Who tells us about the three C's of what it feels like to play The Division - which are camera, controls, and combat. And how these informed the development of the sequel. Alongside community feedback and improving on everything that has come before.
Plus, how the move to a summery Washington D.C. informed a world that's more alive and full of survivor's going about their day. A snippet.
AusGamers: How much have you changed the outskirts and really broken up that corridor or that alleyway-style level design?
David: Yeah, so hopefully you saw some of it already but Washington D.C. gives us a much bigger and more varied playground so we have a lot of biomes, a lot of environments that are different, than New York and Manhattan would be. So there's a lot more open spaces, there's a lot of residential, commercial, government, monument type areas so there's a lot of variety in the world first of all just naturally. And then the setting being in summer time makes it feel a lot different too. I think the colours and the overall feel would be different.
And then, some of what you were playing today was what we call a living world system and that has, each faction has their own needs and their own goals and they're moving to the city and it's being simulated outside of the area the players will, where factions will move between locations to the control points and their influence is constantly changing throughout the city.
And the answer to that question is far more nuanced than a simple yes or no. What we can walk away with here is that Ubisoft has once again delivered a fun and chaotic experience as their blueprint calls for, but is it now a formula we're simply too familiar with?
Here's a snippet from our review:
I wanted to make a joke about this just being Far Cry New Skin, because it is. But it isn’t. Well, it is because the game is quintessentially Far Cry 5 just fast-forwarded in time with pretend RPG mechanics tied to it -- numerical value hit points on enemies an RPG proper, does not make. Missions and distractions are also the same. Trucks with ethanol are randomly parading about the map, and you need to collect these. Highwaymen, the new Eden’s Gate Hope County bullies, appear at random and in recognisable gear. Animals are Far Cry angry, you liberate, you collect treasures, you find loot. So much fucking loot. And solve minor puzzles for entry to various interiors. Vehicles lie in wait for you to abscond with, despite the key ingredient in the game each of game-world’s denizens is crying out for, is fuel.
And it’s that last point that gets us back to the point about arcade. You see, Far Cry 5’s setup was scary and almost too on-the-contemporary-political-and-societal-nose. It still is. And how it ended, even with all of the loose silly stuff in between, remains a concept people are weary of. Now, New Dawn which is set 15 years later takes that threat; that scary notion, and runs with ‘what if?’. But the what if is built around a greater sense of fun. Nothing in this new game-world actually really makes any sense, and Ubisoft Montreal isn’t afraid to take that to a level we can all bite into, without really ever having any attachment to it.
Ahead of a feature delving deeper into the NVIDIA RTX-powered ray-tracing featured in Metro Exodus, we though we'd share an example that shows a pretty major 'RTX On' and 'RTX Off' difference. With Metro's implementation of the groundbreaking tech used for global illumination we found an off-the-beaten-path outdoor location that showcases just how well ray-tracing, err, shines a light on the future of gaming.
In non-technical terms, how it works in Metro is that light rays from a global source - aka the sun - is used to light an environment. In the 'RTX On' part of the clip below as light rays come in through the windowed openings they bounce around to light up the location in the sort of shadowy way that looks incredibly realistic. Like a complex CGI clip. In the 'RTX Off' part of the clip, the scene looks flatter, brighter, and like a game.
A pretty drastic example no doubt, but it's an effect that adds to the immersion. Which is perfect for a game like Metro Exodus. It's worth pointing out though that this is but one moment in a large game. Here's an RTX On image of an outdoor location.
And here's the same location with RTX Off.
Here the effect is more subtle because ray-traced or not the lighting in Metro Exodus is fantastic. As an inverse example the ray-traced scene is brighter because light bouncing off the snow adds more depth and light to objects. In the end, subtle or not, the effect really becomes apparent the longer you play - where the entire image begins to feel more natural, and again, like that of a CGI film. The immersion is sustained as you move from indoor to outdoor environments in a way we've never seen before.
More Ninty news from today's Direct features one my most anticipated games for 2019, in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. This time around, the player takes on the role of a Professor at an academy where three houses -- representing different nations of the continent -- learn and compete, Harry Potter styles, but with life and death risks at stake.
Here's the official line from Nintendo:
Three noble houses that are part of the Officer’s Academy, an elite facility that trains students in the ways of weapons, magic and special skills. As a professor, the player must choose one of these houses to lead its students in grid-based battles with life-or-death stakes. Each house is comprised of many different students to meet and train, each with her or his own personality and skills. These students can interact with each other at the academy, strengthening their bonds and supporting each other on the battlefield. The Fire Emblem: Three Houses standalone game and the Fire Emblem: Three Houses – Seasons of Warfare Edition both launch exclusively for Nintendo Switch on July 26.
The Warfare Edition mentioned at the end there features a Steel Book game case, a calendar, an art book and a soundtrack as well as some nifty packaging. as you can see below. Scroll down further for a five-plus minute breakdown of the game that might actually now be in my Top Three must-haves for the year.
Jokey heading aside, after spending ample time across post-apocalyptic Russia in the wonderful and often brilliant Metro Exodus, we're finally ready to share our review. Spoiler alert, it's amazing. Surprisingly so, catching us off guard with with its masterful blend of styles, and stunning visuals.
Metro Exodus is a genuine surprise for many reasons, most of which come down to it nailing challenging and strategic combat, stealth infiltrations, creepy survival horror and wide-open exploration and discovery. Although cliché it is one of those games that although we’d love nothing more than to list and talk about all the cool moments, story beats, and surprising encounters - doing so would spoil, well, the surprise. The fact that Metro Exodus manages to strike that delicate balance between shooter styles, means that it slowly but surely ends up feeling like its own thing. That said, for the quick and obligatory surface level comparison – it’s a dash of Fallout, a sprinkle of BioShock, some Dishonored for flavour and Thief to darken the edges.
From February 26, Rockstar will be unleashing what appears to be a few updates to Red Dead Online addressing some weapon balance, gameplay performance and more ongoing horse updates. Alongside these fixes, the studio will also be dropping a number of new features.
In classic Rockstar fashion, a deeper dive on this stuff as highlighted in today's news, will be revealed next week. However, they have given up some tidy tidbits on what's to come for what they're hoping will be as successful (and then some) as GTA Online. Here's the official skinny:
Player Visibility As part of our response to community feedback on how to minimize certain types of destructive player behavior, we’ve made some changes to the way player blips will appear on the map.
Firstly, we’re reducing the visibility of blips over long distances – your map position won’t display to other players unless you are nearby (within 150 meters) and if you are slightly further away you will only appear when firing your weapon. Players in other towns or regions, for example, won’t be visible. This prevents players from being repeatedly targeted across the map at long distances.
We’re also introducing a new system that highlights overly aggressive players. If your style of play becomes more hostile, your map position (and the position of your Posse members) will become more visible to other players with a progressively darkening dot that incrementally shifts from blue to dark red. Your visibility increases through bad deeds such as attacking and killing other players or their horses outside of a structured mode, Free Roam Mission, event or competition, and the shorter the time between bad acts, the more your visibility increases. Shift back to a more righteous path and your visibility will fade over time.
We’re also introducing Posse-wide Parleys and improving Feuds. You’ll soon be able to initiate Parley that applies to your attacker’s entire Posse after just a single kill. Alternatively, if you’d rather challenge your opponent, you can initiate a Feud, Posse Feud or Leader Feud after one kill, quickly turning a dispute into a timed mini-deathmatch for rival players to fight out amongst themselves in Free Roam, earning points for each kill on the opposing player.
Bounty Hunters & Law Balancing At the same time, players who have racked up high bounties will have a chance to be beset by NPC Bounty Hunters who will attempt to kill them and collect their reward.
Criminal behavior will have bounty values and honor consequences that scale based on the severity of the crime. For example, killing another player can incur a higher bounty, while assaulting townsfolk or animal cruelty could give you a lesser bounty if the crime is reported, while lower level crimes like looting and ransacking will only decrease your honor.
If your bounty exceeds a certain threshold and Bounty Hunters take notice, you will be wanted dead and alerted to their pursuit. The higher your bounty, the greater your value and the more difficult the pursuit becomes for you and your Posse.
Daily Challenges We will also be adding a variety of Daily Challenges to take on across the Red Dead Online Beta. Complete individual objectives that cover every aspect of life on the frontier to earn Gold Nuggets and XP. Challenges will range from foraging for herbs, selling items at a Fence, hunting and skinning animals, clearing hideouts, winning Feuds and so much more. These Daily Challenges will continue to expand and evolve over time bringing specialty challenges and rewards, streak bonuses and more.
Same Bat time, same Bat channel once Rockstar drops more information on all of the above, next week. In the meantime, if you haven't read our review of the game yet, click here.
In terms of look feel and even core design Wargroove is every bit a love letter and homage to Nintendo's seminal turn-based strategy war series Advance Wars. A series that we haven't seen for a number of years - the last one came out for the Nintendo DS. With Nintendo shifting its turn-based focus to Fire Emblem, it's left to indie studios like Chucklefish to carry forth the Advance Wars, err, torch.
With Wargroove's fantasy setting also briging with it a slice of Fire Emblem too. As Steve found out in his review.
From the outset, anyone who owned any form of the Game Boy Advance or Nintendo DS will likely know of the collectively seminal turn-based series Advance Wars and Fire Emblem. The latter is still a Nintendo radar title, with a major installment, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, planned for release on Nintendo Switch a bit later this year, but Advance Wars hasn’t really been seen since 2008’s Advance Wars: Days of Ruin on DS.
Stardew Valley publisher, Chucklefish Limited, is no stranger to pixel nostalgia, teaming up with Eric Barone who looked to the Harvest Moon series as inspiration for his critically acclaimed release. Wargroove, which is developed by Chucklefish, is the studio’s latest effort (they released another pixel-art action-adventure title in Starbound in 2016), and if you haven’t worked it out yet, Wargroove wears its Advance Wars and Fire Emblem inspiration on its sleeves. From the early goings on of the game, there’s a fairly even split between both sources, however, as you break from the game’s tutorial, the setup and subsequent gameplay is pure Advance Wars with extra-credit Chucklefish additions. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Bandai Namco's long-awaited return to the skies dropped last month, and we've been slowly Goosing and Mavericking our way through the campaign over the past few weeks. And after landing our F-18 fighter jets to get them fueled up for the next mission, we're ready to take off our aviators and share our review.
The Ace Combat series has always been one that has lived somewhere in the realm between simulation and arcade aerial combat. A danger zone – if you will. The high-flying series from Bandai Namco dates all the way back to the original PlayStation, where it saw several sequels and spin-offs in the years and systems that followed. All building on the same formula, with the same internal Project Aces team at Bandai Namco working on each new entry for close to twenty years now.
That said, it’s been a minute. The most recent numbered Ace Combat, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, developed exclusively for the Xbox 360, released way back in 2007. That said Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown doesn’t stray from the formula, bringing a very traditional Ace Combat campaign full of varying missions that can be tackled with a wide-range of aircraft.
But honestly, not by much. Originally slated for release on May 7, Creative Assembly has asked for all the time in the world, now releasing the game on May 23. How selfish of them.
It says a lot about how much can be done in game development with the right mindset and teams, even in a short amount of time. A development update over at the game's official site even provides a FAQ where they broach the concept of "polish" saying that it "means a whole bunch of things. Such as two consecutive specific battle animations transitioning smoothly, or making sure our language and localisation is executed to the highest standard, or ensuring that the lighting is well balanced across different types of weather and environment variables". Which is a fairly common sense description of the word where game design is concerned, adding that they're "looking at the whole game and seeing what we can improve".
Here's the open letter addressing the *gasp* 16 day delay:
It’s been an incredibly busy and exciting time for us in the studio. We’ve been able to show you more of Three Kingdoms than ever before and taking the time to evaluate it thoroughly.
There are some revolutionary features going in and it’s looking really good. But we want to make sure it’s great. So we’re moving the release date to 23 May, 2019.
With Three Kingdoms, we set out to create a new level of complexity. As such, we need a little more time to make sure these systems deliver as intended and give you the Total War experience you’ve waited so patiently for.
Of course, the extra time won’t hurt when it comes to fixing those bugs that have been hard to nail down, getting the localisation just right, and adding additional polish to help it shine. We all know those little details make a big difference.
We’re lucky to be in a position to do the right thing for our games, and in this case it means taking the time to get everything ready for you. It’s more important to give you a game that you can enjoy to the fullest, rather than stick to a release date just because.
We know not everyone’s going to be happy about this, but ultimately, we believe this the best thing for the game and our players.
Click the official site link above to check out the full FAQ. How will you spend those precious extra 16 days of waiting?
In addition to the news that we're finally getting Aussie operators in Rainbow Six Siege, Ubisoft has proudly announced that their addition also comes packaged with a new map called "Outback" as part of Operation Burnt Horizon.
The full reveal for the new operation will take place at Six Invitational on February 17 (18 for us), but ahead of then here's what Ubisoft has teased about Outback, which is accompanied by a short video we've embedded below:
Welcome to the Outback! Set in Australia’s Red Heart, this map is an homage to all the dusty service stations and motels that populate the forgotten highways of the continent, places filled with hardworking locals and specialty menu items you’ll find nowhere else.
Unfortunately for this particular pit stop, a passing nuclear convoy came crashing to a halt while under attack, forcing locals and patrons to flee and causing Rainbow to be called in. As to what inspired the team when designing the game’s 21st map, Assistant Level Design Director Jacques Wong says they referred to two fan favourites – Oregon and Clubhouse.
“We divided the map into three distinct sections – the Garage, the Motel, and the Restaurant – and put a lot of effort into making sure each section is recognisable, even from far away,” Wong explained. “There are specific colours for each section, and we used lighting and geometry to direct the player’s gaze to where they need to go.”
Additionally, the focus was on returning to a style of gameplay that players have enjoyed in the past, while keeping the meta in mind. “We wanted to emphasise the impact of player decision-making, so for example, there’s a limited number of doors between each sections” Wong continued. “Roamers can still create new paths by destroying walls, and there’s always the option of changing floors as a flanking strategy. It’s a medium-sized map, so players won’t need to go far to find alternative routes.”
Meanwhile, the three sections are as unique inside as they are out. Get ready for rooms packed with souvenirs and cultural artifacts from many a roadside petrol station across the Great Southern Land. You might even run into our friendly resident mascot, Norman, in the restaurant, though we do ask that you try not to stare.
Anyway, thanks Ubisoft, it's about bloody time aye.
This past weekend we had the chance to put in some considerable time with The Division 2’s Private Beta – where we completed missions, helped out a settlement, watch as a group of survivors went to collect some water, and also checked out some endgame with the OP and amazing SAS auto-shotgun.
As someone who put in hundreds of hours into The Division, it was a game that although had issues, lived up to that initial promise. Eventually. After the development team at Massive had the time to figure out just how a game of this nature should work. With additions like the Underground update, that added what you might call randomised dungeons, and set items with perks and bonus abilities, there was a feeling that The Division was looking more at the Diablo series than Destiny – as a source for inspiration.
A move that gradually evolved The Division’s endgame into something worth diving into and a renewed approach to rewarding players meaningfully. Where in the end, many felt that The Division left on a high-note. Viewing a trailer or short clip of footage, The Division 2 might just look like more of the same but in the new setting of Washington, D.C. You wouldn’t be at fault for thinking that way, as The Division 2 is the sort of sequel that is more follow-up than reimagining. Where core concepts return and everything else is either tweaked or improved based on lessons learned.
A premium controller for mobile gaming, specifically on Android devices, is one of those peripherals that targets a very specific audience. Namely someone who enjoys playing traditional console-like titles on their smart-phones. The Razer Raiju Mobile, which continues the Raiju line of premium build quality and excellent components from buttons to analogue sticks certainly fits the bill.
But the bill, err, is pulling apart at the seams. On the account of the Razer Raiju Mobile being on the heavy side. Yeah, that was some controller fat-shaming.
Once you add a smartphone to the already heavy-for-a-controller Razer Raiju, you’re left with a Frankenstein’s monster that quickly becomes uncomfortable to use for an extended period. Being able to adjust the angle helps, but there’s no situation where the 300-plus grams of the Raiju Mobile paired with a gaming phone like the 200-plus grams of the Razer Phone 2 doesn’t feel, well, heavy. Also, the overall top-heavy design (once the phone is added) means you’ll need to hold the controller as opposed to resting it on a flat surface – which adds to the frustration.
Playing games is certainly a great way to exercise your brain, but in-game, we push our avatars to their physical limits too. Why can’t we combine the two in the real-world? Join us as we explore the healthier side of living in our continued partnership with Queensland Health.
The role-playing or RPG genre is one that ties growth, improvement, and digital well-being to statistical categories. Strength, intelligence, endurance, the ability to wield a two-handed weapon, or as seen in the sci-fi classic Mass Effect, the somewhat catch-all talent called ‘Fitness’. Stuff that in these digital worlds full of adventure and wonder, keeping it all in balance directly affects your chances to succeed and make a mark. Or even, simply exist without any sort of physical or mental burden.
And that’s the kicker, and the glaring takeaway, is that this entirely applicable in the real-world.
We st down with Rich Lambert, Creative Director at Zenimax Online Studios to talk about The Elder Scrolls Online's next cat-tastic and dragon-fabulous expansion - Elsewyr.
“In Elder Scrolls Online they're still big, they're still badass, and they're still these incredibly cool creatures,” Rich Lambert, Creative Director Zenimax Online Studios tells me. Of course, we’re discussing the arrival of dragons, coming as part of the long-running title’s next expansion – Elseweyr. Which will see Elder Scrolls Online players travelling to the land of the Khajiit, aka home of the giant cat people, for a brand-new adventure. Dragons, like the Khajiit, are a major part of Elder Scrolls lore, but their depiction and presence are intrinsically tied to a single Elder Scrolls release – 2011’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Dragons as depicted in Skyrim were a key part of a grand supernatural story that dealt with special mythical dragon abilities and a line of long-lost Dragon whisperers called the Dovahkiin. In Elder Scrolls Online, the inclusion of dragons is being handled a little differently. “They're going to be more difficult for players to deal with because nobody's Dovahkiin,” Rich adds. “You won’t have that toolkit where you can absorb shouts and learn the dragon language and what not.” That said, the team at Zenimax Online Studios worked closely with Bethesda Game Studios to ensure that their interpretation of dragons both fits the lore and still feels like Elder Scrolls.