Connect with us

Gaming

Indie games for players worn out on AAA titles – TechCrunch

Published

on

2018 has been a big year for big games, and with new titles from the Assassin’s Creed, Red Dead Redemption, Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises all competing… it’s enough to make a gamer want to just quit and play something a little more low-key. Here are some of the smaller, independent games we liked from this year and who they might appeal to.

Bonus: Many of these can be gotten for less than $30, making them super solid/easy gifts. They aren’t for any particular platform or in any particular order, except that I’ve been playing the heck out of Ashen for the last couple of days, so it’s first.

Ashen – for “Souls” lovers

Available on: Xbox One, Windows

(To be fair, this is less of an “indie” than the others on this list, some of which were made by one person, but it’s just off the beaten path enough to qualify.)

If you’ve ever heard your loved one talk about “builds,” really hard bosses or which helmet completes their outfit best, they probably play games of the Dark Souls type. Ashen is a new action-adventure-RPG in the same vein but with a few notable twists. It has a lovely art style, a streamlined (but still byzantine) progression system and an interesting multiplayer style where other players drop into your game, and you drop into theirs, with no real warning or interaction. It works better than you’d think, and I’ve already had some great experiences with it.

Yoku’s Island Express – for people who like both pinball and Metroidvanias

Available on: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Windows

Don’t be fooled by the cuteness of Yoku’s Island Express. This game is both unique and well-crafted, a fusion of (believe it or not) pinball mechanics and gradual exploration of an enormous map. It’s definitely weird, but it immediately clicks in a way you wouldn’t expect. It’s a great break from the grim environments of… well, lots of the games on this list.

Dead Cells – for action fans who won’t mind “roguelike” repetition

Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows, Linux, macOS

The “roguelike” genre has you traversing procedurally generated variations on a series of levels and progressing farther by improving your own skills — and sometimes getting a couple shiny new weapons or abilities. Dead Cells takes this genre and combines it with incredibly tight side-scrolling action and platforming that never gets, old even when you’re going through the sewers for the 20th time. The developers were very responsive during Early Access; the game was great when I bought it early in the year, and now it’s even better.

[inline-ad]

Below – for atmosphere fans who won’t mind “roguelike” repetition

Available on: Xbox One, Windows

In some ways, Below is the opposite of Dead Cells, though they share a bit of DNA. This game, the long-awaited follow-up to Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP by Capy, is a slow, dark, tense descent into a mysterious cave; it’s almost totally wordless and shown with a pulled-back perspective that makes things feel both twee and terrifying. The less said about the particulars of the game, the better (the gamer should discover on their own), but it may be fairly noted that this is a title that requires some patience and experimentation — and yes, you’re going to die on a spike trap.

Cultist Simulator – for the curious

Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux

It’s very hard to explain Cultist Simulator. It’s an interactive story, different every time, told through cards that you draw and play, and which interact with each other in strange and wonderful ways. One card might be a place, another an action, another a person, all of which can be used, investigated or sacrificed to other cards: ideas, drives, gods… it’s really quite amazing, even if you rarely have any idea what’s happening. But the curious and driven will derive great satisfaction from learning the way this strange, beautifully made machine works.

Return of the Obra Dinn – for the observant (and dedicated)

Available on: macOS, Windows

This game absorbed me completely for a few days earlier this year. Like the above, it’s a bit hard to explain: you’re given the task of determining the identities and fates of the entire crew of the titular ghost ship by using a magic watch to witness their last words and the moment of their death. That task, and the story it reveals as you accomplish it, grows increasingly disturbing and complex. The beautiful 1-bit art, great music and voice acting, and extremely clever construction make this game — essentially made by one person, Lucas Pope — one of my favorites of the year. But it’s only for people who don’t mind banging their head against things a bit.

Dusk – for connoisseurs of old-school shooters

Available on: Windows, Switch

If your loved one ever talks about the good-old days of Quake, Half-Life, Unreal and other classic shooters, Dusk will be right up their alley. The chunky graphics are straight out of the ’90s, but the game brings a level of self-awareness and fun, not to mention some gameplay improvements, that make it a joy to play.

CrossCode – for anyone who spent more time playing SNES Classic than AAA games this year

Available on: Windows, Linux, macOS

This crowd-funded RPG was long in the making, and it shows. It’s huge! A fusion of SNES and PSX-era pixel art, smooth but furious top-down action à la Secret of Mana, and a whole lot of skills and equipment. I’ve played nearly 20 hours so far and I’m only now starting to fill out the second branch of four skill trees; the overarching story is still just getting rolling. I told you it was huge! But it’s also fabulous.

[inline-ad]

Celeste – for the dexterous and those not inclined to anger

Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, macOS, Windows, Linux

Celeste is one of those games they call “Nintendo Hard,” that elusive combination of difficulty and control that cause you to be more disappointed in yourself than the game when you die. And you will die in Celeste — over and over. Hundreds of times. It gleefully tracks the number of deaths on each set of stages, and you should expect well into three figures. The platforming is that hard — but the game is also that good. Not only is its pixel art style cute and the environments lovingly and carefully crafted, but it tells a touching story and the dialog is actually pretty fun.

Overcooked! 2 –  for friendships strong enough to survive it

Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows, macOS

Much like the first Overcooked, the sequel has you and your friends attempting to navigate chaotic kitchens, hazards, and each other as you try to put together simple dishes like salads and hamburgers for never-sated patrons. The simple controls belie the emergent complexity of the gameplay, and while it can be frustrating at first, it’s immensely satisfying when you get into the zone and blast through a target number of dishes. But only do it with friends you think you can tolerate screaming and bossing each other around.

Into the Breach – for the tactically minded

Available on: Switch, Windows, macOS, Linux

The follow-up to the addictive starship simulator roguelike Faster Than Light (FTL), Into the Breach is a game of tactics taking place on tiny boards loaded with monsters and mechs — but don’t let the small size fool you. The solutions to these little tableaux require serious thinking as you position, attack, and (hopefully) repel the alien invaders. Matt says it’s “perfect for Switch.”

TechCrunch Gift Guide 2018 banner

[inline-ad]

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Gaming

Review: Locke and Key comes back better than ever with action-packed S2

Published

on

Enlarge / The present generation of Locke descendants—Tyler (Connor Jessup), Bode (Jackson Robert Scott), and Kinsey (Emilia Jones)—still have a lot to learn about the magical keys that are their birthright.

The Locke siblings face a demonic dynamic duo intent on bringing chaos to our world and must defend themselves, armed with only a handful of magical keys, in the second season of Locke and Key. In our 2020 year-end TV roundup, I wrote that Netflix’s adaptation of the comic book series, by Joe Hill and Gabe Rodriguez, successfully brought “the fabled Key House and the darkly fantastical world of the comics to vivid life.” The second season is even better: it’s faster-paced, it has intriguing character arcs, and it delves a bit more into the history and mythology behind Key House and its magical keys.

(Spoilers for season 1 below. Some season 2 spoilers, but no major reveals.)

Longtime fans of the comics can attest to the powerful allure of the basic premise: three traumatized siblings whose father was recently murdered return to dad’s ancestral home, Key House, with their mother and discover that the house is filled with hidden magical keys that “whisper” to the children until they find them. The TV series preserves that allure. Only kids can hear the keys whispering, and any adults who witness the “magic” of the keys in use quickly forget what they’ve seen. There is an Anywhere Key that can turn a door into a portal to anywhere in the world, for instance, and a Ghost Key that lets your spirit leave your body. A Head Key provides access to one’s inner self, and an Identity Key allows you to change your appearance.

Bode and Abby (Leishe Meyboom) discover a tiny key that fits into a dollhouse version of Key House.
Enlarge / Bode and Abby (Leishe Meyboom) discover a tiny key that fits into a dollhouse version of Key House.

Netflix

Unfortunately, there’s an evil entity who goes by the name of Dodge (Laysla De Oliveira) who desperately wants one key in particular—the mysterious Omega Key—and will do pretty much anything to get it. Over the course of the first season, we learned why family patriarch Rendell Locke (Bill Heck) moved far away from his ancestral home: there was a high school tragedy that killed two of his friends. It wasn’t an “accidental drowning” that killed them, as local lore held, but Dodge’s possession of Rendell’s best friend Lucas (Felix Mallard). Rendell and his surviving friends eventually imprisoned Dodge in the Well House—until Ellie (Sherri Saum), in a weak moment, tried to bring Lucas, her high school sweetheart, back with the Echo Key and brought back Dodge instead.

Still, Rendell’s kids proved to be a formidable match against Dodge’s many machinations. And they thought they had successfully tossed Dodge back into the void behind the Black Door and locked it behind them. But above all else, Dodge is a trickster. Dodge used the Identity Key to make Ellie look like Dodge. So it’s poor Ellie who finds herself trapped in the void, while Dodge has taken on the identity of high school nerd Gabe (Griffin Gluck), Scot’s (Petrice Jones) rival for Kinsey’s affections. Also, the academy’s resident Mean Girl, Eden (Hallea Jones), is now possessed by a different demon who escaped from behind the black door, so Gabe/Dodge has a secret accomplice.

Duncan Locke (Aaron Ashmore) can't remember the magical keys he used as a child.
Enlarge / Duncan Locke (Aaron Ashmore) can’t remember the magical keys he used as a child.

Netflix

The first season’s 10 episodes covered most of the main narrative arc in the comics but left out a lot of the background lore about where the keys came from, who made them, and who (or what) Dodge really is. Those questions are at least partially answered over the course of S2, which includes flashbacks to the American Revolutionary War and the conflict between the Locke family and a British general named Frederick Gideon (Kevin Durand). (The flashback material is partially drawn from Clockworks and will also likely feature heavily in the first arc of World War Key, a forthcoming new Locke and Key comic book series that will serve as both a prequel and sequel to the original run, according to Hill.)

As S2 opens, life for the Locke family seems stable. Tyler is dating Jackie (Genevieve Kang), Kinsey is dating Gabe, and Bode has a new BFF, Abby (Leishe Bennett). Abby’s father, Josh (Brendan Himes), is the new history teacher at Matheson Academy, and as a recent widower, he and the Locke matriarch, Nina (Darby Stanchfield), forge a tenuous romantic connection. Josh’s ancestors also have a long history in Matheson, so the two might have more in common than they realize.

Gabe (Griffin Gluck), another incarnation of the demon Dodge, and a possessed Eden (Hallea Jones) try to forge a new magical key.
Enlarge / Gabe (Griffin Gluck), another incarnation of the demon Dodge, and a possessed Eden (Hallea Jones) try to forge a new magical key.

Netflix

But all is not sunshine and roses. Tyler and Jackie are both about to turn 18 and “age out” of the magic, prompting a frantic search for the Memory Key that Rendell and his squad (the “Keepers of the Keys”) forged to ensure they wouldn’t forget. That involves restoring their uncle Duncan’s (Aaron Ashmore) childhood memories, which turns out to have unforeseen consequences. Meanwhile, Gabe/Dodge is conspiring to forge a new key for whatever nefarious plot they’re cooking up. And demonic Eden is proving to be overly impulsive and more of a liability than Gabe/Dodge realized.

Continue Reading

Gaming

343 shows first Halo Infinite campaign footage in over a year

Published

on

The first and last time we saw footage of Halo Infinite‘s campaign mode way back in July of 2020, we were a bit underwhelmed by what we saw. Now, with the game’s delayed launch just a few weeks away, Microsoft and 343 Industries have released a six-minute video showcasing more details of the anticipated sequel’s story and gameplay.

A voiceover confirms that the traditional Halo story following the partnership between Master Chief and Cortana is “now a distant memory” in Infinite. Instead, John-117 is now looking to retrieve and work with a new and extremely uninformed AI codenamed The Weapon. Together, the two will explore Zeta Halo to find an answer to the core questions driving Infinite‘s story: “What happened to Cortana?” and “What did she do that was so wrong?”

The new trailer highlights what the studio says is a campaign structure that offers “more freedom than ever before.” There’s a brief glimpse at a section of the game’s open world “Tacmap,” complete with the kind of color-coded mission markers you’d expect from a different sort of game. Completing some of those missions will grant Master Chief control of Forward Operating Bases, which seem key to advancing the story and offering new perks. Through it all, Master Chief will be pursued by “a sadistic Spartan killer named Jega ‘Rdomnai,” who seems to come from the Covenant’s red-tinted Banished faction.

The trailer also provides a quick peek at a deep upgrade menu, which shows how Master Chief’s abilities will progress. Players can spend “Spartan Cores” on improving both defensive and movement capabilities in categories like the Grapple Shot, Shield Core, Threat Sensor, Drop Wall, and Thruster.

As for the shooting itself, the trailer shows Master Chief using the usual array of guns and explosives, while the new grappleshot helps him grab far-off weapons or drag himself toward enemies for a quick melee attack. We also get a look at some vehicle stations that should let Master Chief hop in a Wasp or Warthog whenever he wants, and there are one-on-one arena battles with some suspiciously boss-like foes.

Halo Infinite is set to launch on December 8, but features like co-op play and the Forge customization suite won’t be coming until later. The separate free-to-play multiplayer mode will also launch that day following an extensive beta for Xbox Insiders a few weeks back.

Continue Reading

Gaming

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy on Nov. 11: Cartoonier, flashier, and Game Pass-ier

Published

on

Enlarge / Aw, blank, here we go again.

Rockstar Games

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy: The Definitive Experience may go down as 2021’s worst-kept secret, but how it would actually look remained surprisingly well-protected until the game’s Friday reveal went live. The new look is visible in a one-minute trailer, which comes with a release date: November 11 for the Xbox console family, PS4/PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC (via the Rockstar Games Launcher).

Today’s reveal video primarily shows the visual top-to-bottom touch-up applied to all three games in the collection (Grand Theft Auto III, GTA Vice City, and GTA San Andreas), with a few “wipe” transitions comparing a vanilla version of each game to its remastered equivalent. The footage largely consists of cut scenes, as opposed to the behind-the-back view of average gameplay, but we still see enough to get a look at Rockstar Games’ bold artistic changes.

Thanks to the trailer’s focus on cinematic scenes, we get a clear view of how Rockstar updated the characters’ bulky, Mickey Mouse-like blob hands to ones with details like individual fingers. In order to include the new additions while remaining true to the games’ original code and animations, Rockstar has opted for a bulbous, cartoony aesthetic, perhaps most visible in the above after-and-before gallery where a mob boss gestures with his hands while sporting a higher-res, cartoonier face. Each shot also makes clear that Rockstar is employing many higher-res textures, higher shadow resolutions, improved ambient occlusion, increased model geometry, and an entirely new staging of both pre-baked and dynamic lighting. What might look off-putting in screenshots comes together much nicer in the trilogy’s full video trailer (embedded at the end of this article).

Additionally, and arguably more crucially, each game’s control suite has been updated to better resemble GTA V, complete with lock-on weapon aiming and custom waypoint mapping. The Nintendo Switch version brings toggleable motion controls and touchscreen support—though we don’t yet know whether that version will favor higher fidelity and resolution or higher frame rates.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S owners can expect “up to 60 fps” performance. Sadly, Rockstar has yet to clarify what kind of performance to expect on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles. PC owners with Nvidia RTX graphics cards can toggle on DLSS to squeeze more performance out of the trilogy. While today’s footage clearly teases some enhanced and more accurate reflections than the original trilogy, they appear to lean on simpler processing techniques as opposed to current-gen ray tracing systems.

More visible detail across this cityscape will make the trilogy's flying sequences that much prettier (and hopefully suffer from far less object pop-in).
Enlarge / More visible detail across this cityscape will make the trilogy’s flying sequences that much prettier (and hopefully suffer from far less object pop-in).

The trilogy has been ported in full to Unreal Engine 4 by Grove Street Games, a longtime Rockstar support studio with experience porting the game maker’s classics to various consoles and smartphone platforms.

The package costs $60, and there doesn’t appear to be an option to purchase each game separately. However, on the same day that the full trilogy releases, GTA San Andreas: The Definitive Edition will launch as a standalone freebie for paying Xbox Game Pass customers on Xbox consoles. Roughly one month later, on December 7, GTA III: The Definitive Edition will land on Sony’s PlayStation Now service. Physical versions of the trilogy will launch in December, as well, though we’ll be curious to see how much of the Switch version ships on its cartridge and how much will require a follow-up download.

Without a clear look at updates to the UI and general gameplay mechanics, we’re left wondering exactly how much better this $60 package will be than applying many of the available mods to the game’s original PC version. If you have missed our advice earlier this month, your modding dreams may be toast, though—as Rockstar has formally delisted all older versions of the games from storefronts like Steam. (If you had previously bought those games, at least, you can still download, access, and mod the heck out of them.)

GTA Trilogy: The Definitive Edition trailer

Continue Reading

Trending