At Microsoft’s E3 press conference on Monday morning, there was a video montage of a lot of games that are coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program. Over the next few days, XBLA Fans is bringing you a slightly longer glimpse of those titles than what the montage trailer allowed for. Our coverage of these titles will be in alphabetical order. Following is a look at the third set of seven of those games.
Known best for the Dead Island and Call of Juarez series, Techland is currently working on the Chrome Engine 6-powered dark fantasy action title Hellraid for Xbox One as well as PC and PlayStation 4. Hellraid, which is set in a world that has been invaded by the forces of — wait for it — hell, was first announced in 2013 and originally envisioned as a Dead Island mode. It will have both single-player and two, three and four-player co-op options that give players melee, magic and ranged combat abilities for use in dispatching invading demon scum. Techland is promising diverse fighting styles for the game's various weapons, which naturally includes the ability to crush skulls with hammers. If you're not the skull-crushing type, then perhaps the game's various crossbows or spells will be more your style.
At Microsoft's E3 press conference on Monday morning, there was a video montage of a lot of games that are coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program. Over the next few days, XBLA Fans is bringing you a slightly longer glimpse of those titles than what the montage trailer allowed for. Our coverage of these titles will be in alphabetical order. Below is a look at the second set of seven of those games.
Earthlock features a world divided between those that prefer magic and those that prefer technology. In this turn-based RPG from Snowcastle Games, you will play as Amon who is trying to prevent a war from starting in his home planet Umbra. In your quest to save your planet you'll encounter various terrains including oceans, deserts, and snow-buried lands. Throughout your journey you will try and obtain more allies to join your quest, solve environmental puzzles, and harvest seeds to grow your own ammo.
At Microsoft's E3 press conference on Monday morning, there was a video montage of a lot of games that are coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program. Over the next few days, XBLA Fans is bringing you a slightly longer glimpse of those titles than what the montage trailer allowed for. Our coverage of these titles will be in alphabetical order. Below is a look at the first seven of those games.
Previously known in the United States as Out of This World, Another World might recall the original Prince of Persia — both titles were animated in similar fashion, using rotoscoping to create more precise animations than were previously possible in the early 1990s. This 20th Anniversary Edition, developed by The Digital Lounge, looks to be more historical preservation than remaster, which shouldn't stop modern gamers from getting a taste of the old world by looking at this forgotten gem.
As the digital compliment to the largest trading card game on the planet, Magic – Duels of the Planeswalkers has arguably been the most accessible entry point in the intricate, often intimidating world of Magic: The Gathering. Since its quick dominance of Xbox Live Arcade in 2009, the franchise has returned year after year, always touting new features, storylines and game modes as the annualized gateway into the scene. This year’s entry, Magic 2015 – Duels of the Planeswalkers, is finally delivering on something fans have been after since the beginning, the chance to battle with your personally customized deck across the planes.
Even when they're right in front of your face, you can't see words written in invisible ink without "decoding" them. It's appropriate then that you can't see what's right in front of your face in Klei Entertainment's Invisible Inc. without first performing what amounts to in-game decoding work.
The game's PAX East demo places the player in a room of some evil corporation or another's building. In the room is a pair of controllable secret agents who are equipped with skills and equipment to furtively navigate their way past guards and turrets and to the top of the building. We don't get to see what's at the top, but Klei explains that at the top of buildings will be the culmination of "multifaceted" objectives. Several floors must be accessed and information and/or keycards obtained along the way before ultimately cracking a computer core or something of the sort.
"The main objective of each floor is to get to the next floor," says Klei's Matthew Marteinsson, "but there will be some objectives that you can complete along the way. And there’s different things you can find, like documentation for your player. We give a bonus for exploring the whole floor. You get more credits the more you explore, you get credits for not having killed anybody. So those sort of things that you can…do if you want to do."
Klei wants players to explore the buildings they enter as much as possible. To do that, we'll have to get out of that room we started in. Invisible Inc. is turn-based, and each room's floor consists of tile grids. Moving agents across tiles costs movement points, of which naturally come in limited supply per turn. Once I've moved the agents as far as I can towards the room's exit door the unseen enemy takes its turn, scurrying about performing unseen actions in the surrounding blacked-out rooms. Well, not entirely unseen. The game shows dotted lines and arrows indicating where the bad guys are moving in the darkness.
It is the first day of PAX East, and XBLA Fans is at our third appointment of the day. It's with the Danish developer Press Play, which, just a couple hours before our meeting, announced its next contribution to Xbox, Project Totem. Little is known about the game, except that it's a platformer involving totem poles. Arriving at the booth, I see two mini totem pieces moving along a world made up primarily of two colors corresponding to the totem pieces. Watching it, I think to myself, "Well, this looks simple enough." But as it goes with most things in life that appear simple, reality is an entirely different scenario. Within minutes of sitting down to play the demo I was both equally addicted and frustrated.
Playing solo was challenging, but I had all the control. Enter co-op mode. Are you and a friend/loved one looking for that next classic two-player game that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside like that fat plumber and his green-clad brother used to? Great, you should probably look elsewhere then. Project Totem's co-op mode requires a level of communication rarely found in games, which means it could make or break your friendships. You and your partner may realize that you make a great team and work well together — or you may end up never speaking to each other again, with one of you left with a bloody nose from the impact of the other's Xbox controller.
Approximately 30 seconds after picking up a controller to try Capybara's Below, I was ready to call it quits. Don't get me wrong – Below was the absolute best thing I saw at PAX, and I doubt that anyone on the XBLA Fans PAX East team would disagree. But a game built on the twin foundations of exploration and discovery is a game that should be played, as Capy president and co-founder Nathan Vella eloquently put it, “on my couch at home with the lights off.”
It's not just that the deafening, stroboscopic show floor at PAX East isn't the best venue at which to play Capy's latest effort. Below is a journey that players should approach with as little prior knowledge as possible, and figuring out how to play is meant to be almost as much of an adventure as the game itself.
"We have no text. There are no tutorials. There are no waypoints or directors or very little UI of any type," says Vella. "You explore the island, eventually find your way into the depths, but you're also exploring: what are the controls? How nimble am I? Why am I so small? Why am I weak? That exploration really feeds every element of the game."
You'll want to steer, but you won't be able to. Charles Cox doesn't want you to. Endless space-based video games have taught gamers to manipulate analog sticks, a d-pad or a keyboard and mouse to steer all manner of spacecraft to precisely where they want them to go. Habitat: A Thousand Generations in Orbit doesn't work that way. Physics have the wheel in 4gency's strategy game, and they'll be doing all of the steering. Cox hopes the approach will work.
He showed up at PAX East last month with a playable demo of his ID@Xbox title. Actually, it was more a proof of concept than a proper demo — 4gency put together a playable outer space sandbox and filled it with junk, lots and lots of junk. There was no objective or end point to the demo. Instead, players were free to take the orbiting hunk of junk they started with (the titular habitat), weld whatever debris they pleased onto it and propel the thing through the space. Doing so is easier said than done.
Your habitat is an unwieldy thing, as you might expect a floating mass of rock, rockets and pieces of famous landmarks to be. Movement is based on physics, so, again, there's no steering controls for your rubble-craft. What you do have control over is the placement of rockets, the rockets you want to fire up at any given time and how much thrust you want from those rockets. A mistake at any of these three levels of propulsion oversight will lead to your habitat either careening off of other objects and being smashed to pieces or performing the spacecraft equivalent of doing donuts in a car parking lot. On top of that, players also have to manage electricity and oxygen levels, as some of one or the other is necessary for rocket power.
Taking control of a habitat, I immediately screw the entire thing up by unintentionally playing bumper cars with surrounding space debris. Crucial parts of the habitat are torn asunder and most of its inhabitants are killed. Cox restarts the demo and advises me on what to do. Even with his over-the-shoulder guidance, it's next to impossible to not make a mistake. I continually place rockets in ill-advised locations, place one rocket where there should be a pair and apply improper amounts of thrust. There's no shortage of space junk in the demo, and I crash into most of it during my play session.
Cox says that there's "an art to this." If so, Leonardo Da Vinci I am not. A successful go at things seems unfeasible, but then again, there are no conditions for success in the demo, so perhaps things will be different in the final game.
It's a shame that Xbox owners missed out on last year's smash hit Guacamelee, but DrinkBox Studios is about that by bringing bring Guacamelee to all platforms with an expanded version called Super Turbo Championship Edition (STCE). XBLA Fans caught up with DrinkBox Co-founder Graham Smith at PAX East and spoke to Lead Designer Greg Lesky via email to find out more about what this new version of Guacamelee is all about, how it has evolved and why you should be excited.
For those not acquainted with Guacamelee, Lesky describes it as "a metroid-vania platformer where you play a farmer named Juan whose girlfriend gets kidnapped by a guy named Carlos Calaca bent on ruling both the Land of the Living and the Dead. He then kills Juan, who finds a mystical Luchador Mask that gives Juan the powers of a Mexican wrestler and [Juan returns] to the Land of the Living to stop him." With these powers, the player fights, jumps and dimension-swaps to defeat Calaca's undead hordes and save his girlfriend…and the world. The Super Turbo Championship Edition features all-new levels, enemies, upgrades, fixes and a boss fight, making this the definitive version of DrinkBox's biggest game yet.
The crawlers keep crawling, and the drip keeps dripping in Defense Grid 2.
Hidden Path Entertainment's sequel to its 2008 tower defense game features a new resource and score system known as "the drip," and it works exactly as planned: it makes games winnable for greenhorns while keeping aces chasing after higher scores that are achieved by killing crawling aliens with all manner of haste.
Never having played Defense Grid: The Awakening, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect out of its follow-up when I picked up the controller at PAX East. From the outset, the player is confronted with a multitude of options for defending the base from unwanted pests and a cluster of information tracking your progress in this endeavor. The amount of data and options on the screen paired with the constant march of baddies out of their gate, towards my tower and back again with poached cores in tow could have been overwhelming. It could have been, but it wasn't. Hidden Path Entertainment saw to that with its streamlined presentation of data, tower building options and drip-drop of resources. Everything was pleasantly intuitive and easily manageable.
Sometimes, divorce is the answer
Being intuitive for beginners while remaining fun and challenging for experts is exactly what Hidden Path was aiming for with its sequel. Though it's impossible to report on the latter, I can tell you that the studio pulled off the former with aplomb. The drip, which Polygon first reported on here, allows for resources to constantly accumulate as a line graph tracks your score in the upper right corner of the screen. Regardless of what your score is, your resource distribution rate remains the same. The rate of the drip in the PAX build allowed me to erect large quantities of a mixture of the six tower types present (cannon, missile, laser, gun, inferno and tesla) and upgrade many of them to carry more firepower.
Executive Producer Jeff Pobst explains that his team separated score from resource distribution in Defense Grid 2 in order to avoid the "negative feedback loop" that many players got stuck in due to poor decision making in the first game. As Pobst describes it, novices would waste too many of their resources early on building the wrong types of towers or placing towers in poor positions. This would leave them unable to repel enemies and unable to gather enough resources to compensate for their mistakes. Meanwhile, top players would dominate early on and find themselves with an embarrassment of riches, making victory too easily achieved.