Phil Spencer has confirmed that the Xbox One X will cost £449/$499.
All existing Xbox One accessories will work on the new Xbox One X, alongside all existing Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles and Xbox One games. Microsoft is even planning to use “super sampling” on the One X to make new games look better even on 1080p TVs.
Microsoft has 22 “console launch exclusives” arriving on the Xbox One X, including Crackdown 3, Forza Motorsport 7, and Sea of Thieves.
We’ve been looking forward to this since the moment last year’s Microsoft E3 press conference ended, and finally, after months of rumours – including a bunch of predictions from our selves – it’s here again. Join us as we round-up the announcements from Microsoft’s E3 2016 conference.
Remarkably, the conference started on time, with Phil Spencer starting thing off by sharing his condolences for the tragedy in Orlando.
Due to it being leaked already, seeing the Xbox One S wasn’t a surprise, but the smaller, shaper design on the box, the white colouring, the textured grips and Bluetooth support on the new controller, and the 4K Blu-ray support was still enough to impress. We’ll be able to get our hand on it in August.
Gears of War 4 was then shown off, with voice actor, Laura Bailey – who voices Kait in Gears 4 – playing cooperatively with Head of Coalition, Rod Fergusson. Sunning graphics with particle effects up the wazoo pulling off realistic weather makes the game look truly jaw dropping. Meanwhile, it was announced that Gears of War 4 will be a Xbox Play Anywhere title and support cross-play with Xbox One and PC, meaning you buy it once for one platform and get it on both and you can play with Xbox One and PC players. Gears of War is due out in October and we can’t wait. Oh, and looks like Dave was right, a Gears of War 4 themed Elite controller is coming out.
Killer Instinct was up next, showing off a new Gears of War character joining the rooster, Raam.
Another exclusive Xbox One and PC title up next, the stunningly pretty Forza Horizon 3, showing off an Australia and its beaches, dusty trails, swamps, plains, forests, deserts, and of course roads. Cross-play again for this title, as four players start racing on two PCs, Xbox One S and Xbox One. Campaign coop makes its debut to the series, with instant coop allowing you to jump into a friend’s session instantly. We can’t wait until 27 September when it hits shelves.
Yet another exclusive to Xbox and PC, Recore. The teaser showed off the platforming and robot foes you’ll be up against, and it looks terrific.
Final Fantasy XV up next. A massive battle against a Titan whilst gorgeous music plays in the background. Indeed, we’re impressed. Roll on 30 September.
Ubisoft’s The Division then shows up, introducing a new expansion, first on Xbox One. Featuring randomly generated ‘dungeons’, The Division: Underground adds more opportunities to explore and fight on 28 June.
Battlefield 1 gets some love next. EA Access means we lucky Xbox One owners get to play Battlefield early on 1 October instead of the 21st. The trailer from the EA conference was then shown, so nothing new, but we’re pretty excited for it after seeing it in action.
Now some news on Xbox Live. More servers coming to help improve Xbox Live, servers that are in more locations and therefore closer to regions, improving latency. Background music playing is being introduced later this year, as well as the ability to change your language settings at will, and Cortana. You will soon be able to create clubs for different games to manage your own communities. Meanwhile, a looking for group option will also be introduced shortly, making it easier to find players for games rather than relying on matchmaking. Xbox Arena, meanwhile, allows for tournaments to be created.
Minecraft will now support cross-play between iOS, android, PC and Xbox One, which is awesome. Better yet, dedicated servers are being introduced for cross-play, and they’re free, at least for now. Cross-play will even support Oculus VR. Texture packs are also being release on Minecraft Windows 10 and pocket edition. Villagers can now defend themselves, or at least with particular add-on packs they can.
You can customise your Xbox One S controller when you order on from Microsoft, changing the colour and adding your Gamertag.
Limbo developers have a new game in development: Inside, coming 29 June. Not sure what to expect, but the head of ID@Xbox apparently loves it, and starting today Limbo will be free for everyone on Xbox One to celebrate the imminent release of Inside.
ID@Xbox montage up next. Too many games to name but I’m sure we’ll have this video ready for you as a news post shortly. Meanwhile, Ark is coming to Xbox Play Anywhere as well, and if you have already bought Ark, you will still get the Window 10 version free.
Psychological action set in a dystopian world that maintains happiness with pills up next. We Happy Few, available 26 July on preview program.
CD Projekt Red shows off a standalone version of Gwent next. It will support cross-play, features a single player campaign, and has redesigned card visuals. There’s a Beta coming in September.
Bandai Namco up next with Tekken 7. Its story mode will transition between cut scenes and fights fairly seamlessly, and is due out in 2017. And Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is free on backward compatibility, nice!
Read Rising 4 up next. We knew it was coming but it’s still so awesome to see. It looks very much like Dead Rising 3 when it comes to vehicle and weapon crafting, it looks like Frank West is the protagonist, and its set in the original game’s Willamette area but no more info was shared.
Hello, Scalebound, we’ve missed you. Four player coop stage demonstration shows off a multi stage fight against a massive foe, with ground combat and dragon riding aerial combat. Scalebound will also be an Xbox Play Anywhere title. Visuals look like they’ve been downgraded a little, but perhaps that’s just this particular environment.
Rare’s Sea of Thieves up next. Another Xbox One and PC exclusive. Open-world coop experience with emergent gameplay against fantastical beasts in a pirate themed world, best describes Sea of Thieves, and seeing a demonstration of players actually playing the game and figuring out where to go and what to do, showed off the emergent gameplay superbly. Another Xbox Play Anywhere with cross-play – loving this new sense of unification.
Yet another exclusive to Xbox One and PC: State of Decay 2.
Guess what, another exclusive: Halo Wars 2. Coming out 21 February 2017 and is an Xbox Play Anywhere. The Beta is available right now.
Phil Spencer comes back on stage to talk about Xbox Play Anywhere and how it’s bringing communities together. But it’s the new console he’s unveiling that’s really caught our attention. It’s official, the rumoured Scorpio is coming Holiday 2017, with 6 teraflops of graphics performance, 8 CPU cores, pushing 4K 60 hertz, and supporting VR. So that must mean VR is coming to Xbox as well, right? Well they didn’t say anything else about VR, so yes it is coming to the new console but we don’t know what headsets it’ll support.
And that’s the Microsoft E3 2016 conference over with for another year. It was exciting and less predictable than we feared due to the many leaks. Roll on next year when we’ll see more from Scorpio.
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles concludes with Russia, a country in the midst of war. You play as Nikolai Orelov, an assassin loyal to the creed, but whose main concern is for the safety of his family. During his final mission for the Brotherhood he becomes emotionally attached to a young Russian princess – Orelov turns against his own creed to help her escape the war, the city and his own Brotherhood.
The art style perfectly captures Russian constructivism – it’s a stark contrast to the previous episodes and is easily my favourite of the three – with the many cutscenes looking like those stunning Russian constructivist posters. The black and white environments are punctuated with a heavy dose of red to highlight areas Orelov can interact with. Its style reminded me of the Xbox 360 game, The Saboteur.
The final part to the Chronicles is rather different from the previous two games. It follows the same excellent 2.5D platform adventure, but rather than flow in and out of the dimensional planes, the action plods along the same one. Combat is heavier handed, lacking the fluidity from China and India, and rather than an option, it’s a necessity but with only one bar of health you won’t want to engage in open combat too often.
Some sequences demand you kill everyone. Rather than go in gung-ho, these sections are tough to get through, a single gunshot can kill Orelov and a route through isn’t always obvious. Orelov does have his own rifle, which can take down enemies at distance but with only three bullets, you really have to make the shots count.
China and India held your hand throughout. Russia does not. Often areas seemed quiet impossible – I either missed something obvious or had to backtrack to loot a guard’s body and gain some extra ammo or smoke bombs so I could get past enemies. One scene I needed to stop a guard from killing a girl, but no matter how hard I tried I could never reach her in time. Just by backtracking to the scene of a previous assassination, I was able to loot a body for some rifle ammo and rescue the damsel in distress – who is then playable as a second character for the rest of the game.
Sniping sections are featured more often but like the many chase sequences, there’s little room for error. Missing a shot or taking your time to line up your target often ends in failure. This instafail mechanic is featured too much for my liking – I spent a lot of time looking at the loading screen – and this constant stopping and starting broke the flow of the game making it feel clumsy. The previous assassins felt light on their feet, Orelov feels like a drunken elephant stumbling around.
I like a challenge as much as the next person, but instafail sections are just not fun. Sure this mechanic can be used to intensify a situation but when there’s no room for error, failure feels like a cheap shot – after playing the same segment of the game for the umpteenth time, retracing your steps again only to fail at the next hurdle is not my idea of fun.
Russia is firmly at the top of my Assassin’s Creed Chronicles list for its looks and its story, which holds together far more than the previous episodes. The ending is somewhat flat, but after the credits have rolled a code screen pops up, treating you to a tidy conclusion to the series – that is if you have been taking note of the hidden numbers throughout the three games!
The gameplay doesn’t quite live up to the same fluid gameplay of India or China, and the level design was at times more of a burden than a joy to navigate, particularly because it didn’t fully utilise the .5D space that India used so well. The excellent challenge rooms, which featured in India return but similarly, there’s just not enough of them – the two rooms for each of the three challenges are excellent and I could quite happily play a game made up purely of these rooms. Russia plays very differently from the first two games but its change in focus just wasn’t for me.
Amazing Princess Sarah is a call back to the games of my childhood, its 8 bit style and game design triggering memories of Castlevania, Megaman and Mario that have long remained dormant. Its simple story focuses on your father, the King, who while entertaining what appears to be the majority of enemy types you will face within the game in his throne room, is enthralled by a succubus called Lilith and you are whisked away by a demon to prevent you from interfering. As such, you must battle your way through a myriad of castles in order to rescue your father.
Combat and gameplay as a whole takes a lot of cues from these 8 bit classics; enemy attacks have a great deal of variety, environmental items contain health, and successful enemy hits cause a knockback effect, yet there are some innovations here worthy of note.
Aside from your standard sword attack, which can be used to dispose of the majority of enemies, you can also utilise items from the environment and even the enemies’ defeated corpses themselves in your battle against the minions of Lilith. Each of these corpses have differing properties; bats can be thrown long distances, ghosts travel across the screen in a straight line, elementals cast out a fire attack that sweeps across the platforms it hits, and archers disperse a volley of arrows over a short distance. When the screen becomes heavy with enemies, all of whom are attacking and moving in their own way, utilising these special attacks becomes all the more strategic.
Additionally, APS has a light smattering of RPG elements, with each enemy defeated awarding experience and additional hit points being gained as you level up. This experience is carried even if you die, giving the levels a rogue-like quality with your ever-increasing health pool allowing you to traverse further between checkpoints purely through your ability to take more punishment following each death.
Each Castle is a series of checkpoints, with a lot of platforming tropes contained within; disappearing platforms, moving platforms, bottomless pits, and typically involves a bit of exploring, switch activation and backtracking in order to move on to the next checkpoint. That said, most of the maps are pretty linear and its difficult to actually get lost within the level and the checkpoints are numerous enough that frustration over repeated deaths never really has the chance to kick in.
At the end of each castle you must face a boss battle, and each of these bosses have their own unique attack patterns that you must learn in order to overcome them. These bosses look somewhat out of place with the overall aesthetic as they appear drastically different from the 8 bit sprites you encounter throughout, but this does not affect the gameplay or hit detection on these enemies, and once you learn their pattern they can be easily overcome. Most can be done at your leisure, and only once did I encounter a boss where a particular attack could not be avoided, lending an air of urgency to that particular battle.
Once completed, you effectively unlock a new game +, and with seven of these in order to “fully” defeat Lilith, there is plenty of content to get through to actually complete the game. These change the mechanics enough to prevent the game feeling like a retreading of the original levels. A ghost version of yourself chases you throughout the game, enemies resist certain attacks, or a constant bleed effect that forces you to speed run from checkpoint to checkpoint help to refresh the game enough to make it feel different.
The game though, is not perfect. Certain enemy attacks can reach you through solid walls, and combined with the knockback effect, (which also makes you drop any item you are carrying), can cause untold frustration when the screen becomes increasingly crowded. I was also able to trick the game’s physics as well, bouncing miles into the air when chaining enemy head bounces together in a specific way. That said, the phasing attacks and breakable physics are the only two gripes I can level at the game, (if I ignore the pixelated jiggle physics that seem to have been added for no particular reason other than to garner attention).
Amazing Princess Sarah almost lives up to its name with pitch perfect platforming and varied attack mechanics, although its reliance on certain old school mechanics and frustrating bugs hold it back. Those issues aside, this is certainly a game that should be on your radar if you are a fan of action platformers.
When I’m thinking of my most favourite games genre, Tower Defence sadly doesn’t feature too highly on that list. When I saw that Krinkle Krusher, by Brazilian developer; Ilusis Interactive Graphics, was a new twist on Tower Defence, I was intrigued. The trailers made it look a fun-filled way to spend some time. Would Krinkle Krusher be able to push Tower Defence up in my own estimations?
The story behind the game is simple. Your town is built around an ancient tree which hasn’t borne fruit in living memory. Now the tree is giving forth it’s bounty, for the good of the town. Unfortunately, this fruiting has awoken an ancient enemy, the Krinkle King, from its slumber and it has released hungry Krinkles to devour everything the tree has sprouted. You are the town Mage, tasked with defending the walls from these supposedly evil creatures.
Now, with the safest place for the Mage being inside the town walls, he’ll need some assistance in the defence department. This comes in the form of a magic glove called Gauntly that can float outside the walls and out of reach of the hungry Krinkles. There’s the premise. How does the game stack-up?
The game itself is pretty simple to play. Outside of the inner town walls there are some suburban avenues. These act as ideal funneling points for the Krinkles to attack and similarly, for you to defend. Gauntly, having five digits has the capability to wear five magic rings, provided by the Mage over the course of the 60 levels you can play. You’re initially given the Lightning ring and taught some very important info about its use. The main point here is that a ring’s use drains its power which regenerates in a defined amount of time. If you drain a ring’s power too much it will break and that power cannot be used until it has regenerated fully. This is inconvenient at the best of times, so you’ll need to watch the ring power states carefully.
The rings also come in Fire, Tornado, Ice and Mud flavours to help you decide the most effective combination to take out the relentless troopers coming to attack the town. Each new ring will also unlock a new elemental trooper that exhibits some resistance to that ring. For example, one Krinkle you’ll see is on fire, and any fire trap set for this trooper will cause it to grow rather than take damage. Lay multiple traps of that nature for that trooper and they will eventually reach a critical mass that a couple of bursts of lightning will cause them to explode, taking out any unfortunate Krinkles that are in the vicinity.
So far, all of this has been controlled by the left stick and the X,Y, A, B buttons. The D-Pad is also utilised in the game to lay diversionary traps or wall integrity upgrades. The diversionary trap is a massive wagonload of food that any nearby enemy are instantly drawn to. This makes it easy to hit them with something destructive and take them out. If I have a criticism of this approach, it’s that you cannot choose the location of this wagon. It is simply plonked up near the start of the playing area and any enemy that have already passed that point are unaffected by it.
Once you’ve stopped all of the enemy for that stage, your performance is ranked with a star system. Get three stars and you’ll earn a gem. Get enough gems and you can open the Mage’s room. In here you can upgrade the power of the rings you can use and the strength of the town walls the Krinkles are attacking. While this is a good feature, the fact that you have to unlock this before you can access it means that for at least a third of the game, you’ll have no chance of using it. As we’ll see later in this review, this has a significant impact on the gameplay and enjoyment of this title.
Graphically, Krinkle Krusher uses the tried and tested heavy-line cartoon effect animations. These on the whole are very well executed. The Krinkles all move fluidly, there are some nice touches with the area backgrounds but the basic level layout remains the same. Gauntly moves well around the game area and there’s a small animation when you place a magic trap on the path that the Krinkle will take to get to you. The weapons are again, well animated. The fire, lightning and tornado effects all look like they’re supposed to, as does the damage effect on the Krinkles themselves.
There’s some rather entertaining background music, which doesn’t seem to grate on the nerves as much as the difficulty level. Both the Mage and Gauntly have some interaction with Gauntly being more than a little tetchy on occasion. While those Krinkles are being fried, burnt or pushed back, they’ll each make a manic noise, which, while it is well executed, is a little annoying after a while, especially as there appears to be no obvious pattern to the amount of times or order of attack that is best for each enemy.
Herein lies the main issue with Krinkle Krusher. While the game itself may be well presented and the gameplay mechanics easy enough to pick up, if you were expecting any easy ride, then think again. In fact, there appears to be absolutely no logical difficulty curve. I sailed through the first three levels then got massively unstuck on the fourth. It was immensely frustrating. If I’d had a cat, I’d have been kicking it. I had to give up and come back to it at a later time.
This seemed to do the trick and I eventually mastered the level and the next few, until it caught me again. It’s a real bind on your time when you keep trying to progress on a game and it is simply hampered by a difficulty curve that’s massively skewed and I can’t help but mark the title down for this. Almost destroying a controller out of frustration isn’t fun. If the aforementioned Mage’s Room was available from the start, you’d be able to upgrade the magical rings and make things a little easier, even if it was a temporary power-boost.
Summing up Krinkle Krusher, I can certainly appreciate that a lot of work has gone in to the graphic design. The level designs are rudimentary in the way that they rarely deviate from the endless trudge towards you. It’s well constructed with a solid story to get you going. The game is, however, unforgivably frustrating in parts. If you’ve got an older controller that you need to get rid of, play this in a long session. I guarantee you, that controller will be in bits by the end of it. There is some replay value in that though. You just have to have another go to see if you can finish that level. The tried and tested star system also gives you a reason to have another go, especially if you want to unlock that Mage’s Room. Krinkle Krusher then, it hasn’t moved Tower Defence games on my preference list as it is crushingly frustrating, but OK in short bursts. Once you get past that massive difficulty spike at the start of the game, the first levels get much easier and you can finally make some progress.
Thanks to Ilusis Interactive Graphics and Xbox for their support
Fortified! melds 1950s sci-fi with tower defence wonderfully. Alien saucers and a plethora of robots that wouldn’t look out of place in films such as Lost in Space and War of the Worlds, march forwards towards rockets armed with nuclear warheads, as you and up to three fellow heroes protect these rockets over multiple attacking waves. Once the waves have finished the onslaught, the rocket or rockets launch and strike back at the alien invaders.
It’s a simple premise with only the mere slither of story but one that proves enjoyable and compelling thanks to it’s strong aesthetic identity and accessible mechanics. However, this is a title best enjoyed with friends, utilising each character’s unique abilities to push back the horde of aliens and robots.
The Agent, the Spaceman, the Captain, and the Rocket Scientist are your choice of characters, with their diverse set of skills allowing them to deal with enemies in some neat ways. The Captain keeps things simple with a shotgun and machine gun, while the Spaceman has a freeze gun, the Rocket Scientist carries a high-damage grenade launcher and laser pistol, meanwhile the Agent can deploy snipers for support. Working together the four heroes pack a significant punch and can dispatch the invading menace in creatively entertaining ways. Furthermore, each character has a special move they can activate once they fill a meter, inducing temporary invulnerability as well as activating a unique ability, such as the Captain’s air strikes or the Rocket Scientist’s jetpack.
To destroy the robots and aliens it’s a matter of working together to protect the routes to the rockets – of which there can be more than one – by combating enemies directly in third person combat and by placing down weapons between waves. You can place turrets, troops, anti-air, anti-tank, artillery and more to help protect the rockets and aid you in the fight, but they cost money – that you earn by destroying foes – and you’re restricted on what you can build by a limited inventory for each stage as well as the need to upgrade to unlock better equipment.
Each character levels up independently, and as they do you can unlock new weapons and upgrades for them to wield as well as new defence equipment. When in-game, you must choose your arsenal of weapons and defence equipment before the waves begin, adding a slight tactical consideration. Your choice is further guided by indicators of what kinds of enemies you’re going to face in the coming waves, so you’ll know whether or not anti-air, for example, is worth bringing into the fight.
It’s a good upgrade system that encourages you to grind the easier levels to better prepare yourself for the tougher ones ahead. Furthermore it encourages you to switch between characters rather than stick with just the one. Of course this does also feel a bit like padding out the experience, but fortunately it’s enjoyable enough to where it’s a forgivable design choice.
A 12 level campaign as well as an infinite waves, endurance-style Invasion Mode are available for you to tackle either alone or with up to three friends, but with a limit on how many things you can place to help defend, as well as the aggressive attacks of the invaders. The two modes feel very similar, testing the might and cooperation of your team. But it certainly proves enjoyable. Moreover the crisp and colourful visuals with the 1950s aesthetic is eye pleasing and runs smooth throughout.
Fortified! is a great tower defence game with a quirky enough premise to standout amongst its peers. It’s certainly more fun to play with others than tackle the invaders alone but if you are able to bring together a group you can easily while away the hours avenging the earth.
Hyperdrive Massacre offers a pick-up and play local multiplayer experience that’s ideal for relaxed fun with friends, yet has enough depth to entice you into mastering its mechanics for more competitive play. As such it’s easy to recommend if you’re in the mood for some 80s style multiplayer, although the restriction to local play is a slight barrier.
After choosing from a rooster of space cars, you and up to three others – AI or human – compete across a multitude of modes either individually or as two teams. Your space car can boost forward and is then at the mercy of inertia, turning your car around and boosting is your only means of manoeuvring, albeit for firing your weapon which also acts as a force on your car, neatly slowing you down if you’re gliding along at speed, or pushing you backwards if you’re stationary. Destroying enemy cars within the arena is usually your goal.
It’s a very simple and elegant top-down, competitive, arcade shooter; you each begin in a corner and chase each other around firing your front facing energy weapon and laying mines behind you. The inertia movement means control is loose, often causing hilarious situations where you’re gliding aimlessly around each other desperately firing and trying to score a kill. Other times you’ll careen straight into a mine someone thoughtfully placed, or have it attract to you like a gravitational pull as you spin around trying to lose it, or better yet guide it with your front facing shield to hit another player.
Your shield also absorbs incoming fire but prevents you from firing when activated, so trying to control your intractable movement, dodging mines and using your shield whilst firing at equally out of control enemies, can all get a bit much, leading to hilarious mistakes and frantic fun. Furthermore, power-ups randomly appear in the arena granting you different weapons, such as a scatter shot and powerful beam. Meanwhile, in true retro style, if you go off the edge of the screen you re-appear the other side; this goes from projectiles as well, adding a further concern to be wary of. It’s blast to play, especially with friends.
Whilst all modes encourage you to gleefully destroy each other, there’s some nice variety to them. One mode recreates the classic game Pong, restricting you and your team mate to one side of the arena as you try to push a puck towards each other’s edge. Meanwhile a football facsimile plays precisely how you’d imagine it would, and a frantic hunt to collect numbers that appear on-screen makes for another compelling competition beyond simple deathmatch. However, even with some cars and arenas to unlock its longevity is limited.
Hyperdrive Massacre is fun, whether you’re playing against AI or friends, but runs out of tricks pretty quickly. As a party game for local multiplayer is great fun, and learning to master the simple mechanics can make for some pretty spectacular matches between two equally competent players, but there’s isn’t enough on offer otherwise.
The absolutely stunning Avengers film hit the silver screen in 2012 with immense critical success. What was surprising is that TT Games didn’t follow up the film’s release with their special brand of LEGO humour, instead we saw LEGO Marvel Super Heroes the following year.
One thing I love most about the LEGO games (besides the fact it’s LEGO) is the awesome humour – taking iconic scenes from the films they are based on and having fun with them. This was lost in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Without that anchor point I didn’t enjoy the game as much. LEGO Marvel’s Avengers set this to rights by going back to what the series has done best – focusing around the films.
The game follows the story arc of the Avengers films, kicking things off with the opening scene of Age of Ultron before flashing back to the first film. Scenes from Captain America’s films are beautifully woven in making the game feel like a new story while still centering on the Avengers cinematic story – it’s a shame that TT Games couldn’t weave in more moments like this, instead opting to bring in scenes from Iron Man 3, Thor the Dark World and Captain America The Winter Soldier as extra missions accessible via the world map. Just like the many Marvel films, Stan Lee gets some great cameos throughout the game, and there are LEGO versions of the end credit extra scenes.
Before you embark on a story mission, there’s a smaller hub area to play in – some of which are available to explore further when in between missions. These serve as small introductions to each story, either tasking you with building a useful item or getting the team ready for the challenge that waits. Further exploration in these hub worlds when in between missions includes the usual gold brick and extra character collection, plus the option to play several side missions, some of which are as entertaining as the main game’s levels.
Levels are perfectly pitched. They’re not too long and stay creative enough to keep my interest – it’s a shame I couldn’t have said the same for LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. The hub worlds are excellent and it was fun exploring Tony Stark’s Malibu Island or flying around Asgard. LEGO Manhattan returns and while it feels a little too familiar, new challenges and side missions await – and damn there’s a lot to do.
Combat is fluid if a little tiresome with the incessant bashing of the attack button – a team-up move does help to alleviate this slightly, which can be pulled off once a meter is filled. Classic team combination moves from the films are recreated, as well as new combination moves from the main Avengers team – perfect for instakills when you get surrounded.
The roster has seen an overhaul too. Removing Spiderman, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Guardians of the Galaxy, and their many allies and villains – a shame – but in their place is a whole new roster of the lesser-known Marvel characters plucked straight from the comics. Great for fans of paper, but not so much for those only familiar with the star-studded line up of the cinematic world of Marvel.
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers isn’t all Hollywood glitz. Boss battles are disappointing button prompt mashes and the sound mix is rather iffy. Character lines have been sampled directly from the movies and sounds muffled, when these are delivered against the new sound effects and one liners, it sounds pretty terrible.
LEGO Marvel’s Avengers does exactly what you might expect from a LEGO game. There’s a ton of characters to unlock, lots of things to collect and a whole world of cinematic Marvel to laugh at – but it doesn’t offer anything particularly new, retreading old LEGO ground in Marvel’s boots. However, the film to LEGO humour is spot on with interesting levels that are pitched at the right length. I’ll certainly be mopping up all side quests, collectibles and rescuing Stan Lee to 100% this one!
Dr. Ambrose Ink, one of the greatest minds of the technical revolution, has been investigating a series of earthquakes which have been destroying the world’s cities in its wake. His research has led him to the quiet mountain-side town of Hochwald, where events take a turn for the worst.
In an attempt to stop Dr. Ink from discovering his plan, the dastardly General Engineer of Gottland kidnaps Dr. Ink, and it is up to his longtime friend, and confidante, Agent Evangeline Glass to come to his rescue.
If you’re a fan of puzzle games such as Professor Layton, you will be right at home with Clockwork Tales: Of Glass Ink. You start off with the standard point and click affair, travelling between scenes and interacting with the local characters, gathering clues as to why Dr. Ink has been kidnapped. Before you know it, you’re collecting items to unlock hidden rooms, solving various mini-games, and saving yourself from the General Engineers’ henchmen.
Visually, Clockwork Tales is really quite charming, and the illustrated style suits the title perfectly. Although it advertises itself as such, it isn’t obnoxiously steampunk but rather more traditional Victorian in its approach. Each scene is vibrant and full of life, but never appears cluttered and navigating between the scenes is almost effortless.
Although Clockwork Tales is visually very good, the audio aspect could have done with the care and attention the artwork received. The base soundtrack is as expected, with its simple dramaticism, however the dialogue was often lacklustre and poorly recorded. Some of the voice actors portrayed their character with the depth required, but others were flat and lacking in character. This didn’t spoil the game for me, as such, but with Dr. Ink and Evangeline Glass being so vibrant and rounded, the lesser voice acting was obvious.
Although a little short, and taking just over 2 hours to complete the first chapter, Clockwork Tales is a surprisingly addictive puzzler. Much like other point and click adventure titles, such as Broken Sword or Secret of Monkey Island, you are tasked with filling your inventory with helpful tools and objects, some of which are combined to help you solve the mystery of Dr. Ink’s disappearance. However, Clockwork Tales also mixes in other mini puzzles to keep the gameplay feeling fresh and enticing.
Whilst exploring the environments, you will be given special hints to areas in which you need to investigate, which become hidden-item games, where you scour the screen crossing off items as you find them. Unfortunately it’s quite easy to just hit the A button over and over until all items have been crossed off, as there’s no penalty for identifying incorrect objects. Also, some of the descriptions of the items aren’t quite clear, so you’ll often find yourself clicking on what you think is the correct item, when in fact it’s not. Other mini games feature you having to move a key through a lock but having to pass it through every point of the maze, or rotating discs until the image lines up, adding an extra dynamic to the gameplay. As ever with these types of mini puzzles, quite often I would be sat there looking for a solution which was blindingly obvious, but most were fairly easy and quick to complete.
Once you complete the first chapter, you unlock a second which takes the story back two weeks before Dr. Ink was capture, giving his perspective of the events occurring in Hochwald. There is also the option of playing both chapters with normal or hard difficulty, increasing the replayability somewhat.
Overall, Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. It’s not an overly taxing affair, but perfect to wind down and relax with. It is now available to download from the Xbox store for £7.99.
Thanks to Xbox and Artifex Mundi for their support.
There have been plenty of games about war, but they have almost always been from the perspective of the soldier – isn’t it about a time we played something from a civilian’s perspective? 11 bit studios released This War of Mine back in 2014 on PC and explored this very theme – now it’s on Xbox One and comes with added little people.
There’s no pre-story, no tutorial, just a group of survivors holed up in a shelter that’s in desperate need of some TLC. You must direct them to patch up the shelter, building defenses and amenities so they can survive the coming weeks and seasons until a ceasefire is called and some form of normality can be returned to their lives.
By day snipers make the streets unsafe so you must use this time to work on your shelter and nurse sick survivors back to health – the day is on a timer (as is the evening cycle) so you must plan carefully. Each task takes a certain amount of time to complete, so you won’t complete all your chores before night sets in. Under the cover of darkness one of your group can sneak out to scavenge for supplies while the others sleep or guard the shelter and the precious supplies you’ve already gathered.
While out scavenging, you have to navigate each area, careful not to make too much noise and attract any unwanted attention. The day and night activities reminded me of The Escapists, which I absolutely adored, so it’s no surprise then that This War of Mine has hit similar highs.
While an option, combat is a last resort. Should you decide to stand and fight, you will more than likely be left badly injured or worse, dead. Your character can also end up emotionally scarred should they end up killing someone. Here lies the biggest challenge: deciding when to take a risk. Scavenging can often lead to theft – the best loot isn’t just left lying around – and stealing from someone not only comes with the risk of being caught, but also has the potential to impact your own community. Returning with food, meds and supplies can raise questions. A scavenger may even confess as to how they robbed someone blind or worse, left somebody for dead. You may be able to manage hunger, illness and tiredness, but the emotional wellbeing of your survivors can often be out of your control and this can be the tipping point that cracks your community.
What starts as something simple turns into a game where every choice has a consequence. Every decision is a hard one that rests on your conscience making each choice all the harder, especially when children are thrown into the mix. Do you feed the starving child or keep food for the strongest members of your party? Who do you send out to scavenge and who should stand guard? Choices get harder as time goes on. Survivors fall out, illness sets in, very soon your carefully managed community goes to shit – and it’s wonderful.
One by one the inhabitants of my shelter left – nobody died – but soon Bruno, the one who had cared for everyone and done all the cooking, was left all alone. It was incredibly sad. He moped about the house and when he became deathly sick, he lied in bed waiting for the inevitable to come. He lasted a week and just as winter set in Bruno couldn’t take the suffering anymore and committed suicide, never to see the end of the war.
There are plenty of moments like this, pulling at your heartstrings. Some situations develop after you’ve made what might seem like a simple decision but ends up having an unfortunate outcome. It’s sad in places, but that’s the point; this isn’t a happy game, it’s about the struggles of war.
The biggest question the game asks of you is whether you have any morals? Do you care for those you meet or protect those at your shelter? While exploring a resource rich ‘quiet house’, I found an elderly couple – they’ve had a good run right? – Robbing them of their supplies meant they couldn’t survive and upon returning to their house, I discovered what my actions had done. Even if you can live with this, your character remembers what has happened.
These actions are reflected in the narrative of the game; each character has a bio card where diary entries are made. These include thoughts and feelings about their current situation and towards the other survivors currently living in the shelter. You can also read a house statement that gives clues as to what you should be building next.
War is not a happy, careless Call of Duty experience. It’s tough and filled with difficult decisions. It’s particularly bleak for those caught in the middle of it and this has been captured perfectly by the excellent artistic direction of the game – black and white pencil drawings. There’s no respite from the soundtrack either. Beautifully composed, it compliments the setting perfectly but will provide no solace for the desperate and depressing situation you might find your survivors in.
This War of Mine: The Little Ones is an incredible piece of work. It’s humbling, emotional and tough to beat, but as well-balanced as it is I did stumble upon a situation where upon being attacked (and retaliating) my character became sad. When returning to the scene of the crime and looting further – each character became increasingly more depressed that we had left the camp with fewer and fewer supplies after each raid, yet the survivors at that location were both dead thanks to my earlier ‘incident’. Eventually my favourite character and choice scavenger could no longer live with the guilt and left the shelter.
A civilian’s take on war might sound like a dull prospect but 11 bit studios have created a compelling and engaging experience within the survival genre. It may not have high action, but This War of Mine stands out as one of the best titles I have experienced, leaving a lasting memory of what I had played.