monster hunter

Can My Kid Play Monster Hunter: World?

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Can My Kid Play is a series of helpful guides for parents that dive further into the ratings and content of video games. We do not pass judgement, instead providing insight and information so parents can make their own informed decisions.

What is Monster Hunter: World?

Monster Hunter: World is a third-person action-RPG where players customize their hunter and set off on a new world to hunt gigantic monsters, such as dragons, dinosaurs, and toothy fish-creatures. Hunters can swap between 14 different weapon styles, each with their own signature playstyle and moves, and upgrade their weapons and armor by using parts earned from hunting and capturing monsters. The game supports up to four players hunting monsters together in online co-op.

What platforms is it available on?

Monster Hunter: World released in 2018 on PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A major expansion pack, Iceborne, recently released in September 2019, and is available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and coming later to PC. Monster Hunter: World does not feature cross-platform play, meaning friends will need to play on the same system to play online together.

Note that Monster Hunter: World is not available on Nintendo Switch. There is another Monster Hunter game available on Switch, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, but it’s an HD port of Monster Hunter Generations, originally released for handheld gaming device Nintendo 3DS in 2016.

What is the ESRB Rating?

Monster Hunter: World is rated T for Teen with the following descriptors: Blood, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol, and Violence.

monster hunter: world

What is the overall tone of the story?

Although players spend much of their time battling giant monsters, the tone of the campaign is one of discovery, knowledge, and research. Hunters are tasked with exploring each new region of the New World and invariably hunting and fighting all its native inhabitants, in the hopes of tracking down rare and powerful beasts known as Elder Dragons.

The New World has a seemingly unlimited supply of creatures to hunt. Hunts are generally seen as culling herds or protecting the colony rather than exterminating species. Quests occasionally give the option to capture creatures rather than kill them.

What is the level of violence?

Fighting giant monsters is the primary task, and though blood is listed as an ESRB descriptor, Monster Hunter: World is not a gory game. The violence level is closer to a comic book film, or a PG-13 Godzilla or Pacific Rim to be more thematically appropriate. Swords slash, hammers bash, and teeth chomp, but hunters and monsters alike get smacked around rather than bloodied and torn apart.

The Blood descriptor primarily comes from one of the regions, the Rotten Vale, which is one big elephant graveyard for monsters, full of bone piles and blood pools.

Visually the monsters don’t show much wear and tear during a fight with a few notable exceptions. Many monsters have severable body parts, such as horns or a tail, though they’re never accompanied by blood or gore. When heavily damaged, monsters will indicate they’re near death by limping and whining as they attempt to retreat back to their home turf.

Hunters won’t get very far without carving out monster parts they need after the hunt. The actual carving is done as abstractly as possible, with hunters kneeling down with a knife, then popping back up with the part.

What is the level of alcohol and/or drug use?

Hunters have the option to drink at the canteen in town. Eating a meal before a hunt boosts the hunter’s stats. Additional ingredients, including alcohol, can be earned by completing optional quests.

What is the level of adult language?

Language is generally mild, with characters spouting the occasional “damn” or “pissed off” during story cutscenes.

What is the level of sexual content or themes?

There is no sexual content at all in the story. The player character can be male or female, as can any hunter, with the only difference being the voice lines and the way each armor set looks. Armor is heavily stylized fantasy armor, ranging from full-body plate mail to midriff-exposed spiky bikinis for women.

What is the level of online interactivity?

Monster Hunter: World can be played entirely in single player, but is notable for allowing up to four players to join forces and hunt monsters together. As a purely cooperative game, players can easily interact via the pre-built phrases, or often not need to interact at all as they hunt together. Friends can join together by forming friends-only squad sessions.

What else do parents need to know about Monster Hunter: World?

Unlike most video games, Monster Hunter: World cannot be paused. This can be a major issue as many hunts can take between 30-60 minutes to complete, and time is a factor in every hunt. “Just one more mission” can be a lengthy undertaking, and quitting out early results in almost no rewards.

Monster Hunter: World is also a very long and complex game, with an almost unending supply of monsters to hunt and gear to upgrade. The main story alone easily takes over 50 hours, and more than likely much longer with all the side quests and missions to gain better gear. Each weapon style features advanced combos, and every monster requires experience and observation, as well as quick reflexes and weapon knowledge, to successfully take down. The result can be frustratingly challenging but also very rewarding.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses Makes School Fun

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Spoilers for Fire Emblem: Awakening.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is exactly as I feared, a game that puts as big an emphasis, if not more, into building relationships, teaching classes, and walking around Garreg Mach Monastery as it does the actual turn-based tactical combat the series has been known for. Yet by deftly weaving these relationships and seminars into gaining new skills, new class recruits, and new story opportunities, Three Houses has proven that not only are the non-combat sections enjoyable, but are now integral to the series.

Fire Emblem has been one of my favorite RPG series, despite not even hitting the US until the early 2000s (in fact many US gamers were introduced to Fire Emblem via the inclusion of characters Marth and Roy in Super Smash Bros. Melee in 2001). The series features fantasy warfare, larger-than-life anime heroes and villains, and meaningful tactical combat.

In Fire Emblem: Awakening (2012) we began to see a shift, putting a bigger emphasis on the characters. More importantly, we could build relationships between our characters by having them fight near each other on the battlefield. These relationships would upgrade their Support ranking, granting additional bonuses when fielded together, as well as resulting in special mini-cutscenes between the two characters. By maximizing the support ranks for certain pairs of characters, they would fall in love, and a child from the future would unlock as a new recruit thanks to the timey-whimey plot.

This concept was so fun and successful that it continued into Fire Emblem Fates (2015), although the future-child thing didn’t make a lot of sense in that narrative, and I began to grow worried that the focus on socializing was taking away from the tactical combat I fell in love with.

Hot for Teacher

Three Houses takes socializing even further by rolling character advancement and recruitment into building these relationships, knowing your students, and teaching the right classes.

In Three Houses the main character, Byleth, becomes a professor at a military prep school for the all major noble houses of the land.  The story is divided into months, weeks, and days. Each week I can choose to walk around the monastery, talking  to students, completing fetch quests, and hosting meals and tea parties, engage in weekly seminars and lessons where I (or another faculty member) imparts my battlefield skills like sword, lance, or riding onto my students, or I can participate in side missions to see my well-molded team in action. Only at the end of each month do we engage in the next big story battle.

I expected to roll my eyes during these lengthy non-combat sections, but I was pleasantly surprised. The monastery is large enough to make exploring fun, but small enough to never get tedious (near-instant fast travel helps as well). Activities include planting crops, fishing, cooking meals, and sparring in duels. I wish that some of these events were full mini-games rather than little cutscenes (cooking and planting particularity), but all of them create a fun and regular checklist of things to do, not unlike a farm sim game.

The main focus is on interacting with the students of the monastery, both inside and outside my chosen house. For the students inside my house, I work to increase their motivation by bringing them the right lost items and gifts, based on their personalities and likes. Higher motivation means a more eager willingness to improve their skills when class is in session.

For students outside of my house, it’s all about recruitment. Regardless of which house you choose, nearly every character in the game can be recruited – and there are a ton of characters.

In previous Fire Emblem games characters would typically join as part of the story, but here it’s entirely up to me to devote the time into courting my favorite characters by showering them with gifts, hosting tea parties and selecting the right topics, cooking their favorite meals, and taking them on temporary battles to build our support, leading to fun dialogue scenes and eventually, hopefully, joining my roster. It’s an incredibly rewarding system.

It helps that Three Houses is the best-looking Fire Emblem game to date, especially considering the last three games were released on the Nintendo 3DS. The voice work and character design are phenomenal, lending memorable personalities for the 30-odd characters that are present around the Monastery right from the beginning of the game. Dorothea the singer looking for a man to settle down with. Bernadetta the adorable misfit suffering from social anxiety. Silvain the unrepentant ladies man who’s far more interesting once you get to know him. Each character has their own set of skills and class goals, though I can ultimately shape how I want them to grow to build my perfect army.

Around the time of Fire Emblem Fates I was worried about the direction the series was going, shoe-horning character supports and romantic pairings in order to gain their powerful time-traveling children. I couldn’t be more pleased with how Fire Emblem: Three Houses handles the social aspects, presenting a Harry Potter-like fantasy school that’s fun, rewarding, and meaningful. The only downside is I can never play with permadeath on again – I can’t bear to lose any of these wonderful characters.

marvel ultimate alliance 3

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 Tips, Synergies, and Team Bonuses

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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a flawed but fantastic action-brawler (read our review). One of its biggest flaws is how poorly it describes some of its underlying mechanics, such as attributes and synergies. We’ve compiled some quick tips, details, and strategies so you can spend less time staring at statistics and more time punching bad guys.

Stat Breakdown

Every hero has six stats: Strength, Mastery, Resilience, Durability, Energy, and Vitality. When it comes to equipping them with ISO-8, you’re going to want to know which heroes benefit the most from which stat boosts.

Strength affects physical basic attacks as well as any power that’s listed as melee, projectile, or piercing. Heroes that benefit the most from Strength are entirely focused on physical attacks and abilities, such as Captain America, Hulk, and Ms. Marvel.

Mastery affects energy attacks and abilities. Magic and elemental heroes will benefit the most from pumping up Mastery, such as Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, and Crystal. Note that certain heroes’ basic attacks will also scale off Mastery instead of Strength if they shoot fireballs or bolts of energy, such as Wasp. Oddly, in what seems like an oversight, Psylocke uses Strength, not Mastery, for her basic attacks.

Durability and Resilience are your defenses against enemy physical and energy attacks respectively. The higher the defensive stat, the less damage you take from that source. It’s possible from some heroes to be great physical tanks, but fall apart against energy blasts.

Energy and Vitality determine your Energy Points (EP) and Health Points (HP). Every hero benefits from Vitality though melee heroes will need it more than their ranged counterparts. Likewise heroes that rely more on their powers will want as much Energy as possible.

Synergize

Synergizing powers is incredibly important in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. There are two different radial menus for accessing your super powers. Holding down R lets you perform any of your abilities by yourself. Holding down ZR enables synergy attacks, but only if someone nearby has the right synergy trait for your powers. If some of your powers are grayed out, it means no one nearby has the right synergy trait. This can be especially painful in the early levels when each character only has one or two abilities. By level 20 everyone has four abilities, making synergies much more common.

Synergy traits are listed on the power screen, directly below the ability’s trait. The in-game tips menu only lists some of the possible combinations. When viewing powers on the Hero Select screen, these traits show up as different icons next to the powers, such as a snowflake for Freeze and a fist for Launch. You can either rely on trial and error to find the right combos, or peruse user-made graphs like this one.

Synergy attacks boost your abilities in fun new ways, such as adding fire to a tornado, or doubling the size of an explosion. You generally want to perform synergy attacks as much as possible.

Your AI controlled allies can enable synergies as well. Whenever they perform an ability and you have a corresponding synergy trait, an ‘A’ prompt will flash over your portrait in the lower left corner. Hitting ‘A’ during the brief window will activate that synergy attack.

Elementalists are Friends with Benefits

Some of the best synergy traits are the elements: burn, freeze, and shock, and whirlwind if we include it for air. Characters that can perform these moves with these traits often synergize with just about anything, making them wonderful team members to include, even if you don’t necesarrily enjoy playing them. Excellent Elementalists include Crystal, Star-Lord, Storm, Ghost Rider, and Wasp.

Block and Dodge

It’s easy to forget in the chaos of large battles, but it becomes important to know how (and when) to dodge attacks. Holding L allows your character to block, significantly reducing all damage. Hold L while moving will result in a dodge roll, one of the most useful tools for any hero. Most enemies have easy to see wind-up attacks, and you don’t want to be caught flat-footed.

Charge to Stagger Big Enemies

Any enemy who’s not a grunt (including bosses) has an additional purple health bar called the Stagger Gauge. Attacks deplete this bar first, which temporarily stuns the enemy and allows you to damage the enemy’s health bar.

Hero abilities are all rated for damage to health and to stagger, and charge abilities specifically are well suited to damaging the Stagger Gauge, making them a great opening move when facing these more powerful foes.

Because charge is so good against stronger enemies, you always want to include one or two heroes who can perform charge attacks on your team, and upgrade the charge abilities ASAP. Thankfully the Charge trait is very common and just about every melee hero posses a charge ability, such as Hulk, Captain America, Ghost Rider, Psylocke, and Captain Marvel.

Save Extreme Attacks for Stunned Enemies

Extreme attacks are triggered by tapping the L + R buttons when your Extreme bar is filled up – that’s the yellow circle around your character portrait. Tapping L + R repeatedly allows other characters to join in (assuming their bars are full as well) to unleash an Alliance Extreme Attack, the most powerful ability you can perform, and turning the battlefield into a kaleidoscope of death.

However, it’s best to time these big attacks for the right moment, such as when a boss, or a room full of stronger enemies, are stunned. You’ll know they’re stunned when their purple bar is depleted, following by a glass-breaking sound as they enter a stunned animation. That’s the time to pull your Extreme Attacks, doing massive damage to their HP. Gleeful cackling is optional but encouraged.

Infinity Trials for Grinding

If you enjoy switching heroes, you’ll find the campaign quickly outpacing your ability to keep everyone leveled up. To make matters worse, the story annoyingly shoves nearly half its roster at you in the beginning of Chapter 2, where many heroes will languish in low-level purgatory.

That’s where the Infinity Trials come in. These challenges are designed to be replayed many times to grind your heroes’ levels and earn XP cubes and ISO-8 loot drops.

The best Trials for boosting heroes’ XP are the Rush trials, as they provide large amounts of enemies, which equate to more XP gains. You can power-level lower level heroes by slotting them into a higher level team, and using that team to quickly clear the highest level rush trial you have access to, such as the Lvl. 24 Rush at Avengers Tower. Upon completion, many of these trials reward XP cubes over and over again, granting another nice boost when leveling up heroes.

Pay Attention to Trial Rules

Frustrated by how you’re dealing no damage to Doctor Octopus in the Lvl. 10 Synergy Trial? Read the fine print: Synergy attacks deal more damage but everything else deals less damage, including Extreme Attacks. It’s important to note when trials have special conditions that you have to exploit, while others are simply beating on bad guys before time runs out.

And don’t worry about three-starring everything early, you can always come back once you have higher level heroes, upgraded powers and the right ISO-8’s equipped to wipe the floor with earlier trials.

Alliance Enhancement

The lab is where you want to spend all those credits and enhancement points you’ve been earning, which is accessible on the main menu or any SHIELD checkpoint. It’s a series of grid-webs full of passive bonuses, which should be familiar to fans of action-RPGs like Path of Exile.

You can only unlock adjacent bonuses starting from the middle. It’s best to go toward the edges first, as you will unlock additional grid-webs. Filling out an entire hex grid will unlock a major central bonus. A great bonus to aim for early is in the upper left corner (unlocked from the Extreme Gauge Recovery bonus). Filling out that blue energy grid results in a flat 10% XP boost for all heroes!

Don’t neglect the Enhancement grids as they provide lots of stat boosts that quickly add up.

Upgrade ISO-8

About half-way through the campaign you’ll gain the ability to upgrade ISO-8, which are crystals you earn in battle and can equip on heroes. ISO-8 provide stat boosts and other benefits. You can upgrade them via the Lab. It’s a good idea to check the Lab every so often for ISO-8 upgrades, as it’s a good way to turn the dozens of ISO-8 you’ll earn into upgrading the few you have equipped.

Team-Ups

Finding stellar team combinations is part of the fun. Every hero has several team affiliations, with each affiliation resulting in a different passive stat boost for the entire active team. On the Hero Select screen, press Y to view all the team bonuses, or tap L to view your current roster’s affiliations. The Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, grant a bonus to Resilience from 2% (with two members) up to 8% (for four members). Team Bonuses are cumulative, meaning that characters can earn bonuses from multiple teams. Captain Marvel, for example, can contribute a team bonus to her fellow Guardians (know your comic history!) as well as to Avengers and Women of Marvel.

Most characters have four or five team bonuses. Oddly Gamora is one of the most team-friendly heroes around, having no less than eight (!) affiliations: Guardians of the Galaxy, Femme Fatales, Agile Fighter, Ultimate Alliance 3, Women of Marvel, Family Values, Martial Artist, and Cutting Edge. No matter who’s in your squad, Gamora will probably compliment it.

If you’re looking for a high team bonus boost, check out the X-Force gang: Deadpool, Psylocke, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler contribute a whopping 17% Strength and 8% vitality bonus, thanks to the four-person bonuses of X-Men, X-Force, and Cutting Edge. Considering all these heroes benefit greatly from both strength and vitality, this is one of the most powerful teams in the mid-game, and when you unlock Elektra, you can squeeze out a few more stat bonuses.

Other good-looking team comps include:

  • Black Web-heads: Venom, Black Widow, Spider-Gwen, and Miles Morales
  • Midnight Sons: Dr. Strange, Elsa Bloodstone, Ghost Rider, and Scarlet Witch
  • The Defenders: Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, Daredevil
  • Old School Avengers: Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp

Find one or two heroes you love, and build a team around them. Look for good synergy traits and team bonuses – or throw all that out and build your own Marvel dream team.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is a Smart Evolution of Pokémon GO

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No one was prepared for the popularity of Pokémon GO when it launched in the summer of 2016. Least of all mobile developer Niantic Inc. Explosive would be an understatement. The augmented reality mobile game was uniquely poised to combine a well-known, beloved brand with meta-social real world gameplay. The result was a cultural phenomenon that lasted months as we ran around our towns and cities trying to catch ’em all.

Three years and many content-rich updates later, Niantic has returned with an all new AR game with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. The similarities between Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Pokémon GO are impossible to ignore. Both are based on beloved and popular children’s franchises, and both are AR games that require physically moving around to collect resources. Wizards Unite has the benefit of learning from Pokémon GO’s limits and early stutters, resulting in an enjoyable and worthy followup.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite takes place after the timeline of the original books and movies. You play as a wizarding member of the Statue of Secrecy Task Force. Player customization is a delight as it uses my phone camera to snap a selfie pic. I can then dress up in suitable Harry Potter accessories, like round glasses, scarves, and witch hats. I can also select which Hogwarts House I prefer and my style of wand, though all appear to be purely aesthetic choices.

The choice of profession is an important one, however. After gaining experience I can choose from three different classes, Auror, Magizoologist, and Professor. Each has its own skill tree when taking on wizard challenges, and provide helpful skills and increased defensive and offensive power. I can freely switch between them to explore different skill sets, or to fit the needs of those around me.

The goal is to dispel, rescue, or collect “foundables,” various magical creatures, implements, and curiosities that have begun leaking into the real world. They appear on the GPS map similar to Pokémon in Pokémon GO, and come in several different categories such as Magical Games and Sports, Ministry of Magic, Dark Arts, and Legends of Hogwarts.

Instead of throwing Pokéballs, I trace spell patterns with my finger. It’s immediately more engaging and interesting than throwing my hundredth Pokéball at the screen. More difficult foundables limit my time and demand more perfect tracing. I can also drink potions to help increase my spell potency.

harry potter: wizards unite map

Ingredients for potions are found on the map alongside foundables. Potions take time to brew and come in several flavors, from increasing my experience gain for a time to healing me in the middle of a wizarding challenge.

Casting spells costs spell power, the primary limited resource in Wizards Unite. Spell power can be gained from finding Inns scattered around the world in similar gathering places as PokéStops, such as churches and parks. Sadly the same limitations are found here as in Pokémon GO, leaving more rural gamers with much more limited options for finding Inns, Greenhouses (for gathering large chunks of ingredients), and Wizarding Challenges.

A wizarding challenge is Wizards Unite’s version of a co-op raid battle, as multiple players can jump into a series of battles together. Instead of the mass chaos of everyone furiously tapping their screen in a Pokémon Raid, Wizards Unite offers a series of more strategic battles. Certain professions will do better against certain enemies in a Rock-Paper-Scissors format, so having a diverse group of friends and nearby wizards can help. Players choose a difficulty level and everyone antes up a runestone, which are gained from filling out our registries, leveling up, and opening Portkeys (Wizards Unite’s version of Pokémon Eggs, which present fun treasure-filled AR rooms to explore).

Players in a Wizarding Challenge are presented with a room full of enemies to battle. Everyone gets their own one-on-one battles, but players can affect each other. A Magizoologist, for example, can heal another wizard using their Charm ability.

Battling enemies still requires spell tracing, though now players have to watch their hit points, and protect themselves from counterattacks with the Protego spell. The Raid battles in Pokémon Go can be exciting thanks to their limited timed availability, but Wizarding Challenges are much easier to jump into, and the multiple difficulty levels ensures everyone can participate regardless of their level.

Surviving wizarding challenges can be a drain on spellpower. Aside from the aforementioned Inns, Wizards Unite also offers Daily Assignments. These goals help provide motivation toward achieving certain goals, such as picking up an ingredient, dinning at inns, using a potion, or completing a challenge. Longer achievements work similarly, tracking milestones like reaching level 10, successfully casting 120 spells, and using 10 potions in challenges.

Rewards include potions, spell power, ingredients, XP, scrolls (for leveling up my skill tree), and gold (for purchasing any items in the store). Each day features eight different assignments, while daily treasures give me a rewards just for logging in, with better rewards given out for more consecutive days.

All of these elements help make Wizards Unite a rewarding experience, and that’s without spending a dime. Wizards Unite does a fantastic job incorporating every bit of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter while taking full advantage of Niantic’s excellent AR gameplay. Even if you have only a passing interest in Harry Potter and have since fallen off the Pokémon excitement, it’s well worth giving it a go.

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Our Pokémon Sword and Shield Wishlist

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Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield are two of the most anticipated games coming later this year. The eighth generation will make the pivotal leap from a handheld-focused series onto the Nintendo Switch. They also represent the first all-new main Pokémon games since 2016’s Pokémon Sun and Moon.

Details have been scarce, with Nintendo and The Pokémon Company teasing us with trailers and introducing the three new starter Pokémon. A Sword and Shield-focused Pokémon Direct is scheduled to stream next week on June 5. The Direct should provide further details, and hopefully a release date.

Until then we have mostly speculation and a wishlist of features for Pokémon Sword and Shield. The series has evolved in may ways over the last two-plus decades, yet also stubbornly adhered to its same basic formulas. After last year’s surprisingly fantastic spin-off remake Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!, we have some strong opinions on features we’d love to see in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield.

Multiple Difficulties

Pokémon games need to please multiple fanbases. The young newcomers, the returning teens, the veteran adults, all of who have different skill levels and familiarity with the franchise. Pokémon remains one of the best RPGs for kids, but there is a whole generation of gamers who have grown up with decades of Pokémon games under their belts. For that reason we’d love to have proper difficulty levels, or advanced features that can be checked on or off. We don’t necessarily need to go full Nuzlocke but we’d love the option to create a more challenging experience.

And for the love of goodness let us skip through tutorials, or at least be able to answer a “Have you played a Pokémon game before?” question at the beginning.

More Regional Variants

One of the coolest features from Pokémon Sun and Moon was the introduction of regional variants of classic Gen 1 Pokémon, such as Alolan Vulpix, Rattata, Sandshrew, and Diglett. These regional variants aren’t just cosmetic changes. They add or modify the types and movesets for each Pokémon. Sun and Moon specifically focused on the popular Gen 1 Pokémon and we’d love to see other Pokémon get a similar treatment, even if Sword and Shield’s England-inspired world is a bit less thematic than Sun and Moon’s tropical islands.

Pokémon Appearing in the World

The single best new feature the Pokémon Let’s Go games added were wild Pokémon appearing in the world. No longer did you wander around tall grass or caves waiting for the game to zoom in on a battle, instead you saw Pokémon walking around. It made the world come alive and made hunting for Pokémon a million times more engaging and fun. We expect traditional random encounters to return, but we’d love to see this magical aspect form Let’s Go become a permanent feature in all future Pokémon games.

Pokémon Follower

To expand on Pokémon appearing in the world, you could also select one of your six Pokémon in your party to follow you around. In the case of riding Pokémon like Arcanine and Charizard, you could use them to travel more quickly, or in Sun and Moon they were used to break walls and surf on the water. We would love if we could select our favorite Pokémon to walk around with us, like Pikachu and Ash in the classic anime series.

Access Pokémon Box Anywhere

One of the biggest welcome conveniences added in the Let’s Go games was the ability to access our Pokémon storage anywhere, not just at the Pokémon Center. This encouraged us to switch out our Pokémon much more often, and try new combinations and strategies.

Drop-in Co-op

Speaking of awesome features from Let’s Go, why not keep the easy to use drop-in co-op feature? By splitting the Joy-Con, two players could play on a single screen, and even join in for battles together. It was a fantastic way for parents to play with kids.

New Unique Dual Types

Fun fact: There are 18 different Pokémon types, and as of Gen 7 over 800 different Pokémon. Yet there are still over two dozen dual type combinations that don’t exist in any Pokémon! Every generation slowly adds new unique types so we’re confident we’ll fulfill this one. Some interesting missing dual-type combinations include Bug/Ice, Rock/Ghost, Dark/Fairy, Grass/Fire, and Poison/Steel.

Deeper Customization

The Pokémon games have been frustratingly slow when it comes to customizing our trainers. It took several games before we could even play as a girl! We want multiple body types, ethnicities, and all the clothing options we can get. While we’re at it, how about dressing up our Pokémon as well? Even just a few hats would go a long way in adding a lot of personality to our favorites.

Optional Motion Controls

The Joy-Con motion controls for capturing Pokémon in Pokémon: Let’s Go were solid, but also divisive. We’d like the option to turn them on for those that enjoy the immersive challenge of throwing their own Pokéballs, and support for the Poké Ball Plus controller.

We have high hopes for the first main Pokémon game on the Nintendo Switch. Hopefully we’ll get more answers and details on Pokémon Sword and Shield during the Pokémon Direct on June 5.

risk of rain 2

Risk of Rain 2 Shows Incredible Promise in Early Access

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I lived through the initial 3D gaming era of the mid to late 90s. Whether for better or worse, most games made the awkward, ugly transition from pixels to polygons. And for every Mario 64 there was, well, a Sonic 3D.

Thankfully we’re far removed from those days. But rarely do we see a series so completely, and effectively transform from 2D to 3D, as I’ve seen in Risk of Rain 2. The sequel was announced and released via Steam Early Access during the Gearbox panel at PAX East, and it’s already fantastic.

The core gameplay of Risk of Rain 2 is almost completely unchanged from the 2013 original. Players select a class and battle through increasingly difficult levels, becoming stronger and gaining new equipment. You battle through alien planets and creatures, while the world continues to throw more and tougher enemies at you. The hallmark of the game was the excellent four player co-op, with the on-screen action reaching truly ridiculous heights of chaos.

The first Risk of Rain was a pixelated 2D adventure.

Roguelike dungeon crawl isn’t exactly a groundbreaking concept. Indie games have been mining that genre for years. But Risk of Rain’s rapid pace and tight shooter-platforming combat made it an easy game to pick up and get sucked into. And I still listen to the most excellent soundtrack to this day.

The systems worked so well that the designers smartly took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the sequel. Instead they made one literally world-altering change, creating full 3D levels with Risk of Rain 2.

Clear Skies

Like the original, Risk of Rain 2 plops me down onto an alien world with no pretext or story. The only unlocked class at the beginning is the Commando, who is armed with a pair of rapidly firing, never depleting guns. I don’t even need to reload. The Commando is armed with three other abilities that operate on a simple cooldown system: a rolling dodge, a penetrating laser blast, and a volley of shots that can stun enemies.

Hostile creatures begin to spawn around me, including fire-ball hurtling lizardfolk, flying fire wisps, and laser-firing stone golems. The goal of each level is to find and activate a teleporter, which spawns an immense and chaotic boss fight. Before then I need to earn money by killing enemies and spend it to open chests scattered around the level.

risk of rain 2

You’ll find a lot of useful items in each level.

Items are completely randomized and almost always provide passive boosts, such as increased critical strikes, firing missiles at nearby enemies, adding additional jumps, or increasing shields. Occasionally I’ll find a special orange item that adds a new ability on a lengthy cooldown, like a massive heal or a huge missile strike.

Collecting these items while defeating foes and leveling up is critical, and needs to be done as quickly as possible. As soon as I spawn into a level the timer begins to tick up, filling a bar from Easy to Medium and Hard, and far, far beyond into hilariously terrifying difficulty levels. As the difficulty reaches new thresholds, harder enemies being to spawn, and in greater numbers.

Time is the biggest enemy. Thankfully getting around each level remains snappy and fun. The 3D worlds are not randomly generated, but that’s probably for the best. Currently there are only a handful of layouts available, including a swamp, desert, and snowy landscape, and they’re generally small enough to memorize once I begin to wander. Most levels offer high vantage points to look out and see the rest of the area, with plentiful jump pads to get around. Given that chests and shrines can be generated in any number of areas, exploring each nook and cranny is both necessary and rewarding.

risk of rain 2

Massive bosses tower over you.

Risk of Rain 2’s other big improvement is modern multiplayer support. No more having to mess around with port forwarding as with the original game. Risk of Rain 2 uses Steam’s friends list to quickly invite players and jump into multiplayer sessions. You can also play online with random allies, for better or for worse. But surviving the never-ending onslaught with friends, as with most games, makes everything exponentially better.

Many of the game’s systems are kept purposefully obtuse. I find out the hard way that the 3D printer requires a random item of my own in order to use it, while the Shrine of the Mountain spawns an extra boss to fight at the end. I had to look up what the hell Lunar Coins are used for, and delved into a myriad of interesting secrets, including how to unlock one of the other character classes.

The primary faults lie with the limited content, particularly with enemy types and levels. Currently Risk of Rain 2 features only about half the content that developer Hopoo Games plans on launching with, after an estimated year-long Early Access period.

Risk of Rain 2 is the perfect genre to take advantage of Early Access. The framework and gameplay are already fun, while more bosses, enemies, and levels will be a very welcome addition. For now I’m still having a blast unlocking new classes and trying completely new play styles. It’s giving me fond memories of the original game while representing the perfect transition into an all new dimension.