We've not been shy in our fierce criticisms of VR from a gaming perspective, but the maturation of development has yielded increasingly more mechanically-focused titles targeted at gamers. Mars 2030 aims to be more than a “VR Experience,” as most titles are, and we had the opportunity to get hands-on with the new game at GTC 2016.
Mars 2030 is developed by Fusion and was first shown at the GTC keynote, the Mars rover helmed by industry icon Steve Wozniak. The open-world game takes place on the surface of Mars and deploys unique techniques to match surface color, heights, and physical interaction with terrain. It's playable on non-VR displays as well (and it does look good on 21:9 aspect ratios, based on the keynote), but hopes to stake its flag into the VR market with an agnostic disposition toward the Vive and Rift. Mars 2030 will work on both major devices.
Our hands-on impressions with Mars 2030 left us reasonably impressed with the early demonstration of Fusion's attempt to cast players as astronauts.
The games industry sometimes churns titles in a way that feels excessively incremental – an attachment to counting and ever-lengthier sub-titles. It wouldn’t be time for a major release if it weren’t a sequel, and today’s sequel has built a brand upon challenging player skill. Dark Souls returns with its third game, which has now appended a third Roman numeral to its suffix. In DS3, the planet is dying and the we're one of the many who have been resurrected to save it – and die trying. Several times.
Our Dark Souls III review & gameplay video looks into the dark, medieval-fantasy world and definitively analyzes mechanics, PC controls, graphics, and replayability.
We've just posted an overall positive review of FromSoftware's Dark Souls III, a game which we found highly rewarding and challenging, but were critical of its PC port. Some of the issues disclosed in that review spoke of hardware and framerate issues.
Dark Souls III had crashing (CTD) issues, micro-stutter and choppiness in cut-scenes, an immutable 60FPS cap, and difficulties saving keybindings. We look at some fixes for these issues today while pointing-out graphics settings and save file locations.
Fallout 4’s first DLC – Automatron – was released last week for $10. In it, the player has to stop “The Mechanist,” an evil villain creating robots that are terrorizing the Commonwealth. More significantly, Automatron adds the ability to create and customize robots.
Today, we're reviewing that DLC. Fallout 4: Automatron marks Bethesda's ambitious expansion efforts with its best-selling title, and we've got story and gameplay analysis below.
Total War: Warhammer demonstrates a natural, synergistic fusion of two genres -- the long-standing grand-strategy games, Total War, and even longer-standing Warhammer tabletop game. Campaigns in the Warhammer universe like Storm of Chaos have given way to Total War-like experiences; armies roam the world map, growing or unfurling (or ‘crumbling’) with wins and losses. At the same time, combat in Total War has kept its structure and mechanics: units travel in tightly-knit groups, facing and flanking are important parts of the battle, and strategic map utilization can make-up for troop count disparities. Then, of course, having a strong general and maintaining troop morale dictate most heavily the staying power of military forces.
All these points are shared by the Warhammer tabletop game. As much sense as the partnership makes, it marks an astounding new venture for the Total War team -- a first venture into a fantastical environ.
Following its content-devoid GDC unveil, Obsidian's new “Tyranny” RPG revitalizes the Pillars of Eternity engine, but slaps a new, eviler-than-thou visage on top. We were given a hands-off preview of Tyranny and its single-player, four-character approach to classic RPG progression. The unveil demonstrated Tyranny's unique take on the player's role within conflict, acting an arbiter to warring factions and issuing fate-binding edicts.
Coincidentally, the player's characters are “Fatebinders” – archetypes we'd traditionally see as “bad guys” in standard RPGs, but they're clearly working only in the best interests of Terratus' inhabitants. Where the Lawful Good types might facetiously ask, “who are we to judge the fate of these townsfolk?” the Fatebinders would answer, “uh, that'd be us. Over here, in the red-and-black and radiating evil.”
Some simulations take liberties with real-world scenarios to guarantee a fun, playable experience: using rockets to propel oneself upward, for instance, is not a good idea in real life; swimming in plate armor while wielding a greatsword – probably not realistic; political negotiations where the net result is forward momentum – totally immersion-breaking.
While at GDC 2016 (full coverage here), we got a hands-off preview of upcoming City Ruler “Urban Empire.” Urban Empire is a mix of city building mechanics and diplomatic/political negotiations, bridging two specific genres into a uniquely strategic amalgam.
Art asset creation was one of our key points of discussion at GDC 2016. Speaking with CryEngine, we revealed some of the particle effects and computational fluid simulation performed at the engine-level – stuff that really drives games we play in the visuals department. Textures and “painted” objects are also a critical point for discussion, an aspect of game art that software tools creator Allegorithmic is intimately familiar with. Allegorithmic's “Substance” software tools are distributed to and used by major triple-A studios, including Activision's Call of Duty teams, Naughty Dog (Uncharted 4), Redstorm (Rainbow Six: Siege), and more.
In this behind-the-scenes discussion on game creation, we talk GPU resource limitations, physically-based rendering, and define different types of “maps” (what are normal, specular, diffuse maps?). For a previous discussion on PBR (“What is Physically-Based Rendering?”), check out last year's Crytek interview; PBR, for point of reference, is being used almost everywhere these days – but got major attention with its Star Citizen integration.
EverQuest was the first MMORPG of its technological and social scale, eventually growing to a volume of millions of players and landing on the “traditional news” cycles to spotlight the outliers. It was a period of firsts: people getting married in-game eventually became real-world spouses, in some cases; we recall a 2005 story of a newborn being named after Fioriona Vie, in another. But for the more casual players – those who did treat EverQuest as more of a game and less of a social hub – its MMORPG mechanics and 3D landscape offered a sense of wonder and exploration, blinding us to the underlying grind.
The original, pre-PoP game wouldn't hold up today. Were EverQuest to release now, even with updated graphics, it wouldn't make quite the splash; too much has changed, and gamers experienced with MMOs are no longer able to see past the grindy nature of many of today's MMORPGs.
Brad McQuaid, the man who brought us the vision of EverQuest and Vanguard, is now working on Visionary Realms' Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen. The MMO hopes to blend classic RPG elements that have faded – common areas of meeting, more co-operative PvE that builds friendships, and fascinating landscapes – with new gameplay mechanics, culling some of the old-school grind in between.