STORE COMMUNITY ABOUT SUPPORT
After many years growing in its slimy cocoon, Aliens: Colonial Marines will finally come out on February 12. Though Gearbox hasn't talked about post-launch DLC plans, a ping on Polygon's motion tracker shows a $30 Season Pass for the incoming FPS lurking on GameStop's digital storefront.
According to the listing, the Pass provides a single price at a 33 percent discount for four DLC packs releasing in March and through summer. The add-ons offer "campaign content, additional multiplayer maps, new modes, character customization, and more."
Seeing as Gearbox already uses a similarly structured Season Pass system for Borderlands 2, it's no surprise Colonial Marines is following suit. What's more surprising is having your face eaten off by a player-controlled xeno popping out of nowhere in the multiplayer, which you can read all about in our preview and watch in the trailer below.
Octodad, a physics-based adventure by indie group Young Horses released in 2010, is about an octopus disguising himself as a human male. Let the brilliance of such a concept sink in for a moment. The student project slowly picked up media attention, and now in an official blog post, programmer Kevin Geisler has described the timeline of the adorably clumsy cephalopod's rise to fame.
Geisler notes larger events such as the Games Developer Conference and Independent Games Festival actually contributed less exposure than simple word-of-mouth from gamers and press sites. A two-sentence tip from the Ctrl+Alt+Del webcomic granted the first spike in 2010, and a bundle of YouTube gameplay videos picked up the pace shortly thereafter. Geisler highlighted Cr1tikal's early playthrough in particular, which racked up over 1.5 million views.
Frankly, I can't get enough of a cheery octopus perfectly convinced of his disguise as he crashes into everything not bolted down, which is why I'm looking forward to the sequel, Octodad: Daliest Catch, coming out sometime this year.
Check out the rest of Geisler's overview on Young Horses' journal.
Jan 31, 2013
Back in October, Sleep is Death and Passage creator Jason Rohrer revealed The Castle Doctrine, "a massively multiplayer game of burglary and home defense." Though the prizes you'll pilfer sit in homes owned by players, you'll never know who you're burgling or who you're getting burgled by. Speaking to RPS, Rohrer stated all thefts in Doctrine are intentionally anonymous to send a message.
"When you leave your home, when you go to sleep at night, log out of the game, or you go out of your house to go rob somebody else's house, then your house is open to being robbed by somebody else while you're not there," Rohrer said. "Then you return to your house to see the results of that robbery."
Rohrer wants to underscore the kind of disruption an identity-less thief causes when intruding upon someone else's life, no matter his or her background. "I’m breaking into somebody’s house and I don’t know if it’s a teenage kid, an elderly woman, or a little girl who owns the house in real life," he explained. "Someone’s put work into this house, y’know? Someone’s amassed this collection of stuff that they’ve spent a lot of time on, and when we violate it we’re actually doing harm to a person in a real way. The moral ambiguity of the whole thing is at the core of what the game is about."
As a rather morbid method for encouraging emergent scenarios, players can house a wife and child in their homes and try to protect them from fellow encroachers while targeting someone else's family. "They're not controlled by anybody else," Rohrer said. "You want to protect them because they're unique. If they get killed, they're gone forever and you'll miss them, right?" Heavy.
Check out the rest of Rohrer's interview on RPS.
The first half of the Indie Royale Evolved Bundle's name sounds like a gourmet, locally-grown hamburger. Look elsewhere if you're hungry for food, but if you're hungry for five DRM-free indie games, the bundle is selling at a fluctuating minimum that's currently sitting at $5.35.
Included are Uncanny Games' tree-growing platformer OIO, Tale of Tales' imaginative spook-fest The Path, Fatshark's loot-crazy RPG Krater, Turtle Cream's colorful Sugar Cube: Bittersweet Factory, and Talawa Games' side-scroller Unmechanical.
As a bonus for paying $8 or more, you'll also get the first volume of Slipstream, a collection of remixed and remastered tracks from Wipeout and Wipeout 2097 by original artist Tim Wright. That's definitely a sweeter deal than any fancy-sounding burger.
Head over to the Indie Royale Evolved Bundle's site for more info.
It's bedlam in Dead Space 3. Besides magical space rocks driving everyone crazy, we have to contend with freaking out our buddies with fits of hysteria and ex-Genesis drummers. And, as this latest trailer for Visceral's survival-shooter shows, our reasons for descending to Tau Volantis go out the airlock the moment the first squelching croak is heard from a Necromorph abomination.
Also, getting shoved down the stinking gullet of a giant pile of flesh and tentacles is a perfect opportunity for hero Isaac Clarke to reflect on the life choices he's made to reach this point.
Dead Space 3 is out on February 5. We don't yet know how it'll run on PC, but don't expect much in the way of platform-specific features.
Jan 31, 2013
Review by David Valjalo
Unlike Portal, there’s no test-subject narrative behind Antichamber, an austerely intellectual first-person puzzler from indie dev Alexander Bruce - but that doesn’t mean you aren’t under the microscope. As you wander the blinding white corridors of a space-bending facility, unpicking the cryptic clues within, you’re encouraged to think that your own psychological state is the real barrier to progress in the game’s interweaving, claustrophobic tunnels.
Wall-mounted plaques punctuate each new area and challenge, delivering existential wisdom of a seemingly glib kind. "The path of least resistance is a valid option," says one. Another reads: "A few steps backwards may keep you moving forwards." But these are also crucial hints, some a good deal more opaque than they first appear, to puzzles which intentionally avoid conformity. One challenge might simply task you with following signs to the exit, another may secretly encourage you to ignore them, while others play with space and perspective in ways which defy traditional game logic: walk up to a window, fill your monitor with the world inside and, like magic, you’re in it.
The first section of the game is a breathless parade of new ideas that approach puzzling laterally, forcing you to muddle your way past non-euclidian geometry and other brain-bending architecture. The latter half introduces more traditional mechanics in the form of four handheld gun-things that fill in voids, pick up and shoot blocks, and clear matter out of your way. Even though these tools offer new methods of traversing earlier environments, it’s a somewhat anticlimactic transition from the relentless invention of the game’s opening - but that doesn’t make the tests here any less agonising to fathom or a triumph to conquer.
When you nail a solution - often best achieved by taking a time-out and drinking a cup of tea, very calmly, as your nails grow back - you feel like a cross between Hercule Poirot and Socrates. Hercules, if you will. That said, there are some puzzles in here guilty of simple obscurity, and this undermines the satisfaction of their completion as well as throwing off the pace of the game. Luckily a hub room (instantly accessible by a tap of ESC) allows re-entry to any of the game's main areas, alleviating the need to pummel yourself against the same puzzle, and allowing you to re-evaluate the messages you've encountered so far.
For some, Antichamber may prove a little draining. It's a title that aspires to challenge your way of thinking and problem-solving and it’s a slightly chilly and solitary experience with it. If that doesn't sound like much fun - there are certainly times it isn't - that's likely part of Bruce's point, suggesting life is a struggle in which you get out what you put in. But Antichamber isn’t all earnest chin-stroking theory - it also hosts moments of transcendent beauty and vignettes that engage your brain on a level few games attempt.
Price: $20 / £12.50
Release: Out Now
Publisher: Alexander Bruce
Developer: Alexander Bruce
Somewhere is an abstract first-person exploration game created by Indian indie team, Oleomingus. You manipulate gravity to traverse the undulating, angular landscape on a quest to discover the whereabouts of a missing person. As you travel, you encounter invisible spirits with their own internal monologues. You can possess them and learn more about the world through their commentary and conversations they have with other characters.
It sure looks unusual, but this isn't an exercise in arbitrary fantasy imagery. Somewhere will attempt to represent the enmeshed perspectives of an entire community. Lead developer, Dhruv, was inspired by the people he met studying a series of insular fishing towns on the West coast of India. Those psychedelic shapes you see in the shot above are abstractions of fauna and architecture from the region. The developers have woven those inspirations into a story set in the early '50s, in the aftermath of India's declaration of independence from British colonial rule. I called up Dhruv to find out more.
The "where" in Somewhere is a fictional place called Kayamgadh, an amalgamation of characters and experiences recorded from populations in and around the West Indian towns of Bordi, Daman and Nargol. "We were doing a small ethnographics survey over there and I was mapping the place," Dhruv explained. "We entered the community and started talking to them. We stayed for about fifteen days. At the end of the whole process of getting to know everybody I wanted to take the whole idea of a complex community and put it into an interactive medium. We started experimenting with using Unity."
Somewhere is both an artistic and journalistic endeavour. Stories recorded from these very private communities will make their way into the game. "We are actually going to the village, photographing it, talking to people there and trying to distil characters. There's a character in the game world, he's a barber, he has been staying there for about 20, 30 years inside the dump, he also has this secret stash of alcohol which he smuggles to the neighbours.
"We had these small, small characters detailed with their own individual stories that you'll start exploring once you are inside the game world. By listening to them talk to other characters, and by making your character talk to them."
The lurid colours and ambiguous forms of Somewhere's environments are designed to alienate. A straightforward representation of the communities that inspired Somewhere would be difficult and problematic, relying much on the designers' interpretations of local customs and events. There's a sense that an abstraction inspired by those communities can do more to evoke the character of a place than a direct photo-realistic recreation.
By way of example, Dhruv drew my attention to the twisting, tree-like forms in the screenshot above. "That is directly derived from Mangrove clusters that you find on the coastal towns," he explained. "They have all these crooked forms, absurd branches going around. But we removed the colour and the feel of the Mangrove cluster, which usually very dark and moist, and replaced it with a very absurd orange that you see in the screenshot."
This environmental alienation extends to your avatar's abilities, which are deliberately restrictive. You have freedom of movement, but you cannot converse directly with the characters. You can only initiate conversations while possessing a character, and then you have no control over the content or direction of what's discussed. You're never one of the people. You're a tourist attempting to appropriate a foreign community by slipping clumsily between voices. In this way Somewhere confronts the player with the limitations of a colonial perspective.
"What we are trying to do is create a very uncomfortable game world in some ways, create a very absurd space. The feelings about the game world should be that the player feels as though they are outside the game world always. You should not become one of the characters."
Somewhere unifies narrative and spatial exploration in a similar way to Dear Esther. Dhruv mentioned that thechineseroom's haunting exploration game provided plenty of inspiration. "I really like that game, it's fantastic! It's beautiful," he enthused.
"With Dear Esther they've retained control of the player. The player can only do certain things within the game, physically, whereas the storytelling is more random. The story keeps popping up several times, in a different order depending on where you are in the space. We are doing something similar, but we're giving complete control to the player to move around as he wants, but we take control of the storytelling. You cannot even listen to what he's replying, the person he's taking to, you can only listen to the person who's speaking."
Somewhere will be released for free on Oleomingus' site and their Indie DB page when it's done. They're also working on a recently Kickstarted turn based strategy called Oxygen, and are sketching out "a very peculiar gravity shooting arcade game." The team consists of Dhruv, a dedicated musician and a small group of part time programmers. I had one more question. Is Dhruv operating as part of a bustling indie scene in India, or are the team working alone?
"I know of one developer in a city close by, but I have not had any contact with them, they develop for the touch devices, I think. Other than that we are developing in a bubble," Dhruv laughed. "I don't know of anybody who does independent gaming. Explaining to people what we do is also very, very difficult."
Rockstar have announced that the official release date for GTA 5 will be September 17th. That's a fairly significant delay over the previous, albeit vague, launch window of Spring 2013. Of course, so far the game has only been officially announced for consoles. That means the PC version, if one is even being planned, will likely arrive many months after that date - probably sometime in 2014.
A statement from Rockstar explains the delay. "We know this is about four months later than originally planned and we know that this short delay will come as a disappointment to many of you, but, trust us, it will be worth the extra time. GTAV is a massively ambitious and complex game and it simply needs a little more polish to be of the standard we and, more importantly, you require."
"To all Grand Theft Auto fans, please accept our apologies for the delay, and our promise that the entire team here is working very hard to make the game all it can be. We are doing all we can to help ensure it will meet if not exceed your expectations come September – we thank you for your support and patience."
Still no word on the game's PC arrival then. Despite a popular petition (currently on 148,620 signatures), the last official statement we heard was Dan Houser claiming that PC support was merely "up for consideration".
That said, the fact that every other GTA has eventually smashed its way through our Windows - usually 6-12 months after the console release - is a pretty strong hint that we will, eventually, get our hands on the game.
Breathing life into the diary of an entirely text-based game must be a difficult prospect. For Kevin Snow's Dwarf Fortress playthrough it meant an ambitious collaboration, bringing together a well told character-driven (and emergent) narrative, original art, music and an isometric visualiser. The result was Matul Remrit, a detailed and inventive telling of a tale that began in 2010. That story has now come to end, finishing the series with a six part chapter of videos, comics and diary entries.
The full project is dramatic, sombre, surprising and funny. It's also huge, experimentally told from the perspective of the featured dwarves - "a band of dregs who struggle to build their
new home amidst strife, internal politics, and a scourge of elf attacks."
It's well worth taking the time to work your way through the epic undertaking. Here's a brief excerpt:
"16th Slate 1051
Oh Mittens how your fur shined
Oh Mittens how your head purred
Oh Mittens how your feet landed (when hurled)
Oh Mittens where have you left
Oh Mittens do you miss me too
- Ode to Mittens by Exi the Poemhaver."
Jan 31, 2013
Sandy Beech, my latest gang boss, is a complicated capo. Before breakfast (mine not his) he torched a speakeasy and a casino, shot three men in the gut and two in the feet. After breakfast he set up a soup kitchen, built a clinic, and rescued a nightclub owner from the klutches of the Ku Klux Klan.
I’ve no idea whether Sandy enjoyed his morning of slaughter and social work, but I know I did. Though Omerta lacks the humour and economic subtlety of Haemimont’s Tropico 4 there’s ample compensation in the engrossing campaign and cracking turn-based combat.
Sometimes unavoidable story events, sometimes the result of a botched heist or drive-by, the Action Point-funded skirmishes provide lots of tactical chin scratching and memorable lead trading. Shotgun blasts shatter furniture and send clustered foes reeling. Molotov cocktails loop through windows. Hoodlums lean from cover cradling chattering Tommy guns.
A combination of distinctive weapons, solid AI, plausible friendly-fire risks, and interesting damage twists (concussion, panic, blood loss... ) mean Omerta can hold its head up in the company of XCOM, Jagged Alliance and Silent Storm.
Most weapons boast several attack modes. At times it pays to trade accuracy for speed or spread, or to attempt to disable or discourage rather than dispatch. With a few extra outdoor maps, a less rigid cover system, and a ‘dead means dead’ difficulty setting (at present, defeated teams end up captured or convalescing) the violence would be almost unimpeachable.
More Capone-calibre harshness wouldn’t go amiss on the economic front either. At present, whether you’re playing the pleasingly varied and deftly tale-flecked campaign or the not-especially-sandy sandbox mode, it’s a bit too easy to go from struggling street punk to comfy crime-lord. Usually, once you’ve established a few businesses, hired a few hoods, and figured-out how to keep the law off your back, it’s plain sailing. Rival gangs tend to be passive, watching from the wings while you muscle in on their rackets.
Those with prior tycoon experience may find the simplistic supply chains, limited upgrade opportunities, and lack of ledgers disappointing. Gazing down on the atmospheric maps with their beetling streetcars and cruising jalopies, it’s sad to think that individual Omertians can’t be selected, mind-read, or caught in crossfire. This isn’t a game for avid anthill watchers.
Or for anyone with a tin ear. The scandalously uncredited soundtrack is a brilliant melange of period jazz, ragtime and klezmer. While police sirens wail and Chicago pianos riff, clarinets and Steinways are often doing the same.
Not as tough or as deep as it could be, Omerta is still a destination well worth a visit.
Expect to pay: £25
Release: Out now
Developer: Haemimont Games
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Multiplayer: Versus or co-op combat, 2 players