Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus, developed by Bulwark Studios for Kasedo Games, is a turn-based tactical game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. But players don't need to know anything about the franchise -- everything they need to know will be revealed in time. The game has been worked on by a small team of eight developers for over a year, but its E3 demo was an impressive introduction.
The demo skipped cut scenes in the interest of time, however, there is a commitment to a rich story written by Black Library author Ben Counter. Players control technologically advanced Adeptus Mechanicus forces on expedition to salvage ancient technologies from mysterious tombs on the planet Silva Tenebris. As Magos Dominus Faustinius of Mars, players' decisions will shape missions and have far reaching consequences.
Fans of Warhammer will pick up on small things that other players won't. Still, the story is intended to be easy to follow for newcomers and features compelling storylines involving betrayal and people caught breaking rules. Players, for instance, will choose how to deal with a character found incorporating alien tech despite prohibitions. Player choice, in fact, can influence which one of several endings they experience.
The game hub allows players to upgrade characters, manage resources and loot, and choose which missions to undertake. The hub includes not just weapons but also blueprints of weapons that can be found throughout missions. Blueprints allow 3D printing of weapons over and over if players have enough resources to craft it.
Players begin the game with a priest who has nothing equipped. Only one or two weapons can be equipped at any given time, such as one weapon and one support item like a healing item. There are also disciplines to choose from, though players don't have to remain in one class like in other tactical games. The choice of roles means players can create an attack-healer with five levels in attack and five in healing.
Changes to characters will be cosmetic as well. Equipped weapons and items will appear attached to characters. Disciplines likewise can be reflected in a character's head, arms, body and legs. As soon as players have one point in a given path, it opens access to different body parts. Multi-class characters therefore can have data-miner legs, a damage healer head and mech dentrites (extra arms or tentacles).
The demo represents an early game level with mid- to high-level characters. The ship has a large crew to select from for deployment. Players can choose four troops and two priests, for instance. Tech priests represent higher command. Troops are foot soldiers. Troops can help out or be used as cannon fodder, so it's useful to take a lot of them on missions.
Players also select from unlocked prayers, cants and litanies, which can be used at the start of a fight. They are unlocked through challenges such as killing 100 necrons (enemies), 50 of one type, etc. The demo includes three unlocked prayers, though that might increase. The canticle system might allow the choice of one at the start of every turn, but it won't be available again during the battle.
Adeptus Mechanicus communicate with a kind of WiFi signal between each other, so the player on the ship is fed a holographic projection of what's going on down on planet. A gauge (timer) will increase as the squad progresses from one room to the next. When it hits full circle, the enemy will start getting buffs like increased movement, armor, damage or numbers. The longer in a dungeon, the harder it gets.
Unlike normal tactical games, squads can move, attack, move, attack, etc., in a single turn until all such capabilities are exhausted. Players can choose from ranged or melee attacks in the movement area. If a melee weapon is equipped and a foe moves away, players get a free attack. Players should attack downed necrons who are kneeling, as the living-metal foes are in self-repair mode and can revive.
Players can use attacks, such as with heavy weapons, to score a critical hit on an enemy. If it results in death, the enemy can't self-repair. Heavy weapons include the flamer, a blaster, and more to come. Each enemy has different mechanics, but they all attack on a reactional basis. If squad members move anywhere within the enemy's awareness arc it will draw an attack. When wounded, players will have to choose to heal or attack.
Cognition points are an important element of combat and allow for doing a variety of things, like firing heavy weapons (which requires at least three points) or enabling more freedom of movement. Killing an enemy or visiting cognition reserves gathers cognition points. Servo skulls also can obtain cognition, but can only collect one point per turn; whereas characters can collect all the points available at a reserve.
Servo skulls are the heads of soldiers who died in battle, polished and outfitted with tech. Each class has a servo skull, and different disciplines have different skull buffs, i.e. the tank servo skull gives the user more armor. Some buffs can make it attack or improve enemy scanning. Such enemy scans, conducted by flying the skull to an enemy, can reveal health and armor levels that otherwise are too far to detect.
Another means of collecting cognition points is using servitor troops (lobotomized prisoners). Such troops have a passive ability, so whenever they're hit, players gain cognition points. Deploying them becomes a tactical move. Placing them in harm's way during a fight not only can distract opponents but if these troops are killed, tech priests can use the cognition points they gain to fire off heavy weapons right away.
At the demo's end, there is a fight with a mini-boss who changes the environment, such as wall placement. Unlike a lot of tactical games, there are impassable objects but no cover system, which can slow down the game. In a nod to Doom, players are encouraged to move forward and engage enemies with their melee weapons, pistols and massive heavy weapons, and use cognition points for better weapons and faster movement.
Likewise, there is no overheat feature or reload option. Instead, an angry machine spirit -- or broken sentient AI that's inside every weapon -- can get pissed off if pushed too far. Consequences include damaging the user by backfiring or targeting the nearest units such as allies. That's the risk of overusing one's weapons. It's a gamble that's meant to make tired mechanics of overheat or reload more fun.
In between moves, the game camera can be adjusted. However, camera freedom during moves is something that is planned for implementation. Game creators want fans to be able to take screenshots of the action from different perspectives. Another view, via a keyboard's space bar, allows players to see important data, such as whom a servo skull is attached to and how much health characters have.
All rooms and fights are hand-crafted by the developers. For instance, six different tile sets can allow for totally different visuals: Generic, or completely destroyed with rubble everywhere, spiderwebs or broken bridges that need to be activated. There are also different scenarios where players might be tasked with fighting or with escaping overwhelming odds by running from one side of the room to the other.
Connection between rooms, on the other hand, is randomly generated. An optional event might emerge after a match or while traveling through a dungeon. These can have positive or negative outcomes or both. Or nothing might happen. They can affect the game by restoring health points for the team, increasing/decreasing the timer, injuring squad members or giving resources.
The demo was a compelling mix of traditional tactical controls and more action-oriented combat. Instead of cover system tactics, the collection and use of cognition points is a tactical consideration for each fight. Random events in between rooms add to the entertainment. Add solid controls, a quality presentation and cool cosmetic elements, and Mechanicus is a game to watch for on PC, Mac and Linux.
Cybershoes, created by a company of the same name, are intended to provide an affordable and easy to use virtual reality accessory that enables increased player movement for deeper immersion. The booth had chairs, VR equipment and monitors set up to allow visitors the opportunity to traverse titles such as Skyrim VR or Fallout 4 VR in the relative comfort of E3.
The "shoes" are akin to hard plastic soles with a single small wheel -- perhaps a little larger than a roller blade -- that sits inside the widest part of the sole and slightly protrudes above the surface. The shoes strap to the bottom of one's feet or footwear while users sit in a swivel chair, and work when seated users move their feet along the floor in a walking/running motion.
The design is effective, as the wheels spin smoothly in their wheel wells, and the smooth sole surfaces mean one's feet glide easily even over carpet. When applied correctly, movement translates into relatively fluid on-screen motion with no framerate issues and players can traverse across in-game terrain with the only impediments being obstacles in one's path.
However, applying Cybershoes correctly, at least for this user, was an imprecise endeavor. Whether due to my inexperience with the product, to the somewhat small wheels imbedded in the shoes, or a combination thereof, movement had an element of trial and error. Sometimes movement was fluid and other times intermittent despite constantly moving my feet in a walking or running motion.
This was actually less frustrating than it was tiring, as I had to move my feet quite a bit more than my in-game progression would suggest. It didn't help that the Fallout 4 VR saves that my handler loaded had practically no enemies to engage with. Most of my time was spent just walking, so I ended up running to try and find something that would add more variety and help test them in an action scenario.
Another issue for me was that Cybershoes necessarily require smooth movement. I'm more at home with snap turns in titles like Skyrim VR and Farpoint where I can play for hours on end. But smooth turns in particular increase my discomfort so my playtime was limited. That said, I can see where this product will have appeal, especially for gamers who prefer playing while seated.
For myself, I've always preferred standing while playing VR games. The greater freedom of movement it allows helps immerse me in the game. However, Cybershoes should allow those who prefer sitting to experience a greater degree of freedom than otherwise, especially when used in combination with a swivel chair that allows for turning while venturing in-game.
The shoes are designed to be compatible with any Steam application that utilizes touchpads or motion controllers, as well as Microsoft Mixed Reality via the Steam platform and any application that supports gamepad, such as Sketchup, Autodesk Revit, Enscape, and Robot Studio. Specifically, they're made to function with SteamVR, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Reportedly calibration and linking to a VR rig is simple and getting ready to play is as easy as sitting in a swivel seat and strapping on the Cybershoes. Directional tracking is inside the device for a small footprint. Analog tracking is designed for high accuracy and small or fast steps. Cybershoes have been tested by virtue of more than 2,000 individual users.
I like the concept behind Cybershoes, the simple design and the fluid implementation in VR games. I did have an issue with intermittent movement, though more familiarity and practice could help overcome that. I would like to see a larger wheel inside each shoe for increased traction, as well as applications with other locomotion such as snap turning. But this is very promising and welcome tech that should find a market among VR equipment.
Rise of Industry, from developer Dapper Penguin Studios and publisher Kasedo Games, is a strategic tycoon game that had a strong E3 presentation. Players set up a business in a choice of towns and cities, providing them with the services they need to grow. There are two game modes: Career and Free. Career mode has tech trees and progression. Free mode removes progression and opens everything from the start.
Career mode allows players to change the difficulty level and experience. Players start in a procedurally generated map with towns and cities of different sizes and personalities. Rural, industrial and heavy industrial towns have different needs: rural towns want food; industrial towns want books, clothes, etc., heavy industrial towns want mechanical objects like car radiators. Each also plans to produce different things.
Players begin by deciding the business they are going to pursue, avoiding products that towns or cities are producing and focusing on requested goods instead. The first step is placing one's headquarters on the map. Building in any region requires a permit: A logistical permit is cheaper but only allows for infrastructure like roads and rail; a full build permit is more expensive but allows for constructing anything.
At HQ, players can choose loans to help finance their business, such as starter loans of $10 million. Once financed, players can choose requested goods to produce. Players first need to research products in order to know how to produce them. Every type of product in the game can be found in the tech tree. Players get three free unlocks at the start of every campaign to get their business up and running.
For instance, players can choose vegetables, wheat and livestock. Anything more will add costs and time for research. Players can invest in research and development to decrease the time it takes. The income and expenditure panel (dollar sign icon) helps review finances, showing how much was made in past/current months, loans, contracts and expenses. Once researched, a crop farm can be built and set to crop.
For vegetables, one needs a recipe book (there are hundreds in the game), a vegetable farm, water for the farm and a water siphon to gather water. To build a vegetable farm, go to Farms. Create a main hub and up to five smaller harvesters. Similarly, create a main hub for the water siphon, and also gatherers to go into the water and draw the water up. They'll need to be connected via roads.
Once the siphon is producing water, set up a production line. At the siphon, go to the Destinations panel and tell delivery trucks to go from the siphon to the crop farm. Trucks can then be seen coming out of the siphon and heading to the crop farm. Although the production line and destination are free, every time trucks set off there is upkeep and distance costs involved.
Vegetables can be seen growing. When grown, send vegetables to the town that requested it. Go to the Destinations panel and select farmer's market. If players don't want to micromanage, they can place a warehouse and set it to automatic, at which point it will note which buildings in the area need deliveries and will fulfill them. The warehouse is especially useful when operations become large.
This is the simplest of production lines. If players decide to produce something like hamburgers, the complexity increases. Beef, dough and vegetables are needed. It requires a livestock farm. Cows need wheat, and both need water. Dough needs flour and water, flour needs wheat, and wheat needs water. But the more complex the production line, the more the product is worth in the end.
It's worth noting that nothing will break down in the game so no repairs are necessary. The farm, for instance, will keep running as long as there is enough water for it. If that runs out, an alert will notify the player. There are other risks, however, that require monitoring. Some relate to supply and demand. If players deliver more vegetables than requested, the local price will drop.
If deliveries become an issue, players can slow distribution or stop it by using the respective building panel. The warehouse also can automatically adjust distribution. Both options also can address changes to the global market price, which is based on every town/city in the area. It can fall if everyone is producing the same thing, or if the player is producing the same thing all over the map.
Random events can have positive or negative consequences. Tax breaks can lower upkeep costs. New manufacturing processes can improve efficiency. Business strikes or tsunamis can slow production or cost money. All events are text based, not visual. Also, optional contracts can help, if managed properly. Town requests can boost money and influence, but failure can cost both.
Town influence is the relationship players have with local towns/cities all over the map. Better influence means better interest rates on loans and continued construction in the region. But influence can suffer if one fails to deliver on a contract or builds too close to a town. Every week a building sits too close, influence will decline. If it reaches zero, towns will still accept goods but construction will be prohibited.
If one's influence is less than zero, towns/cities might stop accepting goods, which means no more income though still paying for upkeep. These towns/cities also might warn others, which could affect one's influence with them. In the next couple of updates, PR and marketing will be implemented so players with negative influence can start campaigning to improve their image.
Pollution will be implemented before full release. With increasing factories, farming and population, pollution will increase. Factories have plumes of smoke; the darker the smoke, the more pollution. If polluting, influence and the environment can be affected. Fertile green land can turn to desert, eliminating farming and income. Pollution will have a big impact.
The next update also will add modding. Everything in the game has been developed with modding in mind. Code has been written to allow gamers to mod whatever they want -- colors, vehicles, recipes, etc. Multiplayer also will be introduced, allowing competitive or cooperative gameplay. The creators have been working closely with the community to make the game it wants.
The E3 demo is high quality, boasting an appealing design, detailed textures, fluid animations, and intuitive and responsive interface and controls. The game is described as offering both accessibility and complexity, and from what I'd seen it appears to accomplish both. Panels and menus offer easy to read and follow details and instructions, and there is plenty of content to explore and experiment with.
The game, on PC and Linux, is in early access and reportedly stable. Regular updates have been implemented and are planned, with a single-player full release in the works and multiplayer to follow. Rise of Industry already looks like a solid and entertaining title with much to offer newcomers and tycoon game veterans alike.
Techland's Dying Light 2 envisions a Modern Dark Ages that is brutal, primal and merciless, where survivors 15 years after the outbreak of infection attempt to restore some semblance of order to a collapsed European city. Although devastated, decaying and still dangerous, there are opportunities to help the city rise from the ashes.
The pre-alpha demo that the developer explored at E3 covers the same territory as the trailer, however, it adds detail in between some of the more cinematic moments on display. This early part of the game follows the main character as he acquaints himself with this new city, which is four times the size of all maps combined from the original game.
There are new areas, quests, activities and characters throughout the city, including factions that command respect in exchange for goods and services. But how factions are treated has a much greater impact than merely one's access to goods and services. The choices one makes in this regard could alter the city's course and help decide its fate.
The mission on display in the demo involves discovering the fate of a Peacekeeper emissary who went missing while visiting a rival faction at their water tower. The journey there highlights the game's platforming and combat options, including the freedom of movement available to players. The city itself was designed as a parkour playground.
Dying Light 2 features twice as many parkour moves as its predecessor, and many will come in handy while traversing the city and its environmental puzzles. This is where the game's day/night duality comes into play. One key consideration is the infected, who mostly sleep in buildings during the day to avoid the sun, which has weakened those outside.
The buildings they inhabit therefore have not been looted to the degree others have, so returning to them at night when the infected are outside can yield precious items. Sometimes, however, entering might be worthwhile during the day to avoid areas outside where the player is outnumbered by gangs. But the risk is in waking them with noise or light.
In one such sequence, the developer took a shortcut through a building only to discover a hoard of resting infected in a scene straight out of I Am Legend. One misstep alerted them to his presence, and a quick sprint through the building, down a corridor and out the window put some distance between him and that danger but there are few safe havens in this setting.
Shortly thereafter, another gang is encountered but this time there's an opportunity to take them out one by one. A lone enemy is quickly dispatched with a silent takedown from behind. Then a pole is found and used as an improvised spear to impale the next victim. In this way, using the environment can be a boon to combat, as various items can be turned into weapons.
These kills highlight how combat is more tactical, but what comes next demonstrates how desperate combat can become when up close and personal. Alerted by the last kill, enemies attack. Characters take big swings at each other, trading blows that stagger or injure, reeling under successive hits. The game's brutal melee combat reminds me of Condemned, which had some of the best fighting in any video game.
Soon others emerge from the building they were looting and our character is forced to flee. This sequence highlights the quick reflexes and environmental interaction Dying Light is known for, as our character sprints, scales building facades, leaps across gaps between buildings, swings and otherwise traverses the dense urban landscape to outrun foes including archers.
Sometimes platforming is less urgent but no less challenging. Scaling an interior can involve stringing together parkour moves while monitoring declining stamina. Such sequences remind me of Prince of Persia and showed off a wall run, monkey bar and leap, or a wall run, water pipe climb, shinny and pipe climb. Some moves are physics based, such as swinging from a hanging object.
Whether platforming or combat, gameplay in Dying Light 2 is designed to be deep and tactical. What players choose to do will also impact how the game unfolds. Veteran writer Chris Avellone (Fallout: New Vegas, 2017's Prey) is crafting what the developer describes as a narrative sandbox, which evolves with player choices.
For instance, helping the Peacekeepers restores some semblance of law and order locally, and even frees up water for our character (a precious commodity that also heals). However, they rule with an iron fist. On the other hand, helping their rivals at the water tower results in a thriving black market for goods and weapons, but also more chaos and human suffering.
In addition, new groups and people can appear and take the narrative in a different direction. All this reinforces that player choices have genuine consequences. Combined with more deep and tactical action in the form of brutal melee combat and a massive parkour playground, Dying Light 2 looks to surpass its excellent predecessor in significant ways.
It's worth noting that the pre-alpha build that forms the basis for the demo and the trailer is well-polished. Level design, including interactive elements, are well-conceived; textures and draw distance are impressively detailed; lighting is well crafted; animations for the environment and characters are smooth and realistic; and voice acting, dialog and syncing combine for solid performances. To top it off, the framerate holds solid.
As a glimpse of the intense action that Dying Light 2 offers, the demo satisfies with choreographed movement -- platforming, combat, objects or people in the environment, even framerate -- that forms the basis for a unique ballet of player agency amid a tale of desperate survival. And it's why Dying Light 2 is my favorite game seen at this year's E3.
A longtime fan of virtual reality video gaming, Bethesda's Skyrim VR has become a favorite. So when the publisher of that game, Fallout 4 VR and DOOM VFR announced Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot and Prey: Typhon Hunter, I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of more AAA launches in the VR sphere.
MachineGames' Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot
The premise for this virtual reality entry in the Wolfenstein universe is straightforward: Players hack in to Nazi war machines in Paris to turn their weapons against themselves. It's a sound setup for the VR combat that follows; time will tell if it's only context or if there's a meaty story in support of the gameplay.
The demo begins with the hack in to a Panzerhund, which resembles a kind of towering canine mech. Movement takes some practice, as the mech responds to the right motion controller and the left controller's track pad, potentially for cockpit and mech movement, respectively, though in my brief playtime the exact distinction was admittedly confusing.
Default movement relied on a smooth turn as opposed to the snap turn option I prefer in games like Farpoint and Skyrim VR. Initially movement was fine, though constant and quick smooth turns during chaotic firefights did prompt me to stop playing after a while. It's too early to know what other locomotion options might be implemented.
The Panzerhund starts off in an underground corridor, and players take it to the streets of occupied Paris. The demo is essentially an open-air corridor shooter, filtering one through narrow streets that meet at wider areas. Along the way, foes emerge from subterranean passageways, building doorways, kinds of troop carriers or hubs, and the sky.
The mech has two basic attacks in the demo, a flamethrower from inside its mouth and a bash attack to basically head-butt obstacles like vehicles out of the way or into foes. The attacks are powerful and easy to deploy, and make quick work of both impediments and Nazi patrols, reinforcements and drones. In my experience they are fairly overpowered.
In general firefights were thrilling as patrols and reinforcements provided enough targets to keep the action going. Enemy fire and directional dialog suggest where attacks are coming from, which is helpful when the assault can come from all sides including the sky. The nature of the flamethrower helpfully allows for waylaying scores at a time.
The overall design and presentation are well done, the controls are responsive and fairly easy to use (despite my confusion with regard to movement), and firefights are frenetic. In general it was fun and I'm hopeful. Given more variety in foes, weapons and areas, an upgrade to AI, and more locomotion options, it could be a solid VR option.
Arkane Studios' Prey: Typhon Hunter
Typhon Hunter not only will release with a five-on-one multiplayer mode, but also includes a single player mode called TranStar VR that functions as a series of escape room games where players -- employees of TranStar -- survey rooms for clues to solve puzzles and complete objectives before moving to the next room.
The demo consists of one room with multiple puzzles. Players must complete a variety of tasks that contribute to meeting the objective. In this case, a key card must be found, a safe opened, headgear recovered, kinds of power nodes scanned, data downloaded, found objects recycled, devices recovered, etc. Many of these are interrelated tasks.
As in the main game, players use controllers to navigate by teleportation and as hands/gloves to grab objects; move items; and control buttons, levers and devices, etc. to open/close containers, operate machinery, scan materials, etc. Controls work well, though some actions take practice, such as selecting where best to teleport or proper distance to interact.
This application of VR reminded me of the investigative work in Batman: Arkham VR, and is as well implemented. My demo was brief so I had help solving some of the puzzles, which for instance can involve deciphering a diagram to unlock a code that opens a safe. Depending on the task, solving some elements leads to other goals.
The room explored in the demo actually is several interconnected rooms, including an office, a lab, and related areas. All are well conceived, have nice details and solid interaction. They help establish the world, and the puzzles didn't feel contrived. In my opinion, such puzzles should provide a welcome extension of the license, especially if Typhons hide among them.
I sampled a wide variety of demos during my first day of this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo and overall was pleased with the breadth and quality of the products on hand.
Scarecrow Studio's 3 Minutes to Midnight
I played a pre-alpha build of this indie point-and-click adventure game and was walked through its intricacies by Game Director Jan Serra. The single-player story emphasizes exploration and interaction with characters and the colorful 2D environments.
Players control Betty Anderson, a young woman in 1940s New Mexico who awakens with amnesia along with everyone else and begins to unravel a sci-fi plot to extinguish humanity. (Later, Eliza, the mayor, becomes playable.) Using a mouse, the left button is the action button to talk, grab, push, etc.; the right button is for looking around the environment.
One key element of gameplay is dialog. Every interaction offers choices for responses that can include polite, rude or demanding comments. While each ultimately leads to the same result, one's choice will provoke different reactions and can impact how helpful a character is and whether they are part of the solution to a problem or the player has to explore other alternatives.
In fact, puzzles are the other key element and can range from easy in the beginning to difficult later on, though hints (including from characters) can help. Puzzles come in the form of conversations, inventory (where thoughtful combinations of items can influence progress), environmental actions, and object-based interaction (i.e. whether players choose to use something or to give it to someone else).
In my demo, I was impressed with the playful cartoon aesthetic and colorful palette. Jan said that each environment is drawn by hand and takes about three weeks each to complete day and night versions. Despite the attention to detail, or perhaps because of it, I sometimes found that objects were difficult to notice or recognize they were important. Hovering the cursor over interactive elements did identify them.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward, involving moving your character, choosing what to interact with, and selecting dialog options or item combinations. In this regard, controls work well and the camera is unobtrusive (remaining static, following your character and zooming as appropriate). Sometimes, moving and combining an object can be imprecise, especially when waiting for a scripted scene to play out.
The story is promising, the dialog generally well crafted and the voice acting behind the lead character is enjoyable. However, some dialog felt that it dragged on a little too long, some humor was a little forced, and some other voice acting was over the top. But that's a fraction of a 12 hour game, and an early build on top of that. NPCs had character, and will have backstories to add depth.
The foundation is solid, and I think this title will succeed or fail on the basis of its puzzles. The demo was about two hours into the game, so puzzles weren't difficult or too easy. Still, I don't know that I would have thought to craft a citronella candle to ward off mosquitoes, or combine a plunger, rope, fire extinguisher and fourth item to retrieve a boat for its oar. Thankfully, hints have been added to steer choices as necessary.
What I found is that playing this as a hidden objects game can help with the challenge. Knowing to scour every corner of the screen for items, then recognizing that obscure combos might yield helpful devices should make progression more accessible and enjoyable. All told, the playful artistry, meticulous detail and elaborate design could lay the groundwork for a compelling game.
Coming on Windows, Mac and Linux the first quarter of 2019. Later for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android.
Pixel Crushers' ARia's Legacy
I'm a fan of escape room games, VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) in some circumstances. ARia’s Legacy advertises itself as the first mobile escape room game using AR technology. The result is a unique game that places objects in a 3D space around you when viewed through a mobile phone or tablet. Players will be able to explore 50 different levels anywhere they are.
The premise involves your team of archaeologists unearthing a chest at your site. An attempt to open it throws you into a locked room that is at both familiar and eerily foreign. Your only clue is the chest your team found and the name “ARia" ringing in your head. The demo places a stand with vase and key; a three-drawer dresser with clock, snow globe and lock box on top; and a kind of armoire in one's immediate surroundings.
These items are viewed via a tablet I hold upright in front of me as I pan around me from one side to the other. Each discovery -- whether keys, candles, scrap of paper, combination device, knob, etc. -- is a clue that leads to the next in true escape game fashion. Using AR to set these objects in the world around you at any given moment is a clever use of the medium.
For this to work, the presentation needs to be realistic and the interface work seamlessly, and I'm pleased to report that's the case in general. Every object is rendered well in 3D with believable detail, and interacting with them on screen is intuitive and without complication. Keys are placed in locks, drawers are opened, other objects are likewise easily moved, and changing position allows for different perspectives that reveal hidden items.
The only drawbacks to the experience were the setup and a perhaps related issue that during gameplay. Namely, my handler had me stand farther back than seemed practical on the mat that supposedly was where I was to stand, before trying repeatedly to swipe an on-screen marker over the top of the mat, I assume to properly configure the contents of the room around me. Later, the armoir to my right was almost too close to easily interact with.
Despite the early complication, this version of an escape game played out in much the same way that any other similar game does, with the benefit of exploring your immediate surroundings for a surprisingly effective, seemingly real world puzzle that immerses you in a more significant way than before. If Pixel Crushers can extend this achievement for the full 50 levels, it should be an entertaining title.
Woojer's Ryg haptic vest
I was excited to try on this haptic vest and experience how it can enhance a VR experience as advertised. The vest itself is impressive to behold, with thick padding in back and over the shoulders, and black coloring set off by orange accents. It's weighty too, but was comfortable even when straps were pulled tight around my torso.
The demos consisted of a variety of videos, ranging from more serene atmospheric presentations to a T-Rex confrontation and a shootout from the movie Deadpool. The latter two definitely showed off the ability of the vest to literally amplify the noises accompanying the on-screen action to the point of experiencing intense vibration on cue.
While this has the affect of enhancing one's immersion in such videos, as it's designed to mimic the impact of surround sound on your body, the effect too often is inconsistent and can break immersion. In the case of the latter two videos, despite the threats being in front of the vest wearer, vibration was triggered in seemingly random spots on the back of the vest.
For me, the best test of haptic gear is VR but I was disappointed that no such demo was available. I was assured that this vest is designed to work with the SDK (software developer kit) for video games and thereby better mimic on-screen action with respective positional vest vibrations. For now, it's promising tech for surround sound based entertainment, but a better test will be with the SDK.
Bethesda Game Studios' The Elder Scrolls: Blades
One of my most anticipated titles to come from Bethesda's E3 showcase was The Elder Scrolls: Blades for mobile devices. A franchise fan, I've wanted a mobile experience outside of Skyrim on Switch, and this announcement appeared not only to satisfy that craving but to offer a new experience.
The demo on an iPhone was a smaller screen than the tablet I was hoping for, but nonetheless provided a good basis for which to judge the move to mobile devices. Not unexpectedly, the gameplay is streamlined, almost to a fault. But core elements are present that help smooth the transition and provide a sound basis for hopeful upgrades.
Players choose a castle or forest route. The latter, like the castle, is more linear than open world. There are multiple paths, but the terrain is not always passable. Presentation standards are top-notch, including animation (clouds, foliage, water, fire, characters, etc.), textures and sound (though score was hard to detect in the noisy E3 environment).
Controls are mobile-friendly, with left presses enabling a shield and elemental attack, and right presses instigating attack and shield bash. Pressing anywhere on screen moves your character, selects pottery to break, and picks up loot in the form of coins or jewels. When asked about the opportunity for more loot grinding, staff indicated it's not an option right now.
Combat, likely the key gameplay element, is a mixed bag in so far as it's solid fare that's well executed but nonetheless fairly standard. It often boils down to trading blows with your enemy -- in the demo, this was goblins, spiders, skeletons, etc. -- in between gulping health potions. My time was admittedly limited; I've read it can be a somewhat deeper experience.
In some respects, this is a bare bones experience, at least to judge by the demo. But given that this represents a franchise first on mobile phones and tablets, the overall impression is that this is an auspicious debut. Atmosphere goes a long way in this franchise, and Blades excels in this department. I'm hoping the full game and upgrades broaden its strong foundation.
Avalanche Studios/id Software's Rage 2
The trailer gave me hopes for this sequel. From the kinetic action to the varied environments, cinematic moments and over the top design in general, my interest in this title piqued. The playable demo at E3 offered essentially the same gameplay present in the trailer -- namely, the player's assault on the Eden Space Center.
I mostly skipped tutorials to jump right into the action and take advantage of my limited time with the demo, however, that might have undermined the quality of my gameplay as I didn't experiment too much with the arsenal at hand. That meant I relied on whatever gun or power was equipped at the beginning of each scenario.
Still, players can create a massive amount of carnage even using a limited arsenal. The game throws enemies your way so targets are plentiful. They might even be varied, but I was too busy eliminating them to notice. AI seemed to be standard opposition that leaps out and stays in the open, but they make up for in numbers what they might lack in smarts.
The assault rifle is effective enough, especially when killstreaks charge one's overdrive and lead to even greater destruction. The shotgun, by contrast, seemed somewhat under powered unless used virtually point blank. Grenades and the slam airborne attack effectively mow down foes, though the latter can expose you while instigating the two button takedown.
Staying agile and hyper aware are helpful to avoid taking too much damage amid the barrage of bullets, explosives and enemies that attack from myriad positions ahead, behind, above or below. Areas are well designed for dramatic firefights and the framerate remained stable despite the near-constant combat and related destruction.
Controls performed well, whether targeting, hit detection, movement or powers. Animations in general are smooth, particle effects are impressive, textures are detailed, and voice acting was effective, even taunting me for running past some foes. The combination of gunplay, powers and movement make combat rewarding and bodes well for this game overall.
Survios' Creed: Rise to Glory
Survios helped make a name for themselves with Sprint Vector, and its influence on Creed: Rise to Glory is apparent. The use of one's arms in both VR titles is key to victory, whether swinging to run forward in the former or blocking, hitting and moving in the latter. The single-fight format for the demo allowed only limited playtime to explore their impact.
The game follows Adonis Creed, son of heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, as legendary fighter Rocky Balboa trains him and manages fights against iconic opponents. It's designed to allow a variety of punches, dodges, rolls, knockbacks and knockouts, with authentic hit reactions and responsive player control for an immersive VR boxing experience.
The demo begins in a gym during training. Players alternate between hitting sequential targets on a dummy or punching bag, and flurries of punches thrown against the latter. Following training, players enter the ring and stand toe to toe with an opponent while trading punches. Learning when and where to punch or block is important to success.
The mechanics allow responsive control in general, though seeming lag related to the left motion controller was attributed to the poor lighting. Holding one's forearms together in front of one's face helps defend against punches, as does dodging punches, while alternating between jabs and wider punches (presumably including hooks, crosses, uppercuts, etc.) can hurt opponents.
When the player takes a strong punch, action slows and the avatar leans backward with arms raised. To right one's stance, the player has to mimic the avatar's gloves with raised hands, pulling back to zero in on respective indicators. The goal is to have players' actions reflect their boxing avatar, even when staggered.
The game does succeed in putting players in the shoes of professional boxers facing off in the ring against opponents. Less clear from the brief gameplay is the extent to which players can move side to side around the ring. I'm told that here, too, arm movement -- as in Sprint Vector -- will help determine to which side players can move.
With a solid license, authentic boxing action, generally responsive controls and a stylish presentation, this game can carve a niche. The two modes of Career (which follows Creed's story and fights) and Exhibition (which offers more freedom including choosing between fighters) should add depth and replayability.
Akupara Games' Desert Child
I was drawn to Desert Child by the effective retro aesthetic and seeming Akira inspiration in gameplay videos and the trailer. In fact, that anime classic as well as Cowboy Bebop were inspirations for the sidescrolling 2D racing game, though this indie title looks to create an interesting hybrid that adds RPG elements.
The context for the player's journey is the pending end of ticket sales for flights off a dystopian Earth. The player has 14 days to earn $500 and a trip off-world. The main method for obtaining cash is winning races, but there are missions that likewise can earn money. However, an element of strategy is involved because costs can sap one's budget.
That's because vehicle repairs and meals to satisfy the player's growing hunger require money. Vehicles take damage when colliding with obstacles such as cacti or walls, or getting attacked by one's opponent or deadly TVs (yep). If not addressed, these issues will shorten one's turbo bar and make it take longer to fill, respectively.
Therefore, avoiding obstacles while using Turbo to stay ahead of one's opponent becomes paramount. Make a mistake, and the opponent might leap ahead. Thankfully, power-ups in the form of TVs can yield cash (green TVs) or ammo (red TVs, but only if boosted through, not if shot). But beware of purple TVs that attack.
In between races, players can stop at shops to eat, repair their vehicle or even buy songs that will play when purchased. Players can even steal parts from parked vehicles, but doing so runs the risk of being caught. Later, in the second act, players can upgrade their vehicle, or hoard power cells to use instead of sell as in act one.
But another key element of the game can be undertaken in between races and involves conducting missions. These include pizza delivery, herding kangaroos, bounties (which involve chasing and killing one's target), and throwing races for the mob (which require leading for most of the race before losing at the end).
The demo shows off the game's beautiful retro aesthetic, from the nostalgic side-scrolling races in between a variety of obstacles and across various environments, to storefronts, shop interiors and NPCs that populate the world. The score and soundtrack likewise entertain with an '80s video game sensibility.
While the RPG elements are a unique and most welcome feature, the real appeal of this racing game obviously lies with the gameplay. Races are fast, furious and appealing in their retro style, responsive controls and entertaining action. Avoiding obstacles, obtaining or maintaining a lead, collecting power ups, and defending oneself all combine for a rich experience.
Similarly, missions include many of the same elements while throwing in quirky objectives that might involve shooting pizzas at waving customers or using the vehicle to ensure no kangaroos fall behind. The variety of racing and RPG elements, all well implemented and thoughtfully designed, should find a broad and enthusiastic audience.
Originally published on GameInformer.com November 20, 2017, at 07:00 AM.
Selected for Blog Herding -- The Best Blogs of the Community, 11/30/17.
Selected for Game Informer Newsletter, 12/2/17.
8,109 views as of June 4, 2018.
Update 6/4/18: Select screenshots from this pictorial appear at bottom.
I can't remember being as excited for a video game release as I was for Skyrim VR this past Friday. As a fan of the standard version, the special edition and virtual reality gaming, this new port promised the opportunity to virtually set foot in Skyrim and embody the Dragonborn in ways that prior editions couldn't. In many ways it's a breathtaking success, though not without some significant shortcomings.
My biggest concern was whether or not Bethesda could provide locomotion options that would allow most gamers to exist in a virtual Skyrim without discomfort. Contrary to some assertions, the nausea that gamers can experience is a physiological response to the discrepancy between visual cues and a stationary state that practice alone can't completely overcome.
Every gamer is different, and I'm no exception. I can play games like Farpoint for hours on end with no discomfort, however, games like DriveClub made me physically ill in one minute flat. Most VR games fall in the middle. So I was relieved that Skyrim's design has an option that allows me to play indefinitely were it not for the fatigue of standing in one place for hours at a time.
Rather than teleportation or what I understand to be more fluid movement provided by the DualShock controller, I've opted for locomotion via the Move controllers (like teleportation) that combines smooth forward/backward movement with snap turning. Like other Skyrim VR controls mapped to the Move controllers, however, learning to use them takes a lot of practice.
The issue is where on each controller (left and right hands) actions are placed. One moves by pointing the left-hand controller and holding the main button down, while turning occurs by pressing the right-hand X (left turn) and O (right turn) buttons. Coordination took me awhile. Worse, maneuvering in combat is a challenge when players are dual-wielding weapons, magic or a shield.
Glitchy controls right off the bat had me in a panic. The problem was my character kept unsheathing weapons, including when I was trying to converse with NPCs. That act alone alarmed the others, but my character also randomly swung at/attacked with whatever I was now wielding. This lead to many fights as well as save reloads to avoid the consequences of angering everyone in Skyrim.
After much trial and error I eventually discovered that whenever I turned my head left, my character would unsheath his weapons and whenever I raised my arms to choose a dialog option (no matter how slowly), my character would attack. Thankfully, the glitch seems to disappear with playtime, though on occasion it still happens (the NPC above did not appreciate it).
Besides locomotion, combat was a concern in VR, especially when using motion controllers. I know current controllers can overcome latency issues, especially to judge by Farpoint's use of the Aim controller. But for me, the Move controllers were unproven in games that rely heavily on melee and ranged combat. But for the most part, combat in Skyrim VR is responsive and entertaining.
Much has been made of archery controls in this game and for good reason. Being able to use the Move controllers to mimic the act of pulling back an arrow on a bow, aiming it at one's target and releasing it is empowering and satisfying, especially because lining up a shot takes some skill. Loosing an arrow without a reticule takes practice but is all the more immersive for it.
Melee combat is likewise effective and rewarding though it feels surprisingly less precise. Whether due to inconsistent hit detection or inadequate visual or audio cues, such combat can boil down to flailing away with one's weapon of choice in hopes of hitting the mark often enough to bring an enemy down. Truth be told, in the midst of combat I'm not keeping score and I never feel cheated, so any such discrepancy is minor.
Hack and slash, in fact, tends to be my approach when confronted with monstrosities like a giant spider (above) that in virtual reality are made even more intimidating. More on that later, but suffice it to say that the degree to which Skyrim VR immerses you in its world, including during combat, more than makes up for the shortcomings that do exist as a result of porting an older game to this new medium.
One of the ways that this version of the game has inspired me is in how intuitive some actions are in the virtual reality setting. For instance, in the standard game I recall having to alternate between blocking with one's shield or attacking, whereas here it's easy to do both at the same time. While blocking incoming attacks with my left-hand shield, it's tremendously satisfying to swing my right-hand weapon around the shield at my attacker.
That's not to say it wasn't an option in the standard game, I just don't remember it or it wasn't such a simple proposition using the DualShock controller. But having a Move controller in each hand to simulate holding separate items encourages a more organic approach to most situations so they can be addressed more efficiently.
Another feature that I found immersive was especially evident during combat. Environmental effects, as with everything else in VR, is in 3D. So when a mage casts spells, they fly, arc, flare, etc. past your head and around your body (above). Not only do they crackle in stereo, for instance, but their bright trajectory can be traced as it flies past. If you're lucky. This is similar to witnessing snow flurries at higher elevations, which whip and swirl believably all around you.
As with attacking from behind one's shield, attacking while leaning from behind static cover becomes an effective means of taking on foes, especially at range. Notice a pattern here? I don't like putting myself in harm's way unnecessarily, so it was fun to discover I could peak around corners and even loose arrows or launch a fire spell while doing so. Again, I don't recall being able to do this in the standard game, but once again Skyrim VR encourages such experimentation.
Dual-wielding spells in virtual reality, like archery, has received a lot of attention because of the way combat has been reimagined to take advantage of the medium. In this case, spells in each hand can be cast at different foes. For me, it's actually easier said than done, as keeping track of two foes -- especially if they diverge -- can be a challenge when attacking. But the opportunity to do so is welcome and efficient.
Lastly in relation to combat, it's worth noting that in this PSVR game players have to watch their back. Enemies will attack from behind, forcing use of the controller to turn and face them. That might not seem significant, but for a VR system that relies on one front-facing camera, using this oft-neglected blind spot helps immerse players (as opposed to Farpoint, for instance, where passed foes will comically sprint to the front).
Motion controls of course are less important for using menus, however, Skyrim's interface is a significant element of the game and demands precise navigation. What players get, though, is a less than ideal implementation in virtual reality. Menus can appear at an angle to the gamer's POV, using motion controls to move horizontally and laterally can confound, and simply recalling the related control configuration can be a challenge.
If I remember, left-hand Square is Quests/Settings/Stats, Triangle is Menu/Items/Map/Magic, X is Sheath/Unsheath and O is Favorites. Honestly, I'm still learning and often enough press the wrong button. And because the Move controllers vis a vis menus seem to operate in a limited window between not moving and moving too much, hitting the sweet spot can be trial and error. But like so many other things, practice can make perfect.
Two sides of the same menu, so to speak, are the terrestrial world map and the celestial level-up menu. Both impress with their appearance in VR, as the former is laid out like a topographic floor map that players can glide above, and the latter resembles a galactic diorama that players can turn within.
While visually impressive, the designs aren't perfect. The world map is hindered by labels that are difficult to read at a distance in VR, and the motion controls for the celestial menu take some practice to hit their mark (turns out holding down the main button helps, a little). Still both are neat, with the celestial menu being a sight-to-behold.
The overall presentation is one area that will make or break Skyrim VR and it's mostly a success. When standing amid the mountainous terrain, one is struck by the sheer scale of this world. Whether peering up at the high peaks, hiking up steep mountain trails or standing amid high elevation snow flurries, one feels humble in the midst of such natural wonder. The forests, foliage, lakes and rivers only help immerse players in the fantasy.
Still, there are issues that hold this version back from being the spectacle that it could have been. Anyone familiar with PSVR knows most titles sacrifice presentation in order to provide a solid VR experience on the PS4 (Batman: Arkham VR and Farpoint being notable exceptions), and Skyrim VR follows suit with worse draw distance, texture pop-in and generally less detailed graphics.
But what the game might lack in consistently detailed tableaus, it makes up for with more defined character models and settlements up close. The detail is not of a level like Batman: Arkham VR or even Farpoint, but even if not realistic it's still believable. The overall impact when taken together is a living, breathing 3D fantasy world that players can lose themselves in for hours on end.
Whether standing beside a three dimensional NPC or marveling at the snow-capped mountains that tower over every settlement, standing amid swirling snow flurries on Skyrim's peaks as the wind howls in your ears or battling denizens of the caves and caverns below the surface, Skyrim VR immerses players as no version of the game has before.
Fighting the first dragon in the game helps illustrate some of the game's pros and cons. Raising one's gaze skyward to track this giant mythical beast as it soars overhead is an amazing experience, one that turns exciting with attempts to equip and loose arrows at the moving target. Then desperation sinks in as the creature lands nearby, spraying fire while I clumsily use a fire spell and try to flee at the same time.
Personally, I'm loving my experience with Skyrim VR and am always anxious to set foot again in its virtual fantasy world. Technical issues can irritate on occasion, but in most cases practice can eliminate such annoyances. It's by no stretch a perfect game, but considering what Bethesda accomplished with this port of an older game, the outcome is impressive.
Still, VR is not for everyone, and this purchase comes down to a pretty simple recommendation. If you've never played Skyrim, pickup the special edition on Steam, PS4 or Xbox One -- the production values are impressive and the controls are intuitive and responsive. However, if you're already a fan, the VR version is icing on a delicious cake. Being able to exist in a virtual Skyrim is a fantasy come true that its flaws can't diminish.
Originally published on GameInformer.com November 15, 2017, at 01:00 PM.
Selected for Blog Herding -- The Best Blogs of the Community, 11/16/17.
3,887 views as of June 4, 2018.
Update 6/4/18: Select screenshots from this pictorial appear at bottom.
Playstation VR Demo Disc 2 released last week and I had to share my experience with The Persistence and Moss, two upcoming virtual reality games that are very different but very promising. The former is a survival horror game by Firesprite that is set in space aboard a craft called The Persistence. The latter is Polyarc's first title, an action-adventure puzzle game with platforming elements that's set in a fantasy world of mice, snakes and other creatures.
The setup for The Persistence is somewhat standard sci-fi/horror storytelling: An accident during a major experiment at the site of a collapsing star plunges a science vessel into an emergency. Survivors are woken by ship computer IRIS to save the vessel, but only one at a time. I'm not sure of the explanation, but it does provide a basis for the single player gameplay that interestingly finds gamers waking as a new crew member in a different area after each death.
I knew a little about this game prior to playing the demo, but did not expect to encounter the procedurally generated setting, which does a good job of subverting your expectations when you respawn. From your room to the adjoining areas, placement of pickups, and location of enemies, this feature -- though contrived -- is a welcome element that keeps gameplay fresh. You learn to pay close attention to digital wall maps (above) in order to reorient yourself.
Regarding orientation, locomotion involves a combination of teleportation and standard movement. Teleportation is accomplished with help from the PSVR headset, which does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to gameplay in general. A kind of reticule in the center of your vision acts as a marker for teleportation, targeting foes and interacting with the environment. For the most part, just point with the headset and click a DualShock 4 controller button.
You can also move in different directions with one analog stick and turn with the other. I do tend to rely on standard movement to get around, so the constant reminders to teleport are helpful if annoying, as it can aid in avoiding environmental hazards or outmaneuvering foes. Exploration involves collecting pickups, fabricating items, operating controls and fighting enemies.
Pickups can be found on various surfaces or in compartments operated by green icons. In both cases interaction only requires halting your gaze on it for a few seconds, then pickups will be collected or compartments (or doors) opened. However, if a compartment's icon turns red, you need to stop, otherwise the malfunctioning object will explode. Pickups generally include fab chips (for item fabrication), stem cells (reportedly to upgrade your character) and health packs.
Items dispensed at fabrication machines generally take the form of weapons or objects that can otherwise assist with combat. The .50 cal. Stormfury and .22 cal. Needle (see select screens above) come in handy against foes, as the former is effective for fatal headshots and the latter for punishing bursts. The downside is that they have very limited use given their sparse ammo.
If I recall, attacks are mapped to the R2 button, while item/weapon selection is available by holding down R1. While choosing an item/weapon, time is helpfully slowed to a near crawl. Targeting with the headset is surprisingly effective against single foes, but when attacked by multiple enemies keeping steady can be a challenge.
A variety of other items provide effective single-use fun, and can eliminate multiple foes. The Droid Sphere above is one such example, as it releases several bots to hunt down and subdue enemies. This works well at range, especially as a counter keeps you updated on the number of droids remaining. Once the counter winds down, you can go in and mop up.
The Gravity Bomb above is another helpful projectile that can take out more than one target at once. It reportedly creates a local black hole, but unlike in other games such as The Darkness, this one doesn't pull enemies in to the phenomenon. Instead, I believe the description said that it crushes or otherwise destroys organic matter. Either way, it clears your path.
When shorn of ranged weaponry and forced into close combat, gamers have two actions to combat the vessel's nasties. A defensive move with the left hand either protects with a momentary shield or distracts/immobilizes with its seeming electric charge. I'm honestly not sure which, but it doesn't appear to deplete too quickly if at all, and without need for recharge that I could tell in my limited demo. So spamming it in a pinch does help.
It also helps open a window to use your default stem cell harvester in your right hand, which not only incapacitates your foe at least momentarily but also absorbs their stem cells presumably to upgrade one's character later. Standard enemies can take as few hits as one to defeat, whereas tougher ones like the demo's boss require multiple attacks.
Taken together, the demo for The Persistence is entertaining and its controls are responsive. The unusual use of the headset to target items, compartments/doors and foes is well implemented, though might flounder in chaotic combat. Due to this, I hope that Move controllers (or even the Aim controller, if close quarters combat can be intuitively tied to its controls) are an option.
The procedurally generated settings are a great feature that help keep the journey exciting. That said, I did notice some standard elements in certain settings, such as personal items including family photos or children's drawings, that are repeated. Of course it would be a challenge to always have different items. At least I hope that the narrative, including perhaps crew member correspondence, will be strong, as that's missing from the demo.
The presentation is very good for PSVR. On the standard PS4, environments and character models are not highly detailed/realistic, but they are nonetheless believable and certainly impressive for PSVR. The overall design is creative, appealing and immersive, animations and particle effects are fluid, and combat is fun. For a demo, especially, this is a solid introduction and has me excited for the final product.
Moss is an equally entertaining though significantly different experience. The single player action-adventure puzzle game incorporates first- and third-person gameplay in a consistent fantasy world. Players act as a kind of omnipresent companion to the mouse hero Quill, interacting with the environment to remove obstacles in her path. But despite scripted moments, gamers will also control Quill as she navigates each setting and fends off enemies.
Quill is an adorable mouse who at times will motion to your omnipresent character in recognition, gratitude or assistance, but she is a formidable combatant that uses her blade to slice through foes. In this case, kinds of mechanical scarabs challenge her in an arena type setting. Her jump, which is important in platforming, can help her avoid or attack. And swift swings can quickly dispel enemies. Demo combat is not deep or complicated, but it's still satisfying.
Platforming is an important element of gameplay and is well implemented. Like combat, traversal in this demo is not complicated when controlling Quill. She can leap gaps and climb ledges. What depth there is involves environmental puzzles requiring the player's character to solve. Actions can involve pulling, pushing, lifting or turning objects, which is accomplished by targeting the object, holding down L1 and R1 (if I recall), and moving it as necessary.
Then, gamers can move Quill past the obstacle and proceed to the next setting. Puzzles can be simple and include environmental cues to tip one off to the necessary action. Or they can be more complicated and involve a few moving parts (see below). Regardless, they are well implemented in each setting, interaction is intuitive and seamless, and interacting with both the environment and Quill in these scenarios is entertaining and immersive.
Some puzzles will involve several elements. They might require moving an object (sometimes repeatedly), moving Quill at different times, and controlling a character other than Quill, such as a mechanical scarab, to operate weight plates or other devices. Using the DualShock 4 controller, such manipulation proved relatively deft and satisfying.
Moss, to judge by the demo, reminds me of a fave PSVR game Wayward Skies. Both require the player's manipulation of the environment to help the main character's journey, and control of the main character at other times. But Moss has a very different atmosphere and design, and the overall concept is well implemented for a cohesive experience across settings, puzzles and combat.
This type of game is well suited to VR and Polyarc appears to have crafted a unique fantasy world with an appealing main character and inherently fun gameplay. That is why, despite a short demo, I am looking forward to returning to this storybook setting and immersing myself in this entertaining creation.
Originally published on GameInformer.com August 9, 2017, at 12:00 PM.
6,290 views as of June 4, 2018.
Update 6/4/18: Select screenshots from this pictorial appear at bottom.
Virtual reality gaming has more than its share of skeptics, and the nascent library of tech demos masquerading as video games doesn't help, no matter how impressive the experience (i.e., Batman: Arkham VR). Impulse Gear's relatively new PlayStation 4 shooter Farpoint, however, just might represent a tipping of those scales.
If you've followed its reception, yes, it's true that the title is no masterpiece of game design in general. There are software/hardware limitations, questionable design choices and flaws. But it's far more than a proof of concept and, in fact, excels at immersing the player in its world, which, after all, is the point of VR.
I might be a little biased, as I've been patiently waiting for a retail VR FPS to hit the marketplace since my experience with an arcade version about 20 years ago. You'd think any such experience might placate me, but I honestly believe the narrative, presentation, Aim Controller and gameplay combine for a superior adventure.
First, I want to address criticism of this shooter as it compares with other genre titles. Sure it can be played with a standard controller and TV display, but it was designed from the ground up as a VR experience and to approach it otherwise defeats the purpose. The Farpoint With Aim Controller Bundle is the only version I played.
That's not to say it can't or shouldn't be compared with FPS games, but it really is fundamentally different and that distinction should carry more weight. Indeed, what is most interesting in the assessments I've read is how the game suffers by genre standards but nonetheless is a uniquely fun, immersive and compelling experience.
This seeming dichotomy, combined with my own experience, is what makes me optimistic for the future of VR in particular and gaming in general. Farpoint, despite it's flaws and criticisms, demonstrates a solid and entertaining foundation upon which to build other VR titles, especially FPS games.
The game opens with a sequence that, while executed well, is not exactly inspired storytelling. It's dramatic, it establishes the principals, and it sets up the action to follow. But it's a bare-bones introduction. Your pilot character, a couple spacewalking scientists, and their space station are overcome and separated by a cosmic anomaly that maroons them on a mysterious planet.
That's a simplified version of an admittedly simple premise. What follows is your journey across a hostile alien world to reunite with the others. Let's also get the following out of the way: Your trek is less a story about you than lost scientists Grant Moon and Eva Tyson. The pilot you play has zero character arc/development.
Instead, while on the trail of your lost companions, you find their holographic logs or recover their habitat recordings to piece together the mystery of their disappearance. In the process, you discover a story that is less traditional tale than psychological drama that explores our capacity to persevere in extreme situations.
If you can suspend your expectations in this regard, you'll be treated to a spectacular display of human spirit and the related highs and lows. In this regard, exceptional dialog, voice acting, motion capture, animation and graphic detail combine for a sometimes taut, sometimes poignant, always interesting journey.
This has a lot to do with the authenticity of the characters, especially Eva, who are brought to life with thoughtful portrayals and uncanny facial animation, and are on a par with the best duos I've observed in a video game (Enslaved's Monkey/Trip, Uncharted's Nathan/Elena, The Last of Us' Joel/Ellie).
Of course, how they react to, and interact with, their world is a big part of the game. Indeed, the world can function as another character and, in the case of Farpoint, the VR experience is largely dependent on how well that presentation works. For myself, I found the alien planet alluring despite often barren and inhospitable landscapes.
This is an exceptional admission given that I don't like video games set in desert-like environments. Such monochromatic, featureless, repetitive settings often alienate me to the point of disinterest, despite sometimes compelling gameplay (i.e. Far Cry 2, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Borderlands, Rage).
The planet itself is nothing extraordinary, but it's a consistent, well-realized world with detail and diversity in spite of the inhospitable environment. More importantly, perhaps, its execution in virtual reality is stunning, unlike VR titles that can suffer from poor, blurry textures, static settings or unimaginative design.
In Farpoint, rock formations include piles, giant columns or spires, stalactites and stalagmites, boulders, etc. These are found in a landscape of arches, cliffs, crevasses, caverns, craters, mountains and even an erupting volcano. Up close, rocks display smooth to rough textures and countless cracks, striations and veins.
These timeless, stationary features are accented by occasional elements that help animate this alien world. From shifting high-altitude clouds, billowing volcanic ash and wind-blown dust or debris, to realistic fires small and large, splashing water and splattering lava, environmental animation and particle effects are top-notch.
One element that can have a tremendous impact on realism and immersion is lighting. In Farpoint, it's used judiciously to make an alien world appear familiar in ways that help anchor the player in their journey. Daylight and moonlight both shine believably, creating authentic hues and shadows, as well as realistic rays.
Draw distance likewise influences our perception of this world and the degree to which we feel immersed in it, providing a sense of scale to complement the detailed textures, patterns and features of our immediate surroundings. Mountains, canyons, dunes and the landmark volcano increase the sense of wonder -- and isolation.
Despite what amounts to an essentially linear corridor shooter, walking or running around turns on a cliff or in a crevasse, climbing up or down a rise in your path, navigating a field of rock formations, or selecting which path to take all are suspenseful and feel like organic options in a world so well designed.
A nice touch that I appreciate, in a fashion that reminds me of the biomech union of H.R. Giger's art, is the seeming rock formations that more resemble skeletal remains. Found throughout the world, but ominously growing larger the farther one journeys, these features are reminiscent of giant rib cages, spines, and even a massive spider.
The overall presentation in virtual reality is impressive for the medium, but what helps truly set Farpoint apart is the implementation of otherwise standard gameplay in a VR setting. Yes, the point-and-shoot mechanic is on display here, however, the PSVR headset and Aim Controller elevate this rote method into a responsive, interactive thrill.
Such praise might seem like overkill, but for a longtime FPS fan who has become jaded by the genre, not to mention a skeptic when it comes to the utility of motion controls, the extent to which Farpoint is able to engross this player in its tale of hair-trigger survival was a pleasant surprise.
The Aim Controller itself is a solid, well-built device that also benefits from a practical design. It might not look like it would handle well, but it does. From the shape to the surface texture and controls placement, it is accessible, intuitive and practical in its execution. In game, it feels like you're holding and using a gun.
Of course, that also has a lot to do with the precision tracking, targeting and hit detection related to use of this peripheral. In concert with the PlayStation Camera, shooting is a dream, whether from the hip or looking down the virtual scope. I even used it one-handed like a pistol with the same high degree of accuracy.
The variety of weapons and enemy types, while limited, were enough to keep gunplay entertaining throughout. Players begin with a kind of assault rifle/rocket launcher, then acquire a shotgun/grenade launcher, precision rifle, alien plasma rifle and alien spike launcher. The assault rifle, with unlimited ammo, proved the most effective.
Two weapons can be part of one's inventory at any time. Switching between an equipped weapon and a stored weapon involves raising the former over one's shoulder as if retrieving the latter. Reload also is easy, as is using secondary fire for the assault rifle or shotgun. Doing all these on the fly is important to one's survival, especially when faced with varied or multiple foes.
Hostile indigenous and alien life take several forms, each presenting their own challenge. The former include a variety of spiders: Small or medium-sized ones that burrow (small ones also leap long distances), bigger ones that launch gaseous projectiles, and large, lumbering ones that charge. There is also a giant boss spider that stomps and launches projectiles.
Their AI is decent, with the faster small ones quickly scurrying in different directions, the medium-sized ones will mostly burrow until nearby, the bigger ones strafe from a distance, and the large tank-like spiders will shield themselves from attack. The rifle, shotty and secondary fire from both, respectively, are most effective against foes in order of smallest to largest.
Alien enemies include airborne drones that fire balls of energy (if I recall); tall mechs that fire lasers, launch mortars and emit a rock-pulverizing beam; and humanoid foes that carry plasma rifles and spike launchers. All such opponents mostly stay on the move, while humanoid aliens can leap and will seek cover. The latter also include snipers.
As with indigenous foes, the closer or larger the enemy, the more firepower is required. It's worth noting here that pickups in the form of ammo (grenades/rockets) and weapons can be found in every open, arena-type area. When you first find these, stock up, because it means a lot of enemies are about to be thrown your way.
Speaking of, the precision rifle that is found around the time alien opponents appear is effective against snipers and regular humanoid foes at range. Ammo for it, however, is in pretty short supply. Conversely, I found the alien plasma rifle, which has unlimited ammo though has to charge, and spike launcher both were relatively underwhelming.
Combat follows a familiar pattern of introduce enemy types one by one, increase their numbers, then add variety in arena-type battles. Unlike some critics, I never tired of the enemy types or the combat. I always felt immersed in the action, except when certain issues arose (more to follow). Battles were never too easy, nor too difficult, though I did die repeatedly.
It's possible some gamers might feel there is not enough challenge, but given the numbers and variety (requiring adjusting tactics and weapon or ammo choice on the fly), I always was fully engaged in each fight. In this regard, the precision of the Aim Controller (plus PSVR headset and PlayStation camera) helped immensely.
It also helps that, unlike some other VR games, Farpoint never made me nauseous. I played standing and used the default settings, which allow forward, backward and side-to-side movement. Turning is disabled, and although I discovered later that there are alternative settings, I honestly prefer the immersion of turning my body. I played for hours straight and only felt limited discomfort.
Farpoint, of course, is far from perfect. Besides issues mentioned above, specific annoyances include an invincible sniper (above, bottom) whose insta-kill attack got me even when standing behind a large rock formation (players have to sneak past undetected below his position), and (SPOILER) a late-game mech that can be used (above, top) but not by the player.
Other problems are due to technical limitations, such as a visible grid behind you that indicates where the PlayStation camera cannot see (and therefore where you cannot shoot), enemies that helpfully will sprint from behind when you've passed them, and equipped weapons that are out of alignment when they've gone off camera and have to be recalibrated.
While there is opportunity for improvement, Farpoint for me honestly is a dream come true. In many respects, it is the VR experience I've been waiting for all these years -- an entertaining journey that effectively immerses players in its engrossing world and kinetic action in a way that non-VR games cannot. I felt like a space pilot fighting for survival on a hostile alien world.
Its shortcomings can annoy at times but rarely broke my immersion. Impulse Gear has crafted a quality VR shooter that in my opinion fulfills the promise of the medium while laying the groundwork to improve upon it. And I haven't even explored two-player co-op! As a sign of things to come, this VR title, more than any other, has me excited for the medium.
Originally published on GameInformer.com March 6, 2017, at 4:00 PM.
Selected for Game Informer Newsletter, 3/11/17.
4,537 views as of June 4, 2018.
Update 6/4/18: Select screenshots from this pictorial appear at bottom.
The open beta for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands not only increased my anticipation for the game since playing the closed beta, but also added to my list of post-release fixes that would improve the entertainment value and appeal for this latest entry in the popular shooter franchise. Especially in a year that's already shaping up to showcase solid competition in a variety of genres, resting on the series' laurels won't be enough to stand out from a crowded field of top-tier games.
In the closed beta I played several hours solo, relying on squad AI and a simple command wheel to support my tactical approach to each scenario. For the open beta I mostly played with GIO friends Brian Seavey (Noobtubin8er), Joyful Penguin, Chris Mrkvicka and TheSniperXI. Though, mostly tormented is likely more apt, as for instance, I 'naded Brian into a sealed building (above), and literally drove Richard (TheSniperXI) crazy by driving us off-road.
What are friends for, right? Co-op play, however, did demonstrate pros and cons related to this mode. Joining another's game is easy, whether inviting them or selecting the join option, and gameplay seemed pretty stable. All players can obtain the same items from crates. And reviving each other is relatively straightforward. On that note, the ability to opt out of a revive, thereby eliminating the countdown timer, would be appreciated (instead of having to wait till you expire).
Also, Richard and I found out that when one teammate fast travels, the other(s) does not accompany them. If I recall correctly, your teammates also do not appear on your game map, though they do show up on the minimap. Enabling team fast travel and more obvious team markers would help boost team play. What also would help, is allowing for a full four-person squad at all times, including a mix of real and AI partners. Losing all AI comrades when even one real player joins can be problematic.
The open beta helped assuage some concerns about the level of competition, but even this new appreciation was based more on added gameplay elements instead of improved enemy AI. Going against Unidad (army) forces, for example, is tougher by virtue of increased armor and combat options such as mortar attacks and alarms that attract gunships (above). But improved AI that actively (and uniformly) flanks and seeks cover would help immensely.
Similarly, better teammate AI and deeper squad controls would benefit gameplay. While commands like Fire, Hold, Go To and Regroup are reasonably intuitive to execute (though the radial command can be imprecise) and faithfully followed, it would be nice to have comrades who return fire (without the Fire command), and who could be commanded individually instead of en masse. As in some other squad shooters, positioning everyone independently prior to ordering an assault would be optimum.
I was able to confirm during the open beta that your avatar does take cover (above) without having to use a button to stick to it. They will lean in to cover when next to it, and actual lean out when aiming from behind cover. For my money, this is an ideal use of a cover mechanic. AI teammates will also stay low and move to/from cover in general, though can be caught outside cover at inopportune times. Thankfully, teammates reliably revive each other, including the player.
Other areas for improvement include the narrative and dialog, which can be more original and less cheesy, respectively. Likewise, side missions would benefit by being less generic and repetitive (instead of typical secure, retrieve, escort operations). Of course these are based on about six hours of open/closed beta gameplay, so could offer more depth in the final game. Also, better vehicle controls (i.e. less floaty, more precise steering) would help traverse the open world, which generally is well designed.
There are plenty of improvements that can be made even post-release, and I hope Ubisoft will embrace those opportunities. Make no mistake, I've enjoyed the hours I've already put into this game in the closed and open betas, and I'm looking forward to playing a lot more of this game. The open-world, co-op squad-based shooter field is somewhat limited, and Ghost Recon is the kind of franchise that can fill that niche. And with some tweaks, Wildlands can succeed in doing much more than that.
Originally published on GameInformer.com August 19, 2016, at 5:00 PM.
Selected for Blog Herding -- The Best Blogs of the Community, 8/25/16.
4,108 views as of June 4, 2018.
Update 6/4/18: Select screenshots from this pictorial appear at bottom.
One doesn't play No Man's Sky as much as manage it. Think space exploration sim more than space adventure and you get the idea. The thrill of discovery is what motivates gamers beyond the tedium of resource management, though it's possible that over time that thrill might diminish.
The overall impression (I accidentally typed "limpression!") is one of enormity but also in comparison, and more importantly, relative insignificance. Like all explorers, you can observe and catalog sometimes fantastic discoveries, yet you leave little mark beyond the vital resources you gather to sustain your journey.
And this is the fundamental conundrum at the heart of Hello Games' ambitious undertaking. The game succeeds at instilling the sense of wonder and danger that would accompany a galactic expedition, but risks compromising that with mundane details, contrived scenarios and often barren settings.
The first time I began the game (yep, I restarted a couple times), I awoke on a desolate, inhospitable world. But what killed me was my own carelessness as I presumed the game's ubiquitous sentinels would only defend a planet's fauna. WRONG. Nonstop mining lead to a quick, overwhelming response that ended me.
Worse, it also ended my play session, as the game crashed and required about a half dozen attempts before I was able to reboot on an even more barren planet. Then, however, I had second thoughts about using my preorder promotional ship, whose hyperdrive prevents finding the related blueprint necessary for building said equipment in new ships.
But the third time proved the charm as I ended up on a relatively more inviting world with a variety of interesting flora and fauna above ground (above), not to mention long, colorful, luminescent caverns below ground (below) that reminded me of the same in series like The Elder Scrolls. The one notable exception is the lack of intelligent life.
The most common form of "intelligent" life are the AI sentinels that patrol every world (above, top), but interaction is related to observation or attack. One option that would help deepen gameplay and reduce the tedium of resource management, is if such sentinels could be hacked, provided there was a related upgrade in the game.
A hacking minigame a la BioShock could enable these roving bots to work for you, whether scanning resources over a wider range then your equipment allows, or protecting you against hostile drones or predators. It would vary action, speed up processes and add entertainment value.
Gamers will encounter intelligent species (above) in space stations and seemingly on every celestial body, inhabiting shelters, outposts, space ports, etc. In my experience, without exception, these creatures -- like your character -- lead solitary lives as sole operators of their habitats, including spacecraft.
To me, this is odd and represents an opportunity. In the vast expanse of space, it only makes sense to have redundant systems, whether equipment or their operators. In the game world, more creatures can provide drama, comedy or, importantly, practical gameplay options. I suggest a recruit ability to build your own crew.
The immediate impact, as in Bethesda titles like TES or Fallout, is to have someone that has the inventory capacity to carry additional items for you and also can back you up when necessary, whether defending you or attacking in concert. The former option alone can dramatically improve gameplay efficiency.
Likewise, upgrading one's crew to include even more members (think Freedom Fighters) as you obtain larger vessels allows potentially more resource gathering or at least more combat options while in flight. In this way, the dynamic of the game can change over time as you and your crew/vessel grow.
Yes, this can fundamentally change the tenor of No Man's Sky, but over time. As you invest more time and effort in the game, you get more in return, rather than encountering the same general gameplay from beginning to end. Nevermind that I think it's just more realistic to begin with.
One related benefit is hiring someone who can help translate a language. This likewise would make learning language more efficient instead of relying on finding scattered landmarks that impart a word here and there. Plus the option to have regular dialog (and dialog trees) could add more story or entertainment value.
As is, I do appreciate the inclusion of other spacefaring souls to interact with, whether attempting communication (sometimes comically) or trading. It also allows you to upgrade your ship, receive equipment or loot, and learn new words. But it's no Mass Effect, nor does it intend to be.
Indeed the solitude of each creature emphasizes the often lonely existence of those inhabiting outposts or undertaking expeditions. This perception is reinforced by some of the observations you make during such encounters. But it also highlights the need for more populous areas on occasion.
Ruins, monoliths and other cultural landmarks (above, below) add a measure of depth and context to your isolated encounters. Like your discussions with other beings, you can be given the opportunity to interact with found artifacts. This involves a choice of action, each with its own consequence, though in my experience they're not significant.
These add another element of discovery and mystery, not to mention gameplay options, and are therefore appreciated on those merits. But as with other areas of the game, there are missed opportunities. For instance, adding puzzles to such landmarks or artifacts would help broaden activity in the game, as well as increase the entertainment value.
Such puzzles or other gameplay options would not be included just for the sake of variety, as they are not unexpected for landmarks imbued with a sense of cultural significance as these often are. Puzzles would serve to protect their secrets or important artifacts from interlopers or scavengers.
Some landmarks encase revelations (SPOILER above, bottom). I hesitate to label it a spoiler, as its significance so far appears to be limited or at least just not yet revealed. But given the threadbare narrative (note that I am not following the Atlas path in the game), such tidbits of information are a welcome addition.
The one above provided an interesting twist on my relations with the species, and made me question my affiliation with them, though again the implications are unclear. Of course, as other commentators have pointed out, a more dedicated narrative (presuming the Atlas path is not that) would help add a great deal of drama and investment in the game.
Landmarks can be found seemingly on every planet and perhaps celestial body in general and, like the worlds themselves, can exhibit a variety of design choices that add to the game's aesthetic. Why I've only found barren or semi-arid solar systems I don't know, but others appear to enjoy much more lush locales. In any event, I enjoy the architectural choices I've seen thus far.
Hostile spacecraft start making routine appearances seemingly after you begin warping through the cosmos. I tend to avoid such encounters at this point because I'm typically outgunned either due to sheer numbers or quality of weapons or defenses. My only encounter had me destroy one ship but take heavy damage and have to flee to the planet surface.
There are distress beacons that are activated upon hostiles' arrival, but I haven't responded to one yet. Still, these are some of those contrived scenarios I mentioned (besides, for instance, every single spacecraft having no fuel or working hyperdrive and, apparently, just barely limping in to a spaceport or space station).
The fact that hostiles now tend to appear whenever I enter a planet's orbit, and actually warp right to my location the moment that happens, feels a little too convenient. It's one thing if after an encounter they had managed to put a tracking device on my ship, but my lack of interaction with them precludes such an explanation.
The one dogfight I engaged in demonstrated relatively responsive controls, targeting and hit detection. It wasn't completely smooth or intuitive, but also wasn't difficult or frustrating. Combat felt like a happy medium that, with more experience, might prove second nature. At least I haven't read of any complaints in this area.
Like the sometimes sensational flora, fauna comes in all shapes and sizes. Discoveries in this field are some of the most entertaining and enjoyable finds and, like overall planetary ecosystems in general, are a prime motivation for progressing through the universe. The creature above was like an angry Hit Girl puppy dog that actually made me feel sorry for having to kill it.
Over time one finds variations on a theme with regard to flora and fauna, and the above creature differed from another (I think on a different planet) by virtue of its horn and growths on its shielded back. Actually seeing the variation is interesting in the context of evolution (or more precisely the programming formulas that led to their existence).
Some creatures truly defy description, however, and the one above was possibly the most bizarre I've found. It had a perfect round purple ball head with spherical white eyes and a cone-shaped protrusion (I couldn't tell if it was a nose, mouth or both, or neither!), a kind of chicken's body and appendages minus the wings, a prehistoric sail on its back, and an I don't know what kind of tail.
Sometimes creatures' habitat can exhibit almost as much, if not more, character than the animals themselves. The above setting found the animal moving through a kind of weird pumpkin patch with large, peculiarly shaped lava-rock composite formations and seemingly molten cores beneath their sheltering arches.
Some predators can give you a start as you try and figure out what exactly is attacking you. Like the above oddball critters, creatures can resemble mythological Chimeras in their peculiar combination of features seemingly taken at random from other more familiar species. I believe in such cases the technical term is "mut," though I settled on "Sorbinius Agravatid" for one (top) thanks to its unfriendly disposition.
The best discoveries are just plain goofy like the above planet, where inhabitants were big, boxy creatures that bounced, scooted or floated across the surface. Some resembled green land-based jellyfish, potatoes with leafy hair and a single center stalk (think Alfalfa of Little Rascals), an organic vacuum cleaner attachment with over-sized regal collar, and a sack of protruding eyeballs with horn crown.
Likely the most graceful animal I've encountered is the kind of airborne giant eel that floats elegantly across alien skies (above). Despite having a head that mostly closely resembles the burrowing predators of Tremors, these flying creatures travel in pairs, are benign and are an impressive site above any vista.
Even relatively barren planets can still have beautiful and varied landscapes as well as flora and fauna. This is the real draw of Hello Games' storied procedural generation behind No Man's Sky. The variety, mystery and wonder of each ecosystem and every interaction fuels one's curiosity and determination to reach each new celestial body.
The fact that there are glitches, especially in a game this expansive and complex on some levels, is not unexpected and do occur (whether the crash I experienced at the start, or various graphical and sometimes gameplay snafus since then -- see above and below). But the technical achievement of this title, in particular by such a small design team, is awe-inspiring in its own right.
The one gameplay goof I experienced since the beginning crash involved my attempting to launch my spacecraft from the ground of one planet. Immediately the vessel stalled and shook violently in place no matter which direction I turned it. Trying to land proved impossible so after a minute or so I managed to hop out, injuring myself on the way.
I searched the terrain for my ship and began to panic when I couldn't find it anywhere, until I look up at the stone pillar nearby and saw my craft on the top edge. Thankfully, my jet pack got me within boarding reach and I was able to then fly off the planet surface, but it left me wondering what I could have done had I not have been able to reach it.
Adding insult to injury, I had a similar experience, though this time of my own making as I landed on top of a large plant. Landing can be a guessing game as there is no corresponding view of your landing area, though I take responsibility for this embarrassment. This kind of repeat performance made me wonder if designers purposely limited such structures to jet pack heights. : D
After visiting multiple planets I had little luck finding significant reserves of Emeril so took my time plundering pillars of gold on one planet I came across. There is actually method to the madness, as carving a hole in the bottom not only provides shelter from caustic elements but also from the prying "eye" of policing sentinels.
The problem with mining in general, and giant pillars or other substantial mineral deposits in particular, is how tedious the process can become. As with Mass Effect 2's planet scanning feature, the process can be long and boring. Worse, it can be dangerous. I fell asleep mining towers of Emeril on a subsequent planet.
Imagine my panic when I awoke without any of the resources I had gathered or mined despite having spent an hour or two engaged in just such an effort. I knew my exosuit and life support must have whittled away from neglect against the elements, leaving me exposed to the punishing elements. I rebooted the game's first of two prior saves, forgetting I could retrieve resources from my "grave."
While another of my goofs, this episode highlights the need to streamline this process, make other routines more efficient, and also vary and expand gameplay opportunities. It's easy to say, of course, and takes nothing away from what Hello Games accomplished with this ambitious -- and impressive -- title.
It might seem like I'm a critic, but in fact I'm a big fan of No Man's Sky. I can't wait to explore more of the cosmos, discover countless new species and habitats, and dive deeper into this imaginative setting. And it's because I enjoy what I have played that I'd love to see updates to enhance the experience in general.
In my opinion, No Man's Sky is a good game, and highly recommended for what has been accomplished. For explorers like me, it's practically a must play. With some tweaks here and there, it can broaden it's appeal and create an even deeper and more satisfying gaming experience. In the meantime, I will happily lose myself in its grandeur.
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