E3 2018: XBox Press Conference.

 

xbox-e3-2018

Microsoft had a great showing this year showing 50 games over the course of their conference. They opened with a trailer for Halo: Infinite which shows Master Chief returning to a Halo ring in a world that seemed to be very open, so maybe that is a hint that this new game will be more open world than the traditionally linear campaigns that Halo has had before.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider got a new trailer that hinted at a bit more of what we can expect from the story when it releases in September.

Forza Horizon 4 will be set in Britain and was shown to be a shared world where you encounter actual players while you race around the game world. The other big selling point was seasons that drastically change the way the game is played, such as a lake freezing over in winter to allow access to previously unreachable areas.

Crackdown 3 got a new trailer and a release date for February 2019 a month that has become the hot new game release month for a number of big titles.

Kingdom Hearts 3 showed a glimpse of the games new Frozen world, with seriously amazing graphics that are comparable to the way the movie itself looks. Accompanied by a song from singer Utada Hikaru who did the iconic openings “Simple and Clean” and “Sanctuary” among other songs for the other Kingdom Hearts titles.

Sea of Thieves had a reveal of two more content launches for the next few months.

And Dont Nod developer of the critically acclaimed Life is Strange had a trailer for a brand new game in the same universe titled The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit which looks to follow a child in his active imagination and his relationship with his father, and it is FREE which is a bonus.

Metro Exodus finally got a release date joining in the melee that is February 2019 on the 22nd of that month.

From Software fans will be excited that a new game called Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice will be joining the Dark Souls, and Bloodbourne franchises. From what was shown Sekiro follows a Samurai cursed with un-death out for revenge using his grappling hook replaced left arm for traversal and boss fights.

Fallout 76 had a proper reveal from Tod Howard of Bethesda Studios on stage where the game was revealed to be FOUR times the size of Fallout 4 and take place in West Virginia and follows a vault of people tasked with rebuilding America.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps had a gorgeous new trailer, yet again reminding me that I need to play Ori and the Blind Forest.

We Happy Few had a trailer to showcase the games story mode and its release date of August 10th 2018.

This reveal was around the time Microsoft announced that they had acquired four new studios. Forza Horizon developer Playground games, State of Decay developer Undead Labs, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice developer Ninja Theory, and We Happy Few developer Compulsion Games. Showing just how commited Microsoft is to catching up with Sony’s lead on great exclusive titles.

The Division 2 had a teaser trailer and some scripted game-play showing of the new Washington DC location. Xbox is also getting a remastered version of Tales of Vesperia releasing in Winter 2018 (summer for those of us in the southern hemisphere).

Xbox Game Pass got a lot of love, announcing that a bunch of titles will be coming day and date to game pass the day of the global launch of some games. Such as Forza Horizon 4 and Crackdown 3.

Devil May Cry 5 was revealed, as was an expansion for Cuphead and The Black Desert MMORPG beta is getting an Xbos One release.

A cute one person developed game called Tunic was revealed showing a Fox in a tunic running around a beautiful isometric world with a great Legend of Zelda vibe.

Microsoft continued their reveal of Japanese developed games with Jump Force, which looks to be a 3D fighting game using Shonen Jump characters. Goku from Dragonball, Naruto from Naruto, and Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece were in the trailer fighting Dragonball’s Frieza. At the trailers end Light Yagami and Ryuk from Death Note were teased as well. It looks like it could be a great deal of fun.

In the vein of open worlds both Dying Light 2 and Just Cause 4 were revealed. Dying Light 2 looks to be focusing on the consequences of your choices having physical impacts on your game world. The example they gave was whether to help a faction secure a water reservoir. Helping the Peacekeepers gives everyone water, but the Peacekeepers are  ruthless in making everyone follow their laws and ONLY their laws. Or you could help the outlaws sell the water on a black market but this makes the area a beacon to raiders who want the water for themselves.

Just Cause 4’s trailer focused very much on the story of the game which seems to me a pivot from the usual mayhem and destruction that the franchise is known for. Although that was seen in a game-play trailer as well.

Apparently Battletoads is getting a new game. I don’t quite know who this is for.

Gears of War had a three reveals, the first being Gears of War Pop a mobile game in partnership with Funko Pop toys. Followed by an X-com style Gears of War Tactics, then finally the game the audience was waiting for Gears of War 5. Which looks to be the game that all the fans of that franchise will love.

Finally Phil Spencer’s Closing note was hacked by Cd Projekt Red for the cinematic reveal of Cyberpunk: 2077. Cyberpunks world seems to be a future where digital technology is a part of everyday life. Most people look to have some sort of cybernetic implants and the world is fantastically colorful. We also see the man who could very well be our protagonist as he escapes from someone in his future car. The trailer showed me just enough to start getting me excited for this game when it eventually releases.

Clearly from the wall I just wrote Microsoft is well on their way to providing a number of great games. Some of which may be on whatever the next generation of consoles might be, as Phil Spencer teased that Microsoft’s hardware team is working on whatever is next to come for Xbox. I am certainly looking forward to a lot of what Microsoft showed of this year.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rise of the Tomb Raider: A Fantastic Sequel

Rise of the Tomb Raider

When it was announced that the Tomb Raider franchise was being rebooted by Crystal Dynamics, I didn’t care. I had never played more than a demo for an old PS1 Tomb Raider game, and so I ignored all of the news around this reboot. It was a wonderful surprise when I saw it and played it for myself, I fell in love with the franchise and couldn’t wait to see what would happen with the sequel.

Usually I am the kind of person that devours anything related to the franchises I love, but in the case of Rise of the Tomb Raider I decided to ignore as much of the news as possible. The idea being that I would be as pleasantly surprised as I was when I played its predecessor Tomb Raider. Luckily even with the amount of gaming news I consume, from news sites to podcasts and YouTube videos, I managed to go into Rise of the Tomb Raider without having had anything spoiled for me.

It was worth it! I downloaded the game to my Xbox One and was immediately wowed by how good the game looked, it was the first time I had ever sat there staring at the screen not realising the intro cut scene had ended. I have heard people talking about this before but it was amazing to experience it for the first time.

Right from the start Rise of the Tomb Raider does its best to make you feel like this game is a step up from the first game. The tutorial section is split between two opposite places in the world, an icy mountain peak, and somewhere in the Middle East, this is a contrast to the first game being set entirely on a windswept island. It also does the job of making the game feel much larger just by giving the player the idea that Lara Croft has travelled a great distance.

It is unfortunate that it is the story that lets the game down a bit. The basic premise is that Lara went back to the world after the supernatural events that occurred in the first game, and was ridiculed for telling her story. A newspaper headline “Another Crazy Croft,” and some explanation from Lara tells us that her father was discredited for his own theories about the supernatural and archaeology, to the point that he shot himself.

So after her experiences on the island Lara sets out to solve her father’s theories about an Immortal prophet as a way to validate her own experiences and redeem her father’s name. As such Lara goes on this expedition alone rather than risk her friends from the first game, in fact Jonah is the only character to return from the first game.

Needless to say, Lara finds that she is not the only one searching for the immortal prophet, and so general mayhem follows. Alongside the main storyline is the expansion of the idea from the first game that some of the collectibles tell stories of people from the past. In Rise of the Tomb raider these collectibles tell the story of the Immortal prophet’s people running from Trinity (a religious order of some sort), and a Trinity soldier who is sent to follow their trail and report the prophets location.

These side stories are simple and if you get into them, make you want to find the next collectible so that you can read the story of these people. In Tomb Raider I found that these side stories spoiled the major twist for me. However Rise of the Tomb Raider only tells a supplementary story, the only purpose it serves is to flesh out the history of the game world and nothing else. Being interested in stories of all kinds I loved this addition, and I was happy that Crystal Dynamics expanded upon this idea.

When it comes to gameplay Rise of the Tomb Raider does a great job of improving on the first game’s systems. I didn’t notice it too much in tomb Raider but the auto cover system works flawlessly, you are able to hind behind trees or rocks without button presses or awkward controls for getting in or out of cover.

Also added, is the ability to have multiple variations of the same type of weapon. For example you have a number of different bows with different attributes, a longbow that does more damage but is slower to draw and fire and you are unable to keep the bow drawn for a great length of time. Aside from this is a compound bow which does slightly less damage but can be kept drawn for a long time and is more accurate than your other bows.

The same goes for guns, you can have a revolver or a semi-auto pistol; an assault rifle or a bolt-action rifle. Added on top of this is an upgrade system similar to Tomb Raider’s, however it is treated more like a crafting system, where you must collect resources from enemies, animals, and crates to add things to your weapons. Such as adding a scope to your bolt-action rifle and turning it into a sniper rifle so you can take out enemies at a greater distance than you can with your bow.

Another improvement made in Rise of the Tomb Raider is that the challenge tombs you come across now give you a reward other than experience and a treasure map. You now get secret skills that augment your gameplay, like an ancient archery skills that teaches you to quickly fire a second arrow immediately after firing your first, or “inner strength” which gives you a second wind if critically damaged.

The tombs do have better challenges than the first game and they can be massive, some of them are amazing surprises as well. Imagine climbing a barren cliff, and just as you climb around the side of a rock you see a massive temple carved into the side of the canyon wall, you work your way towards all the while hearing a low humming noise. You work your way through the temple and as the final door opens the low humming noise becomes the deafening sound of a massive pipe organ. The temple was built around a natural formation that sounds like a pipe organ when the wind gusts down through the canyon.

And that is just one of the challenge tombs. The others are just as good, you can tell that Crystal Dynamics put a lot of time and effort into this part of the game. Alongside the challenge tombs are some secret crypts that give you pieces of an ancient weapon, the puzzle here is finding the crypts but each one tells the story of a founder of the immortal prophet’s city, which is another thing that adds to the story of the game world.

Rise of the tomb Raider is not an open world game, however it does a great job of making you think that it is. There are a number of large zones that you can explore to find secrets and resources, and each of these large zones are connected by smaller zones that have secrets of their own. This makes the game world feel much larger than it is, you rarely see a loading screen once you are in the game unless you choose to fast travel around.

All in all Crystal Dynamics did a great job with Rise of the Tomb Raider, they managed to improve upon every aspect of Tomb Raiders systems, and they have once again set up for a great sequel. As of writing this the DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider is all out although I haven’t yet played it, once I do I will write about those as well. I can say with confidence if you enjoyed Tomb Raider you will most definitely enjoy Rise of the Tomb Raider. Even if you are new to the franchise it should be easy to jump in here without much trouble as there are only a few references to the first game.  Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.

Tomb Raider: The Crystal Dynamics Reboot

Tomb Raider1

Last week I wrote about the uncharted collection and talked about how I feel like I was spoiled for the uncharted games because of the Tomb Raider reboot by Crystal dynamics. Today I am writing about just the first game in the rebooted Tomb Raider series simply because unlike the uncharted games I played them when they first released and I have had time to sit and think about each game separately. I will probably write about Rise of the Tomb Raider this week as well, but I don’t know think it will be tomorrow.

So I was watching E3 at the ungodly time of the morning that I have to get up in New Zealand to watch the live streams, when the reboot of Tomb Raiders was announced, and I have to say that I had no excitement whatsoever for it. This would probably be down to the fact that all I had ever seen of Tomb Raider before this was playing a PS1 demo and watching the Angelina Jolie movies.

Due to my distance from the franchise I just wasn’t at all interested in playing this game, I even completely forgot it was a thing until I saw my flat mate playing the game on his PC. I sat there for a while and was completely taken in by the setting and the gameplay, as he worked his way through a puzzle. I picked the game up the next day and spent the next few days doing nothing but playing through this gem that I had been ignoring for so long.

Tomb Raider is a pretty run of the mill treasure hunting story that turns to the supernatural, with the sections between and around story points being delivered through some amazing set pieces. Like climbing beneath a crumbling bridge to hide from the gunmen above so you can sneak into an ancient palace, which you then have to escape from while being hunted down and outrunning an inferno.

Where Tomb Raider excels is in its combat, it feels so smooth and easy to target and take out an enemy. You aren’t fighting the controls more than the enemies that are on-screen. The bow is especially great, because as you move through the game you are given upgrades that make it your most versatile weapon.

You get the ability to use your bow to fire rope arrows that help you traverse chasms and pull items towards you to complete puzzles. The fun begins when you are fighting enemies that stand on balconies and the roofs of the shacks around the island, if the building has a rope attach point you can pull the balcony out from under the enemies. This adds a bit of variety of variety to combat and can often help you to take out multiple enemies at once.

Upgrading your weapons is a big part of the new Tomb Raider games, and you are able to add a few interesting things, such as a grenade launcher to your assault rifle, or fire to your arrows. As you play you come across crates that give you experience to upgrade your character and the salvage currency needed to upgrade weapons, further into the game you also start to pick up weapon parts that once you have all of them for a particular weapon type, you get a permanent upgrade to that weapon.

Take the tree limb long bow you pick up at the beginning of the game as you progress you get a recurve bow, or later in the game, a compound bow. These small upgrades over time make you feel like you are gradually getting stronger and more capable of surviving the island.

I liked about the tales told through the collectibles that you pick up while exploring the island. There is the story of a priestess to the Sun Queen of Yamatai (the island kingdom), the story of a Japanese ambassador to Yamatai, and a short journal from a World War two soldier about losing all of his men to the island. These add to the mythology of the place, they make the place feel like it has proper history. Unfortunately for me these journals also helped me to figure out where the plot of the game was going way before it occurred in the game itself. So in this case although the stories help to flesh out the mythology of the island, they also hurt the pacing of the story.

Tomb Raider allows you to level up your character and augment your personal play style as well. You are able to choose to specialize in hunting, so you get more resources for upgrading weapons. Or you can specialize in combat, making it easier to take down enemies. You are even able to specialize in exploring, making it easier to find the secrets and collectibles on the map.

That last option really depends on who is playing the game, as some people like the challenge of finding all of the secrets themselves, without the help of the game or a guide. Others like to have the option to highlight the collectibles so that they can find then and 100% the game without too much trouble.

For the people who like to find the secrets on their own, the game has some neat ways of helping them along. When you are close to a secret tomb the game plays a certain musical tone to make you aware that you are close to something important, there is usually also a painting or a symbol near the entrance to a tomb that helps you along your way as well.

And for those that like a bit of extra help, you are able to utilise your survival instincts (super vision) to see a beacon showing you where to go to find the object you have selected on your map. This can still be a bit tricky from time to time as you often still have to explore a whole building to find exactly what you are looking for, but it is still easier than looking without any help.

The challenge tombs are great fun as well, they are neat little puzzles that challenge the way you can use the games mechanics to be able to platform around to the tombs reward. Such as using your rope arrows to pull a buoy into a rivers current so that it can make a flag pole turn so you can jump across it to a climbing wall that so you can get to your goal. The only problem with these puzzles is that they are not very difficult, it would be odd make more than two or three attempts to be able to solve a tomb. Even when replaying the game a couple of years later I was able to remember each puzzle and complete them straight away.

I love the work that Crystal Dynamics has done with this rebooted Tomb Raider series, and I hope they are able to keep up their good work, and give us even greater gameplay as the series moves on. I know they have improved from the first game into Rise of the Tomb Raider, I just hope they can continue this trend.

If you haven’t picked up this new Tomb Raider series, I recommend that you do. I’ve played it to completion on PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One and I can recommend it on any of those platforms. So pick it up if you want to have a few hours playing through some amazing scenery, and having great fun while doing so.