Playstation 4 Platform RSS Feed | Playstation 4 RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Super Mega Baseball 2 Ultimate Edition Review: The All-Star Game Mon, 22 Jul 2019 10:51:39 -0400 Mark Delaney

While the MLB's popularity has waned in recent years, losing ground to the NFL and NBA among stateside sports fans, there's still an intense desire for baseball video games. It doesn't help that there are so few baseball games coming to the various platforms.

If you're determined to only play with licensed pro teams quickly and easily, you'll have to try PlayStation's annual The Show. However, if you don't mind a game with studio-invented teams and a deep customization suite for more determined creators, you won't find a better mix of arcade and simulation baseball than Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition.

There's a chance you've already played Super Mega Baseball 2. It originally launched in May 2018, though after a year of DLC and the welcome landing spot the Switch has become for indies, the game has been repackaged as an Ultimate Edition complete with all the DLC on a new platform. This review was conducted with the Switch version, and it was glorious.

While Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey are the system sellers for many people playing on Switch, for baseball fans, SMB2 is the killer app that is worth a Switch purchase all on its own. From top to bottom, the game is precisely what baseball fans would want, and to have that all on the go or docked is a supremely addictive fit.

In terms of modes and menus, SMB2 has most everything you'd want. You can play solo, in local play, or online. You can do so in pick-up games, season mode, and custom leagues. In these modes, everything from division and conference names and sizes to team names, jerseys, and fully customized logos is up to you. Names, looks, and even the eye-black and tattoos of every single player are customizable. 

It does lack a derby mode, but competitive online play is integrated in several ways, like front and center leaderboards, that help round out the modes on offer. The options to make a league your own whether playing alone or with friends is stunning for an indie game like this. Heck, it would be impressive even as an annual big-budget sim.

Without MLB licensing, you'll not have the chance to drop in and play as the Red Sox, Cubs, or the league's 28 other teams, but for the most patient and dedicated, the customization suite is so absurdly deep that you can certainly make those teams from scratch. Many players already play the game this way. The DLC that comes with this all-inclusive version amounts to new logos and stadiums, taking the game's customization options that much farther.

On the diamond, the game's wide-ranging difficulty options mean virtually anyone will find the right resistance from AI opponents. Dubbed "Ego," this system allows players to tweak the skill level of their opponents from 1-100, offering incredible nuance. If the game is getting too tough or too easy, you can simply adjust the Ego accordingly and try out the new level until you find the right fit.

As you improve, your opponents can come with you, or you can keep them as pushovers and turn a season into a one-sided home run derby. In many of its most important areas, SMB2 is defined by its player agency. 

There's also the dynamic mojo stat which measures a player's mental toughness. Players on hitting streaks will have higher mojo, while those hitting in the low .200s may be ice cold at the plate until a lucky swing turns it around. Pressure is also measured and works in tandem with mojo to deliver heroes and zeroes to every game. Step up in the bottom of the ninth with a high mojo player, and they may as well be David Ortiz.

All this agency wouldn't mean much without strong core mechanics, but again the game dazzles here, too. Pitching and hitting are very active systems, where you have to chase the spot of the ball whether you're at the plate or the diamond. Pitching feels phenomenal: you can really fake out opposing batters with intimidating control of the strike zone, while batters have to weigh contact versus power versus bunting. Complete control is also given to every baserunner individually or collectively, and each player is even given their own walk-up animations and songs. And yes, even these are customizable. 

Nearly every strategy you'd expect to see in the most expensive AAA baseball games are here, too, which rewards smart players with challenging situations meant to bring out the coaches in them. How to play the base paths, adjust your fielders, and creatively use substitutions are key to winning on the highest Ego settings for the most thoughtful baseball minds. 

The one area in which Super Mega Baseball 2 has not gone leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor and, for the matter, genre counterparts, is fielding fly balls. This system is largely automated, leaving you feeling like you've lost control of your vehicle in intermittent moments despite the awesome autonomy everywhere else. Whereas hitting, pitching, baserunning, and fielding with the ball in your glove cal all be as tough as you like them to be, with fly balls even at the highest settings, SMB2 holds your hand for seemingly technical but ultimately unexplained reasons. 

Screenshots of the game cloak all of this deep customization and true to form baseball IQ in a cartoonish and fun aesthetic. Player models got a bit more realistic compared to the original game which featured ridiculous proportions, but they still look something more like Jimmy Neutron characters than real humans, and that's fine. Metalhead Software surely couldn't attain photorealism, so they smartly made this style work for them instead, turning a neutral or negative element of the game into a positive. 

  • Impressive customization options
  • Great on-the-field play with wide-ranging difficulty options
  • Many modes and ways to play with friends locally, online, or alone
  • Creative mojo and pressure systems interact to alter athlete behaviors in fun ways
  • Fun, lighthearted visuals bring the world to cartoonish life
  • Fielding fly balls is curiously semi-automated, which stands out as the one area where players lose control

Super Mega Baseball 2: Ultimate Edition is the definitive killer app for sports game fans playing on Switch. More so, if you haven't played it on other platforms, it remains an excellent option there, too, even if you have access to PS4's The Show.

What's lost in MLB licensing is recovered tenfold in deep customization across the board, intuitive play on the field that rewards a high baseball IQ, and a lighthearted aesthetic which belies the game's as-serious-as-you-want-it design. Admitting it's an overused cliche, it also feels unavoidable; Super Mega Baseball 2 is a grand slam.

[Note: A copy of Super Mega Baseball 2 was provided by Metalhead Software for the purpose of this review.]

How Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth Was a Franchise Turning Point Fri, 19 Jul 2019 14:02:04 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Digimon might remind themselves they're the champions every time an episode of the Digimon anime played on American television, but the truth of the matter was quite a different story for a long time — and still is, to an extent.

Despite technically being born before their much better known rivals, Pokemon, the digital beasties never enjoyed the same reputation in the West. A big part of that is down to timing and marketing, but there were plenty of production issues involved as well.

In fact, it wasn't until 2016 saw Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth release in the West that the franchise attained anything resembling coherent design and  cohesive originality. Now that it has, though, all signs point to the franchise hopefully remaining unique and a presence in the West for years to come.

It Starts with an Egg

Digimon started life, ironically, as a pocket monster franchise, literally. It was one of those little monster-raising things you keep in your pocket — the ones we all got in trouble with at school because it was more interesting than school.

From the start, it emphasized training your digital monster and helping it grow, not necessarily attached to any kind of story.

The first Digimon video game was a little ditty titled Digital Monster Ver.S: Digimon Tamers (not to be confused with the third season of the anime) on the Sega Saturn in 1998, which functioned basically as a TV-oriented conversion of the virtual pet. This entry has been lost with time, a bit for good reason. It didn't hold a candle to Pokemon's RPG offering, which released a full two years prior in the region.

The series's first full-fledged video game outing, Digimon World, didn't make it West until 2000, leaving Pokemon to begin its course of cultural domination with a multi-pronged media approach centered around video games and anime a full two years prior in North America. Pokemon had won.

And it's not too surprising that Pokemon succeeded. Red and Blue are rather simple by today's standards, but they wrapped up monster catching and raising in a more interesting package. Instead of just waiting for your Pokemon to poop and grow, you could take it on an adventure, stick with it for as long as you wanted or shelve it for a newer 'mon, and then win the ultimate challenge against the Elite Four.

All this was a huge hit, despite the slightly misleading premise in Pokemon's core mechanics. You really don't "train" your Pokemon in the same sense you would train your Digimon. Yet along with the more attention-grabbing adventure elements, the Pokemon anime got a two-year head start as well, so when Digimon caught up, it could only be perceived as an inferior contender.

After all, a franchise that defines itself by claiming it's better than something else clearly doesn't have as much to offer, right?

The World is Your... Farm?

Earlier Digimon games didn't do much to emphasize the series' foundational features and dispel that idea.

Tell that to a die-hard Digimon World fan, and you'll be quickly educated on how wrong you are, but that's sort of the point here. Digimon was confined to "those people" on the other side of the playground. While it was dearly loved by the ones who did take a chance on the copycat monsters, the developers went about setting the franchise apart in all the wrong ways.

The original PlayStation Digimon World games were a hodgepodge of genres and mechanics that work well when they do work, but lack clear direction. From recruiting people to a city to completing random mini-games, engaging in fights, and doing some 3D exploration, they offer a bit of everything without perfecting any one thing.

In that sense, you could say Digimon World was ahead of its time, with the genre blending and more open-ended sense of play.

It's a shame, then, that the micromanagement aspects of Digimon raising held it back. Waiting for your Digimon to do its digi-doody when it lives in a small piece of plastic inside your pocket is fine because you can do other things. Waiting for it as a form of entertainment whilst sitting in front of the TV is another matter entirely.

Meanwhile, Pokemon was off refining perfection with Gold and Silver, offering an improved — and much more focused — experience that also had the major benefit of being handheld.

That hit Pokemon's target audience the most, since Nintendo's handhelds were always marketed towards younger gamers, while the franchise was still  one of the only games of its kind. Digimon was overshadowed not just by Pokemon again, but by other, more innovative and rewarding, PlayStation era games too.

Mimicry, Flattery, and All That

Fast forward through several years and past some more Digimon spin-offs, and we get to the point where Digimon made it back to gamers' pockets — and deserved the aspersion hurled at it that it was just a copycat franchise.

Digimon World DS followed a pattern very similar to Pokemon. You get pulled into a new world, meet a professor-type person (well, digital monster in this case) pick a starter Digimon, and travel around fighting and training monsters. Leveling up the Tamer rank is equivalent to getting a Gym Badge, and it's all just too familiar. That fact wasn't lost on fans and critics alike when the game launched in the West.

Granted, a lot of this was still very Digimon. Raising and training via managing the Digi-Farm, Digivolving, and thoughtful management all played a vital role in progressing through the game. In fact, Digivolving is one of the things that really set and continues to set Digimon apart from its better-known rival.

Where evolving a Pokemon is fairly straightforward, Digivolution employs a less hardcore version of Pokemon's IV training. Focusing on a specific stat or meeting some other requirement allows a Digimon to change form, and knowing when to Digivolve or not has always been part of the series' main gimmicks.

However, there just wasn't enough to make it worthwhile in World DS. The difficulty is very low, with no option to change; the story is non-existent; and the localization is appalling.

Its sequel mimicked Pokemon even more, splitting the game into two versions — Dawn and Dusk — with different monsters and slightly different dungeons. Yet it also diluted the experience with endless fetch quests and lower production values.

It says something when a set of games considered mediocre like the DS Digimon World games is simultaneously praised for being the best in the franchise.

Timing was another issue here, and again, it stayed in Pokemon's shadow,. The first World DS game was three years too late with mechanics and ideas Pokemon's Gen III implemented.

Dawn and Dusk released in the same year as Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, The former were iterating again on a now four-year-old formula with little to show for it, while the latter launched Pokemon into a completely new audience with IV stats, a focus on the meta-game, and vibrant new graphics.

A Long Intermission

Unfortunately, North American video game sales figures aren't made widely available. Marketing research firm The NPD Group publishes monthly and yearly Top 10 style lists of sales for hardware and software, and that's about it.

There might not be any reliable statistics for how the Digimon World DS games sold in the US, but we can safely assume they didn't do very well at all.

Why? Because localization for Digimon games from then on was spotty at best, with the West only getting random titles like Digimon World Championship. That was a shame for Western fans and potential newcomers to the series, because 2008-2013 saw Digimon games of much higher quality release in Japan.

Notable highlights include Digimon Adventure for the PSP that basically lets you play the anime and the successful Digimon World Re: Digitize, which, in Japan, garnered first week sales just 10,000 shy of Pokemon Black 2 and White 2's first week numbers.

Alas, Western gamers languished with no Digimon to hope for in the near future — or rejoiced, depending on your experience with the games up to that point.

Jumping Back Into the Future

Those two games in particular started a trend that would carry over to Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth and its sequel, namely trying to forge a unique identity and create a unified set of mechanics.

Cyber Sleuth builds on the longtime series staple of existing alongside a digital world by taking it further, blending the concept with ideas and situations specific to the mid-2010s.

No longer is the idea of vanishing inside a computer meant to be enough of a draw. Instead, people live through and in EDEN, a virtual reality city that — in a nod to the problems of online socialization — lets you completely recreate yourself and hide your real identity.

This brief and simple setup immediately sets the game apart from its rivals. Accusations of copying certainly couldn't be leveled at Digimon here, particularly since it has Sword Art Online beat by many years in the "entering a digital world" department.

More importantly, Pokemon continued to offer more of the same (since that's what people wanted), leaving fans wishing for something more "mature" or at least something more ambitious in the story department.

Cyber Story delivers on both counts, drawing on Digimon's origins of a monster-based series in a super-modern world to finally set the series apart.

It's been called Persona-lite, with its modern setting and emphasis on relationships, and that's not really a bad thing.

From cyber-crime syndicates to malicious hackers and all manner of problems in between, the world of Digimon Story is a vibrant place that, despite being fictitious, still manages to resemble the real world in some ways. The story doesn't hit Persona's level of maturity, but the story beats, darker elements, and bits of intrigue and mystery are still not something we've seen or are likely to see in Pokemon, let alone something a Digimon game has ever tried to do before.

Having a solid story, something that compels you to progress through the game, gives you a reason to raise your Digimon as well, and it gives the monsters more significance than just being something to collect.

It's helped along by a couple of other factors too, though.

The first is the difficulty. On default, Cyber Story is somewhat easy, but the difficulty level can be bumped up to accommodate those with different needs. That the game makes allowances for different playstyles is another first for the series and something Pokemon still hasn't done.

Masters of Digi-volution can probably still steamroll through the game by min-maxing stats in their Digi-Farms and breaking the game through skillful control of their monsters. Newcomers can take it easy with normal difficulty or take on a greater challenge as they try to learn the ropes.

Making Digi-volution so important to progressing through the game adds a much greater, and much needed, sense of cohesion when combined with the improved story elements. There's a clear goal for raising a Digimon and an easy-to-understand path for getting there, whether you want that extra power or you need to crush a boss.

Sure, it's something the World DS games had, but there's no denying it's much more enjoyable when you feel like you're doing these things in a unique game instead of a game that just acts as a bridge to the next Pokemon. Equally as important, it was the first time in nearly two decades Digimon's traditional mechanics of raising and evolution finally got packaged together as something you could reasonably call fun.

Finally, there's combat. Pokemon was never overly simplistic in its numerous type match-ups, and for those who didn't grow up with a type chart permanently seared into their brains, things like Ice > Flying > Grass >Fire > Ice are something of an entry barrier.

Not so with Cyber Story. A few basic types, a few more subtypes, and that's it.

The Final Results

So, Cyber Story had interesting characters, forged a unique identity, doubled down on making the mechanics fun and worthwhile, and finally had the means to leave Pokemon's shadow. But did it work?

Yes and no, but mostly yes. Timing, again, has a lot to do with why Cyber Story was received well.

How well is somewhat relative, though. The game came West in 2016, the same year as Pokemon Sun and Moon made their appearance. But this time, Digimon was on the Vita, which reached an entirely different market than the 3DS.

These were often the people who grew up playing Pokemon and wanted something different, and by 2016, Vita owners were already starting to see the handheld console's slow death on the horizon, noticeable first and foremost by a steady drought of new games. A new monster-collecting game promising a hefty bit of content and darker story wasn't something to miss, even if it was digital-only in the West.

And that's important to understand. Cyber Story didn't break the top 20 PS4 games in the months following its release in the West, but consistently remained in the top 5 Vita games.

The same went for its sequel, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth — Hacker's Memory when it released a few years later. In fact, Hacker's Memory was 2018's top Vita game, and that isn't taking into account the Asian-with-English-subs versions available for import.

Yet it didn't appear on the PS4 lists again, and Pokemon continued to dominate the handheld titles.


With data like that, it probably seems a bit disingenuous to say Cyber Sleuth was a major turning point in the Digimon video game franchise. However, context is everything here.

The Story games were still handheld hits, far surpassing the DS World games in both popularity and quality. Quality is the most important point here, though, as this is the stage when finally — finally — Digimon got its act together in a sensible, focused game.

It's not known exactly how well the games did perform, but it was enough to reverse the localization curse. It convinced the series' producers to continue with the Story subset of Digimon games and ensure future games in the Digimon franchise were localized for Western audiences.

It's even the reason we'll be getting Digimon Survive (whenever that happens). If that isn't a turning point for a franchise once considered a sad, desperate copycat, I don't know what is.

GTA Online's Diamond Casino and Resort Opens Soon With Lots of New Content Fri, 19 Jul 2019 10:54:12 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

GTA Online has been rather quiet of late, though that's about to change on July 26. The Diamond Grand Casino and Resort hosts its grand opening on that day, bringing with it plenty of nightlife content to spice life up.

Situated on Vinewood Park Drive and Mirror Park Boulevard, the Diamond belongs to Tao Cheng and the Diamond family and offers high-end entertainment and experiences. Players own a luxury penthouse at the top of the resort, giving them an investment in the family and making sure the Diamond's operations run smoothly.

It's a casino, so naturally, that means the usual casino fare is on offer: slot machines, roulette, Three Card Poker, Blackjack, and a Lucky Wheel. There's a Casino Store as well, offering clothing and accessories for those who can afford it.

Should players grow bored of these activities, they can always retreat to the luxury penthouse. It's completely customizable, with different floorplans available, special spas, an in-home bar, and a media room, among other things. Whether the color palette needs changing or there's a lonely corner in need of an abstract piece of art, the Penthouse exists for the player to mold it.

It's designed for hosting wild parties, but it also grants access to a range of VIP services, like High-Limit Tables and the VIP Lounge, along with limo services and even a private aircraft.

However, that's not all The Diamond has to offer. The family is under siege from Texan incomers looking to stake their claim in the business and will lay out a series of co-op missions for players to complete. Clearing one the first time grants a special Award, while finishing the entire story will earn the player a free vehicle.

Fortunately, all this information comes from an official update, so there's no worry about it being a series of leaks — unlike that other news from the not-so-distant past.

The Surge 2 Hands-On Preview: More Cyber Souls Fri, 19 Jul 2019 10:08:52 -0400 John Schutt

From the makers of Lords of the Fallen and The Surge, The Surge 2 aims to be a stronger entry into the Souls-like genre. Like it's predecessor, this new title is a cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic world of warring factions and powerful, transformative tech.

I was able to get a few hours worth of demo time with the early parts of the game. At its core, The Surge 2 does mostly succeed in its desire to take From Software's masterpieces in new directions. The game wears its Souls DNA on its sleeve — and its chest, face, and everywhere else — but the core tenants are there.

From tough enemies, looping level design, a robust customization system, and several viable weapon types and build options, and there might be something to talk about here.

Built on the Bones

Two of the many strengths of From Software's flagship franchise are its difficulty and its worldbuilding. Enemies hit hard and often, but with careful play and a thorough understanding of mechanics, they can be tossed around without much thought. Equally important is the environment where players fight said enemies. It needs to be one steeped in mystery, an initial sense of smallness, and a feeling that there is always something more beyond the horizon. 

Based on the early levels I played, The Surge 2 offers a bit of both of these qualities and adds some of its own flair to create a unique identity. 

As with any Souls-like, early enemies are slow and predictable but hit like a truck if you aren't careful with your stamina management and block/parry timings. Dodging is about as effective as ever, but the invincibility window seems smaller than it is in a Dark Souls or Bloodborne.

Each weapon type also feels unique, requiring different playstyles to use effectively. There's also a combo mechanic allowing players to experiment with different move combinations and strings. No one weapon or combo is useful in every situation, either, making general mastery of all your tools a good overall strategy. Overspecialization isn't a detriment but doesn't seem to be heavily incentivized.

Still, the game does want players to be in the action as much as possible. To keep up the pace, it ties your access to healing items directly to your effectiveness in combat. You'll be replenishing your healing ability — a "battery" in this case — by racking up hits against enemies. Once you've filled up enough of a bar, you can bank a single usage of the battery.

You can't rest on your laurels, though, as once your combo stops, the bar starts to degrade. Fail to bank in time, and you're out of luck. 

Adding on Some Muscles

And luck is an important part of The Surge 2's progression system because your equipment does much more than your level to define how powerful you are in combat. You'll need to make liberal use of the series' unique mechanic — cutting — to chop off the various extremities from your foes for a chance at the gear that particular body part was wearing. 

There's no guarantee you'll get what you want, so if you want a specific piece of gear, you'll probably have to lop off a few body parts to get it. To do that, however, you have to attack said body part until it's weak enough to cut. Then you can use a pre-animated finisher to both confirm the kill and an item drop. 

The farming itself is typical Souls fare, as your Med Bay, a bonfire stand-in, respawns all enemies and resets the world. You'll also spend a lot of time in the Med Bay menus crafting new gear from the salvage you find throughout the world. It's there that the customization systems come to life.

Your level allows you to determine only three main stats: Health, Stamina, and Battery Efficiency. You allocate points into each for incremental increases and can reset your expenditures at any time. 

Health and Stamina do what you'd expect. It's Battery Efficiency that will become essential, as each piece of gear you equip has a power consumption score you need to compensate for. Too much armor will overload your character, and you won't be able to use implants for more passive bonuses. The reverse is also true. 

It becomes a game of compromises if you're not fine with farming for hours and power grinding your way to godhood. Even then, if you aren't wearing some protection and you don't plan on doing a no-hit run, you'll still want some armor to dull the blows you take.

Gear has its systems to elevate the game as well. Weapons have several stats that affect your combat abilities, from battery energy charge to attack speed, stamina consumption, status build-up, and more.

Standard Cyberpunk

The Surge 2 has what appears to be a deep and relatively complex character build system, so where does it stand on that other vital Souls-like quality — its world?

From what I played, this is the games' most evident weakness. Where From Software's games distort and play with expectations, dealing primarily in quiet dread and insignificance, The Surge 2 wastes no time hitting its players with standard cyberpunk tropes.

Nanomachines are taking over  again. The authorities are corrupt and want everything bad that's happened to go away; there's a cult of tech-heads with the answers you seek (maybe); someone (you) is going to set everything straight. 

There's little room for subtlety or nuance. You're asked to go to a place, kill the men, take their stuff, come back and get more stuff. While I found a lot of people who were down on their luck, I found just as many doing awkward dancing in no real sense of distress whatsoever. Perhaps that will change as the game opens up further.

Another thing I think The Surge 2 is missing in its early hours is a sense of freedom, both to think and to explore. It's a very linear experience, first of all, and while the levels do eventually loop back on themselves, they only do so to give you easier access to your Med Bay. 

Environmental storytelling isn't high on the list of qualities, either. Enemy types are too similar and the areas generic enough that I only get the sense that the city has gone to pot, not that there was or might be something grander at stake. I miss the lore in item descriptions, too.

That said, there were a couple of characters who piqued my interest. I'm hoping they aren't just one-offs who appear, deliver dialogue, and then vanish beneath my bootheel.

There seems to be some conspiracy at play, but I only really got that sense because of an audio-log I picked up after the final fight of the demo I played. I'm hoping that turns into something compelling and not the tired "we will control the machines to control the world" narrative I've seen so many times before.

All in all, The Surge 2 is looking to be a solid, if somewhat safe, entry into the Souls-like genre. If you're looking for that kind of fix before we see the coming of Elden Ring or maybe Nioh 2, I'd go out on a limb and say to give The Surge 2 a shot. We'll have a review coming not long after its release.

The Surge 2 releases on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on September 24, 2019.

EXCLUSIVE Interview with Redeemer Devs, Sobaka Fri, 19 Jul 2019 08:00:01 -0400 Joey Marrazzo

In 2017, Redeemer, a top-down shooter, was released for PC to some mixed reviews. Critics said the game had heart, but there was a lot of room for improvement that could make this game a great one. 

Sobaka, the developer of Redeemer, listened and two years later, they are releasing Redeemer Enhanced Edition which is coming to PC, and for the first time ever, consoles.

During E3, I was able to talk to Sobaka and discuss their present, their past, and what is to come in the near future. 

Redeemer: Enhanced Edition

If you have played Redeemer or have seen gameplay of it, you know the combat is a bit intense and brutal. The people over at Sobaka had to do some research in order to get the action in Redeemer just the way they wanted. 

"We had played a lot and we had watched a lot of action movies so we didn’t really need a rehearsal. Just like in any good action movie – it is cool to smash faces! Games could be really cool without a bloodshed for sure – at the end it is all about fun!"

When Redeemer first hit the PC market in August of 2017, they not only listened to the critical reception but also the response from the players. Over time Sobaka was able to release some patches, added new languages, and even a Russian voiceover which was made by the community.

However, in order to give the fans the updates they wanted to see in the game, they had to find a new publisher. 

"At some point we were talking to BUKA and then we realized that we should release our game on consoles. Our PC publisher, Gambitions, didn’t see that this way. They figured it won’t be profitable. BUKA figured it the other way. Thus, we’ve reached an agreement with BUKA to port Redeemer to the consoles."

Now with BUKA controlling the publishing rights to Redeemer, Sobaka can bring the best possible version of the game to PC and introduce it to a whole new audience on consoles. 

While it could be difficult to satisfy gamers nowadays, Sobaka listened to what their core audience wanted to see brought to the Enhanced Edition of Redeemer and tried to deliver as much as they possibly could.

"Leveling system is the core part of this update and it was highly requested by community. Certain skills now improve as player uses them, for example, if you fire an assault rifle a lot, then by the end of the game you deal much more damage with it. On top of that, there is a plenty of perks now so player can choose whether to go for a shotgun or for exploding bullets."

Sobaka believes that this is the progress Redeemer lacked in its previous iteration. They knew that something in the game was missing, but didn't know how important it actually was to the player base until after it was released. 

Life of an Indie Game Developer

Mobile games have a bigger audience than any other style of gaming. Just think about it: everyone has a phone, right? 

Developing a game for mobile, and loading it full of microtransactions sounds like a great and easy way to make a lot of money over time. It's that easy!

Well, it isn't. 

Early in Sobaka's history, they were approached and offered a deal to make mobile games. This would've been great exposure for an indie developer and could put them on a great path to success, but Sobaka turned it down so they could focus on their dream game.

"The point is that mobile games are not that profitable as one might assume. For a steady income you should integrate a lot of ads and in-game purchases into your game to pullthe money out of users’ pockets - we believe there’s no creative component in such kind of work."

Not all heroes wear capes.

In addition to just wanting to get more money from the players, the mobile market isn't as easy to succeed in, especially as an indie developer.

"Beside of that, the competition on the mobile games market is pretty tough and a lot of major companies with a plenty of experience, huge budgets and numerous successful projects can easily “suppress” newbies."

When the newest generations of consoles launched (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), the people over at PlayStation wanted to make their new console the go-to place for indie devs to release their newest projects. 

That's winded down over the past couple years, hugely in part due to the release of the Nintendo Switch. The Nindies Program has helped plenty of smaller developers bring their projects to the front row so they could get more exposure in a sea of games that is always very crowded.

Or so we thought.

"There used to be less video games in general so it was easier for a decent projects to make it to the audience. On the other hand, the gaming audience is much bigger nowadays and I guess overall it would be roughly the same in percentage."

Being an Indie dev is pretty hard nowadays. There are a lot of people and smaller developers all competing to have their place on your gaming platforms.

"Millions of the talented indie developers are working on a games of their dreams just like we are. Eventually everyone is trying to win the attention of the more or less the same audience. It’s because of the responsibility why being an indie-developer is not that easy. If you have a steady job at a major company you don't bother yourself with anything apart from your task but if you’re an indie developer you have to deal with a millions of various issues swamping you."

Besides bugs in the game, competition is the biggest obstacle that all indie developers have to struggle with. 

Future of Sobaka

With Redeemer Enhanced Edition coming to PC and consoles, what is up next for Sobaka?

They are currently working on their next game, 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, which is what they call a "true rebirth of the iconic beat 'em up genre in vein of old-school video games."

The idea for their next project started a few months before they first released Redeemer for PC back in 2017.

"A few months before releasing Redeemer we started to plan our next move. We didn’t know how Redeemer was going to perform but we already had quite a bold idea to develop a third- person game remotely similar to Hellblade. It would have been an expensive and pretty complicated project to sell it to publishers. Then we started toying with the top-down camera, and ended up getting a side view. We set it up a bit and it started to look exactly like beat’em up game players would instantly recognize."

When it comes to certain games, players already know what to do and there is no need to guide them. That is exactly the case for 9 Monkeys of Shaolin. It is reminiscent of a brawler that you would play as kids, but modernized with a cool art style. 

While they had the idea for 9 Monkeys, you still need to make some money in order to start the next project. They were hoping that Redeemer would help finance their next game.

"Before making any next moves we have to earn some money. Redeemer didn’t make it quite well. It made some but you can’t even hire anybody else for this money. We’re going to release 9 Monkeys of Shaolin on consoles so we might have a better shot this time. If we still don’t make enough money… well we’ll just start it over with a new game and another concept. As soon as we make money we will see what to do next."


Both 9 Monkeys and Redeemer have plots that are based around the main character avenging deaths of their loved ones. Sobaka prefers to keep the story simple. 

"Revenge is a classic and clear plot idea. Although we want to come up with something trickier, let's agree that a simple story about relentless revenge has its own charisma in it."

While you might have to wait until Q3 2019 to get your hands on 9 Monkeys of Shaolin, you don't have to wait any longer to play Redeemer Enhanced Edition because it is available NOW! 

Redeemer Enhanced Edition is available for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch!

I would like to thank Sobaka for taking the time during their busy week of E3 to talk to me.

Surprise Mid-Week PSN Flash Sale Live Now Thu, 18 Jul 2019 12:17:30 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Sony's shaking things up a bit with its regular-yet-random Flash Sales. Where the sales usually go live for the weekend, this week's Flash Sale starts today, 7/18, and runs until July 22 at 8 a.m. PST/11a.m. EST. Note this sale is for PS Plus members only, it appears.

This time around, there are quite a few titles included, some of which are up to 75% off. Sony's picked a few particular highlights to lead the way, like Plague Tale: Innocence ($34.99) and Batman: Arkham Collection ($23.99), though it's a fair mix of well-known and niche titles.

As always, the July Flash Sale has something for almost all PlayStation Platforms except the PlayStation Portable, though even that has some titles still up for grabs from the previous retro sale until July 23.

We've rounded up some of the notable titles from each platform:

PlayStation 4

PlayStation 3

PlayStation Vita

The full list of games included in the sale can be found here.

If it seems odd Sony's suddenly decided to break form, there might be a pretty good reason behind it. Xbox just launched its massive Super Game Sale yesterday, offering equally steep discounts and incentives to part with hard-earned cash.

When chances like this come along, it's best to hop to it if something is of interest. Earlier this year, Sony tightened the reins of control over its digital offerings, meaning consumers won't be able to find most of these titles elsewhere — legally, at least.

Dauntless Fortune and Glory Update Brings Trials Mode, New Hunt Pass Wed, 17 Jul 2019 10:09:48 -0400 Joey Marrazzo

Yesterday, a new update to the free-to-play RPG Dauntless launched. Titled Fortune and Glory, it was released for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Fortune and Glory is the first expansive content update for Dauntless, and it includes a new Trials mode, brought along thanks to a new character that arrives in Ramsgate, Lady Luck. 

Of the update, Phoenix Labs said in a release: 

Trials will pit adventurous Slayers against dangerous, modified Behemoths and all-new environmental challenges, like terrain-transforming pests. With the clock ticking through each hunt, it will be up to Trials challengers to prove that they can execute under pressure. Trials are split into two difficulty levels: "Normal" and "Dauntless."

Completing Trials' normal difficulty will grant players Slayers with Steel Marks. Players can then use these to purchase unique rewards such as weapon mods and alternate special attacks.

More skilled competitors that have finished the Dauntless difficulty will receive Slayers with Gilded Marks. Those can be used to buy exclusive cosmetic rewards.

Rewards for both the Normal and Dauntless difficulties are exclusive to the new Trials mode and can only be found at Lady Luck's shop. 

For those who want to see how they rank compared to the other 12 million Dauntless players, there is now a Wall of Champions conveniently located right outside Lady Luck's shop in Ramsgate. There, players can see the top performers whether they play solo or in a group.

If a name isn't on the leaderboards this week, there's no need to worry: the Trials rotate every week, so players have numerous chances to get on the board.

Fortune and Glory contains 50 levels of content, and it is just the beginning of this season of Dauntless, which is named High Skies. The season will also include two consecutive Hunt Passes that include new content. The first pass revolves around a pirate theme.

Be sure to head over to our Dauntless guides hub page for more on the free-to-play Epic Games exclusive. 

Harvest Moon: Light of Hope Special Edition Complete Out Soon Tue, 16 Jul 2019 14:13:22 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Natsume's Harvest Moon: Light of Hope made its debut a couple of years ago, but it's getting repackaged in Harvest Moon: Light of Hope Special Edition Complete for release on July 30. It'll be a digital and physical release for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch for $29.99.

The news originally comes from a Natsume press release via Gematsu. The Special Edition Complete includes "special features made specifically for consoles," though Natsume doesn't elaborate on what those are. It also introduces a brand-new character in Soleil. Soleil uses Gem Sprite magic to help on the farm, be it gathering materials or tending livestock, and is playable in co-op mode.

All four previously released DLC packs will be bundled in with the Special Edition Complete too.

  • Decorations and Tool Upgrade Pack
  • Divine Marriageable Characters Pack
  • New Marriageable Characters Pack
  • Doc and Melanie's Special Episodes

Previously, these were available separately for $3.99 each.

Light of Hope tried steering a difficult current between previous recent entries like A New Beginning and Skytree Village while maintaining some of the classic Harvest Moon games' charm. It wasn't completely successful in this attempt, though, with Light of Hope receiving a less than stellar reception, both critically and from consumers.

Some of the issues came from the rather confusing split between Marvelous and Natsume, where Natsume's Harvest Moon now is separate from the Harvest Moon (Bokujou Monogatari) many grew up playing.

Light of Hope has the player work to rebuild a broken-down harbor town and brings back features like town design from earlier entries. In particular, it was accused of simply rehashing the older games' concepts without trying to do anything new with them, along with several bugs and loading time issues that kept the experience from being as smooth as it could be.

Still, including the four DLC packs means players who do pick up the Light of Hope Special Edition Complete will have plenty of content to work through, not to mention more marriage candidates than they could shake a cow at.

Among Demons and Deities: An Interview with The Blackout Club's Jordan Thomas Tue, 16 Jul 2019 10:50:07 -0400 Mark Delaney

To the uninitiated, the words "immersive sim" may not be entirely helpful in describing a game. The genre made famous by the likes of BioShock, Thief, and Deus Ex has been a favorite among those who want to approach every area with the curiosity of a mad scientist, toying with their world and observing how it responds.

But what if that world toyed with you, too? How would you respond?

That's the thrill of Question's The Blackout Club, a four-player co-op immersive horror sim that bends the rules of the genre in more ways than one. Some of those ways are so mysterious that our recent chat with Lead Designer Jordan Thomas left us with a cryptic teasing that players will unravel with the game's 1.0 launch on July 30.

We caught up with Thomas to find out more about the game's multiplayer environment and the cultish lore behind the game, all while trying to get to the bottom of its mysterious Enhanced Horror feature.

GameSkinny: When I first heard about The Blackout Club, I likened it to Left 4 Dead meets Stranger Things, but for reasons we’ll get to momentarily, I now feel like that doesn’t fully capture the game’s essence. For those unfamiliar, what’s the basic premise of The Blackout Club?

Jordan Thomas: Sure! The Blackout Club is first-person, modern co-op horror with a twist. You play teenagers investigating a potentially supernatural threat beneath the streets of your hometown. Everyone is sleepwalking at night, experiencing blackouts, and you want to know why. The enemies are bigger than you, and they could be your parents, so the focus is on non-lethal sneaky or mobility-focused tactics.

You can also play a traitor kid called The Stalker, who is trying to catch the Blackout Club kids on camera. It’s harder, because you’re all alone, but can be thrilling. Some of the kids report hearing voices that claim to be ancient, and know things they should not — and part of the game involves interacting with those voices.

GS: Playing The Blackout Club at PAX West last year, I was surprised to learn the National Radio Quiet Zone is a real thing here in the U.S. Was the intent to always place your game in this area or did that come later as you fleshed out what The Blackout Club would be?

Thomas: I’ve told other, private stories in this universe, and there was — well, our term is a “strong edge metaphor.” A reason why a single phone call or bus across state lines wouldn’t solve the protagonists’ problems. It’s so frustrating when you’re enjoying some genre piece and for completely baffling reasons they won’t do the rational thing to take themselves out of harm’s way.

Redacre, our fictional town, is on a private network controlled by the antagonists, and they have people watching the borders. Though the NRQZ is our unique take on that for this game, it was a decision we made fairly early. 

Plus, nobody believes a group of kids who say, “Hi, you don’t know me, but my town’s possessed.” 

GS: What were some of the chief inspirations for The Blackout Club?

Thomas: Well, there’s all the alter-ego oriented horror I love, starting with Jekyll & Hyde. The vast, unknowable maze beneath the earth, somewhat inspired by House of Leaves, though we leave more room for reasonable doubt about whether mortal forces could achieve it all, or if there truly is something supernatural happening.

As far as TV and film  Twin Peaks, It Follows, Stranger Things, The X-Files, Supernatural… some folks have drawn parallels with American Gods. Our goal was to draw on a great number of sources, but synthesize it into something that feels like its own animal. It’s very gratifying to hear that now, you might feel we’ve done that.

In games, I’d have to say Eternal Darkness. Horror that seems to reach back out through the controller to grab you back.

GS: How scary is it intended to be?

Thomas: The single-player intro has definitely brought a few folks to their limit, because they have maximal vulnerability and minimal information at that point. Once you’ve got your friends along and they’re carrying a metaphorical elephant gun packed with memes, it can lean into the comedy side of horror.

Accounting for that tonal variance was pretty key for us early on, and another reason we chose to go with teenage protagonists  humor is a defense mechanism, after all. That said, it is extremely satisfying to hear a certain kind of player go from cocky and vocally dunking on the challenge level to impress their friends  to shrieking in front of those self-same friends a moment later. And that’s just within typical gameplay. 

There are times when The Blackout Club makes things more personal for players who have enabled Enhanced Horror — and some of the things they report, we definitely did not put in the game. That may sound like hyperbole, and to an extent, sure, I’m being mysterious. But it’s true: the feature’s black-box nature causes players to project a lot of meaning onto what happens, and we are listening to what they believe, and altering the world, by degree, in response.

GS: The central villain is The Shape, a monster pulled right out of horror cinema in some ways. Can you talk about the ways in which The Shape interacts with players?

Thomas: The Shape is a nickname the kids chose, and horror folks will probably guess why. The sleepwalkers call it The Angel, and it does serve a sort of moral enforcer role in Redacre, monitoring the children for the worst “sinners” (as it perceives that term).

When one of them has committed too many sins while running a mission, a menacing song plays on the city-sized instrument under the town’s streets, and it is deployed to hunt that kid down. It cannot be seen unless the player closes their in-game eyes, and then it appears as a kind of burning shadow that … changes as things intensify.

When it gets ahold of them, at first, it turns them into a sleepwalker that acts as a roving alarm system against fellow players. If their friends rescue them and they’re caught a couple more times, however, The Angel’s mercy runs out and it ends their lives.

GS: Who and what else will players contend with in Redacre?

Thomas: Sleepwalkers come in a couple of varieties. Mothers and fathers within the town, dressed in pyjamas and special CHORUS branded sleep masks. CHORUS is the housing association which arranged the internet- & cellular-free community of Redacre. The elite sleepwalkers wear these very striking white and red clothes. These uniforms help them labor on the Great Instrument under the streets, monitor their hearts, and protect them in that semi-hazardous underground environment.

In the morning, they remember nothing  they wake up with aches and pains, so families often have one or more people who are subconsciously spying for the enemy.

Lucids have bare faces, but the populace of Redacre has been brainwashed to see their faces improperly, a sort of concentrated face blindness, so they appear to be a writhing swirl of features. Unlike the sleepwalkers, they are fully aware of the conspiracy and are always trying to play Mr. Friendly with the kids, talking them out of hiding. The savvy Blackout Club kids are rarely fooled, however.

Finally, there are The Voices. Most of the kids report hearing one or more. Some of them claim to be demons, or even deities. They offer the kids knowledge, and better control over their potential talent — but at a price.

GS: Those who have been playing in Early Access share their stories of the Enhanced Horror feature. This is something which, as far as I can tell, no one has done before in games. Understanding you want some of the fun to remain hidden until players see it for themselves, can you detail how Enhanced Horror works? What is the game like if players elect to turn off Enhanced Horror?

Thomas: Yes, tricky to discuss without ruining it for the very people who most benefit from surprise. But at a coarse level, it is meant to function like a Ouija board, meaning that you can opt in to let it listen to you as you play.

In a way, occult amusements like that are a bigger inspiration than any of the media we talked about. Players in co-op are already chattering all the time via the in-game voice or Discord, etc. In The Blackout Club, what they say actually matters. To name a particular god or demonlike entity with its proper name, for example, might provoke a surprising result. Out of a match, players can use a Ritual Item to ask questions of the voices in their minds, and everything they say … actually matters. 

Finishing a mission gives them a Dream, which lets them eavesdrop on what other players have asked for or stated, via these — and listen to the replies they received. If you’re lucky, your question might be the one that becomes a public Dream.

Players’ knowledge of the world lore is being driven by this system, in part, and they are quick to rush to Discord to speculate on what it means. Already, these interactions have shaped the story, gently, and behind a veil of mystery. They seem to get something out of it they can’t find elsewhere, which makes us wildly happy.

GS: Some of you on the team have a history with immersive sims like BioShock and Thief. How has that work history informed the design of The Blackout Club, and what’s it been like trying to map some of those features onto a multiplayer game?

Thomas: As with the story elements, it has been a process of choosing what serves the immediacy of a session-based multiplayer game, and letting the rest either fall away or be hidden within deep systems context where the power-users will find it eventually. In a Shock-like game, you frequently have one hand that is sort of a … murder boquet, guns, direct damage in so many colors. And the other that is sort of about putting the enemy in interesting states.

In The Blackout Club, you’re supposed to feel like a disempowered teenager from some of the media we discussed above, so those abilities are distributed across you and several other players, and the combinations require you to coordinate with them, or at least to get the drop on your enemies first.

GS: What is the game’s map like? Is the town fully accessible right away or must players work to progress through new areas?

Thomas: It is gated by player level, and is focused around the main hillside climb up to the place where CHORUS has centered their activity in town. There are forested areas, suburban homes, a daycare facility, and, of course, the underground maze.

The maze is a giant musical instrument as we’ve talked about, and it plays a central role in the fiction. That function hugely alters the appearance of the maze — I’m very proud of the work Stephen and CJ have done on the environment art side, it feels like no other game world I’ve ever seen. 

GS: With the game involving a live element, how do you see it evolving over time? 

Thomas: Without spoiling too much, there are community-wide story goals, and players can make progress towards them by running typical missions. The means by which they do so, though, aren’t readily exposed or easy to “game”  they involve interacting and discussing with other players, sending Rituals to the Voices, and hoping for a useful reply.

Periodically, we want to build larger updates and release them, reflecting the results of that great search for truth, but, of course, the amount of that we’re able to do will be driven by how well the game does.

"The Blackout Club makes things more personal for players who have enabled Enhanced Horror and some of the things they report, we definitely did not put in the game."

GS: Similarly, considering how the game changes with Enhanced Horror, does the team at Question have settled lore to build on or are you adjusting to player interactions as time goes on?

Thomas: The Blackout Club is meant to feel something like a less well-worn Call of Cthulhu or Hunter: The Vigil style game, where the protagonists are ultra vulnerable and only brush against the truth by aggregated effort. So there is a great deal of hidden truth that has existed for a long time, but already, even in Early Access, some tectonic shifts have occurred based on player interest.

So it will be a hybrid of the world as it is, and the world as they want to see it. Fitting, I hope, for a story that involves an element of growing up and grappling with reality. I’ll let you and the player community hash out how well we’re pulling that off!

GS: What does player progression look like? How does one beat The Blackout Club? Is there an ending to see or is it meant to be played more as repeat-friendly levels like Left 4 Dead?

Thomas: It is definitely meant to be endlessly replayed; the actual mission content is procedural/dynamically generated, the placement of enemies, lights, security, and so on will shift around. But it does begin with the story of a girl who got too close to the truth, and the players are just like the kids in the Blackout Club, they expect some kind of resolution to that arc.

Of course, if they send enough ritual offerings asking for something else, who are we to deny the power of belief?

The Blackout Club exits Steam Early Access and comes to Xbox One and PS4 all on July 30. You can read our early impression of the game here

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD Confirmed for a Fall Release Date Tue, 16 Jul 2019 10:23:23 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Note [7/16]: Sega has indeed confirmed the new Monkey Ball remake is coming to North America on October 29, titled Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD. Nintendo provided a new cinematic trailer for the game as well.

The original story is below.

Super Monkey Ball chatter has been rife recently, with rumors of new installments following Taiwanese and Korean ratings for a new game in the franchise. Japanese publication Famitsu has confirmed that, indeed, Tabegoro! Super Monkey Ball is a thing and will release October 31 in Japan for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, with a Steam version set for a December release.

The game is a remake of the Wii launch title, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, which was the first game in the series to allow players to jump over obstacles on a course.

It also included a ton of mini-games, such as the fan-favorite Monkey Target and roughly 50 others, which some argue are more important than the series' story content.

Being a Wii game, Banana Blitz also incorporated motion controls, doing away with the control stick or D-pad as methods for getting an encapsulated monkey through the obstacle courses. Whether the remake will also use motion controls isn't known yet, though Famitsu is set to print in a few days and might provide more information then.

Should it require motion controls, then it seems Tabegoro! would make it on the list of Nintendo Switch games you won't be able to play easily on the new Nintendo Switch Lite.

It seems unlikely the game would be motion-control only, though. The only danger for the Wii was throwing a Nun-chuck through the TV screen by chance. Flailing around trying to frantically save a monkey from falling off the edge probably wouldn't go down as well in public or on a crowded transit system.

For now, there's no word on whether the West will see a release for Tabegoro! Super Monkey Ball, but given the series' popularity in years past, chances are, we'll be hearing an announcement from Sega on the subject soon.

Amazon Prime Day Deals: Gaming, Hardware, and More Mon, 15 Jul 2019 11:14:35 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

It's that time of year again, when Amazon puts hundreds of random products on sale for members of its Prime program. This year, Prime Day lasts for two days, running until July 16 at 11:59 pm PST.

From video game console bundles to gaming PCs, games, SD cards, and more, there's a lot on offer for techies and gamers, so we've rounded up some of the best deals to save you the hassle of endless scrolling.

Nintendo Switch Prime Day Deals

The Switch doesn't get much in the way of discounts yet, but Amazon is offering a bundle similar to one we've seen before, plus some discounts on controllers.

There are some games discounted for this Prime Day too:

PlayStation 4 Prime Day Deals

There's a slightly sweeter Prime Day bundle for the PS4, one that includes a console and two highly praised games.

And, of course, there are some game deals as well.

Xbox One Prime Day Deals

While there aren't any snazzy hardware deals for the Xbox One, there are still some game deals to choose from.

Tech Prime Day Deals

As always, there are plenty of tech and hardware deals to go around this Prime Day.

Chief among them is a top-of-the-line GPU:

Then there's the usual PC and accessory sales:


We'll update if there are any other major deals that go live before Prime Day(s) end. However, it's important to keep in mind that Amazon doesn't label many of these deals as time sensitive, despite the fact that they are. It's always possible the prices listed here could be higher or lower when you go to the product page.

Minecraft Bell Guide: What It Is And How To Get It Fri, 12 Jul 2019 16:26:07 -0400 Ty Arthur

The ever-expanding Minecraft just keeps getting new block types and items to play with, from the elusive Heart Of The Sea to the brand new Bell added with the 1.14 update.

If you've tried to make a Bell to see how it works, you've probably run into a pretty big snag -- currently, there is no crafting recipe for a bell at all!

Hopefully this will change down the road, but for now your options to find or trade for a Bell are extremely limited. Let's take a look at where you can get your hands on this nifty new item.

How To Get A Bell In Minecraft

Right now, there are only two options for acquiring your very own Bell, and both may take some time depending on random variables:

  • Find one that randomly spawns in a village
  • Trade for one with an armorer

For the first option, head to a village and you may find they already have one that's spawned at the center meeting area. You can take their Bell if you want, but you can't just pick it up -- you have to mine it with a pickaxe to steal it out from under the villager's noses!

Whether the village has a Bell or not, there is also a small chance that the village's armorer will have one or more on hand to trade for 36 emeralds.

Now that you know where to get your hands on a Bell, what exactly are they used for?

Villagers can ring the bell automatically on their own to alert everyone that a  raid is in progress, or you can do the same by hitting the side of the bell (even with a projectile).

Using the Bell changes villager behavior in the surrounding area in these ways:

  • Ring it while villagers are asleep to wake them up
  • Ring it while they are awake and they will all go hide in the nearest building
  • Ring it raid mobs are within 32 squares of the bell and those mobs will have the glow effect applied

Found any other uses for the Bell or come across a crafting recipe that actually works? Let us know in the comments section so we can get this article updated!

Need help with any other part of the game? Be sure to check out the rest of our a Minecraft guides here:

How To Make Fireworks In Minecraft Fri, 12 Jul 2019 15:25:17 -0400 Ty Arthur

Just because the 4th of July has already come and gone this year doesn't mean you can't add some eye-popping fireworks displays to your Minecraft experience! 

Below we list out all the ingredients you need for crafting a basic firework rocket, as well as extra items to add for varying effects.

Why exactly would you need to make Minecraft fireworks? Besides the nifty explosive effects for purely aesthetic purposes, they can also be used as fuel to propel the elytra wings, or placed as ammunition in the crossbow. Let's dive in and see what you can start crafting! 

Minecraft Fireworks Crafting

Making a basic firework rocket is simple, as you only need one gunpowder and one paper.

This basic recipe can be modified however, as the rocket's flight duration will change depending on the amount of paper you use. So for instance using gunpowder x 1 and paper x 3 results in a rocket with three times the flight duration of a rocket made with a single piece of paper.

That's just a basic, hum drum firework that isn't very exciting though. So, what if you want to change the color and shape of the fireworks?

How to Change Firework Shapes and Colors

In this case you need to craft different fireworks star items first using dyes for colors and then add them to the basic fireworks recipe. In addition to dyes for colors, there are also extra effects to add with various items.

The table below shows five different types of firework stars to craft, and here are all the extra effects we've discovered so far:

  • Diamond: Trail effect
  • Glowstone Dust: Twinkle effect
  • Fire Charge: :arger fireworks explosion
  • Gold Nugget: Star shape explosion
  • Feather: Burst effect
  • Mob Head: Fireworks explode in creeper shape

Beyond those special additions, note that you can also add a fade effect to rockets.

To make this type of firework with fading explosions:

  1. Take the base firework star you made
  2. Add another ingredient in the crafting screen as listed in the table below
  3. Use the modified fireworks star in your end firework recipe with gunpowder and paper

Note that for some of these modified fireworks recipes you actually need more than 1 stack of gunpowder to make the final firework rocket. Those exceptions are also listed in the table below.

For instance for the "Burst Green" firework star with the "Fade To Yellow" effect added, you need these items for the final recipe:

  • Gunpowder x 3
  • Paper X 1
  • Burst Green Fade To Yellow Twinkle Fireworks Star x 1

Here's a brief run down of five different kinds of fireworks that can be made using the combinations of crafting materials listed above:

Firework Star Type Recipe Fade Recipe # Of Gunpowder Needed
 Small Brown Twinkle Gunpowder x1
Cocoa Beans x1
Glowstone Dust x1
 None 1
 Creeper Shaped Magenta  Gunpowder x 1
 Magenta Dye x 1
Wither Skull x 1
None   2
 Burst Orange  Gunpowder x 1
Orange Dye x 1
Feather x 1
Rose Red x1  2
 Star Shaped Blue Trail Gunpowder x 1
Lapus Lazuli x 1
Gold Nugget x 1
Diamond x1
 Rose Red x 1  2
 Burst Green Twinkle Gunpowder x1
Cactus Green x 1
Feather x 1
Glowstone Dust x1
Dandelion Yellow x 1  3


Using these options as a template, you can mix and match your colors and effects to create a range of fireworks options.

Found any other potential fireworks recipe combinations that we missed using different crafting materials? Sound off in the comments below and we'll get them added!


Need help with any other part of the game? Be sure to check out the rest of our a Minecraft guides here:

Stranger Things 3: The Game: How to Find All 50 Hidden Gnomes Thu, 11 Jul 2019 13:15:33 -0400 Mark Delaney

Stranger Things has captured the zeitgeist yet again. Though its time in the spotlight is more fleeting than other prestige TV series due to the Netflix binge model so many fans employ, this time we got a fun tie-in game to go with it, complete with 50 elusive hidden gnomes sprawled across Hawkins.

Below is every gnome in Stranger Things 3: The Game and where to find them, including their name, number as designated in-game, and which hub and specific location in which you can uncover their little red hats.

After this, you'll unlock the Home a Gnome achievement/trophy on Xbox One, Steam, or PS4 (sorry, Switch players), not to mention your garden will look spectacular.

Before You Begin

One tip we definitely want to stress is that you need not worry about getting every gnome on your first run. Some areas hiding gnomes are blocked off until certain characters can access them with their unique skills, like Joyce's boltcutters or Erica's McClain-like ability to move through vents.

For that reason, we suggest getting whichever gnomes you can get as you play through, but go back and clear the streets only after you have all 12 characters unlocked. Because they're numbered and named, it's easy to see in the game's menu which gnomes you're still missing and which you'll need to find once you can go anywhere you need.

Where to Find All 50 Gnomes in Stranger Things 3: The Game

Gnomes 1-10

Gnome #1: 

  • Name: Johnny
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In Mike's Basement near the stairs exit

Gnome #2: 

  • Name: Christine
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: South outside of Mike's house

Gnome #3: 

  • Name: Doc
  • Hub: Hawkins Mall
  • Location: West outside of the mall near the loading area

Gnome #4: 

  • Name: Indiana
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: East of the pool near the shed

Gnome #5: 

  • Name: Chunk
  • Hub: Weathertop
  • Location: Near the exit of the underground lair by the door with the three large fluid tanks

Gnome #6: 

  • Name: Elvis
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Tucked behind trees near the library

Gnome #7: 

  • Name: Jack
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside the library starting area near the computer

Gnome #8: 

  • Name: Flynn
  • Hub: Starcourt Mall
  • Location: In the parking lot near the green car

Gnome #9: 

  • Name: David
  • Hub: Weathertop
  • Location: North of the antenna, enter the underground lair and follow it to the end

Gnome #10: 

  • Name: Baskin
  • Hub: Starcourt Mall
  • Location: Behind the counter of "Scoops Ahoy!"
Gnomes 11-20

Gnome #11: 

  • Name: Macdonald
  • Hub: Driscoll Farm
  • Location: Easternmost section of the outdoors

Gnome #12: 

  • Name: Clint
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: In the Hardware Store behind a chained door which Joyce can open

Gnome #13: 

  • Name: Marty
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: In the Hardware Store, eastern corner of the first room

Gnome #14: 

  • Name: Mikhail
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: In front of Town Hall, tucked between two bushes

Gnome #15: 

  • Name: Denver
  • Hub: Driscoll Farm
  • Location: Head inside the barn, leave via the opposite door, head left to find a secret passage which houses Denver

Gnome #16: 

  • Name: Drago
  • Hub: Hess Farm
  • Location: Head into the secret lab, craft three mechanical cranks to use on doors lacking them, which opens a door to Drago

Gnome #17: 

  • Name: Fletch
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In the Abandoned House, crawl into the vent with Erica and use the computer. Enter the following numbers when prompted: 57257, 73797, 77927, 87742, 14847 

Gnome #18: 

  • Name: Norman
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Inside Granny Perkins' house

Gnome #19: 

  • Name: Herbert
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Granny's house again, this time inside the basement behind some rocks which Lucas can destroy

Gnome #20: 

  • Name: Burt
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Inside the pool area behind the chained door which Joyce can open

Gnomes 21-30

Gnome #21: 

  • Name: Seth
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Visit the florist. Move the golden bear statue until it faces the flower pots, then crawl through the vents using Erica and move the rat to face the sink. This opens a door which houses Seth

Gnome #22: 

  • Name: Rutger
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Inside the girl's locker room beside the public pool

Gnome #23: 

  • Name: Cruise
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Visit the store Circuit Shed and open the chained door with Joyce and solve the light puzzle

Gnome #24: 

  • Name: Charles
  • Hub: Hawkins Lab
  • Location: Enter the vent with Erica and solve the puzzle

Gnome #25: 

  • Name: Kitt
  • Hub: Hawkins Lab
  • Location: Enter the lab and head up-screen to find Kitt behind some trees

Gnome #26: 

  • Name: Huey
  • Hub: Hawkins Lab
  • Location: Find him in the room which features a timed pressure pad puzzle

Gnome #27: 

  • Name: Falco
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Hiding in a bush near Dustin's house. Get behind the fence to find Falco

Gnome #28: 

  • Name: Glenn
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Crawl through the vent in the hardware store with Ericafight off the pair of enemies inside and retrieve Glenn

Gnome #29:

  • Name: Sonja
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In Max's backyard

Gnome #30: 

  • Name: Ripley
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside Town Hall in the aide's office
Gnomes 31-40

Gnome #31: 

  • Name: Tony
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside Town Hall, head to the gymnasium, hack the terminal 

Gnome #32: 

  • Name: Charlene
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside the City Hall cellar behind the door that needs to be hacked. Clear the rocks with bombs and fight the rats. It's at the end of the corridor.

Gnome #33: 

  • Name: Willie
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Inside the Town Hall in the bathroom behind the sink 

Gnome #34: 

  • Name: Arnold
  • Hub: Murray's Warehouse
  • Location: Stay outside and follow the fence until you see Arnold's red pointy hat

Gnome #35: 

  • Name: Falken
  • Hub: Murray's Warehouse
  • Location: Head into the second area and activate switches 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8 to open a new area to find Falken

Gnome #36: 

  • Name: Bastion
  • Hub: Starcourt Mall
  • Location: Beside the bottom of the escalator

Gnome #37: 

  • Name: Magnum
  • Hub: Hawkins Square
  • Location: Head into the newspaper office, the Hawkins Post, and find Magnum on the east side of the office

Gnome #38: 

  • Name: Clara
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: Inside Mike's House, find Clara beside the fridge

Gnome #39: 

  • Name: Deckard
  • Hub: Hospital
  • Location: Go to the second floor and use Erica to bypass a vent and find Deckard

Gnome #40: 

  • Name: Tommy Lee
  • Hub: Starcourt Mall
  • Location: In the docking bay dungeon area, you'll eventually pass several vents. Crawl into the first vent that stands alone with Erica again.

Gnomes 41-50

Gnome #41: 

  • Name: Adora
  • Hub: Hess Farm
  • Location: In the middle of the shed

Gnome #42: 

  • Name: Samantha
  • Hub: Hess Farm
  • Location: In the basement, use Erica to get behind the vent on the left

Gnome #43: 

  • Name: Alexandre
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In Dustin's House behind the pressure pad puzzle door, there's a vent, so you know, use Erica

Gnome #44: 

  • Name: Papa Gnome
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In the pool area and inside the women's locker room there is yet another vent, so yes, use Erica

Gnome #45: 

  • Name: Gunther
  • Hub: Hawkins Fair
  • Location: In the woods behind the house of mirrors

Gnome #46: 

  • Name: Tubbs
  • Hub: Hawkins Suburbs
  • Location: In Max's House and in the bathroom, use Erica to get into the vent 

Gnome #47: 

  • Name: Coleman
  • Hub: Hawkins Fair
  • Location: Play Whack-a-Mole to win an additional 10 tickets (two wins at five tickets per win) besides those you need for the story. With ten tickets, speak to the fairground worker on the right willing to reveal the World's Smallest Person, which is actually Coleman here

Gnome #48: 

  • Name: Slash
  • Hub: Hawkins Fair
  • Location: In the Funhouse from the first floor, use the following exits southeast, northeast, southeast, northeast, and southeast. You'll come to a room with Slash inside

Gnome #49: 

  • Name: Freddy
  • Hub: Hawkins Fair
  • Location: In the Funhouse and on the fifth floor where you can check your answers with the clown painting on the wall, Freddy is in the green room to your right

Gnome #50: 

  • Name: Jareth
  • Hub: Weathertop
  • Location: In the shed, crawl into the vent with Erica yet again and exit via the right door to find your last Gnome, Jareth.

Now that you've found all 50 hidden gnomes, it's time to count up how many puns and '80s pop culture references those little statues featured. No help for you there, I'm afraid. This author was born in 1989. 

Stranger Things 3: The Game Review: A Great Companion for Fans Thu, 11 Jul 2019 09:38:14 -0400 Mark Delaney

Chances are good that you're watching Stranger Things 3 this week. If not, chances are pretty good that you aren't because you've already finished the eight-episode season.

For the biggest fans, the fleeting binge may not feel like enough, but luckily it doesn't have to be this season. Stranger Things 3: The Game, developed by BonusXP and published by Netflix's burgeoning gaming division, is a fun retro take on the popular show's third season.

By including the expansive main cast as playable characters, giving players all of Hawkins to explore, and combining old-school charm with modern accessibility, Stranger Things 3: The Game makes for a great companion to the TV series. 

If you haven't watched the show's third season yet, you should do that first, as the game adaptation mostly tells the same story. It does make some very gaming-specific alterations, however, like offering many side missions and a lot more combat than the show makes time for. It's designed for co-op too, so while you can switch to any character you want, you'll always have a buddy handy as either AI or someone next to you on the couch.

Outside of those sorts of changes, it adheres very closely to the show, including even precise dialogue segments taken right from episodes. It's clear BonusXP didn't just have the plot outlines but had seen the whole season, and that sort of approach feels as nostalgic as the series. Tie-in games like this are disappointingly few and far between nowadays, but Stranger Things 3 makes a case for their resurgence. 

The artwork isn't exactly period-accurate. The show takes place in 1985 while the game, though retro-styled, looks more like a project from 1993 or so. For fans who don't like retro games and lack the nostalgia no matter how far into the annals of console history a game goes, ST3 thankfully modernizes the 16-bit open-world hubs with conveniences like fast travel, improved waypointing, and much more forgiving checkpoints. Controls are smartly set up too. With several characters offering unique abilities, the game wisely swaps to them automatically when you need them, and at any point, you can swap to whichever character you'd like, or even move back and forth between your last two like a favorites menu.

What remains intact from the era of games which ST3 mimics are very difficult boss battles. Usually how to defeat them is spelled out well enough to not frustrate, but there's a difference between knowing how to beat an enemy and executing that plan. In BonusXP's tie-in, the latter can be a real obstacle some times, just like the old days.

Even then, a few late-game bosses don't as clearly spell out the tactics needed, which is a harsh reminder of how games used to be and how far we've come from such annoyances. Every major battle from the season appears here as a boss, and they get harder as you go.

When you're not fighting bosses, combat can still be more than mindless button-mashing, even if it's not as trying as the bosses. Controlling crowds of flayed rats, armed Russians, and spillovers from the Upside Down involves some smart thinking and pairing of the right heroes while using their moves in effective ways. You recharge energy for devastating special moves by drinking New Coke, because even the game couldn't escape the influence of product placement.

For the biggest fans, it's not going to be just playing as favorite characters that is so exciting: it's getting to live in Hawkins as those characters. The overworld plays host to several good-sized hubs, like the suburbs, the Starport Mall, Hopper's woods, and more, and many of those have hidden areas which act as puzzle and combat dungeons, thus expanding the size of each area even more.

It's a thrill to go sightseeing to Joyce's general store, or Billy's pool, or especially the Hawkins Lab which has hosted so many classic moments. The game brilliantly takes you on a tour of every corner of every street and into every home and store by the end.

Getting familiar with the map really rewards you with a sense of place in the once quaint, always fictional town. You'll feel like a resident, or more accurately, 12 residents.

All the kids, younger and older, as well as Joyce and Hopper, are playable, and most of them are faithful avatars to their TV counterparts. With a few of them, it seems like BonusXP didn't quite know how to make them fighters, so their move sets end up feeling foreign, like they don't quite capture who they are. Nancy uses scissors, apparently because she's an office clerk. Why Max's normal attack is a high kick is another confusing example, though others, like Steve's ice cream cone lobbing or Eleven's Jedi powers, are welcome and powerful.

All of this comes while the series' unforgettable music plays in the background to perfectly set the stage, even as the game purposely withholds some flair that would be possible with a more modern approach.

  • Features 12 playable characters and every sight you'd want to see in Hawkins
  • Combat is fun against goons and a proper challenge against bosses
  • Music and the open-world go a long way to make you feel like you're a part of Hawkins
  • A few boss battles are needlessly obtuse
  • Some characters' abilities seem out of left-field

If you like neither retro games nor Stranger Things, you're probably safe skipping this one, but for anyone who likes either and everyone who likes both likely a great number of people  Stranger Things 3: The Game is a fun homage to the old school and a proper tie-in game that will hopefully bring about more similar projects.

The TV series appeals to a wide age range and the game surely will too. Bring someone skilled for the boss battles and this will be a frustration-free extension of your season three binge.

[Note: A copy of Stranger Things 3: The Game was provided by BonusXP for the purpose of this review.]

Dragon Quest Builders 2 Review: A Textbook Example Of A Sequel Done Right Thu, 11 Jul 2019 09:15:02 -0400 David Jagneaux

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is the perfect sequel. To be clear: that doesn't mean it's a perfect game by any means, but if you enjoyed the first one or had some specific, common issues with it, then you're very likely going to love this follow-up. 

More so than most any sequel I've seen in recent memory, it takes everything about the first game, improves it, expands it, and makes it better from top to bottom all without feeling redundant. It's actually pretty impressive.

Dialogue Boxes Galore

I never put a whole lot of time into the original, but I played enough to approach this review with some ground-level expectations. Despite being familiar with the previous game, an avid consumer of JRPGs, and fan of the core Dragon Quest franchise, I was not prepared for the sheer volume of text in this game. I'm not exaggerating. If you told me Dragon Quest Builders 2 has more lines of dialogue than The Witcher 3, I'd probably believe you. 

The premise here is that you're a rare and talented "builder" that possesses the unique gift of being able to, you guessed it, build stuff. That means busting out your book to jot down crafting recipes and blueprint ideas precisely when the narrative demands it. 

Truth be told, the story is all but meaningless after the first couple of hours, at which point you finally get to leave the starting island.

The game's broken up into several large themed islands with self-contained quest progressions that gradually teach you the game's various layers such as planting, mining, and so on. Each island has its own set of resources and eventually, you'll unlock access to anything and everything back on the main starting island, which is a bit like your home base as you recruit villagers to come back with you.

Building With Purpose

What originally attracted me to the Dragon Quest Builders franchise as a whole is the fact that it puts the addictive "collect, craft, build" gameplay loop from popular sandbox games such as Minecraft into a package with a clearer, more structured design. Instead of being a pure sandbox, you've got NPCs to chat with, a story to progress through, dedicated chunks of content to do, and a driving sense of purpose. Eventually, you can ignore it all and treat it like a pure sandbox, too, so it's kind of the best of both worlds in a way.

The downside to this is that even after a dozen or so hours, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is obsessed with teaching you. Even if it's something you figured out on your own, sifting through countless dialogue boxes over and over is tedious. I usually am very much against not reading the dialogue in games like this; I'm a writer so, of course, I appreciate good prose, but it eventually gets monotonous and patronizing in this case.

All of the writing is cute and charming, but sometimes I just wanted to get on with things already.

From a gameplay perspective, Dragon Quest Builders 2 feels really good. It uses a sort of middle ground between being top-down and isometric with a camera that can pan and zoom a bit to get the right angle. Thankfully, it helps establish a good sense of scale for how large the settings often are.

You'll spend most of your time completing simple checklist-style quests, but once you get a bit into the first non-starter island, things open up more. You'll start building up villages and recruiting NPC villagers that can go with you on adventures, along with your combat buddy, Malroth. 

As a first for the series, you can even assign tasks to villagers, too, like collecting certain items or even working on completing structures by following blueprints. Being able to offload a lot of the busy work to your helpers is a huge quality of life improvement.

Learning New Tricks

Speaking of changes and new features, the biggest addition here is multiplayer. Just like Dragon Quest 2 itself added a party to the game instead of the original's single protagonist, Dragon Quest Builders 2 adds NPC companions and player companions as well.

Combat received an overhaul as well by letting you attack much more quickly, removing the damage you'd take from touching enemies previously (it was super annoying,) and increasing the intensity a bit across the board. It's still just mashing attack and moving away from enemy swipes, but it's less tedious at least, even if not remarkable.

In terms of moment-to-moment gameplay, though, the biggest improvement to me is the enormous inventory expansion. No longer do you need to constantly drop things off in storage or sift through chests to find items. You've basically just got bottomless pockets this time around. Add in a Breath of the Wild-style glider, teleporters spread across islands, and a flute to help find rare items and it really rounds out the sequel package here in a great way.

And you can swim now, too!

  • Great improvement on the original in basically every way,
  • Lots of wonderful quality of life improvements,
  • Tons of stuff to do with dozens of hours of content,
  • Normally tedious stuff is handled very well.
  • Combat is still a bit boring,
  • At its core, it's still more of the same,
  • Story is extremely forgettable, albeit well-written.

At the end of the day, you probably already decided whether Dragon Quest Builders 2 was for you from reading the features list summary on Wikipedia or the storefront page of your choice. This doesn't reinvent the blocky cube wheel, and it doesn't do a whole lot to stand out other than refining its existing formula, but for fans of the original, that should be more than enough.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 releases on July 12, 2019, for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

[Note: A copy of Dragon Quest Builders 2 was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review.]

11 Best Terraria Mods for Starting a Fresh Sandbox Adventure Wed, 10 Jul 2019 13:43:42 -0400 Jason Coles

Terraria is a fantastic game in its own right. Despite being released nearly 100 years ago in 2011, it still pulls in a lot of players and is a must-play for many gamers. Thanks to some brilliant PC players, you can mod this wonderful little indie title, and thanks to mods, things can get incredibly strange incredibly fast.

To help you keep your game going on forever, here are some of our favorite mods. 

It's important to note that some of these don't play nice with each other; we've marked these to help you keep track and marked them with the "(overhaul)" designation. As they do so much to the core game itself, they can't work in harmony, unfortunately. 


Of all of the mods out there in the big wide world, few are as helpful as tModLoader. This is because simply installing this one thing allows you to search for different mods, install them, and generally help you keep on top of this crazy experience.

Most of the mods in this list can be found within tModLoader, so make sure to hit this one up first by going here

It’s an incredible tool and a must if you want to play Terraria with some of the quality of life mods, so make sure you grab this before anything else. Keep in mind that with great power comes great responsibility, so if you overdo it and install too many mods, then you can cause the game to crash. So, take it easy, and take it slow; that way, you should have no issues.

Also, some mods just aren’t capable of playing nice, so make sure to pay attention to what you’re doing.

Calamity (overhaul)

The Terraria Calamity mod adds a ton of new content to the game (shown here)

Calamity adds in huge swathes of stuff. Not only are there over 20 new bosses, hundreds of new enemies, and a bunch of new gear to collect and craft, there are even more modes.

These include things like bosses having one-hit kills, and even modes giving you fantastic special abilities. It even boosts the power of the throwing weapon class, which helps it more viable in the mid- to late-game.

Thorium (overhaul)

Thorium adds in new biomes, new bosses, and new events. While Calamity tends to put the focus on the things that happen after Moon Lord, Thorium decided to flesh out the run to the final boss instead. It also adds in two new classes, the Healer and the Bard. These are both more suited for co-op play and help to make the game feel a bit more like an RPG.

N Terraria (overhaul)

N Terraria answers the question: What if Terraria was a full-blown RPG? It adds classes, races, NPC companions, and more quests. It’s a great way to change the feel of the game and give it a bit more direction; it’s a must-have for those who don’t like the freedom to do whatever they want.

Super Terraria World (overhaul)

Super Terraria World is a bit like N Terraria. It turns the game into an RPG complete with skills, NPCs, and quests. It’s also constantly being updated thanks to its popularity, and even adds in things like additional chatting from NPCs and extra stock. It’s a very impressive endeavor.

Terraria Overhaul (overhaul)

Terraria Overhaul does a great job of changing up a lot of the core framework of the game. Rather than adding in as much as some of the other options, it opts instead to change how things work, for example, you can dodge-roll thanks to this mod.

It changes the way a lot of the game works and can help to make it feel completely fresh, instead of just adding in too much stuff.

imkSushi’s Crafting Mod

Crafting is an essential part of Terraria, so it makes sense that there would be a mod or two focussed on that aspect of the game. Well, imkSushi's Crafting Mod is probably the best of the bunch, as it allows you to craft wherever you want, whenever you want.

It just streamlines things a bit and helps you avoid the somewhat tedious affair of organizing your forges.

Recipe Browser

Recipe Browser makes crafting thing far easier to digest. It lets you see everything you can craft and tells you what items you need, and even tells you which enemies can drop those items. It makes effectively serves as an in-game wiki, which should help you stay in the game longer.

Boss Checklist

Boss Checklist does what it says on the tin, but it’s a great way of keeping track of all of your different worlds. It’s not flashy, but it is incredibly useful.

Fargo’s Mutant

Fargo's Mutant adds in a few NPCs who make fighting bosses far simpler. Farming a boss can be a pain in vanilla Terraria, but this mod adds in NPCs who sell items that can summon a boss or even multiple bosses. It is a great way to get that grind going without all the stress. It adds in some exceptionally useful items too, such as the Instavator, which automatically creates a hellevator wherever you throw it.

Universe of Swords

Everyone likes swords, at least, that’s what Universe of Swords assumes. It adds in an ungodly number of new weapons for you to use. This includes swords that shoot out grenades when swung. It’s a bit bombastic, but it’s a lot of fun.


There you have it, that's a list of some of the best Terraria mods out. However, there are an innumerable amount of them out there, so have a mess around and see what works for you. Let us know which ones we left off the list and why they should have been included! 

Get Lost with Stranded Sails, An Indie Survival Game Coming to Consoles Wed, 10 Jul 2019 13:18:26 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Developer Lemonbomb Entertainment and publisher Merge Games recently announced the successful Steam indie Stranded Sails: Explorers of the Cursed Islands is heading to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in October.

It'll be available on consoles both digitally and physically, though only the Switch and PS4 are getting the special Signature Edition. What that edition entails hasn't been revealed, but it's designed as a collector's edition.

Stranded Sails is billed as an "open-world exploration farming adventure." It sounds like SEO cramming, but the game's premise actually delivers by blending all those elements together, taking inspiration from Harvest Moon, The Legend of Zelda, and My Time at Portia to deliver a unique take on those styles.

Like any good exploration story, survival is key to Stranded Sails' gameplay. Players will have to grow and harvest their own food not just for themselves, but for the others in their island settlements as well; feeding the masses also happens to be an important part of managing each NPC's happiness. It's an open-ended cooking system that lets players experiment with new ingredients and develop new recipes too.

The trailer shows off a surprisingly wide variety of crops and resources as well, from the standard food and environmental resources to what looks like herbs and flowers.

There won't be just one base of operations, though. The islands under exploration are ripe for development, and players will work on expanding their camps into proper settlements while also developing their shipbuilding skills.

All this is centered around a primary plot and dozens of sub-quests as the player tries to uncover the truth behind the curse darkening the island shores. That naturally requires traveling to different islands using said ships and exploring various dungeons that appear to be full of ghost pirates.

We don't get to see much of the game's combat just yet, but it's looking like Stranded Sails has a lot to offer and balances it pretty well.

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Dealing with Loss and Death Tue, 09 Jul 2019 11:00:01 -0400 John Schutt

Editor's note: If you've somehow not played Final Fantasy VII, be aware there are major spoilers in this article. Proceed with caution. 

Final Fantasy VII Remake is on its way, and with it will come a whole new generation of players who've never experienced one of the seminal titles in the long-running series. Positioned to be more than just a by-the-numbers rehashing, Remake aims to reimagine, update, and expand on the already massive Final Fantasy VII.

From its combat systems to its narrative, lore, and overall philosophy, nothing will be left to chance in Remake. And despite its genre-defying story beats and deep worldbuilding, one of Final Fantasy VII's most powerful aspects was the way it dealt with death.

There were plenty of big moments — Aerith, the Nibelheim flashback, the final cutscene with the Lifestream and Meteor — but the truly impactful moments were often subtle or hidden away; some only took up a tiny portion of our playtime. Remake has the opportunity to bring us more small moments and to flesh out those that already play a valuable part, especially coming in such a large package

I want to talk about two of these smaller moments and what Remake could do with them. These are the interaction between Dyne and Barret and the death of Tifa’s mother.

Dyne and Barret: The Crushing Weight of Loss

We don’t know much about Dyne beyond that he was Barret’s best friend, wanted to stand up for the ways of his people, and, like Barret, lost everything in the ShinRa attack that destroyed their home.

The difference here is in how the two characters coped with the unimaginable loss of all they had ever known.

Barret returned to the ruins of his hometown to salvage whatever he could of his past before fleeing half-way across Midgar. He found a new purpose in Dyne’s daughter, Marlene, and for her sake, he desired to create a better world — from the ashes of the old, if necessary.

Dyne fell, both physically and metaphorically, into a pit from which he would never truly return. He assumed that everything and everyone he’d ever known or loved was dead. Filled with hatred for both the people who wouldn’t believe him and the ShinRa who deceived them, Dyne wanted to create a different world as well.

However, because he believed his loss to be total, Dyne desired a world in flames, burning with the same rage he would carry for years.

Barret, despite the failings of his past, could nonetheless see a path forward for both himself and those he cared about. He saw it with such clarity, and chased it with such ferocity, that he was willing to put his morals aside if it meant no one would ever have to experience what he had. Though he’d lost his wife and child in the blaze, and even though he knew Marlene was not his by blood, Barret found it impossible to not move forward. To do so would forfeit what little of himself he had left after the ShinRa attack.

Dyne only saw the past, and the visions of hell it continually showed him were the only things keeping him alive. The future, he reasoned, could only be reached if everyone lived in the same pain he did. What purpose was there to living if you could lose everything in just a few moments?

Dyne decided that the future didn’t matter if the past refused to die.

When they finally met again, the boss fight between them was more than just combat: it was a clash of philosophies. It was a clash of hope and hopelessness. Both men, who’d done horrible things in pursuit of their dreams, could not see eye to eye in the face of their shared loss.

There are many ways the Remake can expand upon this relationship, but I think the most valuable would be Barret returning to Corel and finding Marlene while expanding the conversation between Dyne and Barret during their battle.

Much of Barret’s motivation is implied in the original game. While there’s a strength to that method of storytelling, I think seeing what he saw firsthand and controlling him as he fights his way back to Corel to sift through the ashes could have an incredible impact.

Experiencing his hopelessness through gameplay, and seeing with our own eyes how he found a new path through a tiny remnant of his old life, could be a moment well-worthy of the source material.

The Dyne fight in the Desert Prison is somewhat anticlimactic in the 1997 version, and though difficult enough, it doesn’t give either character a chance to explore the pent up emotions both men have contained within themselves for almost five years.

I’m sure both of them have plenty more to say to one another than the few words they exchange in the older title. Such an expanded fight would also give players a chance to see what kind of fighting style a man without hope would use against the man who robbed him of it.

How cruel would Dyne be, and how ferociously would Barret fight back to try and convince his former friend to understand?

We’ll have to wait for the Remake to find out. Hopefully. 

Tifa and Cloud: Loss that Pushes Away and Binds Together

Cloud and Tifa were neighbors growing up. Tifa was in her small mansion, Cloud was in a humble three-room house. We only know of Cloud’s mother, but we know more of Tifa, who lived happily with both of her parents for 14 years.

Cloud pined after Tifa for a long time, and though the two were not close, she did know of him. Then one day, Tifa’s mother fell ill, and after her death, Tifa tried to cross the local mountain to find her again, only to fall and gravely injure herself.

Cloud had followed Tifa longer than any of the other boys, determined not only to protect the girl he liked but become something more in her eyes. His failure would define the next seven years of his life.

The two would grow closer, but the specter of Tifa’s loss would continue to define their relationship. For her part, Tifa could never bring herself to accept Cloud as more than a close friend. It would be years before she learned of Cloud following her up the mountain or of his young longing.

While not emotionally stunted by her mother’s death, in the five years between it and Cloud leaving to join SOLDIER, she found it hard to bring herself to open up to anyone.

More than this, because Tifa’s father blamed Cloud for her accident on the mountain, it’s likely that she was either forbidden or strongly cautioned against getting to know him more than so much.

For his part, Cloud never forgot how he’d tried and failed to protect the one he cared for most, and would eventually dedicate himself to overcoming his own weaknesses — mostly to show her that he was worthy of her affection and praise. That he would fail to join SOLDIER, as he’d vowed to one night under a starry sky, would forever fill him with shame.

After leaving home to prove to both Tifa and himself that he was more than just a boy from a small town, the distance she felt between herself and Cloud faded, and she began to dream of what he might become.

In the Remake, I think we need to actually see Tifa’s mother and discover what kind of impact she no doubt had on her daughter’s childhood. What messages did she leave for Tifa, what promises, admonitions, and disdains? All we see in the original game is Tifa’s reaction to her mother’s death, but the last things we hear, see, or do with a person before they’re suddenly gone can determine decades of our lives.

She doesn’t need to play a big part, at least in the initial scene we see at the well. But I think she should be present even then, because hearing her call out to Tifa or scold Cloud for keeping Tifa out too late, would give us a good idea about what kind of person she was to both characters.

I won’t go so far as to say we want to have additional scenes in the past than exist in the original story, but there should certainly be some mention of Tifa’s mother during the Nibelheim scene. We might get some foreshadowing for the full reveal much later in the story, and maybe start to see, even then, how her death helped define Tifa’s burgeoning love for the man she almost didn’t know.


Death is the only certainty in life, and it, therefore, it helps define everything we as humans do with our lives and the lives of those we affect. Final Fantasy VII makes a laudable attempt — successful, I believe — to quantify and qualify how different people deal with mortality.

Stories like those we've discussed are valuable not only because they're well written and deal with situations we might know in our own lives, but also because they can help us cope with grief in new ways. Failing that, they can provide us with perspective, especially in retrospect, about how people like us — with flaws, desires, and pasts burdened with guilt or regret —approach those parts of life touched by death. 

As I've reflected on Final Fantasy VII for this article, I've come to a new appreciation for how much it can do to calm the psyche of someone wracked with sorrow, and the hope it can provide to those struggling with grief. Stories like Barret's, about those who've lost so much but found new ways to forge ahead despite their suffering. Stories like Tifa's, who almost missed the one thing that really mattered because all they could see was their pain.

It's characters and situations like these that teach us as players that our own struggles are not necessarily unique even as they differ from those of everyone around us. And even though Final Fantasy VII and its Remake are works of fiction, it is often through such mediums that we come to understand ourselves on a deeper level. 

In short, we can use games like Final Fantasy VII as clear reflections of our own reality, even though its world is filled with magic, monsters, and other fantasy trappings. Its people are still people and they are just as fragile and conflicted as any we might find on the street. And like us, their relationship with death is complex, nuanced, and helps make them who they are.

SolSeraph Review: ActRaiser By Any Other Name Tue, 09 Jul 2019 09:45:02 -0400 Jordan Baranowski

It's no secret what SolSeraph is: even the capitalization of the title is a thinly-veiled reference to the Super Nintendo classic ActRaiser. The gameplay and plot featured here will be familiar to anyone who has played that 1990 game, as well. 

SolSeraph is a hybrid platformer-town building game, although it swaps out the original's real-time strategy elements for tower defense.

Unfortunately, neither element of SolSeraph feels like it's fully realized, making for a game that is much better in idea than execution. There's nothing really bad about it, but there's not much good either. SolSeraph just kind of... is.

Pray to the Gods

SolSeraph puts you in the role of Helios, a divine being who protects mankind from all sorts of nasty creatures. You do this by helping different tribes of humans in battles against other divine beings, who continually send monsters out to cause harm. 

After selecting an area from the overworld map, you enter a platforming stage. Helios is a fairly straightforward character who starts the game with a fairly standard repertoire of moves at his disposal: a basic sword combo, a ranged attack, a double jump, a guard, and a back dash.

Sidescrolling stages have a few different objectives: sometimes you must reach the end of the stage, sometimes you have to defeat a large creature, and sometimes you're in a small arena and must defeat waves of respawning enemies.

After finishing the sidescrolling stage, you are brought to another overworld map, smaller than the first. You must protect the tribe and flush out the boss of the region. Enemies will march out of the darkness, looking to extinguish the tribe's campfire, always walking down a clearly delineated path.

You must manage your resources and construct the tribe's buildings, placing defenses along the way to stop the ever-increasing waves. Eventually, you will find new lairs in the darkness, which you will enter and defeat until you have safeguarded the tribe and defeated the boss of the region.

Upon return to the main overworld map, you'll have a new ability and several new areas to choose from.

Raising Acts

If you ever played ActRaiser, this set up will sound extremely familiar: it's the exact progression that the SNES classic used.

Unfortunately, not everything in SolSeraph runs quite as smoothly as its spiritual predecessor. Everything feels kind of slow. In the sidescrolling stages, Helios runs slowly. He attacks slowly. He back dashes slowly. God forbid there's an extended section where he's underwater, which slows him down even more.

When you zoom out to the tower defense portions, enemies move slowly. They chug along towards you as you wait to kill enough of them so you can move on to the next area. You can zap them with lightning bolts, which hustles it along, but those lack the impact that your godlike powers should feel like they have.

This sluggishness in both sections causes two different problems.

In the sidescrolling sections of the game, it makes your character feel unresponsive. Coupled with a knockback effect when you are hit and some floaty jumping, it leads to some seriously frustrating "instant death" jumping sections that are completely infuriating.

In the tower defense sections, there is a lack of urgency. I never found myself panicking, and the only reason I ever had to restart one of these sections was because I simply lost track of where enemies were coming from as I waited to open the next sidescrolling lair.

Fury of the Gods

Of the two portions, the tower defense sections are more enjoyable. There is a wide variety of enemies and buildings for you to place, keeping you on your toes when you encounter something new. The lack of urgency does give you a chance to experiment a bit with different buildings and find the strategy you like. With a few tweaks, it could be a solid bit of puzzlework.

The sidescrolling sections are filled to the brim with odd design choices, however. Though they are 2D areas, enemies frequently enter the screen from the foreground or the background. I took far too many hits as I started swinging before they were on the same plane as me; it's impossible to tell when they can be hit, and they move so deliberately that it looked to be much sooner than it was.

Enemies spawn in the path of your jumps, knocking you off cliffs to your doom. You often have to jump blindly, and the screen is so zoomed in that Helios will suffer a lot of cheap hits from fireballs appearing where you can't see them. Your health bar becomes absolutely massive by the late game, making each hit feel insignificant as you tank through enemies rather than figure out effective strategies to avoid hits.

When you think of classic platformers, you usually think of pinpoint controls helping you overcome enemies, powerful abilities that help you defeat overwhelming odds, and repetition serving as a learning tool, not an exercise in frustration. 

SolSeraph fails to deliver on those ideas.

Divine Intervention

That said, SolSeraph looks and sounds pretty. There's a fun soundtrack, and it is obvious which enemies are tough and which will go down in just a hit or two. It's also kind of fun to see the same tiny enemies on the tower defense portion tower over your character when you hit the sidescrolling portions.

Even the look of the game has some strange design choices. Powerups barely register when you pick them up. Even defeating each region's boss, which unlocks a new power for Helios, barely makes a mark. Remember when you'd defeat a boss in the Mega Man games, and it was a big deal? Flashing lights, a massive upgrade screen, and a demonstration of the badass new power you've obtained?

In SolSeraph, it will say something like "You unlocked a new power: Flame." Then you will have to wait until you enter the next area, tap through some text boxes, and select the new power to even see how it works. For a game where you play as a literal god, you certainly never feel like it.


  • A callback to a classic
  • Lots of strong ideas
  • Good soundtrack and look
  • Slow and repetitive
  • Never delivers on ideas
  • Frustrating platforming

SolSeraph seems like a solid throwback to a much-beloved classic. On paper, it all looks right. Unfortunately, it never quite moves on the aspects it needs to. It ultimately winds up seeming more like a pale imitation than a hand-crafted tribute to ActRaiser.

SolSeraph never quite overcomes its sluggish, deliberate pacing and odd design choices to become what you'll want it to become. With a few small tweaks, it could be a fantastic diversion and admirable tribute to the 16-bit days. As is, it feels like a tragic case of "almost got it."

You'd be much better served grabbing a solid platformer and a solid tower defense game from the huge number available. SolSeraph just never quite soars as high as you'll want it to.

[Note: A copy of SolSeraph was provided by Sega for the purpose of this review.]