After nearly a year of open beta, Path of Exile has finally reached version 1.0. The release will conclude this chapter’s story and bring with it a slew of new features, including a prestige class, the Scion, which is unlockable by beating the game in Normal Difficulty. It’s also available on Steam for the first time.
Path of Exile’s itemization and passive skill tree impressed me when the open beta first began, and since then it seems like Grinding Gear Games has made good on their promise to continue making improvements and expanding their ambitious multiplayer modes. And it’s free-to-play still, so if you’re a fan of ARPGs, there’s no reason not to try it out – PoE is supported entirely by the purchase of cosmetic effects and account improvements (extra character slots and stash tabs).
Set on the border of the fictional communist country of Arstotzka, Papers, Please puts you in the shoes of an Arstotzkan immigration inspector, approving and denying entry to a long line of hapless travelers each day. This entails shuffling documents around with your mouse and highlighting discrepancies in them, such as mismatched passport information or photo identification. With each passing day, your time limit remains more or less set, but the number of possible discrepancies you need to be aware of increases, ramping up the challenge.
This is a lot more exciting than it sounds, since your entire family is counting on your paycheck and a good day on the job will barely allow you to cover the necessities of living. Even when you’re 99% sure that someone has the right papers, it’s always a tense moment as they walk out the door and you listen for the familiar click-clack of a costly citation paper being printed out. But what elevates Papers, Please above a game jam novelty (far above) is that there’s a lot more going on than what takes place in your cramped inspector’s booth – politics, violence, moral ambiguities, and even humor pass through along with the people, and as you keep playing you start to realize how much power you have in your little role. It’s not long before your decisions begin to extend beyond your family’s sustenance (although that remains paramount).
It’s a bizarre premise for a video game, but it works very well, thanks to some great design on the part of creator Lucas Pope. The myriad details and keen audiovisuals bring the small booth of the immigration inspector to life, and from behind the dull counter top I felt more like a spy than in most of the spy-themed action titles I’ve played. Glory to Arstotzka(?)!
Back in December of 2012, my radar lit up when a prototype gameplay video of something called Enemy Starfighter hit the web. I hadn’t heard of it before then, but I immediately knew it was something I had been waiting my life for: a dogfighting space simulator with an integrated “planning phase” akin to that seen in early Rainbow Six games. Select the ships for the job, customize their weapon loadouts, designate their targets, and begin the assault – then jump into the cockpit of the wing leader and engage the enemy directly. It all seemed like a game I would dream up while playing Wing Commander or Homeworld when I was younger, and it was real.
Today, Enemy Starfighter has come quite a way from that original prototype video. It is still far from complete, but developer Mike Tipul has seen fit to show us its current state in a new teaser trailer and several new screenshots over at the game’s website. Enemy Starfighter is the debut game for Tipul’s one-man dev studio Maurader Interactive, and he has been working on it non-stop for the past year. Both the intense dogfighting and the beautiful planning phase that we saw in the original video have been polished, and larger ships have been unveiled, including capital ships, carriers, and even beam frigates.
For the finished project, Tipul is planning to inject a bit of a roguelike element into the game by means of a procedurally-generated campaign. Players will be tasked with leading the Empire’s Harbinger Fleet from system to system, crushing any and all Federation forces that lie in your way. Every time you start a new campaign, the game will generate a new galaxy for you to conquer with different systems, different enemy forces, different missions, and – hopefully – different emergent stories for you to tell of how you crushed the Federation beneath your heel.
[This is a guest post by phubans.]
Here’s a guest review for Mercenary Kings. I even made a video to go with it!
Mercenary Kings is simply amazing. You can always tell when you like a game – you start playing it and spend the next 8~ hours continuing to play it. It’s that good. When I started out, I did the online co-op with a few friends over a Skype call, playing on my TV with a gamepad for the full experience. Co-op was great, but I kept playing for hours after everyone else left, completely immersed in the level of depth the game had to offer.
Let me just say that this game seems to have ticked all the right boxes. It goes without saying that a game featuring the awesome art and animation of Paul Robertson is going to look great, but beyond that it even feels great; the feedback couldn’t be better. The music is also one of the game’s strong points, with driving, energetic tunes that will have you humming along. But as great as it looks, sounds, and plays, I think the most compelling feature of the game is the weapon crafting system.
As you play the game, enemies and chests will drop common, uncommon, and rare materials. Back at base camp you can use these to craft weapons, armor, and accessory upgrades. But it isn’t as simple as upgrading your gun to level 2. Perhaps the greatest aspect of Mercenary Kings is that every part of your gun is customizable – the receiver, the barrel, the stock, the magazine, etc. Using this system you can mix and match to create one of thousands of unique possible combinations.
The game also features a rank system where you’ll rank up by completing various missions, including scenarios like hostage rescue, scavenger hunts for materials, and simply neutralizing or capturing enemies and bosses. Completing some missions will unlock new NPCs to interact with as well new missions, areas, and weapon parts to craft.
If RPG elements aren’t enough to sell a Metal Slug-type game for you, then it’s probably not your cup of tea, but as far as games in this genre go, this one is pretty great and easily one of the best games I’ve played so far in 2013. For fans of the Contra and Metal Slug series who also enjoy high-level weapon customization and RPG elements, this game is most certainly a must buy.
TinyKeep is an indie 3D Action RPG title, drawing inspiration from both roguelikes and dungeon-crawler RPGs such as Ultima IV. The player is tasked with escaping the titular keep in which they have been imprisoned by exploring procedurally-generated dungeons and fighting various monsters as they progress. To increase the challenge and create a world that feels alive, the game’s sole programmer, Phi Dinh, has placed heavy focus on the project’s AI system. Dungeon inhabitants and monsters each have needs and desires, and will move about independent of player interaction in an attempt to fulfill those goals – feeding, sleeping, and interacting with each other in interesting ways. Along with the roguelike staple of procedurally-generated dungeons, Dinh hopes that these AI systems will lead to more emergent story opportunities and unique experiences for the player.
TinyKeep is currently on Kickstarter, and hoping to achieve its funding goal of only £22,162. Although it is currently more than halfway there, there are only 4 days left to achieve its goal – but with luck, we will all get the opportunity to explore and escape TinyKeep!
Ghost of a Tale is an upcoming game by Lionel Gallat, who was, among other things, the animation director for Despicable Me and The Lorax (which explains the gorgeous graphics and animation!). Ghost of a Tale takes place in a medieval animal world reminiscent of the popular young adult novel series Redwall. The player controls a small mouse and progresses through the game in the fashion of a classic action adventure game.
Ghost of a Tale is being made in Unity and is slated for a 2014 release.
Steam Greenlight: Ghost of a Tale
There’s no need to beat a dead horse but it should be mentioned – yeah, Diablo 3 was a pretty disappointing experience for me, too. It happens. However, just as the third Godfather movie didn’t mean the end of good gangster flicks, neither does the third Diablo game mean the end of good point-and-click action RPGs.
Path of Exile is one of the newer entries to the genre, and the one I’m most excited about. Unlike Torchlight, the theme and graphics are dark, gritty, and almost oppressive. And unlike Grim Dawn, PoE will be available to play later today, as an open beta. Unlike all the other Diablolikes, the game will always be free-to-play, with cosmetic microtransactions being the only source of the developer’s income from it.
Teleglitch is a top-down shooter set in a gloomy military research facility. The game reminds me of Doom in terms of theme and pacing, but has more of a survival horror bent to it, with scarce ammunition and high-damaging, fast-moving monsters. In a lot of ways, it feels like what I wanted Doom 3 to be – a mostly action-based game with less gimmicky horror elements.
Given the game’s tiny graphics, it’s impressive how detailed it looks. Overall, the aesthetics are great, with line-of-sight and sound design playing a huge part in setting a creepy atmosphere. I also like how much punch the guns pack – even a simple pistol distorts the screen and sounds explosive. This is particularly effective given the scarcity of ammo and gun-toting enemies (at least in the early stages). When I encountered my first shotgun enemy it was an exciting battle that ended with me backed pitifully into the corner of a small room – surprising, given how many similar enemies I’ve mowed down in other games!
Teleglitch also features a unique scavenging/crafting system that lets you combine items to make new ones. A nailgun, for example, can be created from a basic pistol if combined with some other items. This can be upgraded to a tri-nailgun with more materials. Armor is also crafted in a similar manner (out of the tin cans left behind when you eat food). It’s a cool idea that makes exploring more fun and gives the player options as they try to overcome the game’s high difficulty.
The influences on Teleglitch are multivarious (it’s also billed as a “roguelike”) but come together as a coherent and enjoyable experience. I haven’t gotten far enough to comment on whether it holds up throughout all ten of its levels, but so far I’m having a great time trying and dying. Action, horror, and roguelike fans should check it out – the full game is $13, but there is a four-level demo available.
What’s in the Box? is a clever puzzler from Finlay Costello, aka “finc”. The goal of the game is to carry a red box out of each level using your snake-like arm, a task complicated by the fact that the box is stopped by the red X’s and your hand is stopped by blue ones. Winning involves timing as well as puzzle-solving, and you’ll have to play perfectly (zero errors) to find out what’s in the box.
It should be mentioned that this is the first video game finc has ever made, using Game Maker 8. Congratulations!
Hotline Miami is out now! The debut of Dennaton Games, composed of Jonatan Soderstrom (aka Cactus) and Dennis Wedin, Hotline Miami is a fast paced and violent overhead action game. It’s also pretty damn great, and very difficult. The game has a lot of atmosphere, sitting somewhere between Drive and Scarface, with constant 80′s inspired techno blaring over your murderous rampage.
The crux of the game is killing dozens upon dozens of gangsters, but you’re on even footing with them, dying in a single shot (or swing). Hotline Miami’s hyper aggressive nature and near instant retries create an addictive loop of shooting and getting shot until you finally hit everything just right, everybody dies but you, and then you feel pretty dang good about your ability to brutally murder virtual people. It’s extremely cathartic and that feeling of being a golden Floridian god of death drives the whole game.
While it’s easy to gush about how good the game is, the release is hindered somewhat by a large amount of bugs, though the majority of the crashes have already been patched out. It’s still frustrating to not have achievements unlocking in Steam or getting a mask that doesn’t seem to do anything. The game’s controller support was also removed in the first patch after release due to it causing some severe issues– hopefully its absence is only temporary.
Live action release trailer after the cut:
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