The platformer genre is one that initially stood out as challenging, with titles like Metroid, Contra, and Pitfall. Eventually, it expanded to larger 3d worlds that developers enriched to offer more than just jumping from platform-to-platform. After that grew repetitive, the number of platformers in the AAA market began to dwindle. Fortunately, many 2D platformers have emerged from independent developers and are putting their unique twists on the genre.
The indie side of the games industry is generally filled with a predictable gamut of stories: Failure, success, and horror of acquisitions that leave a once-rising company gutted. Once a game has been picked up by a larger publisher – whether or not that publisher makes good on changes and promises – it's rare that we ever hear of the developer being “indie” again. In the case of Desert Owl Games' Pox Nora, a title acquired by SOE in 2009, the game's creator was able to reacquire his title when it was under threat of being killed by SOE.
Pox Nora's story is an interesting one that grants insight to the industry's growth during an earlier time. The game shipped in 2006, but had been in development since roughly 2004, meaning it lived through the initial hesitance of digital distribution, the abuse of the free-to-play market, and the maturation of that market.
I went into my review of Turtle Rock’s Evolve questioning how replayable a seemingly barebones multiplayer offering would be. I knew I wouldn’t be able to swap between several loadouts in-game or customize my character’s armor after each round. I also knew I would spend more time on tactical actions than head-on combat. Whether or not Evolve’s core experience would be rewarding and replayable after several hours as the various Hunter classes and Monsters was the main question I searched for to justify the game’s price-point of $60. (Quick aside: We benchmarked Evolve here, for those curious about which video cards are best for the game).
I’ve come out appreciating how the game strengthens its core experience and offers players the ability to do more with fewer tools than, for example, a Battlefield or Call of Duty game. Evolve offers rewards for trying out new ways of using its characters’ weapons and abilities, rather than tie players to class-specific roles in every detail. I’m still struggling to feel as rewarded with the Monsters as I am with the Hunters, but the game keeps encouraging me to take on that challenge. It’s a challenge few games provided in a multiplayer space, and it’s something that can appeal to noncompetitive audiences.
We're revisiting our Evolve benchmark, now that the game has fully launched and (some) drivers have been updated. Our previous Evolve bench tested the game's beta, but disclaimed heavily that the beta meant a lack of driver support and software-side optimization. The return benchmark uses much of the same methodology and represents the same game as previously, so this article will be a bit shorter in length.
With the likes of Dreadnought and Star Citizen looming ominously on the horizon, there's a fair split between impending combat-intensive and sim-intensive space games.
In our preview of Dreadnought, we explain that it plays like an FPS might, but casts players into battleships that move on six axes; this creates a fast-paced, competitive atmosphere without imposing the simulation aspects deployed in most space games. Then there's Star Citizen, which has gone off the deep-end with strategic depth, story telling, combat and mercantile mechanics, and roleplaying options. This leaves little room for players who want a space sim without the inaccessible complexity of X3, Evochron Mercenary, and depth of Star Citizen. Elite: Dangerous took a chunk of this niche, but there's room for more.
As exciting as 2015 will be for video game releases, it will be equally as exciting for news and developments emerging from post-2015 titles. We’ve known the next Mass Effect game has been in development for at least several months, and probably longer than that, but the game is far from release. Bioware GM Aaron Flynn posted on Neogaf about his team’s outlook on expanding the Mass Effect universe and supporting that through the gameplay.
The next Mass Effect -- which has not been named “Mass Effect 4” -- will mark the series’ debut on the new consoles, assuming we don’t get a remastering of a series collection (we’ve seen enough of those). Dragon Age may be Bioware’s next-biggest existing IP, but even so, Flynn is adamant that Mass Effect’s core experience, or gameplay “template,” will not be the same; in other words, it won’t be as closely linked as From Software titles (Dark Souls and Bloodborne) or Ubisoft’s heavy-hitters Assassin’s Creed & Watch Dogs.
Below, we examine Flynn’s insight and discuss some of the ways Bioware can take its IP and construct a stronger core gameplay offering. This article does not explore storyline continuity or love interests among quarians and volus, as much as I’d love to get into that, so prepare yourself for some Mass Effect meat & potatoes.
Space games are everywhere. The industry goes through waves of genre- or setting-specific infatuation, and this era of gaming seems to be obsessive about space sims and spaceship battles. The looming monolith is Star Citizen, as we all know, but there's also the recently-released Elite: Dangerous, indie newcomers Rebel Galaxy and Voidspace, and non-sim games like Dreadnought.
Space sims are notoriously learning- and time-intensive, making them somewhat inaccessible to gamers who seek nothing more than space-flight combat and the obliteration of massive capital ships. That's where games like Dreadnought come into play, developed by Yager and housed under Greybox alongside Grey Goo.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Richard Garriott de Cayeux, known to his fans as "Lord British," and Starr Long about the current designs for Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. One of the design aspects I found truly fascinating was their player-driven economy model. This shouldn't sound that strange, as almost everyone MMO appears to hype such ambitions, but few actually manage to produce an economy that doesn't self-destruct.
2015 promises to be one of the most-celebrated years for video games in recent memory. The Witcher 3, No Man’s Sky, Uncharted 4, and Halo 5: Guardians are among the heavily discussed titles to release this year. Q1 should keep gamers fairly busy with remastered classics, new IP from acclaimed studios, a strong showing of 3DS games, and a PC-optimized title we’ve been demanding for quite some time. Among these, we’ll be reviewing and benchmarking major PC titles, as we’ve already done with Evolve’s beta.
Here’s GamersNexus’ most anticipated games releasing in Q1 2015, listed by order of confirmed release date.