Thirsty Suitors Review - "I'm Jala Goddamn Jayaratne!"

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/15/2023 - 20:55

At a glance, Thirsty Suitors is a game about revenge. Its story follows the recently heartbroken Jala Jayaratne, who returns to her hometown only to be relentlessly attacked by a league of evil exes. But it is also so much more than that. As the story progresses, we come to discover that none of these exes are evil per se, and Jala herself is incredibly fallible. She left scorched earth in all of her previous relationships in Timber Hills, and her only option now is to reconcile and take accountability with each of these exes. Her attempts to make good take the form of turn-based combat built upon RPG progression that has a unique flavor and is fun to engage with. There's even a surprisingly enjoyable skateboarding mechanic. In so many ways, Thirsty Suitors is unique and creative, but when all is said and done, what makes a lasting impact is a personal, vulnerable, and culturally nuanced tale about making things right.

As previously mentioned, you will be fighting each of Jala's exes throughout the game in turn-based combat, leveling up stats, learning new skills to make fights easier, and using summons that can be unlocked through sidequests or the main story. Each fight is a conversation, a puzzle, and a battle in one where the objective is to discover the weakness of an opponent through a process of trial and error. Once you've identified that weakness, you can inflict status ailments or deal additional damage to chip away at their health. The RPG mechanics and the process of exploring and exploiting weakness are presented as a back-and-forth between Jala and her interlocutor where old wounds are reopened and issues are hashed out until the dynamic between them evolves or resolves. This system manages to work in the foundational element of RPGs but cleverly rethinks it to also give it narrative weight. The trial and error process is one of picking dialogue options, and these can have an impact beyond the battle too. Make the right decisions and you'll come up with a plan that'll pinpoint the enemies' weaknesses through taunts, so you can easily trounce them with the use of the correct skills.

Jala's initial ambition and awareness of her wrongdoings are unique for the main character of an RPG, let alone one spearheaded by a queer South Asian woman. Jala conveys her self-awareness by internalizing that she is the one at fault in all of her previous relationships, which manifests in the game as a banter between herself and a narrator. The narrator is a voice she has conjured up that is reminiscent of her sister, Aruni, in looks, voice, and tone. This, it turns out, is also a way for Jala to grapple with her strained relationship with her sister while still having guidance internally. The dialogue between them had me laughing throughout the game's 17-hour runtime. The snide, direct, and reassuring nature of this narrator figure allows Jala to convey her struggles effectively by presenting these challenges to another entity in a candid way. The Narrator offers the guidance she seeks throughout the game even though her actual sister avoids confronting Jala. Each of Jala's exes also has a coping mechanism such as Irfan and what other characters call his “obsession with his cat” to the point of carrying his pet around wherever he goes.

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CoD: Modern Warfare 3 MP And Zombies Review - Selling Nostalgia

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/15/2023 - 20:35

It's a weird year for Call of Duty, as Modern Warfare 3 arrives with mostly recycled content in a game that is looking to sell you on nostalgia. However, despite being a hodgepodge of old ideas and content from previously launched games, this continuation of the rebooted Modern Warfare series still manages to deliver lots of exciting multiplayer with fast-paced movement and an extraction-style Zombies mode that keeps you hooked on the gameplay.

On paper, Modern Warfare 3 sounds like it should be suffering from a chaotic identity crisis, as it's cobbled together with many parts of previous Call of Duty games. It's a direct sequel to 2022's Modern Warfare 2, but the standard map pool at launch exclusively consists of the full map set from 2009's original Modern Warfare 2. Additionally, the game's third game mode is a Treyarch-developed Zombies experience, which plays on Warzone's upcoming battle royale map with tons of features pulled from Black Ops Cold War.

New Call of Duty games typically launch with multiplayer maps inspired by the game's campaign locations, but other than the airport map "Terminal," most of the other multiplayer maps don't tie into the campaign settings in any way. Releasing solely with old maps doesn't really do the multiplayer any favors, as longtime players like myself don't have new areas to explore and it creates a very noticeable disconnect that reminds you what a patchwork job Modern Warfare 3 really is.

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Categories: Games

Super Mario RPG Review - An Authentic Ode To A Classic

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/15/2023 - 14:00

Super Mario RPG is one of the wildest games in Nintendo's catalog. Loaded with eccentric characters like a Santa-esque big bad, random bouts of dark comedy--Toad cosplayers tickle as a form of torture and a four-eyed dog swallows you whole and comments on the taste--and moment-to-moment gameplay that is as raucous as it is eclectic, Super Mario RPG memorably capped off the SNES lifecycle. Fittingly, the new Switch version is one of the weirdest remasters I've ever played. Its surface-level appearance as a modern Mario game is merely a facade. Relentlessly faithful to the original, Super Mario RPG is a bold and largely successful experiment.

In fact, it's misleading to refer to Super Mario RPG as a remake, especially in a year where numerous remakes, such as Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space, have retooled beloved classics for modern sensibilities. Heck, I'd even say Super Mario RPG is closer to Metroid Prime Remastered. Yes, the graphics here were fully remade--this isn't a touch-up; it's a complete glow-up for contemporary eyes--but everything that gave the SNES game its identity is present. Outside of a few minor quality-of-life improvements, Super Mario RPG is mostly a remastered product of its time--and an utterly fascinating one, at that. With its heartfelt humor, standout personalities, satisfyingly straightforward combat, and an expeditious mindset devoid of the bloat that regularly plagues modern RPGs, Super Mario RPG is timeless.

Almost all truly great stories transcend time. When it comes to video games from the 16-bit era, narrative was often an afterthought. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the writing in Mario's debut role-playing holds up. Endearing characterization deftly builds a world that draws you into the overarching good versus evil story.

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Persona 5 Tactica Review - Vive La Persona

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 11/14/2023 - 19:20

Over the years, Atlus--the studio behind the Persona series, Catherine, and Shin Megami Tensei--has developed a reputation for the way it approaches adult themes and dark topics unabashedly. While this generally makes for an M rating and the mild discomfort that accompanies the clumsy handling of delicate situations, it also makes complete sense. Many of the studio's titles explore humanity and the human condition, both of which contain their fair share of darkness and messy situations. They're ambitious topics to explore, and for that, I've always had tremendous admiration for Atlus and its Persona series in particular. But even more important than simply starting the conversation is the way the studio frames it--how it juxtaposes the darkness against powerful messages about courage, morality, hope, and idealism to make everything more meaningful. These things combined are what make Persona so beautiful--what shapes its identity.

Persona 5 Tactica not only exemplifies that identity but revels in it. With its chibi-style art, along with situations and dialogue that, at times, feel straight out of the requisite beach episode of an anime, the game offers more levity than Persona 5 Royal. Yet at its core, it remains focused on delivering powerful messages, tackling complex themes, and encouraging those who play it to not only be more sure of themselves but aspire to be more idealistic and kind as well. Tactica does all this spectacularly, using a powerful story and two new characters you can't help but fall in love with. Together, these narrative elements draw players into the next chapter in the Phantom Thieves saga and reignite the flames of rebellion. Though I went into the game not sure if its genre shift or even the game's existence would feel truly warranted--not sure if we needed yet another 30+ hours of Joker and friends--I walked away from the game thankful for it and the comfort it gave me.

Set shortly after the events of Persona 5 Royal, Persona 5 Tactica follows the Phantom Thieves as they embark on a new adventure through familiar yet uncharted territory. The journey begins at Le Blanc's, where Joker is serving up coffee and curry to his soon-to-be-graduated friends while the group discusses their plans for the future. However, conversations come to a halt after the Thieves notice time is now standing still and the Metaverse--the cognition-constructed realm our heroes thoroughly explored in the P5--has seemingly consumed them once again. As quickly as they are pulled back into the cognitive world, however, our heroes note that something is different about the Metaverse this time. Uncovering what that difference is (and how to get back home) then becomes the group's first priority and sets everything in motion, albeit a bit slowly.

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Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Review - More Than A Rerun

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/08/2023 - 21:03

Two years ago, Fair Play Labs and Ludosity entered the platform fighting game ring with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. The game was decent enough, but it was clear that the core "Smash Bros. with Nickelodeon characters" idea had more to offer than what was delivered. Now, with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, the two studios are attempting to realize that potential.. However, while some welcome adjustments have been made, there are a few important flaws--and some mind-boggling subtractions--that once again keep the full potential of this idea out of reach.

The most notable improvement Nick Brawl 2 makes over other platform fighters is its control scheme, which carries over from the previous game and yet still feels genuinely innovative. Character movement, shields, and throws are all standard fare: You move your character with the stick, press a shoulder button to grab for a throw, and press a different shoulder button to bring up shields or dodge opponents' moves.

Attacking, on the other hand, uses a control scheme quite different from what you might expect from a platform fighter. Each character has three main attack buttons--light attack, charge attack, and special attack--and each button uses a different move if the joystick is held in a certain direction. Charge attacks in most other platform fighters have shared a button with light attacks, but Nick Brawl 2 separates them. This is a smart improvement, as it makes for easier combo execution in the heat of battle and allows for a few extra moves for each character. This game also made me appreciate jumping with a button instead of tilting the joystick up--by dedicating a button to jumping, using a upward charge attack becomes easier, as I don't accidentally jump instead of attacking. I never used the button option in Smash, but Nick Brawl 2 has made me come around to the idea.

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You Will Die Here Tonight Review - Empty Residence

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/08/2023 - 00:36

In the opening of You Will Die Here Tonight (YWDHT), my Resident Evil-inspired super-cop solved a confusing book-based puzzle and ventured into a secret underground lab, where she was then met with a monologue from her ally-turned-enemy. To my surprise, this Albert Wesker-like big bad then shot my character dead--all in the first 15 minutes. It was like starting a Resident Evil game in the final scene and then getting a dark ending where the villains prevail. With a touch of meta commentary on the genre, this unconventional introduction was an intriguing start, but also the last part of the game I truly enjoyed, as the game thereafter ran through too-common horror tropes without cleverly subverting or enhancing them ever again.

In the aptly titled You Will Die Here Tonight, Resident Evil is the blueprint for a two- to four-hour-long isometric, survival-horror game with a touch of roguelite progression. That fun intro I detailed would've been a neat story track to stay on, as the big bad who seems to prevail quickly discovers there's another unseen hand, more powerful than her own, that is pulling the strings. But the game oddly drops this pretense in favor of a roguelite system whereby, when a character dies, you assume the role of another member of A.R.I.E.S. (the legally distinct and totally-not-S.T.A.R.S. division of police officers) keeping all story items with the opportunity to recover other scraps if you can find the body of your predecessor.

The dissonance between that story-heavy opening scene and what follows winds up feeling like two different games that somehow both made it into the final version. Each character plays the same but offers different text lines, with a few seeming quite serious and others offering bothersome jokes that wouldn't land at some middle school lunch tables. The mansion-like setting with secret labs, a torture dungeon, and some high-end offices and libraries is very much akin to a setting from Capcom's seminal series, and the roundabout way you navigate this space--solving convoluted puzzles and gathering various items to open doors and collect new weapons--is all meant to take you back to the late '90s, when games like this were most prevalent.

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Like A Dragon Gaiden Review - The Man Who Can't Escape The Yakuza

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 11/06/2023 - 15:00

Perhaps I was naive to think that the legend of Kazuma Kiryu actually wrapped up with Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, and that his appearance in Yakuza: Like A Dragon was simply a nod to longtime fans such as myself. Having played through Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name, I'm now convinced that leaving Kiryu to grow old in the shadows wouldn't have been the right move. Although Gaiden is a bite-sized story--noticeably shorter than previous entries--it proves that there's still so much more to Kiryu's legacy.

From the wild new Agent fighting style to the wealth of captivating side activities and tried-and-true Yakuza story drama, Gaiden is a tight package that's akin to a 'greatest hits' for the franchise. While it may feel like a retread of previous games at times, the formula is no worse for wear and continues to finds ways to surprise me with its straight-faced delivery of absurdist humor. Gaiden acts as a middle chapter that flows into the events of Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the 2020 RPG starring Kasuga Ichiban as the protagonist, and it leads directly into the upcoming Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth, which has Ichiban and Kiryu teaming up. It's tough to talk about this game in a vacuum, but because it so heavily targets those who've been on the Yakuza journey all this time, it hit me hard in my feelings--especially as I barreled toward its heart-rending conclusion. In that respect, it is both a typical and exceptional entry in the Yakuzaverse.

With Kiryu as the leading man, the real-time brawler combat returns, but Gaiden doesn't simply rehash the old system. The new Agent fighting style adds enough to freshen up fights by giving Kiryu some James Bond-esque gadgets to complement the melee finesse of this fighting style. As you progress in the main story, you'll gradually unlock abilities like the drones that swarm and chip away at enemies, rocket boosters on his shoes that let Kiryu jet around combat encounters and plow through bad dudes, and explosive cigarettes that act as a grenade to blast away mobs. Kiryu also channels some real Spider-Man energy with the aptly named Spider ability, where he shoots out a wire from his watch to lasso enemies, launch them across the arena, or pull in weapons from afar. And it's oh-so-satisfying to weave it in mid-combo to start juggling enemies as if you're a god-tier Tekken player. He even uses it in web-slinging fashion to swing around in action-packed cutscenes--it's absolute Yakuza nonsense, and I love it.

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Categories: Games

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Campaign Review - Return Of The Makarov

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/03/2023 - 23:53

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3's campaign picks up where last year's Modern Warfare 2 left off. Captain Price's iconic Task Force 141 is back in action and, as teased in the final cutscenes of Modern Warfare 2, the new threat is Vladimir Makarov, a major antagonist of the original Modern Warfare franchise. Modern Warfare 3 sparks a hot opening with an early reveal of Makarov, but the introduction of the new Open Combat missions disrupts the story's pace for a fizzled-out ending.

Modern Warfare 3 reunites Price's team with several familiar faces from the rebooted series, including Kate Laswell, Farah Karim, and Alex Keller. General Shepherd and Commander Phillip Graves of Shadow Company also return, despite their treacherous actions against Soap, Ghost, and Los Vaqueros in Modern Warfare 2. It's an all-hands-on-deck situation with Makarov in the picture.

The campaign opens with Operation 627, a mission in which you stealthily break into a gulag. This linear level sees you rappelling down into the Gulag with night vision goggles on, clearing guards level by level as you descend. Visually, this level looks cool and the gameplay is one of the more enjoyable and traditional missions you'll play in Modern Warfare 3. The gameplay and cinematics are of the bombastic quality you'd expect from Call of Duty, and right away the threat of Makarov is apparent. He gets an exciting jailbreak moment and emerges from confinement ready to cause some chaos. However, after this hyped opening mission, Modern Warfare 3 immediately stumbles as you're forced to play two of the game's new Open Combat missions back-to-back.

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Ghostrunner 2 Review - Delicate Balance

Gamespot News Feed - Fri, 11/03/2023 - 16:24

When it launched in 2020, Ghostrunner was quickly recognized for its slick blend of satisfying first-person parkour platforming and tough-as-nails, one-hit-kill combat. Perhaps most impressive was just how well it practiced restraint, never overstaying its welcome while also keeping the focus keenly on its engaging traversal and action. Ghostrunner II is a sequel that hasn't entirely lost the captivating nature of its core gameplay loop, but in expanding the world that you're playing in and trying to find new elements to introduce into the mix, it loses itself along the way at times before finding its feet once again.

Ghostrunner II takes place a year after the events of the first game, with cyborg assassin Jack now comfortable in his role as enforcer for the Climbers, one of many gangs trapped in the cyberpunk tower of Dharma. While the original Ghostrunner had a story, it wasn't a core focus, instead simply providing some context to keep you moving forward. In the sequel, the narrative is far more prevalent, which can make many of its opening moments confusing if you haven't brushed up on the events of the first game or the encapsulating lore of the world the game takes place in.

You'll have numerous radio conversations with a variety of characters, many of which are exposition-heavy explanations to get you up to speed as quickly as possible. It makes the opening hours feel overwhelming and disjointed, before the story eventually settles into a predictable revenge plot that leaves little room for nuanced characterization. There are some entertaining exchanges between Jack--whose blunt but self-aware responses are surprisingly hilarious for a single-purpose killing machine--and some of his handlers, but Ghostrunner 2 doesn't feature a fleshed-out cast of characters or captivating story beats that you'll likely remember by the time credits roll, and certainly not long afterwards.

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The Talos Principle 2 Review - Machine Learning

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 11/02/2023 - 16:00

Video games often deal with the end of the world and thinking about how cool it might be. Like, sure, it sucks that most everyone has to die horribly for the end of the world to take place, but those of us who survive might get to shoot evil marauders or rotting mutants or giant bugs. Or maybe there are evil marauders, rotting mutants, and giant bugs who are trying to bring about the end of the world, and you can shoot them to prevent it. In any event, the idea of finding fun settings that let you dispense death without really worrying about the consequences tends to bring something of a positive spin to the apocalypse.

The Talos Principle 2 isn't just about the possibility of the end of the world, but the real, legitimate, logical fear of it--one based not on religious abstraction or a distant extrapolation, but an understanding of past mistakes. It doesn't use that possibility for a fun setting with monsters to blast or a villain to chase and instead leans into a more peaceful and serene conception of impending doom. How best to prevent bringing an end of our own making to the world, it asks, even if it's currently theoretical or decades in the future? When is it worth the risk? What values, what comforts, what aspects of ourselves are important to us, and which of them do we consider so intrinsic that to exist without them would be no existence at all?

It's also a game about puzzles. The puzzles are really good.

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Super Mario RPG Preview - Do Link And Donkey Kong Still Cameo In Super Mario RPG Remake?

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 11/02/2023 - 14:00

Platform: Switch
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release: November 17, 2023
Rating: Everyone

Back in the 90s, Nintendo played faster and looser with its library of characters. Sometimes Yoshi showed up in The Legend of Zelda and Kirby was whatever color he felt like in the moment be it gray or pink. In 1996, that laissez faire attitude was in full effect for the release of Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the Super Nintendo. Link, Samus, and even Donkey Kong (sort of) all had inexplicable cameos in the game, and one of my big questions about the remake was whether or not those would move forward. If you're ready to learn the answer for at least some of them, read on!

Impressively, the answer is yes! At least for Link and Donkey Kong. I have not been able to play to the point in the game where Samus appears, so I can't answer that question yet. When get close to Link after seeing him the sleeping bed a "talk" option appears and when you click it, a Zelda musical sting plays.

Donkey Kong's cameo is questionable as to whether or not it is him as he is just labeled Guerilla, but he sure looks a lot like Donkey Kong. Just with a crown.


The Super Mario RPG releases November 17 for Nintendo Switch.

Categories: Games

RoboCop: Rogue City Review - I'd Buy That For A Dollar!

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/01/2023 - 19:12

RoboCop: Rogue City is a love letter to the 36-year-old sci-fi franchise. Teyon, the studio behind Terminator: Resistance and Rambo: The Video Game, clearly has a soft spot for '80s action movies, and this reverence is woven into the very fabric of Rogue City's design. From the environments to the soundtrack to the satirical style, it captures the look, sound, and vibe of the first two RoboCop movies with exceptional aplomb, while also making you feel like you're fully embodying the titular supercop. Pistons whir with each heavy footstep of your titanium frame as you shrug off damage and methodically dispatch criminal scum with the lethal precision of a machine. There's something admirable about this adherence to authenticity, yet being a near-unstoppable force doesn't always make for the most compelling video game. Rogue City often appears as though it's stuck at a crossroads between being faithful to the source material and presenting an enjoyable first-person shooter, and it only sometimes strikes a satisfying balance.

Rogue City's story feels genuine by etching a brand-new tale into the series' familiar narrative framework, but this is another area where Teyon sometimes sticks too closely to the original two movies' vision. Set between the events of RoboCop 2 and RoboCop 3, Rogue City sees you play as Old Detroit cop Alex Murphy--with Peter Weller reprising the famous role--who's been rebuilt as the cyborg RoboCop after being fatally wounded in the line of duty. The game opens with a satirical news segment that would feel right at home in Paul Verhoeven's 1987 film, establishing the crime-riddled state of Old Detroit. Nuke, the highly addictive designer drug introduced in RoboCop 2, is still proliferating on the streets, and now there's a new crime boss in town who has the rest of the city's gangs lining up to work for him. Putting a stop to this new wave of crime is your prime directive, but the story also explores a number of sub-plots with mixed results.

At the conclusion of the game's first mission, for instance, RoboCop malfunctions in a dangerous hostage situation and begins having flashbacks to the life he used to have as a loving husband and father. Mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) is eager to fix its faulty hardware, even going as far as to hire a therapist for RoboCop to talk to. The original movies explored themes of control and free will and touched on the dichotomy of RoboCop's very existence, but these moments were often clumsily handled and never reached a particularly satisfying conclusion. Rogue City allows you to delve deeper into Murphy's psyche by choosing various dialogue options during your mandated therapy sessions. You can toe the line and say you're just a machine or that it doesn't matter either way, or you can opt to dig further and explore Murphy's relationship with his humanity and personal identity. There are some interesting moments that arise from these conversations and the way your answers influence how others perceive you, but it also doesn't say anything we haven't heard before, either within RoboCop's own fiction or in other media. As a result, Rogue City feels like it's simply retreading old ground and falling into the same pitfalls the movies once did.

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WarioWare: Move It Review - I Am Merely Okay To Move It Move It

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/01/2023 - 14:00

WarioWare is a series built on gimmicks. The very idea of "microgames" on the Game Boy Advance was a silly, novel idea, and every iteration since then has tried to match that gonzo style. At this point, the real measure of a WarioWare game is how well the new schtick works to deliver its frenetic rapid-fire games. For WarioWare: Move It, Nintendo has repeated the pose-based games from the Wii's WarioWare: Smooth Moves. But while the games are as wacky as ever and frequently hilarious, many of the poses (or "Forms") themselves are too complex--which creates friction for the players and sometimes even for the Joy-Con controllers.

The unusual nature of the pose mechanic is apparent right away when the game asks you to acclimate yourself to holding the Joy-Con controller in a wonky sideways position: face buttons inside your palm or facing outward, controller turned to the side so that your thumb is positioned to hit the ZL or ZR button. If you imagine you're on a gameshow like Jeopardy where the contestants have buzzers, that's basically how this feels. You can't really reach the face buttons, but you don't need them. Instead, everything is controlled by motion, sometimes also involving the ZL and ZR button, and very rarely, the SL and SR buttons located on the rail.

The odd hand positioning appears to be in service of better motion sensing, allowing for a wider range of poses than we saw in Smooth Moves on the Wii. And to its credit, the gameplay does get a lot of mileage out of finding new ways to integrate these poses into different types of competitions. You might be asked to switch from holding your forearms perpendicular to your body (Choo-Choo) to putting your hands up at your cheeks (Lovestruck) to posing with one hand at your head and another at your side (Fashionista). What's most impressive about the array of poses is how often Move It makes them feel natural in the context of the microgames. The game won't know if you aren't playing along fully, but you'll naturally perform the motions better if you commit to the bit.

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Star Ocean: The Second Story R Review - Back to the Future

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 11/01/2023 - 11:00

The Star Ocean franchise has been an underappreciated one within the Japanese RPG genre. Despite being around for more than 25 years, it's never had the breakout success that elevated it to new heights, as something like Persona or Tales have had in more recent years. Many longtime fans consider 1999's Star Ocean: The Second Story to be the best entry, and now Square Enix has remade it for modern consoles. Star Ocean: The Second Story R is a remake that manages to not only have the retro feel of its older PS1 and PSP incarnations, but also make it feel fresh with new battle mechanics, as well as audio and visuals updates. It may not be the big break that’ll finally make the Star Ocean franchise explode in popularity, but it’s a fine Japanese RPG on its own terms.

The Second Story's plot follows an energetic young man named Claude C. Kenny and a caring young girl named Rena Lanford. After disobeying his father's orders and touching a malfunctioning piece of teleportation equipment, Claude accidentally lands on a backwater planet called Expel, runs into Rena, and has to protect her from a monster. These two characters are the core focus of the story, and their respective motivations and situations make for great plot drivers. In an effort to find a way to return home, Claude agrees with the local village to investigate the Sorcery Globe, a mysterious meteor-like object that crashed into Expel, causing the surrounding area to be infested with monsters. As he’s from a technologically advanced society, he thinks that the object could provide clues on how to get off of Expel. Rena, meanwhile, is an orphan and hopes to uncover more of her own past, as she is the only person on Expel to be blessed with natural healing powers.

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Silent Hill Ascension Takes Place Before The Originals But Isn’t Quite A Prequel

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 10/31/2023 - 14:00

Platform: PC
Release: October 31, 2023

Ahead of the premiere (release? Launch?) of the experimental Silent Hill Ascension tonight, we had a chance to speak with the developer Genvid about the game (TV show? Crowd-directed narrative?) is, what it will mean to the Silent Hill universe, and how much work is going into animating the versions of the narrative that may never be seen.

Calling Ascension a video game is almost a misnomer. There is an interactive element, but you won’t be holding a controller in your hand pushing characters to make decisions in the traditional sense. Instead, viewers will download the Silent Hill Ascension app on mobile devices or PC (there is a PlayStation option, but only for viewing episodes, not participating) and watch a shorter sequence that will contain choices. Participants will then vote on outcomes, and those decisions will dictate what happens in the full, approximately 45-minute episode that will premier later. We got to see the shorter introductory sequence that showed two women trying to perform an oath ceremony that awakens a monster. Characters can die and potentially be replaced, or even have something happen like losing a limb that will affect them for the rest of the show all based on viewer interaction.

Within the app, players will also be able to solve Silent Hill-inspired puzzles to earn influence points (IP) that they will apply to the decisions they are most interested in pursuing. You can’t buy IP. Instead, the game will be monetized with chat options that can be used during live-streamed episodes, as well as avatar customization options, and then your avatar has the opportunity to appear in the show as a side character. It looks almost like a more public Telltale approach to story-driven games, which makes sense because a large majority of the development team is former Telltale.

I think for Silent Hill fans, however, the big question is where the Ascension sits in the larger lore. “We are before a lot of the events that happen on purpose,” Ganvid's Jacob Navok tells me. “At the start of Ascension, the Foundation cult here in Pennsylvania is very active. Typically, in a Silent Hill game, you're there after the cult has already gone to s***. You go into those rooms and there's blood on the walls and notes there and you're deducing what happens. But you saw that the cult is very active, that room is clean… right up until the monster comes.”

The real-world timeline of the Silent Hill games has always been vague with suspicions that the first two games take place in the 70s and 80s and Navok is similarly vague about Ascension saying, “We’re not specifying. We're keeping that mysterious.” But he did confirm that Ascension’s story takes place over many months and that it isn’t false to call it a subtle prequel. It’s an original story in the Silent Hill universe that won’t necessarily tie into what comes next, especially since viewers will be deciding the forward progress of the narrative.

There are thousands  of potential endings for the game, and much of its introductory story moments have already been pre-produced, the team is not creating every possible scenario. “We're running about four weeks ahead, which means like we've got through week four right now,” Navok says. “And then, as we don't have to animate certain things, we will just not do them. So, it is being built as the series is taking place to reduce some of that burden on purpose.”


I am impressed by the unique presentation of Silent Hill Ascension, but I do admit worry about the subject matter. Silent Hill, when it works and is engaging, is extremely personal stories about characters existing within a hell of their own design. The series has always been about people grappling with their inner demons that happen to take physical form and the difficulty of recognizing them. They’re surprisingly quiet games, and I don’t know that watching characters as a chat scrolls by with emojis bought by excited viewers rooting for their favorite characters to live or die lines up with Silent Hill’s idealogy. Silent Hill is not a slasher flick at a midnight showing. It’s about watching James Sunderland as he contemplates stepping into a grave with his name on it in order to continue following breadcrumbs left by his dead wife, whom he may or may not have killed.

But with all that being said, I am very curious to see if the game will find its audience. If successful, it could absolutely be a template for a new type of widely participatory narrative video game experience.

“The important thing for me is that the audience is going to create a cannon,” Navok says. “In a Telltale game, every ending is equally valid because you're the player. That's not the case here. We're building a television series. This thing will lock in when it’s chosen.”

Silent Hill: Ascension is available today.

Categories: Games

Avatar: Frontiers Of Pandora Hands-On Preview - Breaking Down Our Trek Through The Kinglor Forest

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 10/30/2023 - 21:01

Platform: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Massive
Release: December 7, 2023

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is the next canonical chapter of the Avatar mythos. Set during the one-year gap in Avatar: The Way of Water on the other side of Pandora in a new area called the Western Frontier, players control a Na’vi raised and trained by the Resources Development Administration (RDA) who finds themselves taking the fight to the corporation. That requires, quite literally, getting back to their roots as they reconnect with Eywa while learning what it means to be a Na’vi by ingratiating themselves with the game’s three new clans. 

In a recent preview event, I spent about two hours playing four early story missions. Here’s a breakdown of the world, combat, and exploration mechanics I sampled during my stay on Pandora. 

Combat and Stealth

My demo begins a few hours into the game in the Kinglor Forest, a rainforest-like area home to the Aranahe, one of the new clans and the first one players encounter. The Aranahe largely consists of artisans and weavers, and they rely on silk produced by large moth-like creatures called Kinglor (hence the forest’s name). However, this symbiotic relationship has been disrupted by the RDA, and it's up to me to restore balance.

As a first-person game, controls are familiar to modern shooters. Due to their background, the customizable protagonist wields Na'vi and human weaponry. The former consists of several bows, such as ones suited for short and long-range, with various arrow types, including fire and poison. The most unique weapon is the Staff Sling. Resembling a lacrosse stick, it's used to lob various explosives. 

The RDA weapons I used included an assault rifle, shotgun, and stun grenades. In general, Na'vi weapons are quiet and great for stealth. Arrows can also be crafted by collecting plants growing in the environment, meaning ammo was rarely an issue. Conversely, guns are more powerful but louder, and you can only replenish them by finding ammo at RDA outposts or on dead soldiers, making bullets a scarcer resource. All of the weapons have a good feel and pack a punch, though I generally favored the Na’vi tools due to my proclivity for stealth and roleplaying the fantasy of being a Na’vi. 

Though I engaged in a few skirmishes with RDA platoons patrolling the world, the most combat-heavy sequence was a mission tasking me with shutting down a large outpost. These facilities can be found all over Pandora and pollute the environment. Thus, getting rid of them is vital.

Players have the option of going loud, but I opt for sneaking. Being a 10-foot tall creature makes sneaking around somewhat odd, as human-sized barriers don’t conceal me quite as well, meaning I have to get a bit more creative and quiet. Picking off foes with my massive arrows feels good, as does performing melee attacks that send their comparatively smaller bodies flying. The base is crawling with AMPs, the walking mech suits from the films, which provide a more evenly-matched adversary due to their size, armor, and more powerful weaponry. 

Taking these down can be a struggle, but you can circumvent that by using your SID (Systems Interrogation Device), a hacking device that, after finishing a minigame where you guide nodes through an obstacle-laden maze, can temporarily disable AMPs, leaving them vulnerable to attack if you choose. 

This section was tough due to the sheer number of enemies. Alerting them sends the entire base after you, with even aerial reinforcements arriving in the form of the RDA Wyverns (those fancy helicopters from the films). I managed to complete my checklist of objectives mostly quietly, in which I had to shut down or outright sabotage multiple key points across the sprawling facility. When I was caught, the RDA maintained some form of mild alert status even after I evaded their gaze for a good while, which I appreciated as a touch of realism – they didn’t totally forget I existed.  

Platforming and Flight

Since Na’vi have superhuman agility, I have a standard jump and a more powerful vertical leap by holding down the jump button. My Na'vi senses, activated by holding the right bumper, serve as an enhanced view of the surroundings by revealing animal scent trails (great for tracking and hunting, more on that later) and highlighting targets through the thick foliage.

Platforming has elements of parkour, showcased best in a mission where I must scale the suspended islands of the rookery to tame my flying mount, the ikran. Sprinting across its massive vines, climbing up platforms, and grabbing objects such as climbing vines can all be done while running, creating an enjoyable flow of movement and momentum. The level design also feels natural; climbing points aren’t obvious, but I can still get a good sense of where I need to go. 

Along the way, I encounter the ikran of my fancy and attempt to soothe it by slowly approaching and whispering sweet reassurances. Each time it ignores my advances, it flies off, triggering another round of platforming. When I finally reach the top and earn its trust enough to perform the ceremonial bond, the ikran becomes my mate for life, meaning it becomes my permanent flying mount (and can’t be killed). I also give my ikran a name from a preset list – Carol, if you’re wondering – and outfit it with adornments such as a saddle and mask. 

Ikran can be summoned by hitting Up on the d-pad, and the perspective changes to third-person while mounted. Flying generally feels good as I’m able to boost flight speed at the expense of my mount’s energy bar. I replenish this by feeding it food, which is done on the fly via an item wheel. In addition to performing tricks like barrel roles, flight opens up fun combat opportunities. I come across several Wyverns and engage them with my bow or guns, both of which can reduce a chopper into a fiery heap. It’s generally easy to aim and shoot while steering the ikran, though the real fun comes in messing around with some creative stunts. My favorite trick is to dive off the ikran in midair, initiate a free fall, pull out my Staff Sling to lob bombs at targets on the ground, then command my ikran to catch me and take off as explosions rattle below. 

Ikrans also make for good distractions. At the RDA outpost, I called it to the area, which attracted the soldier’s attention. As they opened fire at it, it gave me a window to slip by unnoticed. As your bond with your ikran grows through the adventure as you reconnect to Eywa, you can use them to travel to the game’s other two regions – Upper Plains and Clouded Forest – once they become available through the story. 

Exploration, Hunting, Crafting, and Cooking

Kinglor forest is huge, vibrant, and teeming with life. Best of all, the map isn’t littered with icons. Frontiers of Pandora avoids this pitfall of many Ubisoft open-world games for a less-is-more approach. Only key locations are highlighted, and objectives tasked me with identifying elements of the scenery in a general area or cardinal direction (such as a stone pillar covered in willow trees in one mission)  to find my location instead of shoving a waypoint exactly where I need to be. This way, I’m able to keep my eye on the game instead of on the menu and feel better connected to the world as a result. 

Like in the films, the world feels alive thanks to the dynamic interactions with the alien plant life. Some are playful, like watching orange funnel plants shoot into the ground upon approach. Others are beneficial, such as blue flowers that release speed-boosting pollen when stepped on. Some flora are dangerous; keep an eye out for large, volatile egg bulbs that explode in close proximity. The most beneficial flower I found was the Tarsyu. This large, pink flower rewards a skill point once you connect to it. They tower above the ground and usually require traversing elevated platforms or terrain to reach them, but they’re worth stopping what you’re doing to visit if you see one. 

As I explore, I harvest some of these plants for materials used in crafting and cooking. This feature is more involved than I expected. Conditions such as time of day and weather determine the quality of the yield. A flower plucked in the afternoon may be of lower quality than if it were picked at night, as a basic example. A brief minigame accompanies harvesting as I rotate the angled stick to find a sweet spot before yanking or cutting stems. You can scan plants, animals, and other objects by clicking the right analog stick, which saves all of their information, such as location and their ideal conditions for harvesting, to a menu database. 

Hunting is similarly involved. Animals sport weak points, and targeting them will not only drop them faster but result in cleaner kills. That's important as the quality of the meat and hides depends on how much ammo you dump into them and what type. Arrows are great for this due to their precision and power. A couple of well-placed shots can preserve the meat while hitting weak points results in a merciful kill, adding a bonus to your overall yield quality. Killing creatures with guns renders them totally unharvestable - Na'vi abhor metal, after all. Thus, when confronted by more aggressive beasts, the choice of killing them more quickly with guns and losing out on the reward is constant and adds weight to battles.

A cooking system reminiscent of the recent Zelda games lets you turn hard-earned ingredients into a variety of dishes. Combining ingredients results in unexpected combinations. Some plates bestow temporary buffs. Bad combos result in gross dishes unfit for eating. Recipes are automatically saved to a database for easy reference.  You can use harvested materials to craft new weapons and armor at a weapon bench. Armor has color-coded rarities, though are nuanced with specialized perks. 

Outside of crafting and consuming goods, one particular recurring sidequest involves donating requested goods to a tribe’s communal basket. Most villages I visited had one of these, and each requested a certain type of plant, food, or item of a specific quality or rarity. Fulfilling these requests filled portions of a spiral meter. I didn’t fill it up during my session, and the Ubisoft representative didn’t clue me in on what happens when you do when I asked. We’ll just have to wait and see how you’re rewarded for being a generous giver. 

Everything you do feeds into leveling up, which unlocks skill points to spend on five skill trees: Survivor, Warrior, Hunter, Rider, and Maker. Survivor dictates stats for health energy (basically stamina) and increases your inventory size. Warrior pertains to all things combat, letting you raise proficiency with weapons. Hunter unlocks more skills to improve your tracking and identify higher-quality materials. Rider provides skills for your ikran, such as barrel rolls or catching fish when flying close to water. Lastly, Maker improves cooking and crafting attributes. 

Overall, I largely enjoyed my time with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. On one hand, it’s familiar in the sense that it channels games like Far Cry in its open-world combat and exploration. On the other hand, it remedies criticism of Ubisoft’s open-world design, such as getting rid of icons and letting players explore using the pretty sights. The game admirably captures the spirit and identity of the IP, especially since exploring and poking around is entertaining on its own. It remains to be seen how the storytelling holds up, but we won’t have to wait too much longer. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora launches on December 7 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC

Categories: Games

Alan Wake 2 Review - A Miracle Illuminated

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 10/26/2023 - 14:00

Calling a game ambitious can come with an implied caveat. A game with great ambition can be something that reaches high and far, but can also be one that doesn't quite get there. Alan Wake 2 is one of the most ambitious games I've ever played, but don't misconstrue that, as it doesn't fall short of its lofty goals. On the contrary, Alan Wake 2 achieves virtually everything developer Remedy Entertainment set out to do. It's a game that feels novel and risky that is executed with confidence and a clarity of vision. The end result is a one-of-a-kind sequel that redefines its series, blazes trails in video game storytelling, and stands as the monument to a studio that has unlocked its potential to the fullest.

Picking up 13 years after the original game's events, Alan Wake 2 is made with two audiences in mind: those who may be new to its mystery-laden plot and those who have been decorating figurative cork board with red strings in their minds for over a decade. This is a smart way to broaden appeal to a bigger audience that Remedy executes by splitting the game into two campaigns, both unfolding using an unconventional structure.

In one campaign, FBI special agent Saga Anderson arrives at the once-quaint Bright Falls, Washington to investigate a series of disappearances and ritualistic murders. Saga is joined by her partner, Alex Casey, and becomes the perfect proxy for the uninitiated as she is soon enveloped in the juxtaposition of Bright Falls' understated but haunting atmosphere and its quirky and often upbeat townsfolk. Turning over crime scenes in an unsettling forest rich in folklore, Saga's storyline combines the rustic foreboding feelings of The Blair Witch Project with the unflinching grit of a Fincher-esque dark crime drama. The other campaign, meanwhile, sees you play as the titular Alan Wake and picks up in a nightmare realm called the Dark Place, where Alan has been trapped since the end of the first game. This malevolent space feeds off of art and memories alike, creating a personalized prison for all who enter it.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Categories: Games

Still Wakes The Deep Looks Eerily Stunning In New Trailer

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 10/25/2023 - 18:27

Today’s Xbox Partner Preview brought us a good look at Still Wakes The Deep, the new game from The Chinese Room, a studio known for projects like Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.

The new project has distinct horror vibes as it drops players into the shoes of a character navigating a ruined oil rig. A strange, alien-like tentacled form reaches up from beneath the roiling ocean waters – seemingly the source of the oil rig’s trouble. As the protagonist navigates the catwalks and beams of the rig, we hear distant and troubling screams. After traversing several tunnels, the first-person lead drops through a hatch into the very water that seems to be the source of the strange tendrils.

The Chinese Room is clearly interested in building atmosphere and tension in this trailer and, presumably, doing the same in the broader game. There’s clearly some awful threat at play aboard the rig, but its nature and what is happening to the others on board the rig remain a mystery.

Nonetheless, the first-person visuals and tense exploration are looking great, leaving us excited for the game’s launch on Xbox Series X/S (including Game Pass) in early 2024.

Categories: Games

Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 - Kept You Waiting, Huh?

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 10/23/2023 - 08:01

Metal Gear Solid and its sequels are seminal titles in the history of video games, pioneering the 3D stealth-action genre in conjunction with an ambitious approach to cinematic storytelling. Replaying them again after more than 15 years put me in a state of constant surprise as I was reminded how much each game is still ingrained in the recesses of my brain. From finishing lines of dialogue I hadn't heard since the PlayStation 2 was brand-new to being able to navigate the winding corridors, air vents, and layered depths of Shadow Moses and Big Shell like the back of my hand--it's clear how much of an impact the series had on my youth, and I know I'm not the only one. Because of this, the Metal Gear Solid: Master Collection Vol. 1 feels important, both as a means of historical preservation and as a nostalgia-fueled time machine for one of the most influential series of all time.

Konami has certainly assembled an impressive assortment of games for this bundle, beginning where it all started for creator Hideo Kojima. The original 8-bit Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake--as well as the standalone NES version of Metal Gear and the non-canonical sequel, Snake's Revenge--are all included in the Master Collection. Having been released in 1987 and 1990 for the MSX2 computer platform, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 are showing their age--though surprisingly not to the point where their archaic design renders them unplayable. Played from an overhead 2D perspective, ranged combat is inherently clunky due to your restrictive four-way movement, and any missteps are at the mercy of an unforgiving checkpoint system. Despite these flaws, however, there aren't many aspects of either game that feel so antiquated that you can't get something positive out of playing them. It helps that the controls have been updated and unified for this collection, with both triggers letting you access either the items or weapons in your inventory, much like they do in the Metal Gear Solid games. Other than this, Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 are unchanged from the originals.

Continue Reading at GameSpot
Categories: Games

Check Out The Final World Map For The Lord Of The Rings: Return To Moria

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 10/19/2023 - 19:00

If you've been keeping up with developer Free Range Games' upcoming base-building survival game set in J.R.R. Tolkien's landmark universe, The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria, there's a chance you caught an early glimpse at its world map.

However, that wasn't final. And now, Game Informer can exclusively share the first-ever look at Return to Moria's final map, in full detail, as well as two different variants. In the gallery below, you'll find the final map in English, a second in English with annotations, and a third in the Runic Alphabet language from The Lord of the Rings. 

Here's your first look at the final world map in The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria:


Alongside this exclusive preview of the game's maps, Game Informer spoke with Return to Moria's art director about the game, its visuals, these maps, and more. Enjoy!

Game Informer's Wesley LeBlanc: The Mines of Moria are quite famous. Even for non-LOTR fans, I think they'd recognize "The Mines of Moria" from the movies, memes, etc. I'm curious what came first: the mines of Moria as a setting or a base-building survival game? And did one influence the other? 

Free Range Games, The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria art director Bradly Fulton: 

We knew from the very start of this project that the game would be a cooperative multiplayer survival game set somewhere in Middle Earth. Very quickly, we came to the idea of Dwarves as the main characters–of all the races in Tolkien's world, they were a natural fit. As hardy and industrious folk, they pair well with a game centered around mining, crafting, and building. There's also a certain amount of goofy fun that emerges in any co-op multiplayer experience as you clown around with your friends, and we didn't want this to feel incongruous with your characters. While they have a quite tragic history, the Dwarven people are known to be a bit raucous at times, so this was also a good fit.

Once we had settled on Dwarves, Moria in the Fourth Age immediately jumped out as the perfect setting. In many ways, the Mines of Moria are the original dungeon crawl. Going back to the source of inspiration for so many fantasy tropes was too great an opportunity to pass up, and setting it in the Fourth Age provides players with a way to contribute to a beloved setting. We know what happens in Moria up to the events of the books, and in the Appendices we learn how the story of Moria ultimately ends, but everything in between is a mystery. By placing The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria in that time frame, we ensure that players won't know exactly what they might find, and their actions can help to fill in some of those gaps.

What was it like designing these maps? And on that same note, what was it like building a game in this famed universe? I imagine creating anything new for one of the most popular fantasy franchises in the world is both challenging and exhilarating. 

Fulton: The most gratifying thing about working within this universe is the way that it forms a common creative language. The process of generating an entirely original setting can be a struggle at times, as the team hammers out a vision from different points of view that may not always be in harmony. By contrast, our team was crackling with creative energy right from the start. Everyone was immensely excited for the opportunity to work within this universe, and they brought with them all of their knowledge of the setting. You don't need to explain what a Dwarf or an Orc is – instead, you can spend that time working out the subtle differences between the Dwarven or Orcish tribes and how that might have an impact on their visual style or on the narrative.

This carried over to the map. The artist that we worked with already had deep knowledge of Middle Earth, so the brief only needed to lay out our goals. We wanted the map to feel like a hand-made artifact of the world it was from, drawn by Dwarves using the tools and knowledge of the world that they had. Because of our illustrator's familiarity with the setting, the rest of the content came naturally.

Can you tell me a bit about the procedural generation and how the team is aiming to make each "run" fun and unique? 

Fulton: As a location for a procedural game, Moria presents some interesting technical challenges. We knew that the game would contain a large number of unique landmarks, many of which would be quite familiar to players. Other locations were implied by Tolkien but never actually depicted in the narrative. These places needed to be arranged in a west-to-east order that fits the structure of the player's journey but not be so fixed in space that the path through them is the same every time. It turns out that this is more difficult than it seems.

Within this framework, however, are multiple layers of gameplay that are derived from a random seed. Key resources, events, and challenges aren't ever arranged in the exact same way. Above all, we wanted to ensure that even if you have completed the main story, when you visit a friend's world, it would be different enough that your exploration still feels fresh.

We've seen mention of Gimli – are there any other familiar faces or names LOTR fans might recognize in the game? 

Fulton: Even before the events of the trilogy, certain members of the Fellowship were known to have ventured into the long dark of Moria. For now, all I can say is that they may have left some signs of their passing.

Beyond that, Moria also holds many mysteries of the Dwarven people. Balin's doomed expedition left traces throughout the darkened halls, and the kings of the line of Durin feature prominently in the story.

Can you tell me a bit about the combat and how it works and plays?

Fulton: One of our core design principles is that Dwarven power comes from craft. We wanted to ensure that it was the players' efforts to fashion ever-more-powerful gear that drove their success in survival, including combat. To this end, we worked very hard to make the fundamentals of combat such as dodging, blocking, charging up an attack, etc. feel satisfying. However, as the challenge grows, players need to think more about their choice of weapons and the ways that they upgrade them to solve the varied problems that each new enemy presents.

Where in the LOTR timeline does Return to Moria take place?

Fulton: The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria takes place around 50 years after the events of the trilogy and the defeat of Sauron. At the dawn of the Fourth Age, Middle Earth has begun to heal, but there are shadows yet lurking in some dark corners of the world.

For the uninitiated, The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria is a survival crafting game set in the Fourth Age of Middle-Earth. After being summoned to the Misty Mountains by Lord Gimli Lockbearer, players take control of a company of dwarves tasked with reclaiming the lost spoils of their Dwarven homeland, Moria. This realm is procedurally generated and traversable alone or online with up to eight players. 

The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria hits PC (via the Epic Games Store) on October 24. The PS5 version will launch on December 5, and the Xbox version is due out sometime in early 2024. 

[Editor's Note: This article was updated to clarify the release dates for the game's various versions]

Categories: Games