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But Pit People is something different. The game heretofore known only as Game 4 still has The Behemoth’s slapstick humor and hand drawn graphics, but its turn-based combat is the first foray into strategy for a studio often focused on real-time action.
"We're learning as we go, really," Dan Paladin, Behemoth co-founder, designer, and artist said during a recent demo at PAX Prime 2015. "I've always wanted to do a strategy game with hexagonal tiles and turn-based combat, but until now, it was always just an idea."
Paladin and I played Pit People cooperatively recently, and he showed me the layered combat at work here. We began by selecting members for our battle group, ranging from warriors dual-wielding swords, to bipedal cupcakes with healing abilities. The equipment and weapons themselves are also interchangeable, and with several different character classes, the level of customization results in a nuanced planning phase before battles.
When we jumped into our first quest, two things were apparent from the outset: Pit People is chaotic, and Pit People is unabashedly lowbrow. As it turned out, there were piles of poop scattered across a field in the Pit, and a rival group framed my team for leaving them lying around. So there are two possibilities for victory: we can destroy the fecal matter, or eliminate all the enemies who framed us. I chose the latter, while Paladin and his team went for the poop. He was laughing the whole time.
"We try not to take ourselves too seriously," he said, while one of his gladiators slashed through feces with a battle axe. "There's a sense of humor through all of our games. And it is here as well."
All jokes about juvenile things aside, as I played through more of the quest, it became clear how much thinking Pit People requires. Every turn, we moved each of our characters to separate hexes, positioning them for both offense and defense. After moving, our fighters automatically attack adjacent enemies. If there are more than one, a dice roll decides which will take the hit.
There were a variety of enemies, some of whom have their own unique abilities. Floating pixies did area of attack damage, so I tried to keep distance between my fighters. Walking mushroom caps secreted a poisonous cloud, forcing me to keep moving as often as possible. And these are just a couple of the opponents I encountered during the demo with Paladin.
To push the strategy angle farther, Behemoth has implemented a clever recruiting system. By equipping one of my warriors with a net, and another with a cage, I could have captured one of the enemies, granted they were the last one standing. It adds another layer of tactics, as I had to protect my fighters with the important equipment, while trying to isolate the enemy I wanted the most.
"I find new things every day I'm working on it," Paladin said, after the enemies were gone and the field was clean. "Recruiting by capturing is just another thing that presents new possibilities and challenges. Making a strategy game is so new for me, and for the team, so finding these new ideas come out has been a great experience."
I'm looking forward to having more time with Pit People. The demo was more than promising, and I'm a huge fan of The Behemoth's prior work. This strategy game will require planning, forethought, and a willingness to change strategy on the fly. It's the best excuse yet to return to The Behemoth's signature style and bravado. For now, though, Castle Crashers Remastered will have to suffice.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, the billionaire Persson--who outbid Jay-Z and Beyonce for a $70 million Beverly Hills mansion and partied with Selena Gomez--said he's feeling lonely. He also says he's wary to use his wealth to do what Elon Musk has done and branch out into new industries.
In the flurry of tweets, Persson also laments how the team that remains at Mojang aren't fans of his. "When we sold the company, the biggest effort went into making sure the employees got taken care of," he said. "And they all hate me now."
Persson--a self-described introvert--capped off his thoughts by thanking people for their messages of support, and said he's optimistic that his outlook will improve.
Previously, Persson said he kind of felt like a "sellout" for selling Minecraft to Microsoft. Persson reportedly had a 70 percent stake in Mojang, meaning he made around $1.75 billion from the sale.
The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
Hanging out in ibiza with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I've never felt more isolated.— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
In sweden, I will sit around and wait for my friends with jobs and families to have time to do shit, watching my reflection in the monitor.— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
When we sold the company, the biggest effort went into making sure the employees got taken care of, and they all hate me now.— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
Found a great girl, but she's afraid of me and my life style and went with a normal person instead.— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
I would Musk and try to save the world, but that just exposes me to the same type of assholes that made me sell minecraft again.— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
People who made sudden success are telling me this is normal and will pass. That's good to know! I guess I'll take a shower then!— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
I really appreciate all the offers to hang and talk and all. As an introvert, new friends is hard to do even when fine, but it means a lot!— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
And just venting and not feeling like I had to hide made it feel a bit easier to cope with already. ❤— Markus Persson (@notch) August 29, 2015
"It's something we haven't tried before," creative director Mike Laidlaw said. "Trespasser tells an entirely new story, set two years after the main game. The story explores what it's like to be a world-saving organization when the world no longer needs saving."
In this DLC, players will "meet and talk with old friends" in their effort to "uncover a new threat." Trespasser sounds like it will wrap up the overall Inquisition story--and tease what's coming next.
Players will "ultimately decide the fate of the Inquisition you worked so hard to build. It might just contain hints about the future of Thedas, too."
Before you can even play Trespasser, however, you will need to beat the main storyline. Trespasser will launch on September 8, though pricing was not announced.
"This content marks the end of our time with the Inquisition," Laidlaw said. "I sincerely hope you enjoy it."
The other piece of Dragon Age: Inquisition news announced at PAX Prime was a new patch for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC editions of the game. In addition to "the usual fixes," this patch will contain some new features and functionality, all of which will be free.
"First, the Golden Nug lets you 'sync' your collectibles across games after you've completed Dragon Age: Inquisition's main story," Laidlaw said. "To take advantage of this, head to the Skyhold Undercroft post game and click the new Golden Nug statue. After you've done that once, every game that's both a) online and b) on the same platform will have a similar statue added to the Undercroft and Haven. Clicking on that statue will sync your current game. This sync is bi-directional and additive, which means that any collectibles will be added to the online collection, even if the character doing the clicking is pre-endgame. It's like new game plus...without having to start a new game."
Basically, this lets you use your collection without needing to restart an in-progress game. The sync works with items such as schematics (including those from DLC), potion recipes (but not upgrades), mounts, and Skyhold decorations.
Also coming to Dragon Age: Inquisition through the new patch is a wardrobe for Skyhold.
"It comes pre-loaded with about a dozen outfits of varying colors, each carefully selected to minimize instances of plunging a spiked pauldron into your love interest's face when you kiss him or her," Laidlaw said. "The default beige is still available if that's your jam, of course, but we heard loud and clear that some (okay, yes, pretty much everyone) of you wanted some variety. To find the wardrobe, head to your bedroom once the game patches."
Are you looking forward to Trespasser and the new patch content? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Things can fall apart quickly in Dreadnought, the interstellar naval game from Yager, developer of the acclaimed Spec Ops: The Line, and its partner SixFoot. At PAX Prime, I mistakenly approached Dreadnought like I might a dogfighting simulator, focusing on twitch reflexes and aerial maneuvers. But while this approach can be useful at times, Dreadnought rewards meticulous approaches much more often.
These naval battles unravel like a scene from Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or Firefly. But I chose a corvette, the ship class that grants me more mobility than my hulking peers in cruiser or artillery vessels. This class allowed me to glide through tight groups of ships, weave around enemies, and cruise past opponents before they had a chance to line up their shots. I was Han Solo, if he had managed to die seven times during Star Wars.
The dynamic between different ship classes, and the modifications I placed inside them, is what fuels battles in Dreadnought. There are five classes to choose from, and three variations of each, with perks to modify your playstyle, and officers that push your preferred approach even farther. Dreadnought's customization is the heart of the experience, and while I saw a variety of possibilities during my demo, I wish I had more time to experiment.
Take my first team deathmatch, for example. I saw that ship from across a vast vacuum filled with asteroids and space debris, and immediately racked my brain for any encounter that might arise. Is that an artillery ship, which would have the range and firepower to drain my shields in a matter of seconds? Is it a dreadnought with a warp drive equipped, which could close the gap instantly? Or is it a corvette like mine, with evasive tactics and enough speed to outrun most of the shots aimed across its bow?
And just like that, a long range cannon answered my questions. It seared through my shields, left a glowing puddle on my hull, and sent me reeling backward. Before I could divert enough power to my thrusters, an enemy cruiser appeared next to me, unleashing its broadside guns from only feet away. I respawned soon thereafter. But if this was Dreadnought's Team Elimination mode, which only grants one life, it would have been over.
The best part is, I learned a lot from each death. I should have diverted energy to my thrusters right away, as artillery cruisers need time to line up their shots. I should have used my warp drive right away. I should have dove downward, out of the ballistic's path. I should have fired a stasis missile across the void, hoping it would strike its target and render it immobile for just a few seconds. Next time, I thought, I'll fly away unscathed.
Unlike many space combat games, which focus on fighter-to-fighter dogfights, Dreadnought takes its time. It lets things unravel slowly, only to fall apart all at once. It gives you just enough time to make a plan, only to see someone else's trump your own.
Yager is bringing Dreadnought to closed beta early next year. I only played the game for 30 minutes, but I'm still thinking of all the possible combinations of ship classes, officer perks, and unique abilities. There are so many opportunities for emergent gameplay, and I can't wait to see more of them.
Tabata promised we'd hear more information on Final Fantasy XV turning Tokyo Game Show next month, including a deeper look at the character Lunafreya Nox Fleuret.
During a panel at PAX Prime in Seattle, Washington, developers revealed they will share the game's specific launch date during a special event to be held in spring.
Final Fantasy XV was first announced at E3 2006 at Final Fantasy Versus XIII. The developer team is aiming for a simultaneous worldwide release in 2016.
While we might tend to focus on the console and handheld side of gaming at a show like PAX Prime, there are tons of announcements from across the gaming spectrum that happen during the popular community-driven show. And one of the biggest names in collectible card gaming, Magic: The Gathering, has some PAX news lined up for later today.
We have a preview below of one of the cards that will be included in the upcoming Battle for Zendikar expansion. The Felidar Cub is a White Creature with the power to quickly knock out rival enchantments.
At 7:30 PM Pacific, Magic will be streaming the Battle for Zendikar Preview Show live right here (and embedded above), where they'll be showing even more cards and content for the expansion.
The Disney Infinity series, too, has had games that showcase plenty of contrasts. On the one side is Infinity's wonderful Toy Box mode, a creative playpen that gives players an opportunity to make their own games and levels, even if the exhaustive tools that are available often make the mode more intimidating than intuitive. On the other side are the pre-made game adventures (called play sets) that came with the last two Disney Infinity starter packs (or sold separately, in some cases), games which were set in various Disney worlds such as the Marvel universe, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more. These Play Sets have varied in quality, but the bar has been consistently middling; they've ranged from the very poor to the somewhat enjoyable. None have matched the sheer fun of simply exploring and playing around in the Toy Box mode.
Disney Infinity 3.0 is the closest the series has come to a parity in quality on both of its sides, with the Twilight of the Republic Play Set that comes with this year's starter pack a joy to play. Set in the Clone Wars period of the Star Wars universe, Twilight of the Republic is this year's Infinity starter set. You'll get the game plus two toys/characters--the aforementioned Jedi pair of Ahsoka and Anakin. Yes, that's one less toy than the Marvel version last year, but the price is slightly lower, too, a fact that cash-strapped parents may find somewhat comforting (you can even use your old Infinity base and just download the new game for a significantly lower cost).
For the uninitiated, Disney Infinity is a toys-to-life game where physical, real-world toys unlock their virtual counterparts within a game. Place the Ashoka toy on the Disney Infinity base, for example, and seconds later she'll appear on screen. All previous Infinity toys are compatible with this latest version, although, as always, there's no cross pollination between franchises allowed in play sets (so no Olaf from Frozen in the Twilight of the Republic play set, for example). All of the characters have various melee and ranged abilities specific to their character, and the toys themselves are expressive and well built. They're pretty sturdy, too, although I can see the thin lightsabers some of the Star Wars characters wield falling victim to overeager children.
The improvements to the game's combat are almost immediately noticeable. Attacking is faster and flows much more smoothly--button mashing for the younglings will still get results, but the added depth to the melee allows more skilled players to utilise more powerful and impressive-looking attacks. Combos are achieved via Devil May Cry-like inputs of timed button presses, and while the combo commands here are much simpler than DMC, it's still undeniably cool to use Anakin as he slashes enemies, launches them in the air, bats them away, before using Force pull to start the combo all over again. Not everything works, though: the controls in the pod racing sequence felt altogether too floaty, while dogfights are simple and underwhelming. In all of the space battles I played, there was only ever one enemy type, and it never actually felt like I was in any danger of getting blown out of the stars.
While last year's Avengers play set took place in a dreary, featureless Manhattan, Twilight of the Republic features a much more varied series of locales. You can visit four planets in the Star Wars universe, as well as fly around in space in the occasional dogfight battle. The various missions you undertake as you try to solve the mystery of just who is behind the plot to restart the droid factory on Geonosis are pretty exciting, too: the difficulty escalates nicely, while there's a good variety of enemy types (and the occasional boss) to deal with. It's a pity, then, that there's only a few hours of this. Ending the main quest line of Twilight of the Republic made me want more. There are, however, many side missions you can work on in the four planets you come across, but most of these are simple fetch quests or escort missions, and feel like exactly what they are: padding.
As always, the bulk of the experience in Disney Infinity lies in its expansive Toy Box mode, a comprehensive set of tools, toys, and locales that theoretically allow players to craft their own levels and gameplay experiences. Want to create a vicious platformer? Toy Box allows you to do that. How about a side-scrolling beat-em-up, or a high-speed Mario Kart-like racer, or even a tower defense game? Toy Box has you covered.
I say theoretically, though, because the sheer amount of tools and options available can be overwhelming. New tools added this year--such as a path creator that allows you to specifically decide the route enemies, allies, and even objects will take within your created world--make even more game-types possible, but it also ramps up the complexity even further. The Toy Box can be a mountain, and it's a tough one to climb.
In previous Infinity titles, the sheer amount of "possibility" often left me paralysed with indecision, but 3.0 takes some of the user-friendly additions introduced in the previous game and amplifies them, making for a Toy Box experience that is easier to get into than ever. The redesigned Toy Box Hub, for example, wisely features different areas specific to different game types (combat, platforming, and racing). In each area, you're given the basics of what to do, and even have a few examples to of levels created using Toy Box tools to serve as inspiration. There's a whole separate area, too, teaching you how to utilise some of the more complex tools in the game, such as logic switches, enemy generators, and more. These have all been structured as challenges, little puzzles to solve that teach you the basics of operating those specific tools. I found them all extremely useful, and coupled with a greater number of automated building toys (or toys that can build entire structures for you), and I found that a lot of that initial overwhelming feeling was eventually overcome.
If you're not the type who enjoys creating, then most of the magic of Toy Box will be alien to you. For those who just like to play, Infinity has made the process of discovering and playing other people's creations a little smoother. Within the Toy Box Hub are two new areas dedicated to showing user user-generated worlds: the El Capitan theatre will feature specific Disney chosen levels, while Flynn's Arcade focuses on showcasing multiplayer worlds for four players online. I played Disney Infinity 3.0 pre-retail launch, so most of the content on show seemed to be from official Disney creators. I'm expecting the numbers of Toy Boxes available to play to increase significantly once the game is released, although that doesn't necessarily mean the quality will increase.
Of course, Disney Infinity 3.0 is more than just what's included in this year's starter kit. That's just the platform for a whole other range of experiences, including Toy Box expansion games, more play sets (sets that encompass the original Star Wars trilogy and the new upcoming film have already been announced, as well as one based on Inside Out), plus a whole new range of toys. You'll have to pay for all of these expanded experiences, of course, so your overall mileage and enjoyment of Disney Infinity 3.0 will vary. For all of this year's improvements in combat and the Toy Box, the core appeal of Disney Infinity remains the same: it's a great, kid-friendly experience that, thanks to the complexity inherent in building worlds from scratch, skews a little bit more towards older kids than the very young. Its structured play may be the best it's ever been, but when it comes to the unstructured building side of Infinity, well, that will only go so as far as your imagination can take it.
LBX’s story takes place in a futuristic world where children play with LBX, which are miniature robots purchased at retail used to fight in competitive battles. It follows the adventures of Van Yamano, a child--who after being given a powerful top-secret LBX--becomes involved in a plot to save the world with his friends. Despite having occasional cheesy melodramatic narrative beats, LBX’s story manages to remain interesting thanks to a well-paced narrative, charming characters, and an unexpectedly sympathetic villain. The story is also complemented by colorful visuals that bring its world and the LBX to life.It's vital to remain defensive during the game's more chaotic fights.
In LBX, you spend your time walking around the city of Tokio, moving the story forward by exploring corridor-heavy dungeon areas filled with random encounters, gaining new characters in your party, challenging fellow LBX users to fights, and occasionally completing side-quests to acquire special items. The bulk of these experiences are mostly what you'd expect from a typical JRPG, but what gives LBX its unique appeal is its major centerpiece: LBX battles.
LBX battles take place in fortified cardboard boxes, which are miniature scale arenas that serve as the main battlegrounds for combat. Depending on what the game calls "regulations," battles can be setup in a variety of different formats, such as 1v1, 3v3, or best 3 out of 5. Initiated in the game world via scripted or random encounters, you go into battle with a party of up to three LBX users from your group in fast-paced real-time combat where you brawl against enemy LBX using a variety of different weapons, like swords, spears, rifles, and machine guns. Combat is genuinely exciting due to its speed and chaotic nature, especially during 3v3 matches when LBX are zipping around and attacking from all sides.The game's city is filled with countless LBX users to do battle with.
The real-time action combat system in LBX is also surprisingly engaging and methodical. This is helped in part by the Tension Gauge, which is a meter that depletes when an LBX attacks, speed dashes, or jumps, but then recharges over time. When the gauge is fully depleted, your attacks will only do single-digit damage. The Tension Gauge is a simple mechanic, but it’s a balanced one that punishes button-mashing, and rewards you for carefully observing your opponents and quickly striking when the time is right. As a result, LBX's reliance on a healthy mix of offensive and defensive tactics makes its combat system fulfilling.
But for as much as LBX’s combat excels, there are issues with the movement system that sometimes get in the way of your enjoyment. This comes from a delay that occurs after landing from a jump. It may not seem like a big issue at first, but it becomes frustrating during more intense fights, when you have to move quickly and accurately. Firing a gun and running at the same time can also be troublesome due to inconsistent animations, which stop you in your tracks if you don’t run at the right angle. These issues are irritating and detract from the flow of an otherwise enjoyable combat system.There are hundreds of different items to equip to your LBX.
While battles are a huge part of LBX, you spend a lot of your time customizing these tiny robots. As you play the game, you stockpile a mountain of money that you can use to purchase weapons, parts, and accessories for your rag tag party of LBX. With hundreds of items to choose from, there are plenty of options here to tailor your robot to fit your play style. There are also options that allow you to be more meticulous, such as adjusting parts to modify your LBX’s defense and speed attributes, to configuring weapons with specific elemental affinities in order to exploit enemy weaknesses. This allows for a great sense of creativity and strategy, and you ultimately spend hours tailoring your LBX with the right parts and weapons they needed to fill out different group roles.
The customization available in LBX makes for a delightful feature, but it does have issues. Cumbersome menus make equipping parts and items a chore, especially after combat, where it's constantly required for you to re-stock your LBX with healing items from your stash. Even more frustrating is being restricted from equipping items that were put onto LBX users who temporarily leave your party, which pulls their equipment out of rotation. Luckily, you can create and save different loadouts, however, the aforementioned problem remains an issue unless you fork over extra money to buy two, or even three of the same item. You will have to get used to these issues, because customizing and battling LBXs are the game's bread and butter.Get ready for some 3v3 LBX battles!
Combat is at the heart of everything; the campaign, side-quests, mini-games, and the local PVP mode. LBX doesn't have online multiplayer, but you can battle in the local, ranked multiplayer mode if you're feeling extra competitive. Unfortunately, without online multiplayer, you're reliant on the community of other LBX players in your area to provide competition. You may never get to experience a full, six-player battle--or the race to the top--if LBX doesn't catch on in your town, but the game offers plenty of LBX Battles to sink your teeth into, if little else.
With solid presentation, combat, and customization, LBX: Little Battler’s eXperience is a satisfying game that is more involved than it seems. It’s not without its faults, including unwieldy, sometimes tedious design, but to write it off as just another kid’s RPG would do it a massive disservice. Level-5 has created an action-RPG that--even with its faults--is still an entertaining offering.
Editor's Note: This review has been updated to include details of LBX's local play multiplayer features.