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.

super smash bros. ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Character Unlock Guide

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a massive crossover fighting game, featuring an enormous roster of over 70 fighters. However, when you first start the game you’re limited to the eight fighters who appeared on the original Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64.

You’ll unlock more fighters just through playing, but it’s not as random as you think. There are multiple ways to unlock characters, and by adventuring through the World of Light single player mode or completing Classic Mode with certain fighters, you can be a bit more proactive and hunt for certain characters.

Read our guide below for the different methods to unlocking characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

The Smash Unlock Order

Every 10 minutes spent playing the game will result in a challenger approaching, in order of the list below. You can spend 10 minutes playing random Smash matches or spending time in the World of Light Adventure Mode or Spirit Battles.

NOTE: You can circumvent the 10 minute timer by closing the game completely and restarting it. At that point the timer no longer matters – as soon as you finish a match, win or lose, a new challenger will approach. The quickest method is to set a Stock battle to 1 and walk off the edge. This is the single fastest way to unlock every character, if a bit cheesy.

You’ll have to beat the challenger to unlock them, and some of them can be quite difficult. In the case of multiple players in a Smash match, the player who won the match will face off against the challenger.

If you’ve already unlocked a character by other means, it will simply skip that character and go to the next one.

  1. Ness
  2. Zelda
  3. Bowser
  4. Pit
  5. Inkling
  6. Villager
  7. Marth
  8. Young Link
  9. Wii Fit Trainer
  10. Ice Climbers
  11. Captain Falcon
  12. Peach
  13. Ryu
  14. Ike
  15. Jigglypuff
  16. King K. Rool
  17. Sonic
  18. Simon
  19. Zero Suit Samus
  20. Little Mac
  21. Isabelle
  22. Shulk
  23. Lucina
  24. Wario
  25. Ridley
  26. Pokémon Trainer
  27. Lucario
  28. Daisy
  29. Roy
  30. King Dedede
  31. R.O.B.
  32. Falco
  33. Luigi
  34. Pichu
  35. Richter
  36. Lucas
  37. Diddy Kong
  38. Meta Knight
  39. Snake
  40. Ganondorf
  41. Corrin
  42. Mega Man
  43. Bayonetta
  44. Toon Link
  45. Rosalina & Luma
  46. Incineroar
  47. Sheik
  48. Olimar
  49. Pac-man
  50. Dark Samus
  51. Wolf
  52. Mr. Game & Watch
  53. Robin
  54. Dark Pit
  55. Cloud
  56. Duck Hunt
  57. Ken
  58. Greninja
  59. Chrom
  60. Mewtwo
  61. Bowser Jr.
  62. Dr. Mario
  63. Palutena

super smash bros. ultimate

Rematch

Note that if you ever fail to beat a new challenger, you can challenge them again by going to Games & More on the main screen, then clicking on the gate icon in the lower right corner (it may take a few challengers before it appears). This also has the advantage of allowing you to choose your fighter, instead of using the last one you used when they appear.

If you fail to beat them again, you’ll have to wait 10 minutes to be able to face them again (or restart the game and play a match). Multiple failed challenges will queue up at the challenger gate in order.

Mii Fighters

The Mii Fighters are actually unlocked from the start, you just have to create one in the Games & More section. There are three different kinds of Mii Fighters you can make: Brawler, Swordfighter, and Gunner. For the purposes of the official roster (74 fighters at launch, including Echo Fighters), all three count as three separate fighters. You can also customize their movesets and their outfits.

Classic Mode

Classic Mode was the original single player campaign mode. In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, one fighter goes through six unique battles, plus an end boss fight. Each Classic Mode is unique and different, and completing a run will always result in a new challenger approaching.

Which challenger appears can be found with this handy chart. For example, beating Classic Mode with Mario will make Sonic appear. If you previously unlocked Sonic, you’ll get Bayonetta instead.

Classic Mode can be found in the Games & More section.

super smash bros. ultimate

Using this chart you can find the most efficient way to unlocking your favorite characters.

Adventure Mode

The World of Light is the massive single player adventure in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You’ll start with even less characters here – only Kirby survived Galeem’s initial onslaught. Within the giant map filled with Spirit Battles you can find other fighters waiting to be challenged and unlocked. Unlocking them in Adventure mode will unlock them in your regular roster as well.

It can be very spoilery to see who and where you unlock various characters, but IGN has a map up if you want all the information.

It’s advisable to back out of Adventure Mode every 10 minutes or so, that way you can take full advantage of the Smash Unlock Order above.

No matter which method you choose, or any combination therein, you’ll constantly unlock fighters as you play. Try them all to find your old standbys and discover new favorites.

dragon quest 11

Dragon Quest 11 First Impressions

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I’m about a dozen hours into Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age and the smile has rarely left my face. Dragon Quest is one of the most resilient RPG franchises in video game history. The latest installment proves why it’s such a winning formula by embracing its classic roots while sprinkling in many welcoming improvements and features.

If you’re a newcomer to the series, Dragon Quest is a bit like Final Fantasy. It’s a classic 50+ hour Japanese RPG with each entry a standalone adventure (save DQ 10, which was an MMO).

The series has been around since the 1980s. Many classic RPG genre conventions and tropes can trace their roots back to those early games, including young protagonists, destroyed villages, character classes and skills, turn-based battles, and lots of side quests and dungeon crawls.

Dragon Quest 11 doesn’t try to change or alter that basic formula at all. You play as a silent, unnamed young orphan boy. You’ve grown up in a quaint village and upon coming of age, discover that you are the chosen one and set off on a heroic journey. I’ve checked off several major JRPG boxes right there. Yet DQ 11 doesn’t feel trite or tiresome. It embraces its tropes and character archetypes proudly and earnestly. It helps that the production values are the best of any Dragon Quest game to date, including full voice acting in all of the numerous cutscenes.

dragon quest 11

Akira Toriyama’s instantly recognizable character and monster art has been beloved for decades, and looks amazing when blown up in all its colorful, charming glory. Battle screens play out like an action-packed Saturday Morning Cartoon, yet still operate exactly like a classic turn-based console RPG. You can move your characters around just for funzies, which is a nice touch without altering the formula of attacking, casting spells, activating character-specific abilities, and engaging in souped up Pep Powers.

The Pep Powers are a new element in battle. Occasionally characters will enter a Pep state that grants increased stats for a few turns. If multiple characters get Pep’d, they can unleash awesome combo attacks with various effects. I do wish there was an actual visible bar or meter for how close Pep is to activating. But retaining Pep though multiple battles is a nice feature.

Crafting with the Fun-Size Forge is also new to the series, and it’s one of the better crafting minigames I’ve seen. Acquire recipes from quest rewards, chests, and bookshelves and gather materials from slain monsters to make new equipment. New weapons, items, and accessories must be hammered out on the forge by hitting target areas using different abilities. Hitting the right spots grants better stats on the crafted equipment. The more you craft, the more abilities and stamina you unlock, making the entire system very rewarding and satisfying.

dragon quest 11

Crafting can be done at any campsite out in the world, which is another fantastic addition. No longer do you have to huff it back to town (or use the handy Zoom spell) to rest up and save your game. In every field or area there’s a campsite with a merchant, a save point, and a forge. You can rest to heal up as well as change the time of day, which alters which monsters are in the field. And speaking of healing, simply opening the menu screen and pressing a single button will heal your entire party as efficiently as possible, using healing spells, then healing items, so you can jump right back into the action.

The story is still getting started, and I’ve only recently acquired the fourth party member. These are very long RPGs – in fact DQ 11 has the audacity to play the opening movie and title screen after a certain event several hours into the game. The early game is a bit slow and battles have been fairly simple, but the deeper I get the more satisfied I am with the world, characters, skill system, and combat.

Given the length I can’t yet comment on how well the whole thing holds together. But my early impressions leave me very impressed. I’m a relative late-comer to the series, having first played Dragon Quest 9 on the DS back in 2009, before enjoying the 3DS remakes of DQ 7 and DQ 8. Dragon Quest 11 is probably most similar to DQ 8, and I mean that with all the praise that entails as DQ 8 is widely considered the hallmark of the series.

Dragon Quest 11 may just be the best Dragon Quest game to date. Even if you don’t know your Metal Slimes from your Healing Slimes, RPG fans are in for a treat.

Dragon Quest 11: Echoes of an Elusive Age is rated T for Teen.

Gears 5

E3 2018 Was All About the Leading Ladies

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Four years ago at E3 2014, Ubisoft blundered into a PR nightmare by weakly defending why both Assassin’s Creed Unity and Far Cry 4 lacked playable women characters in their multiplayer modes – they would require too much time and resources to animate.

Female representation in big, blockbuster games has been sporadic at best. Yes we can point to the same franchises like Metroid and Tomb Raider over and over again, but that just proves the point even more.

But there is good news. In recent years diversity and inclusion has become a major focus for many game developers and publishers. The fruits of those labors are beginning to show. We could call it the Overwatch or Wonder Woman Effect, or just a sign of many game companies hoping to avoid stagnation and seek out progressive voices and audiences.

At E3 2018 we were impressed with the number of women characters, both old and new, showcasing AAA games. In case you missed it, let’s run through the new era of leading ladies from E3 2018.

Battlefield V

Technically Battlefield V was announced ahead of E3. The reveal trailer featured a female soldier who had the best lines and most badass moments. EA even went so far as to feature a female soldier on their cover art.

At EA Play 2018 they teased a single player campaign that also starred a woman fighter’s story of revenge and survival during World War II.

Battlefield V is a great example of the struggles a big studio and franchise can face for daring to include diversity in their games. That reveal trailer currently has more dislikes than likes, with both numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It’s sparked numerous outrages and debates about the game’s historical authenticity versus political virtue-signaling.

It’s endlessly disappointing that including diverse characters has become a political, hot-button issue, and the main reason why many big game companies steer clear. For what it’s worth, EA and DICE have committed to inclusion in their games.

Gears 5

I confess I’m not familiar with the Gears of War franchise beyond playing the first game nearly a decade ago. Kait Diaz was apparently a major player in 2016’s Gears of War 4, but in Gears 5 she takes center stage as the primary playable character.

The trailer, shown at the Xbox E3 2018 conference, featured both a cinematic cutscene with Kait, Marcus, and the rest of the team, as well as gameplay starring the young heroine.

Sea of Solitude

Sea of Solitude isn’t a AAA game, but it is being published through EA’s EA Originals brand. An announcement trailer was shown during the EA Play conference, revealing the personal story of loneliness and depression from game designer Cornelia Geppert.

Geppert was one of the few women game designers to take the stage at any of the press conferences. The game stars Kay, a young woman whose emotional issues have transformed her into a literal monster. She has to save both herself and her fellow monsters amidst a ruined, flooded world.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

One of the biggest female-led series has been riding high in the last few years thanks to a successful reboot by Crystal Dynamics. The third game in the rebooted Tomb Raider series, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, features an even darker, more brutal story as Lara must prevent a Mayan apocalypse, which she herself helped set into motion.

In the gameplay trailer we see Lara go full-on Predator, stealthy hunting foes with bow and blade in a new outfit that proves high-stakes action-adventure makes for a solid work-out regiment.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

One of the most surprising announcements from the Bethesda E3 2018 conference was a spin-off co-op sequel to Wolfenstein II. Wolfenstein: Youngblood is set in 1980s Paris, far after the events of Woflenstein II.

The bad news is that the alt-history Nazis are apparently still in control (in France at least). The good news is that BJ’s grown twin daughters are ready to fight the good fight.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

With BioWare making Anthem, the torch of romancing NPCs in a gender inclusive universe has apparently fallen to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series. Newly announced Assassin’s Creed Odyssey looks absolutely gorgeous, taking place in Ancient Greece and featuring the same great series improvements found in last year’s Origins.

But the real talked about feature is choosing to play the entire game as either male character Alexios or female character Kassandra. Both are fully voiced and remain the stars of their stories. And yes, apparently you can romance multiple characters no matter whom you choose to play as.

Beyond Good & Evil 2

The original 2003 Beyond Good & Evil is still one of the most mentioned games when talking about female-led games. That’s pretty sad, yet Beyond Good & Evil has also become a cult favorite. Beyond Good & Evil 2 has been in development hell forever, eventually turning into this big AAA prequel starring a new female character as the leader of her own motley space crew.

The prequel has astonishingly great animated cinematics, but we also got our first look at some pre-alpha gameplay, which lets you fly to different planets and explore in third-person action-adventure. It looks incredibly ambitious. Unfortunately we still don’t have a release date.

Control

As revealed at the PlayStation E3 press conference, Control is a brand new game by Remedy, developers of Quantum Break and Alan Wake. Jesse assumes the role of Director of the Bureau of Control, giving her supernatural powers and a fancy shifting gun.

We don’t know much more about it, but it definitely looks a lot like Quantum Break.

The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part II may be the single most anticipated sequel of the year, though we still don’t have a firm release date. The new trailer showed off the most memorable scene from all of E3, an older teenage Ellie passionately kissing her new love, Dina. Not only is it a sweet moment, it’s also incredibly well animated. How far we’ve come in four years!

The gameplay portion showcased the familiar brutality of The Last of Us, confirming that Ellie is the main protagonist in the sequel, and that human enemies are just as harrowing as the Clickers.

Playing mostly as Joel shepherding Ellie in the original 2013 game while switching to Ellie for the sequel is a great metaphor for the progress gaming has made over the years. Gaming is for everyone, and it’s nice to see women get more seats at the grown-ups’ table.

skylanders

Ranking All Six Skylanders Games

Posted by | Feature, PlayStation 4, Switch, Wii U, Xbox One | No Comments

Skylanders fans haven’t been feeling confident about the series lately. Activision announced last year that there would be no Skylanders 7 release, the first year a new Skylanders game hadn’t released since the series began in 2011. We’ve been given no new updates on the future of the once stalwart kid-friendly franchise.

Yet the series has not yet been officially canceled (unlike Disney Infinity) and a third season of the solid Netflix Skylanders Academy series is due to air later this year.

For now fans can revel in the sales of older games and figures. Whether you’re a newcomer to the toys-to-life series or a reminiscing veteran, we’ve compared all six primary Skylanders games and ranked them from weakest to strongest.

 

6) Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure

skylanders

New Gimmick: Toys to life!

Best Skylanders: Stealth Elf, Drobot, Cynder

Once upon a time, toys-to-life was a relatively brand new concept. Activision and Toys for Bob looked for a recognizable, kid-friendly gaming hero to leverage. Enter Spyro, the sassy but good-natured dragon, who helped pave the way for an all-new action series using physical figures as a unique form of DLC.

Spyro’s Adventure may earn points for being the original, but it just doesn’t hold up when compared to later entries. That’s more a testament to how well the series has steadily improved rather than any glaring weaknesses in the original game.

5) Skylanders: Giants

skylanders

New Gimmick: Extra-large Giant figures

Best New Skylanders: Flashwing, Ninjini, Pop Fizz

A second Skylanders game the very next year raised a few eyebrows, but Skylanders assuaged many fears by seamlessly carrying over all previously leveled figures from the first game, creating an important precedent that cemented the series’ popularity for years. Out of all the games here, Giants is the safest sequel, not rocking the boat too much but still steadily improving on level and figure design.

The new Giants gimmick likewise wasn’t anything fancy. They were big, lumbering brutes who are almost more of a hassle to play than anything else, though the actual designs are fun, like Eye-Brawl who could detach his giant flying eyeball.

4) Skylanders: SuperChargers

skylanders

New Gimmick: Vehicles and racing

Best new Skylanders: Stormblade, Splat, Spitfire

By the fifth entry, Activision was looking at other successful family-friendly series to add a whole new dimension to Skylanders. They settled on Mario Kart-style kart racing. It wasn’t exactly a demanded feature by fans, and the result was a ham-fisted addition that didn’t feel entirely welcome. Vehicle segments were both forced (land) and optional (sea and air) and ranged from traditional racing to vehicular combat, 2D exploration, and shoot ’em up brawls.

The Skylanders themselves played a diminished role during the often annoying vehicle segments, and the controls left a lot to be desired. The on-foot gameplay was still solid, and the figures were decent. While it was fun seeing new remixes of familiar characters, like a gun-wielding Stealth Elf, it meant less new characters overall.

3) Skylanders: Trap Team

skylanders

New Gimmick: Trapping and playing villains

Best new Skylanders: Krypt King, Gearshift, Blackout

Ah, the inevitable Pokémon clone. For the fourth game, Trap Team lets you battle against a roster of fun new villains – and then capture them inside special trap crystals. Sold separately, of course. Playing as the villains was like a special powered-up mode and a lot of fun – particularly the way the captured villains taunted from the speakers on the portal itself.

You needed one of each trap element to play as all the villains, but you could mix and match them within their elemental types. Much speculation was given as to how the traps would be incorporated into future games, and the answer was, unfortunately, not very well if at all. Save for a few standouts the new Trap Master figures were generally disappointing, and requiring them to unlock everything in the game was irksome.

One standout feature that Trap Team added: tower defense survival mode. These were fantastic challenge modes, built for various levels of Skylanders, and a fun way to earn experience and level up outside the main game. They also played perfectly in co-op. For whatever reason, the mode was dropped in future games.

2) Skylanders: Swap Force

skylanders

New Gimmick: Swappable figures that can mix top and bottom halves

Best new Skylanders: Roller Brawl, Free Ranger, Spy Rise

The third game in the Skylanders series was the first developed by Vicarious Visions, instead of series creator Toys for Bob. Like the annualized Call of Duty series, Activision would appoint two studios to keep up with the yearly output of new entries. Vicarious Visions created an excellent entry that provided some of the biggest, best level designs the series has ever offered. Plus you could finally jump, a first for the series that opened up the level designs even more. But the real treat was the incredibly cool swap gimmick.

In one what is unquestionably one of the neatest concepts in a Skylanders game, special Swap Force figures could be taken apart and mixed together to create unique combinations. It was fun to play around with the toys, and also created a lot of really fun and interesting combos in-game, supported by new challenge mini-games and dual elemental gates.

Swap Force also featured Time Attack and Score modes for providing challenging replay value, and was the last Skylanders game to include PVP arenas.

1) Skylanders: Imaginators

Skylanders Imaginators

New Gimmick: Create your own Skylanders

Best new Skylanders: Kaos, Golden Queen, Ambush

It’s not fair to declare that Skylanders Imaginators was the first game to finally get it right, as each game had their strengths. But Imaginators combined a brilliant new gimmick, the best line-up of new figures, a fully realized loot system, and a more free-roaming overland map to create the best Skylanders experience yet.

The ability to create your own Skylanders was made possible by piggy-backing on Trap Team’s trap concept. Separate Crystals were sold that could house a single created Skylander. The Crystal determined its element, while you could select on of 10 different weapon styles. Within those parameters, you had multiple basic attacks, weapon attacks, and elemental moves to choose from as you leveled up.

All in-game rewards were tied to loot chests, which gave out new customization pieces, weapons, and skins for your custom Skylanders. There was an astonishing amount of loot to collect, making your Skylanders journey fun and rewarding, though they may suffer a bit from Frankenstein syndrome.

Imaginators couldn’t gotten by on that concept alone, but Activision also released the best wave of figures Skylanders had ever seen. The Senseis were all new, medium-size figures that had the best designs and gameplay we’ve seen yet, and the Villains let us play as our favorites from Trap Team as proper leveled figures.

Story structure and level design saw vast improvements as well. No longer were we stuck in a hub world, going through each level chapter by chapter. Now we could free roam around a board game-like overworld, exploring hidden secrets, taking side paths, and finding mini-games. It cannot be overstated how much this improved every aspect the game. If you can only play one Skylanders game, make it Skylanders: Imaginators.