Tag Archives: rpg

The Banner Saga 3 review

The Banner Saga trilogy has introduced us to a Disney meets Don Bluth 2D world, steeped in European-esque medieval fantasy with tactically deep and satisfying combat. But, like all things, it must come to an end. This world where the sun has died and the Varl and Human races’ have suffered and fought to try to overcome the apocalypse, delivers it’s denouement here in The Banner Sage 3, and indeed it’s a strong end to a terrific series.

The march of the two caravans of warriors across the beautiful 2D layered panoramic perspective of the frozen land continues, with the pattern of narrative-driven dialogue and decisions punctuated by grid-based combat still being the order of the day. Decisions still have lasting effects on what’s left of your story, removing characters, sometimes temporarily and other times by permanently killing them off. Despite knowing the end of this tale is imminent, there’s still a terrific minefield of unknown consequences that can play out in completely different ways depending on your choices. This still also occurs with combat, where defeat isn’t necessarily game over, making the adventure feel somewhat more grounded in reality than in many other games, despite the Tolkien-esque fantasy setting.

The combat itself is largely unchanged from previous entries, with grid turn-based conflicts that centre around the three stats of strength, armour and willpower. Your strength doubles up as both your health and your attack power, introducing an interesting tactical challenge where the longer a battle continues the weaker you typically get. Armour, meanwhile, simply measures how much of an incoming attack can be deflected, whilst willpower offers the chance to increase your movement and attack strength from a finite pool that only replenishes outside of combat. It’s a fairly simple system that’s very easy to fathom. Characters and enemies receive a turn based on the order shown at the bottom of the screen, and a turn allows you to move and attack. Varls are larger than humans and take up four squares on the grid whilst humans take up one. The complexity comes with how you use this simple system to defeat your foes.

When you attack you can choose to target their strength/health or their armour. Reducing a foe’s armour means you can deal more damage in the future but means your foes will hit harder come their turn. Meanwhile, if a foe’s armour is higher than your strength, then your ability to inflict damage is reduced giving you a percentage chance to hit, therefore encouraging you to reduce their armour before targeting their strength/health. Additionally some characters have special abilities they can unleash, such as the ability to hit multiple opponents with one attack. When attacking and moving you can spend willpower to increase the amount of damage you inflict or grid squares you can move, adding a tactical consideration, but willpower is limited and won’t replenish automatically in combat, so you need to spend it wisely. It all comes together to offer a fun and easy to learn combat system that offers a nice range of tactical possibilities.

This time around you can often remain in combat taking on additional waves of enemies rather than leaving the battlefield, with more enemy reinforcement joining the battle depending on a turn counter. Defeating these waves provides rewards in the form of special items, providing a risk verses reward system that can benefit you with important supplies if you choose to prolong a fight and allow these waves to keep spawning. However, it doesn’t ever feel necessary to risk staying in combat for these rewards, making it an interesting addition to freshen the experience somewhat, but one that’s not as well integrated into the rest of the game as other systems.

With the experience shifting between combat and narrative heavy dialogue and decisions it’s still a shame that so little of it is voiced, but what is voiced is performed to a high standard, and the writing continues to impress. The tale in this third game has turned from dark to absolutely dire, and tone has shifted well to represent the desperation of the characters. It’s gripping stuff.

The soundtrack is once again fantastic, with powerful brass sections that really work to sell the honour and glory of battle against the darkness consuming this world. However, one issues from the previous titles still remains: the loading, which, whilst fairly short, is still relentless. It’s a problem that optimisation and even faster hardware, as in with the Xbox One X, still hasn’t solved. Practically every screen transition required a black loading screen, and sometimes multiple loading screens stacked on top of each other.

The Banner Saga as a whole has offered a brilliant branching story with intense and accessible turn-based combat that’s hard to put down. Death can take any number of characters you’ve come to love away and decisions can seriously affect how your tale unfolds, making it a wonderfully compelling personal experience within an intriguing fantasy world with good replayability. Meanwhile, this final chapter in the story does a tremendous job tying everything together and maintains the high quality of its predecessors. It’s been a delightful experience to play this trilogy.

Thanks to Xbox and Stoic for supporting TiX

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics releases later this year

We last reported on Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics when it was launched on Kickstarter. A few months have passed, funding was successful, and indeed, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics will hit consoles (Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch) and PC in Q4 this year. You can check out the announcement trailer below:

Developed by Bristol-based Auroch Digital and to be published by Ripstone Games, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics challenges you to save the world from Nazis. But not just Nazis, also the other-worldly monstrosities they’ve uncovered through the occult.

Based on the wildly successful tabletop RPG from Modiphius Entertainment, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is set in an alternate World War II where the Nazis have gained a considerable advantage by summoning Lovecraftian monsters that could enable them to destroy the allies. Players take control of Charlie Company, an elite band of allied forces, sent in to do the impossible: foil the Nazi plans and turn the tide of war.

“We loved Modiphius’ pulp mash-up of World War II Nazis and the Cthulhu Mythos. It’s an incredibly evocative and exciting alternative history which makes for a unique tabletop experience”

said Nina Adams, Producer at Auroch Digital.

“We’re taking that nigh-on faultless foundation and transporting it into the video game medium, via our favourite genre, the turn-based tactics game. With the genre experiencing something of a comeback in recent years, we feel Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics will not only deliver an incredibly compelling theme and world to play in but also offer innovative gameplay possibilities.”

Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics utilizes a mix of turn-based strategy and RPG mechanics as players embark on a globe-trotting campaign against the forces of evil. Each hero character features their own backstory, weapon specialisations, and combat abilities to give players an edge in the battlefield. Captain Eric “Badger” Harris is a British Intelligence operative who specializes in experimental weaponry and guerrilla warfare; Ariane Dubois is a French Resistance member who’s bonded with a demonic spirit creature that she can command on the battlefield; Corporal Akhee “The Eye” Singh wields a sentient amulet that can transform him into a whirling cloud of blades; and Sergeant Brandon Carter is a loud-mouthed American soldier with a medallion that imbues his signature Thompson submachine gun, with Mythos-fuelled bullets that can tear through the Nazi’s horrifying creations.

Beyond these four main heroes, Charlie Company is joined by the covert ops of Badger’s Commando Unit, and the Native American tribe The Keijn – or “Pathfinder Demon Hunters” as they’re often known.

In the world of Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, all Allied forces fight better in the light. Step into the dark, however, and the forces of evil will grow ever more powerful.

ELEX review

ELEX balances its shortcomings and successes to ultimately deliver an average RPG experience. However, developer Piranha Bytes has a particular charm that’s present here and may push it over the edge into a strong recommendation for those who’ve been impressed with the developer’s past titles. Indeed, It’s clunky, buggy and tremendously difficult, but a great story, varied and impressive looking environments, and that aforementioned charm certainly makes an impression.

ELEX places you in a post-apocalyptic, Earth-like world steeped in lore. The ruins of what we would recognise as modern buildings are scattered throughout the large playable area, which includes multiple biomes ranging from desert to snow and everything in-between. Meanwhile, futuristic and ancient technology harmoniously co-exists, alongside a form of magic, as different tribes of survivors either look to salvage and re-build, revert to more medieval traditions, or blend the two. It’s a remarkably well thought out and developed world with believable history and NPCs.

This wealth of culture and range of technology provides intriguing stories to follow, meaningful choices to make, and some excellent equipment and weapon load-outs to try. And indeed, the alien setting allows for exotic wildlife and enemies, as well as mutant humans effected by the cataclysm that destroyed the world. It’s a rich setting ideal for a RPG experience.

However, unfortunately there are several severe issues that mean to ruin the experience. Chief among these are the bugs and oddities, with mission markers not showing up on the map or showing up in the wrong place, events not triggering when they should, peculiar hitboxes making combat immensely unfair, and horrendous animations and clipping destroying immersion.

Yet despite things like the dead-eyed expressions on your character’s, as well as the NPC’s, faces, and the T-pose falling animations, enemies and the environment look stunning, the voice work has moments of greatness, and the story and detail of the lore is terrific. What it ultimately comes down to then is the combat.

Indeed, the combat in ELEX is in the traditional Piranha Bytes style: slow, realistic and tactical. Swinging a melee weapon, drawing a bow and aiming an energy rifle all feel natural yet painfully slow, and once you’ve committed to an action, it will follow through. There’s no move cancelling or supernaturally quick movement to be had here, it’s more grounded than that, despite the fantastical setting. Those familiar with Piranha Bytes’ Gothic and Risen titles will know the feel of combat and be able to adapt to the slower paced style more swiftly than others; focusing on movement, blocks and dodging, while managing just how many enemies you engage at once. It’s a highly satisfying system once you get to grips with it, and its ebb and flow is unique, but mistakes are fiercely punished and this can be hugely frustrating.

Another trait often found in Piranha Bytes RPGs is the impressive openness of the open-world, meaning you can freely explore and tackle the dangers of the land at your discretion. This too can be frustrating; it’s all too easy to wander into an area full of enemies significantly more powerful than you. Additionally, a lack of handholding means it’s very easy to wander from the critical path, and you can end up taking on side missions and getting caught up in the emergent gameplay to a degree that can make finding your way back tricky. These traits are part of what makes ELEX such an impressive RPG, but at the same time it feels inaccessible.

While ELEX is certainly not an RPG for everyone, its engrossing world and story make it an attractive title for those who enjoy the genre. However, the current bugs are frustrating at best and game breaking at worst, making it a patch or two away from a wholehearted recommendation.

Thanks to Xbox and THQ Nordic for supporting TiX

Ruiner review

I’ve bleated on loads of times now about how much I like a good, fast-paced, twin stick shooters with loads of power-ups, explosions and general chaos. When I saw Ruiner for the first time I was hyped because it appeared to be everything I look for in a substantial twin-stick adventure. I was wrong though, because Ruiner is not just a twin stick controlled action game, it’s more than that, a lot more.

Ruiner is brought to us by Reikon Games, who are based in Poland and founded back in 2014. Their credentials are very impressive, they’ve worked on games such as The Witcher 1 – 3, Dead Island and also Dying Light, that’s some impressive CV right there.

Ruiner is a top-down action game with hints of Cyber Punk and Anime all thrown into one, adult-themed combination of brutality and mayhem. The art style for the game is amazing and utilises a comic book style approach. Everything seems to be a variation of red even down to the lighting, I suppose it represents blood or something.

You start off with a nice and concise tutorial explaining how to operate the protagonist who, by the way, is just a psychotic killer on a mission to find his brother and kill the boss. The first few minutes pretty much sums up what Ruiner is all about and it’s clear that your character is insane. He wears a face mask that has his intentions written on the front, this changes depending on the situation but for the most part it says ‘kill’ on it. The story isn’t deep or that interesting to be fair, so I won’t bother you with all that, when all is said and done it’s the action we all want, right?

The control system is pretty easy to get to grips with and you will have to use everything in order to get by. There is a mixture of dashes, slashes and shooting to be done and mastered in order to get through because, on the whole, this game is not easy, good but not easy. You have a basic load-out of a small handgun and a piece of piping for the melee kills. Enemies do drop weapons you can readily collect, however, these have a limited amount of ammo and you quickly return to your basic gun.

As with just about every game nowadays there is an XP system called Karma, you collect Karma by completing bounties and missions but also by breaking open boxes etc. placed around each level. When you level up you’re granted skill points and the ability to place them and take them away as you see fit, allowing to build a character that best suits you. There is the chance to perform combos, however, the enemies don’t come fast enough to be able to create spectacular ones, with that said though the slow-motion effect makes you look like a complete badass and gives you that sense that you’re untouchable. When I say untouchable that’s just for that moment, because as I said, Ruiner is not easy and the death animation is something you’ll soon become used to, like it or not.

There are however, sometimes when you think you’re being hard done by, because on occasion I wandered into the next area only to be met by a trap that completely annihilated me. I basically stood no chance. It’s not all Dark Souls difficulty though, you get the odd lifeline. At various points Gif’s appear that are little floating robots and they drop health, energy and sometimes the odd weapon, indeed a welcome sight on a difficult sub-boss.

Like all twin-stick shooters there is a certain point where you lose track of what’s happening down to how much is happening on-screen, this goes as well for Ruiner. At times I found myself moonwalking into an enemy with my shield facing the wrong way, this is not a gripe but more a warning to keep a sharp eye because you need to move or you’re dead, so make sure you move in the right direction. Ruiner has a very healthy amount of stuff to do, the main game is short in comparison to most but you can jump in and out as you please, especially if the pressure gets a little too much for you. I’m a big fan of games where you can jump in and out for 10 minutes or an hour depending on your mood, Ruiner provides just that and you can still make good progress.

Ruiner is a must, I strongly recommend if this genre takes your fancy. My twin stick biased opinion aside, Ruiner offers the right amount of difficulty mixed with the right amount of mature brutality and a sprinkling of RPG mechanics that makes for the most insane, psychopathic cake you can imagine. Ruiner also has a soundtrack that complements it superbly; there’s a techy underground experimental sense behind the music that fits perfect but at times can get a bit over powering, especially if you’re dying a lot.

Thanks to Reikon and Xbox for supporting TiX

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows review

Masquerada’s opening kept me playing, and it will help me return to the replay the chapters and acts of this criminally undercooked RPG.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is described as “…a tactical action RPG set in a lush 2.5D world…” – by Witching Hour Studios, developer, and Ysbryd Games, publisher. Before I jumped into Masquerada, I tussled with the thoughts of if I had enough time to sink into an RPG at the moment – yes, as a contributor to TiX, it is my duty, yet I know how hard I can fall for an RPG! – with my 20/20 hindsight, I should never have wrestled with such grand of a notion.

The gameplay of Masquerada is rather simple, maybe a little too simple for a PC and console release. I often felt that I would be more comfortable navigating the rather linear scenes of Witching Hour Studios’ RPG via the tap of a phone screen, or maybe the Nintendo Switch than I was with a dedicated controller and large display. Or better yet, having no control over the direction the characters took until combat started.

Speaking of combat; Masquerada’s combat feels as if it is on the edge of greatness. A simple action bar, that can be customised via the character panel, presents your characters abilities for combat – though I found that setting the AI ‘either/or’ settings to use area of effect abilities – which were absolutely stunning to behold; little embers dancing around my fire avatars, water droplets splashing around the combat field from my healing orbs – then selecting and sitting on my healer-type character and keeping RT pressed got me through most combat situations.

The character development of the game hinted at much more than I discovered. Sparse talent-lines with the occasional second prong option to select from, most being either: Generate addition threat, or gain an additional avatar/orb/other, or gain a free use of the ability within Y amount of seconds. With the ability to redistribute your points coming fairly early in the game, I never felt like I could go wrong. A certain character, say your healer, locked out of the party due to story reasons? Change your talents to be more defensive on other characters. Now, typing this out makes it feel like the game allows you to be very adaptive to your situation, yet honestly….it really isn’t.

There are some pretty cool systems that are introduced a little further into Masquerada, and both of these absolutely to be expanded upon in any future installments. One is the Ink and Rune system, where you mix them together and gain a passive stat and action buff, and the other is Masks!

Masks allow you to alter your limit break-esque ability, some of which I found to be more useful than others, such as providing shields to my whole team. As with the most of the art in Masquerada, these animations are vibrant and crisp. Mask abilities are charged by performing certain types of actions in combat. These are mostly passive with all characters apart from your main, who has three stances. Each stance alters how you perform combat and gain energy to use for your Mask attack. Masks can be acquired from a small amount exploration of the scenes. I say small because it is as simple as checking a corner that is just out of view – something that would feel so much grander on a different format, handheld for example, but not so much as is.

The artistic style of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is breathtaking in places, a lot of places. From the animations of the attacks during combat to the subtle flutter of the character frame during conversations. The conversations are fully voiced, these range from the silhouette journeys between home and each act, the little world building chatter from the denizens of the rich Citte and its locals to the emotionally driven performances during the twists and turns of Masquerada’s excellently paced narrative.

There are some heavyweight voice actors behind the vocal punches of the cast of characters that litter the landscape Masquerada. Matt Mercer, Catherine Taber and, oh yeah, Jennifer Hale are just three of the talented performers that lend their vocal variety to this Venetian-inspired epic. Woah, that was a lot of V!

V leads nicely onto the score of Masquerada. The music oft over empowers the scenes, but after reducing the volume in the options by 30% it settled down and I could enjoy it as part of the overall machine, instead of that one overbearing cog. So, the V? Violins are the V. Violins and plenty of other string instruments lead the score of Masquerada. V also stands for the majestic choir that sits just above the instruments, and at brief points hit the heights of the Marty O’Donnell’s work in Halo. Arm hair standing and the rest!

I labeled the gameplay as core-play, but the story would be better labeled as core-everything. Without the fantastic writing, expert delivery and absolutely insane Codex system – think Mass Effect + a number of layers in the Soulsborne series, and you’ll get an idea of the amount of written content in Masquerada. Everything from character motivations, Guild conflicts through to the different type of politics that flesh out the world at large are stuffed within the Codices. Most of these are automatically filled during natural gameplay, some require repeated conversation during different points in the game, and others are just off the edge of the display like those Masks.

From the prologue, which has to be replayed upon completion of the game, through to the stunning reveals, twists, and politicking that happens so subtly, the narration of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is like that tattered book you pick up from the bargain bin; shouldn’t keep you up until the bats come out, but it does. You need to know the drive of the supporting characters just as much as the main characters, even if some are underutilised early on. And when the pieces do fall together, even more so via the Codices, you will forget about the undercooked gameplay, the talent lines that often have little meaning and the absolutely unfair treatment of the man in Blue!

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has the making of a something special, truly it does. The story and art are top-tier, with the gameplay feeling like it came out of a game-jam. As harsh as that reads, I feel no pang of doubt typing or saying it. Masquerada is saved by someone figuring out the water puzzle from Diehard 3, and I am thankful for that. I look forward to seeing what Witching Hour Studios produces next. More Masquerada, please?

Thanks to Xbox and Witching Hour for supporting TiX

Fortnite review

I’m definitely one who gets sucked into the hype, but for some reason, Fortnite passed me by until a week or so before release. I watched one trailer on YouTube and I was hooked. However, on the face of it the game seemed pretty straight forward, but when I finally got to play it I quickly learned that Fortnite has some depth to it, in fact so much depth I don’t even think I’ve scratched the surface yet.

Fortnite has so many layers to it you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t address them all. I am also finding it quite hard to define exactly what type of game Fortnite is. To give you an overview it’s an action RPG, grind fest, builder, loot fest management game. Just to give you a brief snapshot of what is actually going on, loads of storms have hit the earth and turned mankind into the walking dead. The zombies look a little like twisted versions of the ones from Plants Vs Zombies but there are different types, some bigger and some with special abilities. You play a commander whose task it is to gather resources, survivors, and weapons in order to survive the apocalypse.

The main aim of the game is to defend a point on a map from hordes of zombies, or Husks as they are called. The overall aim doesn’t change and a lot of the time it’s rinse and repeat. You start each mission with time to gather your resources. You swing a massive pick axe, hitting objects to break them down into resources that you need to build your fortress and create ammunition. Pretty much everything on each stage is destructible so you’re never really short of stuff, but it does get old quite quickly and it is very time-consuming. It’s a necessary evil, no resources then you can’t do anything but turn up and be a nuisance to your team.

Once you’ve gathered enough and found the main objective then it’s up to you and your team to defend it by building a stronghold that will prevent the husks from attacking and destroying it. Building is brilliant and extremely simple. With a touch of the B button you can quickly switch to build mode, select the item type you need, either wall, floor, stairs or roof, and away you go. You can edit each piece and quickly select a pattern to suit what type of piece you need to create your masterpiece. I love how easy the building element works, it’s straight forward and not complicated at all. On the odd occasion, you can build a radar when you find it on each map, following the pattern is easy and straight forward so bravo to Epic for making it that way, I think it could have been so much more difficult if they wanted it to be.

Once you’ve got bored of gathering (or a team mate has) and you have activated the thingymajig then the horde begins its onslaught. Zombies are spawned from within a storm and typically attack from one direction at a time, with the number of zombies increasing, and adding additional types, as the mission progresses. The combat is very nicely executed and your arsenal ranges from small arms to large machine guns and melee weapons. You can also use a special ability. I played the ninja so I was a dab hand with a sword and had an airstrike as my backup when things got busy, but the cooldown for such devastation comes at a price and can only be used once every three minutes. The third person angle provides a good point of view of what is incoming and very rarely are there any nasty surprises. Ammunition for your weapons can be made on the fly, which I think is a brilliant touch, however, that’s only if you have the resources to make it!

Throughout each mission you’re awarded medals for combat and resource gathering, this will help towards the end game loot chest that you’ll get for completing the mission. Speaking of loot, Fortnite has tonnes of the stuff! In fact, and I never thought I’d say this, I think it has too much! This is a matter of opinion, though, and I know of some folk who think there isn’t enough. As well as the end of mission reward chest loot, there are also Llamas…..don’t ask, because I have no idea why they chose Llamas. The Llamas are basically a pinata that you smash and it drops additional loot, such as new characters, experience, weapons, etc. On rare occassions, your Llama won’t break and it automatically upgrades to the next tier of Llama making the loot inside more desirable.

Of course, with Fortnite allegedly going free-to-play next year they need to make money somewhere, so you can buy coins and spend them on Llamas if you so wish. I did find that loot was plentiful but this had the opposite effect I expected. For me, it became boring getting the loot and wondering what to do with it all. You get schematics for new weapons, survivors, XP boosts, traps, followers and coins but all this does is give you the exclamation mark in each subject to let you know something new has arrived, then you spend ages getting rid of them and not really knowing what you’re supposed to do with all this stuff. If I was to slate Fortnite for something it would the fact you get far too much far too quickly and for some this could lead to frustration and a sense of being overwhelmed by what’s happening. Eventually Fortnite reveals the use of all these unlocks you’ve been collecting, but it takes hours upon hours before everything is fully explained. A nice touch to all the loot, though, is a collectors book where you place an item into a section relating to the loot type, this takes it out of your inventory and into the book. I did get a sense of nostalgia doing it and it kind of reminded me of when I collected Back to the Future stickers all those years ago. I’m determined to fill the book that’s for sure.

One thing that is important to understand is that Fortnite is still in development, regardless of who paid what for it and the amount of money people are spending on micro transactions, the game is not finished and there are a few niggly little bits that could be ironed out. One annoying thing is a glitchy match making systems making the game freeze whenever a random joins your session. I often thought my Xbox had frozen and sometimes it took ages before it resolved itself. These things will be ironed out by the time it goes free-to-play, I’m sure of it, and by then it will be up to you to buy new characters, chests and bloody Llamas to keep the game afloat. With any game like this, there are always updates and improvements making the experience better and that’s reassuring to know.

Once the annoying stuff has been addressed and fixed Fortnite stands to be an amazing game. Fortnite’s appealing gameplay and claws that keep dragging you back for more aren’t easy to shift. Epic could have done a better job in explaining different features such as squads etc. but on the whole, if you’re not bothered by a game,s side objectives then you can pretty much jump into Fortnite and smash your way around a mission or two.

The cartoon like graphics make the game very light hearted, it wouldn’t have the same feeling if the environments were more serious and sinister with proper motion captured characters and detailed graphics. The voice acting and sound is on point and Fortnite is generally a happy and upbeat game that’s easy to look at and listen to.

Like I said right at the start Fortnite has more layers than a show piece wedding cake, to tell you them all would take ages and I’ll be honest I don’t fully understand them all yet either, I mean I haven’t even mentioned the massive skill tree’s yet have I?….I’ll leave that there for now. As gamers, we ask for games with depth and Fortnite has it. I was excited for Fortnite from one trailer and the game hasn’t disappointed me, although at times the resource gathering and management can get very old but the combat and quirkiness of the game quickly make up for it. I feel that my multiple hours though is certainly not enough to get a full grasp of what’s on offer and I’ll definitely be diving in for months to come, so feel free to join me. To check out some gameplay and this review watch the video below.

Thanks to Epic Games and Xbox for supporting TiX

Trailer for new action RPG Code Vein

Bandai Namco have released the first trailer for their upcoming action-RPG title Code Vein, releasing worldwide in 2018.

The new trailer highlights the mysterious and captivating universe along with a quick look at the challenging weapon-based combat found in Code Vein. The trailer also teases the companion gameplay mechanic. As players venture out into the world, they will be able to choose a partner companion from the various residents of Vein. Added strategy presents itself when players choose companions that compliments their play style to give them a fighting chance against the vicious enemies they’ll be up against through their journey.

In the not too distant future, a mysterious disaster has brought collapse to the world as we know it. Towering skyscrapers, once symbols of prosperity, are now lifeless graves of humanity’s past pierced by the Thorns of Judgment. At the centre of the destruction lies a hidden society of Revenants called Vein. This final stronghold is where the remaining few fight to survive, blessed with gifts of power in exchange for their memories and a thirst for blood. Give into the bloodlust fully and risk becoming one of the Lost, fiendish ghouls devoid of any remaining humanity.

Code Vein will be released in 2018.

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Neverwinter hits 15 million total players

The popular free-to-play D&D-based MMORPG Neverwinter, has today reached the impressive milestone of 15 million registered players across all platformers.

To celebrate this achievement, developer Cryptic studios and publisher Perfect World have released a thank you video to everyone whose taken part in the adventure.

Since its original launch in June 2013, Neverwinter has continued to receive expansions and extensive patches to bring more and more diverse content from the Forgotten Realms and Dungeons & Dragons lore into the game. From defeating the elven lich Valindra Shadowmantle to facing off against monstrous demon lords in the Underdark and going toe-to-toe with frost giants in Icewind Dale, adventurers continue to experience the Forgotten Realms with players around the world. The Cloaked Ascendancy, now available on all platforms, marks the 11th major content expansion to the action MMO.

“We were thrilled to see that the registered player count for Neverwinter has crossed the 15 million mark,”

said Yoon Im, Sr. VP of Game Publishing at Perfect World Entertainment.

“This is a huge milestone for both Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment. We’ve seen Neverwinter grow so much since it first entered Open Beta and can’t wait to share what the game has in store for adventurers in the near future.”

“The success of Neverwinter on so many platforms and in so many countries shows how strong the D&D global community is,”

said Nathan Stewart, Brand Director of Dungeons & Dragons.

“Partnering with Cryptic and Perfect World to bring our annual stories to life in such a visibly stunning way has allowed D&D players to experience the Forgotten Realms like never before.”

“We look forward to continuing our development and realization of the Forgotten Realms to deliver a steady stream of new and exciting content to all our players,”

said Gordon Fong, executive producer on Neverwinter.

“Whether they are hardcore D&D enthusiasts, MMO players sharing experiences with friends, or solo RPG fans; we want Neverwinter to be a welcoming place for anyone looking for adventure and entertainment.”

We’re also celebrating this news, and the game in general, by giving away codes for special mounts in our latest stream, which start in a mere 30 minutes from this news post going live – 2100 BST Thursday 27th. Check us out over on Beam: https://beam.pro/thisisxbox

Mass Effect Andromeda review

Mass Effect Andromeda isn’t quite the return for the series we all hoped for. It’s technically flawed, suffers from sections of poor writing, padded with dull and tedious side content, and lacks the subtlety of its former trilogy of titles. It’s largely been developed by a fresh set of creators, and it unfortunately feels like it. However, some excellent combat mechanics and a fascinating concept behind the story does make this adventure one worth exploring.

The arrival in the Andromeda galaxy and the events proceeding it tell a well-paced and fascinating story of survival, exploration and mystery. Indeed, the idea of leaving the behind Milky Way, many of that galaxy’s species, and the Reapers, makes this adventure feel fresh and your discoveries more intriguing. It’s a smart choice that certainly feels like a great introduction for an entirely new series of Mass Effect games and stories. However, it also raises a level of expectance and anticipation for something grander that the original trilogy offered; something more threatening than the Reapers and more fascinating that the mass relays, and Andromeda’s stand-ins for both of these don’t fill their predecessor’s shoes just yet. There’s time for this to develop further, of course, if indeed the plan for another trilogy is realised, but this potentially opening act doesn’t feel as strong.

However, the new threat in the form of the alien menace the Kett and the dark matter infecting the Helius region of the Andromeda galaxy, prove to be intimidating enough to compromise the best laid plans of the Andromeda Initiative that organised this colony mission. The Human, Asari, Salarian and Turian races each have their own ark, with other races, such as the Krogan, also joining these arks but in lesser numbers. It adds a nice slice of familiarity to the cast, helping ease you in to the new. As for the stand-in for mass relays, instead there’s ancient Remnant technology from a mysterious, advanced race that can cleanse a planet’s atmosphere, acting as a new tool and source of technological intrigue that works well within the fiction of arriving in a hostile new galaxy.

The goal of the Andromeda Initiative was to setup the first few colonies of Milky Way species in the Andromeda galaxy across seven ‘golden worlds’, that long-range scanned determined were rich with resources and fit for life. However, during the 600 plus years it took the arks to travel to this region, the worlds have been altered. The discovery of the aforementioned dark matter veins surrounding the region, the alien race the Kett, and the Remnant vaults that sit on these planets, provides a strong driving force to figure out how they’re all connected, and your struggle to overcome the challenges of this new galaxy embroils you in a well-told adventure, just one that’s on a smaller, more personal scale than the original trilogy.

While the galaxy is new and mysterious, Mass Effect Andromeda still manages to feel very familiar. Nods to previous events and characters in the series helps make this new chapter feel connected and many of the original title’s tropes are played on to make this feel like a familiar yet new beginning. There’s politics to your position within the Andromeda Initiative as Pathfinder that feels pleasantly similar to the struggle of Shepard as the first Human Spectre. Meanwhile, the Nexus – the huge hub space station where the arks are meant to rendezvous – is the Citadel in all but name. Scanning planet for resources, the Pathfinder’s personal ship, crew and land vehicle the Nomad, intense combat and copious amounts of lore to read up on and glean from dialogue, all makes Andromeda feel like any other Mass Effect title.

Where’s there’s been improvements are in the dialogue choices and the combat. You can now choose from up to four emotional responses during conversations, allowing for a much more natural flow to dialogue, although situations where you’re only provided two options that are practically identical do crop up far too often, and this element of ‘choice’ is more of an illusion than an actual dialogue tree. The combat, meanwhile, is now much more fluid, with your character taking cover automatically when you approach it, weapons and abilities hitting harder and having clear strategic uses, and ammo being strewn across battlefields ready to restock you and get you back in the fight. The upgrade tree is split between different disciplines allowing you to craft different character classes, such as a traditional soldier, biotic enhanced, tech enhanced, etc. Furthermore, you can switch between these disciplines at will, allowing you to adapt to the situation you’re in as well as find a play-style that best suits you. Finally, the jet boosters adds a nice amount of verticality to your movement during combat to allow for better tactics and a more flowing and intense set of encounters, with the enemy AI proving aggressive enough to make moving around during a fight an important strategic consideration.

However, there’s also plenty of issues that can ruin the experience for you. Humans and Asari suffer from horrendous facial animations and dead eyes that make dialogue with them distracting. Meanwhile, all characters are prone to dodgy walking animations and glitches where they reset to the ‘T’ position. There are also many instances of low frame rates and screen tearing, some truly terrible writing, poor draw distance, and characters floating in the air when you approach them. Largely these are issues with the final polish, and as such can be ignored, however, we also ran into some game-breaking bugs that prevented us talking to other characters or being able to achieve objectives within a mission. Reloading fixed these issues the majority of the time, but not always. Additionally, a lot of the side missions feel like filler, giving you dull and repetitive tasks that added little to the lore. Furthermore, tutorials only provided the briefest overview of some of the new systems and inventory management options.

Indeed, Mass Effect Andromeda has a lot of issues that can pull you out of the experience, however, when focused on the story missions it can easily immerse you in this new galaxy and the new challenges it provides. Additionally, some terrific lighting and environment textures make planets a visual treat to visit, and the voice cast does a great job, for the most part. The Multiplayer also provides a compelling, wave-based, cooperative challenge; it’s a little shallow but the intense combat makes it thrilling enough.

Despite the issues there’s still a good Mass Effect title here. There’s a lot of potential for the sequels to jump off this opening chapter in the Andromeda galaxy and build something great. Sure, the bugs and glitches are immersion breaking and disappointing, lacking that polish we expect from BioWare, but a strong story steeped in intrigue does a great job of mitigating most of the flaws.

Thanks to Xbox and EA for supporting TiX

Torment: Tides of Numenera review

In 1999 Planescape Torment took critics by storms, with its story focused roleplaying creating an experience that was more about lore and dialogue than combat and action. This critical success didn’t translate to a commercial one, but the multiverse shenanigans of this Dungeon & Dragons based campaign still won over enough to become a cult classic. Torment: Tides of Numenera is a spiritual successor to Planescape and follows many of the original title’s queues, making it a title whose strengths lie in its storytelling.

For some, Torment: Tides of Numenera will be the ideal RPG experience. It harks back to the days of yore where isometric RPGs were king, where text dialogue was paired only with the odd grunt or one-liner of audio, where combat was unintuitive and harsh, and where handholding was strictly forbidden. And indeed, inXile have revived many of these traits in their game, the primary feature being the focus on storytelling and dialogue.

In Torment: Tides of Numenera combat is to be avoided. Instead, talking your way out of sticky situations, or cunningly manipulating situations through actions and items, is preferred. It’s about being smart, reading a situation carefully and making the right decisions to overcome it. And wonderfully, Torment: Tides of Numenera provides some excellent situations and methods for avoiding combat that are fun to explore.

This is largely thanks to some terrific writing. There’s real character behind the NPCs that makes them engaging to talk to. There are characters that make you laugh and cringe, as well as plenty you love, hate and even fear. The dialogue is thick with lore and intrigue as well as clues on how you can best interact with people. Reading it all and paying attention pays dividends when it comes to avoiding of combat. You can lie, compliment, sell-out and threaten your way out of many situations simply by replying correctly during dialogue with NPCs, playing off the strengths and weaknesses that you’ve perceived through conversations and lore you’ve picked up on your journey and during your interaction with said characters.

Moreover, there are often multiple non-violent ways out of a situation, and if things do go awry, even combat provides options. Environmental hazards can be triggered to damage enemies in combat, and items provides many neat and unique way to turn the tides if things get overwhelming. Additionally, after a show of strength, such as quickly striking down a foe in front of their party, you can sometimes talk your way out of the rest of the combat. It’s brilliantly designed with copious amounts of branching paths.

However, in order to perform some of the actions required to avoid combat, your character stats come into play, providing differing chances of success depending on them. You’re also restricted to how many actions you can perform each day by these stats. Resting for the night replenishes them but that’s not always an option. Fortunately, your party can also perform many of these actions, providing you with their unique skills and stat pools to utilise.

This does, however, sometimes mean you get stuck in a situation where you don’t have the required amount in a particular stat to continue, resulting in re-loading or leaving an area and then re-playing a section now you know what you’re up against. This can get frustrating, an unfortunately side effect of the breath of choice on offer, but largely this comes down to the combat’s fault.

Shorter engagements aren’t too bad, although there’s some confusion over why certain actions aren’t possible, but in longer engagements it’s all too easy to entirely spend you stat points trying to slice, dice, and magic your way through the many foes, leaving you with too few stat points to progress in the story afterwards. Additionally, the difficulty curve for combat is pretty harsh, stretching your abilities and item management skills considerably, and often catching you out with a very tricky encounter. Combat is best avoided at all costs.

Fortunately, as previously mentioned, Torment: Tides of Numenera is focused on storytelling and dialogue, so combat is rarely your only option. As a result, though, there’s a huge amount of reading. Characters occasionally have spoken sections but these are few and far between. Additionally, there’s a lot of introspection on your character’s part, communicated to you through text. This can make it feel a little lacklustre, with a flash back described in text rather than shown in images or fully animated, but it’s exceptionally well-written and paints a vivid picture in your mind regardless.

However, where the visual shine is in the stunningly crisp environments, which show off a wide variety of weird, mystical and technological wonders. The world you inhabit is a melding of multiple different worlds colliding within a dimension, and it looks fantastic. Character models and animations are less impressive, although enemy creatures are impressively otherworldly.

Unfortunately, we did encounter multiple FPS problems throughout the 30-40 hour story, as well as long load time between areas. Additionally, the occasional bug would cause characters to freeze or enemies to become friendly targets in combat, therefore making victory impossible. But this didn’t distract from the otherwise hugely intriguing lore and unique systems for avoiding combat. Certainly, titles such as these are an acquired taste, but this is one of the strongest recipes on the menu.

Thanks to Xbox and inXile Entertainment for supporting TiX