor is brought in and the player is given the choice of how to proceed.

The first task you are given once you take control is to meet with the captain currently managing the crisis. While you can go straight to the commanding officer, Conner can also examine various pieces of the environment to analyze clues and get a better picture of the assailant and increase his chances of negotiating, which is represented by a literal percentage counter that tabulates chance of success. Only some of the items in the room can be examined before you speak to the captain; everything else just produces a red barrier that the Android cannot cross due to programming telling him to speak to the captain first. It is unclear why the hallway is okay but the little girl's room is not.

When you do speak to the captain, he is curt, expressing his disdain for Androids in general, and his overwhelming need to get the girl safely out above all else, even if that means working with an Android as a negotiator. If you ask him questions like what the other Android's name is or what caused this behavior, he will simply tell you to go do your job. Another officer remarks how important it is to get the girl out, which makes it puzzling they would not aid Conner by answering simple questions that would literally increase the percentage chance of success.

Conner is then left, pardon the pun, to his own devices, and can either march out the door to confront the hostage-taker or continue exploring in now available areas to investigate clues. Despite the captain telling you that every second counts, you are free to basically do whatever while an invisible timer ticks down. Analyze clues, grab a gun you very much are not supposed to have, just stand around if you want, the choice is yours. Investigating the little girl's room reveals the bad Android's relationship with the family and his name that the captain clearly could have just told you.

After that time (which is not visible to the player) runs out, the captain barks that Conner must get out there. At the time, I was looking at an important clue which did not get added to my file despite my looking directly at it. I had not fully completed the crime scene reconstruction to show where the father's tablet fell, even though I could see it on the ground, and Conner remarking on the tablet being important. Still, you get moved to the veranda where the actual negotiation takes place.

It is a fairly tense scene, where Conner talks the other Android, Daniel, down with prompts of empathy and the clues he found searching the apartment while slowly walking forward toward him. The chance of success goes up and down depending on your answers, eventually reaching 100% chance of success and convincing Daniel to let go of the girl. 

Either way, the police shoot him, and none of that really matters.

The other part of the demo is the scene shown at Paris Games Week with the Android Kara, a service robot that is cooking and cleaning for a drunkard louse who is unhappy with his life. Despite possessing an intense hatred for Androids himself, he requires Kara's help in keeping his home (which, for whatever reason, looks identical to Ethan Mars' house in Heavy Rain) running, as he does not possess the inclination or mental faculties while drunk to do it.

Kara's first task is to serve dinner, which she does by bringing two plates of spaghetti to the dining room table. A secondary objective to turn on the lights appears on Kara's HUD, which took some searching to figure out which of the room's multiple light switches was the one the game wanted me to touch. The father eventually scolds me for not turning on the lights yet while Kara stands directly in front of it, leaving me to wonder what he thinks I was doing while walking toward the lights.

For virtually no reason, the father flies off the handle and flips the table, sending the little girl upstairs. He orders Kara not to move while he works himself up with no other prompting until he decides to go beat his daughter. The entire thought process lasts about ten seconds and then Kara is given the opportunity to subvert her programming and break through the barrier keeping her there.

I ran upstairs, took the father's gun from his bedroom, and then pointed the weapon at him. The hostage demo I had played before established that Androids are very much not allowed to possess guns for any reason whatsoever, but Kara had just overcome her programming, so it made sense for her to take it. She pointed the gun at the father and threatened him to stop beating the little girl, at which point he mocks her for Androids not being able to kill humans due to their programming and then knocks the gun out of her hands.

What followed is a fight scene that is a genuine mess of quick time events. A smattering of prompts appeared, one after the other, designed to allow Kara to duck and weave the father's attacks. Despite being the same motions for Kara herself to perform, sometimes the prompts were analog stick movements, sometimes they were buttons, and sometimes they were gestures with the Dualshock 4. They all looked identical, making discerning between analog stick movement and gesture movement shockingly difficult in the heat of the moment. 

After failing the quick-time events, the father is disposed of, and Kara and the little girl escaped on a bus. Without context, it is difficult to say whether that scene's cartoonish escalation was warranted or a symptom of a larger problem, but it left me raising more eyebrows than being curious at what's next.

The graphics of Detroit: Become Human are incredible and the music in the demo truly soars, but my fears about its writing have yet to be assuaged. Even without considering the scale of the story the game is trying to tell, individual scenes and dialogue are marred by poor execution, which could become a problem if those are the aspects the narrative needs to hang its hat on.

Detroit: Become Human is scheduled for release in 2018 exclusively on the PlayStation 4.

10th December 2017
An Out-Of-Nowhere Character Action Surprise

An Out-Of-Nowhere Character Action Surprise

You would be forgiven for not knowing about Lost Soul Aside before this preview. When I saw the extremely long lines in front of the two-TV demo station at PlayStation Experience, I was similarly confused, and turned my head to try and figure out what I was looking at. We posted about some gameplay footage last night, but we finally got hands on time with the game.

Made by a single developer in China by the name of Yang Bing, Lost Soul Aside looks and plays way better than it has any right to. A first look at the game belies its development resources, with graphics that rival a lot of large publisher-backed games on the PlayStation 4. There are obvious shortcuts, like the demo being contained to a small, geometrically simple cave, but the graphics and art invoke Final Fantasy XV more than anyone could expect of an indie title.

The virtues of Lost Soul Aside are not necessarily centered around its graphics, however, as much as they are how the game feels to play. It is a character action game through and through, with immediate controls that simultaneously feel smooth as butter and urgently reactive to you. Dodging is set to a button combination of Square and X, which I initially thought was one button too many at first, but it allowed me to dodge between quick frames of hammering the attack button on a monster's face.

The demo allowed use of three different weapons, a broadsword, a double-ended spear, and one-handed sword. All three were interchangeable using the shoulder buttons and could be mixed and matched during combos. The broadsword, a blunted blade that glowed a gnarly purple, was the strongest of the three but slow to the point of inviting enemy attacks. By contrast, the spear is lightning fast, punishing button mashers by locking them into combos that might not stun enemies. It does, however, have the fantastic quirk of blocking enemy projectiles while backdashing by spinning rapidly. The regular short sword is a mix between the two and I found it to be my preferred weapon.

The demo was not extensive, though given the small staff on the game, that is not unexpected. It is a playground to test combos against enemies that can and will kill you given the chance. There is no level structure or any progression beyond defeating waves of monsters until the boss appears.

The boss of the demo is a behemoth-like monster that might feel safer at home in Dark Souls than anything else. This analogy even extends to his moveset, which is made up of large swipes and wind-ups that give you ample time to dodge as long as you're paying attention. When the boss' HP, which is invisible, is drained halfway, the quadruped stands up on his hind legs and engages you with his own sword moves. I didn't last beyond this form, but its influences are clear.

Dodging is governed by a bar that depletes one visual notch with every dodge. It refills incredibly quickly so long as you aren't attacking, but that can be a difficult thing to balance in the heat of the moment. The dodging feels good, but the window is not so wide that you can simply assume dodging will save you from an attack. It has to be timed and timed well.

While it is unlikely it will ever live up to this comparison, Lost Soul Aside felt to me like a strange combination of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bloodborne. A lot of how well it can meet those lofty standards is still left unanswered, but Lost Soul Aside is absolutely one of the most surprising games at the show, and I can only hope it fulfills its promise.

The producer at China Hero Project has told us they are not yet sure if the game will be coming to the west but they are hoping to muster enough enthusiasm to bring it.


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